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Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-coaches-hot-seat-2013

The start of spring practice for all 125 college football teams is a chance to start fresh and forget the bad results that came along with 2012. For a handful of coaches, spring practice is also the first opportunity to turn around a program and save their job for 2014.

While coaches at Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford and Texas A&M don’t have much to worry about in the way of job security, it’s different story for USC’s Lane Kiffin or Texas’ Mack Brown. USC and Texas are two of college football’s top-five jobs and neither program has met expectations in recent years. The Trojans were considered one of the top national contenders last season but finished with a 7-6 record. The Longhorns won nine games in 2012, but the jury is still out on whether or not Brown can get this team back in the national championship hunt.

Even though the 2013 season is still months away, it’s never too early to start thinking about which jobs might come open in December. Here’s a look at the top 20 coaches on the hot seat for 2013: 

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013: Spring Practice Edition

1. Lane Kiffin, USC
Record at USC: 25-13

USC’s 2012 season has to be one of the most disappointing years from a BCS team in recent memory. The Trojans had national title aspirations but were physically dominated by Stanford in Week 3 and finished the year with losses in five out of their final six games. USC is still dealing with scholarship limitations from NCAA sanctions, so Kiffin doesn’t have a full complement of players and had to scale back tackling in practice to prevent injuries. And after last year’s disappointing mark, Kiffin shuffled the coaching staff, with Clancy Pendergast coming over from California to coordinate the defense. Despite the scholarship limitations, the pressure is still high on Kiffin to produce. The Trojans have enough talent to push UCLA and Arizona State for the Pac-12 South title in 2013. However, another 7-6 record could spell the end of Kiffin’s tenure in Los Angeles.

2. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Record at UNLV: 6-32

Hauck was a successful FCS coach at Montana, recording an 80-17 mark in seven seasons. Unfortunately for UNLV, that success hasn’t followed him to Sin City. The Rebels have won just three games in each of Hauck’s three seasons and lost to a FCS team in both 2011 and '12. As a program, UNLV has struggled to maintain success, but the Rebels have made little progress over the last few years. Hauck hired two new coordinators for 2013 and 16 returning starters are back, so there’s plenty of pressure to make a run at a winning record this fall.

3. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Record at Connecticut: 10-14

Pasqualoni was a strange hire and has done little to suggest he’s a long-term answer in Storrs. The Huskies had winning records in each of Randy Edsall’s last four years at Connecticut but have slipped to back-to-back 5-7 records. Considering the talent Pasqualoni inherited on defense, this program should not have missed a bowl in both seasons. However, a bad offense has been the primary culprit for this team’s struggles, as the Huskies have ranked 108th or worse nationally in Pasqualoni’s two seasons in offensive yards per game. Connecticut also has had its share of bad losses recently, losing to Western Michigan in back-to-back seasons, along with an overtime defeat to a rebuilding Temple team in 2012.

4. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
Record at Eastern Michigan: 10-38

Coaching in Ypsilanti is one of the toughest jobs in college football. Eastern Michigan has just one winning season since 1990, and the program has won two or fewer games seven times during that span. English is a respected coach, but the Eagles haven’t made much progress under his watch. Eastern Michigan peaked with a 6-6 mark in 2011 but won a total of just four games in English’s three other years combined.

5. Mack Brown, Texas
Record at Texas: 150-43

Texas is arguably the No. 1 job in college football, so three consecutive seasons of less than 10 victories isn’t acceptable in Austin. Under Brown’s watch, the Longhorns had at least 10 wins in every season from 2001-09, which included two national championship appearances. The program seems to have slipped in recent years, and Texas A&M’s rise in the SEC certainly hasn’t helped Texas feel too good about its 22-16 mark the last three years. Brown has built some goodwill with his run in the early 2000s, but a losing season or 7-6 record this fall could force the Longhorns to make a change.

6. Mike London, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 16-21

Just one season ago, London was considered one of the rising stars in the ACC. The Cavaliers were coming off of an 8-5 season and made an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn. What a difference one year can make. Virginia was one of the ACC’s biggest disappointments last year, finishing 4-8 and just 2-6 in conference play. London revamped his coaching staff for 2013, which now includes veteran assistants in former NC State head coach Tom O’Brien and defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. The Cavaliers have a challenging schedule in 2013, which features non-conference games against BYU and Oregon, along with road trips to Miami, North Carolina and Pittsburgh in conference play. London isn’t necessarily facing a make-or-break season but another 4-8 record certainly wouldn’t sit well.

7. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 100-74

Thanks to his hefty contract, Ferentz isn’t in any real danger of getting fired. However, that doesn’t preclude him from a top-10 spot on the hot seat. Iowa has watched its win total decline in every season since 2009, and it missed out on a bowl appearance last season for the first time since 2007. Ferentz also made a strange decision to hire Greg Davis as his offensive coordinator, which ended up as a disaster on the final stat sheet (111th-ranked scoring offense). Iowa has surprised when under the radar in previous years, but the Hawkeyes have a lot of question marks entering 2013, so Ferentz won’t get any relief from the fan base if he has another losing record.

8. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 2-10

Disaster is really the only way to sum up Beckman’s debut at Illinois. After a successful stint at Toledo, Beckman appeared to be the right coach to elevate the program after Ron Zook’s tenure. Instead of moving forward, the Fighting Illini took a huge step back. Illinois’ only victories came against Western Michigan and Charleston Southern and seven of its losses were by 20 or more points. As if those numbers weren’t bad enough, the Fighting Illini failed to win a conference game for the first time since 2005, and the school had to report a secondary violation to the NCAA after Beckman was caught chewing tobacco on the sidelines during a game. Beckman hit the JUCO ranks to upgrade Illinois’ talent level, but the Fighting Illini could have trouble escaping the Big Ten cellar in 2013.  

9. Tony Levine, Houston
Record at Houston: 6-7

With no head coaching or coordinator experience on his resume, Levine was a strange hire for Houston. His career started off on a high note, as Houston blasted Penn State 30-14 in the TicketCity Bowl. But the Cougars opened 2013 with an 0-3 record, including a loss to FBS newcomer Texas State. Houston rebounded to finish with a 5-7 mark, but Levine’s first year fell short of expectations. The Cougars have moved from Conference USA to the Big East, so there’s an increase in competition. Combine the tougher schedule with a new on-campus stadium opening in 2014, and it’s easy to see why Levine needs to build some momentum and show the program is on track this fall.

10. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Record at Missouri: 90-61

Pinkel led Missouri to three seasons of 10 or more wins from 2007-10, so it may seem strange to even place his name on the hot seat. However, with Missouri’s move to the SEC, the pressure on Pinkel is even greater than it was before. The Tigers have gone from a top-five program in the Big 12 to fighting with Vanderbilt and Tennessee for fourth place in the SEC East. Considering the Tigers had injuries to quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey last season, it’s unfair to judge Pinkel and his staff based upon one year in college football’s No. 1 conference. However, if Missouri fails to get into a bowl game in 2013, a coaching change wouldn’t come as a complete shock. The Tigers simply can’t afford to fall too far behind in the SEC.

11. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Record at Buffalo: 9-27

Has Buffalo turned a corner under Quinn? The Bulls have increased their win total by one game in each of the last three years and finished 2012 by winning three out of their final four games. Buffalo also had a good showing in the loss to Georgia in the season opener, while it lost to Connecticut by just a touchdown and Pittsburgh by 13 points. With 15 returning starters and some momentum from the 2012 finish, the Bulls are poised to make a run at a winning record. If Quinn can get Buffalo to 4-8 or 5-7, he should be safe for another year.

12. Doc Holliday, Marshall
Record at Marshall: 17-20

After recording 11 seasons of 10 or more wins from 1991-2002, Marshall has not won more than eight games since 2003. The Thundering Herd has struggled to become a consistent contender in Conference USA, although there were signs of promise after Holliday led the program to a 7-6 mark in 2011. However, outside of 2011, Marshall has two 5-7 seasons under Holliday’s watch, and the Thundering Herd fielded a defense that allowed 43.1 points a game last year. Holliday has upgraded Marshall’s talent level but needs to produce on the field. With 15 starters back – including first-team All-C-USA quarterback Rakeem Cato – the Thundering Herd should be one of the top contenders this year in the revamped 14-team Conference USA.

13. Rich Ellerson, Army
Record at Army: 17-31

Ellerson seemed like the perfect fit at Army when he was hired prior to the 2009 season, and the Black Knights went 12-13 in his first two years. However, Army is just 5-18 over the last two seasons, and the program does not have a win over Navy since 2001. It’s hard to place the blame squarely on Ellerson’s shoulders, especially when Army has only four winning records since 1990. The 2013 schedule isn’t easy, but the Black Knights should be able to push for four victories, which is probably enough for Ellerson to stick around for another season.

14. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Record at Central Michigan: 13-24

The good: Central Michigan returned to the postseason after a two-year absence, beating Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The bad: While the victory at Iowa was impressive, the Chippewas' other regular-season wins came at the expense of Akron, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and UMass – teams that went a combined 8-40 in 2012. Enos was rewarded with a contract extension, but the schedule is more challenging in 2013, and he needs to prove he can lead Central Michigan to wins against some of the top teams in the MAC on a consistent basis.

15. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Record at Kansas:

Weis didn’t inherit a great situation at Kansas, so he deserves some time to turn things around in Lawrence. However, he wasn’t the most popular hire and had a mediocre 35-27 mark during five seasons at Notre Dame. Weis hit the JUCO ranks hard this offseason and landed a couple of key transfers, including former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, which should provide Kansas some hope for a quick turnaround. The Jayhawks haven’t won a Big 12 game in two years, so winning one conference matchup would help bolster Weis’ rebuilding project.

16. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
Record at Wyoming:

The Cowboys have alternated winning and losing seasons during Christensen’s first four years, so if that trend holds true, Wyoming should be in line for a bowl game in 2013. While Christensen has two winning records and a 1-1 record in bowls at Wyoming, the Cowboys slipped to 4-8 last season and he was suspended for one game after an embarrassing postgame confrontation with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. Christensen is a good coach and has the pieces in place to have a winning record in 2013. However, another losing season, especially after how 2012 transpired, could mark the end of his tenure in Laramie.

17. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Record at Washington: 26-25

Sarkisian arrived at Washington with a lot of promise, but the Huskies opened his tenure with a 5-7 record and have recorded three consecutive 7-6 seasons. There’s no question Sarkisian and his staff has done a good job at elevating the talent level, but the Huskies need to turn the success on the recruiting trail into wins. With a schedule that features games against Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State in 2013, winning more than eight games will be a challenge for Washington.

18. Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio)
Record at Miami (Ohio): 8-16

As a former Miami player and assistant coach, Treadwell certainly knows what it takes to win in Oxford. Despite his background and experience with the school, the RedHawks are just 8-16 in Treadwell’s two seasons. Miami was 4-4 heading into the final month of last season, but closed with a four-game losing streak. The RedHawks’ cupboard isn’t bare for 2013, but quarterback Zac Dysert must be replaced. Even if Treadwell goes 4-8 again, he will probably return for 2014. However, with Marshall, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Illinois to open the 2013 season, Treadwell could start 0-4, which obviously won’t sit well in Oxford.

19. Norm Chow, Hawaii
Record at Hawaii: 3-9

Chow is just coming off of his first season at Hawaii and isn’t really in danger of losing his job this fall. While job security isn’t something Chow has to worry much about, he does need to show Hawaii is moving in the right direction. The Warriors lost by 30 or more points six times last season and scored victories over Lamar (FCS) and UNLV and South Alabama – who went a combined 4-22.

20. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Record at Maryland: 6-18

After a disastrous debut, Edsall seems to have Maryland moving in the right direction. Despite a rash of quarterback injuries, the Terrapins went 4-8 last season, which doubled their win total from 2011. Edsall still has a lot of work to do, as Maryland needs to rebuild its defense in 2013, along with finding a No. 1 running back. Making a bowl game is a realistic expectation for Edsall and the Terrapins this fall.

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<p> College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013: Spring Practice Edition</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 09:55
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-power-rankings-gonzaga-takes-top-spot

Gonzaga will hope this isn’t the last time for firsts.

Mark Few’s team earned its first No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll this week, and the Athlon Sports power rankings will follow suit with the Bulldogs atop our weekly basketball power rankings.

Gonzaga completed an undefeated run through the West Coast Conference and hasn’t lost since a Jan. 19 defeat on a buzzer beater to Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse. This may be the best Gonzaga team under Few, giving the Zags a chance to reach their first Sweet 16 since 2009, or first Elite Eight since 1999 or first Final Four in school history.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Conference tournaments begin this week for Gonzaga and a handful of other conferences while the power conferences wrap up their regular seasons.

Opening the door for Gonzaga to take the top spot were a handful of head-scratching losses by top-10 teams: Duke to Virginia, Michigan to Penn State, Indiana to Minnesota and so on.

Related: Key stats from Feb. 25-March 3


1. Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0 West Coast)
Last week’s rank: 3
Last week’s results: Defeated BYU 70-65, defeated Portland 81-52
This week: West Coast Conference Tournament
Buzz: Pressure will be on Zags to live up to hype in NCAAs.

2. Duke (25-4, 12-4 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Last week’s results: Lost to Virginia 73-68, defeated Miami 79-76
This week: Virginia Tech, at North Carolina
Buzz: Ryan Kelly’s return makes Duke very difficult to guard.

