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Path: /nfl/super-bowl-rematch-giants-versus-patriots

The underdog New York Giants surprised the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, a memorable 17-14 decision to complete the 2007 season. Four years later, the two stalwart franchises will meet for NFL supremacy once again. This Sunday’s game will be the fifth time that two NFL clubs have battled in a second Super Bowl — while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys are the only two franchises to meet more than twice in the big game. Here’s an historical look at previous Super Bowl rematches:

1.     Super Bowl X — Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 10 (January 1976)
        Super Bowl XIII — Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31 (Jan. 1979)
        Super Bowl XXX — Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17 (Jan. 1996)

The first two games were classic confrontations as the Steelers and Cowboys battled to become of the decade. Pittsburgh won its second straight Super Bowl to finish the 1975 season, as a nasty defense carried the way against Dallas. Three years later, the rematch was one of the best Super Bowls in history. MVP Terry Bradshaw threw for four scores, and the Steelers held off a late Cowboys’ rally to win 35-31. Despite the great game, perhaps its most famous play was the dropped pass by wide open Dallas tight end Jackie Smith in the end zone. The two popular franchises met again 17 years later, as the Cowboys finally defeated the Steelers in football’s ultimate game. Cornerback Larry Brown won the MVP with his two interceptions, and Dallas won its third championship in four seasons.

2.     Super Bowl VII — Miami 14, Washington 7 (Jan. 1973)
        Super Bowl XVII — Washington 27, Miami 17 (Jan. 1983)

The undefeated 1972 Dolphins finished their perfect season by beating the Redskins in Super Bowl VII. Miami’s ferocious defense led the way, as safety Jake Scott won the MVP with his two interceptions. The ground game of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick was very formidable in carrying the Dolphins to their first title. The Redskins would return the favor a decade later with their own physical running game. Bruising runner John Riggins won the MVP with a then Super Bowl-record 166 yards on the ground as Washington won its first NFL title since 1942.

3.     Super Bowl XVI — San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21 (Jan. 1982)
        Super Bowl XXIII — San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16 (Jan. 1989)

The legendary Bill Walsh carried the 49ers to their first Super Bowl victory to cap off the 1981 season, beating a gritty Bengals bunch 26-21. San Francisco built a 20-0 lead at halftime, but Cincinnati quarterback Jim Anderson rallied his club with two touchdown passes and another score on the ground in the second half. Ray Wersching's four field goals were huge for the Niners, while Joe Montana won the MVP with 157 yards passing. Seven years later, San Francisco would defeat Cincy again to win its third Super Bowl of the decade. MVP Jerry Rice had 11 catches for a Super Bowl-record 215 yards, but it was John Taylor’s touchdown catch with less than a minute to go that sealed the win.

4.     Super Bowl XXVII — Dallas 52, Buffalo 17 (Jan. 1993)
        Super Bowl XXVIII — Dallas 30, Buffalo 13 (Jan. 1994)

The only back-to-back rematch in Super Bowl history happened after the 1993 season, with Dallas blowing out Buffalo for a second-straight year. These were the third and fourth of the Bills’ four-straight title games, but they unfortunately ran into Jimmy Johnson’s juggernaut after losing closer games in Super Bowls XXV and XXVI. The Cowboys were led by the trio of Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, plus an athletic defense. Buffalo played a better game in the rematch, holding a 13-6 lead at halftime. However the Cowboys responded with 24 unanswered points in the second half to win going away.

5.     Super Bowl XLII — New York Giants 17, New England 14 (February 2008)
        Super Bowl XLVI — ??? (Feb. 2012)

Most pundits thought the unbeaten Patriots would easily beat wild card Giants and join the ’72 Dolphins with a perfect season. Instead, Eli Manning would toss two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to lead the G-men to the crown. The New York defense sacked Tom Brady five times in the victory, and that ability to pressure the quarterback will be a key in this year’s title game. The Giants beat the Pats, 24-20, earlier this season, so New England will enter the Super Bowl especially motivated. Not many Patriots playing Sunday were on the ’07 team, but the core of Brady, Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork, Matt Light and Logan Mankins would love to get revenge for ruining their perfect season four years ago. Hopefully, Sunday’s game will be as dramatic as the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII.

<p> Super Bowl Rematch: Giants versus Patriots</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 16:20
Path: /nfl/new-york-vs-boston-rivalry

When the New York Giants and New England Patriots kick off Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the game won’t be just a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, it will be a renewal of the greatest sports town rivalry and culture clash in the country — New York vs. Boston. Which city has the edge heading into Super Sunday? The following is a tale of the tape:

Ruthian shadow:
Sultan of Swat vs. The Bambino
The 1919 sale of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees is a good place to start. After winning three World Series in four years (1914-16, ’18), Red Sox owner Harry Frazee — a New Yorker — sold Ruth to the rival Yankees for $100,000. Then, as the disputed legend has it, Frazee invested the money in a Broadway production of “No, No, Nanette.” The Sultan of Swat hit 659 of his 714 career home runs in pinstripes and the Yankees won 26 World Series titles before Boston finally crushed the “Curse of the Bambino.”
Edge: New York

Miraculous title run:
Super Bowl XLII vs. 2004 ALCS
Eli Manning and the Giants ended Tom Brady and the Patriots’ quest for an undefeated, incomparable 19–0 season in dramatic fashion — winning 17–14 on a last-minute drive that included a “Helmet Catch” by David Tyree. But New York’s underdog story pales in comparison to Boston’s comeback in the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Red Sox trailed the Yankees 0–3 heading into Game 4 of the ALCS before winning eight straight games — four elimination contests against the Evil Empire in the ALCS and a sweep of the Cardinals in the World Series — to win their first World Series championship in 86 years.
Edge: Boston

Maniacal genius:
Bill Parcells vs. Bill Belichick
The Big Tuna had Belichick as his defensive coordinator on the Giants’ championship squads that won Super Bowls XXI and XXV — the latter title team also had current Big Blue coach Tom Coughlin as receivers coach. But after Belichick hit the road, Parcells never won it all again — although he did lose Super Bowl XXXI as coach of the Patriots. Belichick belly-flopped as the mistake by the lake in Cleveland, but bounced back in New England, winning three (maybe four) Super Bowls in five trips to the big game. Wearing a gray cutoff hoody, as opposed to a Tuna-tight blue sweater, Belichick has become the modern standard.
Edge: Boston

“Overrated” playboy:
Derek Jeter vs. Tom Brady
Two of the most envied men in the world, Jeter and Brady have been labeled “overrated pretty boys” by many. But the duo has been laughing all the way to the bank with a hand full of championship rings and a supermodel starlet on their arm. The king of New York since 1996, Jeter has five World Series titles and has been linked to every girl in Manhattan — Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey, Jessica Alba, etc. Meanwhile, Touchdown Tom is making his record-tying fifth Super Bowl appearance, is married to Brazilian bombshell Gisele Bundchen and has a baby by stateside sweetheart Bridget Moynahan.
Edge: New York

“Overachieving” champ:
Eli Manning vs. Larry Bird
Peyton’s little brother and the NBA’s great white hope both possessed off-the-charts talent but were underrated for various reasons. Elite Eli’s confused “Manning face” expression and Larry Legend’s blonde mullet-mustache combo were part of the problem. Bird won three titles, three MVPs and three 3-point crowns; Manning is working on winning his second Super Bowl in five seasons and, at 31, still has plenty of time to build a resume that rivals his brother’s.
Edge: Boston

Edible nickname:
Big Apple vs. Beantown
The term “Big Apple” was 1920’s horse racing slang that went mainstream thanks primarily to local scribe John J. Fitz Gerald. “Beantown” was slathered with molasses and baked beans back in colonial times of yesteryear.
Edge: New York

Clam chowder:
Manhattan vs. New England
Cream-based or tomato-based? Potatoes or no? Old school or new wave?
Edge: Boston

Scorsese flick:
Goodfellas vs. The Departed
The 1990 East Brooklyn, Italian mafia tale of Henry Hill draws down against the 2006 South Boston, Irish mob story of Frank Costello. Both films are Martin Scorsese classics based on true stories. But do they amuse you? Like a clown? I heard things.
Edge: New York

Iconic fighter:
Mike Tyson vs. Rocky Marciano
Born in Brooklyn, Iron Mike was a 5’10” pit bull, the youngest champ in history (20 years, 4 months, 22 days) and the most feared man on the planet before he became a Phil Collins’ karaoke singer on the silver screen. Four decades earlier, the Rock from Brockton (Mass.) was a 5’11” sledgehammer who went 49–0 with 43 KOs, including a win over Joe Louis in 1951.
Edge: Split decision

It looks like Super Bowl XLVI is a winner-take-all showdown for bragging rights in the New York vs. Boston debate — unless Tyson and Rocky somehow find a way to fight in their heavyweight championship primes.

<p> The Big Apple and Beantown have nation's best sports town feud and culture clash, going toe-to-toe for bragging rights over Babe Ruth, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Larry Bird, Eli Manning, Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Martin Scorsese and clam chowder.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 15:57
Path: /college-football/recruiting-trail-dominated-urban-meyer-ohio-state

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

It helps to have two coaching staffs.

While Luke Fickell's Ohio State staff prepared for the bowl match-up with Florida, new head coach Urban Meyer and his staff plowed through the recruiting trail in true General Sherman fashion.

This story began on November 27 rather than National Signing Day. In reality, Meyer had a rather quiet Signing Day, landing only the one big name (Kyle Dodson). But he had a monstrous two months leading up to Wednesday for the Buckeyes. Meyer stepped onto campus in Columbus and wreaked havoc almost instantly by pilfering powerful Midwestern classes for elite level talent.

Meyer landed 11 of his 25 total signees after taking over late in November including a number of former Penn State commitments, one Michigan State verbal, a former Wisconsin commitment and a Notre Dame pledge. He flipped Athlon Consensus 100 talents Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (No. 67) and Canton (Ohio) McKinley defensive end Se’Von Pittman (No. 86) from PSU and MSU respectively. He also pulled nationally-rated defensive back Armani Reeves from Penn State and landed the No. 3 player in the nation in Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence. Spence is the No. 1 defensive end in the nation and was considered a Penn State lock before Meyer took over at Ohio State.

Finally, Meyer stole a pair of offensive lineman in Vandalia (Ohio) Butler’s Taylor Decker and Cleveland (Ohio) Cleveland Heights’ Kyle Dodson. Decker had previously been committed to the Irish and Dodson has been set to go to Madison, Wisc.

With elite Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft defensive end Adolphus Washington (No. 27) on board as well, Meyer boasts four AC100 defensive lineman. It is one of, if not the, best defensive line class in the nation. He has clearly brought his SEC theories on rushing the passer to the Big Ten.

The last piece to the masterful Meyer puzzle will fall into place on Friday, February 10 when Olney (Md.) Good Counsel athlete Stefon Diggs makes his decision. Florida has long been the leader for the No. 5 player in the nation, but Ohio State made a late push for the do-everything talent. Meyer can simply pop in the tape of Percy Harvin and show Diggs exactly how he would be used in Columbus. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chapparell play-maker Davonte Neal is a player with a similar skill set to that of Diggs and is also waiting until past NSD to make his call. Those are the only two names left on the Scarlet and Gray's board for the class of 2012.

Meyer has put together the best class in the Big Ten and a top five group nationally.  However, should they land Diggs next week, the Buckeyes could finish as high as No. 2.

And he did it in less than three months. Vintage Meyer.

<p> Since taking over in Columbus, Meyer's impact on Buckeye recruiting has been astounding.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 14:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, News
Path: /college-football/dorial-green-beckham-signs-missouri-tigers

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

One of the best-kept recruiting secrets in years came from Athlon’s No. 1 player in the nation, Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

The top name in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 took only three visits — to Texas, Arkansas and Missouri — and kept his recruitment incredibly quiet and impossibly impenetrable. After his visit to Fayetteville, Hogs fans felt great about their chances to land the superstar wideout. Yet, Gary Pinkel and the Tigers got the last opportunity to impress DGB when he visited the beautiful Columbia campus just before Signing Day.

And Pinkel capitalized.

Eventually, the star treatment from the in-state school proved to be too much, and Green-Beckham signed with Missouri in front of a circus of cameras and reporters at his high school on Wednesday morning.

His resume makes him a once-in-a-lifetime prospect for the ShowMe State. The Calvin Johnson clone caught 119 passes for 2,233 yards — the fourth-highest total in history — and 24 touchdowns as a senior. In the process, his astounding 6,353 career receiving yards broke Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian Abram Booty’s national record of 5,867 yards. His 300 career receptions rank fourth all-time, and his 75 career touchdowns rank third all-time in American high school football history.

The impact of landing the nation’s top prospect is immeasurable for the Missouri Tigers.

As Pinkel leads his squad into the shark-infested, murky waters of the SEC, Green-Beckham could prove to be a program-changing recruit — not just on the field, but off of it as well. DGB's immense talent will obviously play in that high-flying Mizzou offense, but, much in the way Kevin Jones' signing impacted the Virginia Tech Hokies brand image back in the class of 2000, the recruiting clout gained off the field from the DGB signing should elevate the Tigers’ cachet on the recruiting trail. Especially considering they are now competing with the likes of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina within their own division every year.

Rising star quarterback James Franklin will feel the immediate impact of signing Green-Beckham the most as he now has an elite target who is only a freshman. Once the Tigers integrate former elite recruit Darius White, who is transferring in from Texas, Mizzou's passing attack in 2013 could downright impossible to stop.

Only time will tell, but February 1, 2012, could go down in the Mizzou annals as one of the most influential days in Tigers football history.

<p> Dorial Green-Beckham Signs With Missouri Tigers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 10:44
Path: /news/it%E2%80%99s-national-signing-day-anything-possible

By David Schuman

 Alabama beat LSU for the national championship 23 days ago, but for the true diehards, the second season was just getting underway. I’m talking about the offseason, the recruiting season. For those who consume college football in a manner similar to the way Morris Claiborne gobbles up an entire half of the field, today is Christmas and the Super Bowl all wrapped up into one glorious bonanza.

It’s the holiday known as National Signing Day.

Do you feel that? That tingly feeling in your gut? How about the lightheadedness? We call that hope, my friend. Hope that with this recruiting class, your program is ready to take that next step. Hope that college football’s next star just signed his letter of intent to walk on your campus. Hope that your prayers have been answered.

