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All taxonomy terms: Luke Donald, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2012-majors-no-8-luke-donald-1

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2012 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Throughout the month of March, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 8: Luke Donald

Born: Dec. 7, 1977, Hemel Hempstead, England  | Career PGA Tour Wins: 5 (6 on European Tour) | 2011 Wins (Worldwide): 4 | 2011 Earnings (PGA Tour): $6,683,214 World Ranking: 1



Brandel Chamblee's Take:

The reason I don’t have the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings ranked higher, or more likely to do well in the majors in 2012, is simple: He doesn’t drive the ball well enough. In 2011, Donald was 127th in total driving on the PGA Tour, and in 2010 he was 186th. This has been his problem throughout his career, and it is the reason that, despite being by far the best putter in the world and by far the best bunker player in the world, he struggles in the majors. For example, he never hit more than three fairways in a row at last year’s U.S. Open and never hit more than four in a row at the British Open, and he is not powerful enough to play from the rough. 
His best chance to win his first major is at The Masters, where he finished fourth last year and he has three top 10s in the last seven years.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 34
Wins: 0

2011 Performance:
Masters - T4
U.S. Open - T45
British Open - Cut
PGA Championship - T8

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T3 (2005)
U.S. Open - T12 (2006)
British Open - T5 (2009)
PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 12
Missed Cuts: 11

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter. 

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Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 10:27
Path: /mlb/los-angeles-angels-2012-preview

Los Angeles Angels

Arte Moreno clearly doesn't like finishing second. After the Angels missed the playoffs in consecutive years (2010-11) for the first time in his ownership, Moreno fired GM Tony Reagins and a handful of long-time front-office employees in a thorough purge. Jerry Dipoto was hired as GM, bringing a fresh vision to an organization that had not made a significant front office addition from outside the franchise since 2003. After annually falling short in pursuit of their big-ticket offseason targets, Moreno handed Dipoto a blank check and a clear mandate to think big in upgrading the team. Fueled by a new TV deal that gave the franchise's bottom line a robust boost, the Angels splurged on the biggest single-day free agent expenditure in baseball history - a combined $331.5 million committed to first baseman Albert Pujols and left-handed pitcher C.J. Wilson. Those two moves have transformed the Angels from a fading franchise trying to rebuild around young players into a serious threat to the Texas Rangers, the reigning power in the AL West and the American League.

A starting rotation fronted by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana put up a 3.59 ERA in 2011, the second-lowest in the American League and fifth-lowest in the majors. Weaver (18-8, 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) had the kind of season that would have won him a Cy Young in most years not featuring Justin Verlander's dominant performance. But the Angels' rotation was very much a front-loaded group with a serious drop-off after that trio. The Angels were a very good team when Weaver, Haren or Santana started (58-42) with those three combining to go 45-30 with a 2.98 ERA and 568 strikeouts in 702.2 innings. When one of their big three didn't start, though, the Angels were not a very good team (28-34). So they signed the best starting pitcher available on the free agent market in Wilson, creating a rotation that might be the best in baseball in 2012. The left-handed Wilson (an Orange County native who grew up rooting for the Angels) gives the rotation balance and lets Jerome Williams and top prospect Garrett Richards fight it out for the fifth spot.

Angels relievers were among the least reliable in baseball last season, blowing 25 saves (tied for the most in the American League). Rookie closer Jordan Walden had 10 of those blown saves, tied with Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol for the most in the majors. Growing pains from a rookie closer are understandable. But as big a problem for the Angels was their inability to find any consistency in their setup crew beyond veteran Scott Downs (who was exceptional). A revolving group of relievers took turns earning manager Mike Scioscia's trust and then promptly losing it - from Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn to Fernando Rodney, Jason Bulger and Rich Thompson. Dipoto made the bullpen a high priority in the offseason but emerged only with veteran setup man LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen (on a minor league deal) added to Downs, Hisanori Takahashi, Bobby Cassevah and the remnants of last year's pen to build the bridge between the starting rotation and Walden.

Middle Infield
Manning the middle has been a three-man job over the past few years. Injuries, inconsistency and a search for the best lineup matchups prompted Scioscia to rotate the two jobs among three players — Howard Kendrick at second base, Erick Aybar at shortstop and Maicer Izturis at both positions. Kendrick (an All-Star in 2011) and Aybar (the American League Gold Glove winner at shortstop) are entering their primes and have stronger grips on the every-day duty. But Izturis remains a valuable and versatile role player who should see significant playing time at second, third and shortstop.

Pujols' average season (.328/.420/.617, 42 home runs, 126 RBIs and 123 runs scored) blows away anything the Angels have had in their lineup since Vlad Guerrero's prime. His arrival also creates a potential surplus at first base. The Angels are optimistic that Kendrys Morales can finally return from his fractured ankle in 2012. Rookie of the Year runner-up Mark Trumbo returns for his sophomore season after leading the Angels in home runs (29) and RBIs (87). While Morales figures to make his return primarily at DH, Trumbo might have to become a utility player in order to get his at-bats this season. The Angels plan to try Trumbo at third base (in a part-time capacity), where he would join a co-op with Alberto Callaspo and Izturis. The Callaspo-Izturis combo provides little of the power expected from a corner infielder, but Callaspo did lead the team in batting average (.288) and on-base percentage last season.

The Angels head into 2012 with six outfielders vying for playing time in three spots — seven if you count Trumbo, a man without a position. Two of those players represent the Angels' dynamic future - Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout. Three of those players are costly veterans in their declining years (Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu). Bourjos emerged as a Gold Glove-caliber defender, one of the best centerfielders in baseball. He was also the first player in franchise history and one of only two in the majors last season (along with Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson) to have at least 25 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Hunter, Wells and Abreu, on the other hand, set career-lows almost across the board. Hunter bounced back in the second half and could be re-energized in a lineup bolstered by the addition of Pujols and the return of Morales, allowing him to slip back into a complementary role. A bounce-back for Wells is almost inevitable — it seems impossible he could be as bad as he was in his first season with the Angels (a .218 average and .248 on-base percentage). Ryan Langerhans will provide a lefty bat off the bench. Looming over all is the rising star Trout. He made the leap to the majors from Double-A last summer with limited success (a .220 average in 40 games). His electrifying skill set was apparent, though, and his time is coming.

Scioscia's love of defense from his catchers couldn't blind him forever to the offensive incompetence of Jeff Mathis. Things finally changed this winter with Mathis jettisoned by Dipoto (in a trade to the Blue Jays) and Chris Iannetta acquired to restore some much-needed balance to the position. The question now is whether Iannetta can carry his offense out of Coors Field and into the American League - his career splits heavily favor his former home. Iannetta's arrival also casts a shadow over Hank Conger as the Angels' catcher of the future. With the 28-year-old Iannetta likely to make 100 starts or more, Conger (a former first-round pick) will compete with Bobby Wilson for backup duty at best.

In an ideal world for the Angels, Morales would return healthy in 2012 and ease back into things as their primary DH. However, as optimistic as the Angels are that Morales will be healthy on Opening Day, his health remains a question mark; Abreu lurks as a $9 million albatross with fading skills; and Trumbo is a second-year player with tremendous power but nowhere to play. Scioscia will piece together a DH out of that group with the remains (plus the idle half of his Callaspo-Izturis infield time-share) making up the meat of the Angels' bench.

Dipoto has brought a new vision, surrounding himself with a group of evaluators and assistants with a distinctly analytical bent. With greater job security than any other manager in baseball, Scioscia had become a looming power in the organization, stifling dissent. That has clearly changed with the new power structure in the front office. Dipoto's offseason moves (aided by Moreno's decision to throw open the bank vault) reflect his philosophy, pushing the Angels toward greater regard for on-base percentage and pitchers who can “control counts.” It represents a new direction for a franchise that had begun to grow stale.

Final Analysis
The offseason splurge for Pujols and Wilson has upped the ante for this season. Anything short of a return to the top of the AL West (a division the Angels ruled with five first-place finishes in six seasons from 2004-09) might make them question their investment. It won't be easy. The Rangers remain a power, with a strong farm system and a deep team anchored by players entering their primes. The Angels-Rangers rivalry figures to be as competitive as any in baseball.



Batting Order
SS Erick Aybar (S)
Switch-hitter was much more dangerous from the left side — a .308 average, .341 OBP and seven home runs.
2B Howard Kendrick (R)
Added power (career-highs of 18 HRs and .464 slugging percentage) to .285 average last season.
1B Albert Pujols (R)
Contract includes $3 million bonus for 3,000th hit, $7 million for 763rd home run - has 2,073 hits, 445 homers.
DH Kendrys Morales (S)
Has missed 273 games since fracturing his left ankle on May 29, 2010.
RF Torii Hunter (R)
Reversed aging process in second half of 2011 - .324 average, 10 home runs, 31 RBIs after the end of July.
LF Vernon Wells (R)
Wells' .218 average, .248 OBP in 2011 were lowest of any major leaguer who qualified for batting title.
3B Alberto Callaspo (S)
Should share playing time with Maicer Izturis, possibly Mark Trumbo as well.
C Chris Iannetta (R)
Had OBPs of .390 and .370 in the only two seasons in which he played 100-plus games (2008, '11).
CF Peter Bourjos (R)
Hit better against lefties (.289 average, .503 slugging) than righties; candidate for spot starts at leadoff.

INF Maicer Izturis (S)
One of Angels' smartest hitters, stayed healthy enough to play career-high 122 games in 2011.
C Bobby Wilson (R)
Caught Ervin Santana's no-hitter; penciled in to back up Chris Iannetta.
OF Bobby Abreu (L)
In serious decline but rare left-handed bat for righty-heavy Angels. He may serve as DH until Morales proves completely healthy.
OF Ryan Langerhans (L)
Veteran gives Angels another left-handed bat, provides solid defense at all three outfield positions
INF Mark Trumbo (R)
First rookie to lead Angels in homers (29) and RBIs (87) has to fight for at-bats now. Should get some work at third base in order to get his bat in the lineup.

RH Jered Weaver
Only Cy Young winner Justin Verlander had a better year among AL pitchers in 2011.
RH Dan Haren
Durable and dependable, Haren has not missed a start since becoming a regular in 2005.
LH C.J. Wilson
In two seasons since converting to starter is 31-15 with 3.14 ERA, 376 strikeouts.
RH Ervin Santana
Went 7-1 with 2.18 ERA in July and August including no-hitter in Cleveland.
RH Jerome Williams
22-2 with 3.10 ERA in 206.1 IP combined in independent league, Triple-A, majors and winter ball last year.

RH Jordan Walden (Closer)
Had club rookie record 32 saves - and tied for MLB-high with 10 blown saves.
LH Scott Downs
Most reliable reliever in a shaky 2011 bullpen had 26 holds, a 1.34 ERA.
RH LaTroy Hawkins
Veteran joins his ninth team; gives Angels another veteran setup option with Downs.
RH Bobby Cassevah
Mike Scioscia grew to trust Cassevah's heavy sinker late in the 2011 season.
LH Hisanori Takahashi
A lefty specialist who fared better against righties (.206 average, .599 OPS) than lefties (.261, .733).
RH Rich Thompson
Never grabbed hold of a role in 2011 but did have 56 strikeouts in 54 innings.
RH Jason Isringhausen
The former Cardinals closer resurrected his career with the Mets last season, finishing with 19 holds, seven saves and just five blown opportunities. He's an inexpensive and dicey insurance plan for Walden.

<p> Fueled by a new TV deal that gave the franchise's bottom line a robust boost, the Angels splurged on the biggest single-day free agent expenditure in baseball history - a combined $331.5 million committed to first baseman Albert Pujols and left-handed pitcher C.J. Wilson. Those two moves have transformed the Angels from a fading franchise trying to rebuild around young players into a serious threat to the Texas Rangers, the reigning power in the AL West and the American League.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 08:29
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-coaches

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten
Ranking the Coaches: SEC
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the Big Ten:

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State (First year)
Alma Mater: Cincinnati
Record: 65-15 (Florida, 2005-2010)
Record: 22-2 (Utah, 2003-04)
Record: 17-6 (Bowling Green, 2001-02)
Overall: 104-23

The resume is as complete as it gets: Two BCS National Championships, four conference titles, three conference Coach of the Year awards, one Heisman Trophy, one national Coach of the Year honor and the Sports Illustrated Coach of the Decade (2000-2009). Meyer’s success is unquestioned; he wins and he wins big. He built Bowling Green into a conference contender in only two seasons before taking Utah to a BCS bowl in two short years in Salt Lake City. In his second year at Florida, he earned his first BCS Crystal Ball. After a second title with the Chosen One under center, Meyer took a brief respite from the sideline in 2011. He returns to the coaching ranks renewed and reinvigorated — and back in his home state at the Big Ten program with the most natural and financial resources in the league. His ability to recruit was on full display at the close of the 2012 cycle and his offensive game plan is as proven a system as there is in the collegiate playbook. The only crack in his armor is the health concerns — aka his dedication. He coached only six years at what could be considered the second-best job in the nation, won championships, and simply walked away. Other than his long-term commitment, there are not too many better options in America.

2. Brady Hoke, Michigan (1 year)
Alma Mater: 
Ball State (1977-80)
Record: 11-2 (2011-present)
Record: 13-12 (San Diego State, 2009-10)
Record: 34-38 (Ball State, 2003-08)
Overall: 58-52 (9 years)

Deciding between Hoke and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio as the top coach in the Big Ten Legends Division is no easy task. Hoke has done a good job of resurrecting two programs that did not have much success prior to his arrival. In six seasons with Ball State, Hoke recorded a 34-38 mark, including an appearance in the MAC title game in 2008. The Cardinals also made two bowl games under Hoke’s watch. After a solid stint at Ball State, Hoke left for the West Coast, choosing to coach at San Diego State. The Aztecs won just nine games in the three years prior to his arrival, but led San Diego State to a 9-4 record and an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2010. After Rich Rodriguez was fired at Michigan, Hoke was an easy choice to become the Wolverines’ next coach, especially considering he coached in Ann Arbor from 1995-2002. Considering he was born in Ohio, Hoke isn’t necessarily a “Michigan Man.” However, he is a great fit for the Wolverines, has done a good job of rebuilding two struggling programs (Ball State and San Diego State) and led the Wolverines to a BCS bowl in his first season.

3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (6 years)
Alma Mater:
 South Carolina (1976-78)
Record: 44-22 (2007-present)
Record: 18-17 (Cincinnati, 2005-06)
Overall: 62-39 (9 years)

If Brady Hoke is the top coach in the Legends Division, Dantonio is really 1B. In six seasons in East Lansing, Dantonio has turned the Spartans from underachiever to Big Ten title contender. The Spartans won 22 games through his first three years, but has posted back-to-back seasons of 11 victories. And there’s one more feather in the cap for Dantonio and Michigan State to brag about – the Spartans own a four-game winning streak over rival Michigan. Dantonio has yet to lead Michigan State to a Rose Bowl appearance, but with the program on the right track, it’s only a matter of time before the Spartans make the trek to Pasadena. Dantonio’s success isn’t just limited to Michigan State, as he posted an 18-17 record in three years with Cincinnati and led the Bearcats to two bowl trips. Dantonio seems to be a perfect fit at Michigan State and should keep this program among the best in the Big Ten as long as he sticks around in East Lansing. 

4. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (6 years)
Alma Mater: 
Northwestern (1993-96)
Record: 40-36 (2006-present)

Fitzgerald is the perfect coach for Northwestern and barring something unexpected, will likely be here until he retires. As a Northwestern graduate, Fitzgerald is well-aware of the culture and what it takes to win in Evanston. The former Wildcat linebacker has led Northwestern to four consecutive bowl games and just one losing season. Fitzgerald’s overall record over the last six seasons is a solid 40-36, but is still searching for his first bowl victory. Northwestern is not an easy place to win, but Fitzgerald has found the right formula and will continue to make the Wildcats a yearly threat to reach a bowl and pull off an upset or two along the way. 

5. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin (6 years)
Alma Mater: 
Record: 60-19 (2006-present)

Hand picked by Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez, few imagined Bielema had the talent to maintain the Badgers’ level of success. After six years of Meyer-esque winning percentages, those concerns have definitively been squashed. His back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances were the first for Wisconsin since 1998 and 1999, and despite not winning either game, the Badgers can hang their hats on back-to-back conference titles. In fact, Bielema’s bowl record might be his only weakness. He is 2-4 in postseason play and is likely the only thing keeping him from being ranked higher on this list. That, and the fact he was handed the keys to a program that functions in a vastly different manner than it did in late '80s. Alvarez took UW from an also-ran, bye week program and turned it into a $100-million Midwest football powerhouse. Bielema hasn’t recruited at an elite level — aka Top 25 nationally — but has done an incredible job evaluating and developing talent. Without a single top-25 recruiting class to his name, the Badgers’ head man has sent 11 players into the first three rounds of the NFL Draft since 2006. He has never experienced a losing season as a head coach and earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors back in 2006 when he led Wisconsin to a 12-1 record in his first season. Iowa Hawkeye leg tattoo aside, fans in Madison are very happy to have transitioned so seamlessly from Alvarez to Bielema.

6. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (13 years)
Alma Mater: 
Connecticut (1974-76)
Record: 96-66 (1999-present)
Record: 12-21 (Maine, 1990-92)
Overall: 108-87 (16 years)

Ferentz got off to a slow start as Iowa’s head coach, posting a 4-19 record through the first two years. However, the Hawkeyes went on to reel off five consecutive winning seasons, including an appearance in the Orange Bowl and victories in the Outback and Capital One bowls. Iowa has claimed at least a share of the Big Ten title two times and has missed out on a bowl game only once since 2001. Ferentz has had his share of ups and downs, and the Hawkeyes are just 15-11 over the last two years. Although Ferentz has accumulated 96 victories – second-most in Iowa history – there are concerns from the Iowa fanbase that the program has gone stale. Ferentz’s track record suggests the Hawkeyes will get back on track, but a couple more seven-win seasons won’t sit too well in Iowa City.

7. Bo Pelini, Nebraska (4 years)
Alma Mater: 
Ohio State (1987-90)
Record: 39-16 (2003, 2008-present)

Pelini had an interesting path to become Nebraska’s head coach. After Frank Solich was fired following the 2003 season, Pelini served as the Cornhuskers’ interim coach in the Alamo Bowl, recording a 17-3 victory over Michigan State. Although Pelini led Nebraska to a victory, he was passed over in favor of Bill Callahan and instead of sticking around in Lincoln, chose to work with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 2004. After one season in Norman, Pelini left for LSU from 2005-07, helping to lead the Tigers to a national title in the 2008 BCS Naitonal Championship. Despite being passed for the job just a few seasons before, Pelini returned in Lincoln in 2008 to become Nebraska’s head coach. There’s no question Pelini is one of the top defensive minds in college football, but he is still looking to take this program to the next level. Nebraska has at least nine victories in each of Pelini’s four seasons at the helm, but is still searching for its first BCS appearance. Pelini is a solid coach and has the Cornhuskers back on the right track to emerging as a national title contender once again. However, the Big Ten is crowded at the top and Pelini needs to push Nebraska higher to be ranked ahead of some of the other names on this list.

8. Jerry Kill, Minnesota (1 year)
Alma Mater: 
Southwestern (1979-82)
Record: 3-9 (2011-present)
Record: 23-16 (Northern Illinois, 2008-10)
Record: 55-32 (Southern Illinois, 2001-07)
Record: 11-11 (Emporia State, 1999-2000)
Record: 38-14 (Saginaw Valley State, 1994-98)
Overall: 130-82 (18 years)

Considering Kill’s successful track record, a 3-9 record in his first year with Minnesota was somewhat surprising. Although the Golden Gophers weren’t expected to challenge for 10 wins, the schedule was favorable enough to contend for a bowl appearance. Minnesota pulled off two upsets to finish last season, but also lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State. Kill also dealt with health issues last year, which certainly had some impact on the team and coaching staff. Kill has an impressive resume at four different stops, which includes leading Southern Illinois to five playoff appearances and posting a 23-16 record in three seasons with Northern Illinois. Although Kill’s debut season didn’t go according to plan, his successful track record at four other schools suggests it won’t be long until the Golden Gophers emerge as a consistent bowl team.

9. Tim Beckman, Illinois (First year)
Alma Mater: 
Record: 21-16 (Toledo, 2009-2011)

After learning under Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, Beckman got his first chance at the big chair in 2009. After five years of tremendous success under Tom Amstutz, Toledo had eroded into one of the MAC’s worst programs. Three straight losing seasons (5-7, 5-7, 3-9) got Beckman into town. He proceeded to improve the team’s win total in three consecutive seasons from three to five to eight to nine. He has been responsible for developing such prominent MAC stars as Eric Page and Adonis Thomas and is now charged with another rebuilding project at Illinois.