3. Indiana (25-4, 13-3 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 1
Last week’s results: Lost to Minnesota 77-73, defeated Iowa 73-60
This week: Ohio State, at Michigan
Buzz:Hoosiers closing in on first Big Ten title since 2002 and first outright title since 1993.

Debate: Zeller or Oladipo for Indiana's MVP

4. Georgetown (23-4, 13-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 4
Last week’s results: Defeated Connecticut 79-78 (2OT), defeated Rutgers 64-51
This week: at Villanova, Syracuse
Buzz: The Hoyas didn’t lose a game in February.

5. Michigan (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 2
Last week’s results: Lost to Penn State 84-78, Michigan State 58-57
This week: at Purdue, Indiana
Buzz: Trey Burke buckles down on defense against MSU.

6. Miami (23-5, 14-2 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Last week’s results: Defeated Virginia Tech 76-58, lost to Duke 79-76
This week: Georgia Tech, Clemson
Buzz: Canes battled back against Duke but lost a heartbreaker.

7. Kansas (26-4, 14-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 10
Last week’s results: Defeated Iowa State 108-96 (OT), defeated West Virginia 91-65, defeated Texas Tech 79-42
This week: Texas Tech, at Baylor
Buzz: We still can’t believe this team lost to TCU.

8. Louisville (24-5, 13-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 12
Last week’s results: Defeated DePaul 79-58, defeated Syracuse 58-53, defeated Cincinnati 67-51
This week: Notre Dame
Buzz: The Cardinals are playing well at the right time of year.

9. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Lost to Michigan 58-57
This week: Wisconsin, Northwestern
Buzz: Spartans need Keith Appling to play well to survive in March.

10. Florida (23-5, 13-3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Last week’s results: Lost to Tennessee 64-58, defeated Alabama 64-52
This week: Vanderbilt, at Kentucky
Buzz: Injuries have been a factor in Gators’ recent struggles.

11. Kansas State (24-5, 13-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Defeated Baylor 64-61
This week: TCU, at Oklahoma State
Buzz: Rodney McGruder came through in the clutch in Waco.

12. Oklahoma State (22-6, 12-4 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 14
Last week’s results: Defeated TCU 64-47, defeated Texas 78-65
This week: at Iowa State, Kansas State
Buzz: Marcus is the Smart choice for Freshman of the Year.

13. New Mexico (25-4, 12-2 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 16
Last week’s results: Defeated San Diego State 70-60, Wyoming 53-42
This week: at Nevada, at Air Force
Buzz: Red-hot Lobos have clinched the outright MWC title.

14. Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Lost to Louisville 58-53
This week: DePaul, at Georgetown
Buzz: Orange attack has been offensive during recent three-game slide.

15. Ohio State (21-7, 11-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 15
Last week’s results: Defeated Northwestern 63-53
This week: at Indiana, Illinois
Buzz: Bucks finally have more than one double-digit scorer.

16. Marquette (21-7, 12-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 17
Last week’s results: Defeated Notre Dame 72-64
This week: at Rutgers, at St. John’s
Buzz: Buzz Williams working miracles in Milwaukee once again.

17. Saint Louis (23-5, 12-2 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 20
Last week’s results: Defeated St. Joseph’s 70-53, defeated George Washington 66-58
This week: at Xavier, La Salle
Buzz: Jim Crews hoping to make this a permanent gig.

18. UCLA (22-7, 12-4 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Arizona State 79-74 (OT), defeated Arizona 74-69
This week: at Washington, at Washington State
Buzz: Bruins hit the road for key games in Washington.

19. Oregon (23-6, 12-4 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Oregon State 85-75
This week: at Colorado, at Utah
Buzz: Dominic Artis’ return boosts Ducks’ postseason hopes.

20. Notre Dame (22-7, 10-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 21
Last week’s results: Lost to Marquette 72-64
This week: St. John’s, at Louisville
Buzz: Jack Cooley only player in Big East averaging a double-double.

21. Pittsburgh (23-7, 11-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 22
Last week’s results: Defeated USF 64-44, defeated Villanova 73-64 (OT)
This week: at DePaul
Buzz: Pitt tops Villanova in its final home game in the Big East.

22. Arizona (23-6, 11-6 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 7
Last week’s results: Lost to USC 89-78, lost to UCLA 74-69
This week: Arizona State
Buzz: Cats having trouble scratching out wins these days. 

23. North Carolina (21-8, 11-5 ACC)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Clemson 68-59, defeated Florida State 79-58
This week: at Maryland, Duke
Buzz: Small ball working wonders for Roy Williams’ team.

24. Wisconsin (20-9, 11-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 19
Last week’s results: Defeated Nebraska 77-46, lost to Purdue 69-56
This week: at Michigan State, at Penn State
Buzz: Senior Night sadness as Badgers lose to Purdue.

25. VCU (23-6, 11-3 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Butler 84-52
This week: Richmond, at Temple
Buzz:Rams wreak havoc on overwhelmed Butler.

Out: No. 18 Memphis, No. 23 Colorado State, No. 24 Butler, No. 25 Connecticut

<p> College Basketball Power Rankings: Gonzaga takes top spot</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 09:51
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-debate-oladipo-or-zeller

Indiana has a problem most teams would love to have.

Hoosiers fans could start a lively debate trying to pick IU’s most valuable player in 2012-13. On the one hand, Cody Zeller was the nation’s pick for preseason player of the year. He’s having perhaps a better season than he did a year ago, but he has some competition on his own roster for national and Big Ten honors.

Victor Oladipo is perhaps the nation’s most improved player. Though he’s taking the same amount of shots per game as a year ago, he’s averaging better than three points per game more than he did as a sophomore. That’s thanks to the guard shooting 63.4 percent from the field. He’s also been a defensive dynamo.

Both players are critical to one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams and one of the most dangerous in transition.

But who is the most valuable?

Athlon Sports asked editorial staff and three reporters who cover the Hoosiers on a regular basis.

Victor Oladipo or Cody Zeller: Who is Indiana’s Most Valuable Player?


Alex Bozich, Inside the Hall
The pick: Oladipo
There's not a clearcut choice for team MVP, but Oladipo affects the game in more ways than Zeller, so he's more valuable in my eyes for that reason. Zeller was the missing piece that Indiana needed to take a major step up in the college basketball landscape last season, but it's been Oladipo's improvement this year that's elevated the team to another level. He's arguably the best defender in the Big Ten, leads the conference in field goal percentage and steals and when Indiana needed someone to make plays in a tough spot at Michigan State, Oladipo was the guy.

Rick Bozich, WDRB, Louisville
The pick: Zeller
I put that question to Oladipo last week. He did not hesitate: "Cody Zeller." I agree. Zeller makes it go for Indiana, especially on offense. His presence demands double-teams, creating open threes and driving lanes. Defensively, he's first on the team in blocks, second in steals. There's a short list of big men with his skill set.

Tom Dienhart,
The pick: Zeller
For Indiana's MVP, I have to go with Zeller. When the Hoosiers are really rolling and playing well, the offense runs through the 7-footer. He can make a move on the block or kick it out to a shooter. For the most part, when Indiana has struggled, it has been when Zeller hasn't been a big part of the offense. Want more? He also has become a standout defender. He's a unique weapon and talent that few other teams possess. Zeller is special -- and Indiana's MVP.

Related: Who is the nation's top point guard?

David Fox, Athlon Sports 
The pick: Oladipo
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? I suppose Zeller is the Hoosiers’ “best player.” The NBA Draft experts and advanced statistics seem to agree. But I can’t overlook the leap Oladipo has taken this season. He’d be my vote for most valuable. Indiana wouldn’t be the same team without the impact he’s made on both ends of the court. He’s the most efficient offensive player on the nation’s most efficient offense. He’s the game-turning, dynamic playmaker on one of the best up-tempo, dynamic offenses in the country, and he’ll be among the top vote-getters for National Defensive Player of the Year by leading the Big Ten in steals.

Related: Key stats of the week

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
The pick: Zeller
Oladipo is perhaps the most improved player in the country and no doubt one of the most exciting talents in college basketball, but I still maintain Zeller is Indiana’s best player. The big man leads the team in both scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg) and provides the Hoosiers with a scoring threat on the low block. Zeller is shooting a solid 57.3 percent from the floor and is among the Big Ten leaders in both free throws made and attempted. And while he isn’t an elite shot-blocker, he does provide a defensive presence around the basket. Zeller, with his ability to affect the game from such an important position, is the best player on the best team in the nation.

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
The pick: Zeller
As impressive as Oladipo's all-around play has been this season, Indiana would not be one of the nation's top-ranked teams and a Final Four contender if not for the Hoosiers' big man, Zeller. There's a reason this sophomore was the popular pick for preseason national player of the year, and it's not like he's had a disappointing season. He's leading the team in both scoring and rebounds, categories in which he ranks third and second, respectively, in the Big Ten, widely considered the nation's toughest conference this season. He's doing all of this while receiving the lion's share of his opponents' attention on the court and dealing with all of the added responsibilities and distractions off of it associated with being in the national spotlight. Zeller, and not Oladipo, is the Hoosier who has had the bull's-eye on his back all season long, and he's the primary reason why Indiana is back among the nation's elite in the first place.

Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
The pick: Zeller
Zeller may not have a high-flying highlight reel like Victor Oladipo, but the 7-foot sophomore from Washington, Ind., is the Hoosiers’ best player this season. In fact, Zeller is one of the more important players ever to wear candy-striped warm-up pants in IU’s rich basketball history. When the 5-star Zeller signed with Indiana — instead of his brother’s alma mater, North Carolina, or in-state upstart Butler — it signaled the beginning of a new era and the return of national championship expectations in Bloomington. Since then, Zeller has delivered, carrying the Hoosiers to a No. 1 ranking. He has been so good and so consistent during his two seasons that his talents are now being taken for granted. But make no mistake, Zeller is the foundation piece on which Tom Crean’s team is built.

<p> College basketball debate: Oladipo or Zeller?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 09:50
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-studs-avoid-2013

Fantasy Baseball Season 2013 edition is underway!

There is no better time of the year for sabermetric nerds and fans of the middle reliever. Athlon Sports has constructed its consensus ’13 Big Board, the 26th annual preseason preview magazine is on newsstands and drafts have begun in earnest.

Veteran fantasy baseballers know that a championship cannot be won in the first three or four rounds, but it can definitely be lost with one or two blown picks early in the draft. Just ask Roy Halladay owners who likely used an early pick on the aging Phillies ace. Or those who reached on Carlos Santana? What about Tim Lincecum? Owners who leaped in the first four rounds for Jimmy Rollins, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence, Alex Rodriguez and/or Adrian Gonzalez were likely disappointed GMs a year ago as well.

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Each year, there are players who are universally highly touted but fail to produce in relation to where they end up getting drafted. Using Athlon Sports' own fantasy rankings from this year's baseball preview magazine, here are the most likely candidates to disappoint in 2013 (in order of Athlon's ranking):

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado
Athlon Rank: 13th
When healthy, Tulo (28) is the best all-around shortstop in the game. He can hit for average and power and will produce in each counting stat. But owners would likely appreciate more dependability from a first- or second-round pick. He missed 115 games a year ago and hasn’t topped 150 games in any one season since 2009. In fact, in his six full seasons in the majors, Tulo averages just 119.8 games and has topped 140 games only three times. Draft with caution.

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta
Athlon Rank: 14th
The Braves outfielder is a classic case of risk and reward. He had a growth season last year in which he set career highs in runs, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases. There is a certainly a chance he continues to develop and establishes himself as a reliable early-round pick. However, he is a career .261 hitter with a career OPS of .799 and he posted his worst strikeout-to-walk rate of his young career last fall (152 K, 58 BB). He is a young, blossoming star in this game, but he would have to improve on career numbers once again to justify his ranking as an early second-round pick.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels
Athlon Rank: 17th
The star outfielder turns 32 in May and is now hitting in Anaheim rather than Texas. Enough said? Hamilton goes from one of the best hitter's parks to one of the worst and has yet to prove he can play a full season at full strength. He has missed 157 games over the last four years and had an off-the-field “relapse” in February 2012. He is easy to root for and has elite skills, but has some red flags that make him a riskier choice than other guys selected in the first half of the second round.

Gio Gonzalez, SP, Nationals
Athlon Rank: 21st
Gonzalez has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this winter as his name is linked prominently to the Biogenesis fiasco in South Florida. After being traded across the country from Oakland to Washington, Gonzalez had easily his best year. He somehow figured out how not to put people on base as his 1.13 WHIP last year is dwarfed by his career 1.33 mark. And this improvement netted him career-best numbers in ERA (2.89), wins (21) and strikeouts (207). The obvious and ominous question looms about his breakout season and his connection with PEDs, so using a second-round pick on Gio seems foolish.