Nowhere is all of this a bigger deal than in SEC country. Being a Vanderbilt student originally from New York, I have only recently been introduced to the rowdy institution that is football in the South. The enormity of National Signing Day became clear pretty quickly though. Legions of fans, including grown men and women who have jobs and families, unashamedly hang on every word of 18 year olds they have never met. You can now add the Twitterverse to that as well, which brings a whole new dizzying quality to the hysteria.

I say “hysteria” because there is a potent measure of irrationality about the whole thing. You know how it goes. If your archrival picks up a commitment from a guy you wanted, the first assumption is that the rival must have bent the rules. You pull out all your defense mechanisms, saying things like, “Well, if he’s susceptible to being seduced by Rival U, he’s not the kind of kid we want anyway. We’re probably better off without him.”

Anyone who follows the recruiting battles even a little can see how heated it gets. The controversy even manages to wedge itself between families. The most recent example is what happened with Landon Collins this year. At the Under Armour All-America game, the five-star safety from Geismar, Louisiana committed to Alabama in front of the national TV audience. His mother proceeded to…well, check it out for yourself.

Now, some may say the hype has gotten out of control. With top prospects now holding press conferences to announce their choices, there is justified criticism that these teenagers are being celebrated before they have accomplished a thing. Remember Jimmy Clausen with his limousine and rings? The image still makes me nauseous, but the fact is National Signing Day has become a spectacle because there is a demand for it. Websites such as Rivals and Scout have made recruiting a year-round event that doesn’t look to be waning in popularity any time soon.

Basically, we obsess over Signing Day because of the rush. The unbeatable thrill of reeling in the big fish after months on the recruiting trail. For an Auburn fan, beating out Alabama for a prized recruit can feel almost as good as winning the Iron Bowl. And you’re not paying attention if you don’t think Michigan fans, after the insufferable Rich-Rod era, are outright giddy about their Top 5 class.

So sit back and enjoy today, the day where the wellspring of hope runs eternal. Even for non-SEC fans. Well, let’s be real. They don’t have a shot.

<p> Every college football team has a little hope today</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 08:08
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/green-beckham-diggs-top-list-uncommitted-prospects

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

One glance at the Athlon Consensus 100 will prove that it should be an electric ride through National Signing Day 2012. In total, 18 players ranked in the AC100 are left uncommitted and a few massive names could pull the old flip-flop. Teams like Auburn, Florida, Florida State, USC and Ohio State could all experience major gains — or major heartbreak — once those faxes start rolling in tomorrow at 7 a.m. ET.

Related: National Signing Day Craziest Stories
Related: Team Rankings Heading Into Signing Day

Here are the Top Players left on the board (in order of AC100 ranking):

1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (6-6, 220)
Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest
Announcement: NSD at 10:15 a.m. ET

The nation's top prospect, who conjures images of Calvin Johnson, took three official visits to Texas, Missouri and Arkansas. Rumors were that his visit to Arkansas gave the Hogs a clear advantage. That is, until he visited Mizzou last weekend. The M-I-Z-D-G-B chants rang through the rafters of Mizzou Arena during the weekend's hoops contest in Columbia. It appears that DGB wants to stay closer to home and reports have been the Tigers and Hogs will be his final two choices. Gary Pinkel has the luxury of holding the final visit, offers an in-state campus (Arkansas is actually a few miles closer to home) and now carries that all important "SEC" patch on their shoulder pads. Prediction: Missouri

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locklsey will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Prediction: Florida

9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 305)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
Announcement: NSD 10:05 a.m. ET

The star defensive tackle has taken four visits thus far to Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami. It has appeared to be a two-team race between the Crimson Tide and Seminoles but Auburn has made a strong push. The Seminoles are still the top team to beat for his services as almost all experts are in agreement that Goldman will pick FSU on NSD. Auburn's class has to be consider a slight disappointment, so you can bet Gene Chizik's staff is working the phones hard for Mr. Goldman. Prediction: Florida State

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 175)
Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar
Announcement: NSD 9:35 a.m. ET

Howard has long been considered a heavy Florida Gator lean and the smart money is still on Will Muschamp. However, the Miami Hurricanes have come out of nowhere and made a huge push. Alabama, Florida State, West Virginia and USC might still be in the mix, but it appears to be a Gators-Canes battle. Howard played well in the U.S. Army Bowl and figures to be an instant impact coverman. The Hurricanes, possibly his original team of choice, appears to have made a huge run at the talented DB. Prediction: Miami

20. Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB (6-4, 205)
Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes
Announcement: NSD 9:15 a.m. ET

This rangy linebacker (potential defensive end) has Florida, Georgia, Louisville and Florida State as his finalists with the Gators and Dawgs leading the charge for his services. He has visited Florida, Georgia and Florida State and has long been thought of as a heavy Georgia lean. All of the experts have lined-up behind Athens as the landing spot for this versatile front-seven defender. Prediction: Georgia

22. Andrus Peat, OL (6-6, 295)
Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol
Announcement: NSD 1:35 p.m. ET

The big blocker was excellent in the Under Armour game and has proven his stock is warranted. His older brother, Todd, and cousin Avery Moss either play at or will play at Nebraska. So heading for a NSD announcement, the Huksers have the edge over his other three finalists. Peat has visited his four finalists — Nebraska, USC, Florida State and Stanford — and has them all technically listed even. That said, Bo Pelini has to be considered the clear leader. Prediction: Nebraska

25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-6, 270)
San Clemente (Calif.)
Announcement: N/A

Murphy is down to four: Stanford, USC, Florida and Oregon. He visited those four programs over the last few months and has not set a time for his announcement. At this point, Stanford and USC look to be his true finalists with David Shaw and the Cardinal looking like the team to beat for his services. Most would be shocked if he landed at Florida or Oregon. Prediction: Stanford

26. Nelson Agholor, ATH (6-0, 180)
Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep
Announcement: NSD 12:05 p.m. ET

Agholor is a young player who is wise and mature beyond his years and it shows on the field. He is dynamic and will be an immediate impact player on the next level – be it at running back, wide receiver or special teams. Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC are his finalists with the Gators and Trojans leading the way. He was considered a strong Gators lean, but USC has made a huge final push and may be the team to beat. This is one of the more intriguing recruitments in the nation — and could be one of the most important. Prediction: USC

29. Thomas Johnson, WR (6-0, 180)
Dallas (Texas) Skyline
Announcement: NSD 12:20 p.m. ET

Johnson decommitted from the Texas Longhorns the day after playing in the Under Armour game (strangely, with a big number of future teammates). After nearly one full calendar year as a Texas verbal, Johnson now looks to be picking between Cal, Oregon, Texas A&M and TCU. He visited all of his finalists except Cal and looks like all signs are pointing to him staying in the Lone Star State. The lure of the SEC will be too strong for Johnson. Prediction: Texas A&M

34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 175)
Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
Announcement: NSD 2:30 p.m. ET

The longtime Notre Dame commitment reopened his recruitment and has Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame listed as his finalists. Of those final choices, Darby visited Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Auburn. Look for Auburn and Florida State to battle it out for this talented speedster's athletic ability. Prediction: Florida State

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Prediction: Georgia

56. Davonte Neal, ATH (5-9, 175)
Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
Announcement: N/A

Neal can play anywhere on the field and could still play anywhere in the nation. His list of finalists includes Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He has visited all five and has told everyone that he will not be deciding until, for whatever reason, after National Signing Day. This one appears to be wide open but the home state program might be the team to beat. Prediction: Arizona

63. Aziz Shittu, DT (6-3, 275)
Atwater (Calif.) Buhach
Announcement: NSD at 5 p.m. ET

If there is an interesting recruit who could pull something very interesting out of the hat on NSD, it might be the intriuging Shittu. Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA are his finalists, but appears all but locked into a Palo Alto scholarship. Prediction: Stanford

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: USC

82. Kwon Alexander, LB (6-2, 210)
Oxford (Ala.) High
Announcement: NSD 11:05 a.m. ET

Alexander is down to three schools and the BCS Championship game could have played a large role in helping him to decide. The talented tackler has visited Auburn and LSU thus far but has interestingly enough not visited Alabama. He is currently rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered back in October and Auburn never backed down — and has new DC and strong recruiter Brian VanGorder working hard to land him. Prediction: Auburn

88. Jordan Diamond, OL (6-6, 290)
Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
Announcement: Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

Diamond has tripped to all of his five finalists: Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin. He has decided to postpone his decision to just beyond National Signing Day and will make his final call on Friday at 8 p.m. The Badgers got the all-important final visit and may be in the lead after losing a few offensive line prospects of late. Prediction: Michigan

95. Joel Caleb, ATH (6-2, 205)
Midlothian (Va.) Clover Hill
Announcement: NSD at 8:30 a.m. ET

Caleb has officially listed three programs as his finalists. Ohio State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia are his programs of choice, but the Hokies have long been rumored as the team to beat. The talented athlete missed some of this season with a torn meniscus and has been rehabbing hard in order to be ready for 2012. Prediction: Virginia Tech

<p> Who are the best players left on the board and where will they land on National Signing Day?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/can-national-signing-day-save-auburns-class

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The Auburn Tigers won the 2011 BCS National Championship. But you wouldn't be able to tell it from looking at the team recruiting rankings. and has the Tigers ranked No. 20 in the nation and 247Sports has Auburn ranked 21st in the nation. That is nothing to sneeze at and provides enough talent to any roster to compete for conference championships.

Yet, those rankings put the Tigers in the bottom third of the SEC. Eighth to be exact.

Certainly, having to replace two coordinators for the first time in years hasn't helped Gene Chizik maintain his astounding recruiting momentum from recent years. But with Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, he has put together a fantastic new staff and could close the 2012 class with a flourish on National Signing Day.

Will Auburn land most of the names listed below? Probably not. But the Tigers need to pull a couple of upsets in order salvage a top-20 class — and keep up with that other in-state SEC school that currently owns the recruiting trail.

Here are the Athlon Consensus 100 targets Auburn has left on its board:

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today on the 10th. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locklsey will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Auburn is a heavy long-shot in the race for Diggs, but his inability to make up his mind only helps the upset cause. Prediction: Florida

9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 305)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
Announcement: NSD 10:05 a.m. ET

The star defensive tackle has taken four visits thus far to Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami. It has appeared to be a two-team race between the Crimson Tide and Seminoles but Auburn has made a strong push. The Seminoles are still the top team to beat for his services as almost all experts are in agreement that Goldman will pick FSU on NSD. Auburn's class has to be consider a slight disappointment, so you can bet Gene Chizik's staff is working the phones hard for Mr. Goldman. Prediction: Florida State

34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 175)
Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
Announcement: NSD 2:30 p.m. ET

The longtime Notre Dame commitment reopened his recruitment and has Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame listed as his finalists. Of those final choices, Darby visited Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Auburn. Look for Auburn and Florida State to battle it out for this talented speedster's athletic ability. Prediction: Florida State

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Or will the new coordinator and sheer desire of the Auburn staff win out? Prediction: Auburn

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: USC

82. Kwon Alexander, LB (6-2, 210)
Oxford (Ala.) High
Announcement: NSD 11:05 a.m. ET

Alexander is down to three schools and the BCS Championship game could have played a large role in helping him to decide. The talented tackler has visited Auburn and LSU thus far but has interestingly enough not visited Alabama. He is currently rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered back in October and Auburn never backed down — and has new DC and strong recruiter Brian VanGorder working hard to land him. Prediction: Auburn

88. Jordan Diamond, OL (6-6, 290)
Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
Announcement: Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

Diamond has tripped to all of his five finalists: Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin. He has decided to postpone his decision to just beyond National Signing Day and will make his final call on Friday at 8 p.m. The Badgers got the all-important final visit and may be in the lead after losing a few offensive line prospects of late. Prediction: Michigan

Other Nationally Rated Names to Watch:

Alex Kozan, OL (6-4, 295)
Castle Rock (Colo.) Valor Christian
Finalists: Auburn, Iowa, Michigan

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (6-4, 205)
Hutchinson (Kan.) C.C.
Finalists: Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Ricardo Louis, WR (6-2, 190)
Miami Beach (Fla.) High
Finalists: Auburn, Florida State

<p> Auburn's 2012 class has been a disappointment, but can National Signing Day save the day?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 16:11
Path: /college-football/recruiting-florida-gators-ready-huge-national-signing-day

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The Florida Gators need some good news these days.

One of the best jobs in America — and the best job East of the Mississippi — has featured four different coordinators in four seasons in Gainesville and eleven losses in two seasons. And shockingly, it is the lack of play-makers on that side of the ball that is so startling absent from the Gators' roster.

That could all change on Wednesday, however, as National Signing Day could be a huge day for second-year head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease. There are eight Athlon Consensus 100 targets left on the Gators board and two of them in particular could add some offensive spark to an otherwise dormant offense. Landing all eight is highly unlikely and virtually impossible, but if three or four of the names listed below pick Florida, Muschamp could actually push Alabama and Texas for the No. 1 class in the nation. Right now, the class currently sits at No. 3 in the Athlon Sports team rankings.

Here are the names Florida is waiting for:

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Prediction: Florida

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 175)
Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar
Announcement: NSD 9:35 a.m. ET

Howard has long been considered a heavy Florida Gator lean and the smart money is still on Will Muschamp. However, the Miami Hurricanes have come out of nowhere and made a huge push. Alabama, Florida State, West Virginia and USC might still be in the mix, but it appears to be a Gators-Canes battle. Howard played well in the U.S. Army Bowl and figures to be an instant impact coverman. Prediction: Florida

20. Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB (6-4, 205)
Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes
Announcement: NSD 9:15 a.m. ET

This rangy linebacker (potential defensive end) has Florida, Georgia, Louisville and Florida State as his finalists with the Gators and Dawgs leading the charge for his services. He has visited Florida, Georgia and Florida State and has long been thought of as a heavy Georgia lean. All of the experts have lined-up behind Athens as the landing spot for this versatile front-seven defender. Prediction: Georgia

25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-6, 270)
San Clemente (Calif.)
Announcement: N/A

Murphy is down to four: Stanford, USC, Florida and Oregon. He visited those four programs over the last few months and has not set a time for his announcement. At this point, Stanford and USC look to be his true finalists with David Shaw and the Cardinal looking like the team to beat for his services. Most would be shocked if he landed at Florida or Oregon. Prediction: Stanford

26. Nelson Agholor, ATH (6-0, 180)
Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep
Announcement: NSD 12:05 p.m. ET

Agholor is a young player who is wise and mature beyond his years and it shows on the field. He is dynamic and will be an immediate impact player on the next level – be it at running back, wide receiver or special teams. Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC are his finalists with the Gators and Trojans leading the way. He was considered a strong Gators lean, but USC has made a huge final push and may be the team to beat. This is one of the more intriguing recruitments in the nation — and could be one of the most important. Prediction: USC

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Prediction: Georgia

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: Florida

<p> National Signing Day 2012 could be a huge day for Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 15:06
Path: /college-football/recruiting-signing-days-craziest-stories

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Children are complicated, fickle, naive creatures who seldom have any perspective on the trappings of adult life. Few 16-year old kids in this country are clued in to the rise of democracy in the Middle East, the emerging debt issues in Europe or the far-reaching effects of upcoming elections in South America. Hell, most of them have never even done their own taxes.