10. Danny Hope, Purdue (4 years)
Alma Mater: 
Eastern Kentucky
Record: 16-21 (2009-present)
Record: 35-22 (Eastern Kentucky, 2003-2007)
Overall: 51-43

After 20 years as an assistant at both the college and high school levels, Hope got his first chance at running a program when his alma mater hired him in 2003. He never had a losing season at Eastern Kentucky and eventually got the Colonels into the NCAA playoffs after an Ohio Valley Conference championship in 2007. Purdue was familiar with Hope due to a solid five-year stint as the offensive line coach under Joe Tiller and Drew Brees during the Boilers most recent heyday (1997-2001). After one year as the assistant head coach in 2008, Hope was given the top job in 2009. It took him three seasons, but Purdue experienced its first winning season and subsequent bowl appearance since 2007 when PU beat Western Michigan in last year’s Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. His Boilermakers have been one of the most injury-riddled programs in the nation of late and appear to be snake-bitten. However, that hasn’t kept Hope from pulling off a few massive upsets over perennial Big Ten powers (we're looking at you Columbus).

11. Bill O’Brien, Penn State (First year)
Alma Mater: 
Record: First Year

Romeo Crennel is 26-41 as a head coach. Charlie Weis is 35-27 as a head coach. Josh McDaniels is 11-17 as a head coach. Bill Belichick assistants have gone on to win 45.8% of their games as head coaches on both the college and NFL level. This is one of the few concrete pieces of statistical evidence available to evaluate Penn State’s hiring of the Patriots offensive coordinator. Much like the relatively unsuccessful Nick Saban assistants (Derek Dooley, Wil Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher), it can be a double-edged sword hiring a Belichick protégé. First, Belichick, like Saban, doesn’t hire bad personnel. You have to be a hard worker who is willing to grind out wins in the toughest of circumstances. Check. Yet, shockingly, the assistants never seem to be as good without the sage leadership of the head honcho to guide them. The only other piece of concrete evidence is O’Brien’s undeniable experience and knowledge of college football on the East Coast. He has coached at Georgia Tech (1995-2002), Maryland (2003-2004) and Duke (2005-2006). He has recruited up and down the Atlantic seaboard and this aspect of his resume should help him ease into what could be the most difficult situation in the history of college football. 

12. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (1 year)
Alma Mater:
 North Carolina
Record: 1-11 (2011-present)

Wilson deserves credit for creating one of the nation’s best offenses while at Oklahoma. Under his watchful eye from 2002 to 2010, the Sooners churned out 3,000-yard passers and conference championships. His offensive prowess in Norman culminated with the 2008 Broyles Award given to the nation’s top assistant coach and a trip to the BCS title game. While Indiana fans don’t expect Oklahoma-level success in Bloomington, Hoosiers fans deserve more than one win over an FCS opponent. In fact, the win over South Carolina State last fall was Wilson’s first and only career win as a head coach at any level. He went 0-10 in one season as the head coach of Fred T. Foard High School in 1989, giving him an all-time record of 1-21 as a head coach. Wilson showed marked improvement in one area last fall, however, as his rushing attack showed major promise in the second half of the season. Yet, losing out on the nation’s No. 2 quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel during the winter months didn’t lengthen the leash at all. There is still much to be proven for the former Sooner assistant.

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
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Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
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College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon continues its spring preview by ranking the coaches in the Big Ten.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 07:50
Path: /columns/nascar-news-notes/chad-knaus-penalty-overturned

by Matt Taliaferro

The National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook, reduced a penalty handed down by NASCAR to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team on Tuesday. Middlebrook rescinded the loss of 25 owner and driver points and the six-race suspension of crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec. The $100,000 fine remained in place.

At issue were unapproved C-post modifications made to the car and discovered prior to practice for the Daytona 500. The car, which never turned a lap at Daytona, was pulled out of the technical inspection line. NASCAR asked the team to cut off the posts — which connect the roof to the rear deck lid and quarterpanels — to replace them.

Team owner Rick Hendrick stated that the C-posts in question had been used for all four of the restrictor plate races in 2011, and had passed not only technical inspection, but a trip to NASCAR’s R&D Center following October’s Talladega race.

On Tuesday, Hendrick said he presented some 20 photos, 15-20 pages of documentation and three sworn affidavits that the posts had not been changed.

“I’m glad this is over,” Hendrick told Scene Daily. “I appreciate the fact that we had the opportunity to present all the facts. I’m happy with the outcome to see the points reinstated and Chad reinstated.”

A three-person appeals board initially upheld the penalty on March 13 — Hendrick’s first appeal — but Middlebrook, who serves as the final step in the appeals process, ruled otherwise.

“Obviously we’re not happy with the fine — that’s an awful lot of money for something that was obviously proved to be OK,” Knaus said. “So that hurts a little bit. But it’s not about vindication. It’s over with. It’s time to move on.”

The reinstated points moves driver Jimmie Johnson from 17th in the point standings — 61 points out of first — to 11th, 36 markers back.

“We respect (Middlebrook’s) decision,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. “We believe in this process.

I don’t think we made any mistakes. Our inspection process speaks for itself. It has worked very, very well in the garage for many years and it will work for many years to come.”

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

<p> National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook overturns NASCAR penalty levied against Hendrick Motorsports.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 17:37
Path: /columns/garage-talk/long-and-short-it-keselowski-sees-benefit-running-nationwide-series

by Dustin Long

What some fans say is wrong with NASCAR is what Brad Keselowski says was right for him. Keselowski credits running against Cup drivers in what was then called the Busch Series for his current success and helping him win on a variety of Cup tracks.

Keselowski’s victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday marked his fifth career Sprint Cup victory. Although it was his second consecutive Bristol win, his other victories have come at a unique set of tracks — Talladega (restrictor plate), Kansas (1.5-mile intermediate) and Pocono (2.5-mile flat track).

Cup drivers competing in the Nationwide Series is something that rankles some fans, who liken it to pro players competing in the minors. Many of those fans say when a Cup driver competes in the Nationwide Series, he prevents another “up-and-coming” driver from getting a chance to compete, blocking their path to Cup.

Keselowski sees the issue differently.

“I was very fortunate to race with some of the best,’‘ Keselowski said following his Bristol win. “I go back to my first Nationwide start for Dale (Earnhardt Jr. in 2007). It was in Chicago. To this day I think that race still has the record for the most amount of Cup drivers. But that's what I had to do to build my career. I mean, I had to go against the Cup drivers when I was still trying to figure out how to run Nationwide.’’

Keselowski raced against 25 Cup drivers in that Chicago race when he made his first start for JR Motorsports. Kevin Harvick won, as Cup drivers took the top nine spots. Keselowski placed 14th and was the second-highest finishing Busch regular. Stephen Leicht was the highest-finishing series regular, placing 10th.

“What I'm trying to say, it obviously frustrates me a little bit when I take some heat — any Cup driver takes some heat from the press, media, fans, whatever — about running the Nationwide Series, because it's really a character builder,’’ Keselowski said. “If you can run well over there, you can come here (to Cup) and get the job done.

“That series helped me build a lot of character. It helped me learn in a smaller spotlight. I feel like when I got over here (to Cup) that the learning process was a lot quicker. It just came down to getting with the right team that I jelled with and that believed in me.’’

Certainly, different methods help different drivers.

The varying style of tracks that Keselowski has won at so far compares favorably with other drivers.

Jeff Gordon’s first five victories were at Charlotte (1.5-mile banked intermediate), Indianapolis (2.5-mile flat), Rockingham (1-mile intermediate), Atlanta (1.5-mile banked intermediate) and Bristol (.5-mile short track).

Variety isn’t the only way to succeed. Three of former champion Kurt Busch’s first five victories came on short tracks. Three of Kevin Harvick’s first five victories came at 1.5-mile speedways.

While there aren’t as many Cup drivers competing in the Nationwide Series as in that ’07 Chicago race — Saturday’s Nationwide race at Bristol featured nine drivers who would start the Cup race the next day — Keselowski shows that drivers can compete against the Cup regulars in the Nationwide Series and move on to greater success. 

<p> Following another highly entertaining Bristol weekend, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 14:11
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-which-teams-missed-sweet-16-0

The editors at Athlon Sports tackle a few questions on college basketball with the Sweet 16 quickly approaching. Here's No. 1.

Which team are you most surprised did not make the Sweet 16?

Nathan Rush: After Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game, it looked like the Commodores were coming together at just the right time. When the bracket came out, VU appeared to have a shot to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, with matchups against Harvard and Wisconsin (most likely) on the first weekend. I doubted Duke and Missouri, but thought Vanderbilt had a team built to last in March. But John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor got cold at the wrong time against a tough Badger defense.

Mitch Light: Missouri is the obvious answer, but I picked Florida to beat the Tigers in the Round of the 32, so I can’t really say I’m surprised that Fran Haith’s team, as a No. 2 seed, is not in the Sweet 16. I’ll go with Florida State. The Seminoles played very well down the stretch and appeared to be the most complete team in the Nashville pod of the East Region. FSU survived a scare from St. Bonaventure in the first round, but could not get past the scrappy Bearcats from Cincinnati in the Round of 32. The Noles’ defense was strong, as usual, but they had trouble on the offensive end, shooting .380 from the field while committing 17 turnovers. Any team that beats both North Carolina and Duke twice in the same season is clearly talented enough to advance to the Sweet 16, but the Seminoles simply didn’t get it done when it mattered most.

Patrick Snow: I’m still shocked about Missouri, who did not even make it to the Round of 32. The senior-dominated Tigers entered the tourney at 30–4, and they had just won a Big 12 Tournament title by beating all three opponents by at least 14 points. Then came the game with Norfolk State. Most heavy favorites lose early in the tournament because they have a bad shooting night and do not take care of the basketball. However, that was not the case with Missouri. Frank Haith’s crew shot over 50 percent from the field and only committed eight turnovers in scoring 84 points. Mizzou simply did not bring it on the defensive end and could not match the hustle (14 offensive rebounds for the MEAC Tournament champions) of Anthony Evans’ club. Norfolk State did not have anyone averaging over 16 points per game on the season, yet three Spartans scored at least 20 points against the Tigers. I definitely thought ultra-experienced Missouri would make the Sweet 16, instead of becoming history’s fifth No. 2 seed to lose to a No. 15 seed.

Mark Ross: Vanderbilt seemed to have all the momentum coming off its victory over No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship and did something the Commodores had struggled to do recently — win their opening game in the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt seemed to match up well against Wisconsin, and many were even looking ahead to a potential Sweet 16 matchup against No. 1 seed Syracuse, who is without the services of big man Fab Melo. But the Badgers had other ideas. Wisconsin’s defense held Vanderbilt’s big guns John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor in check, and the Badgers took a page out of the Commodores’ play book and scored half of their 60 points via the 3-pointer. Vanderbilt shot poorly from beyond the arc (5-of-19) and committed several offensive fouls in the first half that limited their chances to put points on the board and put some players in early foul trouble. Jenkins had a chance to give Vanderbilt the lead late in the game, but his 3-pointer was long. The 60–57 loss was not how these group of Commodores envisioned their season would end back in November.

Braden Gall: The Missouri Tigers. This team featured the best backcourt combination of experience, talent, confidence and poise of any team in the nation. Mizzou rolled through the Big 12 Tournament and had won 12 straight games over teams not from Kansas. And frankly, the Tigers didn’t play a terrible game where they missed shots and committed uncharacteristic turnovers. They were simply outworked on the glass by a bigger team and didn’t deserve to win. Those Mizzou seniors will spend the rest of their lives wondering if they played with enough urgency in the second half against Norfolk State.

<p> Athlon Sports editors debate some college baskeball questions. First off is a look at which teams missed a great opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2012-majors-no-9-steve-stricker


They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2012 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Throughout the month of March, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 9: Steve Stricker

Born: Feb. 23, 1967, Edgerton, Wis.  | Career PGA Tour Wins: 12 | 2011 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2011 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,992,785 World Ranking: 5


Brandel Chamblee's Take:

At 45 years old, Steve Stricker is doing what few golfers have ever done: He is showing no signs of waning interest or skills as he ages. In 2011, for the third consecutive year, he won multiple tournaments on the PGA Tour and increased his career win total to 11, a number that has since grown. He also had a very good year in the majors, making the cut in all four; only one player, Charles Schwartzel, had a lower cumulative score (Stricker was tied with Sergio Garcia). For the second consecutive year Steve didn’t miss a PGA Tour cut, and as of this writing, his current streak of 46 events without missing a cut is the longest on Tour. 
Like Luke Donald, though, he is a relatively short hitter who doesn’t drive the ball as straight as he should given his lack of distance. Not once in his career has he hit 70 percent of the fairways in a year, and that is why he hasn’t had a top-5 finish in a major since 1999.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 53
Wins: 0

2011 Performance:
Masters - T11
U.S. Open - T19
British Open - T12
PGA Championship - T12

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T6 (2009)
U.S. Open - 5/T5 (1998-99)
British Open - T7 (2008)
PGA Championship - 2 (1998)
Top-10 Finishes: 9
Top-25 Finishes: 22
Missed Cuts: 14

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter. 

<br />
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 10:28
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-rankings-big-board

Believe it or not, but the 2012 MLB season gets started in a little more than a week when Oakland and Seattle start a two-game series in Tokoyo.

Granted, the "official" Opening Day isn't until April 5, but regardless of your preference, there's no time better than the present for an updated Fantasy Baseball Big Board.

And this time around, it's an even bigger Big Board as Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web and added 50 more spots to its consensus fantasy baseball Big Board, which now numbers 200, to help you get ready for this upcomnig season (with special thanks to

Not suprisingly, as spring training has gone on, different players' rankings across the board have gone up and down as teams' rosters are beginning to take shape on and off the fields in both Arizona and Florida.

As far as the updated Big Board, those changes start at the top. Reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun had his pending 50-game suspension for violation of the league's drug policy overturned on Feb. 24.

Now that it's clear Braun will be eligible to play, if healthy, a full 162-game schedule, it's no surprise that he has soared up the Big Board. Coming in at No. 71 on the consenus Big Board on Feb. 10, Braun is ranked No. 1 overall according to, making him one of four players, along with Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp and Albert Pujols, who received a first-place vote among the nine different sources used to compile Athlon's Big Board.

Taking all nine sources into account, Cabrera takes the No. 1 position on the updated Big Board, edging out Pujols for that distinction. Kemp, who finished second to Braun in the NL MVP voting last year, comes in third, followed by Braun.

Some of the other big risers among the consensus Top 200 include Joel Hanrahan (No. 125, up from No. 144), Andre Ethier (No. 130, up from No. 150), Martin Prado (No. 140, up from No. 157), Melky Cabrera (No. 143, up from No. 165), Rafael Betancourt (No. 153, up from No. 182), Gaby Sanchez (No. 158, up from No. 183), David Freese (No. 166, up from 198) and Carlos Lee (No. 172, up from No. 200),

On the other hand, several players' Big Board rankings dropped with some of the biggest fallers including the likes of Carl Crawford (No. 84, down from No. 67), Corey Hart (No. 104, down from No. 93), Nick Markakis (No. 117, down from 104), Ryan Howard (no. 160, down from No. 118), Ike Davis (No. 161, down from 137), Justin Morneau (No. 165, down from No. 153), Tim Hudson (No. 168, down from No. 133), and Ervin Santana (No. 184, down from No. 152).

And while not necessarily reflected in these Big Board rankings, two other injury situations that bear watching are David Wright, who has been limited by a torn abdominal muscle in his left side, and Chase Utley, who is dealing with issues in both of his knees. Wright has said he will be ready by Opening Day, while Utley's availability for the Phillies' opener on April 5 is questionable at best.

Several players also are making their debut on Athlon's consensus Big Board, including Coco Crisp, Angel Pagan, Delmon Young, Brandon Morrow, Brandon McCarthy and Huston Street, to name few.

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on Athlon Sports' consensus Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on Athlon Sports' consensus Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – (as of 3/15/12)
RC – (updated 3/18/12)
RS – (updated 2/27/12)
USA — (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings**: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