Related: Top 20 MLB Prospects in the World Baseball Classic

Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
Athlon Rank: 23rd
This may be the most “gut instinct” red flag of all the dangerous high draft picks. He is a stud and has been so good that he is now worth $175 million to Seattle. Yet, someone floated the idea of elbow issues (perhaps as a negotiating ploy) and few players have pitched as much as King Felix the last four seasons. Hernandez has thrown 954.0 innings over that span with no fewer than 232.0 in any one season. In 2009-10, he went 32-17 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 449 strikeouts in 488.1 innings. In two years since winning the AL Cy Young, he is 27-23 with a 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 445 strikeouts in 465.2 innings. Those are extremely useful fantasy numbers, but aren’t worth a second-round pick.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
Athlon Rank: 24th
The case for Beltre is simple: 261 runs, 96 homers, 309 RBIs and sterling .314/.912 ratios. The case against Beltre is three-fold and raises concerns about being the slugging third baseman being a borderline second-round pick. He turns 34 on April 7 and has played more than 150 games only twice since 2006. He also won’t have Michael Young in front of him or Josh Hamilton behind him in the Rangers' lineup as both have moved on. He is a career .280 hitter with a career .807 OPS, so a repeat of his remarkable .321/.921 seems unlikely.

Joe Mauer, C, Twins
Athlon Rank: 26th
Mauer will never hit 28 home runs ever again. He has averaged 8.6 homers per season in his other seven full seasons in the big leagues. In fact, his 2012 season might be what fans can expect from the former MVP from now on. His 81 runs scored led all catchers, his eight stolen bases were second, his 85 RBIs were third and his .319 average was fourth. But his 10 dingers were 25th among backstops and his overall line wasn’t any better than names drafted dramatically later last year (e.g., Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero or Carlos Ruiz). Mauer is a stud but with a long track record of injuries, there is no reason to overpay for a small impact in the counting stats.

Jered Weaver, SP, Angles
Athlon Rank: 28th
Most of the concern about Weaver’s upside as a high pick stems from his decrease in velocity in September last year. His fastball averaged 87.8 MPH in the final month of the season a year ago and it hurt his numbers in a big way. His first half was sick: 96.2 IP, 10-1, 1.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 73 K. His second half was not: 92.0 IP, 10-4, 3.72 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 69 K. Names like Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and Adam Wainwright might be safer selections.

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres
Athlon Rank: 49th
So Headley isn’t ranked in the top two rounds, but many have him lumped in with the elite three-sackers (Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman). He doesn’t belong in that group and no one should consider drafting the Padres' third baseman in the first four rounds. Through four full seasons, Headley never hit more than 12 home runs and never drove in 70 — both of which took place back in 2009. Yet, he pounded 31 bombs last year and led the league in RBIs with 115. He is a career .273 hitter and has a career OPS of .769 so don’t expect another .286/.875 season. Especially, from a guy in one of the worst hitting parks in the National League who tolls in one of the weakest lineups in the Senior Circuit.

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<p> Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-2013-spring-football-preview

Was 2012 the best disappointment in school history? South Carolina won a school-record 11 games with wins over Michigan, Georgia, Clemson, Tennessee and Arkansas. It finished seventh in the final polls, the best final ranking in school history. But two crucial losses to LSU and Florida gave the Gamecocks a third-place finish in the SEC East and relegated them to the Outback Bowl. There are some specific holes to fill and new faces will need to step into more prominent roles, but all the pieces are in place for Steve Spurrier to make yet another run at the SEC Championship Game.

South Carolina Gamecocks 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 5-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Connor Shaw, 154-of-228, 1,956 yds., 17 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Connor Shaw, 131 car., 435 yds., 3 TDs
Receiving: Bruce Ellington, 40 rec., 600 yds, 7 TDs
Tackles: Jadeveon Clowney, 54
Sacks: Jadeveon Clowney, 13.0
Interceptions: Jimmy Legree, 3

Redshirts to watch: CB Chaz Elder, OT Brock Stadnik, WR Jody Fuller, LB T.J. Holloman, LB/S Jordan Diggs, DE Darius English

2013 Schedule

Aug. 29 North Carolina (Thur.)
Sept. 7 at Georgia
Sept. 14 Vanderbilt
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at UCF
Oct. 5 Kentucky
Oct. 12 at Arkansas
Oct. 19 at Tennessee
Oct. 26 at Missouri
Nov. 2 Mississippi State
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 Florida
Nov. 23 Coastal Carolina
Nov. 30 Clemson

Offensive Strength: The offensive line. Four of five starters return to the line and welcome loads of depth and new talent from the 2012 and '13 recruiting classes. Only center T.J. Johnson is gone from this battery of blockers.

Offensive Weakness: Playmakers. The team's top two leading rushers are gone, as is dynamic wideout Ace Sanders and leading tight end Justice Cunningham. Finding a tailback, a big vertical threat on the outside and developing a tight end would all help this offense.

Defensive Strength: Defensive line. The best player in the nation leads what could be one of the best defensive lines in the SEC. Replacing Devin Taylor and Byron Jerideau will be easier than expected.

Defensive Weakness: Linebackers. The top five players in the linebacking corps have moved on and no one player returns to the position with more than five total tackles from a year ago.

Spring Storylines Facing the Gamecocks:

1. Fill gaps at linebacker. The top five linebackers are gone from this roster and Spurrier will have his hands full trying to fill the gaps. Four of the five posted at least 47 tackles and no one player returns to the position with more than five tackles. Seven of the 10 returning linebackers will be freshmen, so this position has loads of talent but very little experience. Kaiwan Lewis and T.J. Holloman played as freshmen while a talented trio of redshirts in Edward Muldrow, Mason Harris and Cedrick Cooper will be intriguing to watch. Jordan Diggs could be in line to take over for DeVonte Holloman at the hybrid Spur position. This is an extremely young group but has upside, so the coaching staff needs to iron out this rotation sooner rather than later.

2. Find some playmakers on offense. The line of scrimmage is stacked on both sides of the ball and Spurrier has two talented options returning at quarterback. But he needs to see playmakers develop this spring on offense. The top two rushers from a year ago, Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles, are both gone while dynamic receiver Ace Sanders unexpectedly left early for the NFL. Sophomore Mike Davis heads a trio of unproven backs with Brandon Wilds and Kendric Salley all vying for carries in the backfield. Speedy wideouts Damiere Byrd and Bruce Ellington are both back but neither is a go-to target on the outside. Look for Nick Jones and Shaq Roland to get plenty of reps this spring.

3. Settle on a quarterback. It may be hard to believe that anyone other than Connor Shaw would begin the season under center. However, Dylan Thompson got tons of reps due to Shaw's lingering injuries. Thompson and early enrollee Connor Mitch both have tons of talent and will push Shaw for time. Gamecocks fans should be rooting for Shaw to put a stranglehold on the starting job this spring and make this position battle an afterthought heading into the summer.

4. Organize the secondary on defense. It's not as dire a situation as the linebackers, but there are some voids to fill in the defensive backfield as well. Akeem Auguste and D.J. Swearinger were the key departures. Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree should lock down the cornerback spots while Brison Williams should start at safety. Look for Spurrier to find some supporting actors for this portion of his defense. Ahmad Christian, T.J. Gurley, Kadetrix Marcus and the hybrid Diggs should all get long looks with the starters this spring.

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<p> South Carolina 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 08:55
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines

Thanks to seven consecutive national championships, the rest of college football is looking up at the SEC. And while there are some worthy challengers ready to make a push in 2013, there appears to be no end in sight to the SEC’s recent string of dominance.

Alabama defeated Notre Dame in January to earn its second consecutive national championship, and Nick Saban’s team is the overwhelming favorite for 2013. The Crimson Tide has a few holes to fill, but quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper are good enough to makeup for the losses on the offensive line and on defense. Chasing Alabama in the SEC West is Texas A&M. The Aggies return defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but the defense and offensive line need some work this spring. Texas A&M hosts Alabama in September, which could go a long ways to deciding the SEC West champion. Outside of the Aggies and Crimson Tide, LSU has to reload with the departure of 12 starters, while Ole Miss is counting on a top-five recruiting class to contend for a top-25 spot in 2013.

While the SEC West is set with Alabama at No. 1, the East is up for grabs. Georgia, South Carolina and Florida each have a case to make to be the top team. The Bulldogs are Athlon’s very early pick to win the East, but the Gamecocks could take the top spot if they can find a few playmakers around quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson.

New coaches will be under pressure at Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky. Butch Jones was hired away from Cincinnati to replace Derek Dooley on Rocky Top, and Jones will have his hands full this spring, especially since the Volunteers lost quarterback Tyler Bray and two receivers to the NFL Draft. Auburn (Gus Malzahn) and Arkansas (Bret Bielema) both hope to rebound after disappointing 2012 seasons, and both teams have enough returning talent to get back to a bowl game under their new coach. Mark Stoops has the biggest rebuilding project at Kentucky, but the first-year coach is already off to a good start thanks to a solid recruiting class.

SEC Spring Team Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch 

SEC East


Who will be the Gators’ next star?
Florida has a dearth of star power on both sides of the ball. That’s not a huge shock for an offensive group that sputtered throughout the season, but the Gators are reloading a bit on defense. Safety Matt Elam, defensive lineman Shariff Floyd and linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are all gone. Defensive end Dominique Easley and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy could become the backbone of the defense, but offense may be more difficult. The Gators leaned heavily on Mike Gillislee last season, but he’s gone along with tight end Jordan Reed. Florida has been without a 50-catch receiver for three seasons and without a true superstar at the position since Percy Harvin left.


Todd Grantham's rebuilding project on defense
Georgia lost its two best linebackers, its four best defensive backs, 700 pounds of defensive tackle and a host of other contributors on the defense. There is tremendous depth and talent waiting in the wings, especially in the way of upside players like end Ray Drew, linebacker Jordan Jenkins, cornerback Damian Swann and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. The talented youngsters will have to take the next step in their development this spring. The Bulldogs are never hurting for talent, but Grantham will have his hands full replacing nearly his entire defense in 2013.

Related Content: 2013 Georgia Bulldogs Spring Preview


Find playmakers on offense
Kentucky wasn’t good at much of anything last season, but the Wildcats’ inability to move the ball was glaring. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who brings a pass-oriented spread offense from Texas Tech, will need to locate receivers in a hurry, but the numbers may not be on his side until the fall. La’Rod King was the only receiver to top 30 catches and 300 yards (he had 48 and 488), and he’s gone. Only four wide receivers who caught a pass last season return, and the leader of that group, Demarco Robinson, caught a total of three passes in the last three games. Four freshman receivers will arrive in the fall hungry for playing time, so the veterans will have one more chance to make a statement.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Maxwell Smith (JR) vs. Patrick Towles (SO) vs. Jalen Whitlow (SO)
The Wildcats have three potential starting options, but Smith or Towles will likely edge Whitlow for the starting gig. Smith and Towles are better fits for Kentucky’s new offense, with Smith owning an edge in experience.


Rebuild the front seven
Keeping quarterback James Franklin healthy all season will be a major focus for Missouri, but Gary Pinkel also has reason to be concerned about his defense. In the final six games Missouri surrendered 500 yards four times, although one game was a quadruple overtime loss to Tennessee. And that was with NFL Draft hopefuls Sheldon Richardson, a possible first-rounder, and Zaviar Gooden. Missouri may be about to learn how difficult it is to win in the SEC with a lackluster front seven.

Quarterback Battle? James Franklin didn’t have the best of seasons in 2012, so the pressure is on the senior to play better this spring. The coaching staff wants to get a good look at redshirt freshman Maty Mauk and sophomore Corbin Berkstresser, but Franklin should be Missouri’s starting quarterback.

South Carolina

Developing playmakers on offense
The line of scrimmage is stacked on both sides of the ball, and Steve Spurrier has two talented options returning at quarterback. But he needs to see playmakers develop this spring on offense. The top two rushers from a year ago are gone (Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles), while dynamic receiver Ace Sanders unexpectedly left early for the NFL. Sophomore Mike Davis heads a trio of unproven backs, with Brandon Wilds and Kendric Salley all vying for carries in the backfield. Speedy wideouts Damiere Byrd and Bruce Ellington are both back but neither is a go-to target on the outside. Look for Nick Jones and Shaq Roland to get plenty of reps this spring.

Quarterback Battle? Stop us if you have heard this before: South Carolina has a quarterback controversy. Well, sort of. Steve Spurrier plans to use Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson this season, so it’s more of a two-quarterback system.

Related Content: 2013 South Carolina Gamecocks Spring Preview


Can the new coaching staff build a dependable secondary?
Few teams have as many question marks on the sidelines and under center, but Tennessee’s spring concerns don’t end there. This defense was historically bad a year ago and it will be featuring a new scheme for the third time in as many years. That said, there is some talent to work with at linebacker and on the defensive line. Needless to say, the secondary could be the key to the defense. This team was 111th nationally in passing defense a year ago after allowing over 282 yards per game through the air. It allowed at least 37 points in seven of eight SEC games and close losses to Mizzou, South Carolina and Mississippi State, for example, happened because the secondary couldn’t stop opposing quarterbacks.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Joshua Dobbs (FR) vs. Riley Ferguson (FR) vs. Nathan Peterman (FR) vs. Justin Worley (JR)
Not only is Tennessee losing quarterback Tyler Bray, but the Volunteers must also replace their top two wide receivers from last season and tight end Mychal Rivera. Worley has the edge in experience and threw for 291 yards in a start against MTSU in 2011. Dobbs is the wildcard to watch this fall, as he is the best fit for Tennessee’s new offense.