It’s why uniform colors, shoes, weather, license plates and even a coin flip have been used to select a university in the recent past. And I don’t expect National Signing Day 2012 to be much different.

The 2012 cycle has already provided one of the most bizarre recruiting stories I have ever witnessed. Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety Landon Collins, the No. 21-rated player in the Athlon Consensus 100, announced on national television for the University of Alabama much to the chagrin of his mother, April Justin. Justin, just moments after her son committed to the Tide, was not only visibly upset but openly cheered for “her” LSU Tigers:

"I feel like LSU is a better place for him to be," Justin said at the time. "LSU Tigers, number one. Go Tigers.”

Collins’ girlfriend, Victoria Lowery, is reportedly going to Alabama and wants her significant other to come with her. Apparently, Justin and Lowery got into an altercation just before the announcement about who should be on set when Collins made the big decision. Well, Collins is still committed to Alabama and Lowery was on camera standing just behind her man at the Under Armour game.

Lowery 2, Mom 0.

But Mama isn’t going down without a fight as she has recently accused Nick Saban and Alabama of a recruiting violation. She claims Lowery has been offered a job in the football office by Saban – and obvious NCAA violation. Alabama has denied the accusation as it would be virtually impossible to cover-up such a blatant disobedience.

Les Miles and the Tigers are still recruiting Collins hard and nothing is certain with this saga until the ink is actually dry on Wednesday.

Collins is just one of many interesting, bewildering and sometimes hilarious recruiting decisions. My personal favorite came from Florida State signee Fred Rouse. On our national radio show on Sirius, he was asked, where are you going to college? And Mr. Rouse responded with “You know, a lot of people want me to go here or there. But I had to think, you know, what Fred wanna do? And Fred want to go to Florida State.” I think I have replayed that clip a thousand times since. The first-person, verbally illiterate announcement was absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately for everyone involved, his career wasn’t nearly as entertaining on the football field as it was on radio airwaves.

Rouse and Collins are just two of many memorable tales from the trail…

Related: 2012 Team Recruiting Rankings Heading Into Signing Day

The Imaginary Scholarship

As bizarre as the Collins’ girlfriend-mother feud is, nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernely (Nev.) High wanted so badly to play college football that he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On February 1, 2008, Hart held a historic announcement at his high school in which he picked Cal over Oregon. “Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement.

There was only one problem. Jeff Tedford had never spoken too, visited or contacted Mr. Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.

The Forged Signature

April Justin isn’t the first parent to disapprove of their son’s educational choices. Just last year, Reserve (La.) East St. John defensive back Floyd Raven had decided that Texas A&M was the right school for him. There was only one issue, however, his letter of intent had already been sent to Ole Miss. The Rebels admissions department couldn’t read the signature and asked for a second copy. Raven’s mother wanted him to go to Ole Miss so badly, that she had forged the signature and sent it to Oxford without her son’s knowledge. Eventually, Floyd learned of his mother’s “betrayal” and sent the appropriately signed paperwork to Texas A&M.

The Coin Flip

It takes thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars to recruit athletes at the highest level. But in 2009, Atco (N.J.) Winsow Township linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud trimmed the entire process to a few cents. After taking five school-funded official visits, Glaud had narrowed his list to West Virginia and Rutgers. But the linebacker was still so torn he couldn’t make up his mind. So naturally, he decided to let chance decide his fate as he literally flipped a coin between the two programs. Heads he goes to WVU, tails he goes to Rutgers. He has posted 47 total tackles in three seasons for the Scarlet Knights.

The Five-Minute Flip-Flop

Flip-flops happen in recruiting all the time – especially, as national signing day draws near. The recruiting picture gets clearer for all parties involved, while schools get desperate to fill needs with late scholarship offers. The nation’s No. 2 player in 2011, however, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, made heads spin in record time last year. Kouandjio, whose older brother was/is a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, announced on ESPN that he would be attending Auburn. Yet, five minutes after the bright TV lights had gone out, the younger Kouandjio, recanted his pledge to Auburn. He never sent in his letter of intent to the Tigers and three days later it was revealed he had officially signed with Alabama via twitter. Longtime commitments are snaked away at the last minute every season, but never has a kid committed on national television only to decide to sign with someone else five minutes later. The venom of the Yellowhammer rivalry only added to the drama of the Kouandjio signing.

The Announcement Props

I am not one who enjoys recruiting announcements. They are filled with superfluous rhetoric from coaches, analysts and handlers. They go on too long and rarely does a recruit offer any pertinent news or information other than his college of choice. Every now and then, however, if done with style, an announcement can be fun – or infuriating. Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell made fans coo when he pulled out an actual Bulldog puppy last year to signify his decision to play for Mark Richt in Athens. Andre Smith sent the Crimson Tiders into hysterics when he pulled out the houndstooth hat at his announcement for Alabama.

But Antonio Logan-El’s live announcement back in 2006 was met with a slightly harsher response. The Forestville (Md.) High offensive lineman had been committed to Maryland for the better part of a year. While dressed in Maryland red in front of a Terps crowd at the ESPN Sportszone in Maryland — including head coach Ralph Friedgen’s wife — Logan-El first pulled out a Florida hat before tossing it to the ground. He then pulled out a Tennessee hat. That, too, was tossed aside before picking up the Terps black and red headgear. After a few nice words, Logan-El threw his Maryland hat to the ground and held up a picture of Joe Paterno and announced he would be heading to Penn State. The decision was met with screams of “traitor” and violence nearly resulted. Logan-El, much to the pleasure of Terps fans, washed out at Penn State after only one redshirt year.

At least he actually made a decision, however, as the worst recruiting press conference in history has to belong to Greg Little. The peculiar wide receiver held a press conference in October of his senior year to announce what school he would be attending. Fans waited with anticipation while Little huddled with his family and coaches for a long period of time. He emerged from the mini-summit to announce that he had narrowed his list to Notre Dame and North Carolina. It’s the only news conference I can remember where a recruit officially announced that there was nothing to announce.

The Slimy Mentor

The most recent trend for elite recruits, for some reason unbeknownst to me, is to wait until after National Signing Day to make a decision. Terrelle Pryor, Orson Charles, Latwan Anderson, Vidal Hazelton, Seantrel Henderson, Kouandjio and last year’s top prospect Jadeveon Clowney all signed their LOIs well past signing day. But Wichita (Kan.) East running back Bryce Brown, and his handler/mentor/coach/agent/leech Brian Butler, set a new low for recruiting sludge.

Brown, whose older brother Arthur was enrolled at Miami, had been committed to the Hurricanes from the early stages. He did not sign on NSD and instead took a couple of extra visits to Tennessee and LSU after Signing Day. While Brown watched the calendar flip to March without a decision, Butler, who was a convicted felon and fledgling rapper, set up a website in order to charge $9.99 per month for recruiting updates on his protégé.

Threats from Butler about Brown potentially skipping college for the Canadian Football League only further exemplified how ridiculous the handler’s influence was over Brown. Meanwhile, Miami (and others) stopped recruiting the troubled tailback until halfway through March, when Brown got “a sign from god” to sign with Tennessee. Arthur left Miami for Kansas State (where he will be a standout senior in 2012) shortly thereafter. Bryce lasted one year in Knoxville before transferring back to Kansas State as well. He played in two games this season, got three carries and comically declared for the 2012 NFL.

Obviously, most of the names who waited until beyond signing day to sign have had major trouble getting their careers started on the next level (with the potenial exception of Clowney).

So there does appear to be a fairly simple and obvious lesson to be learned here: Sign the stinking papers and get to work because nothing is guaranteed on the next level.

Who knows what National Signing Day 2012 will bring. Will Shaq Thompson switch from Cal to Washington? Will Andrus Peat see a Nebraska license plate on the road in Tempe, Ariz., and therefore pick the Huskers much like his older brother did last winter? Which woman has more influence on Landon Collins? And how long will peacock playmaker Stefon Diggs wait to sign his papers?

Love or hate the press conferences and high-profile visibility of high school students, National Signing Day has become appointment viewing for all college football fans.

<p> National Signing Day has always provided plenty of bizarre, hilarious and eye-opening stories.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 07:04
Path: /college-football/2012-team-recruiting-rankings-signing-day-targets

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

National Signing Day is upon us!

Tomorrow coaches, parents, fans and media members alike will be starring at fax machines (yes, they still use those) in anticipation of building a championship roster.

You can’t win football games without good players – and having better athletes than the next guy normally helps with the winning process. The Alabama Crimson Tide won the 2008 recruiting national championship and it turned into an actual national championship four years later. Additionally, the 2009 Alabama class was ranked No. 3 in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Of the Crimson Tide’s starting 22 in the BCS national championship destruction of LSU, 15 signed in either the 2008 or 2009 classes. It's safe to say recruiting is the lifeblood of the college football machine.

Certainly, the evaluation, development and scouting process plays a bigger role in eventual wins and losses. And yes, the star-ranking system is an imperfect science. But as the years go by, the evaluation process becomes more accurate and more predictable. So the current recruiting rankings, e.g.. the Athlon Consensus 100 where all the internet rankings are averaged together, are as perfect a system as we have ever had.

Who will land the top collection of players in the 2012 haul? There will be fireworks a plenty come NSD, but here is how the team rankings stand with less than 24 hour until players can sign (7:00 AM ET, Feb. 1).

Note: A national recruit is a prospect who is ranked in the top 150 by one of the six recruiting services. Athlon’s “national” recruits are roughly the top 300.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (27 commitments)
AC100: 10, National Recruits: 14
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), Korren Kirven, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ricardo Louis

Green-Beckham is the nation’s top player but it appears that race might be over with Missouri holding a slight edge over Arkansas. Tracy Howard looks like he will be selecting the Florida Gators. Nick Saban could still miss on all six national recruits left on the board and still land the top class in the nation. Alabama leads the nation by a wide margin with 10 AC100 verbal pledges at this point. Holding onto star safety prospect Landon Collins might be his top focus during the final hours of this recruiting cycle. It appears that, barring a small miracle, that Alabama will earn its second recruiting national championship in five years under Saban.

2. Texas Longhorns (26)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 16
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham

Mack Brown had most of his work done nearly a year ago when they entered March of 2011 with 12 commitments already. Roughly a year later, Brown has an outside chance to push for the top slot. He landed two national recruits, defensive back Daje Johnson and linebacker Dalton Santos, to push their total to a nation-leading 16 national recruits. With DGB the only big fish left on the block, Horns’ fans should actually have one of the more stable NSD.

3. Florida Gators (21)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 12
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Darius Hamilton (No. 14), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)

No team may have a better finish to the 2012 class than Will Mushcamp. With six player ranked in the top-26 nationally still listing Florida as a finalists, Gators fans should have plenty of excitement to look forward to on Wednesday. Diggs, Hamilton, Howard and Williams look to be Florida leans with Agholor likely choosing between USC and the Gators. With Harvey-Clemons leaning towards Georgia and Young likely picking between Auburn and Georgia, landing all of the coveted names above is virtually impossible. However, if Muschamp can land three of four AC100 targets, Florida could push Alabama and Texas for the top slot.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (24)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 11
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Davonte Neal (No. 56), Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Joel Caleb (No. 95), Kyle Dodson

Few coaches have ever impacted a recruiting class in such short order as Urban Meyer has in Columbus this winter. He has landed eight prospects – a number of whom were former Penn State, Notre Dame or Michigan State verbals – since being presented as the head coach and this weekend stole Armani Reeves from Penn State. He is making a serious late push for the No. 1 athlete in the nation in Stefon Diggs and has a chance to land three other AC100 recruits as well. Should Meyer pull Diggs, Neal, Diamond and Caleb, the Buckeyes might have an outside chance to push for the top slot.

5. Michigan Wolverines (23)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 10
National Targets: Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Alex Kozan

Brady Hoke has done an excellent job in his first full year on the job in Ann Arbor. Landing Diamond or Kozan would merely be icing on the cake. The Maize and Blue are basically set heading into National Signing Day and won’t be waiting to hear from too many big names. Certainly, Hoke was to keep Diamond away from fellow Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Wisconsin, but signing the big offensive lineman might give Michigan the top class in the conference.

6. Florida State Seminoles (16)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Colin Blake, Ricardo Louis

One thing is certain about NSD 2012, one team from the state of Florida is going to make big waves. Be it the Gators or the Seminoles, a Sunshine State program will push Alabama for the top slot in the nation. The Noles rank second in the nation with six AC100 commitments and Jimbo Fisher seems to be in a shape for the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and fellow elite level prospect Ronald Darby. If Fisher can pull an upset or two on NSD, the Noles could easily push into the top five, but possibly the top two.

7. Miami Hurricanes (32)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 8
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Avery Yong (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)

With only two AC100 commits, Miami lands in the top-10 based on the depth of a potential 32-man class. And in the face of the issues surrounding the Nevin Shaprio scandal, Al Golden has done a fantastic job attracting talent. With one of the largest classes in the nation already intact, Canes fans shouldn’t expect too much movement on Wednesday despite still being mentioned by four AC100 recruits as a finalists. It would be an upset if Miami landed any of the AC100 targets left on the board.

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Davonte Neal (No. 56), Ken Ekanem

Brian Kelly won his biggest recruiting battle two weeks ago when the nation’s No. 2 quarterback, Gunner Kiel, enrolled in class in South Bend. With another stellar group of defensive lineman coming to Notre Dame, Kelly’s haul should once again be one of the nation’s best. If Kelly can pull an upset or two with Agholor, former commit Darby and Neal, this group has a chance to land in the top five.

9. Oklahoma Sooners (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Brandon Beaver, Colin Blake, Will Latu

There is still plenty of work to be done for Bob Stoops but it appears that landing the country’s top player is an unlikely proposition. And the Sooners also look like a long shot for Agholor and Banner as well. That said, the Crimson and Cream always does something exciting on signing day and that could include names like Beaver or Latu. Regardless of what happens on NSD, this Oklahoma haul will likely land it he top-10 nationally.