**Positional rankings will be updated beginning later this week

1 3 Miguel Cabera DET 1B 2 1 1 4 4 1 4 3 1
2 1 Albert Pujols LAA 1B 1 3 2 3 2 3 3 4 3
3 2 Matt Kemp LAD OF 6 4 3 1 1 4 2 1 2
4 71 Ryan Braun MIL OF 5 5 4 8 5 2 1 2 6
5 4 Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 11 2 5 6 3 6 5 5 5
6 5 Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 4 9 6 5 6 15 8 6 4
7 8 Robinson Cano NYY 2B 3 16 7 10 10 13 7 8 8
8 6 Jacoby Ellsbury BOS OF 19 8 8 2 8 9 6 12 12
9 7 Joey Votto CIN 1B 16 12 10 12 9 5 9 10 7
10 9 Adrian Gonzalez BOS 1B 7 13 14 7 11 11 13 9 9
11 10 Justin Upton ARI OF 14 18 9 14 7 21 10 11 10
12 14 Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 12 19 16 18 15 12 11 16 11
13 12 Roy Halladay PHI SP 10 6 12 19 23 10 12 22 18
14 11 Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 9 7 20 13 19 8 22 21 15
15 15 Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 13 14 15 11 21 16 14 19 17
16 13 Justin Verlander DET SP 8 10 17 17 22 17 21 17 16
17 16 Prince Fielder DET 1B 17 26 18 15 12 7 18 18 14
18 17 Evan Longoria TB 3B 33 20 11 16 17 19 16 7 13
19 20 Hanley Ramirez MIA SS 27 29 13 9 16 34 15 13 21
20 19 Cliff Lee PHI SP 20 11 22 21 27 14 24 26 24
21 18 Curtis Granderson NYY OF 38 15 23 22 13 23 17 20 22
22 22 Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 28 30 19 26 14 35 20 15 20
23 21 Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 22 33 24 23 24 18 27 31 23
24 24 Jose Reyes MIA SS 18 32 21 31 18 61 19 14 19
25 23 Felix Hernandez SEA SP 24 21 28 28 28 31 32 35 30
26 25 Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 40 38 26 20 26 29 28 30 27
27 26 Jered Weaver LAA SP 15 25 31 38 33 25 39 45 35
28 30 Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 31 37 27 34 29 53 23 29 26
29 28 Tim Lincecum SF SP 25 27 32 32 30 51 42 32 28
30 32 Josh Hamilton TEX OF 26 46 40 35 36 49 25 27 34
31 31 CC Sabathia NYY SP 67 22 43 25 38 28 31 33 31
32 34 Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 83 68 25 33 25 22 30 25 25
33 27 Cole Hamels PHI SP 23 24 39 40 31 46 36 66 32
34 29 David Wright NYM 3B 73 23 29 24 20 91 26 23 29
35 36 Ryan Zimmerman WAS 3B 29 42 34 42 32 60 47 24 33
36 33 Carlos Santana CLE C/1B 52 17 52 30 35 32 46 40 41
37 39 Matt Holliday STL OF 42 57 30 36 65 45 33 28 36
38 38 Mike Napoli TOR C/1B 57 43 47 27 39 30 41 36 53
39 48 Pablo Sandoval SF 3B 34 54 33 44 68 27 38 69 39
40 40 Hunter Pence HOU OF 45 77 37 66 56 24 29 34 44
41 37 Dan Haren LAA SP 47 31 41 61 41 65 34 46 49
42 35 David Price TB SP 21 34 53 48 47 56 54 53 50
43 41 Zack Greinke MIL SP 66 28 48 57 46 55 50 44 40
44 44 Brian McCann ATL C 48 41 69 46 43 47 44 39 83
45 43 Starlin Castro CHC SS 44 79 57 63 42 59 37 43 38
46 42 Paul Konerko CHW 1B 70 97 36 37 40 38 35 65 47
47 47 Jay Bruce CIN OF 63 90 38 62 34 40 55 38 51
48 56 Brett Lawrie TOR 3B 71 55 46 67 44 33 63 71 45
49 45 Craig Kimbrel ATL RP 30 39 62 75 52 57 65 63 56
50 52 Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 93 72 51 41 45 64 43 51 52
51 46 Matt Cain SF SP 37 70 61 73 48 36 59 77 54
52 49 Eric Hosmer KC 1B 41 106 45 39 74 43 40 60 68
53 59 Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 39 101 54 49 49 71 52 47 55
54 54 Nelson Cruz TEX OF 94 76 44 56 37 95 48 37 37
55 57 Dan Uggla ATL 2B 100 103 42 52 64 50 45 55 48
56 50 Jon Lester BOS SP 49 50 56 55 61 98 78 62 58
57 51 Elvis Andrus TEX SS 64 108 60 60 63 92 49 41 42
58 55 Stephen Strasburg WAS SP 35 58 75 84 81 20 68 108 57
59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
60 60 Yovani Gallardo MIL SP 54 40 65 85 58 90 92 48 59
61 65 Michael Bourn HOU OF 80 74 35 72 87 84 51 42 67
62 61 Alex Rodriguez NYY 3B 98 66 67 50 53 83 72 58 46
63 68 Shin-Soo Choo CLE OF 51 75 77 80 85 58 64 49 63
64 58 Desmond Jennings TB OF 99 85 104 68 50 54 61 50 43
65 69 Alex Gordon KC OF 82 87 50 81 60 73 66 59 66
66 77 Shane Victorino PHI OF 102 69 55 65 79 78 58 56 65
67 73 Buster Posey SF C 62 52 127 51 75 44 87 61 75
68 62 James Sheilds TB SP 76 36 64 78 72 103 62 72 81
69 72 Kevin Youkilis BOS 1B/3B 58 45 98 59 77 105 76 68 60
70 79 Michael Morse WAS 1B/OF 103 83 71 53 82 42 70 83 62
71 66 Asdrubal Cabrera CLE SS 97 86 63 47 54 97 56 92 64
72 75 Madison Bumgarner SF SP 46 49 79 94 67 72 88 87 80
73 70 C.J. Wilson LAA SP 101 61 68 70 51 69 75 80 88
74 74 Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 89 107 58 64 86 62 73 57 74
75 64 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B 95 95 83 45 55 96 67 54 84
76 80 Jonathan Papelbon PHI RP 32 112 87 74 71 82 79 73 77
77 76 Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 43 48 131 58 66 77 85 93 95
78 63 Ian Kennedy ARI SP 90 35 72 86 76 70 69 122 79
79 78 Mariano Rivera NYY RP 56 110 73 88 57 85 82 84 76
80 84 B.J. Upton TB OF 106 99 80 82 73 87 60 64 69
81 81 Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 104 102 49 54 69 146 53 76 73
82 86 Matt Wieters BAL C 60 65 84 69 88 106 93 74 90
83 87 Lance Berkman STL 1B/OF 105 78 59 77 96 52 77 99 86
84 67 Carl Crawford BOS OF 79 67 70 29 59 - 71 52 103
85 88 John Axford MIL RP 36 92 93 108 70 127 96 82 78
86 94 David Ortiz BOS DH 72 91 66 100 122 41 114 70 121
87 92 Adam Jones BAL OF 86 117 78 102 110 63 83 88 89
88 91 Mat Latos CIN SP 111 47 94 103 62 104 84 119 100
89 83 Chase Utley PHI 2B 68 100 76 71 98 - 74 67 71
90 90 Howard Kendrick LAA 1B/2B/OF 85 119 118 79 84 88 91 101 72
91 89 Drew Storen WAS RP 50 93 89 96 78 141 107 110 82
92 82 Tommy Hanson ATL SP 77 62 116 131 80 68 86 142 97
93 95 Josh Johnson MIA SP 53 59 128 124 91 66 108 132 101
94 96 Daniel Hudson ARI SP 109 63 85 109 89 116 99 94 102
95 85 Michael Pineda NYY SP 91 60 96 116 105 74 101 116 116
96 97 Miguel Montero ARI C 69 53 117 125 113 86 103 89 122
97 103 Matt Garza CHI SP 114 71 101 119 93 107 109 86 104
98 98 Billy Butler KC 1B 55 111 102 129 153 37 121 85 123
99 101 Brett Gardner NYY OF 110 109 90 105 104 124 89 78 107
100 110 Adam Wainwright STL SP 78 64 97 143 126 89 100 134 99
101 99 Ricky Romero TOR SP 65 82 81 90 118 134 113 127 124
102 106 Chris Young ARI OF 117 88 107 110 116 93 81 98 125
103 102 Drew Stubbs CIN OF 113 129 112 87 95 136 102 79 92
104 93 Corey Hart MIL OF 107 89 100 97 176 114 80 96 93
105 108 Ichiro Suzuki SEA OF 116 84 88 120 121 129 90 106 106
106 115 Jayson Werth WAS OF 121 140 82 98 94 113 104 100 114
107 100 Josh Beckett BOS SP 75 51 108 121 107 145 119 128 126
108 119 Alex Avila DET C 122 44 121 99 120 130 126 91 127
109 107 Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 81 147 120 76 143 81 127 97 115
110 112 Matt Moore TB RP 115 104 74 221 140 79 95 130 91
111 105 Yu Darvish TEX SP 108 80 124 186 148 76 105 129 87
112 120 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 96 152 92 123 156 139 98 121 70
113 114 Jason Heyward ATL OF 119 153 109 92 106 182 111 102 85
114 109 Brian Wilson SF RP 84 133 106 122 92 189 106 118 112
115 113 Mark Reynolds BAL 1B/3B 120 98 156 107 111 101 123 124 128
116 121 Derek Jeter NYY SS 125 118 113 101 97 - 94 105 118
117 104 Nick Markakis BAL OF 88 128 145 111 139 48 112 176 130
118 123 Alexei Ramirez CHW SS 127 138 86 89 123 131 116 145 129
119 117 Brandon Beachy ATL SP 123 81 123 137 132 80 137 165 110
120 116 Jose Valverde DET RP 61 154 125 117 90 171 124 120 131
121 111 Heath Bell MIA RP 92 94 148 151 83 165 117 139 108
122 127 Ryan Madson CIN RP 129 120 99 182 108 132 118 107 113
123 129 Dustin Ackley SEA 2B 112 144 171 93 135 152 132 103 117
124 122 Chris Carpenter STL SP 132 136 103 114 100 - 97 159 133
125 144 Joel Hanrahan PIT RP 135 134 119 170 103 155 128 104 136
126 124 Gio Gonzalez WAS SP 118 73 132 115 160 - 125 161 109
127 139 Erick Aybar LAA SS 153 127 129 95 112 - 131 111 135
128 126 Jesus Montero SEA DH 126 124 188 206 142 39 110 135 132
129 130 Cameron Maybin SD OF 143 139 143 138 99 160 155 81 140
130 150 Andre Ethier LAD OF 137 130 140 127 174 100 166 109 120
131 132 Carlos Beltran STL OF 128 196 115 135 - 111 120 95 105
132 128 J.J. Putz ARI RP 149 113 142 145 102 120 130 168 138
133 141 J.J. Hardy BAL SS 140 168 111 91 129 191 170 90 134
134 135 Cory Luebke SD SP/RP 144 135 130 174 134 67 136 177 137
135 125 Emilio Bonifacio MIA SS/3B/OF 124 114 213 83 - 109 142 172 119
136 131 Jordan Zimmerman WAS SP 131 115 110 184 138 - 122 125 139
137 134 Anibal Sanchez MIA SP 134 96 137 173 137 125 133 191 141
138 147 Dee Gordon LAD SS 138 145 133 157 169 138 139 162 96
139 140 Andrew Bailey BOS RP 130 143 158 - 109 119 179 112 143
140 157 Martin Prado ATL 3B/OF 152 122 168 128 150 115 162 157 150
141 149 Nick Swisher NYY 1B/OF 163 170 150 146 115 137 158 114 153
142 143 Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 136 - 182 150 117 126 192 113 98
143 165 Melky Cabrera SF OF 164 141 149 149 151 102 138 173 157
144 138 Johnny Cueto CIN SP 87 162 151 134 180 163 152 149 152
145 136 Adam Lind TOR 1B 158 - 135 142 133 110 115 195 142
146 148 Neil Walker PIT 2B 141 157 167 104 - 117 154 144 147
147 158 Ubaldo Jimanez CLE SP 151 121 105 141 158 - 140 174 144
148 142 Logan Morrison MIA OF 146 - 153 118 - 75 171 133 145
149 156 Jeff Francoeur KC OF 189 151 180 136 124 133 144 146 164
150 145 Shaun Marcum MIL SP 147 186 122 - 114 142 129 179 148
151 163 Jhonny Peralta DET SS 142 169 126 106 193 200 159 138 149
152 146 Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 139 - 174 148 167 135 134 141 156
153 182 Rafael Betancourt COL RP 150 159 114 - 172 118 141 - 146
154 154 Torii Hunter LAA OF 172 - 146 159 198 94 149 131 154
155 160 Sergio Santos TOR RP 176 155 - 178 131 123 151 137 159
156 172 Jeremy Hellickson TB SP 160 164 91 165 164 - 161 156 158
157 151 Joakim Soria KC RP 196 142 152 169 119 187 135 160 162
158 183 Gaby Sanchez MIA 1B 156 182 162 133 200 154 175 115 161
159 164 Ryan Roberts ARI 2B/3B 162 123 165 112 192 162 189 180 155
160 118 Ryan Howard PHI 1B 159 126 196 171 187 - 160 150 94
161 137 Ike Davis NYM 1B 157 149 208 172 152 - 168 140 111
162 168 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B 182 185 189 113 166 140 165 155 160
163 NR Coco Crisp OAK OF - 146 138 167 199 112 153 169 170
164 166 Doug Fister DET SP 174 175 144 196 163 108 148 - 163
165 153 Justin Morneau MIN 1B 59 191 - 176 181 - - 126 151
166 198 David Freese STL 3B 145 192 194 160 145 169 - 117 167
167 186 Jemile Weeks OAK 2B 165 131 - 180 - 156 145 147 177
168 133 Tim Hudson ATL SP 133 189 139 132 - 179 174 - 166
169 181 Jaime Garcia STL SP 199 163 154 139 179 144 180 183 180
170 188 Jason Motte STL RP 178 172 136 197 136 175 156 194 178
171 170 Jordan Walden LAA RP - 171 163 163 125 183 143 - 173
172 200 Carlos Lee HOU 1B/OF 161 - - 147 - 150 183 123 175
173 173 Max Scherzer DET SP 190 188 134 185 130 - 178 171 169
174 180 Mike Moustakas KC 3B 186 181 190 130 - 149 - 148 172
175 174 Carlos Marmol CHC RP 198 - 183 - 127 148 146 182 174
176 189 Austin Jackson DET OF 177 148 - 179 144 - - 136 182
177 179 Joe Nathan TEX RP - 156 - 195 128 181 164 170 184
178 193 Kelly Johnson TOR 2B - 161 175 164 141 199 157 - 188
179 169 Yadier Molina STL C - 132 186 140 - 193 191 164 179
180 159 Neftali Feliz TEX RP - 187 141 - - 121 181 - 168
181 NR Ted Lilly LAD SP 191 - 164 - 159 151 147 - 192
182 190 Kendrys Morales LAA 1B 154 - - - 168 122 - - 176
183 191 Hiroki Kuroda NYY SP 193 174 147 - - 170 150 196 193
184 152 Ervin Santana LAA SP 148 - 161 156 - - 176 187 197
185 NR Angel Pagan SF OF 187 167 178 187 154 - 163 193 -
186 NR Delmon Young DET OF 155 195 - 162 177 177 169 - 200
187 NR Brandon Morrow TOR SP - 176 170 154 161 - 198 175 -
188 162 Daniel Bard BOS RP 185 - 185 - - 99 - - 165
189 184 Wandy Rodriguez HOU SP - 137 166 199 194 185 184 189 186
190 NR Stephen Drew ARI SS - - 160 152 - - 197 151 -
191 187 Matt Joyce TB OF - 150 - 192 - 164 194 163 199
192 175 Carlos Quentin SD OF 194 - - 126 - - - 166 183
193 197 Justin Masterson CLE SP - 158 159 153 - - 200 - -
194 NR Brandon McCarthy OAK SP 170 200 179 188 - 147 - - 189
195 NR Josh Willingham MIN OF - - 184 - 183 167 190 158 -
196 171 J.P. Arencibia TOR C - 125 - - 178 - - 199 181
197 NR Huston Street COL RP - - 176 - 157 186 167 - -
198 204 Chris Sale CHW SP 183 - 177 - - 143 199 - 187
199 211 Yunel Escobar TOR SS 192 183 200 161 - - - 153 -
200 161 Russell Martin NYY C - 116 - - - - - - 171

Next 25: Kyle Farnsworth (TB, RP), Brandon League (SEA, RP), Edwin Encarnacion (TOR, 3B), Peter Bourjos (LAA, OF), Jhoulys Chacin (COL, SP), Colby Lewis (TEX, SP), Lucas Duda (NYM, 1B/OF), Scott Baker (MIN, SP), Mark Trumbo (LAA, 1B/OF), Brandon Belt (SF, 1B/OF), Vance Worley (PHI, SP), Clay Buchholz (BOS, SP), Wilson Ramos (WAS, C), Marco Scutaro (COL, SS), Seth Smith (OAK, OF), Colby Rasmus (TOR, OF), Alex Rios (CHW, OF), Carlos Pena (TB, 1B), Matt Thornton (CHW, RP), Chase Headley (SD, 3B), Kenley Jansen (LAD, RP), Yoenis Cespedes (OAK, OF), Yonder Alonso (SD, OF), Derek Holland (TEX, SP), Geovany Soto (CHC, C)

— by Mark Ross, Updated on March 20, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers


For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

<p> With Opening Day a few weeks away, Athlon Sports has updated its consensus MLB fantasy big board for 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-coaches

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the Big 12:

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (13 years)
Alma Mater:
Iowa (1979-82)
Record: 139-34 (1999-present)

The Sooners have had a few down years under Stoops, but since his arrival in Norman, Oklahoma has emerged once again as a national power. Stoops’ tenure has been a picture of success, leading the Sooners to 10 double-digit win seasons and eight BCS bowl appearances. The biggest knock on Stoops has been the lack of success in BCS bowl games, as Oklahoma is just 1-5 in its last six BCS bowl appearances. And that criticism of Stoops always stirs this debate: Would you take a coach that struggles to get to a BCS bowl and wins one every eight years or take a coach that consistently gets there, but has a disappointing BCS record after six years? Regardless of whether or not Stoops wins three BCS bowls in a row or loses the next three, it’s going to be hard to knock him off the top spot in the Big 12.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Bob Stoops has more wins (119) from 2001-Present than any other active head coach

·       Bob Stoops is 66-3 in home games 

·       Bob Stoops is 96-5 when scoring 30 or more points in a game

·       Bob Stoops teams have scored 30 or more points 101 times (68.24%)

·       Bob Stoops is 63-25 (71.59%) vs. teams finishing the season over .500

2. Gary Patterson, TCU (12 years)
Alma Mater: Kansas State
Record: 109-30 (2000-present)

Patterson coached at 10 different programs over a 16-year period before given the chance to lead TCU in 2000 (one game). The hard-nosed defensive guru went to bowl games in three straight seasons to start his career and needed only two years to register his first 10-win season. It was only the second 10-win season for the Horned Frogs in the Post-World War II era. He has rattled off eight such seasons over the last 10 years in Fort Worth, including a current streak of four straight. He has won the program’s first BCS Bowl (Rose in 2010) and has elevated TCU to a BCS level as the Frogs will join the Big 12 in 2012. In 11 full seasons on the job, Patterson has five conference championships, three conference Coach of the Year awards and was the unanimous 2009 National Coach of the Year (AFCA, AP, Walter Camp, Boddy Dodd, Eddie Robinson, Liberty Mutual). TCU has experienced one losing season under Patterson (2004), but has been to a bowl every year since, winning seven of those eight post-season games. TCU has gone 36-3 over the last three years with 13 NFL Draft picks over that span and two BCS bowl appearances.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Patterson is 45-21 (68.18%) vs. teams finishing the season over .500

·       Patterson is 7-3 in bowl games

·       Patterson has won 10+ games 8 times from 2001-Present

·       Patterson's defenses force a 3-and-out or a turnover in 50.72% of possessions

·       Patterson's defenses have given up 20 points or less in 60% of the games he has been the head coach

3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (7 years)
Alma Mater: Oklahoma State (1986-89)
Record: 59-30 (2005-present)

Gundy has been slowly moving up the Big 12 coach rankings over the last few seasons. After posting 18 victories through his first three seasons in Stillwater, Gundy has led the Cowboys to four consecutive years of at least nine wins. Oklahoma State is coming off its first BCS bowl appearances and was one win away from playing for the national championship. The Big 12 isn’t getting any easier with the arrival of West Virginia and TCU, but Gundy has the Cowboys well-positioned to remain a conference title contender for the foreseeable future.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Gundy's teams have scored TD's in 38.14% of offensive possessions

·       Gundy's teams have scored 40+ pts in 40.45% of the games he has been the head coach

·       Gundy is 1-6 vs. Oklahoma

·       Gundy has won 9+ games every year from 2008-2011

4. Mack Brown, Texas (14 years)
Alma Mater:
Vanderbilt, Florida State
Record: 141-39 (1998-present)
Record: 69-46-1 (North Carolina, 1988-97)
Record: 11-23 (Tulane, 1985-87)
Record: 6-5 (Appalachian St, 1983)
Overall: 227-113-1

Senator Brown has seen better days but still must be considered one of the league’s best options. After learning the coaching ropes at FCS power Appalachian State and Tulane, Brown rebuilt the North Carolina program. He posted three 10-win seasons in Chapel Hill and went to six straight bowls before taking the best job in college football. All Brown did in his first 13 seasons on the 40 Acres was win at least nine games and finish no worse than second in the South Division every year. After seven seasons, including three Big 12 South titles, Brown broke through with his first conference title in 2005. Behind the leadership of Vince Young, Texas won one of college football's greatest games ever played against USC in the Rose Bowl and the National Championship returned to Austin for the first time since 1970. Despite another trip to the national title game in 2009, Brown’s program eroded in 2010. He posted his first losing season since 1989 as a head coach and was forced to fire multiple assistants. The Horns returned to their winning ways last fall and 2012 will go a long way in proving whether or not Brown has gotten complacent or should be ranked No. 1 on this list. Texas is the single best coaching job in America with more natural and financial resources than any other program in the nation. Therefore, recruiting and on-the-field success should be measured with more scrutiny — especially for a man who has, for some reason, dealt with retirement rumors of late.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Mack Brown is 56-25 (70.24%) vs. teams finishing the season over .500

·       Mack Brown is 23-4 (85.19%) in games decided by 4 pts or less

·       Texas won 60.34% of their games in the five years prior to Brown's arrival. Brown has won 80.28%

·       Brown has had 12 first round draft picks from 2001-2011

5. Bill Snyder, Kansas State (20 years)
Alma Mater: William Jewell (1959-1962)
Record: 159-83-1 (1989-2005), (2009-present)

Prior to Snyder’s arrival in Manhattan, the Wildcats had struggled to find much success on the gridiron. From 1985-88, Kansas State posted an awful 3-40 record and had only one winning season from 1971-82. Snyder won only one game in his first season, but recorded at least five in every season from 1990-2003. Under his watch, the Wildcats have made two BCS bowl appearances and won or shared the Big 12 title four times. The one concern about Snyder is his age. Although he shows no signs of slowing down, he will be 73 at the end of the 2012 season. If you are an athletic director looking to make a hire and Snyder is one of three available candidates – you have to wonder how many years he will stick around. However, Snyder understands the culture and what it takes to win at Kansas State. It’s not an easy job, but Snyder has transformed the Wildcats from a laughingstock to a consistent contender in the Big 12.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Five years prior to Snyder being named the head coach, Kansas St. won 10.77% of their games. Snyder has won 60% and won 9+ games 11 times in his 20-year stint as head coach of the Wildcats

·       Snyder is 7-1 vs. Kansas

·       Since 2001, Snyder is 6-15 vs. Top 25 teams (Time of Game Ranking)

·       Since 2001, Snyder is 24-36 against teams finishing the season over .500

6. Art Briles, Baylor (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Houston, Texas Tech, Abilene Christian
Record: 25-25 (2008-present)
Record: 34-28 (Houston, 2003-2007)
Overall: 59-53

After a very long and very distinguished Texas high school coaching career from 1979 to 1999, Briles got his break at his alma mater. At Houston, Briles designed one of the most prolific passing attacks in NCAA history. Under the two previous regimes, (Kim Helton and Dana Dimel) the Cougars won an average of 3.2 games per year from 1993 to 2002 for an overall record of 32-79. Briles won more games (34) in his five-year stint at Houston as well as one conference title in 2006. He landed at Baylor after two straight C-USA West division titles and was charged with leading a dormant program into the new Big 12 era. After back-to-back 4-8 seasons, Briles (with a little help from Robert Griffin III) led the Bears to its first bowl game since 1994. Over the last two seaons, Baylor won its first postseason contest since 1992 and more games (17) over a two-year span than it has since 1985-1986 (18). Griffin III claimed the first Heisman Trophy in school history and will likely be the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Can Briles maintain the Bears’ current level of success without the most valuable player in the nation and most popular player in school history? This is what Briles is charged with in 2012.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Baylor won 31.13% of their games 5 yrs prior to Briles' arrival. Briles has won 50% 

·       Briles is 16-49 vs. teams finishing the season over .500

·       Art Briles teams go 3-and-out on offense just 18.23% of the time

·       Art Briles is 4-20 vs. Top 25 teams (Time of Game ranking)

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Missouri Western (1985-88)
Record: 18-20 (2009-present)

Winning at Iowa State is not easy. Auburn coach Gene Chizik posted a 5-19 record in two seasons in Ames, while Dan McCarney recorded a 56-85 mark from 1995-06. Even Johnny Majors had a so-so tenure at Iowa State, finishing with a 24-30-1 record from 1968-72. Although sustained success has been difficult to achieve, the Cyclones have some momentum after three solid years with Rhoads at the helm. The Iowa native has led the Cyclones to two bowl appearances and an 18-20 record. Although a losing record may not stand out nationally, considering how difficult it is to win at Iowa State – especially in a revamped 10-team Big 12 – Rhoads has emerged as one of the most underrated coaches in college football. Considering the head coaches in the Big 12, it’s not an easy conference to rank. Although Rhoads checks in near the middle of the rankings, one could argue (outside of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder) he has done the most with the least.  