How do the Commodores handle the pressure?
The media coverage on West End is at an all-time high. And that is just the way James Franklin and company want it at Vanderbilt. With a deep backfield set to take over for Zac Stacy, a dynamic duo at wide receiver and both lines of scrimmage improving every day, the Dores will have sky-high expectations for 2013. Franklin has built a cult following in Nashville by constructing a brand and marketing it to anyone who will listen. Now, the nation is listening and he has to keep a traditional bottom feeder achieving at unprecedented levels by keeping his team focused and grounded.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Austyn Carta-Samuels (RS) vs. Johnny McCrary (FR) vs. Patton Robinette (FR)
Carta-Samuels was a starter for two years at Wyoming and made one start for the Commodores in 2012. Robinette was Tennessee’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a high school senior and impressed during his redshirt year. McCrary is the wildcard, as he has the potential to win the job as a true freshman.

SEC West


Who steps up on the offensive line?
With 14 starters back from last season’s team, Alabama is widely considered the No. 1 team for 2013. The only thing that could derail the Crimson Tide from the top spot? The offensive line. Three first-team All-SEC starters (Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack) are gone from last season’s line. Alabama has recruited as well as anyone in the country, so there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings. However, with a new coach (Mario Cristobal), it will take some time for this unit to jell. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio should be in the mix for All-American honors in 2013, while Anthony Steen returns after starting all 14 games in 2012. With Jones leaving, look for promising sophomore Ryan Kelly to fill the void at center. Junior college recruit Leon Brown and early enrollee Brandon Hill will also figure into the mix, but Alphonse Taylor, Austin Shepherd, Chad Lindsay and Arie Kouandjio have an early edge thanks to their experience last season. This unit should be fine in the long run, but Alabama will have some kinks to work out early in the year.


Is Jonathan Williams the answer at running back?
The Razorbacks were the SEC’s worst rushing attack last season, averaging just 118.7 yards per game. And the cupboard is looking a little bare for spring practice, as Knile Davis left for the NFL and Dennis Johnson finished his eligibility. Jonathan Williams is expected to work as the No. 1 back this spring and is still largely an unknown after recording 45 carries last year. The sophomore did show promise in limited work but needs to have a strong showing this spring, especially with touted freshman Alex Collins arriving this summer. With a new quarterback taking over, along with Bret Bielema’s run-first mentality, the spotlight is on Williams to show he can be a No. 1 back. 


Can the defense make significant progress?
With Gus Malzahn coming to back to Auburn, the Tigers should be able to find a spark on offense. And while there are concerns on that side of the ball, Auburn’s quest to get to a winning record will likely depend heavily on its defense. Despite having three top-15 recruiting classes from 2010-12, the Tigers finished 13th in the SEC in total defense and allowed 28.3 points a game. Considering nine starters were back from 2011, those numbers are simply unacceptable. New coordinator Ellis Johnson is well-versed in the SEC and was one of the league’s top assistants at South Carolina. His first priority is to find a replacement for defensive end Corey Lemonier, but the linebacking corps and secondary also need significant attention. Expect Auburn’s defense to be a work in progress early in the year, and Johnson could move a few players to different positions to get the best 11 on the field.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Kiehl Frazier (JR) vs. Jeremy Johnson (FR) vs. Nick Marshall (JR) vs. Jason Smith (FR) vs. Jonathan Wallace (SO)
Under Gus Malzahn’s watch this year, expect Auburn to have one of the SEC’s most-improved offenses. Frazier was recruited to run Malzahn’s system, so he should have an edge on the other candidates. Marshall is the most intriguing option, as he started his career at Georgia as a defensive back and played at a junior college for one season at quarterback.


How quickly can John Chavis restock the defense?
It seems like a broken record every season, but LSU usually has one of the best front sevens in the SEC. However, with the loss of defensive linemen Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Bennie Logan, Josh Downs and Lavar Edwards, the Tigers are essentially replacing an entire two-deep up front. The story isn’t much better at linebacker, as Kevin Minter left early for the NFL. The secondary also lost cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid to the NFL, which means only three starters on defense return next season for Chavis. Although LSU has recruited well, it’s going to take some time to get the eight new starters all on the same page. The line has promising players like Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson ready to emerge, but there’s no clear pass-rush threat to scare opposing offensive lines. The Tigers will eventually find the right answers on defense but how far they come this spring could determine whether or not LSU can push Texas A&M or Alabama in the SEC West.

Mississippi State

Which receivers are ready to step up?
If Mississippi State wants to make a push for a finish in the top four of the SEC West, it has to get quarterback Tyler Russell back on track. The junior finished the year with 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns but threw six interceptions over his final two games. In order to get Russell back on track, Mississippi State needs to find more weapons at receiver. Gone are receivers Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Arceto Clark and tight end Marcus Green, leaving Robert Johnson (17 receptions) and tight end Malcolm Johnson (10 receptions) as the top two targets in spring ball. Sophomore Joe Morrow is a promising player but caught only five balls last year. Incoming junior college recruit Jeremey Chappelle and true freshmen Shelby Christy, Donald Gray, B.J. Hammond, Fred Ross and De’Runnya Wilson could all figure into the mix. Developing a pecking order and getting Russell comfortable with the new receivers is one of Dan Mullen’s top spring priorities.

Ole Miss

The development of quarterback Barry Brunetti
With Bo Wallace undergoing shoulder surgery, Ole Miss can’t take for granted he will return at full strength. As evidenced by James Franklin’s 2012 season at Missouri, quarterbacks can take a while to get back to 100 percent after shoulder surgery, so it’s important for the Rebels to get Brunetti comfortable in case he has to start. Wallace is a better passer than Brunetti, but the Memphis native brings a little more mobility to the offense. In addition to Brunetti, the Rebels need to get an extended look at sophomore Maikhail Miller before true freshman Devante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan arrive on campus this summer. While Wallace’s absence in spring practice is a huge loss, this allows Brunetti and Miller to get ready just in case they are needed for an extended stint during the year.

Texas A&M

Can the defense make progress in 2013?
Texas A&M’s defense certainly wasn’t awful last year, but the Aggies have plenty of room to grow. Mark Snyder’s defense ranked ninth in the conference in yards allowed but held opponents to 21.8 points a game. Replicating or improving those numbers in 2013 will be a challenge, especially with the departure of end Damonte Moore and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart. Cornerback Dustin Harris and safety Steven Terrell will also be missed. The Aggies are bringing in an outstanding recruiting class, so some of the youth could be asked to contribute right away. Replacing Moore’s playmaking ability off the edge will be crucial, especially since the Aggies ranked 86th nationally against the pass last season. With a high-powered offense leading the way for Texas A&M, the defense won’t be asked to be a shutdown group. However, the Aggies will need this unit to deliver stops, especially in a key early-season showdown against Alabama.

Related Content: Texas A&M 2013 Spring Preview

Writeups compiled by David Fox (@DavidFox615), Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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<p> SEC Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /nascar/nascars-gen-6-work-progress-carl-edwards-relevant-again

In the midst of a near two-year winless skid on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, Carl Edwards, perhaps more than any driver, needed a confidence boost. And after winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500 — in only his second start with crew chief Jimmy Fennig — that’s exactly what the Missouri native received at Phoenix International Raceway.

After the No. 99 team wrecked five cars during a devastating two months at Daytona — perhaps Roush Fenway Racing’s most expensive Speedweeks ever — Edwards rebounded big at Phoenix. Ending a 70-race winless streak puts him in perfect early-season position to make the Chase — a feat he failed to accomplish in 2012. But besides that stat-busting, feel-good ending, did NASCAR have anything else to hang its hat on with the Gen-6 chassis in its first competitive visit away from a plate track?

Whether they made the grade on an unrestricted track starts us “Through the Gears” on stock car competition out in the desert…

First Gear: Gen-6 + Goodyear + Phoenix = Needs Improvement
All you needed to know about the tires at Phoenix came from a mid-race pit stop. Mark Martin, who had been leading along with Tony Stewart, took four tires while most everyone else took two. That left both sitting mid-pack, hoping fresh rubber would lead to better speed in the long run.

It didn’t. With passing at a premium, Stewart claimed his car arguably handled worse as both men were stuck in neutral, near the back half of the top 20. Under the right scenarios, each would have had top-5 cars but were handicapped by the horror of the words that continue to plague NASCAR racing: track position.

Track position means you can turn off the television when Carl Edwards wins a race off pit road with 70-something laps remaining. Track position racing means you can see two cars, running nose-to-tail in a battle for position, never get side-by-side. It means a race gets won by a call a crew chief makes in his head, which is fun for engineering students but harder to translate into a three-hour, on-air television broadcast. There’s a reason they don’t televise chess on FOX, after all.

So what was the problem at Phoenix? New pavement coupled with Goodyear tires that just never seemed to wear out proved a poor combination. Indeed, it was a feast-or-famine type of day; either your tires held up, leaving you holding position or excessive brake heat, due to ill-handling equipment, melted a bead and found you in the outside wall. The Stewart-Haas Racing cars of Danica Patrick and Ryan Newman, among others, had spectacular tire failures that ended their days early.

Having little-to-no tire wear makes things tough enough — drivers are stuck at the same speed, making the old racing adage of preserving your equipment virtually meaningless. But the post-race quote that raised my eyebrows came from (who else?) reigning Cup champ Brad Keselowski, who ran fourth.

“I think these cars probably drive easier than any race car I’ve ever driven in my life by themselves,” he said. “And probably the hardest to drive of any race car I’ve ever driven in traffic.”

Uh-oh. Trouble in traffic? Isn’t that what killed the Car of Tomorrow on intermediate tracks? We better not see the same type of concern next week, at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway, or the single-file phenomenon that turned intermediate racing into a day at the library will be very much front and center.

“I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our generation five cars,” added third-place Denny Hamlin. “Right now, you just run single-file and you cannot get around the guy in front of you. You would have placed me in 20th place with 30 (laps) to go, I would have stayed there — I wouldn’t have moved up.”

<p> Through the Gears: Four things we learned in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 13:08
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-rankings-2013-quarterbacks

Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different.

Following the combine, experts now have an even playing field to compare prospect's measurables. Heights, weights, 40-yard dash times and bench reps are all official NFL Combine stats. Today, we rank college football's best quarterbacks prospects — and do so with the help of Chris Leak, 2006 BCS National Championship Game MVP for the Florida Gators. You can follow @CLQB12 or hear him on SiriusXM College Sports Nation's Coast-to-Coast nightly radio show from 7-10 PM ET with Chris Childers. 

Measurables: Height, Weight, 40-yard dash

1. Geno Smith, West Virginia (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-2, 218, 4.59
Final Stats: 44 GP, 11,662 yds, 98 TD, 21 INT, 67.4%, 245 att., 342 yds, 4 TD
Smith may have the biggest arm of any prospect in the class with the possible exception of Tyler Bray. He is poised, lightning quick in his release and decision-making and has posted some huge numbers. He threw over 1,000 passes in his final two seasons with only 13 interceptions to go with 73 scoring strikes. He wasn't asked to run the ball much but was the fastest quarterback at the combine. He will be knocked for his bad second half of 2012 and that his numbers have been inflated by the shotgun, no-huddle spread attack at West Virginia. If he can prove he can play from under center and in a pro-style attack, Smith possesses all the elite tools to be an excellent quarterback on Sundays. Comparison: A more athletic Matthew Stafford

Chris Leak's Scouting Report: Elite passer at CFB level. Student of the game with high football I.Q. Field general that can have immediate impact on an NFL franchise.

2. EJ Manuel, Florida State (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-5, 237, 4.65
Final Stats: 43 GP, 7,741 yds, 47 TD, 28 INT, 66.9%, 298 att., 827 yds, 11 TD 
Manuel might be the most intriguing prospect on this entire list. He entered college as an elite prospect and took three full seasons to develop into the star he is today. He has a huge frame and big arm to make all of the throws. He is an excellent member of the community who will work extremely hard in the pros. He also has above average athletic ability to keep plays alive and move the chains with his legs as his time in the 40 indicates. However, he is unrefined as a true pocket passer and will need work developing his motion and release. He was an efficient passer (66.9-percent) but scouts will wonder if that translates given the much smaller passing windows in the NFL. He also has dealt with some injury issues in his past, especially in big games like against Oklahoma in 2011 and the second half of the Florida game this fall. The upside is massive with Manuel, who led his team to a conference and BCS bowl championship for the first time in nearly a decade, but he has some major question marks. Comparison: A less efficient Carson Palmer

Leak's Scouting Report: Ideal height with the arm strength to push the ball downfield. Has ability to extend and make plays with his legs. Intriguing NFL prospect because of his raw physical tools and athletic ability.

3. Matt Barkley, USC (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-2, 227, N/A
Final Stats: 47 GP, 12,327 yds, 116 TD, 48 INT, 64.1%, 132 att., minus-113 yds, 6 TD 
It was important that Barkley checked in at 6-foot-2 as some doubted his overall size. But he has more than adequate build and bulk to be a starter on the next level. His numbers have been huge —12,327 yards and 116 TD passes — and he is an upstanding member of any locker room. He wasn't overtly efficient (64.1 completion rate, 48 INT) but produced at a high level in the face of severe NCAA sanctions. He has a big arm and plays in a pro-style offense, but overcoming his late-season shoulder injury this fall will take some effort. There is little downside to Barkley as a professional as there are no questions about his work ethic, commitment, dedication to winning and leadership. The injury and team struggles in '12 have overshadowed a record-setting and admirable career for a prospect who is used to living in a fish bowl. Comparison: A slower Andy Dalton

Leak's Scouting Report: Intelligent QB who does so many of the little things well. Fundamentally sound and solid mechanics will allow immediate success at next level.