10. Georgia Bulldogs (16)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Avery Young (No. 53), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Cordarrelle Patterson

This isn’t one of the bigger classes in the SEC, but it has some serious star power. With two of the top 16 prospects in the nation heading to Athens, the quality of this class is elite and likely underrated nationally. With Harvey-Clemons looking like a UGA lock, Mark Richt would claim four of the top-31 players in the nation. Young will be picking between Auburn and Georgia with the Dawgs a slight favorite in that race. Should Richt land both, the Bulldogs could finish No. 2 in the nation with 7 AC100 signees and would lock the Dawgs into the Athlon top-10.

11. Clemson Tigers (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34)

12. South Carolina Gamecocks (24)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None

13. Texas A&M Aggies (22)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Thomas Johnson (No. 29)

14. USC Trojans (13)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Zach Banner (No. 50), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kyle Dodson

15. LSU Tigers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Kwon Alxander (No. 82), Cordarrelle Patterson

16. UCLA Bruins (25)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Brandon Beaver, Deaysean Rippy, Bryce Treggs, Javon Williams

17. Cal Golden Bears (18)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Shaq Thompson (No. 6), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kenny Lawler, Raymond Ford

18. Stanford Cardinal (16)
AC100: 4, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Aziz Shittu (No. 63)

19. Auburn Tigers (15)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Alex Kozan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ricardo Louis

20. Oregon Ducks (19)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Jaydon Mickens

21. Tennessee Volunteers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Richie Brown, Quinshad Davis, Korren Kirven, Cordarrelle Patterson

22. Texas Tech Red Raiders (25)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None

23. Virginia Cavaliers (26)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: None

24. Virginia Tech Hokies (27)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Joel Caleb (No. 95), Ken Ekanam, Korren Kirven

25. Mississippi State Bulldogs (25)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 2
National Targets: Richie Brown, Alonzo Moore

<p> Who has the top class heading into Signing Day and which teams will close hard?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/notre-dame-and-iowa-state-wins-among-weekends-best

Which team had the best weekend, as far as improving its NCAA profile?

Nathan Rush: Notre Dame’s 50–48 victory at Connecticut on Saturday was another impressive win for the Fighting Irish’s NCAA Tournament résumé. Coach Mike Brey’s club also boasts wins over then-No. 1 Syracuse, Pittsburgh and at Louisville in double-overtime. ND hopes those triumphs overshadow its lopsided losses to Missouri (87–58), at Gonzaga (73–53) and at Cincinnati (71–55). There is still work to be done down the stretch in Big East play, but Notre Dame’s chances improved with this weekend’s win at UConn.

Mitch Light: Iowa State played its way into most mock brackets this week with a 72–64 win over Kansas in Ames. It was the first top-50 RPI win of the season for the Cyclones, who are 15–6 overall and 5–3 in the Big 12. Fred Hoiberg’s club has some wins that look good on paper — vs. Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma State at home and at Texas A&M — but of that group, only Texas at No. 59, is in the top 100 of the RPI. Iowa State still has plenty of work to do, but it’s always nice to have a win over a top-10 team in your back pocket on Selection Sunday.

Mark Ross: Notre Dame has posted quality wins the past two weekends. Last Saturday, the Fighting Irish welcomed No. 1 Syracuse to South Bend and handed the previously undefeated Orange their first loss of the season and paired that by defeating UConn, 50–48, on the road this past Sunday. Mike Brey’s team has won its last three Big East games to put them near the top of the crowded conference standings. Notre Dame struggled with injuries and inconsistency early on, but seems to have found its identity and is starting to put together a respectable NCAA Tournament résumé. The Irish’s next opportunity to make a statement comes on Saturday when they host Marquette, one of the teams they currently trail in the Big East standings.

Name a mid-major team that you are most confident can win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament. And pick a true mid-major — not a team like Gonzaga, Memphis for Xavier.

Mitch Light: I’ll take Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders missed an opportunity for a huge résumé-building win last weekend — dropping an 84–77 decision at Vanderbilt — but this is a team that is built for success in March. Kermit Davis’ club boasts one of the best big men in the mid-major ranks in Iowa State transfer LaRon Dendy (14.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), and the Raiders feature a solid guard rotation led by Marcos Knight, Bruce Massey and Raymond Cintron. This team can score, but its forte is on the defensive end of the court. The Blue Raiders are allowing an average of 60.3 points per game and opponents are shooting 38.4 percent from the field. Middle Tennessee’s at-large hopes aren’t great, but I fully expect this team to win the Sun Belt Tournament title and emerge as a popular upset pick in the NCAAs.

Nathan Rush: Murray State has raced out to a 21–0 record, including an impressive win at Memphis in December. No team from a big six BCS conference wants to draw the Racers in the first round of the NCAA Tourney. First-year coach Steve Prohm’s team is capable of making a mini-run in March. The pride of the OVC has a reliable veteran backcourt duo of junior Isaiah Canaan (18.7 ppg, 3.8 apg) and senior Donte Poole (14.7 ppg), and a solid post presence with 6’7" senior Ivan Aska (12.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) — a trio that shoots a combined 84.5 percent from the free throw line.

Mark Ross: I’m going to take Long Beach State, who you could argue is one of the West Coast’s top teams. The 49ers are 16–6 overall and a perfect 9–0 in the Big West. This is a veteran team that hasn’t shied away from playing top-notch competition and has had its fair share of success in those games. Long Beach State defeated then-No. 9 Pitt on the road in its second game of the season and followed that up by taking San Diego State to overtime on the Aztecs’ home court before losing by four. The 49ers played Kansas and North Carolina in back-to-back games on the road in the first part of December and held their own, losing to Kansas by eight and to the Tar Heels by six. The 49ers have also played Louisville and Kansas State, and have a late December neutral court win over Xavier on their résumé, which currently finds them ranked in the top 40 of the RPI. The 49ers need to stay focused on their immediate goal, which is to win the automatic bid out of the Big West, but should they come up short this is certainly a team worthy of at-large consideration. An NCAA Tournament bid would be the program’s first since 2007, and this is the type of team no one wants to face in March.

Which player impressed you the most over the past weekend?

Mitch Light: We’ve been waiting for Terrence Jones to break out, and that’s exactly what happened Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge. Kentucky’s sophomore forward, a preseason first-team All-American by many media outlets, scored 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds as Kentucky cruised to an easy win over LSU. Jones averaged 15.7 points and 8.8 boards as a freshman, but is down to 12.4 and 6.5 as a sophomore. He has been overshadowed by the newest wave of elite UK freshmen — most notably Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — but Jones is still a very important part of this team and a guy who will have to play well for the Wildcats to win a national championship.

Nathan Rush: Arizona lost a heartbreaker to Washington, 69–67, on Saturday night, but Solomon Hill did all he could to lead the Wildcats to victory. The underrated junior from Los Angeles scored 28 points — going 9-of-10 from the field, 8-of-9 from the free throw line and 2-of-2 from 3-point range, including a game-tying trifecta with 6.9 seconds remaining. The 6’6", 226-pound Hill also added 11 rebounds and committed only one turnover in a game-high 37 minutes. But the effort wasn’t enough and, for the third time in five games, Zona lost a contest by two points or less.

Mark Ross: Ten minutes into Saturday’s Marquette vs. Villanova game, the Golden Eagles were down 28–10 to a Wildcats team that had just 10 wins the entire season. Halfway through the first half, Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette’s senior guard and leading scorer, had managed just one made three throw. In the 30 minutes of action that followed, Johnson-Odom poured in 25 points, along with six rebounds, five assists and two steals, as Marquette outscored Villanova, 72–50, and escaped the Wildcats’ home floor with a hard-fought 82–78 win. Even though Marquette is well on its way to an NCAA Tournament bid, the Golden Eagles could ill afford a slip up against a reeling Villanova team whose only hope to make it to March Madness probably lies with winning the Big East Tournament.

<p> Notre Dame and Iowa State Wins Among Weekend's Best in College Basketball</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 16:10
All taxonomy terms: New England Patriots, Tom Brady, NFL
Path: /nfl/tom-brady-greatest-quarterback-all-time

— by Mark Ross

Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time in NFL history? Believe it or not, this may not be as far-fetched a statement as it may have seemed.

Let’s start with Tom Terrific’s numbers — a two-time NFL MVP with nearly 40,000 yards passing, 300 TDs and a career passer rating of 96.4 in his 12 seasons. He has started 159 games in the regular season and won 124 of them, which is the fifth-most of all-time. To put in another way, No. 12 has won nearly 80 percent of the games he has started in the regular season.

As impressive as that may be for the regular season, Brady has nearly the same winning percentage (76 percent) in the postseason. For his career, Brady is 16-5 in the playoffs, which ties Joe Montana for the most postseason wins by a starting quarterback.

Brady also is the in top 5 on the all-time list when it comes to postseason touchdowns (36, 3rd), passing yards (5,009, fourth) and completions (472, 2nd) in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Montana has the most career playoff touchdown passes with 45, while Brett Favre has the most yards (5,855) and completions (481).

Most importantly of all, Brady will have his chance to claim the record for most postseason wins and add to his playoff stats this Sunday when his New England Patriots take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. This will be Brady’s fifth Super Bowl as a starting quarterback, which will tie John Elway for the most starts in the “Big Game.”

A win would be Brady’s fourth in five Super Bowl appearances, which would tie him with Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most victories by a starting quarterback. Brady also will tie Montana for most Super Bowl MVPs if he gets his third one in Sunday’s game. Brady already holds the record for most career completions in Super Bowl history and could break the marks for both passing yards and touchdowns on Sunday.

The bottom line with Brady is this – he’s a winner, a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer and deserves to be in the “Greatest of All-time” conversation, even if his Patriots fall to the Giants on Sunday. Not bad for someone taken in the 6th round, no. 199 overall, of the 2000 NFL Draft.

Consider that Brady will be 35 when the 2012 NFL season starts this fall. Outside of missing basically the entire 2008 season after going down with a knee injury in Week 1, Brady has been durable. Since taking over for Drew Bledsoe as the Patriots’ starting quarterback in Week 3 of the 2001 season, Brady has started all 159 regular-season and 21 postseason games he has played in.

Brady should have several more productive years ahead of him, meaning he should only add to his already impressive statistics. Further, considering the Patriots have been in the playoffs all but two of his 11 seasons as the starter (with one of those being 2008 when he only played in Week 1), Brady should have plenty of opportunities to claim basically every postseason passing record that exists.

The point is this, all but one of the quarterbacks that have already been mentioned — Montana, Favre, Elway, Bradshaw — are Hall of Famers (Favre will be once he’s eligible) and generally a part of the “Greatest of All-time” conversation, to some degree. One would probably want to add Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, and perhaps one or two others to the list as well.

Regardless of who is on this list, Brady measures up to them all, whether your measuring stick for greatness is statistics, wins or postseason production. And while he may not be your choice for “Greatest of All-time,” he at least needs to be mentioned any time you have the conversation.

After all, Brady already has won more Super Bowls than Favre, Untias, and Marino combined. How’s that for your conversation starter?

<p> Is Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time?</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 11:51
Path: /nfl/real-and-overblown-stories-super-bowl-xlvi

Believe the hype. As far as intrigue goes, Super Bowl XLVI has the potential to be one of the greatest ever.

Yet, potential is just that. Much as we would like, there’s no way to know whether Sunday’s Giants v. Pats battle will come down the last play, like its Week 9 counterpart did. We can hope that Super Bowl XLVI will be an edge-of-your-seat slugfest, similar to New England’s Week 17 victory in 2007, but we just don’t know. It’s foolish to pencil in a game even half as exciting as either of those, let alone (arguably) The Greatest Game Ever Played.

But we know what’s on the line. Not many Super Bowls have has as many – legitimate — storylines and angles heading into media week as this Big Game does. There’s no need for manufactured stories. This is Brady vs. Eli, in Peyton’s House. Tom vs. Billy Boy. Red Face vs. Hoodie. New York vs. Boston. Part Deux.

Of course, having real things to talk about has never stopped the media from talking about other things. This is the story of those things, and why they are WTF-worthy.

As always, quotes below are paraphrases of general idiocy.

“The Giants and the Patriots Are Two of the Worst Teams to Ever Play in the Super Bowl.”
There’s some truth to this. The Giants are owners of a -4 point differential in their 9-7 regular season as well as Aaron Ross. An eighth grade substitute math teacher is their chief signal caller on defense. That defense, for parts of the regular season, was something beyond porous while their running game, ranked dead last, was even worse.

Meanwhile, the Patriots didn’t beat a winning team until the season’s 20th week and prominently feature five or six trashcans as defensive starters. Their best outside receiver, Deion Branch, had his last relevant moment nearly a decade ago, when he won the MVP of the last Super Bowl without a roman numeral ‘V’ in its title. And most recently, their GOAT quarterback was severely outplayed in the AFC Championship game by an opponent known best for his ‘goat’ status and his weird, half-goatee choice in facial hair.

Yet, everything is relative, and the Giants and Pats’ apparent shared mediocrity is no exception. The 2011 NFL season was nearly unparalleled in its parity, with 18 of the league’s 32 teams winning between six and ten games.

The Kansas City Chiefs, despite losing perhaps their three best players to season-ending injury, won seven games and finished in fourth in the AFC West. The three teams ahead of them each won eight times.

The Colts, the league’s worst team, were without services of the best damn spokesperson the quarterback position has ever seen. Conversely, the league’s best team – the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, may they rest in peace – was quite literally one-dimensional.

Never as great as we were made to believe, the Packers were able to succeed against middling competition as eventual league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the team’s 3rd-ranked passing attack compensated for a 27th-ranked rushing attack and the league’s worst defense. Once they reached the postseason, Rodgers’ margin for error narrowed. No one else was able to pick up the slack.

If the 2011 NFL Season is remembered correctly, it will be thought of as a season of the extra-ordinary, a year in which the mediocrity of the majority allowed the select talented few to look even more talented by comparison.

Matt Stafford and Eli Manning are very good players, but it is difficult to believe they are half as good as Dan Marino once was. Eli fell 150 yards short of breaking Marino’s single-season passing mark, while Stafford and Brady and Drew Brees were able to break the nearly 30-year-old record.

More important, however, the watered-down competition presented the perfect opportunity for an underdog to start gnashing its teeth. Recipe for 2011 success: get hot at the right time, do two or three things right while everyone else only does one, make as few mistakes as possible, then pray. The Giants can confidently say they followed that recipe better than anyone else. Lucky? Perhaps. Opportunistic is probably more apt. The Giants did both what they needed to and what no one else was able, and now they’re in Indianapolis as a result.