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Rhoads has lost 6 or more games in each of his 3 seasons at ISU

·       Rhoads is 3-12 vs top 25 teams (Time of Game ranking)

8. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Iowa Wesleyan (1991-92)
Record: 10-3 (2011-present)

Holgorsen was supposed to spend 2011 serving as the offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting for West Virginia. However, Bill Stewart was forced to resign in early June, forcing Holgorsen to step into the head coach role a year early than expected. Even though the coaching change occurred after spring practice, it didn’t have any impact on the team. West Virginia finished 9-3 in the regular season and won the Orange Bowl in impressive fashion over Clemson. Holgorsen is one of college football’s top offensive minds, but is still learning the ropes as a head coach. West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 is a good one for Holgorsen, as he has served as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Although Holgorsen is a bright offensive mind, it’s hard to rank him any higher in the Big 12 coaching ranks after just one season in Morgantown.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As an offensive coordinator and head coach, Dana Holgorsen's teams have scored 40+ points 51% of the time

9. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Southern Arkansas
Record: 13-12 (2010-present)
Record: 85-40 (Auburn, 1999-2008)
Record: 25-20 (Ole Miss, 1995-1998)
Overall: 123-72

Tuberville has perhaps one of the most intriguing coaching careers in the nation. He took a sanction-laden Ole Miss program back to the postseason, earning SEC Coach of the Year honors in 1997. When the opportunity presented itself after his fourth season, Tubes bolted for division rival Auburn. Tuberville went on to win the SEC West five times in six years, appeared in eight straight bowls and finished the 2004 season unbeaten — the only undefeated BCS team not to win a national championship. Auburn finished lower than second in the West one time in eight years (third in 2003) and after one bad season in 2008, Tuberville supposedly “resigned voluntarily.” He surfaced at Texas Tech with an outstanding track record and positive momentum after one year as a TV analyst. Tech won eight games and a bowl in his first year, but 2011 has cast a dark shadow over Tuberville’s reputation for a variety of reasons. Aside from posting the first losing season in Lubbock since 1992, the Red Raiders allowed 51.2 points per game over the final five game (losing all of them) after pulling what was arguably the biggest upset of the year over Oklahoma. To top it all off, the ‘radioactivity’ emanating from the Tuberville household makes him a tough sell to any AD. He is mentioned in a potential lawsuit back in Alabama involving alleged investment transgressions, and his wife has her own legal troubles following a car accident in late 2011. Just three years ago, Tuberville would have been near the top of this list. And his fall from coaching grace is as sensational as it was rapid.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       At Texas Tech, Tuberville's teams have given up 30+ pts 64% of the time

·       At Texas Tech, Tuberville's teams have given up 40+ pts 36% of the time

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas (First year)
Alma Mater:
Notre Dame
Record: 35-27 (Notre Dame, 2005-2009)

Gastric bypass surgery aside, Weis has had a lumpy head-coaching career. He took Ty Willingham’s players and went to back-to-back BCS bowl games where his Irish got shellacked by Ohio State and LSU. Since the loss to the Bayou Bengals, Weis went 16-21 as the head coach before getting aced by Notre Dame. He has shown he is a successful NFL offensive architect (NY Jets, New England, Kansas City), but has much to prove if he plans on keeping ‘Head Coach’ in front of his name on the college level. His Florida offense struggled mightily a season ago, but how much of that was spread players not fitting his pro-style scheme? For now, Weis seems to be closer to Norv Turner than Bill Belichick.

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College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon continues its spring preview by ranking the coaches in the Big 12.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 06:43
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-coaches

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the Pac-12:

1. Chip Kelly, Oregon (3 years)
Alma Mater:
New Hampshire
Record: 34-6 (2009-present)

No coach in NCAA history has seen a rise from FCS coordinator to competing for National Championships in quicker fashion than Kelly. His meteoric rise from New Hampshire offensive coordinator to winning three straight Pac-12 titles is virtually unheard of in big time college football. In fact, Oregon had two outright conference championships between 1958 and 2008, giving Kelly more outright titles in three years as the program posted in the previous 50. He has two Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards on his mantle, the Ducks’ first Rose Bowl win in school history last year over Wisconsin and a trip to the 2010 BCS National Championship game. Kelly has created an offense that is the fastest in the nation and possibly the most difficult to stop. He’s had one tailback win the Doak Walker Award, finish as a two-time Heisman finalist and nation’s leading per game rusher in LaMichael James. He just had another claim Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year and reset the Oregon freshman scoring record with 18 touchdowns in De’Anthony Thomas. With the help of flashy uniforms and Nike dollars, Kelly has raised the brand image of his program more in the last three years than any coach in the nation. Two issues could remove Kelly from the Pac-12 coaching pedestal: Looming NCAA questions about potential recruiting violations involving Texas “handler” Willie Lyles and the lure of the NFL. Otherwise, there is one man who stands above all other Pac-12 coaches. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As a head coach and offensive coordinator, Chip Kelly's offenses have scored 40+ points 69 of 106 (65%) games

·       As a head coach, Chip Kelly's offenses have scored TD's on 46% of offensive possessions

·       As a head coach, Chip Kelly's teams have scored 12 Special Teams TD's and given up 0

·       As a head coach, Chip Kelly's defenses are allowing points on just 32% of defensive possessions. This ranks him in the top 15 among active head coaches with a minimum of three years experience

2. Lane Kiffin, USC (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Fresno State (1994-96)
Record: 18-7 (USC, 2010-present)
Record: 7-6 (Tennessee, 2009)
Overall: 25-13 (3 years)

Considering he is just 36 years old, Kiffin has already had quite a career as a head coach. After spending two years with the Oakland Raiders (5-15), Kiffin landed on his feet as Tennessee’s head coach in 2009. The Volunteers went 5-7 in the season prior to his arrival, but posted a 7-6 record in Kiffin’s first year in Knoxville. However, Kiffin bolted Tennessee for a better job, choosing to succeed Pete Carroll at USC. The Trojans posted an 8-5 record in Kiffin’s first year (2010), but finished with a 10-2 mark last year. With the postseason ban lifted, USC is expected to be one of the frontrunners to win the national title in 2012. Kiffin drew headlines at Tennessee for his recruiting practices and comments about other SEC coaches, but has toned down his act since coming to Los Angeles. The Trojans are still dealing with scholarship reductions for the next three years, so Kiffin won’t have a full cupboard to work with during that span. However, Kiffin appears to have positioned the Trojans for a run at the national championship in 2012, while leaving the team in good shape to compete for the Pac-12 South crown in 2013 and 2014.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As a collegiate head coach, Lane Kiffin is just 11-11 against teams finishing the season over .500

·       As a collegiate head coach, Lane Kiffin's offenses have ended possessions with a 3 and out just 15% of the time. This ranks him 6th among active head coaches with more than one year of experience

3. Mike Leach, Washington State (First Season)
Alma Mater:
Record: 84-43 (Texas Tech, 2000-09)

From 2000 to 2009, there were few things as guaranteed as Texas Tech’s quarterback throwing for 3,000 yards. Leach was the architect behind Tim Couch’s huge numbers at Kentucky and carried his lightning-quick spread passing attack to Lubbock. Leach-led quarterbacks B.J. Symons and Graham Harrell own the top two single-season passing marks in NCAA history with 5,833 and 5,705 yards respectively. Graham Harrell (3rd: 15,793 yards) and Kliff Kingsbury (15th: 11,931) are both in the top 15 in NCAA history in passing yards. Until 2011, Harrell was the NCAA record-holder for career touchdown passes with 134. Needless to say, Leach’s passing attack had reached unprecedented levels of success before his questionable firing. There were six total 10-win seasons in Texas Tech history and Leach posted a school-record 11 wins in 2008. His winning percentage of 66.1% trails only Pete Cawthon (69.3%) in Tech history — who won all of his games between 1930 and 1940. The highly-publicized divorce with Texas Tech (and mentally unstable Craig James) likely cost Leach a couple of years on the sideline, but is not enough to keep any athletic director from hiring him. His teams produce big numbers, his athletic departments make bigger money, his stadiums grow and subsequently sell out and, most importantly, he wins games. Look for a similar program-wide impact from Leach in Pullman. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Mike Leach has won 8+ games in eight of the 10 seasons he has been a head coach

·       Mike Leach's offenses have scored 40+ points in 48% of the games he has been a head coach

·       Among active head coaches with more than one year of experience, Coach Leach has the lowest percentage of offensive possessions ending in a 3 and out (11.44%)

·       Mike Leach's offenses passed for an average of 394 yards in conference games during his tenure at Texas Tech

4. Kyle Whittingham, Utah (7 years)
Alma Mater:
BYU (1978-81)
Record: 66-25 (7 years)

Even after leading the Utes to six consecutive seasons with at least eight wins, Whittingham probably hasn’t received the national respect he deserves. Utah went 33-6 from 2008-10, which included a win over Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Whittingham has done a good job of guiding the Utes through their transition into the Pac-12 and nearly won the South Division with a backup quarterback last season. Whittingham is a solid coach who should continue to win consistently at Utah. The Utes have stepped up their recruiting since coming to the Pac-12, which is another testament to Whittingham and his staff continuing to build the program. The biggest hurdle Whittingham could face over the next few seasons is keeping his staff intact. Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake is a highly-respected assistant and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson is a rising star in the coaching ranks. With Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State all making coaching changes this offseason, keeping Whittingham happy and his assistant coaches in Salt Lake City will be crucial to Utah's success.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Whittingham has won 72% of his games as a head coach and has won 10+ games (including a perfect 13-0 season in 2008) in three of his seven years as head coach

·       Coach Whittingham is 6-1 in Bowl Games

·       When he has superior talent, Coach Whittingham has a 35-8 record.

·       Coach Whittingham's defenses force a 3 and out or punt on 66% of defensive possessions

5. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (First Season)
Alma Mater:
West Virginia (1981-84)
Record: 15-22 (Michigan, 2008-10)
Record: 60-26 (West Virginia, 2001-07)
Record: 43-28-2 (Glenville State (1990-96)
Record: 2-8 (Salem, 1988)
Overall: 120-84-2 (18 years)

After an unsuccessful stint with Michigan, Rodriguez is hungry to prove he is still among the top coaches in college football. Rodriguez posted a 60-26 record with West Virginia, but recorded a disappointing 15-22 mark in three seasons with the Wolverines. Although he deserves some of the blame for the failed tenure in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez was simply a bad fit and Michigan never embraced him as its coach. Don’t expect any of those issues to arise at Arizona, as Rodriguez seems to be a good fit and should have the Wildcats in contention for a bowl game in 2012. Arizona had three winning seasons under former coach Mike Stoops, but Rodriguez is capable of taking this program even higher. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As a head coach, his offenses have averaged 28 or more points per game in eight of the 10 seasons he has been a head coach.

·       Rich Rod’s offenses have scored 30+ points in 50% of the games he has coached over the last decade

6. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Alma Mater:
Record: 19-19 (2009-present)

The time is now for the former Pete Carroll disciple. If nothing else, Sarkisian has proven he knows how to run a big-time college football program. Through excellent recruiting, he has elevated the level of talent across the board on the Huskies roster. He has taken the Huskies to back-to-back bowl games and produced a winning record for the first time since 2002 — yes, Washington’s 2010 7-6 season was the first winning season for the Huskies in eight years. And he clearly knows how to build a coaching staff in the face of adversity. With the hiring of Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon from Tennessee and Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau from Cal, Sarkisian, along with more money from his supporters, has put his team in a position for long-term success in Seattle.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In the five years before he arrived, Washington won 20% of their games. Coach Sarkisian has won 50% of his games as the head coach at Washington

·       In 2011, Washington's offenses was the 25th ranked scoring offense in the nation. This was the highest rating in more than a decade for the Huskies.

7. Mike Riley, Oregon State
Alma Mater:
Record: 72-63 (1997-98, 2003-present)

The circuitous flow of Riley’s coaching career can be difficult to track. He first landed in Corvallis in 1997 after winning two Grey Cups as the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and leading the now-defunct San Antonio Riders in the WLAF. After two years with the Beavers (8-14), he left for the NFL. After a failed stint as the head man of the Chargers and one year as an assistant with the Saints, Riley returned to Oregon State. This time, Riley entered a program with a solid foundation left behind from Dennis Erickson and continued that success for the next decade. He posted at winning record in six of his first eight years (of his second shift) and produced only the second 10-win season in school history in 2006 and was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2008. One of the nicer guys in the business will be facing a key season this fall as his win total has dropped four years in a row. That said, with three wins in 2012, Riley will pass Lon Stiner as the winningest coach in Oregon State history.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Coach Riley's teams have won 8+ games in five of the last nine years

·       Coach Riley is just 26-38 against teams finishing the season over .500 and 4-11 against over .500 teams over the last two seasons

·       Coach Riley is just 9-27 against Top 25 teams (Time of Game ranking)

·       Coach Riley is 5-1 in Bowl Games

8. Jeff Tedford, Cal (10 years)
Alma Mater:
Fresno State
Record: 79-48 (2002-present)

The luster has worn off Coach Tedford in recent years, but Cal fans need to be careful what they wish for. Over the last five seasons, Cal certainly has been stagnant – losing 28 games over that span — and the offensive guru needs to win to stay employed. However, the track record of Golden Bear football proves that Tedford is easily the most successful coach in school history. Cal was 4-29 in the three seasons prior to Tedford taking over in Berkeley and he proceeded to start his head coaching career with eight straight winning seasons. Since 1950, this program has three 10-win seasons on its resume. Tedford has two of them. The Bears claim 21 postseason appearances and Tedford is responsible for nearly half (8) of them. Finally, no head coach has won as many games at Cal as Tedford has (79). He is undoubtedly on the hot seat in 2012, but the Cal administration needs to think long and hard about what Tedford has meant to the program before acting too quickly.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In the five years before he arrived, the Cal Bears had won just 25% of their games. In his 10 years as head coach, Cal has won 62% of their games.

·       Coach Tedford has won 8+ games seven of his 10 years as head coach at Cal

·       From 1970-2001, Cal had just 10 seasons when they won more games than they lost. In Coach Tedford's 10 years, he has nine winning seasons

·       From 2009-2011, Coach Tedford won just 52% of his overall games and just 44% of conference games

·       From 2009-2011, Coach Tedford is just 5-15 against teams with winning records

9. David Shaw, Stanford (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Record: 11-2 (2011-present)

There is much to like about Shaw and there is much that is still unknown. This fall will feature the first in Palo Alto without a Harbaugh or a Luck on the roster and it falls to Shaw to maintain an unprecedented level of success. Jim Harbaugh deserves all of the credit for re-establishing the Cardinal brand nationwide and developing Andrew Luck into the best player in the nation the last two years. Replacing two first-round offensive linemen will also be an issue for Stanford in 2012. Shaw is steeped in Stanford tradition as a player and son of a coach for the Cardinal, but legacy alone won’t keep Shaw in Bob Bowlsby’s good graces. This is one name that could be ranked much higher (or lower) on this list come next offseason. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In his first year as a head coach, Coach Shaw's offense scored TD's on 51% of offensive possessions and went 3 and out less than 10% of offensive possessions

·       Coach Shaw's defense allowed just 88 rushing yards per game in 2011

10. Todd Graham, Arizona State (First Season)
Alma Mater:
East Central (1983-86)
Record: 6-6 (Pittsburgh, 2011)
Record: 36-17 (Tulsa, 2007-10)
Record: 7-6 (Rice, 2006)

Graham has been heavily criticized (and rightfully so) for the job -hopping in his short career as a head coach. He spent only one season at Rice (2006) and agreed to an extension following the season, only to leave a few days later for Tulsa. After spending four seasons with the Golden Hurricane, Graham left for Pittsburgh and recorded a 6-6 mark this season. Although the Panthers were a disappointment, Graham’s track recorded suggested they would be back in the Big East title mix in the next couple of seasons. However, Graham bolted for Arizona State and the 2012 season will be his first in Tempe. Although Graham’s job-hopping should be criticized, his record as a head coach is a solid 49-29 and he has won at two difficult places to win – Rice and Tulsa. While you can criticize Graham for what happened at Rice and Pittsburgh, he is actually a pretty good coach and should win at Arizona State.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In the five years before he arrived at Tulsa, the Golden Hurricanes had won 48% of their games. Coach Graham won nearly 70% of his games at Tulsa

·       Coach Graham is 14-24 against teams finishing the season over .500

·       Todd Graham is just 28-23 without Gus Malzahn as his offensive coordinator

11. Jim Mora, UCLA (First Season)
Alma Mater:
Washington (1980-83)
Record: 26-22 (Atlanta Falcons, 2004-06)
Record: 5-11 (Seattle Seahawks, 2009)

There were several eyebrows raised when Mora was hired as UCLA’s head coach in December. After making a run and striking out with some bigger names – including Boise State’s Chris Petersen – the Bruins didn’t have many appealing options on the table. Mora has only one season of collegiate experience (1984, Washington), but has two stops as a NFL head coach on his resume. He posted a 26-22 record with the Atlanta Falcons and a 5-11 mark with the Seattle Seahawks, with one trip to the playoffs on his resume. Considering Mora’s lack of collegiate experience, hiring a staff was going to be one of the most critical elements to his success at UCLA. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has a wealth of college experience, while offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is one of the top recruiters in the nation. It will take some time for Mora to win over his detractors and adjust to the college game, but this hire may work out better than most expect.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

12. Jon Embree, Colorado (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Colorado (1983-86)
Record: 3-10 (2011-present)

Considering he played under Bill McCartney at Colorado from 1983-86 and coached in Boulder from 1993-2002, Embree is a good fit for rebuilding the Buffaloes. However, this is his first head-coaching position, so there will be several bumps in the road. Embree inherited a relatively bare roster and led Colorado to a 3-10 record in 2011. The Buffaloes finished with two wins in their final three games, but were largely uncompetitive in most Pac-12 contests last season. Embree will get a couple of years to turn things around in Boulder, but until this team shows more progress, he will be ranked near the bottom of coaches in the Pac-12.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Coach Embree's defense allowed TD's on 44% of defensive possessions

·       Embree's offense scored 20 points or less in eight games in his first season as head coach

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon continues its spring preview with a ranking of the coaches in the Pac-12.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 06:41
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-2012-spring-preview

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-4, 7-1 SEC

Spring Practice: March 20-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Aaron Murray, 3,149 yards, 35 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Isaiah Crowell, 850 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Tavarres King, 47 rec., 705 yards, 8 TD
Tackles: Shawn Williams, 72
Sacks: Jarvis Jones, 13.5
Interceptions: Bacarri Rambo, 8

Redshirts to Watch: TE Jay Rome, WR Justin Scott-Wesley, LB Sterling Bailey, CB Devin Bowman, OL Xzavier Ward, OL Zach DeBell

Early Enrollees:

Keith Marshall,
RB (5-11, 190), Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook
Faton Bauta, QB (6-3, 225), West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer
Mark Beard, OL (6-4, 290), Adamsville (Ala.) Coffeyville C.C. (Kan.)

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Buffalo
Sept. 8 at Missouri
Sept. 15 Florida Atlantic
Sept. 22 Vanderbilt
Sept. 29 Tennessee
Oct. 6 at South Carolina
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Kentucky
Oct. 27 Florida
Nov. 3 Ole Miss
Nov. 10 at Auburn
Nov. 17 Georgia Southern
Nov. 24 Georgia Tech

Offensive Strength: Leadership and the passing game. With Aaron Murray returning after tossing 35 touchdown passes last season, offensive leadership should start and end with No. 11. He returns a glut of weapons despite the loss of tight end Orson Charles. If Mark Richt has the luxury of playing Malcolm Mitchell at cornerback, he must feel confident in his talented receiving corps.

Offensive Weakness: This one of the easier weaknesses to pinpoint in the SEC. The offensive line is the clear area of concern for this unit heading into spring. Replacing two All-SEC selections and another player who started every game is going to be the biggest questions for analysts to cover this summer.

Defensive Strength: This Georgia front seven should be one of the best in the nation. With the exception of DeAngelo Tyson, the third season under 3-4 guru Todd Grantham will feature virtually the same rotation of players that finished behind only Alabama and LSU in rushing defense in the SEC.