4. Tyler Bray, Tennessee (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-6, 232, 5.05
Final Stats: 28 GP, 7,444 yds, 69 TD, 28 INT, 58.6%, 61 att., minus-207 yds, TD
There is no middle ground with this prospect as his ceiling is as high as his floor is low. Bray has a first-round arm, a first-round frame and has played against first-round competition in the SEC. But the pure pocket passer currently has a seventh-round head on his shoulders and a terrible record against that elite competition. He can make every throw in the book, but he hasn't proven he can protect the football, stay healthy or lead an offensive huddle. He has a terrific 2.5 touchdowns-per-game career ratio but that's tempered by an ominous 1.0 interception-per-game career rate. Scouts will love his raw skills but will have major doubts about his mental makeup, maturity and dedication. Comparison: A taller Philip Rivers

Leak's Scouting Report: Gunslinger with great height to scan entire field. Great feel on downfield throws. Needs to improve accuracy on intermediate throws.

5. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-2, 215, 4.95
Final Stats: 37 GP, 7,765 yds, 52 TD, 26 INT, 62.8%, 110 att., minus-44 yds, 4 TD 
Wilson was highly thought of by college and pro personnel alike until this fall. His offensive production was clearly not the same without Bobby Petrino and it will raise questions about Wilson's long-term upside. He is one of the smallest quarterbacks in the top 10 and that is a concern as a pro-style pocket passer. He has a solid arm, displays toughness (just ask his OL), yet he does not possess one elite discernable talent . However, he has no glaring weakness either, making his floor higher than many others on this list. His team went from 11 wins to four in one year and his numbers plummeted in his senior season (3,638 yards, 24 TD, 6 INT in 2011 and 3,387 yards, 21 TD, 13 INT in 2012). His touchdown-interception ratio is one of the worst among other highly ranked quarterback prospects (2:1). Comparison: A better Mark Sanchez

Leak's Scouting Report: Possesses a strong arm, and has ability to fit passes through tight windows. Didn't progress as a senior however.

Related: Athlon Sports 2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

6. Mike Glennon, NC State (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-7, 225, 4.94
Final Stats: 36 GP, 7,411 yds, 63 TD, 31 INT, 60.4%, 112 att., minus-292 yds, 3 TD 
There isn't much left to learn about Glennon other than one key attribute. He has a massive frame that is perfect for an NFL pocket passer and could even carry 10-15 more pounds if needed. He is not an elite athlete but has some sneaky mobility so his big frame and big arm are well-suited for the pass-happy NFL. He has played with an underwhelming offensive supporting cast and his running game has been non-existent over the last two seasons. His biggest red flag is his penchant for being inaccurate, as he barely completed 60 percent of his passes, and his tendency to turn the ball over a bit too much (29 INTs in last two seasons). But he also was the reason Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin and he threw for over 7,000 yards and 62 TDs in the two seasons he was the starter. Comparison: A less accurate Joe Flacco

Leak's Scouting Report: Has ideal size and arm strength for the next level, but needs to continue and improve his technique. Unpolished with his footwork and needs to refine the details of the position.

7. Zac Dysert, Miami-Ohio (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-3, 231, N/A
Final Stats: 46 GP, 12,013 yds, 73 TD, 51 INT, 63.8%, 461 att., 1,086 yds, 12 TDs
Surprisingly athletic for a player of his size. It gives him good feet in the pocket and the ability to turn nothing into something. His frame could actually carry more muscle and he could play bigger and stronger. He can, at times, give up on the play too quickly, often looking to maneuver in the pocket quicker than needed. Dysert has loads of experience and looks the part of an NFL signal caller. Does he have elite accuracy and patience in the pocket to be successful on the next level? Comparison: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Leak's Scouting Report: Displays an obvious understanding of the game of football, with great size and height with the arm strength to stretch defenses from sideline to sideline. Shows confidence in arm and throwing with accuracy.

8. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-4, 225, 5.11
Final Stats: 52 GP, 16,646 yds, 123 TD, 52 INT, 63.6%, 132 att., minus-375 yds, 3 TD
Few players have ever been as productive as Jones in college. He finished third all-time in history in yards behind only Case Keenum and Timmy Chang and is fifth all-time in passing touchdowns. Yet, he has struggled with turnovers (52 INTs) and has struggled to win big games — on the road or at home. He has good size and a good arm as a potential pocket-passer, but will have to overcome the dreaded "system" mantra. Oklahoma quarterbacks haven't been successful in the pro game with the possible exception of Sam Bradford, while elite wideouts, a big-time OL and mediocre defenses have inflated his numbers. Comparison: A less-talented Matt Schaub

Leak's Scouting Report: Very accurate passer in the pocket but not as much on the move. Can lead receivers down the field and on crossing routes, places throws where only his man can make a play. Ideal size and athletic ability for the next level.

9.Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (Sr.)
: 6-2, 227, 5.06
Final Stats: 48 GP, 9,190 yds, 70 TD, 28 INT, 60.1%, 242 att., 168 yds, 5 TD
There is little that stands out about the former Syracuse quarterback. His overall arm strength might be his most intriguing feature. He has a solid release and can power the football to all levels. He is a smart player who led a underdog roster of two-star prospects to multiple bowl games. He will force the ball at times, is smaller than most in this draft class and overall lacks quickness and speed. He will also need to adjust to playing under center as an exclusive shotgun player in college. There is some intrigue with Nassib but more than Comparison: A much-less athletic Jake Locker

Leak's Scouting Report: Has good arm strength and is very accurate throwing on the run. Shows toughness and is a gamer with a lot of potential.

10. Sean Renfree, Duke (Sr.)
6-3, 219, N/A
Final Stats: 42 GP, 9,465 yds, 50 TD, 41 INT, 64.7%, 153 att., minus-167 yds, 9 TD
All of the physical tools are there for Renfree. He has a solid arm, quick release, quick feet and a good sized frame. He also led lowly Duke back to the postseason as a senior. However, he turned the ball over a bunch and lost a lot of games. It remains to be seen if that is more of a function of his situation and surrounding cast of lower than capable NFL talent. Comparison: A more physically gifted Matt Moore

The Best of the Rest:

11. Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech (6-2, 212)
12. Matt Scott, Arizona (6-2, 213)
13. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt (6-0, 205)
14. Alex Carder, Western Michigan (6-2, 225)
15. Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah (6-4, 229)
16. Ryan Griffin, Tulane
17. Collin Klein, Kansas State (6-5, 226)
18. James Vandenberg, Iowa
19. Mitchell Gale, Abeline Christian
20. Tino Sunseri, Pitt


2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers

<p> NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-rankings-2013-running-backs

Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country’s most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different. The running back position has become one of the easiest to find in the middle and late rounds each year. For every Adrian Peterson taken in the first round, there has been a Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore. Running backs can be found deep in the draft, and in that sense, this is an excellent running back class. 

Measurables: Height, Weight, 40-time, 225 reps, shuttle

1. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (rSo.)
Measurables: 5-8, 202, 4.53, 19, 4.32
Final Stats: 23 GP, 423 att., 2,481 yds, 25 TD, 92 rec., 852 yds, 6 TD, 1,115 ret. yds, 8 TD
This tough little runner came to UNC from St. Thomas Aquinas H.S., a storied South Florida program that prepares football talents for the next level. And as a redshirt freshman, Bernard exploded onto the scene with 239 carries for 1,253 yards, along with 45 receptions for another 362 yards and a total of 14 touchdowns. He missed some time in 2012, but delivered another huge year, including marquee performances against Virginia Tech and NC State. He is a bit smaller than a prototypical back but has speed to burn and the talent to play all three downs. In addition, as just a redshirt sophomore, Bernard will have the most “tread left on the tires” of any back in the class and his eight (6 kick, 2 punt) return touchdowns make him a dynamic return option as well.

2. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 221, N/A
Final Stats: 29 GP, 555 att., 2,677 yds, 38 TD, 74 rec., 767 yds, 3 TD
Just as he was beginning to appear fully recovered from a torn ACL sustained mid-2011, the most talented back in the class suffered another horrific knee injury. When healthy, he is big, physical runner who never goes down on first contact, a tremendous receiver and a guy who works hard off the field. His 41 touchdowns in 29 career games prove his production is no fluke. He is extremely driven and is working hard to be ready to play at the start of 2013 season. He is a risky selection anywhere in the draft but he has the talent to be another Willis McGahee.

3. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 214, 4.76, 17, 4.50
Final Stats: 53 GP, 843 att., 4,300 yds, 40 TD, 97 rec., 778 yds, 5 TD
Few players have as complete a game as the former Cardinal ball carrier. He was the workhorse back for a program that used a physical, pro-style attack based around Taylor’s ability. He is thickly built, has a tremendous work ethic, plays smart football, can catch passes and runs hard every game. His workload in college could be his only negative, as he touched the ball 940 times in his college career. He isn't overtly fast either, but his toughness and intelligence make him a sure-fire contributor on the next level.

4. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 231, N/A
Final Stats: 37, 355 att., 2,465 yds, 30 TD, 35 rec., 338 yds, 2 TD
Lacy has all the physical ability of any back in the class minus possibly a healthy Lattimore. And like the South Carolina back, his biggest issue is his health. He has proven to be a physical, dominant presence on the field and, frankly, didn't receive a heavy workload of carries during his time at Alabama. He played possessed football against Notre Dame in January's national title game and won the MVP honors because of it. Then he promptly got hurt again. With multiple health issues in every college season, Lacy comes with a large red flag. When healthy, he might be the best back in the class.

5. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-1, 230, 4.60, 24, 4.24
Final Stats: 40 GP, 671 att., 3,346 yds, 33 TD, 78 rec., 531 yds, TD
Bell has some negatives — average shiftiness and work ethic — but also has the biggest, most powerful frame of anyone in the class. He is accustomed to power-I formations and can carry the load if needed (see games of 44, 36 and 37 carries in 2012). He is right at home in a play-action style offense and will be a huge asset around the goal line. He also showed better than expected speed at the combine which will likely push him up draft boards. If he can stay focused on keeping his weight down and works hard, he could be a future feature back in the NFL.

Related: Athlon's 2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

6. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-0, 204, 4.63, N/A
Final Stats: 39 GP, 564 att., 3,085 yds, 40 TD, 108 rec., 917 yds, 3 TD
Production hasn’t been an issue for Randle after a school-record 26 touchdowns in 2011. He was outstanding as the leader of the revamped Pokes offense this fall and brings breakaway speed to the edge, power up the middle and will play a big role in the passing game. Randle is taller than most ideal backs who aren’t 230 pounds, but he has plenty of big-play ability. 

7. Montee Ball, Wisconsin (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 214, 4.66, 15, 4.40
Final Stats: 49 GP, 924 att., 5,140 yds, 77 TD, 59 rec., 598 yds, 6 TD
Scouts cannot argue the production of a guy who scored more touchdowns than any player in the history of college football — both rushing and total. He dropped weight before his junior season and it helped with quickness and burst. Yet, he lacks the top-end skills of the NFL’s elite. However, he is a tough player who consistently produced and fumbled once in his entire collegiate career. His heavy workload will be a small concern.

8. Andre Ellington, Clemson (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 199, 4.61, N/A
Final Stats: 49 GP, 621 att., 3,535 yds, 33 TD, 59 rec., 505 yds, 2 TD, 642 ret. yds, TD
The only real knock on Ellington is his durability, which stems from his overall lack of size. His frame isn’t ideal and he was banged up throughout his Tigers career. That said, he finished with over 4,000 yards from scrimmage and more than 30 touchdowns while at Clemson. He has the raw ability to do everything an NFL back is asked to do, but can he be a true workhorse on Sundays?

9. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-8, 216, 4.55, 27, 4.17
Final Stats: 45 GP, 581 att., 3,143 yds, 30 TD, 46 rec., 415 yds
Stacy is Vanderbilt's all-time leading rusher and arguably the most talented runner in school history. He is extremely compact, posted more than adequate speed and quickness numbers at the combine and has a powerful running style. He is similar to Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew in his thick lower body. The only issue is he was slightly prone to injury during his collegiate years. He will undoubtedly be a contributor on the next level.

10. Mike Gillislee, Florida (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 208, 4.56, 15, 4.40
Final Stats: 49 GP, 389 att., 2,072 yds, 20 TD, 23 rec., 182 yds, 2 TD
This Gator tailback was a late bloomer — 920 yards and 10 TDs in his first three seasons — but developed into an SEC Player of the Year-type runner as a senior. He was miscast in Urban Meyer’s scheme and fit much better into the pro-style attack Will Muschamp brought to Gainesville. He is physical and is at his best deep into games and between the tackles. He isn't flashy or explosive but has a good chance to find work on first and second downs on the next level.

11. Jonathan Franklin, UCLA (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 205, 4.49, 18, 4.31
Final Stats: 53 GP, 788 att., 4,403 yds, 31 TD, 58 rec., 517 yds, 3 TD
The UCLA runner showed extremely well at the combine in terms of speed and quickness. He is a smart prospect who looks to lead by example. He has a solid frame and would be best served by adding some bulk to handle the rigors of the NFL. He was extremely productive in his time as the starter for the Bruins.