On the other side, the system meant a team as flawed as the Patriots would face as little resistance as possible on their path to Indy. Their flaws, especially in the regular season, would go relatively unexploited. Top it off with Tebow and Flacco in January, and its fair to say the Pats haven’t faced a team better team all season then they will on Sunday.

They did lose to the Giants in Week 9. But these ain’t November’s Giants. And while the 2012 iteration might not be The Best Team Ever, in the Year of the Extra-Ordinary, it’s difficult to make the case that they don’t deserve to be there.

“If Eli Wins The Big One – Again – He Might Just Be Better Than Peyton”
No, he won’t be. Not even might be. There’s no question here, no debate, not even if Eli wins, throws for 600 yards, wins the Super Bowl and somehow steals Giesel away from Tom in the process. Probably not even if he came back next year, dropped Gisele for Kate Upton, then threw for 600 yards in a third Super Bowl MVP performance.

In sports, we value two things above all else: the now and the championship. We elevate our winners while forgetting the ones who have done so in the past. Yes, winning is the most important thing. But contrary to what we’ve been told, it’s not the only thing. It’s completely foolish to eschew a decade of achievement in favor of two February nights, glorious though they may be.

Over thirteen seasons, Peyton Manning passed for less than 3,700 yards exactly never. He’s passed for over 4,000 yards on 11 different occasions, a feat Eli’s accomplished thrice. Peyton’s thrown at least 30 touchdowns six times and 49 touchdowns once and won four MVP awards and made five All-Pro first teams and three All-Pro second teams.

Eli’s thrown for 30 touchdowns once, in a season in which he threw 25 interceptions. He’s made two Pro Bowl teams. And great as he may be, he can’t make claim to any of the other accolades and statistics that make big brother quite possibly the greatest player of all time.

Before the 2011 season, Eli wasn’t even considered the best quarterback in his division, let alone his family. And while he has been consistently great this year, and while his past has been better than anyone gives him credit for, there’s no way thirteen extra wins can bring a man from good to G.O.A.T. Perspective, people. Have some.

“Tom Brady is As Good As Ever.”
Patently false. Don’t get me wrong, Brady is still the league’s best quarterback and quite possibly the best to ever play the position. He threw for five thousand yards and 39 touchdowns this season. Not exactly Rex Grossman-type numbers.

But watching him on a game-to-game basis, it is quite clear this isn’t the same unbeatable stalwart we’ve always watched. Maybe you can blame that on a weaker-than-usual offensive line and outside receivers, and maybe you’d be right. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that there aren’t a few more passes thrown astray and a few more balls held a bit too long than ever before. The numbers say this is one of Brady’s best seasons, but the eyes say something different. And if there’s anything this upside-down, Eli-better-than-Peyton season has taught us, it’s to trust your eyes. And your gut. And then give both of them a whole lot of open field and shitty defensive backs to work with.

“Lock Up Tom Coughlin, He’s Going to Be Here For a While.”
There’s no debate: Tom Coughlin has earned himself a long term contract extension. But that’s if he wants it.

Last week, Coughlin and son-in-law/Guard Chris Snee shot down suggestions that retirement might be in the old man’s near future, but it’s certainly something to still keep in mind. Coughlin is the league’s oldest coach and will also be it’s only active one – other than Bill Belichick — to have his name on multiple Lombardi trophies. There’s little left for him to accomplish and not much time left for him to do it. Even if Tom sticks around for his ninth season in New Jersey, it’s hard to see him coaching for much longer. Bill Cowher, anybody?

Jesse Golomb is the Editor-in-Chief of TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter, or drop him a line via email. 

<p> Some idiotic notions are being put forth in the media about this game. What's real?</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 11:33
Path: /college-football/texas-alabama-compete-recruiting-title

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

National Signing Day 2012 is two days away.

As usual, the flip-flopping fireworks should provide plenty of entertainment for recruitniks and college football fans alike. But while fans bases all across the fruited plain await the vital decisions from Athlon Consensus 100 recruits like Dorial Green-Beckham, Stefon Diggs, Arik Armstead and Eddie Goldman, fans in Austin and Tuscaloosa have their sights set on a slightly bigger prize.

Barring some unforeseen prospect Armageddon, the 2012 Athlon Sports National Recruiting Championship will be given to either the Crimson Tide or the Longhorns.

Mack Brown, who recently was given a contract extension through 2020, and the Texas Longhorns have set a new benchmark for early commitments. Twelve of Brown’s current 26-man class committed before March of 2011, and he has had to hold onto his future stars for nearly a full year. With the exception of AC100 wideout Thomas Johnson, the coaching staff in Austin has kept the core of the 2012 class completely intact. It is a testament to the power of the Burnt Orange brand in the state of Texas.

Texas is currently leading the nation with 16 “national” commitments (a player who is ranked in the top 150 by at least one service) and is second in the country with six AC100 verbals. The Horns boast two of the top-10 players in the nation in tailback Jonathan Gray and defensive tackle Malcom Brown. It marks the second year in a row that Brown has signed the nation’s No. 1 running back (Malcolm Brown, 2011). This is a balanced and versatile class with four stellar “athletes,” a group headlined by AC100 newcomer Kendall Sanders. Senator Brown, as usual, has added elite depth to virtually every position on his roster.

That said, Signing Day shouldn’t bring too much movement for the Longhorns’ class with the exception of one very big name, although Burnt Orange fans picked up some good news this weekend with commitments from four-star Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson defensive back Daje Johnson and three-star Van (Texas) three-star Dalton Santos. Green-Beckham is the No. 1 player in the nation, and five teams will be holding their breath on Wednesday when the Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wideout signs his name. Texas, Arkansas and Missouri are the only schools that received an official visit, giving Texas a great shot to pull the upset. If Brown wants to claim the No. 1 class in the nation, landing DGB will be imperative.

That is because Nick Saban’s bunch is the team to beat.

Not only can the Tide show off their flashy new BCS Crystal Ball, but the mythical recruiting title will only ensure Alabama’s continued success into the near future. The Tide's 2008 — which was Athlon’s No. 1-ranked group — and 2009 classes both landed in the top three nationally and were the reason Alabama claimed the 2011 BCS National Championship. Fifteen of the Crimson Tide’s 22 BCS game starters signed in either 2008 or 2009. And the 2012 haul could be a phenomenal foundation for yet another title run in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama currently leads the nation with 10 AC100 commitments, is second behind Texas with 14 national verbal pledges and is ranked No. 1 in the team rankings by all four major recruiting services heading into NSD. While Bama lacks a top-10 recruit like the Horns’ Gray-Brown duo, Saban can point to a much longer list of potential NSD targets than Texas. Green-Beckham has Bama in his final five, but Alabama is considered a long shot. However, landing the country’s top defensive tackle, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate’s Eddie Goldman, would likely sew up the recruiting national title for the Tide.

Fellow AC100 prospects Tracy Howard and Kwon Alexander could also land at Alabama. It appears, however, that Howard, the No. 18-rated player in the nation, will choose between Florida and LSU. The Gators are the team to beat with the Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar prospect. Alxander, from Oxford (Ala.), is ranked as the No. 82 player in the AC100 and will pick between Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Saban has other names in mind that would likely wrap up the 2012 NSD championship as well. Nationally ranked Korren Kriven and Dalvin Tomlinson would also be enough to crown this Alabama haul as the best in the nation. Sitting at 10 AC100 commitments, the Tide does have a chance, albeit a long one, to potentially set or tie the all-time record for AC100 signees in one class. Should Saban pull the clean sweep — meaning Green-Beckham, Goldman, Howard and Alexander — he would set a new record with 14 AC100 signees. Urban Meyer and the Gators signed a record 13 such recruits in 2010.

Speaking of the Gators, and barring unprecedented miracle work from Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Will Muschamp is really the only coach who can challenge Brown or Saban for national recruiting supremacy this week. There are 22 AC100 prospects left uncommitted as of today, and Florida is listed as a finalist for at least seven of them. Top-10 athlete Stefon Diggs, along with Howard, linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, speedy play-maker Nelson Agholor, big blocker Avery Young and defensive end Leonard Williams could all pick the Gators.

While it’s extremely unlikely that the Gators pull all seven AC100 names, Muschamp is assured to land at least a couple and will likely be one of the bigger stories on NSD. Diggs, Howard and Agholor are all ranked in the top 26 nationally, and all three appear to be headed to Gainesville. Should those three names pop for Florida, the Gators would claim five of the top-26 prospects in the nation (D.J. Humphries, Jonathan Bullard). The Gators are the only team in the nation as hot as the aforementioned Buckeyes on the recruiting trail. (Hmm, what do those two schools have in common?)

That said, the Gators are a long-shot to compete for the recruiting crown. In fact, it would be an upset if anyone other than Alabama claims the trophy. Even if the Tide misses out on Green-Beckham, Goldman and Alexander, it could still claim the national recruiting title by simply clinging to its current 27-man group. It would likely take Saban losing a recruit or two (looking at you Landon Collins) while Texas lands DGB to push the Horns to the top slot. And the odds of Saban not pulling off at least one upset is slim-to-none.

All signs point to Alabama claiming its second recruiting national title of the Saban era.

<p> Texas and Alabama enter Signing Day as the top two classes in the nation.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/recruiting-war-stories-trail

The competition for the signatures of unproven 18-year-olds often includes more twists and turns than a spy novel. Here, insiders present a few slices of life out on the recruiting trail.

Athlon Consensus 100: 2012's Top 100 Prospects

From Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on twitter), Athlon Sports:

Back in the late 1990s, I was covering Vanderbilt, and the staff was really after Jimmy Williams, a running back (at the time) from Baton Rouge. He final five schools were Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Vanderbilt. This was the type of kid Vanderbilt never gets. About a week before Signing Day he committed to Northwestern. Perry Fewell, the current defensive coordinator of the Giants, was the defensive backs coach at Vanderbilt, and he was recruiting Williams. Perry was absolutely crushed. Well, the Sunday before Signing Day, I got a call from someone who told me to get in touch with Jimmy Williams. So I called Jimmy, and he told me that he had just committed to Vanderbilt. He was a very religious kid. The night before he prayed about his decision and went to bed as a Northwestern commitment but woke up and decided to go to Vanderbilt. He said ‘the man upstairs’ directed him to Vanderbilt. He played running back as a true freshman and Vanderbilt before switching to cornerback. He played six years in the NFL as corner and kick returner.”

Chris Level (@ChrisLevel),

I had a running back a few years ago — who ended up signing with a school on the west coast — text message me on the Saturday night of his official visit, ‘Yo man, where are the girls at?’ ... not sure if he had me mixed up with someone else or why he thought I'd know but we found it amusing.

Barry Every,

When I worked at Georgia we had this top OL prospect with offers from all over the country coming in for a visit. His dad drove him down and dropped him off. After 48 hours the dad had not come back to pick him up. The coaches called (the father) and said it was a violation for him to be on campus for more than 48 hours. The compliance office stepped in and made the kid sit on the curb outside the football building (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall) and said we could have no contact with him. Who knows when his dad came back to get him. But he ended up signing with NC State and later was drafted in the NFL.

J.C. Shurburtt (@JCShurburtt),

One evening during the 2011 recruiting cycle, I received a well-written e-mail from a James Wilder Jr. claiming he had committed to Florida. Wilder Jr., of course, was the highly regarded running back/linebacker from H.B. Plant High in Tampa who everybody in the country wanted and we had heard the Gators, then coached by Urban Meyer, were in good shape for his services. So naturally, without thinking, I sent out a Tweet ‘Just got an e-mail from James Wilder saying he has committed to Florida.’ The thing went viral in a matter of minutes as other writers ‘re-tweeted’ the blurb.

I quickly thought after sending it that it may be a hoax. I wasn’t particularly close to Wilder during the process and though it’s common for prospects to send out mass e-mails and texts to media members when they make a decision, something didn’t feel right about this one. Come to find out, it was a hoax. Some clown had created a fake Facebook page, e-mail address, etc., for Wilder and wanted to take the media for a little ride. Unfortunately, I was the victim. Several newspapers picked up on the story and I had a little egg on my face for a while, but it’s something I will never forget. It also goes to show you that even with the coverage of college football recruiting- which hit its prime during the advancement of technology and the Internet- that it is indeed a brave new world we live in with regards to social media and the flow of information.

Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport),

There was a kid named Ka’Lial Glaud from New Jersey who had interesting idea about how to decide which college program he would chose, flipping a coin. That's right, flipping a coin. Iowa was in the final three and finished third, very late deciding to eliminate them. With little time to decide, Glaud decided between Rutgers and West Virginia by flipping a coin on Signing Day. Heads means West Virginia, tails and he is headed to Rutgers. He ended up with the Scarlet Knights.

Scott Kennedy,

One of my favorite misnomers in this business is the perception that college coaches spend hours upon hours poring over high school game film, doing exhaustive research on players. There was one player who from Florida who had all the offers anyone could imagine, but anyone I knew who had seen him in person said the kid couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie. So, I’m at a college prospect camp and one of the coaches is justifiably excited about the players who have shown up to his camp, and as he’s going over the list with me, he mentions the player with all of the offers, and I said ‘Coach, what do you like about him, I’ve heard some mixed reviews.’ He proudly answered, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, Miami brought him right into their office and offered him.’ Gee, thanks for the scouting report.

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer),

I heard from a coach about a juco safety that had received several Pac-10 offers, so I decided to give him a call and do a story on him. Called him and talked with him for maybe 30 minutes and had a great conversation with him about several schools he was interested in. I hang up and write up the story that was going to run the next morning. A few hours later I got a text from one of our regional recruiting guys telling me the kid had committed to Utah this morning — before our conversation. I talked with the kid for 30 minutes about five schools, and he didn't once bring up the fact that he had already committed. I even asked when he was planning on committing and he said not for several months. Needless to say, the story never ran.

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons),

A few years ago I was keeping close tabs on one wide receiver recruit that was trying to decide between a west coast program with a wide open offense and his hometown school in the southeast. I was texting with this prospect into the night and past midnight and he was completely torn up about the decision. He wanted more than anything to head out west but his family wanted him to stay home. When he went to bed that night, he had decided that he would head to the west coast. The next morning he signed with the hometown school. The lesson from my perspective is that any time a prospect is having a hard time with a decision, the smart bet is on Mom and the local program. As a side note, that prospect has yet to see significant playing time or make any kind of any impact.