Defensive Weakness: On a defense that finished fifth in the nation last year and returns virtually intact, any weakness is a minor concern. However, the fact Richt might have to move Mitchell - who proved to be a dynamic offensive weapon as a freshman - to cornerback to help fill the void left by Brandon Boykin, indicates he has questions about his secondary. This is a group that cannot afford a significant injury.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bulldogs:

1. Richt and Murray said goodbye to first-team All-SEC left tackle Cordy Glenn, second-team All-SEC center Ben Jones and right tackle Justin Anderson. This group finished only seventh in the SEC in rushing a year ago and struggled mightily to move the football on the ground in the final two games. Yes, it was against LSU and Michigan State, but the Dawgs mustered only 1.7 yards per carry on 73 rushing attempts in those two losses to end 2011. Those are the types of teams Georgia has to be successful against in a conference that is built upon power football. David Andrews looks to be the leader in the clubhouse to replace Jones at center while Austin Long, Watts Danztler, junior college transfer Mark Beard, and come summer time, freshmen John Theus and Greg Pyke, will battle it out for time at tackle. Redshirt freshmen Xzavier Ward and Zach DeBell could also figure heavily into the mix for a group that will be the most closely monitored this spring. The good news is the depth at guard is outstanding as Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette return with starting experience. This unit is the key between another four-loss season and a truly special fall in Athens, Ga.

2. If the words National Championship want to be tossed around Athens this summer, the youngsters on this roster need to mature. Handling the expections of being the defending East champions will be an enourmous focus for the coaching staff. If local media can describe the start of spring practice like this, "Georgia begins spring practice on Tuesday, officially ushering in a 2012 season that has already started garnering buzz and anticipation at a level not seen in Athens for years," then keeping the team grounded and hungry will be that much more difficult. Young players in key positions — Isaiah Crowell, John Theus, Jay Rome, Ray Drew, Malcolm Mitchell, Marlon Brown — need to show they are ready to shoulder the load of the SEC spotlight.

3. Special teams have always been a staple under Richt at Georgia and he will need to find specialists of all kinds this spring. Longtime kicker Blair Walsh, who struggled in his final season in Athens (21 of 35), and punter Drew Butler, who earned All-SEC honorable mention, have exhausted their eligibility. Finding replacements will be a top priority this spring. Filling the hole by return specialist Brandon Boykin might be a taller order. The loss of the school's all-time kick return leader (2,263 yards) will be felt not only on special teams, but also...

4. In the ever-thinning defensive backfield. This unit has watched Boykin graduate, Jordan Love transfer and Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders get booted off the team. With suspensions looming for returning starters Sanders Commings and Branden Smith, finding suitable defensive backs who can contribute this season is the biggest issue on the defensive side of the ball. New faces Mitchell and redshirt freshman Devin Bowman could provide some quality depth, but how ready will the two newcomers be come September? Names like Damian Swann and Blake Sailors will be expected to step into bigger roles this spring. Cornerback is the key concern within this group, but developing sound depth behind star safety Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams would be welcomed safety net for secondary coach Scott Lakatos. 

Related Content Links

2012 Recruiting Class: No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs
College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles for 2012

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis
2012 Very Early SEC Predictions
Athlon's Very Early Top 25 for 2012

<p> Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 06:35
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, John Elway, Tim Tebow, NFL
Path: /nfl/elway-and-tebow-one-final-comparison

After Tim Tebow's first five starts of the 2011 season, long before Tebowmania had fully bloomed and before Tebowing was even a thing, I took the occasion to compare his five starts to John Elway's first five turns under center in Denver. Neither statline was pretty, but fortunately, Elway had a patient Bronco braintrust that was fully prepared to give him all the time he needed. 

Elway would offer his young protégé no such time to develop. 

The sometimes thrilling, sometimes maddening, always fascinating Tebow era in Denver is over, and not a moment too soon for Elway, for whom every Tebow fourth-quarter comeback was like a kick in the horse-teeth. I have to admit that I'll miss the pressbox shots of Elway chewing nails while fans rejoiced and Tebow bowed in prayer after yet another improbable win. 

So, in honor of their apparent parting of ways, I'm giving this Tebow-Elway comparison thing one last go-round. To those of you who thought I was being unfair to Elway the last time due to the small sample size and Elway's eventual greatness, I've decided to compare Tebow's 11 starts in 2011 to Elway's first 10 seasons in Denver. Surely, that's enough time for Elway to have established himself as far superior to this latter-day saint masquerading as a QB, right?

Judge for yourself.

                                              Tim Tebow (11 starts)                John Elway (10 seasons)
Winning %                                      .636                                            .631
Postseason Winning %                   .500                                            .583
Postseason 300-yard games               1                                                 2
Comp %                                         46.9                                             54.7
TD-INT                                         11-6                                  158-157 (avg. season 15.8-15.7)
TD responsibility/game                  1.5                                               1.3
INT/game                                        0.5                                               1.1
Total yards/game                           206.7                                           225.7
Rushing yards/game                      56.6                                             15.8

Judging from these numbers, Elway's first decade in the league was not decisively better than Tebow's 2011 season in Denver by any metric — even passing, a category where Elway's yardage and accuracy advantages are offset by his alarming interception propensity.

I know, I know, different era, rules changes, yadda yadda yadda. Plus, by this point in his career, Elway had cashed in on his potential with three Super Bowl trips. Of course, once he got there, he taught the world a thing or two about colossal failure on the biggest stage. In those three games, he threw two touchdowns and five interceptions. His 10-of-26, 108-yard, two-interception debacle, a statline that produced a passer rating of 19.4, in the Broncos' 55-10 Super Bowl loss to the Niners would have embarrassed Tebow on his worst day.  

Tebow will get no such opportunity to humiliate himself with the whole world watching, at least in a Broncos uniform. Elway has jettisoned his problem child for the one guy who allows him to get away with it cleanly. Savvy move. 

I leave you with a quote from my previous article, since I still stand by it:

"Tebow is not the NFL prototype at the position that Elway was, and he may never be an effective pocket passer. But he brings attributes to the position that still make him worth the risk, particularly for a team that's going nowhere and doesn't possess a better option. It's hard to play NFL quarterback; there are fewer than 32 guys on the planet who can do it competently. I may be crazy, but given Timmy's intangibles, I think this experiment could still work."

-by Rob Doster

<p> Tim Tebow stacks up to John Elway better than you might think. Tebow's statistics after his first 11 starts in 2011 are similar to Elway's numbers following his first 10 seasons with the Denver Broncos.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 16:59
Path: /columns/nascar-monday-recap/new-king-mountains

by Matt Taliaferro

There’s something about the half-mile Bristol bullring in East Tennessee that lends itself to certain drivers.

NASCAR Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough (nine wins), Darrell Waltrip (12) and Dale Earnhardt (nine) each went on dominant runs at Bristol in the 1970s and ’80s. Rusty Wallace won nine of his own from 1986-2000. Jeff Gordon won five events from 1995-2002, while the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, also have five wins each.

Following Sunday’s Food City 500, it appears a new name may be added to the exclusive list of Bristol dominators: Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski scored his second straight win at BMS, leading a race-high 289 laps — including the last 111 consecutively — en route to his first win of the 2012 season.

Keselwoski enjoyed a spirited, side-by-side duel with Matt Kenseth prior to pulling away in a race marked by its intense, door-to-door action.

“I mean, what can I say? I love Bristol and Bristol loves me,” Keselowski said. “There’s other places that perhaps have a little more prestige, and I said that last year as well, but this place defines a race team.

“It asks so much of you, whether it’s just in practice, being lined up on pit road, dealing with the noise, the havoc that practice can be, or the hot day of getting through tech, making those last adjustments, or as a driver 500 laps in a bowl trying to keep your composure. This racetrack can really test a team.”

Kenseth easily held on for second, while Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers swept positions three-five.

It appeared Kenseth jumped the final two restarts when Keselowski led, but NASCAR assessed no penalty and Keselowski was able to clear Kenseth’s Ford.

“I didn’t floor it till I got to the start/finish line,” Kenseth explained. “I don’t know if he (Keselowski) was trying to let me beat him on purpose. I was half throttle for five car lengths. I was finally, ‘I got to go or Martin (Truex) or whoever was behind me was going to go around me.’”

Since 2009, Keselowski has two wins on Cup Series short tracks to go along with plate (Talladega) and flat track (Pocono) wins. He was also second on the road course at Watkins Glen last season.

“My dad taught me this very early on, (that) it was important not to be a ‘One-Track Jack,’” Keselowski said of his versatility. “I think now that we have (the right team), I have the experience base to run competitively on almost every style of racetrack.

“I was able to learn that in a time and place where it was acceptable to make mistakes, which is what the Nationwide (Series) was for me. The training and the lower level series of NASCAR — the way they’re structured right now — certainly helped me when I got to this level to be perhaps more prepared than many drivers in the past.”

An early-race accident eliminated some of the favorites. Kasey Kahne got into Regan Smith on lap 25, triggering a seven-car pileup. The incident eliminated Kahne, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose from contention. Kevin Harvick sustained damage but continued on. Keselowski snaked through the melee with slight nose damage.

“Regan Smith was pretty slow,” Kahne said. “I was under him for a couple of laps. When my spotter cleared me in the center, I just took off, and he was there on exit. It is disappointing to have that good of a car and be out this early. I've had awesome race cars, and I have nothing to show for it.”

Keselowski moved from 21st to 13th in the championship standings by virtue of the max number of points (48) earned at Bristol. Greg Biffle, who enjoyed three consecutive third-place finishes to start the season, slumped to 13th at Bristol. He holds a nine-point lead over Kevin Harvick and 12-point advantage over Kenseth in the standings.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

<p> Brad Keselowski wins the Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 16:05
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/peyton-manning-decides-continue-his-nfl-career-denver

While we still don't know how well Peyton Manning will look under center come this fall, at least we now know what uniform he will be wearing.

ESPN is reporting that Manning intends to sign with Denver and has instructed his agent to engage in contract negotiations with the Broncos, ending a nearly two-week long saga following his March 7 release by Indianapolis. While as many as 12 teams reached out to Manning’s representatives to gauge the quarterback’s interest in signing with them once he became a free agent, in the end Manning chose the Broncos over Tennessee and San Francisco.

Although Manning’s decision wasn’t announced via a live television special ala LeBron James’, the process leading up to it has been the focus of much attention these past two weeks. Manning’s movements along with those teams interested in signing him have been followed closely, everything from his visits to these teams’ facilities or trips to Durham, N.C., to watch him throw, along with every flight plan filed by any of the parties involved in between.

Fortunately, now that Manning has picked Denver, the Manning Watch can officially come to an end and the 49ers and Titans can move on to their other offseason business. For the Broncos, however, it’s anything but business as usual.

For starters, there will be the obligatory introductory press conference, where Manning, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, Executive Vice President of Operations John Elway, and head coach John Fox will talk about the process, his decision, his impact on the team this coming year and moving forward.

No doubt everyone will be all smiles during this press conference and for all the cameras present when Manning holds up his new jersey. Fortunately, the last and only Bronco to wear No. 18, Frank Tripucka, the franchise’s first quarterback, has already given his blessing to the team to un-retire the number for Manning.

But while Manning’s jersey number should not be a problem, the same can’t be said for the instant quarterback controversy that has been created as a result of his decision to join the Broncos. What happens to Tim Tebow?

It was just two months ago that Elway, who has never been hesitant to share his opinions regarding Tebow’s performance and progression as the Broncos’ quarterback, said Tebow was the team’s starting quarterback entering the 2012 season. With Manning coming to town, it appears all but certain that Tebow will once again be second on the depth chart come this fall.

That was the situation this past season, when Tebow replaced Kyle Orton as the Broncos’ starting quarterback after a 1-4 start. Tebow would go on to lead his team to the AFC West title and a win over the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. Even though Tebow performed poorly in the Broncos’ season-ending 45-10 loss to the Patriots in the divisional round, all indications were that Tebow had earned the opportunity to be the man in Denver this coming season.

At least that’s what Elway said in January. That was before the Hall of Fame quarterback added Manning, who like Elway will be enshrined in Canton as soon as he becomes eligible for induction, to his roster.

It’s safe to assume that Manning is not coming to Denver to compete with Tebow for the starting job, so for the second straight year, Tebow knows he will enter training camp as the backup. That is if he’s still with the Broncos once training camp rolls around.

The Broncos could end up trading Tebow to another team, looking to capitalize on his value. Questions may persist about Tebow’s ability to develop into a consistent, productive thrower in the NFL, but no one can question his will, determination and drive, nor the fact that he went 8-5 in his first chance at being a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Tebow is already one of the NFL’s most popular, if not polarizing, players in the league, so there’s the added incentive of what he could mean to a team, ranging from ticket sales to fan interest.

With Manning now off the market and Matt Flynn signing with the Seattle Seahawks over the weekend, one could argue that the two most attractive quarterback options that are in need of one are Alex Smith, who is a free agent, and Tebow, who the Broncos could decide to trade.

Whether the Broncos’ brain trust of Bowlen, Elway and Fox decide to trade Tebow or not remains to be seen, but you can bet it’s one of the questions that will be raised during Manning’s introductory press conference. And just like that the Broncos go from celebrating one decision, to having to deal with a new one.

— by Mark Ross, published on March 19, 2012

<p> Peyton Manning decides to resume his NFL career with Denver, choosing the Broncos over the 49ers and Titans</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 13:13
All taxonomy terms: Mel Kiper Jr., NFL, News
Path: /nfl-mel-kiper

After a certain outspoken analyst had questioned his NFL Draft selection, former Colts general manager Bill Tobin once famously asked in frustration: ‘Who the hell is Mel Kiper?’

No one has to ask that question now.

From humble beginnings, Kiper has parlayed his passion and knowledge for the draft into a lucrative career as the preeminent analyst and public face of the NFL’s biggest offseason event. Athlon’s Mitch Light sat down with the sometimes-controversial, always-entertaining Kiper for a chat about his three decades as the world’s foremost draft expert.

Athlon Sports: Did you envision years and years ago that the draft would be as big as it is today?
Kiper: Yeah, I did. I had that kind of vision for it, I really did. A lot of people were kind of naysayers about it, but I thought that since the NFL was the king of all sports, and the only way to improve your football team back in those days, was through the draft. I mean, there were very few trades, there was no free agency. The only way to change your roster, tweak your roster, improve your roster, was via the draft. And, I grew up during the whole Bill Walsh era, Gil Brandt with the Cowboys, and some of the greatest personnel evaluators ever. That’s the way you did it. I remember in high school doing stuff, planning for the draft, evaluating players, and doing reports. I thought that if you’re a football fan, you want to know who these guys are. First of all, what are the need areas, where could you go on draft day to get these players, and once these players are drafted, you know, who are these guys? What can they do? What can’t they do? I was encouraged then by Ernie Accorsi, who was the GM then of the Baltimore Colts, to do this. I became friends with Ernie back when I was just a teenager. I had given him a lot of my reports just for him to look over and check out, and he was the one who encouraged me. He said, ‘Hey, don’t just give this stuff away, make this stuff available to the public. They would love to have this stuff. They crave this stuff.’ So, through Ernie’s encouragement, through my father’s business sense, to be able to run the business and to give me great advice, between Ernie and my father and what they meant to me then, was huge.

So, specifically, how did you get started? Just newsletters in your parents’ basement?
Well, the first thing was, I put out a book. That was the Draft Report, which came out in 1979. In 1980, they were just going to teams and the media. In 1981, that was the first one we made available actually to the public, and that was the Draft Report that came out in March, mid-March, and it covered the needs of the teams, evaluated all the NFL teams, projected the first three rounds or six rounds, or whatever it was. And then, it did all the evaluations of all the players. So that was the first one that was available to the public, in 1981.

And, when did you start at ESPN?
The 1983 season, ‘84 draft.

You obviously know your football, but you also get information, I imagine, from football people. How much do you trust your own evaluation and weigh that against what football people are telling you?
I have been watching tape forever. That’s how I evaluate players. You watch film. You watch the games. You watch the tape. That’s what you do. Now, do you also talk to people in the league? Do you become friends with a lot of people in the league? Do you share notes? Sure. If you respect somebody, and they see something that you didn’t, you obviously have to weigh it in with what you know. Everybody does it that way. I’ve never been one to brag about how much I’ve watched. Everybody watches players. I don’t have to sit there and tell the fans that are watching, the listeners, or the viewers how many games I have watched of a player. You know, you can watch two games and figure out if a guy can play. … So, the bottom line is, yeah, you weigh everything into the equation. Any information you can get is all factored in. What is his medical stuff? Whether it was off-the-field concerns, character stuff, you know. If someone in the league tells me something that I didn’t know, I factor it in because I didn’t know it. I mean, you never have all the answers. But I always get down to the fact that people are paying for my opinions, and that’s what I’ve always provided. So, this notion that has always been out there, it has kind of been aggravating, it has kind of been insulting: ‘All Kiper does is worry about what everybody tells him.’ Well, guess what, if you talk to the NFL, (you will) find out how many people I talk to. I have just a couple of people that I even have conversations with on a regular basis, so it’s not like I am getting information from the league or from anybody else. That whole thing was always an inaccurate statement.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
What I enjoy most is talking about this stuff. I like the interaction with fans. You know, anything that is back and forth. Todd (McShay) and I have a lot of fun going back and forth on opinions. Just basically doing all of the radio stuff I do, all the TV stuff, all the .com evaluations. Any way to just get this information out to the fans, and to the listeners, and to the viewers is what I enjoy. I enjoy the debates. I enjoy the differences of opinions. I enjoy, you know, bringing to life players that people didn’t really know a lot about. That’s the fun part. Not the first round, but talking about guys when we get into Round 6 and Round 7. As soon as the draft is over, we go right to, ‘Who are the top undrafted free agents.’ You know, bringing the not-so-obvious to life is fun. Talking about the guys from the small schools, talking about the guys who are going to be, maybe, not even drafted that can play. So, all of that is a lot of fun. To be able to cover all of that and all of those kids, who, like I said, are going to get a chance but who aren’t going to be the marquee names come draft day is the fun part of it as well.

How has the explosion in the collegiate level of the spread offense affected how you evaluate offensive players, from linemen to quarterback to receivers? Has it made it more difficult?
Well, it has probably made it easier because they are throwing the ball a lot more. Receivers are catching more, quarterbacks are throwing more, and offensive linemen are blocking in pass protection more. You know, running backs have to block more in pass protection. So, the NFL has kind of opened up as college football has. It has kind of worked hand-in-hand. So, it’s not like the NFL was back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. You see the motions, you see the wide receivers that are able to do a lot of different things, you see the tight ends that are, kind of, fourth or fifth wide receivers, you see backs now going into the slot. You see a lot of versatility in the way kids are moving around now, a lot of options in the passing game. Back in the old days, I am talking about the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, you had two receivers, a tight end, a fullback, and a halfback, and then you bring in a third receiver now and then. Now, you have all of these receiving entities on the field all the time. It’s just the way college football is, and, like I said, the NFL is the same way so it has kind of worked hand-in-hand. You know, the explosion of the pass offense, everything in the NFL favors the offense. The rules are geared to scoring points. The NFL has always been concerned about points scored. Everything revolves around the offense. The offense has the ability to put points on the board and to keep the quarterback healthy. Quarterbacks now, the rules protect the quarterbacks, and everything is protecting the quarterback. It is hard to play defensive back. It is hard to play cornerback in this league now. You know, offensive linemen are given more leeway as to what they can do to protect the quarterback. You can’t hit the quarterback high. You can’t hit the quarterback low. You can’t hit a defenseless receiver. They always give the benefit of the doubt to the receiver over the cornerback. So, in terms of evaluation, it is kind of proven easier because everything kind of works hand-in-hand from the NFL to the college game.

In all your years of covering the draft, which player or two has most exceeded your expectations? You look back and say, ‘Wow! That guy’s had a great career, you know, surprised me, surprised everyone.’
Oh, it’s been a lot of guys over the 34, 35 years that you do this that would come to mind. I mean (Ohio State linebacker) Chris Spielman is a great example of that. I mean, Chris didn’t have the great measurables, but he was a great football player. I have learned a lot from Chris Spielman, the fact that I missed on him. I had him as a third- or fourth-rounder. He went in the top of the second round, and he became a great player. Chris was just ‘all football,’ and that is the kind of guy that I always liked, but then you kind of weigh in measurables, okay. Well, that’s college. This is pro. Well, with Chris it didn’t matter. Whether it’s high school, college, or pro, Chris Spielman was a great middle linebacker. That is the kind of guys that I always gravitated to, and I was beating myself up for not being as high on Chris Spielman as I should have been. That was certainly, on the defensive side of the ball, a big mistake. And then, obviously, you always beat yourself up for not finding a guy like Kurt Warner. I was aware. I saw him in Northern Iowa. You watch guys go through the ranks, but, hey, when the NFL misses as well, you don’t beat yourself up for that. You just kind of say, ‘Hey, that’s part of the process.’ Evaluating players is a very difficult part of this because you are still taking kids from one level and projecting them to the next level. Look at all of the mistakes that are made in high school recruiting. Look at all of these kids who are rated high coming out of high school who you never hear from in college, you never hear from in the NFL. So, a lot of mistakes from high school to college, and, certainly, a lot of mistakes from college to pro.