12. Kenjon Barner, Oregon (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 196, 4.52, 20, 4.20
Final Stats: 49 GP, 582 att., 3,623 yds, 41 TD, 54 rec., 591 yds, 7 TD, 1,371 ret. yds, TD
He is much bigger than his former backfield mate LaMichael James and could be more of an every down back if that is the case. He tossed up 20 reps at 225 as one of the stronger backs in this class and his speed and quickness ranks near the top of this board. His durability is really the only concern because the spread scheme he played in at Oregon is much less of hindrance than it once was in the NFL.

13. Knile Davis, Arkansas (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 227, 4.37, 31, 4.38
Final Stats: 36 GP, 349 att., 1,972 yds, 19 TD, 32 rec., 297 yds, 2 TD
Few players were more disappointing in 2012 than Davis. However, he only matched the rest of the Arkansas Razorbacks once Bobby Petrino left town. He showed elite talents at the combine and should have plenty of tread left on the tires. However, he has experienced major injuries and was effective for just an eight-game stretch two seasons ago. He was elite during that span but has done little else before or after SEC play in 2011. 

14. Christine Michael, Texas A&M (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 220, 4.54, 27, 4.02
Final Stats: 40 GP, 529 att., 2,883 yds, 34 TD, 44 rec., 323 yds, TD
Much like Davis and Lacy, he has the talent and the long track record of injuries. He posted elite shuttle times and more than adequate straight-line speed to be considered a future star on the next level. Michael was an elite recruit who blossomed early and then dealt with some bad injuries. However, if healthy, he has elite upside and the ability to contribute on all three downs  —between the tackles, on the edge, in the passing game and as a blocker.

15. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 214, 4.73, 21, 4.09
Final Stats: 44 GP, 635 att., 3,329 yds, 30 TD, 60 rec., 507 yds, 5 TD
He didn’t wow scouts at the combine with his average measurables, but he makes up for it with things that simply cannot be tracked with a stopwatch: intangibles, leadership, blitz pickups, toughness and heart. He is one of the most complete players in the nation and will be a welcome addition to any NFL locker room. He will be a late-round steal and could be very productive for many years — even if he is never a star.

16. Juwan Jamison, Rutgers (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-7, 203, 4.68, 20
Final Stats: 26 GP, 486 att., 1,972 yds, 13 TD, 36 rec., 385 yds, 2 TD
Has a workhorse mentality and good size-strength combination. Lacks elite speed and burst.

17. Ray Graham, Pitt (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 199, 4.80, 19, 4.32
Final Stats: 46 GP, 595 att., 3,271 yds, 32 TD, 98 rec., 799 yds, 4 TD, 873 ret. yds
Has NFL ability but is still regaining form after torn ACL. Size could be an issue as well.

18. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 213, 4.56, 16
Final Stats: 37 GP, 450 att., 2,447 yds, 16 TD, 52 rec., 384 yds, 2 TD
Off-the-field focus issues have knocked him down a peg, but coming on strong.

19. DJ Harper, Boise State (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 211, 4.52, 23, 4.35
Final Stats: 54 GP, 547 att., 2,792 yds, 39 TD, 54 rec., 559 yds, 2 TD
He should be a sneaky draft day value for someone. Can do a little bit of everything.

20. Zach Line, SMU (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-0, 232, 4.77, 26
Final Stats: 50 GP, 778 att., 4,185 yds, 47 TD, 75 rec., 599 yds
He should be a sneaky draft day value for someone. Can do a little bit of everything.

Third-Down Speedsters 

Curtis McNeal, USC (5-7, 190, Sr.)
Chris Thompson, Florida State (5-8, 190, Sr.)
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn (5-11, 175, Sr.)
Perry Jones, Virginia (5-8, 187, Sr.)
Dennis Johnson, Arkansas (5-8, 212, Sr.)

Other Names to Watch:

Stephon Jefferson, Nevada (5-10, 213, Jr.)
Zach Boren, Ohio State (5-11, 238, Sr.)
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State (5-6, 190, Sr.)
Spencer Ware/Michael Ford, LSU
Michael Dyer, Ark. Baptist (5-8, 210, Sr.)
Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech (6-0, 205, Sr.)
Cameron Marshall, Arizona St (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook (5-9, 205, Sr.)
John White, Utah (5-8, 190, Sr.)
Matthew Tucker, TCU (6-0, 225, Sr.)
Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma (5-11, 205, Sr.)
Mike James, Miami (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Ronnie Wingo, Arkansas (6-2, 230, Sr.)


2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers

<p> NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 11:59
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-reasons-optimism-after-michigan-michigan-state

Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: Key stats of the week


Virginia’s bizarre bubble case continues.
The NCAA Tournament resumes for bubble teams are -- by definition -- difficult. But Virginia is pushing the envelope in this department. In one week, the Cavaliers defeated Duke 73-68 in a game that seemed to put the Hoos into the field. Then Virginia turned around to lose to Boston College 53-52 on a three-pointer in the final 8.2 seconds Sunday. Seven games separate Duke and BC in the ACC standings, and 135 spots separated the Cavs’ two opponents in the official RPI to start last week. And that’s just one week. Elsewhere on its resume, Virginia has a win at Wisconsin and a loss on a neutral site to Old Dominion (5-25, 3-15 Colonial).

Michigan bounces back.
A great game with a dubious finish on both sides of the court. First, John Beilein left a 44 percent free throw shooter on the court late in a close game, and later Michigan State failed to execute a final play when it had the ball in the final seconds. Still, Michigan had reason to brag. Trey Burke continued to state a case for National Player of the Year with a steal and a dunk to give the Wolverines the lead in its 58-57 win and then the steal on the game’s final play. And that 44 percent free throw shooter, Mitch McGary, is starting to look like a secret weapon for Michigan. He scored 11 points, giving him another double-figure game late in Big Ten play. He averaged 12 points per game during a three-game stretch against Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin. On Wednesday, Michigan gave Penn State its only Big Ten win of the season, but rebounded in short order. With a regular season finale against Indiana and the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan is still in the running for a No. 1 seed.

Related: Where does Trey Burke rank among this year’s point guards?

Michigan State’s losing streak.
Without a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State may have lost a chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but there may not be much reason to worry about the Spartans. First, a three-game losing streak to Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan -- the latter two on the road -- should give Michigan State no reason to hide in shame. Another reason not to count out Sparty: Adreian Payne is playing lights out. The  matchup nightmare is averaging 15.3 points and 12 rebounds in the last four games.

Ryan Kelly’s impact on the bracket.
Around this time of year, we talk about how key injuries can hurt a team’s seeding this late in the season. After Saturday, we’re going to see a return from injury boost a team in the bracket. If defeating Miami wasn’t enough, Duke proved what a force it is with Kelly in the lineup. Remember, when Kelly first went down with an ankle injury, Duke was 15-0 and an unquestioned No. 1.

North Carolina back?
The Tar Heels probably sealed an NCAA Tournament bid by defeating NC State on Feb. 23, but does Carolina have a good chance to advance? Roy Williams’ team may be putting things together. Marcus Paige was masterful against NC State and added nine assists in a 21-point rout of Florida State on Sunday. Reggie Bullock is averaging 18 points and 10.7 rebounds in he last three games, and the Heels seem to have found a lineup they like with P.J. Hairston starting.

SEC slipping.
Ole Miss’ NCAA Tournament case has been lacking for some time now, but the Rebels may have played themselves out of the field by losing to Mississippi State 73-67 on Saturday. The Bulldogs’ hadn’t won since Jan. 12, starting a 13-game losing streak that included a pair of 40-point losses in SEC play. With Ole Miss’ loss to South Carolina on Feb. 20, the Rebels have two losses to sub-200 RPI teams in the last two weeks. Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament case is looking better, but the Vols didn’t help themselves by losing 68-62 to Georgia. Tennessee has been swept by Georgia and Ole Miss in the SEC this season. Meanwhile, Kentucky could have done itself a great service by winning at Arkansas on Saturday, but the Wildcats may still have a stronger case than the Rebels and Volunteers, despite a 30-point loss to the latter.

Cantu Can Do.
Will anyone in the Pac-12 want to face USC in the conference Tournament? After sweeping the Arizona schools last week, the Trojans are 7-4 under interim coach Bob Cantu. USC was 7-10 when it fired Kevin O’Neill on Jan. 14. With USC rounding out the regular season against the Washington schools, USC could finish 11-7 in the league.

All times Eastern.

Cincinnati at Louisville (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Bearcats’ dodged a bubble-bursting loss by pulling out a 61-56 win at home over a Connecticut team playing without leading scorer Shabazz Napier. Winning in Louisville will be tough.

Baylor at Texas (9 p.m., ESPN)
Baylor’s still sitting on the bubble. The Bears can’t spend too much time dwelling on the collapse in the final seconds against Kansas State in Saturday. A loss to Texas (5-11 in the Big 12) would be a compelling reason to keep Baylor out of the field.

ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (3): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 17 teams

<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Reasons for optimism after Michigan-Michigan State</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-2013-spring-practice-preview

BYU’s second season as an independent was a little rockier than the first, but the Cougars still finished the season in a bowl game.

Injuries and ineffectiveness meant BYU had to start three quarterbacks through the course of its 8-5 season. The Cougars were a stout defensive team, but struggled to score points against tougher competition. BYU hopes it has its quarterback of the future already on the roster and on the mend in sophomore Taysom Hill.

This spring, he’ll be a handful of players reintroducing himself to the coaching staff. BYU has a handful of players, like Hill, returning from injury, and as usual, the Cougars will welcome a handful of key players coming back from LDS missions.

BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 5

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Taysom Hill, 181 of 308, 425 pass yds., 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jamaal Williams, 166 car., 775 yds., 12 TDs
Receiving: Cody Hoffman, 100 rec., 1,248 yds., 11 TDs
Tackles: Daniel Sorensen, 68
Sacks: Kyle Van Noy, 13
Interceptions: Daniel Sorensen, 3

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Josh Carter, OL Tim Duran, OL Edward Fusi, DB Sam Lee, DB Trent Trammell, DL Kalolo Uto, OL De'Ondre Wesley

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 at Virginia
Sept. 7 Texas
Sept. 21 Utah
Sept. 27 Middle Tennnessee
Oct. 4 at Utah State
Oct. 12 Georgia Tech
Oct. 19 at Houston
Oct. 26 Boise State
Nov. 9 at Wisconsin
Nov. 16 Idaho State
Nov. 23 at Notre Dame
Nov. 30 at Nevada

Offensive Strength: Beyond questions at quarterback, BYU should feel comfortable at the offensive skill positions. As the Cougars started three quarterbacks last season, Cody Hoffman was the consistent target. He finished with 73 more catches and nearly 1,000 more yards than anyone else on the roster. Jamaal Williams took over the starting running back duties at midseason and finished with 775 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Offensive Weakness: The offensive line is the most uncertain spot on this side of the ball. The most steady lineman, right tackle Braden Brown, is gone. An influx of junior college transfers will be in the mix for starting jobs. The Cougars also have a few health concerns with quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Michael Alisa returning from injuries.

Defensive Strength: BYU’s defensive strength begins with Kyle Van Noy, an All-America candidate. The pass rush extraordinaire finished with 13 sacks last season. Though he was consistent for most of the season, he finished with 9.5 tackles for a loss in the final three games and added a pick six in the bowl win over San Diego State. As a unit, the defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense (86.9 yards per game) and held five opponents to seven points or fewer.

Defensive Weakness: Perhaps not a weakness as much as a question for the spring: BYU loses seven starters on the defense. That includes five in the front seven. The Cougars may have the depth to replace the players gone with experienced backups, a handful of newcomers and several players returning from injuries or LDS missions.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cougars

1. Taysom Hill’s recovery. Hopes are high for BYU’s young quarterback. The dual-threat started twice before missing the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. In his best game of the season (albeit against Hawaii), Hill passed for 112 yards and two touchdowns with an interception while rushing for 143 yards and a score. He’ll have to show this spring he’s healthy and ready to take over the offense full time.

2. Junior college transfers on the offensive line. Left tackle Ryker Matthews may be the only sure thing on the offensive line. That may be startling for a team that returns four starters. BYU addressed its need by adding four junior college offensive linemen to compete for positions.

3. Competition at cornerback. The most uncertain position on the defense may be cornerback where three graduated, including one starter in Preston Hadley. Early enrollee Trenton Trammell may compete for time. Depth beyond the other starting cornerback, Jordan Johnson, is far from settled as well.

4. Returning bodies on the defensive line. All three starters on the defensive line are gone, but there’s no reason for Bronco Mendenhall to panic. Eathyn Manumaleuna started the first four games last season before missing the end of the year with an injury. He earned a medical redshirt, giving BYU a lineman who can play all line positions. In addition, Tuni Kanuch and Sae Tautu are back from LDS missions.

5. Depth at middle linebacker. Like defensive line, the linebacker group lost starters, but a mix of players will give BYU options. Both starting inside linebackers are gone. Austen Jorgensen received a medical waiver and will look to reclaim the form he had in 2010 when he amassed 46 tackles. Uani Unga had 28 tackles as a redshirt freshman last season.