Tom Lemming, CBS Sports:

In the 1980s, there was a really good ball player in Illinois, being nationally recruited. Back then, head coaches were the ones going out and signing the top players. They had to be there at 8 o’clock in the morning (on Signing Day). Everybody was coming after this kid, so at 8 o’clock there were several head coaches waiting by the front door ready to sign this player. The door opens at 8 a.m. promptly and out walks a very famous Big Eight head coach who had spent the night on the kid’s couch, outsmarting all the other coaches. He signed him before any of the other schools had a shot to get him.

Scott Kennedy,

A few years ago there was a player I didn’t particularly think much of. I asked a well respected offensive line coach what he thought of him. ‘Nah, I didn’t like him. I mean we offered him because everyone else had, but we weren’t going to take him.’ I asked the coach if they really offered him. He said ‘Does he think we have?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said ‘That’s what we want him to think.’

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons),

Just this year one of the more bizarre recruiting situations played out that I’ve seen since doing this. Floyd Raven was an unknown prospect heading into the summer before his senior year. He blew up at Ole Miss’ summer camp and eventually committed to Ole Miss. However leading up to signing day, he showed a lot of uncertainty. He decommitted from Ole Miss, committed to Texas A&M, decommitted again only to re-commit to Ole Miss.

Heading into National Signing Day it was assumed that he would sign with Ole Miss without any kind of issues. The Letter of Intent did arrive in Oxford that day but as Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt informed the media later that day, Raven’s signature wasn’t his own but his mother’s. She had forged his signature and so Ole Miss didn’t accept the LOI and asked for another one. Raven instead signed an LOI and sent it to Texas A&M. Added to the situation is the fact that Ole Miss was in desperate need of cornerbacks and assumed that two great ones were coming in with Raven and 4-star Jermaine Whitehead. Not only did Raven shock the Ole Miss staff ,but Auburn was able to make a Signing Day steal with Whitehead as well, issuing a major hit in an area of need for the Ole Miss class.

Related: Athlon Consensus 100: 2012's Top 100 Prospects

<p> Recruiting is complicated and Athlon has collected some of the best tales from the trail.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 07:10
All taxonomy terms: Turn Back the Clock, News
Path: /news/week-sports-history-jan-28-feb-3

Turn Back the Clock
Jan. 28, 1958
Dodgers star catcher Roy Campanella was injured in an automobile crash near his home on Long Island. He was left paralyzed, ending his Hall of Fame career.

Jan. 29, 1936
The Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner became the first-ever Hall of Fame class.

Jan. 30, 2000
In Super Bowl XXXIV, the St. Louis Rams held on for a 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled by linebacker Mike Jones a yard short of the end zone on the final play of the game.

Jan. 31, 1990
The first-ever all-sports daily “The National” began publishing. Headquartered in New York, the Editor-in-Chief was former Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford. The first cover featured NBA players Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing. It ceased publishing on June 13, 1991.

Feb. 1, 1914
A group of players from the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants played an exhibition game in Egypt. The game was part of a world tour that began in November of 1913 in Tokyo and ended in February in London. The tour included games in Japan, Australia, Philippines, Ceylon, China, India, France and England. Games in Paris and Rome were rained out.

Feb. 2, 1970
Pete Maravich of LSU became the first college basketball player to score 3,000 points in his career. Pistol Pete averaged 44.2 points a game during his three-year career (freshmen were not eligible) in Baton Rouge, but never played in an NCAA Tournament. He ended his career with 3,667 points.

Feb. 3, 1979
Hall of Famer Rod Carew was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the California Angels for Dave Engle, Paul Hartzell, Brad Havens and Ken Landreaux. The 12-time All-Star with seven batting titles, an MVP and more than 2,000 hits for the Twins signed a five-year contract for $4 million with the Angels, something the Twins had been reluctant to do. Carew ended his career with 3,053 hits.

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Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 17:34
Path: /nfl/peyton-mannings-uncertain-future-indianapolis

What once seemed unfathomable – Peyton Manning NOT in an Indianapolis Colts uniform – seems not so improbable with every passing day. Picking up the pieces from a disastrous 2-14 season, Colts owner Jim Irsay, new general manager Ryan Grigson and just-hired head coach Chuck Pagano have a lengthy to-do list on their hands. And that list most likely starts with who will be under center for the Colts next season.

For starters, Manning is due a $28 million roster bonus on March 8 as part of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he signed last summer. Everyone knows what happened after that — he had neck surgery in September, missed the entire 2011 season during which the Colts win just two games, which in turn
“earned” them the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft where everyone is expecting them to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

Irsay has already publicly stated that even if Manning is given a clean bill of health that the Colts will take a quarterback with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. Whether that be Luck or Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III from Baylor remains to be seen, but in some ways this is similar to the situation the Colts found themselves in back in 1998.

Back then the Colts had the No. 1 overall pick and were reportedly somewhat torn between drafting Manning, who played for the University of Tennessee, or Washington State’s Ryan Leaf. In the end, the Colts took Manning and the Chargers traded up to get Leaf at No. 2. The rest, as they say, is history.

Whether or not the Colts find their next franchise quarterback in April in either Luck or Griffin only time will tell, but it still doesn’t answer the question what to do with their current franchise quarterback. The good news is that under the terms of the new CBA, the financial cost of keeping both Manning and the No. 1 overall draft pick isn’t nearly as burdensome as it once was.

Two years ago, the St. Louis Rams took Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the first pick and signed him to a six-year, $78 million deal. The contract had $50 million in guaranteed money and was the largest contract ever for an NFL rookie. Last year, the Carolina Panthers took Auburn quarterback Cam Newton No. 1. Under the terms of the new CBA, which introduced a rookie wage scale, Newton signed a four-year, $22 million deal, all of it guaranteed.

In guaranteed money alone, the Panthers will pay $28 million less to Newton than the Rams will for Bradford. Whoever the Colts select at No. 1 will sign a contract similar to Newton’s and that alone will make it considerably easier for the team to afford their new franchise quarterback and Manning. Remember, Manning still has $63.6 million left on his contract extension, including the $28 million roster bonus due on March 8, which goes through 2015.

In fact, because of the structure of Manning’s contract and NFL rules, in many ways it will cost the Colts less to keep Manning than it would to get rid of him, whether that be by trading him to another team or simply releasing him.

For one, while Manning’s roster bonus is due on March 8, the Colts actually can’t trade him until March 13 because of league rules. At that point, if the Colts did decide to trade him, it would cost them the $28 million for the roster bonus and then an additional $38 million towards their cap.

This just doesn’t seem like a wise move for a team that already is dealing with cap space issues. And that’s without even discussing finding a feasible trading partner, a team that has a need for a 36-year-old quarterback with an ever-growing medical file and, more importantly, the cap space to fit him.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t several teams out there who wouldn’t jump at the chance to bring Manning on board. It’s just that given all of the factors, there probably aren’t that many teams that are in a position to even consider a trade, should the opportunity become available.

It also doesn’t seem likely that they would simply cut Manning. For one, it would still cost the Colts an estimated $10.4 million cap hit to end ties with him. Although that would be cheaper than the cap hit associated with trading him, it would amount to “dead” cap space for them since Manning would no longer be on the roster.

Cutting Manning also makes him a free agent, meaning he can sign with any team and the Colts would get nothing in return. Given Manning’s success with the Colts, not to mention his rapport with fans and standing within the Indianapolis community, that doesn’t seem like a wise move either.

There’s also the option of reworking Manning’s contract and push the date the $28 million roster bonus is due back, although it remains to be seen if that’s even possible or it’s something Manning would even consider.

So while the Colts’ leadership mulls over the options and potential ramifications associated with them, the underlying question to all of this goes back to one thing – is Manning healthy? He will have to undergo a physical prior to the March 8 roster bonus due date, and if he passes, then the aforementioned options are fully in play.

If he doesn’t pass his physical, cutting him probably comes into play even more as the Colts will have to weigh the risks of keeping him on the roster in hopes that he will eventually become healthy. Failing his physical would also greatly impact his chances of signing with another team should he become a free agent. Manning himself could also take the decision out of the Colts’ hands, healthy or not healthy, and choose to retire. It still seems a little early to discuss that possibility, but you never know.

In the end, if Manning is healthy, cleared and able to play, the Colts could be looking at a situation similar to the one the Green Bay Packers had just seven years ago. In 2005, the Packers drafted Rodgers with the 24th overall pick. He backed up Brett Favre, who like Manning is a future Hall of Famer, before taking over as the starter in 2008. Two years later, Rodgers led the Packers to a win in Super Bowl XLV and has established himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL

To be fair, when the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005 no one had any idea that he would become the elite NFL quarterback he is or that Favre’s career in Green Bay would end like it did. That said, one cannot help but notice the similarities, or irony even, between the Packers’ situation then and the Colts’ now.

So in many ways, the Colts’ future is tied directly to Manning’s fate. If healthy, the Colts’ leadership and fans are both hoping for a path similar to one the Packers started on in 2005. If he’s not healthy, then they will turn their attention to 1998 when a young, franchise quarterback came on board and took the team to places it had never been before. Either way, it appears that No. 18’s days as the Colts’ field leader are numbered. 

— By Mark Ross

<p> The Colts' face of the franchise will likely be moved this offseason</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 11:20
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-kevin-jones-west-virginia-hope-pull-upset-syracuse

By David Schuman

Saturday afternoon, the West Virginia Mountaineers (15-6, 5-3 Big East) travel up to snowy Syracuse to take on the No. 4 Orange (21-1, 8-1 Big East). The matchup has admittedly lost some of its luster since West Virginia got blown out at St. John’s 78-62, but it’s still a battle of top-five teams in the conference so it should be a good one.

On display will be arguably the nation’s top team in Coach Jim Boeheim’s squad as well as a favorite for Big East Player of the Year, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones.

Jones is a bona fide star, averaging 20.9 points per game and 11.6 rebounds per game. Don’t expect him to come off the court too much either, as he also averages a robust 37.6 minutes per game. In his senior season, Jones has emerged as the leader of the surprising Mountaineers. Along with senior guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant and his 17.4 per, the two make a formidable inside-out combo.

Syracuse is going to have more difficulty than usual containing Jones without 7-footer Fab Melo in the paint. The improved sophomore has missed the last two games with unspecified academic issues and it’s not looking like the matter will be resolved in time for this one. Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone is clearly weaker without Melo so that bodes well for West Virginia.

They still, however, have to contend with the rest of Syracuse’s talent and depth. With guys like Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters, the Orange will probably be favored in every game left this season. As well they should too, because this team runs the break well and uses their length and quickness to stymie opposing offenses.

As good as West Virginia has been, they are coming off a loss where they didn’t play their best and ‘Cuse is undefeated at the Carrier Dome this year. It’s hard for me to predict anything but a win for the home team, although it could be close. I’ll take the Orange, 69-60.

<p> Can the Mountaineers take down one of the best teams in the country?</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 11:02
Path: /mlb/detroit-tigers-mt-rushmore

MLB Mt. Rushmores

by Charlie Miller

We believe that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.


Detroit Tigers Mt. Rushmore

In their 111 seasons, the Tigers have finished at or above .500 in 67 of those seasons, pretty impressive. But Detroit has only 13 postseason appearances to show for their winning ways. In 10 World Series, the Tigers have come out on the winning side four times. Three times in their history the Tigers have had a winning percentage over .600 and not made the postseason. Once came in 1915, a year the Tigers went 100-54 for their second-best winning percentage (.649) in history. The Tigers are one of only four of the original American League franchises to call the same city home for its entire history. And the Tigers are the only AL team to go by just one name; always known as the Tigers. There is no shortage of candidates for the Tigers’ Mt. Rushmore, but Ty Cobb may be the only lock.

Ty Cobb
While the Georgia Peach has taken personal hits over the years, there is no denying his production on the field. No one played the game harder or better or with more zeal than Cobb did during his era from 1905-26. He had 3,900 hits for the Tigers. No one has more for one team. Cobb sits atop the Tigers’ all-time lists in more categories than anyone else, and it’s not even close. Cobb finished his 22-year career in Detroit with a .368 batting average. For his entire career, which included two seasons with the Philadelphia A’s, he amassed 4,189 hits and 2,246 runs.


Charlie Gehringer
A Michigan man through–and-through, Gehringer spent his entire 19 seasons with the Tigers and finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting for seven consecutive seasons. He won the award in 1937 along with a batting title with a .371 average. He was a narrow runner-up to teammate Mickey Cochrane in 1934, although the second baseman had clearly superior numbers. Known for his quiet nature, it has been noted that he would say hello when he arrived at spring training and good-bye when the season ended and not much in between.

Hank Greenberg
Hammerin’ Hank had a mercurial career with the Tigers in the years surrounding World War II. From 1934-46, Greenberg had just seven full seasons for Detroit, but full seasons they certainly were. In those campaigns in which he played a complete season, he averaged .322 with 40 home runs and 147 RBIs, with 43 doubles and 122 runs. He earned a couple of MVP trophies and finished third twice. He lost one season to a broken wrist after just 12 games, and three full seasons to military service, and in two more seasons he played briefly just prior to and after his service.


Al Kaline
The rightfielder from Baltimore quietly put together a Hall of Fame career spent exclusively with the Tigers. Kaline reached the 3,000-hit plateau and missed 400 home runs by one. Kaline entered the league in 1953 as an 18-year-old having never suited up in the minor leagues. In his second full season, Kaline won the AL batting crown with a .340 average and earned the first of his two career runner-up finishes in MVP voting. Overall, he had nine top-10 MVP finishes. He made 15 All-Star teams and was honored with 10 Gold Gloves.

Close Calls
Ace Hal Newhouser had back-to-back MVP seasons in 1945-46 with a runner-up for the award the following season.

For three generations in Michigan, Tigers fans associated games with the voice of Ernie Harwell on the radio.
In 16 full seasons at the helm in Detroit, Sparky Anderson led his team to a winning record 11 times, including eight straight, the only Tigers manager with such a streak.

In 1968 the Tigers erased a three-games-to-one deficit in the World Series to defending champion St. Louis. It was lefthander Mickey Lolich whose heroics in Games 5 and 7 made that championship comeback possible.


Best Current Player
While Miguel Cabrera may seem like an obvious choice, his career numbers in Detroit may not measure up to the greats above. However, starting pitcher Justin Verlander already has an MVP trophy and appears to be on track to spend his entire career with the Tigers.