When you first saw Andrew Luck play in college at Stanford, did you immediately say, ‘This guy has got it. He has got a chance to be the No. 1 pick?’
I don’t know about immediately, but once you saw him develop and you saw what he brought to the table, in terms of his physical ability and his mental capability, he looked to me — and I was there in 1983 watching — like John Elway. I gave the highest grade ever I have given a player at any position to John Elway, and I am going to give a good grade to Andrew Luck that is going to be very similar. Not as high as Elway, because Elway is always going to be my standard. He is going to be the highest guy ever, but Luck is not that far behind. And he is ironically from Stanford, so you go back to the 1983 draft and here we are in the 2012 draft, and it is pretty amazing that Elway and Luck have similar grades out of the same school, and that they are both quarterbacks.

—Interview from the pages of Athlon Sports, the nation's largest sports magazine.

<p> Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN's NFL and Draft analyst talk football.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 11:26
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2012-majors-no-10-dustin-johnson

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2012 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Throughout the month of March, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 10: Dustin Johnson

Born: June 22, 1984, Columbia, S.C.  | Career PGA Tour Wins: 5 | 2011 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2011 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,309,961 World Ranking: 11


Brandel Chamblee's Take:

With every swing of the club, Dustin Johnson lights up the game and holds his peers and fans alike in awe. He had a measured drive in 2011 of 463 yards, which was the longest of any player, and his win at the Barclays kept alive his streak of having won in every year he’s been on Tour (four years). 
In the last two years, though, it is his play in the majors that has elevated our expectations. At first glance, The Masters seems to be a perfect fit, but his suspect short game makes that the least likely place for him to win his first major. The harder the course, the longer the course and the more intimidating the course, the better his chances, which makes the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course a likely place for him to become better known for a big win than for his big drives.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 13
Wins: 0

2011 Performance:
Masters - T38
U.S. Open - T23
British Open - T2
PGA Championship - Cut

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T30 (2009)
U.S. Open - T8 (2010)
British Open - T2 (2011)
PGA Championship - T5 (2010)
Top-10 Finishes: 4
Top-25 Finishes: 6
Missed Cuts: 2

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter. 

<br />
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 10:01
Path: /college-football/college-football-ranking-acc-coaches

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the ACC:

1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (25 years)
Alma Mater: Virginia Tech (1966-69)
Record: 209-98-2 (1987-present)
Record: 42-23-2 (Murray State, 1981-1986)
Overall: 251-121-4 (31 years)

Born in the Commonwealth, playing in the Commonwealth and coaching the Commonwealth, “Beamerball” has been a fixture of Virginian football for more than four decades. Prior to his arrival in Blacksburg, the Hokies had been to six bowls games. After six years and a 24-40-2 record, Beamer broke through with his first bowl appearance in 1993. He has been to 19 straight bowl games since, including a Michael Vick-led chance at the 1999 national championship against Florida State. Beamer has claimed three Big East Championships (1995, 1996, 1999), four ACC titles (2004, 2007, 2008, 2010) and five conference Coach of the Year honors. He is the longest tenured and winningest active FBS coach in the nation and has had at least 10 wins in eight straight seasons and 11 of the last 13. Beamer was there to usher in two new eras of Hokie football as he transitioned his team from Independent status to the Big East in 1991 and then into the ACC in 2004. Virginia Tech has won the Coastal Division five times in its seven-year history and will likely be the preseason favorite once again in 2012. There are few better in the nation than Beamer.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Beamer has won 75% of conference games since 2001
  • Since 2001, Beamer's defenses win 3rd down 70% of the time
  • Since 2001, Virginia Tech has scored 22 special team TDs and given up just 7
  • Beamer is 10-1 against rival and conference foe Virginia since 2001

2. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (5 years)
Alma Mater: Western Carolina (1979), Appalachian State (1982)
Record: 33-19 (2008-present)
Record: 45-29 (Navy, 2002-2007)
Record: 62-10 (Georgia Southern, 1997-2001)
Overall: 140-58 (15 years)

After two I-AA National Championships at Georgia Southern, Johnson completely reinvented the Naval Academy before bringing his patented triple-option attack to the big leagues. Navy had been to nine bowl games in over 100 years of football when they hired Johnson. He led them to five bowl games in six seasons, including two wins. At Georgia Tech, there were doubts about whether or not the antiquated system would work in the ACC. After five seasons, two division championships and one ACC crown (2009), the answer is most definitively yes. The Jackets have led the ACC in rushing all four seasons under Johnson and finished no worse than fourth nationally on the ground. Georgia Tech enters 2012 as the top contender to Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Johnson's teams have averaged 302 rushing yards per game at Georgia Tech
  • Johnson's FBS offenses (10 yrs) have converted on 3rd Downs nearly 47% of the time
  • Johnson's FBS offensive possessions went three and out only 15% of the time
  • Johnson has won eight or more games in eight of the last 10 years

3. Al Golden, Miami (1 year)
Alma Mater: Penn State (1987-91)
Record: 6-6 (2011-present)
Record: 27-34 (Temple, 2006-2010)
Overall: 33-40 (6 years)

After spending time on Tom O’Brien’s staff at Boston College and Al Groh’s Virginia staff, Golden was plenty familiar with ACC football when he got the call from Coral Gables. He landed at Miami after building Temple into a MAC contender (he claimed 2009 MAC Coach of the Year honors). Despite the scrutiny from the Nevin Shapiro scandal and potential NCAA sanctions, Golden appears to have Miami trending back towards conference contention. After only its third non-winning season since 1979, Miami decided to withdraw itself from bowl contention due to the ongoing NCAA investigation in Golden's first year. The strong-willed, brutally honest head man recruited incredibly well in 2012 in the face of possible sanctions. His tribute to Howard Schnellenberger — his dress shirt, tie, slacks and jacket gameday combo — has once again become an iconic symbol on the Hurricanes’ sideline. The sky is the limit for Golden and Miami should they avoid heavy-handed NCAA sanctions.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Improved Temple's winning percentage by 25 percentage points compared to the five years prior to his arrival

4. Mike London, Virginia (2 years)
Alma Mater: Richmond (1979-82)
Record: 12-13 (2010-present)
Record: 24-5 (Richmond, 2008-2009)
Overall: 36-18 (4 years)

Virginia wanted to keep it in state in all senses of the word when it hired Mike London away from Richmond. He has completely reinvigorated the Cavalier brand name within the state as Wahoo recruiting has sky-rocketed since London took over in 2010. In only two seasons at the helm, London returned Virginia to posteason play for the first time since 2007 and has his program back near the top of the ACC recruiting hierarchy. The Cavaliers improved from 10th in the ACC in total and scoring defense in 2010 to third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense. London has constructed an excellent staff and has himself positioned for long-term success in Charlottesville.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • As a defensive coordinator (2006-2007) and head coach (2008-2011), Coach London's teams have won eight or more games four of his six years

5. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (2 years)
Alma Mater: Salem College (1985-86), Samford (1987)
Record: 19-8 (2010-present)

Fisher didn’t have an easy task taking over for a coaching legend (Bobby Bowden), while dealing with the always high expectations in Tallahassee. The Seminoles went to the ACC title game in Fisher’s first season and were picked by many to finish among the top 10 teams last year. However, Florida State underachieved last season, finishing 9-4 with a berth in the Champs Sports Bowl. Fisher has proven to be an excellent recruiter and is undefeated against the Seminoles’ biggest rivals – Miami and Florida. Florida State appears ready to re-emerge back on the scene as a national power, but it’s hard to rank Fisher any higher just three seasons into his career and with no ACC title on his resume.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Coach Fisher is just 9-7 as a head coach against teams that finish the season with a winning record and just 2-4 against Top 25 teams

6. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (11 years)
Alma Mater:
Ferrum (1971-72), Virginia (73-74)
Record: 68-67 (2001-present)
Record: 33-33-1 (Ohio, 1995-00)
Overall: 101-100-1 (17 years)

Outside of Duke, Wake Forest is probably the most difficult place to win in the ACC. Prior to Grobe’s arrival (2001) in Winston-Salem, the Demon Deacons had just four winning seasons from 1987-00. Wake Forest has played in five bowl games under Grobe, including an appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl. After a disappointing performance in 2010, the Demon Deacons bounced back to a 6-7 record last year and should be in position to make another bowl appearance in 2012. Grobe may never lead Wake Forest to a national title, but he is highly-respected and helped establish the Demon Deacons as a consistent bowl team in the ACC.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • From 1980-2000, Wake Forest had just four winning seasons. In his eleven years as head coach of the Demon Deacons, Grobe has had five winning seasons.
  • Since 2004, Coach Grobe has faced off against opponents 73% of the time when he had inferior talent and has managed to win nearly 50% of the time.

7. Tom O’Brien, NC State (5 years)
Alma Mater: Navy (1968-70)
Record: 33-30 (2007-present)
Record: 75-45 (Boston College, 1997-06)
Overall: 108-75 (15 years)

When reviewing O’Brien’s resume, it’s interesting to note his two coaching stops almost mirror each other. O’Brien’s tenure got off to a slow start at Boston College, beginning with two 4-7 seasons. At NC State, O’Brien posted three years of seven losses, but eventually turned both teams into a consistent bowl team. However, there was some doubt O’Brien would survive as NC State’s head coach last year, as the Wolfpack got off to a 4-4 start and needed a furious second-half rally to beat Maryland and clinch a bowl appearance. O’Brien has a solid resume after two stops, but has never finished a season with fewer than three losses and his NC State teams have consistently finished in the middle of the ACC each season.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • O'Brien has won eight or more games in eight of the last eleven seasons
  • 23% of Coach O'Brien's wins since 2001 have come against Cupcakes (FCS teams and Non-Conference, Non-AQ opponents who finish the season under .500). This is the second highest among active ACC head coaches with at least three years of head coaching experience in the ACC

8. Dabo Swinney, Clemson (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Alabama (1990-92)
Record: 29-19 (2008-present)

Tommy Bowden was fired midway through the 2008 season, opening the door for Swinney to serve as Clemson’s interim coach. The Tigers finished the year 4-3 and made an appearance in the Gator Bowl against Nebraska. Swinney was hired as the full-time coach after the regular season finale against South Carolina and has posted an overall record of 29-19 in his tenure. The Tigers have made two appearances in the ACC title game under Swinney’s watch and won the conference crown in 2011. Swinney is regarded as an excellent recruiter and has assembled a solid coaching staff with Chad Morris as his offensive coordinator and Brent Venables leading the defense. However, the Tigers had a disappointing 6-7 record in 2010 and if Clemson struggles in 2012, the blame is going to squarely fall on Swinney’s shoulders.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Swinney is just 13-15 against opponents that finish the season with a winning record
  • Swinney is 6-8 against Top 25 teams
  • Coach Swinney is 0-3 against arch rival South Carolina

9. Larry Fedora, North Carolina (First Year)
Alma Mater: Austin College (1981-84)
Record: First Season
Record: 34-19 (Southern Miss, 2008-11)

After learning from two of the best in the business — Bobby Bowden at Florida State and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State — Fedora got his first head coaching job at Southern Miss in 2008. A historically strong C-USA program, he maintained status quo with a slightly better than average 22-17 overall record in his first three seasons. However, in 2011, behind the leadership of senior quarterback Austin Davis, Fedora led the Eagles to a Conference USA championship after a major upset of then-unbeaten Houston. He took USM to a bowl game in all four of his seasons in Hattiesburg and accepted the Tar Heels’ head coaching position on December 7, 2011. Unfortunately for Fedora, his tenure in Chapel Hill got off to a rocky start - although no fault of his own - as the Tar Heels are banned from postseason play in 2012 and will have to deal with 15 fewer scholarship players over the next three years.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • In 13 years as an offensive coordinator and head coach, Coach Fedora's teams have lost five or more games in 11 of 13 years.

10. David Cutcliffe, Duke (3 years)
Alma Mater: Alabama
Record: 15-33 (2008-present)
Record: 44-29 (Ole Miss, 1998-2004)
Overall: 59-62 (11 years)

Cutcliffe has been an incredibly effective offensive coach — when he has a Manning under center. He was Peyton’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee and coached Eli at Ole Miss. With a Manning as his starter (2001-03), Cutcliffe is 24-13 as a head coach. Without a Manning guiding his ship, he is 35-49 as a head coach and hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2003 — aka Eli’s final season in Oxford. His offensive prowess is still respectable (see Thaddeus Lewis) but Duke has gone 6-26 in ACC play under Cutcliffe with only one season with at least two conference wins (3-5 in 2009).

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Cutcliff's 15 wins in his four years as head coach of the Blue Devils is just two shy of the number of wins Duke had in the 10 years prior to his arrival

11. Randy Edsall, Maryland (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Syracuse (1976-79)
Record: 2-10 (2011-present)
Record: 74-70 (Connecticut, 1999-2010)

Disaster is really the only way to properly describe Edsall’s inaugural season at Maryland. The Terrapins won only two games (Miami and Towson) and lost eight consecutive games to end the year. The disaster wasn’t relegated to just on-field activities, as 24 players have left the team since Edsall took over in College Park. Before coming to Maryland, Edsall posted a 74-70 record in 12 years at Connecticut, but only finished better than fourth two times in seven seasons in the Big East (Connecticut was a FCS school in 1999 and was a FBS Independent from 2000-03). Edsall still has time to redeem himself after an awful start, but there’s plenty of concern surrounding the direction of the program after just one year at Maryland.

12. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Penn State (1965-68)
Record: 20-19 (2009-present)

After 12 consecutive years with a winning record, Boston College slumped to a disappointing 4-8 mark in 2011. Although the Eagles made a bowl game in Frank Spaziani’s first two years, the program’s win total has declined over the last three seasons. With the lack of success last year, Spaziani needs to show progress in 2012 to keep his job in 2013. Former coach Jeff Jagodzinski didn’t exactly leave a full cupboard of players for Spaziani, but the Eagles can’t afford to sink too far in the standings, especially with the ACC likely expanding to 14 teams in 2013. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Under Coach Spaziani, Boston College has scored 30 or more points just six times in 38 games
  • The Eagles won 74% of their games in the five years prior to Spaziani's arrival. BC is 20-19 under Coach Spaziani.
  • Coach Spaziani is 5-14 against teams finishing the season over .500 and 0-5 against Top 25 teams.

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> College Football: Ranking the ACC Coaches</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-easts-college-football-coaches

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Editor's Note: Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, UCF, Houston, SMU won't join the Big East until 2013. Navy will join the Big East in 2015. 

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the current and future coaches of the Big East:

1. Chris Petersen, Boise State (6 years)
Alma Mater:
UC Davis (1983-86)
Record: 73-6 (2006-present)

Few coaching careers have begun like Petersen’s has at Boise State. After learning under Mike Bellotti at Oregon, Petersen began his Bronco career as Dan Hawkins’ offensive coordinator. For five years, Petersen churned out one of the nation’s most powerful offenses under Hawkins. When Hawkins left for Colorado, Petersen was given the reins to the Smur-ffense and has taken the program to a new level. In his first year, Petersen led Boise State to its first undefeated season and the memorable Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. It would be his first of two BCS bowl wins. He has never won fewer than 10 games in a season and just watched the 2011 graduating class finish 50-3 over their four-year career. Kellen Moore quarterbacked those four teams and is now the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Most importantly, Petersen has elevated Boise State football to a BCS conference as he will usher the Broncos into a new era of football when they join the Big East in 2013. He has had multiple opportunities to take “better” jobs and has come within two missed field goals of playing for a national championship.

2. Charlie Strong, Louisville (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Central Arkansas (1980-83)
Record: 14-12 (2010-present)
Record: 0-1 (Florida, 2004)
Overall: 14-13 (2 years)

It has taken Strong only two years to emerge as one of the top coaches in the Big East. After spending over 20 years as an assistant with stops at Florida, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and South Carolina, Strong has led the Cardinals to a 14-12 record and two bowl appearances. Even with one of the youngest rosters in college football, Louisville claimed a share of the Big East crown in 2011. The future looks bright for the Cardinals with Strong at the helm, as they should be the early favorite to win the conference in 2012. The biggest question for Louisville is whether or not it can keep Strong if one of the top programs in the SEC open up, but for now, he should have the Cardinals knocking on the door of a finish in the top 25 this season.

3. June Jones, SMU (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Oregon (1971-72), Hawaii (1973-74), Portland State (1975-76)
Record: 24-28 (2008-present)
Record: 76-41 (Hawaii, 1999-2007)
Overall: 100-69 (13 years)

Resurrecting one program is difficult enough, but Jones has been successful at two stops with not much recent success prior to his arrival. Jones took over at Hawaii in 1999, leading the Warriors to a 9-4 record after posting a 0-12 mark in 1998. Under his direction, Hawaii posted a 76-41 record and made six bowl appearances, including a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Jones went 1-11 in his debut season with SMU, but has led the Mustangs to three consecutive bowl appearances. SMU has made a solid financial commitment to Jones, but that won’t stop other BCS programs from inquiring about his services in the future. The Mustangs have come a long way over the last three years and should be in good shape once they make the move to the Big East. 

4. Butch Jones, Cincinnati (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Ferris State (1987-89)
Record: 14-11 (2010-present)
Record: 27-13 (Central Michigan, 2007-09)
Overall: 41-24 (5 years)

Jones has followed Brian Kelly’s footsteps at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He coached under Kelly at CMU in 2004 before he was given the Chippewas’ job when Kelly left for Cincinnati in 2007. When Kelly departed for Notre Dame, Jones, following two MAC championships in three years, again took over for Kelly at Cincinnati. After a tough rebuilding year in 2010, the Bearcats proved they made the right call in hiring Jones by winning 10 games for only the fourth time in school history. In total, Jones has at least a share of three conference titles in five years as a head coach and is poised to compete for Big East titles for years to come.

5. Skip Holtz, South Florida (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Holy Cross Junior College (1982-84), (Notre Dame 1984-86)
Record: 13-12 (2010-present)
Record: 38-27 (East Carolina, 2005-09)
Record: 34-23 (Connecticut, 1994-98)
Overall: 85-62 (12 years)

After successful stops at Connecticut and East Carolina, Holtz is still trying to find the right formula at South Florida. The Bulls are just 13-12 over the last two years and were unable to capitalize off a 4-0 start in 2011. Despite the early so-so results with South Florida, Holtz still has a solid 85-62 career record and led East Carolina to two Conference USA championships. The hype surrounding Holtz’s hire hasn’t quite matched the results, but with the results at East Carolina and Connecticut, it should be only a matter of time before the Bulls are in contention for the Big East crown. 

6. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Wisconsin (1986-88)
Record: First Season

No one can call Chryst a slacker. He has held 14 different jobs in the NFL, CFL and college ranks since graduating from Wisconsin in the late 80s. Once he finally returned to his alma mater in 2005, it was clear to fans he wouldn’t be around too long. In Barry Alvarez’ final season, Chryst led Wisconsin’s most prolific offense in school history, scoring 446 points. In each of the last two seasons, he has broken his own school scoring record, giving Chryst the credit for the three highest scoring teams in Badgers’ history. He led the Big Ten in rushing in 2008, led the Big Ten in rushing, total and scoring offense in 2009, posted the highest scoring team in the league again in 2010 and wrapped-up his coordinator-ship in Madison with the Big Ten’s highest scoring and most productive unit in 2011. Tailback Montee Ball posted the best single-season in Big Ten history as he tied Barry Sanders single-season NCAA touchdown record with 39. He takes over at Pitt with extensive knowledge of the Midwest and perfect personnel for his power-spread scheme.

7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Syracuse (1983-85)
Record: 17-20 (2009-present)

The cupboard at Syracuse was pretty bare when Marrone was hired as head coach. The Orange were coming off a disastrous 10-37 record under former coach Greg Robinson and had slipped to the bottom of the Big East. Marrone’s first year showed some promise as the Orange finished with a 4-8 record and followed that up with an 8-5 record and a bowl appearance in 2010. Although Syracuse had some momentum coming into 2011, the Orange finished a disappointing 5-7 with one conference victory. Marrone is the right coach for Syracuse, but with a move to the ACC likely happening next year, the Orange can’t afford to fall too far behind. Syracuse will have low expectations in most preseason polls for 2012, but it would not be a surprise to see this team push for a finish among the top four in the final standings.

8. Steve Addazio, Temple (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Central Connecticut (1978-81)
Record: 9-4 (2011-present)

So far, so good for Addazio. In his first season as Temple’s head coach, Addazio led the Owls to a solid 9-4 record with a victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl. Al Golden did a good job of resurrecting Temple’s program before leaving to take the top spot at Miami and now it’s up to Addazio to continue the momentum. Although Addazio did a good job in one season, this is his first head coaching stop and we need to see more of a track record before ranking him higher. However, this seems to be a good fit for both sides, especially since Addazio is familiar with coaching in the Northeast.