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<p> BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-2013-spring-football-preview

For the second year in a row, Mark Richt's Bulldogs came up just shy of an SEC championship. This time, Georgia missed a chance at the national title game by just five yards. Yet, the 2013 team will look dramatically different than the last two SEC East champs. Massive defensive turnover, a huge influx of early enrollees and the return of arguably the most talented offense in the conference should make spring practice in Athens extremely entertaining.

Georgia Bulldogs 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 3

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Aaron Murray, 249-of-386, 3,893 yds., 36 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: Todd Gurley, 222 car., 1,385 yds., 17 TDs
Receiving: Malcolm Mitchell, 40 rec., 572 yds, 4 TDs
Tackles: Amarlo Herrera, 70
Sacks: Jordan Jenkins, 5
Interceptions: Damian Swann, 4

Redshirts to watch: DL Jonathan Taylor, LB Leonard Floyd

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Shaquille Fluker, DB Kennar Johnson, DL Chris Mayes, WR Jonathon Rumph, DL Toby Johnson

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 at Clemson
Sept. 7 South Carolina
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 North Texas
Sept. 28 LSU
Oct. 5 at Tennessee
Oct. 12 Missouri
Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 2 Florida
Nov. 9 Appalachian State
Nov. 16 at Auburn
Nov. 23 Kentucky
Nov. 30 at Georgia Tech

Offensive Strength: The backfield. Few teams in the nation will return a backfield combination like Georgia. Aaron Murray at quarterback and Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back gives Richt possibly the best passing-running options in the nation.

Offensive Weakness: Pass catchers. Frankly, there is no weakness on this UGA offense although there is no established star pass-catcher at either wideout or tight end. There is loads of upside with guys like Malcolm Mitchell and Arthur Lynch, but having to replace the likes of Tavarres King and Marlon Brown might be the only concern on offense (if there is one).

Defensive Strength: Depth. This team has loads of talent all over the depth chart. Young names like Ray Drew at end, Damian Swann and Josh Harvey-Clemons in the secondary and Jordan Jenkins at linebacker give this team plenty of elite options.

Defensive Weakness: Experience. Giving the Dawgs three official returning starters might be generous. Twelve contributors departed this defense in the offseason, including 10 of the top 14 tacklers from a year ago. That includes the top four stoppers. Finding dependable bodies and leadership will be paramount this spring.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bulldogs:

1. Find a pass rush on defense. Jarvis Jones, despite some injuries, has been one of the nation's most productive pass rushers over the last two years. Alec Ogletree, Cornelius Washington, Abry Jones and a pair of massive nose tackles must also be replaced in the front seven. Getting the right bodies into the right positions in Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme has to be the primary focus this spring. Will Ray Drew take the next step on the edge of the line? Can Jordan Jenkins become the next Jones in just his second season? There is plenty of talent but Grantham and new line coach Chris Wilson need to get their rotation in order this spring.

2. What will the secondary look like? The front will have a lot of new faces but so will the defensive backfield. Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams are gone from the safety position while Branden Smith and Sanders Commings depart on the outside. Damian Swann could become a star and guys like Harvey-Clemons could develop into All-SEC-type talents. However, there is little experience on the backend and this spring should help develop the next line of defense.

3. Stay healthy along the line of scrimmage. This offensive line could be the best Richt has had in his long tenure in Athens. That is, if it can stay healthy. Chris Burnette (shoulder) and John Theus (foot) will both miss spring practice, giving some of the young bodies a chance to get reps. Getting them healthy and keeping the rest of the starting five — Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee and David Andrews — at full steam will be important this offseason.

4. Allow the newcomers to compete. Richt welcomes 13 early enrollees in what might one of the biggest such classes in the history of college football. Two junior college prospects, one prep schooler and 10 true freshman will take part in spring practice one semester earlier than the rest of the 2013 class. Tray Matthews, Brice Ramsey and Tramel Terry were all nationally ranked prospects in this haul.

5. Finalize the pass-catching rotation. Malcolm Mitchell will be a superstar if given the chance to shine on one side of the ball. He should be Murray's top target this fall — and spring — and will be backed up by a host of talented weapons. Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome need to take the next steps in their development at tight end and someone else needs to step up in place of the injured Michael Bennett. Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley and Rhett McGowan will all get plenty of reps.

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<p> Georgia Bulldogs 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2013-spring-football-preview

With Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State and Nebraska all expected to be in the mix for a spot in most preseason top-25 polls, the Big Ten Legends Division could be the toughest in college football in 2013. The Cornhuskers are the defending division champs but finished the year on a down note. Nebraska was steamrolled by Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and lost 45-31 to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Bo Pelini’s team loses a lot of talent on defense, but the offense will be one of the best in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers might have to win a lot of shootouts early on, but a favorable schedule should have Nebraska in the thick of the division title picture.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-4 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:
Passing: Taylor Martinez, 228 of 368, 2,871 yards, 23 TDs, 12 INTs
Rushing: Ameer Abdullah, 226 car., 1,137 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Kenny Bell, 50 rec., 863 yards, 8 TDs
Tackles: Ciante Evans, 56
Sacks: Jason Ankrah and Ciante Evans, 2
Interceptions: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, 2

Redshirts to watch: LB Michael Rose, OL Paul Thurston, DE Greg McMullen, LB Jared Afalava, DT Vincent Valentine, WR Jordan Westerkamp, LB Thomas Brown, DE Avery Moss

Early Enrollees to watch: OL David Knevel, LB Courtney Love, DB D.J. Singleton

JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Matt Finnin, DE Randy Gregory, OL Chongo Kondolo

2013 Schedule
Aug. 31 Wyoming
Sept. 7 Southern Miss
Sept. 14 UCLA
Sept. 21 South Dakota State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Illinois
Oct. 12 at Purdue
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at Minnesota
Nov. 2 Northwestern
Nov. 9 at Michigan
Nov. 16 Michigan State
Nov. 23 at Penn State
Nov. 29 Iowa

Offensive Strength: It’s hard to find a weakness for the Cornhuskers on this side of the ball. Quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Kenny Bell should all earn All-Big Ten honors, while the offensive line returns three starters. 

Offensive Weakness: If there’s a weakness, the Cornhuskers have to point to the trenches. Two tight ends (Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton) are gone from last season, and center Justin Jackson must be replaced after earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

Defensive Strength: The secondary was clearly the strength of Nebraska’s defense last season, holding opponents to 168.1 yards per game and finishing ninth nationally in pass efficiency defense. P.J. Smith and Daimion Stafford are gone, but the Cornhuskers return plenty of talent, led by seniors Andrew Green and Ciante Evans.

Defensive Weakness: The front seven. The Cornhuskers have a lot of work to do this spring on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps, as end Jason Ankrah is the only returning starter in the front seven. Nebraska has some promising talent on the roster, but how quickly can the line and linebacking corps jell this spring?

Spring Storylines Facing the Cornhuskers

1. More growth from Taylor Martinez? There’s no doubt Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was one of college football’s most-improved players last season. After throwing for 2,089 yards and completing just 56.2 percent of his passes in 2011, Martinez threw for 2,871 yards and bumped his accuracy to 62 percent in 2012. With most of the supporting cast returning, the Nebraska coaching staff hopes the California native can take another step in his development. Martinez tossed four more interceptions in 2012 than he did in 2011 but also threw nearly 80 more passes. After a solid 2012 campaign, Martinez is entrenched as one of college football’s top-15 returning quarterbacks and should have his best year in his final season in Lincoln.

2. Restocking the offensive line. With two all-conference candidates (Spencer Long and Jeremiah Sirles) and one 14-game starter (Brent Qvale) returning, Nebraska has a good foundation on the line. Two spots will be up for grabs this spring, as the Cornhuskers look to replace center Justin Jackson and guard Seung Hoon Choi. There’s experience returning to compete for the open positions, including Cole Pensick (two starts in 2012), Mark Pelini and Jake Cotton. Sophomore Ryne Reeves also has good potential and figures to push for a starting spot at guard or center. This unit isn’t a huge concern for Nebraska, but coordinator Tim Beck and line coaches John Garrison and Barney Cotton need to get a good look at Pensick, Pelini, Cotton and Reeves to determine how to get the best starting five on the field. 

3. Finding the right answers on defense. Despite finishing fourth nationally against the pass, the Cornhuskers couldn’t feel good about their defense by the end of the year. Nebraska allowed 70 points to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and 45 to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. As if the close to the season wasn’t bad enough for Bo Pelini’s defense, this unit returns only four starters. Gone are first-team All-Big Ten selections in defensive end Eric Martin and safety Daimion Stafford, along with tackle Baker Steinkuhler and linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher. The front seven needs the most work this spring, and a handful of newcomers will be expected to push for time this preseason. End Randy Gregory was sidelined at junior college due to an injury last year but could push for a starting job in the fall. With Gregory not in the mix this spring, look for redshirt freshmen Avery Moss, Vincent Valentine and Greg McMullen to gain valuable practice snaps. The linebacking corps is also a work in progress, as David Santos (24 tackles) is the most promising player returning. However, keep a close watch on redshirt freshmen Thomas Brown and Michael Rose. With so many new faces stepping into playing time, Nebraska’s starting 11 on defense could be unsettled until late in fall camp.

4. Special Teams. With the heavy personnel losses on defense, it’s easy to overlook the departure of Brett Maher. However, the All-Big Ten kicker will be missed, as he connected on 20 of 27 field goals last season and averaged 41.8 yards per punt. Sophomore Mauro Bondi, Western Illinois transfer Pat Smith and freshmen Spencer Lindsay and Grant Schumacher will battle to win the starting kicker job, while Jordan Bellar is the only punter listed on the spring roster. Special teams are often overlooked, but Maher was one of the best in the country, and the Cornhuskers won’t easily replace him in 2013.

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<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines

With only two teams finishing in the final top 25 poll, 2012 was a down year for the ACC. Will 2013 be any different? On paper, the league should be stronger. Florida State will take a step back with the loss of a handful of key players, but Clemson could be a top-five team, and Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are all worthy of top 25 consideration. The Hurricanes are the early favorite to win the Coastal Division, but the Hokies, Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets aren't far behind. And Miami's hopes of playing in its first ACC Championship could rest on a pending NCAA sanctions case this summer. 

While the top six teams in the league seem set, the rest of the ACC is up for grabs. Pittsburgh and Syracuse join the conference from the Big East, with the Panthers joining the Coastal Division, and the Orange shifting to the Atlantic. Both teams should be in the mix for a bowl game, but it’s unlikely Pittsburgh or Syracuse will win either division in 2013.

New coaches will lead the way for Syracuse, NC State and Boston College next season. Scott Shafer replaces Doug Marrone at Syracuse, Tom O’Brien was canned in favor of Dave Doeren at NC State, and Boston College hired Steve Addazio away from Temple. All three programs seem to have made a good hire, but only time will tell how these new coaches will fare in the ACC. 

ACC Spring Team Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

Atlantic Division

Boston College

Can the Eagles rejuvenate their rushing attack?
In nearly every season since 2008, Boston College has slipped in the national rushing rankings. After ranking 63rd in 2008, the Eagles fell to 71st, then 90th in 2010, before rebounding to 82nd in 2011 and falling to 115th in 2012. New coach Steve Addazio leaned on the run at Temple and expects to implement a similar offense in Chestnut Hill. However, he needs to find a No. 1 back, and Boston College has a few candidates that will get a look this spring. Andre Williams has shown flashes of promise and finished with 599 yards rushing last year. Tajh Kimble and Rolandan Finch also have experience and will factor into the mix. The Eagles aren’t short on options, so Addazio just needs to develop some pecking order and figure out if true freshmen Tyler Rouse or Myles Willis will be a part of the rotation this fall.


Who will replace Andre Ellington?
Although the Tigers must replace center Dalton Freeman, tight end Brandon Ford and receiver DeAndre Hopkins, all eyes in spring practice will be on the backfield. Andre Ellington exhausted his eligibility last season, and the battle to be Clemson’s new No. 1 back is wide open. Roderick McDowell averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 83 attempts last season, while D.J. Howard chipped in 138 yards on 35 attempts. Zac Brooks was impressive in his freshman year, recording 119 yards on 26 attempts. True freshman Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman can’t be counted out either and should see an opportunity to earn snaps in the fall. Clemson has depth, so a committee approach isn't out of the question. However, the Tigers need to develop a pecking order and find out what options they have this spring.

Florida State

How quickly can the Seminoles reload their defense?
After owning one of the nation’s best defenses in 2012, the Seminoles will have several new faces on that side of the ball in 2013. The change starts on the sidelines, as Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt takes over at defensive coordinator, while Charles Kelly comes over from Georgia Tech to coach linebackers, and Sal Sunseri was hired to work with the defensive ends. Seven starters are gone from last season, including first-team All-ACC selections Bjoern Werner and Xavier Rhodes. There’s no shortage of talent due to Florida State’s recruiting classes in recent years, as sophomore Mario Edwards is due for a bigger role on the defensive line, while junior Timmy Jernigan could be one of the ACC’s best defensive tackles. The secondary will miss Rhodes, but Tyler Hunter, Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome and converted safety Lamarcus Joyner should form a formidable pass defense. With so many new faces, there will be a transition period for Florida State. This spring is all about getting those new faces acclimated as quickly as possible.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Jacob Coker (SO) vs. Clint Trickett (JR) vs. Jameis Winston (FR)
Trickett has two starts under his belt, so he enters spring as the frontrunner by default. However, Winston is the future at this position for Florida State, so he figures to get on the field sooner, rather than later.