American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals


Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him

<p> There is no shortage of candidates for the Tigers’ Mt. Rushmore, but Ty Cobb may be the lonely lock. One thing for certain, all four honorees will be Hall of Famers.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 09:31
All taxonomy terms: Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregons-coaching-candidatesif-chip-kelly-had-gone-nfl

What if Chip Kelly had left Oregon for the NFL? Here are some candidates the Ducks might have looked at as their next head coach.

Mike Bellotti, former Oregon head coach – Bellotti’s name was in the rumor mill for openings at Arizona and UCLA, but it’s uncertain if he was ever a serious candidate. Bellotti worked at Oregon from 1989-94 as the team’s offensive coordinator and then served as the head coach from 1995-08. He compiled a 116-55 record and earned one outright Pac-10 title during his 14-year tenure as the Ducks’ head coach. It could be a little awkward for Bellotti to return to the sidelines after choosing to retire as a head coach and become the school’s athletic director after the 2008 season. However, he’s certainly a good fit in Eugene and would likely keep many of the assistants and schemes the Ducks ran under Kelly. Going from Bellotti to Kelly would seem to be a pretty easy transition.

Pete Carroll, head coach, Seattle Seahawks – If you are Oregon, don’t you at least have to try to nudge Carroll back to the college game? Yes, it's a longshot, but why not? Although the Seahawks improved during the second half of the year, they probably aren’t ready to make a Super Bowl run in 2012. And if the Seahawks struggle to earn a winning record next year, would that be enough to lure Carroll back to the college game? His resume at USC was impressive, recording an 83-19 record over nine seasons and a BCS title in 2004. The Ducks can throw a lot of money in Carroll’s direction, but it’s certainly a longshot that he leaves the NFL. However, it’s not too often one of the top 15 jobs in college football is open, especially on the West Coast.

Dave Christensen, head coach, Wyoming – Christensen inked a contract extension at Wyoming this offseason, but figures to have interest in BCS jobs on the West Coast. He has an 18-20 record in three years with the Cowboys, but has led the team to two bowl appearances with freshmen quarterbacks. Christensen is also familiar with the Pacific Northwest, playing at Washington (1980-1982) and coaching with the Huskies for one season (1988). Although Christensen has emerged as a solid coach and someone who will move up the ranks to a BCS job, he seems like a longshot to land in Eugene - if Kelly leaves for the NFL after the 2012 season.

Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Just like Wyoming’s Dave Christensen, Dykes received a raise and a contract extension after the 2011 season. Dykes has compiled a 13-12 record in two seasons in Ruston, including an 8-5 mark and an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2011. Dykes has experience coaching in the Pac-12, as he worked at Arizona from 2007-09. He also has stops as an assistant at Kentucky and Texas Tech. It’s only a matter of time before Dykes makes the jump to a BCS program, but if the Ducks have to replace Kelly next offseason, it seems unlikely he would be one of the top choices.

Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon – The Ducks may not have to look far for Kelly’s successor. Helfrich is considered a rising star in the assistant ranks, making stops at Boise State, Arizona State, Colorado and Oregon. He joined the Ducks in 2009 as the team’s offensive coordinator. Although Kelly significantly shaped Oregon’s offense, Helfrich is well-versed in the up-tempo attack and would likely keep much of the same scheme and assistants in place. If the Ducks want to keep continuity, Helfrich could be a perfect choice to become the next head coach. However, Helfrich has no head coaching experience and one has to wonder if he is ready to take over at one of the top programs on the West Coast. Is he the next Chip Kelly or Bill Stewart? That’s going to be a key question facing Oregon if they have to replace Kelly next offseason.

June Jones, head coach, SMU – Jones was reportedly very close to landing at Arizona State, but he was eventually passed for the job in favor of former Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham. As a native of Portland, Ore., it would be very surprising if Jones didn’t have interest in this position. Jones compiled a 76-41 record in nine seasons at Hawaii and has a 24-28 mark in four years at SMU. He inherited a very difficult situation at both schools and turned both programs into consistent bowl teams. There’s very little downside to Jones, although the current personnel wouldn’t be a perfect fit with his pass-first offense. He will be 60 when the 2013 season starts, so Jones would be the oldest coach in the Pac-12.

Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – Roman is a wildcard candidate to watch in coaching searches for 2012. He is a highly-regarded assistant, working under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2009-10, before following him to the 49ers last offseason. Roman was reportedly in the mix at Vanderbilt last year and interviewed at Penn State this season. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but is considered a bright offensive mind, which would certainly go over well in Eugene. Roman is a longshot, but is due for a shot to run his own program in the near future.

Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU – Patterson’s name may pop up in BCS job searches next offseason, but it is highly unlikely he leaves TCU. Most of his coaching career has been spent in the Midwest, playing at Kansas State from 1980-81 and becoming TCU’s head coach in 2000. Patterson is considered one of college football’s top defensive minds, which would be a contrast to Kelly’s offensive background. After he helped to guide TCU to a BCS conference (Big 12), it would take a lot to lure Patterson out of Fort Worth. A longshot, but his track record makes it hard to ignore when elite BCS jobs come open.

Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State – Outside of Helfrich, Petersen seems to be the most likely candidate to take over in Eugene. Petersen has experience in Eugene, as he coached receivers at Oregon from 1995-00. He reportedly turned down UCLA, but Oregon would seem to be a much better fit, as he could stay in the Pacific Northwest. Combine his familiarity with the program and his success at Boise State, Petersen would be a home run hire for the Ducks (if Kelly was to leave). However, Petersen was granted a contract extension and a salary bump this offseason, while Boise State is in the process of updating the football facilities. Although Petersen has had tremendous success with the Broncos, there’s no question Oregon is one of the top 15 jobs in the country. And the commitment is certainly in place to win big (national championships).

Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington – After spending two seasons at Tennessee, Wilcox has moved back to the West Coast to take the defensive coordinator position at Washington. If there’s a candidate that’s built perfectly to become the head coach at Oregon, Wilcox is it. He was born in Eugene, Ore. and played as a defensive back with the Ducks from 1996-99. Wilcox has no head coaching experience, but is very familiar with the Pac-12, as he coached as an assistant at California from 2003-05. The lack of head coaching experience could be the only downside to Wilcox’s resume, as he is considered one the top up-and-coming assistant coaches in the nation. 

<p> What if Chip Kelly had left Oregon for the NFL? Here are some candidates the Ducks might have looked at as their next head coach.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 08:08
Path: /college-football/texas-extends-mack-brown-means-absolutely-nothing

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Texas’ Board of Regents met yesterday to extend head football coach Mack Brown’s contract to 2020. The move was an effort to quell rumors of Brown’s potential exit from the 40 Acres — be it by retirement, resignation or firing.

There is only one problem: Longhorns’ athletic director DeLoss Dodds is dead wrong.

Dodds seems to think that the negative recruiting against the Longhorns will cease and desist once Brown extends his $5.2 million annual contract an additional four years. He seems to believe that if Brown is signed through 2020 — instead of merely 2016 — that the head coach won’t consider retiring over the next nine years. Or perhaps that if Texas goes 13-12 over the next two seasons (again) that the “endowment conglomerate” won’t be pressuring the AD to get fresh blood on the sidelines.

This is because coaching contract extensions are not worth the paper they are printed upon.

Cincinnati’s Butch Jones also got his deal sweetened this week, and it’s a great day for Bearcats fans to celebrate the recent success of their second-year head coach. It's a time for Cincy fans to be proud of their program and be excited about the future. But the fact remains: A little extra coin and a few extra years on the deal won’t keep Jones from taking a better job.

And there are a lot of better jobs than Cincinnati.

Does Dodds honestly believe that big, bad Bob Stoops will stop saying mean things about little ol’ Texas on the recruiting trail now that Brown is signed through 2020? Does he really believe that Tommy Tuberville, Mike Gundy or Art Briles, out of the kindness of their hearts, won’t negatively recruit Big Brother any longer?

Does Brown himself, in the interest of fair play, stop telling recruits that Bill Snyder is really old? Especially considering Texas has lost four straight games to Kansas State?

Does new language in new contracts make it more costly to fire a coach — or more costly for a coach to bail for a better gig? Slightly. Can giving Jones or Brown more cash make them a little happier and therefore more likely to stick around? Possibly. But the power brokers at any major university can sneeze enough money to pay a coach’s buyout if they have soured on the current field general.

Really, what is a $4 million buyout to T. Boone Pickens if he no longer wants Gundy on the sidelines of…T. Boone Pickens Stadium?

Tuberville is a perfect example. Following the 2007 season, the current Texas Tech coach was given an extension by Auburn for seven seasons (through 2014). He was 42-9 in the previous four seasons and had six straight seasons of at least eight wins. Tubes went 5-7 in 2008 and was fired barely one year into his seven-year contract. It doesn’t end there, however, as the Red Raiders gave Tuberville an extension through 2015 last week.

After the first losing season in Lubbock since 1992, Tuberville enters 2012 securely on the coaching hot seat.

Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer received a massive seven-year, $21 million extension in the summer of 2008. The Vols had played in the 2007 SEC Championship game, getting handled by eventual BCS champ LSU. Tennessee started 3-7 in 2008, including a loss to Wyoming, and AD Mike Hamilton announced that Fulmer would be stepping down at the end of the season. Fulmer made it through nine games of a seven-year contract before being fired.

Tommy Bowden at Clemson finished 2007 with a 9-4 record and had never experienced a losing season with the Tigers in nine years. He was given a seven-year extension following the season. "Tommy Bowden has made us a consistent winner," said Clemson Athletic Director Dr. Terry Don Phillips. "He has built a firm foundation for this program in all aspects.”

Bowden didn’t make it to the seventh game of the 2008 season before getting fired. Did Phillips believe anything he said the eight months before?

Ron Zook took his Illinois squad to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and was given a new deal through 2013. One month prior to the start of the 2009 seasons, the Illini felt so strongly about The Zooker that they tacked on another year, pushing his deal to 2014. He went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired three years before the end of his contract.

Sylvester Croom won nine total games in his three years at Mississippi State but finally broke through in 2008 with eight wins and a bowl appearance. He was given an extension through 2011, but after going 4-8 in 2009, was fired by the Bulldogs.

And then there is Notre Dame. Charlie Weis went 19-6 in his first two seasons with two trips to BCS Bowls (both bad losses). The Irish decisions makers inked Weis to a hefty 10-year contract that was slated to run through 2015. He too went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired by Notre Dame following the 2009 season — with seven years left on the deal.

But the tomfoolery goes both ways in this head coach-university contract relationship.

On July 13, 2006, Bobby Petrino signed a 10-year, $25.6 million extension with Louisville. On January 7, 2007, Petrino announced, six months into his 10-year deal with the Cardinals, that he was leaving to take the Atlanta Falcons job. He signed a five-year, $24 million deal with Atlanta. On December 11, 2007, he left the Falcons and signed a five-year contract with the Arkansas Razorbacks at $2.85 million annually.

Petrino signed 20 years' worth of contracts for a total $63.85 million with three different organizations over an 18-month period of time.

In 2006, Alabama was looking for a coach and offered West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez a six-year, $12 million contract. He flirted with the Tide before milking a one-year extension from the Mountaineers. His contract ran through the 2014 season, but two seasons later (2007), RichRod was headed north to Ann Arbor despite a $4 million buyout.

In June of 2009, Brian Kelly signed a contract extension with Cincinnati through 2013. He was given a nice raise to nearly $1.5 million — quite a commitment for Cincinnati. Six months later, Kelly was introduced as the new head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

There are literally hundreds of examples of coaches accepting more lucrative, more prestigious jobs on the heels of signing an extension with their current employer. And there are just as many instances of programs locking down coaches to long-term deals just months before handing that same coach a pink slip.

Negative recruiting cannot be stopped. It will continue to be a seedy, unfortunate but necessary aspect to the recruiting trail until the end of time, regardless of how many years are on your coach’s contract. Coaches will continue to be fired, some rightly so, well before the culmination of their contracts. And field generals will continue to retire or pursue greener pastures without honoring current agreements forever.

So fans in Austin and Cincinnati get a day in the sun to celebrate their football programs and the men responsible for achieving success. It is absolutely a time to be proud and thump chests.

But don’t forget that these contracts mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of college football. And college football is about as fickle as a 17-year old five-star.

<p> Coaching contract extensions are basically worthless in the modern college football arena.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 07:20
Path: /news/ball-boy-makes-amazing-catch-australian-open-video

It's not every day that a ball boy makes almost as much news than the tennis players he's working for. But this ball boy at the Australian Open made an amazing catch during the Federer/Nadal semifinal tennis match.

Nadal ended up winning the match in four sets 6-7, 6-2, 7-2, 6-4, setting himself up as officially past his rival Federer. But one of the matches highlights came when Federer hit a first serve out, which Nadal hit back. Federer then hit the ball, with a fair bit of velocity off to the side of the court. That's when the ball boy quickly made a one-handed catch in the air and the crowd erupted in applause.

<p> He may have a future in baseball after this awesome one-handed catch</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 18:15
Path: /college-football/rutgers-coaching-candidates

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

No school wants to conduct a coaching search just a week before National Signing Day. However, that’s the predicament Rutgers finds itself in, as Greg Schiano decided to leave to become the next head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Schiano inherited a very difficult situation at Rutgers and won only three games in his first two years. However, Schiano turned the Scarlet Knights into a consistent winner in the Big East, posting at least seven wins in seven out of the last eight years. Rutgers made six bowl appearances under Schiano and fell just short of winning the Big East conference title in 2006.

Related: Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012

Who will replace Greg Schiano at Rutgers next season?

Steve Addazio, head coach, Temple – In his first season as Temple’s head coach, Addazio led the Owls to a 9-4 record and a victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl. Addazio is also bringing in a solid recruiting class this year and has the Owls on the rise in the MAC East. The timing of Schiano’s departure makes it very difficult for any coach to leave their current position to go to Rutgers. However, Addazio is one that the Scarlet Knights need to give strong consideration to. He has stops as an assistant at Syracuse, Notre Dame, Indiana and Florida, and is familiar with the area, as he grew up in Connecticut.

Tom Bradley, former interim coach at Penn State – Bradley is a Pennsylvania native and has spent his entire coaching career at Penn State. He served as the Nittany Lions’ interim coach in the final four games, posting a 1-3 record with a loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. Bradley was highly regarded during his tenure at Penn State for his recruiting and his defenses, which were usually among the best in the Big Ten. However, considering the scandal that surrounded Penn State in 2011, could Bradley be too toxic for Rutgers? For a school that can’t spend a ton of money on its next coach, Bradley would come relatively cheap.