9. George O’Leary, UCF (8 years)
Alma Mater:
New Hampshire (1968)
Record: 50-51 (2004-present)
Record: 52-33 (Georgia Tech, 1994-2001)

The two-time ACC Coach of the Year spent a couple of years in the NFL after a resume snafu cost him the Notre Dame job. He landed on his feet at UCF and has built the Knights into a solid C-USA (soon to be Big East) program. The Knights had posted four winning FBS seasons when O’Leary took over and has since posted two of its three total 10-win seasons. He has won two C-USA championships (2007, 2010) and three Coach of the Year Awards (2005, 2007, 2010) and has a 50-40 record since 2005. O’Leary has been responsible for all four bowl appearances in UCF history including the program’s first bowl victory in 2010 over SEC power Georgia and will elevate the program for a second time when the Knights join the Big East in 2013. That said, falsifying his resume, the 2008 death of Ereck Plancher and widespread UCF athletic department transgressions keep O’Leary from being higher on this list.

10. Rocky Long, San Diego State (1 year)
Alma Mater:
New Mexico (1969-71)
Record: 8-5 (2011-present)
Record: 65-69 (New Mexico, 1998-2008)

After 11 years and recording five bowl games, but no conference championships at his alma mater, Long resigned in 2008 and became the defensive coordinator with the Aztecs. Under Brady Hoke, San Diego State went 13-12 in two seasons before he left for Michigan. Long was then elevated to the top spot and went 8-5 with a bowl appearance in his first year. Fans know exactly what they are getting with the dependable veteran. Long might not be the flashiest head coach, but the 62-year old should be able to maintain the Aztecs' upward trajectory into the Big East. Many believe this program is a “sleeping giant,” and with BCS funding, this might finally be true.

11. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Hawaii (1987-89)
Record: 32-21 (2007-present)

After making three consecutive bowl trips, the Midshipmen took a step back with a disappointing 5-7 2011 season. Niumatalolo has done a solid job of continuing what Paul Johnson built at Navy, but will he elevate the program over the long haul? The Midshipmen will move into the Big East in 2015, which will be a step up in competition from playing as an Independent. Navy has only nine starters this year and more questions about Niumatalolo will be raised if the Midshipmen miss out on the postseason in 2012. 

12. Justin Fuente, Memphis (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Oklahoma, Murray State (1996-99)
Record: First Season

For the last five years, Funete has learned under one of the nation’s best head coaches at TCU. The first Gary Patterson disciple to land a “BCS” job, Fuente was responsible for the four highest scoring Horned Frogs teams in program history. He coached Andy Dalton to the program’s first unbeaten season since 1932 and won TCU’s first-ever BCS bowl when they went 13-0 in 2010. After losing the program’s greatest quarterback (Dalton), Fuente’s offense didn’t miss a beat behind sophomore Casey Pachall in 2011. Fuente is a relatively unknown commodity as a head coach, but Paterson doesn’t hire bad personnel and TCU’s offenses were dominant in Fort Worth.

13. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Penn State (1968-71)
Record: 5-7 (2011-present)
Record: 107-59-1 (Syracuse, 1991-2004)
Record: 34-17 (Western Connecticut, 1982-85)

Pasqualoni was a curious hire by Connecticut last season and the jury is still out on how well this marriage will work. The Huskies had some key personnel losses from 2010 to 2011 and watched their win total dip by three games. Connecticut’s offense was also a source of criticism throughout the year, and this unit has to improve if the Huskies want to push for the Big East title in 2012. Pasqualoni had a solid record at Syracuse (107-59-1), but his last three years with the Orange produced a 16-20 record. Only time will tell if Pasqualoni is the right coach to turn Connecticut into an annual contender in the Big East, but his first year with the Huskies wasn’t anything special. 

14. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Iona (1989-92)
Record: First Season

Flood will have to quell concerns that Rutgers made this hire to keep intact what turned out to be the program’s greatest recruiting class in history. The longtime Rutgers offensive line coach (2006-11) was elevated to assistant head coach in 2008. As a part of the most successful era of football in Piscataway, Flood is charged with replacing one of the winningest coaches in program history (Greg Schiano, 68 wins, fourth in school history). He is a complete unknown as a head coach, but will certainly have plenty of young talent to work with in year one.

15. Tony Levine, Houston (First Year)
Alma Mater: Minnesota (1992-95)
Record: 1-0 (2011-present)

Kevin Sumlin did a solid job during his four years at Houston and now it’s up to Levine to continue that momentum. Levine coached the Cougars in the bowl against Penn State, leading the team to an impressive 30-14 victory. Levine is well-liked by the players at Houston, but this is his first head coaching gig and he has no coordinator experience. He has stops at Louisiana Tech, Louisville and Houston as an assistant, with one stop in the NFL for two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Levine’s debut was impressive, but can he continue that momentum over the next couple of seasons as Houston enters the Big East?

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon Sports ranks the coaches in the current and future Big East.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 08:29
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-2012-spring-preview

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Florida State Seminoles 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC

Spring practice: March 19-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: EJ Manuel, 203 of 311, 2,666 yds., 18 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Devonta Freeman, 120 car., 579 yds., 8 TDs
Receiving: Rashad Greene, 38 rec., 596 yds., 7 TDs
Tackles: Christian Jones, 56
Sacks: Brandon Jenkins, 8
Interceptions: Lamarcus Joyner, 4

Redshirts to watch: WR Kelvin Benjamin, DB Kaelin Smith, LB Arrington Jenkins

Early Enrollees: P Cason Beatty, OL Daniel Glauser, RB Mario Pender

JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Daniel Glauser, OL Menelik Watson

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Murray State
Sept. 8 Savannah State
Sept. 15 Wake Forest
Sept. 22 Clemson
Sept. 29 at South Florida
Oct. 6 at NC State
Oct. 13 Boston College
Oct. 20 at Miami
Oct. 27 Duke
Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 17 at Maryland
Nov. 24 Florida

Offensive Strength: The Seminoles struggled to find the right mixture on the offensive line last year, but that didn’t slow down the passing attack. Quarterback EJ Manuel is back for his second year as Florida State’s starter and the receiving corps is one of the deepest in the ACC.  

Offensive Weakness: As mentioned previously, the offensive line was an issue for Florida State last year and heads into 2012 as the team's biggest question mark. The Seminoles threw several young players out on the field last year and that experience should pay dividends in 2012. Getting improved play out of the line would also help jumpstart a rushing attackthat ranked a disappointing 104th nationally last season.  

Defensive Strength: With nine starters returning, Florida State should have one of the best defenses in college football next season. The defensive line will continue to set the tone for the rest of the unit, as ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner are back after combining for 15 sacks last season. Despite losing two key contributors to the secondary, the Seminoles will be near the top of the pass defense stats once again in 2012. 

Defensive Weakness: Considering what Florida State has coming back, there’s not much to be concerned about on defense. The biggest issue will be finding a replacement for linebacker Nigel Bradham, who led the defense with 86 stops last year. While it’s not really a defensive category, the Seminoles have to find a replacement for All-ACC punter Shawn Powell.

Spring Storylines Facing the Seminoles

1. Here come the high expectations once again. Florida State was picked among the top 10 teams by most preseason polls, but finished with a disappointing 9-4 record and a berth in the Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame. The turning point of the season occurred in Week 3, as the Seminoles lost 23-13 to Oklahoma. Quarterback EJ Manuel was injured in the loss to the Sooners and missed Florida State’s loss to Clemson and came off the bench after the Seminoles fell behind against Wake Forest. Although the Seminoles didn’t meet the preseason expectations, they did finish with wins in seven out of their final eight games. Most preseason predictions won’t start coming out until May or June, but early indications have this team picked near the top of the ACC and among the top 10-15 teams for 2012. Considering what Florida State returns, there’s no reason for this team to finish with a 9-4 record once again – and the Seminoles are certainly hungry to prove they are back as a national powerhouse.

2. If Florida State is to contend for the national title, the offensive line has to show big improvement. This group allowed 3.2 sacks per game and rushers averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Making matters worse is the line loses its best player from last year in left tackle Zebrie Sanders. While last year’s numbers are not pretty and replacing Sanders is a tall task, the Seminoles return several players with experience. Center Bryan Stork and guard Jacob Fahrenkrug are the most experienced returning options, but Bobby Hart, Austin Barron, Garrett Faircloth, Tre Jackson and Josue Matias all received starts last season. Line coach Rick Trickett is regarded as one of the best in college football and it will be important to find the right mix and develop some chemistry in preseason workouts. If Florida State struggles up front once again, this team will have trouble winning the ACC Championship.

3. The offensive line deserves much of the blame for last season’s struggles on the ground, but this is one area the Seminoles need to focus on in spring practice. Devonta Freeman is back for his sophomore year after rushing for 579 yards and eight scores last season. Big things were expected of James Wilder last year, but he managed only 160 yards and was suspended indefinitely due to an off-the-field incident. Freeman will likely be the No. 1 back when the season opens up, but incoming freshman Mario Pender could work his way into significant carries. With quarterback EJ Manuel and a plethora of talented receivers returning, there’s no question Florida State will be able to move the ball through the air. However, this offense needs to develop more balance in 2012.

4. Coordinator Mark Stoops should be feeling good about his defense in 2012. The Seminoles ranked fourth nationally in total and scoring defense last season, while finishing second against the run. Considering nine starters are back, it’s not out of the question this defense could be just as good, if not better than it was last year. The defensive line is one of the best in college football, led by ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner. The interior line is stacked with depth, including future star Timmy Jernigan and honorable mention All-ACC performer Everett Dawkins. The two biggest question marks for Stoops and the defensive staff will be finding a replacement for Nigel Bradham at linebacker, as well as replacing Mike Harris and Terrance Parks in the secondary. Although those three players were key contributors, their departure isn’t going to significantly hurt the defense. There’s plenty of depth and young talent waiting to step into key roles this spring. It’s up to Stoops and this defensive staff to sort things out in the linebacking corps, as well as get the new faces acquainted in the secondary.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch
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Grading College Football's New Coaching Hires for 2012
College Football Coaches on the Hot Seat: Spring Practice Edition
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2012 ACC Schedule Analysis

<p> Athlon previews spring practice for Florida State.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 08:24
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/minnesota-twins-2012-preview

Minnesota Twins

It seemed like the end of an era for the Twins last year, when a string of six division titles in nine seasons gave way to a 63–99 finish. But they are firm in their belief that 2012 will bring a quick turnaround. That’s hard to fathom. On paper, the Twins look no better than the team that bottomed out last year. Terry Ryan returned to the general manager’s role in November, replacing Bill Smith, and attempted to address the roster’s myriad needs while streamlining the payroll. The fan base watched as three more mainstays from their recent playoff teams — Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel — departed as free agents. Ryan added some interesting pieces before Christmas, but none that caused a spike in season ticket sales. Josh Willingham should offer a reasonable facsimile of Cuddyer at a cheaper price. Jamey Carroll should help solidify the middle infield. Ryan Doumit’s bat should bolster the offense, giving the team more insurance if Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau struggle with injuries again. But a look at this roster reveals numerous other concerns.

This group is led by Carl Pavano, Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano — three pitchers who could become free agents next fall, though Baker has a 2013 club option. This should add to that trio’s motivation. Liriano, in particular, could cash in big next fall if he regains his 2010 form after struggling with left shoulder issues last season. Twins starters ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.64 ERA last year, when Baker and Nick Blackburn also battled arm injuries. The team’s depth took a hit last summer when their top pitching prospect, Kyle Gibson, needed Tommy John surgery. He won’t return until 2013. The Twins signed National League journeyman Jason Marquis, hoping he could be the workhorse he was from 2004-09. He pitched 132 innings combined for Washington and Arizona last year before breaking his right leg in mid-August. Adding Marquis should allow Brian Duensing to move back to the bullpen, where he posted a 1.80 ERA in 40 appearances in 2010. But it’s hard to see this rotation impressing anyone unless Baker and Liriano stay healthy and pitch as they have at their absolute peaks.

Here’s a list of relievers the Twins have lost to free agency since the end of the 2010 season: Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes and Nathan. The Twins are determined not to overpay for relief, even if it leaves them thin. They re-signed closer Matt Capps to a deal that guarantees him $10 million less than what Nathan got from Texas in November. Capps was an All-Star closer for the Nationals in 2010, before the Twins got him in a shortsighted trade that sent catcher Wilson Ramos to Washington. Capps helped the Twins finish 94–68 in 2010, when Nathan was recovering from elbow surgery, but fans booed Capps off the field numerous times last year after blown saves. The team stuck with him, knowing he was pitching through a forearm issue. If he falters again, the Twins could turn to Glen Perkins, their most dominant reliever from last season. Perkins and Duensing should help solidify the setup roles, but the Twins have several other holes to fill after ranking last in the majors in bullpen ERA, at 4.51.

Middle Infield
Carroll’s best position is second base, but the Twins plan to start him at shortstop, even at age 38. That would allow Alexi Casilla to stay at second base, where he finally started to look comfortable last season. A year ago, this team had high hopes for Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but after an MVP season in Japan in 2010, he broke his leg in his sixth major league game and looked overmatched when he returned. The Twins grew impatient with his development and optioned him to Rochester midway through spring training.

Morneau is the team’s biggest question mark, since his past three seasons have been derailed by injuries, with the last two involving concussions. The Twins would love to see him return to first base, the position he was slated to start in the All-Star game just two years ago. Third baseman Danny Valencia pledged to work on his defense after drawing manager Ron Gardenhire’s ire last season. Valencia showed limited range and made 18 errors on the balls he did get to. The Twins signed Sean Burroughs to a minor league deal, knowing he can push Valencia to be better. If Valencia can give the Twins what he gave them in 2010 — he batted .311 with a .799 OPS — they’ll have an easier time stomaching his defensive flaws.

This is another area that has changed dramatically since 2010. After trading Delmon Young to Detroit last August, the Twins let Cuddyer and Kubel leave as free agents. Cuddyer signed a three-year, $31.5 million deal with Colorado, and Kubel signed a two-year, $15 million deal with Arizona. Willingham came cheaper than Cuddyer, at three years for $21 million, and might be the better right-handed hitter. The Twins need center fielder Denard Span to stay healthy after playing just 70 games last year because of a concussion. Ben Revere, who made some spectacular catches in center while filling in for Span, is slated to play left field when both are healthy. Knowing how spacious the Target Field outfield is, the Twins will count on the speedy Span and Revere to cover lots of ground alongside the less-rangy Willingham. But Ryan also has hinted at a possible left field platoon with Revere and converted infielder Trevor Plouffe.

Mauer’s goal is to catch at least 130 games, but the Twins know they can’t count on this after injury and illness limited him to 47 starts behind the plate last season. Doumit is not a good defensive catcher, but he’s a switch-hitter with decent power. On days when Doumit isn’t catching, he can DH. The Twins likely will carry three catchers, so there’s an open spot for either Drew Butera, Rene Rivera or former Astros catcher J.R. Towles, who signed a minor league deal. Butera and Rivera combined to bat .160 in 368 plate appearances last season, so Towles will get a long look this spring.

The Twins plan to rotate their DH duties, unless Morneau decides to become a full-time DH, lessening the chances of another concussion. Doumit should see the most time at DH, though Mauer will see plenty, too, as the team looks to keep his bat in the lineup more often. The bench will have more versatility, but significantly less muscle, now that Jim Thome has returned to the Phillies. But with injury-prone players all over his roster, Gardenhire needs all the options he can find. With Nishioka sent to the minors, Luke Hughes will take on a larger role as the backup middle infielder.

Gardenhire returns for his 11th season, hoping this is more like 2010, when he was named AL Manager of the Year. His working relationship with Ryan was always better than it was with Smith, who never considered himself a talent evaluator. In Smith’s four years as GM, the Twins won two division titles and lost a one-game tiebreaker to the White Sox in 2008. Despite that success, the team’s foundation showed some serious cracks last year. It wasn’t just the 99 losses. The injury issues exposed a lack of depth at the Triple-A level. Twins CEO Jim Pohlad grew less confident in Smith as they met to discuss the team’s plans throughout October. Smith’s firing was surprising because the Twins hadn’t fired a GM or manager since 1986. It also was delicate because Ryan and Smith are very close friends. But once again, the Twins proved to be one big happy family. By mid-December, Smith was back in the fold with a new position, as an assistant to the team president and general manager.

Final Analysis
Ryan was considered one of baseball’s best GMs during his previous tenure from 1994-2007, and Twins fans couldn’t help but feel excited when he returned to the job. But that enthusiasm was tempered when he immediately pledged to trim the Opening Day payroll to $100 million, about $13 million less than the team started with last year. This adds pressure for Mauer to stay healthy and perform better in Year 2 of an eight-year contract that is paying him $23 million annually. If Mauer, Morneau, Span, Baker and Liriano are healthy, the Twins should have no trouble playing at least .500 this year, but it’s hard to imagine a leap from 63–99 to the playoffs.




Batting Order
CF Denard Span (L)
Was batting .300 with a .367 OBP when he suffered a concussion June 3 and played only 15 more games.
SS Jamey Carroll (R)
Played a career-high 146 games for Dodgers last year, at age 37, and posted a .359 OBP.
C Joe Mauer (L)
The three-time Gold Glove catcher has started just 105, 107 and 47 games behind the plate since 2008.
RF Josh Willingham (R)
Set new career highs with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs last year for Oakland.
1B Justin Morneau (L)
His career OPS as a first baseman is .856, compared to .772 as a DH.
3B Danny Valencia (R)
Played 147 games at third base last year, the most for a Twins third baseman since Corey Koskie (150) in 2001.
DH Ryan Doumit (S)
Batted .328 (41-for-125) after returning from a broken ankle last year with the Pirates.
2B Alexi Casilla (S)
Had another slow start last year, batting .188 through May 22, but batted .293 after that.
LF Ben Revere (L)
Led American League rookies last year with 34 stolen bases in 117 games.

OF Trevor Plouffe (R)
Batted .308 with a .782 OPS against lefties last year, compared to .212 with a .665 OPS against righties.
INF Luke Hughes (R)
Started 34 games at second base, 30 at first base and 13 at third base in 2011.
C Drew Butera (R)
Batted .197 as a true backup catcher in 2010 but got overexposed last year, batting .167 in 93 games.

RH Carl Pavano
Has pitched 221 innings and 222 innings in his first two full seasons with the Twins.
RH Scott Baker
On July 28, he ranked eighth in the AL with a 2.86 ERA, but a sore elbow limited him to two more starts.
LH Francisco Liriano
He went 14–10 with a 3.62 ERA in 2010 but struggled with left shoulder tightness last year.
RH Jason Marquis
Has fifth-highest ground-ball rate in baseball (55.1 percent) over the past three years.
RH Nick Blackburn
Much like 2010, he had his best month in May, going 3–0 with a 2.53 ERA in six starts.

RH Matt Capps (Closer)
Blew six save chances as the Twins’ closer last year, but posted a 3.24 ERA in his final 30 appearances.
LH Glen Perkins
Averaged 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings last year, ranking 12th in the AL (min. 60 IP).
LH Brian Duensing
Pitching mostly as a starter last year, he held lefties to a .217 average, but righties hit .330.
RH Alex Burnett
Allowed just 10 of his 62 inherited baserunners to score last year.
RH Esmerling Vasquez
Strikeout rate with the Diamondbacks dropped from 9.2 in 2010 to 5.9 last year before they waived him.
RH Terry Doyle
Rule 5 pick went 8–10 with a 3.07 in 26 combined starts at Class A and AA for the White Sox last season.

Other teams' 2012 Previews:

American League National League
Baltimore Orioles Arizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red Sox Atlanta Braves
Chicago White Sox Chicago Cubs
Cleveland Indians Cincinnati Reds
Detroit Tigers Colorado Rockies
Kansas City Royals Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels Los Angeles Dodgers
Minnesota Twins Miami Marlins
New York Yankees Milwaukee Brewers
Oakland A's New York Mets
Seattle Mariners Philadelphia Phillies
Tampa Bay Rays Pittsburgh Pirates
Texas Rangers San Diego Padres
Toronto Blue Jays San Francisco Giants
  St. Louis Cardinals
  Washington Nationals
<p> It seemed like the end of an era for the Twins last year, when a string of six division titles in nine seasons gave way to a 63–99 finish. But they are firm in their belief that 2012 will bring a quick turnaround.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 21:08
Path: /mlb/kansas-city-royals-2012-preview

Kansas City Royals

The growing feeling in Kansas City is that it’s time to expect more. Last year’s transition season saw 12 players make their big league debuts from a well-stocked and much-praised farm system. More are on the way. Playing .500 now seems a reasonable goal after reaching that plateau just once in the previous 17 years. Doing so would mark a 10-game improvement over last year’s 91 losses — no small thing, right? — but the Royals are aiming higher. Manager Ned Yost set the tone in December by declaring, “I think we’re going to play much better than .500. … I think we’re at a stage in our development as an organization that these kids are ready for (increased expectations).” Maybe so. These young Royals showed numerous positive signs a year ago and now appear good enough to dream. They just might, with a little luck, be good enough to make some serious noise in the American League Central.