Don Brown, defensive coordinator, Connecticut – Brown was reportedly one of the leading candidates to land at Yale this offseason but eventually pulled his name out of the running. He has a wealth of coaching experience in the Northeast, starting his career at Dartmouth in 1982 and making stops at Yale, Brown, Northeastern, UMass and Maryland. Brown has a 94-45 overall record in 12 years as a head coach and led UMass to the FCS title game in 2006.

Frank Cignetti, offensive coordinator, Rutgers – Rutgers chose Kyle Flood to serve as the team's interim coach while the school searches to fill the full-time position. However, Cignetti could be a strong in-house candidate to keep the job on a permanent basis. He joined Rutgers before the 2011 season, and helped to improve the offense, as the Scarlet Knights jumped from last in the Big East in scoring to fourth. Cignetti has no head coaching experience, but has built a strong resume with stops at North Carolina, Fresno State, California and Pittsburgh, along with the Chiefs and Saints in the NFL.

Mario Cristobal, head coach, FIU – Cristobal’s name has been mentioned in connection with a handful of BCS jobs over the last few years, but he has remained loyal to FIU. Cristobal inherited a disaster when he became the Golden Panthers’ coach in 2007, but has turned the program into a Sun Belt title contender. Under his watch, FIU is 24-38, but has made back-to-back bowl appearances. Cristobal also worked from 2001-03 at Rutgers, serving as the team’s tight end and offensive line coach. There’s no question Cristobal is one of the top coaches from one of the non-BCS conferences. However, he signed an extension before the season and was expected to get a raise after being mentioned heavily for the Pittsburgh position. Cristobal would be a tremendous hire, but it would take a tremendous offer to leave FIU.

Ron English, head coach, Eastern Michigan – English’s overall record at Eastern Michigan (8-28) isn’t impressive, but once you dig a little deeper, it’s apparent he has done a great job in a short amount of time. Eastern Michigan is one of the most difficult jobs in college football, and the Eagles have only one winning season since 1990. English led Eastern Michigan to a 6-6 record in 2011 and has this team in position to move up the MAC standings once again in 2012. English has a good resume, spending time at Arizona State, San Diego State, Michigan and Louisville. He is due for a chance at a BCS job, but English hasn’t coached any in the Northeast.  

Ralph Friedgen, former Maryland coach – Why not? Rutgers can’t spend $3 million on a coach, and especially considering how his tenure ended at Maryland, Friedgen has to be eager to get back into coaching. During his tenure with the Terrapins, Friedgen posted a 75-50 record, while leading his team to seven bowl appearances and an ACC title in 2001. Friedgen was born in Harrison, N.Y., just under 40 miles from Rutgers. The only downside to Friedgen is his age – he will be 65 when the 2012 season begins.

Jeff Jagodzinski, former Boston College coach – Jagodzinski recorded a solid 20-8 record during two seasons as Boston College’s head coach (2007-08). He was fired after interviewing for the vacant Jets head coaching position and has spent time with the Buccaneers and worked as the head coach of the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks in 2010. A significant concern if Jagodzinski is to land another head coaching job: He was not regarded as a strong recruiter during his time with Boston College. 

K.C. Keeler, head coach, Delaware – Keeler has been a very successful coach on the D-III and FCS level, so it has been a bit of surprise he hasn’t jumped to a FBS position. However, Keeler played linebacker at Delaware from 1978-80, so it will take a special job to pull him away from his alma mater. In 10 years with the Blue Hens, Keeler has recorded a 169-67-1 mark and led the team to one FCS championship. Before coming to Delaware, he posted a 88-21-1 record in nine years at Rowan. Keeler is ready for the next challenge. But is he ready to leave his alma mater?

Tim Murphy, Harvard – Murphy’s name surfaced with the Penn State job, but the school chose to go with New England Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien as its new head coach. Murphy has largely been out of the spotlight, but he has been a head coach every season since 1987. He compiled a 15-8 record in two years at Maine (1987-88), 17-37-1 record at Cincinnati (1989-93) and has a 119-59 record at Harvard (1994-2011). Murphy wouldn’t be a flashy hire, but he’s built a solid resume during his career and has experience coaching in the Northeast from his time at Maine and at Harvard.


Bud Foster, defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech – If not now, when will Foster leave Virginia Tech? He is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in college football, but has no head coaching experience. Foster is due for his shot to run a program, but he’s been very loyal to Virginia Tech.

Jim Leavitt, San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach – Leavitt had a rocky end to his tenure at South Florida, but had a very successful run as the Bulls’ head coach. Leavitt posted a 95-57 record with South Florida, which included bringing the program from its inception to becoming a consistent bowl team. Leavitt’s baggage from the end of his tenure at South Florida could be too much to overcome or he may look to land back in the Midwest, where he spent the majority of his career before joining the Bulls.

Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State – MacIntyre recently received an extension with San Jose State, so it’s unlikely he will leave to take the Rutgers job. However, he has spent most of his career close to the East Coast. MacIntyre has also done a good job of rebuilding the Spartans, leading the team to a 5-7 record in 2011 – the school’s highest win total since winning six in 2008.

Bill McGovern, defensive coordinator, Boston College – McGovern has no head coaching experience, but is considered one of the top assistants in the Northeast. He has worked at Boston College since 2000, with a prior stint with the Eagles from 1994-96. McGovern has developed a handful of solid linebackers during his tenure with the Eagles and is known as a good recruiter. McGovern would be a good fit, but the lack of head coaching experience certainly hurts his chances of landing the job.

Darren Rizzi, special teams coach with the Miami Dolphins – Rizzi is a name familiar with many at Rutgers, as he served as its special teams coach from 2002-07. He also grew up in New Jersey and has four years of head coaching experience. Rizzi’s overall record is not impressive, posting a 15-14 record in three years at New Haven and a 3-9 mark in one year at Rhode Island. 

<p> Who will replace Greg Schiano at Rutgers in 2012?</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 12:05
Path: /college-football/recruiting-top-15-two-star-recruits

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Recruiting rankings are an inexact science, and even the experts will admit that. It is virtually impossible to measure heart, work ethic, mental focus and self-awareness in 17- and 18-year-old kids. Especially, in the face of the most important decision they will ever make.

As National Signing Day looms next Wednesday, Athlon Sports finalized its Athlon Consensus 100 for the Class of 2012 this week. It is the fifth annual conglomerate recruiting top 100 for Athlon, and even as the truest, most accurate recruiting ranking, there are still plenty of names that fall through the cracks.

The "modern recruiting era," aka the internet recruiting service era, dates back just more than a decade of time. There have been countless contributors who have blossomed into All-Americans despite being much-lesser known commodities than the likes of Matt Barkley.

Here are the best two-star prospects of the modern recruiting era (signing class):

1. Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Abilene (Texas) Wylie (2006)

The NCAA’s all-time record-holder for passing yards (19,217), total offense (20,114), 300-yard games (38), 4,000-yard seasons (3), completions (1,546), passing touchdowns (155) and touchdown responsibility (178) had a single offer coming out of high school. After Keenum had won the state title as a junior at Wylie, Art Briles was the only head coach to offer the slender passer a chance to play FBS football. Over 20,000 yards later, Keenum has not only reinvigorated Cougars football but has also helped elevate his program to the Big East Conference.

2. Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
Rialto (Calif.) Eisenhower (2004)

The big offensive tackle was passed over by local schools USC and UCLA, but Dan Hawkins at Boise State saw something he loved right away. Clady redshirted in his first season in Idaho but started every game for the next three seasons. He was a major part of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma before landing on several All-America teams in 2007. After his redshirt junior season, Clady left for the NFL and was selected with the 12th overall pick by the Denver Broncos. He has blossomed into one of the NFL’s top left tackles.

3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Washington Township (N.J.) Westwood (2004)

The big nose guard had three offers coming out of high school: Boston College, Rutgers and Wisconsin. While the offer sheet was certainly more prestigious than the average two-star prospect’s, it took until October of his final prep season to land the BC scholarship ( During his final season at Chestnut Hill, Raji helped lead a unit that ranked No. 1 in the ACC in rushing defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense. The big nose guard was taken with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and played a major role in the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship in 2010.

4. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Pewaukee (Wisc.) High (2007)

Originally committed to Minnesota and signed with Central Michigan, Watt needed two schools and multiple positions to finally land with the Houston Texans. Watt played tight end upon entering college before transferring and walking-on at Wisconsin, where he earned a scholarship with his work ethic and intensity. His switch to the defensive line paid off in droves as he racked up 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks in two seasons. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and became the first rookie defensive lineman in NFL history to record a sack and an interception for a touchdown in a playoff game. Watt started all 16 games as a rookie, led Houston in tackles for a loss (13) and helped the Texans to their first postseason berth in franchise history.

5. Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Anaheim (Calif.) Western (2005)

Hailing from American Samoa originally, Iupati moved to Southern California and excelled as a defensive tackle at Western High School. He was shown interest from other larger programs — Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona — but due to insufficient academic performance, Iupati was not eligibile to receive a scholarship. So the family of this powerful blocker took out a loan to pay for tuition, room and board at Idaho. Under Robb Akey and behind the leadership of Iupati, Idaho went to only its second bowl in school history in 2009 when the Vandals defeated Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl. Iupati was selected with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the 49ers and was a huge part of the NFC Championship run by San Francisco in 2011.

6. Eric Weddle, SS, Utah
Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Alta Loma (2003)

The California native’s offer sheet included New Mexico State, Wyoming, UNLV and Utah back in 2003. It didn’t take long to realize that the Utes had found a great player in Weddle, as the versatile defensive back started the last nine games as a freshman, garning freshman All-America honors. He was a standout strong safety and return man his second year in Salt Lake City. He was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and claimed Emerald Bowl MVP honors. In 2006, he claimed his second straight MWC Defensive POY award. He started 45 of his 48 career games (21 at corner, 18 at safety and six at nickelback) while finishing with 277 tackles, 10 sacks and an MWC-record 18 interceptions. He also ran the ball 52 times for 259 yards and six touchdowns on offense, completed 2-of-6 passes, punted twice and was a holder on field goals. The do-everything athlete was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 62nd (second round) pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

7. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
Sugar Land (Texas) Austin (2006)

TCU, Iowa State and North Texas were the offers Hughes had to choose from coming out of high school. Gary Patterson knew he had a special player as Hughes was one of only four freshman to see the field in 2006. As a senior in 2009, Hughes led the Mountain West with 11.5 sacks and helped lead a defense that ranked No. 1 in the nation in total yards allowed (239.7 ypg). He was a two-time All-America selection and finished with 142 career tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. The Frogs went 42-10 during Hughes’ time, and the defensive end was selected in the first round by the Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft.

8. Jordan Todman, RB, UConn
Dartmouth (Mass.) High (2008)

With offers from only UConn, Purdue and Northeastern, Todman quickly overachieved in Storrs, Conn. As a freshman, Todman rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in his first career game. As a sophomore, his first season as the starter, he rushed for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns. In Todman’s final season as a Husky he finished second in the nation in rushing at 141.3 yards per game. His 1,695 yards led the Big East and he scored another 14 times as a junior. He skipped his final season in college to test the NFL waters and landed with the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft.

9. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Jasper (Texas) High (2006)

Coming out of high school, Weatherspoon was listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. He is now a star 6-foot-2, 244-pound outside linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons. His offer sheet included Missouri, Houston, Iowa State, TCU and Tulane. He claimed Special Teamer of the Year honors as a freshman for the Tigers and in only two full seasons as a starter, Westherspoon registered 266 total tackles, nine sacks, four interceptions and 33.5 tackles for a loss. He was a part of the winningest two-year span in Mizzou history (2006-2007) and was drafted by the Falcons with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

10. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
Portland (Ore.) Jesuit (2007)

The Marecic family moved all over the country — from New Jersey to Boston to Los Angeles to Oregon — before Owen was recruited by Yale, Army and Stanford. Only the Cardinal and Portland State officially offered the two-way star. In his junior season, Marecic was the lead blocker for the Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. He was also used in short yardage situations on defense as an inside linebacker. Jim Harbaugh then made him a true two-way star as a senior as Marecic was the only FBS player to start on both offense and defense. In a game against Notre Dame, he scored two touchdowns and intercepted a pass in a 26-second span. Marecic was a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2011 NFL Draft.

11. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy (2007)

Castonzo was the first true freshman to start along the offensive line at BC since 1998, blocked for Matt Ryan and claimed freshman All-America honors in 2007. Became a two-time All-ACC performer and was the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Colts.

12. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Fayetteville (N.C.) E.E. Smith (2004)

A freshman All-American, Curry eventually earned the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. He was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

13. Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
Huntsville (Ala.) Lee (2003)

How many 15-year-olds decide to play football at Louisville instead of Harvard? But a year later Okoye, at 16 years old, became the youngest player in the NCAA. He finished his college career with 55 tackles and eight sacks as a senior. The All-Big East and All-America selection was the youngest senior in the nation (19) before being selected by the Texans with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

14. Alex Mack, OC, Cal
Santa Barbara (Calif.) San Marcos (2004)

Mack made 39 consecutive starts for the Golden Bears and was a Rimington Trophy finalist for the nation’s top center. He is now a Pro Bowl center for the Cleveland Browns after getting drafted with the 21st overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

15. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Richardson (Texas) Berkner (2004)

Offered by Arizona, Kansas, Baylor, Tulsa and Kansas State. Talib’s risky play paid off in college as his highlight reel play at corner earned him the Jack Tatum Trophy and the Orange Bowl MVP in his final season. He was a consensus All-American and the 20th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Other Top Two-Stars To Consider:

Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri (2006) Martin (Texas) High
Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU (2003) Moorpark (Calif.) High
Tank Carder, LB, TCU (2007) Sweeney (Texas) High
Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State (2005) Piscataway (N.J.) High
Mardy Gilyard, RS, Cincinnati (2005) Palm Coast (Fla.) Flagler Palm Coast

<p> Who are the best two-star recruits in the modern recruiting era?</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 07:40
Path: /overtime/very-awesome-spelling-bee-fail

How are you supposed to know what a "heron" is if you don't live by any swampy marsh? So, when you're at a spelling bee and someone asks you to spell the word "heron," it's impossible to comprehend what they're saying to you. Is it Harangue? Hairline? Hairwing?

Can you please repeat the word? Can you please repeat the word? What's the word again? Harrowing? Harrow? Can you use it in a sentence again?

And the best part of this video, it has a happy ending...followed by an ironic next word.

<p> Heroin? Hairline? Harangue? Can you please repeat the word?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 17:40