Nearly all hopes for a breakthrough summer hinge on a rotation that lacks a proven No. 1- or No. 2-caliber starter. While an early spring trade remains possible, the unit, as currently projected, should still be better than a year ago — particularly if lefthander Jonathan Sanchez, the club’s biggest offseason addition, marshals his high-grade gifts. He battled injuries last year in San Francisco and has been an enigma throughout his six previous seasons. But Sanchez helped the Giants reach the postseason in 2010 by posting a 2.61 ERA after the All-Star break, including a 1.04 mark in his last seven starts. If the Royals get that guy, this rotation suddenly looks a whole lot saltier. The same goes for righthander Luke Hochevar, who hopes to build on a solid second half (6–3 and 3.52) that marked the best sustained stretch of his career. Veteran lefty Bruce Chen returns after signing a two-year deal as a free agent. He garners little respect for reinventing himself after Tommy John surgery despite going 23–15 with a 4.00 ERA in 48 starts since entering the rotation in late May 2010. Those are the rotation’s three certainties. Then it gets interesting. Righthander Felipe Paulino and rookie lefty Danny Duffy closed last season with jobs but face stiff spring competition. Two to watch: lefty Mike Montgomery and righthander Aaron Crow. Montgomery was inconsistent last season at Class AAA Omaha but has legitimate No. 1 potential and will get a long look. Crow made the All-Star team last year as a rookie reliever, but he was drafted (No. 12 overall in 2009) as a starter and will get a chance to win a job. Another possibility is righthander Luis Mendoza, who resuscitated his career at Omaha before pitching well in two late-season starts. Righthanders Vin Mazzaro and Sean O’Sullivan are still around. Lefty Everett Teaford showed potential last season as a rookie swingman.

The Royals strengthened an already strong bullpen by signing free agents Jonathan Broxton and Jose Mijares to one-year deals. Broxton is a former closer and a two-time All-Star but will serve as a setup man for Joakim Soria. Mijares fills the need for a situational lefty. Broxton and Greg Holland also provide the Royals with alternative closers if Soria can’t rebound from an inconsistent 2011. Sidearmer Louis Coleman seems certain to hold a job; the same goes for Crow, if he fails to win a spot in the rotation. Adding Mijares means durable lefty Tim Collins must show better command to keep his spot. Paulino will switch to the bullpen if he fails to make the rotation. The same is likely true for Mendoza, who is out of options. Teaford and Mazzaro could also make the club as long relievers but could easily get squeezed out. The crowded competition makes it even harder to find room for Blake Wood, Kelvin Herrera and Jeremy Jeffress. All five have options.

Middle Infield
Defensively, shortstop Alcides Escobar was everything the Royals envisioned after he arrived in December 2010 from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal. Escobar proved to be a durable, acrobatic playmaker and perked up at the plate after a dreadful first two months. He ended the season with a .254 average after hitting .324 in the final month of the season. Second base, meanwhile, looms as the only real spring battle among position players. It’s Johnny Giavotella’s job to lose, but he needs to show sufficient offensive production to offset severe defensive limitations and mediocre speed. Giavotella, the Royals’ second-round pick in 2008, hit .247 in 46 games as a rookie in 2011. The alternative is Chris Getz, who offers no pop (nine extra-base hits in 380 at-bats) but steady defense and plus speed. Since both have options, the loser probably heads to Omaha.

It is on the corners, more than anywhere else, where the future is on display. First baseman Eric Hosmer, the third overall pick in 2008, arrived May 6 and often resembled an MVP in waiting. Third baseman Mike Moustakas, the second overall pick in 2007, got the call June 10 and, after a miserable start, showed every indication of becoming a productive middle-of-the-order hitter for years to come. Fans in Kansas City are already fretting at how long either will hang around. Since neither will be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season, that effectively sets the timetable for the Royals’ current window of opportunity.

Alex Gordon’s emergence last season as a reliable run-producer and Gold Glove leftfielder was a measurable reward for the organization’s patience. He was a can’t-miss prospect as the No. 2 overall pick in 2005 who, prior to last season, came to be widely viewed as a bust. Gordon admits that the question now is whether he can validate his turnaround with another big season. Rightfielder Jeff Francoeur similarly revitalized his career after arriving as a free agent and earned a two-year contract extension. Melky Cabrera was another free agent reclamation project who had a career year, and the Royals responded by selling high and sending him to the Giants for Sanchez. Cabrera’s departure creates an opening for Lorenzo Cain, who offers a defensive upgrade. Cain batted .312 last season at Omaha but will be hard-pressed to match the offense that Cabrera provided.

Sal Perez was a huge surprise last season, playing just 39 and batting .331. His advanced defensive skills got him to the majors last August at age 21, but his rapid growth as a hitter has been little short of phenomenal. However, he will miss several weeks after recovering from a torn meniscus that required surgery. In his stead will be Brayan Pena, a tremendous attitude guy who started 72 games last season.

Billy Butler grumbled a bit last year at making the switch from first base to designated hitter in order to accommodate Hosmer. (It was, of course, a move that had to be made given Hosmer’s defensive superiority.) Nevertheless, Butler still finished with a career-high and club-leading 95 RBIs. He also provides a potent right-handed bat in a lefty-heavy lineup. Yost appears likely to again operate, as he did much of last year, with a three-man bench (in order to carry an eight-man bullpen). That means a backup catcher (probably Max Ramirez until Perez is healthy), a backup outfielder (almost certainly Mitch Maier) and a utility infielder (a reacquired Yuniesky Betancourt). If the Royals keep four non-pitching reserves, the final spot should go to outfielder Jarrod Dyson, a pinch-running dynamo.

Last year produced good marks. General manager Dayton Moore and his staff deserve credit for putting together a farm system that shows signs of extracting the franchise from its extended malaise. Yost displayed the same patience in dealing with young players that he used several years ago in helping turn around the once-moribund Brewers. Now it’s time to win.

Final Analysis
Everything suggests that the Royals are heading in the right direction, but expectations are ramping up. Anything less than .500 this season will be a disappointment, and another 90-loss season could force major reevaluations. But if a few things go right — i.e., if the rotation proves steady — it could be a fun summer in the Heartland for the first time in ages.




Batting Order
LF Alex Gordon (L)
Not a prototypical leadoff hitter, but his club-leading .376 on-base percentage makes him the best fit.
2B Johnny Giavotella (R)
His minor league numbers suggest he could be Dustin Pedroia-light; the Royals would take that in a heartbeat.
DH Billy Butler (R)
One of the game’s best pure hitters; doesn’t hit enough homers, but has 140 doubles over the last three years.
1B Eric Hosmer (L)
He was good last year as a rookie, and there is no reason to suspect he won’t continue to get better.
3B Mike Moustakas (L)
Didn’t cut it during extended slump — and then produced big closing kick.
RF Jeff Francoeur (R)
The club’s de facto captain; will be interesting to see if he regresses after a career-renaissance year.
CF Lorenzo Cain (R)
Will show what he can do with an everyday opportunity; should be a defensive upgrade in center.
C Brayan Pena (S)
With upbeat attitude Pena will assume catching duties until Sal Perez is healthy.
SS Alcides Escobar (R)
His slick play solidified the infield after years of suspect predecessors.

C Max Ramirez
Is the short-term answer as the backup catcher until Sal Perez returns from knee surgery.
INF Yuniesky Betancourt (R)
Former starting shortstop returns as utility player after failing to draw interest in free agent market as starter.
OF Mitch Maier (L)
Should draw increased playing time this season as an occasional left-handed alternative to Cain in center.
INF Chris Getz (L)
Stole 21 bases in limited action last season.
C Sal Perez (R)
His defense and game-calling skills always drew raves; but he really turned the corner offensively last season. Will miss several weeks after tearing his meniscus.

RH Luke Hochevar
Showed signs in second half of harnessing tools that made him the first overall pick in the 2006 draft.
LH Jonathan Sanchez
Maybe a change of scenery will finally unlock the power lefty’s tremendous potential.
LH Bruce Chen
A veteran finesse lefty who appears to have figured it out; could be this generation’s Jamie Moyer.
RH Felipe Paulino
Shows tantalizing arsenal but needs to deliver; will shift to bullpen if he fails to hold spot in rotation.
LH Danny Duffy
Flashed potential last year in nearly all of his 20 starts but still posted a 5.64 ERA. Needs strong spring.

RH Joakim Soria (Closer)
Struggled last season for the first time in his career but still posted a 2.58 ERA over his final 37 appearances.
RH Jonathan Broxton
Seeking a bounce-back year after an elbow injury limited him last year to just 14 games for the Dodgers.
RH Greg Holland
Blossomed last season into a potential closer by posting a 1.80 ERA while striking out 74 in 60 innings.
LH Jose Mijares
A good fit as a situational guy; has limited lefties to .212 career average.
RH Louis Coleman
Another young reliever with closer potential; sidearm delivery makes him tough against righthanders.
RH Aaron Crow
Will get a look as starter but appears likely to return to bullpen, where he made the All-Star team as a rookie.
LH Tim Collins
Has plus stuff and a durable arm but will be in the minors if walk rate fails to improve.
RH Luis Mendoza
Could win a job in the rotation but, failing that, seems a likely fit in the bullpen as a long reliever.


Other teams' 2012 Previews:

American League National League
Baltimore Orioles Arizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red Sox Atlanta Braves
Chicago White Sox Chicago Cubs
Cleveland Indians Cincinnati Reds
Detroit Tigers Colorado Rockies
Kansas City Royals Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels Los Angeles Dodgers
Minnesota Twins Miami Marlins
New York Yankees Milwaukee Brewers
Oakland A's New York Mets
Seattle Mariners Philadelphia Phillies
Tampa Bay Rays Pittsburgh Pirates
Texas Rangers San Diego Padres
Toronto Blue Jays San Francisco Giants
  St. Louis Cardinals
  Washington Nationals

<p> Everything suggests that the Royals are heading in the right direction, but expectations are ramping up. Anything less than .500 this season will be a disappointment.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 20:39
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-sweet-16-preview-west-region

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: West Region

Top Dog — Michigan State (1)

Coach Tom Izzo punched the ticket to his 10th Sweet 16, thanks in no small part to his all-everything point forward Draymond Green. No insult intended Steve Smith, but Sparty has not seen a super-sized talent like Green since Magic was still Earvin Johnson in East Lansing. When times got tough in a hard-fought 65-61 win over Saint Louis, Green took control on both ends of the floor, handling the ball, scoring and play-making on the perimeter on offense while rebounding and intimidating in the paint on defense. Green, who went for 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists against the Billikens, is joined by talented guard Keith Appling on a balanced squad capable of cutting down the nets in New Orleans.

Underdog – Florida (7)

On paper, Florida had a favorable Round of 32 matchup against similarly undersized No. 2 seed Missouri. But as fate would have it, Mizzou was ousted early by No. 15 seed Norfolk State. Two-time national champion coach Billy Donovan would have no such problem, however, as UF toppled the Spartans 84-50. A streaky hot team with too many guards (Erving Walker, Kenny Boyton, Bradley Beal) to guard, Florida shot lights out against Norfolk State, hitting 28-of-53 from the field (52.8 percent) and 10-of-28 from downtown (35.7 percent). Billy the Kid's team will be tough to beat if they keep their hot hand and big men Patric Young and Erik Murphy stay out of foul trouble.

Player to Watch – Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette (3)

Numero Uno in Marquette's all-out athletic attack, Darius Johnson-Odom is hoping to lead the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four since D-Wade carried the club on his back in 2003. Unlike Tom Crean's crew, however, coach Buzz Williams' team will not rely solely on a singular talent to stay alive. Instead, Marquette's duo of Johnson-Odom and forward Jae Crowder will do the damage. The tag team combined for 34 of MU's 62 points and 15 of the Eagles' 36 rebounds during a 62-53 win over Murray State to advance to the Sweet 16.

Opening Weekend Upset – Norfolk State (15) over Missouri (2)

Heading into the Big Dance, the knock on Mizzou was its lack of size. And Norfolk State center Kyle O'Quinn couldn't have come up bigger in a David vs. Goliath matchup where David outweighed Goliath down low. The 6'10", 240-pound O'Quinn recorded 26 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots in an historic 86-84 victory for the Spartans.

Irish Bracket Bomb

“I got a lot of those clovers, texting me, ‘Good luck, good luck, Kyle O’Quinn win!’ I had to leave my phone at the hotel because I was getting too many of those kinds of messages.” — Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn, whose Irish surname and green-and-gold Spartan teammates proved to be good luck on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

<p> Michigan State held on, while Florida chomped along thanks to Norfolk State's upset of Missouri.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 20:06
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-sweet-16-preview-midwest-region

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: Midwest Region

Top Dog — North Carolina (1)

After getting shot-swatting forward John Henson back from a wrist injury suffered in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels suffered an even worse blow when ambidextrous assist man Kendall Marshall went down with a wrist injury of his own in the Round of 32 against overmatched Creighton. Fortunately, two-time national champion coach Roy Williams has one of the deepest rosters in the land. Harrison Barnes (17 points, five rebounds) was outscored and outrebounded by his Ames (Iowa) High School teammate, Creighton's Doug McDermott (20 points, nine rebounds), in their head-to-head reunion. The superb sophomore will be counted on to raise his game to another level, as will senior center Tyler Zeller, if the Tar Heels have any hopes of reaching the Final Four in New Orleans without a full strength effort from either Marshall or Henson.

Underdog – Ohio (13)

The Bobcats are moving on to their first Sweet 16 in school history after emotional wins over No. 4 seed Michigan, 65-60, and No. 12 "First Four" play-in South Florida, 62-56. Ohio hit 9-of-18 from 3-point range against USF after going 15-of-17 from the free throw line against the Maize and Blue. A combination of both hot streaks might be necessary in order to pull off an upset of heavily favored North Carolina in St. Louis.

Player to Watch – Lorenzo Brown, NC State (11)

The Wolfpack guard has been a statsheet stuffer in upset wins over San Diego State (6) and Georgetown (3). The 6'5" sophomore averaged 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.5 steals over his first two games in the Dance. There was little Brown could not do for NC State when it mattered most against the Hoyas, as the clutch playmaker hit three crucial free throws in the final 10.6 seconds of a thrilling 66-63 victory.

Injury Update – Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (1)

First Syracuse's Fab Melo and now UNC's Kendall Marshall; Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michigan State's Draymond Green better watch out, because the most indispensable players on the No. 1 seeds in this year's NCAA Tournament are dropping like flies. While Melo is done, Marshall is holding out hope after breaking a bone in his right (non-shooting) wrist. The pass-first sophomore point guard is the conductor of Carolina's offensive orchestra. NBA Lottery talents Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller will have a tough time without Marshall, who is nearly irreplaceable following the season-ending ACL injury to backup point guard Dexter Strickland earlier this year.

Lefty Still Loose

"Luckily it's my right hand. If it was my left hand, then we'd probably have some problems. But we'll take it day-by-day and figure it out." - North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, a southpaw who suffered a broken bone in his right wrist during an 87-73 win over Creighton to advance to the Sweet 16.

<p> Everyone had No. 1 North Carolina in the Sweet 16, but No. 11 NC State was a bracket buster.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 20:01
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-sweet-16-preview-east-region

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: East Region

Top Dog — Syracuse (1)

The Syracuse Orange continued their strange season — which has included the Bernie Fine sex abuse scandal, failed drug test rumors and multiple academic suspensions of center Fab Melo — on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Orange advanced to the Sweet 16, but it wasn’t as easy as expected for a No. 1 seed. Coach Jim Boeheim’s club struggled to a 72–65 victory over UNC-Asheville (16) in a game that included multiple controversial calls, including a late lane violation and tipped ball out of bounds that both went against Asheville. Cuse played better in a 75–59 win over Kansas State (8), but were far from the terrifying team that went 33–2 overall and 17–1 in the Big East this year. Up next, Wisconsin (4) is playing with confidence and has no problem with winning ugly, a tactic Syracuse has only recently discovered.

Underdog – Cincinnati (6)

The Bearcats are battle-tested. Cincy ran through the Big East Tournament, until falling short against Louisville in the conference's first title game featuring two teams that were not original members. Then, Mick Cronin's No. 6-seeded club scrapped past No. 11 Texas, 65-59, and No. 3 Florida State, 62-56, all the way to the Sweet 16. Two of the four teams from Ohio square off when Cincinnati tips off against Ohio State in Boston on Thursday night. The big brother Buckeyes will have their hands full, especially OSU's five-star sophomore "Big Sully" Jared Sullinger, who will go toe-to-toe with 6'9", 260-pound senior tough guy Yancy Gates.

Missing in Action – Fab Melo, Syracuse (1)

Jim Boeheim's signature 2-3 zone in no way resembles the suffocating matchup nightmare it did when 7-foot Brazilian shot-blocker Fab Melo patrolled the Orange paint. The heart of SU's defense has been ripped out of the middle, in the middle of the heart of the season due to ongoing academic issues. Syracuse still has leaders like guards Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine; but at this point in the year, there is no replacement for the type of impact Melo provided defensively. Amazing, considering Melo was thought to be a "bust" by many knee-jerks reacting at this point during his freshman season last year. Don't be shocked if Wisconsin pulls off an upset against the Fab-less five of Syracuse.

Iron Unkind

“It was more a matter of the ball not going in. All of my shots pretty much felt good. They just were a little bit short or a little bit too long. Things like that happen in basketball. The ball isn’t always going to bounce your way.” – Vanderbilt senior Jeffery Taylor (4-of-12), who combined with SEC scoring leader John Jenkins (3-of-13) to shoot 7-of-25 from the field and 3-of-14 from 3-point range in a loss to Wisconsin.

<p> Top seed Syracuse survived, but Ohio State and Wisconsin looked better en route to the Sweet 16.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 19:55
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-sweet-16-preview-south-region

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: South Region

Top Dog — Kentucky (1)

As expected, the Kentucky Wildcats dominated their first two opponents, averaging 84 points per game and a 15.5-point margin of victory en route to wins over in-state rival Western Kentucky (16) and Iowa State (8). National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 blocked shots and four assists in the first two NCAA Tournament games of his career, while sophomore Terrence Jones (22 points, 10 rebounds vs. WKU) and freshman Marquis Teaque (24 points, 7 assists vs. ISU) each had shining moments over the weekend. In the Sweet 16, coach John Calipari’s crew will have a chance to avenge its 73-72 loss at Indiana on Dec. 10, 2011 — one of only two losses UK has suffered this season.

Underdog – Xavier (10)

The Musketeers relied on center Kenny Frease (25 points, 12 rebounds) and point guard Tu Holloway (21 points) to advance past No. 15 seed Lehigh, 70-58, holding Duke-slayer C.J. McCollum to 14 points on just 5-of-22 shooting. One of four teams from the state of Ohio in the Sweet 16, Xavier will face Baylor in a 3-10 pairing of athletic clubs that push the pace and know how to put a highlight reel together. The Bears surely expected a showdown with Duke at this point; the X-Men from Cincy present a mutant matchup with upset written all over it.

Blue State, Red State Rematch – Kentucky (1) vs. Indiana (4)

Earlier this year, Big Blue Nation had illusions of grandeur, thoughts of the first undefeated season since Indiana went 32-0 to win the 1976 national title. That is, until IU's Christian Watford hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to hand the Wildcats their first of two losses this season. Coach Cal's team lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament title game three months after the Indiana defeat; but the Cats are 2-1 against the Dores, they are 0-1 vs. the Hoosiers. Kentucky fans are eager to face Indiana coach Tom Crean, since the former Marquette leader lacks 2003 Elite Eight Cat-killer Dwyane Wade this time around.

Opening Weekend Upset – Lehigh (15) over Duke (2)

The Patriot League champions from Lehigh shocked the traditional ACC powerhouse of Duke, as a No. 15 seed upset a No. 2 seed for the second time in the tournament — after No. 15 Norfolk State defeated No. 2 Missouri earlier in the evening — and for the first time since Hampton took down Iowa State on March 16, 2001. For at least one night, Mountain Hawks junior C.J. McCollum was every bit as good as any player residing on Tobacco Road — with 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in 39 minutes. Fitting, McCollum’s two made free throws clinched the 75–70 victory with 0.4 second remaining.

Fortune Favors the Bold

“They were very bold. They were very bold the entire game. We started the game tentative and at different times, we seemed very tentative on the offensive end and they were bold throughout.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, following a shocking upset to No. 15 seed Lehigh.

<p> Anthony Davis and No. 1 Kentucky cruised to the Sweet 16, while No. 2 Duke was upset by No. 15 Lehigh.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 19:50