Who will emerge on defense with only four returning starters?
With the departure of six starters, it will be a challenge for Maryland to match last season’s defensive numbers. The Terrapins ranked 21st nationally in yards allowed and ranked second in the ACC in rush defense in 2012. With the departure of standouts in defensive linemen A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano, along with linebackers Demetrius Hartsfield and Kenny Tate, coordinator Brian Stewart will have his hands full this offseason. Junior Cole Farrand should be a leader on the revamped unit, while the line is expected to get some contribution from A.J. Monroe, who missed 2012 due to a knee injury. Matt Robinson is expected to slide from safety to linebacker, which should help Farrand make up for the losses of Hartsfield and Tate. The Terrapins have some talent returning, but Stewart will need all spring to find the right 11 starters.

Quarterback Battle? Injuries wrecked havoc on the Terrapins’ quarterbacks last season, as three players made starts, and the No. 1 option (C.J. Brown) was lost due to a torn ACL in fall practice. Former New Mexico quarterback Ricardo Young will work as the top option this spring, but Brown is expected to regain the starting nod in the fall.

NC State

Can the Wolfpack find replacements in the secondary?
Considering the talent returning in the secondary last season, it was a surprise to see NC State finish ninth in the ACC in pass defense. The numbers were a little better for the Wolfpack in pass efficiency defense, as they ranked fourth in the conference. Thanks to the departures of cornerback David Amerson and safeties Earl Wolff and Brandn Bishop, this unit will need to be revamped in 2013. Dontae Johnson and Juston Burris will be the leaders for playing time at cornerback and should be a solid duo for new coordinator Dave Huxtable. At safety, the picture is less clear. There’s very little in the way of production returning, with Hakim Jones and Tim Buckley listed as the backups from last season. As with any coaching change, there could be some position changes to get the best four players on the field. 

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Manny Stocker (SO) vs. Pete Thomas (JR)
Thomas was a four-star recruit coming out of high school but didn’t live up to that potential at Colorado State. Stocker threw two passes in limited work last season, and even though Thomas has the edge in experience, Stocker’s dual-threat ability could be a better fit for Matt Canada’s offense.


Which receiver will be the new go-to target?
Not only is Syracuse breaking in a new quarterback, but the Orange are losing their top two receivers from last season. Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales combined to catch 136 passes for 1,952 yards and 15 scores last season and will be missed. While replacing Lemon and Sales is a tall task for new coordinator George McDonald, Jarrod West is back after catching 43 passes last season and tight end Beckett Wales is back in the mix after snagging 35 receptions. West and Wales are a solid one-two combination for the new quarterback, but who are the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers? Is that Christopher Clark or Jeremiah Kobena? Or will Syracuse have to wait and get some help from its freshman class, including touted prospect Corey Cooper?

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Ashton Broyld (SO) vs. Terrel Hunt (SO) vs. John Kinder (JR) vs. Charley Loeb (SR)
Out of all the quarterback battles in the ACC, this one might be the biggest head-scratcher going into spring practice. There’s not much experience returning, and a new coaching staff has added an extra element of uncertainty. Loeb has the edge in experience, but Broyld could move back to quarterback after playing running back in 2012, and Terrel Hunt has intriguing dual-threat ability.

Wake Forest

Will the offensive line find stability?
The final stats on offense for the Demon Deacons weren’t pretty. The offense finished 10th or worse in the ACC in rushing, passing, total and scoring offense. While the offense struggled when receiver Michael Campanaro missed time with a hand injury, the bigger issue for Wake Forest was a young offensive line. Ten players made starts up front, with the final depth chart featuring four freshmen. This unit allowed 2.3 sacks a game and struggled to open holes for its rushing attack (3.0 yards per carry). The line took its lumps last season and should be better with another offseason to work together. However, center Garrick Williams is gone and there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the starting five. If the Demon Deacons can stabilize the line, it would help stretch the field for its passing attack, along with clearing the way for Josh Harris and Deandre Martin to jumpstart the rushing game.

Coastal Division


Can the defense show progress in spring practice?
Even though quarterback Sean Renfree is a big loss, the Blue Devils have sophomore Anthony Boone waiting in the wings. If Duke wants to get back to a bowl game, the defense has to make progress after allowing 521.2 yards per contest in ACC games. Seven starters return from last season, including All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell. Will that be enough to bring this defense out of the ACC cellar? Injuries forced a lot of players to see time in 2012, which should help with the depth going into 2013. However, the Blue Devils still need to establish a pass rush and replace two starting safeties in Jordan Byas and Walt Canty. Needless to say, this unit will be the under the spotlight in spring practice.

Quarterback Battle? Anthony Boone started one game in relief of Sean Renfree last season and finished with 531 passing yards in 2012. Brandon Connette will likely see time as an all-purpose threat, but Boone appears to be the clear No. 1 passer.

Georgia Tech

Is Ted Roof the answer at defensive coordinator?
The Yellow Jackets allowed 20 or more points in five out of the first six games last season, which prompted coach Paul Johnson to dismiss coordinator Al Groh. Charles Kelly wore the interim tag for the remainder of 2012, and this unit showed some progress, holding USC to seven points in the Sun Bowl victory and finishing fifth in the ACC in yards allowed. With eight starters back on both sides of the ball, Georgia Tech should have a good chance to make a repeat trip to the conference championship game. However, much depends on how quickly new coordinator Ted Roof adapts the personnel to his scheme. Will the Yellow Jackets stick with a 3-4 or shift to a 4-3? There’s some promising personnel returning, but the defensive line loses two key contributors, and cornerback Rod Sweeting is gone after recording 58 stops last year. 

Quarterback Battle? Vad Lee pushed Tevin Washington to start last season and barring a bad performance in spring ball, the sophomore will start the season opener.


Can the defense find some answers?
After finishing third in the ACC in scoring defense in 2011, the Hurricanes fell to 10th in the conference last fall, allowing 30.5 points a game. Those numbers simply aren’t good enough to win the ACC. Five starters return in 2013, including promising end Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Tracy Howard. However, Miami’s defense still has a long way to go to challenge for a spot among the best in the ACC. Each level of the defense needs work, but coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has to find a pass rush after the Hurricanes averaged a paltry 1.1 sacks per game last season.

Related Content: Miami Hurricanes 2013 Spring Preview

North Carolina

Who will replace Giovani Bernard?
Despite missing two games due to injury, Bernard was the ACC’s top running back last season. He averaged 122.8 yards per game on the ground and finished the year with 47 receptions. While Bernard will be missed, the cupboard is far from bare for coach Larry Fedora. A.J. Blue worked as the No. 2 back last year, finishing with 433 yards and nine scores. He wasn’t the only back to see time, as Romar Morris recorded 69 attempts and finished with 386 yards and two scores. It’s likely both backs will see time, and despite losing an All-ACC back like Bernard, North Carolina is in relatively good shape considering Blue and Morris have showcased solid potential in limited work.

Related Content: North Carolina Tar Heels 2013 Spring Preview


Can Paul Chryst find answers on the offensive line?
With a new quarterback taking over, and a season opener against Florida State on the horizon, the Panthers need their offensive line to set the tone early in the year. However, this unit loses second-team All-Big East center Ryan Turnley, along with guard Chris Jacobson, who started all 13 games in 2012. Three starters return for 2013, but there’s plenty of room to grow after allowing 2.9 sacks a game last season. Cory King and Matt Rotheram are the favorites to start at tackle, while Arthur Doakes and Ryan Sclieper have the experience to start out as the frontrunners at guard. True freshman Dorian Johnson is likely to get an extended look in fall practice for one of the tackle spots. Don’t be surprised if Chryst and line coach Jim Hueber work with several combinations this spring to find the best starting five.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Trey Anderson (JR) vs. Tra’von Chapman (FR) vs. Tom Savage (SR) vs. Chad Voytik (FR)
The Panthers have a wide-open battle this spring, as former Rutgers starter Tom Savage appears to have a slight edge over redshirt freshman Chad Voytik and junior Trey Anderson. However, true freshman Tra’von Chapman will get a look this spring. Whoever wins the job will spend a lot of time handing off to sophomore running back Rushel Shell.

Related Content: Pittsburgh Panthers 2013 Spring Preview


Is Mike London’s team ready to take the next step?
After an 8-5 finish in 2011, hopes were high in Charlottesville that the team was ready for an even bigger season in 2012. Instead, the Cavaliers went in the wrong direction. Virginia finished 4-8 and started 0-4 in conference play. Problems on both sides of the ball prevented the Cavaliers from contending for a bowl game, including quarterback inconsistency, as well as a lack of turnovers forced on defense (12). Due to the disappointing season, head coach Mike London revamped his coaching staff, hiring Steve Fairchild to coordinate the offense, Jon Tenuta to lead the defense, while former NC State coach Tom O’Brien will also serve as an assistant. With 13 starters back, the Cavaliers have enough talent to get back to a bowl game. However, the schedule isn’t easy, as BYU and Oregon both come to Charlottesville in non-conference play, while Virginia faces road trips to North Carolina and Miami late in the year. Could this be a make-or-break year for London? If the team fails to show progress, it will be an interesting offseason in Charlottesville.

Quarterback Battle? David Watford will likely push Phillip Sims for the starting nod, but most expect Sims to emerge as Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback. The Alabama transfer threw for 1,263 yards last season.

Virginia Tech

Can Logan Thomas regain his 2011 form?
In an effort to spark Virginia Tech’s offense, coach Frank Beamer made some much-needed staff changes. Former Temple and Auburn assistant Scot Loeffler was hired to coordinate the offense, Jeff Grimes is now in charge of the offensive line, and Aaron Moorehead will coach the receivers. After throwing for 3,013 yards, 19 touchdowns and completing 59.8 percent of passes in 2011, Thomas finished 2012 with 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 picks. Considering the lack of a No. 1 running back and a revamped offensive line, it’s hard to place the blame squarely on Thomas’ shoulders. However, there’s no question he has to play better in 2013. Spring practice should give some insight into how quickly the Loeffler-Thomas relationship is coming together.

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<p> ACC Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-college-basketball-stats-week-feb-25-march-3

Welcome to March.

College basketball’s best month has arrived, and, boy, did it deliver immediate dividends.

The first full slate of games in March brought a classic individual performance — one for the ages, Mike Krzyzewski called it — and one of the best games of the season. And that was just Duke’s win over Miami. Earlier on Saturday, we also had one of the March staples of the unlikely hero when Luke Hancock upstaged guys like Michael Carter-Willaims, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.

Related: Who is the nation's top point guard?

Meanwhile, Oklahoma came within two free throws of a record. Doug McDermott returned to form. And Ole Miss continued to court the NIT. In short, an eventful weekend. In all likelihood, the first of five wild Saturdays in March.

Here’s a look at the key numbers from the first weekend of March:

1.13. Points per minute for Ryan Kelly after a 13-game layoff
Good luck trying to find a way to overestimate Ryan Kelly’s 36 points in 32 minutes against Miami. The Duke forward missed 13 games due to an ankle injury but returned to score a career high in the 79-76 win over Miami. Beyond the raw numbers, the per-minute average for Duke's wildcard player is equally important. Kelly averaged 1.13 points per minute against Miami. Before his injury, Kelly averaged 0.47 points per minute this season. On Saturday, the senior scored 16 of Duke’s first 28 points against the Hurricanes. By that point, he already exceeded the 13.8 points per game he averaged prior to his injury. Again, the minutes were almost as impressive as his scoring: Kelly exceeded the 32-minute mark only eight times in the last two seasons.

1 of 18. Peyton Siva’s line from the field against Syracuse this season
Peyton Siva is one of the top point guards in the country, but not against Syracuse. On Saturday, Siva missed all nine of his shots from the field, eight of which were from three-point range in Louisville's 58-53 win over Syracuse. Earlier this season, Siva went 1 of 9 from the field against the Orange, including 1 of 7 from three-point range in a 70-68 loss on Jan. 19. Siva failed to reach the free throw line in both games. Lucky for Louisville...

6 of 7. Luke Hancock’s line from three-point range against Syracuse this season
The George Mason transfer was the hero of Louisville's win over Syracuse on Saturday by hitting 4 of 5 shots from the field, all from beyond the arc. Hancock, who started the season in a 4-for-29 slump from three-point range, was the hero in the Cardinals’ win over the Orange with his three-point shooting and a critical steal late in the game. In the first meeting with Syracuse, he scored seven points on 2-of-2 three-point shooting.

12. Margin of victory in Florida’s closest win of the season
Florida hasn’t had to sweat much at home this season — so much so that a 12-point win in the O’Connell Center qualifies as its closest victory of the season. The Gators defeated Alabama 64-52, but they were tied with 7:47 to go and trailed by as much as eight in the second half. Should Florida be encouraged it battled back in the second half or does it reinforce the Gators don’t have a great record in close games late? Florida is 0-5 in games decided by 11 points or less.

41. Season-high scoring by Creighton’s Doug McDermott
A week ago, we noted McDermott’s struggles, relatively speaking. The Creighton forward averaged 16.7 points per game during a six-game span from  Feb. 6-23. This week, the old McDermott returned. The junior scored 32 points against Bradley on Wednesday. He topped that with a season-high 41 points against Wichita State in what could be his final home game if he leaves for the NBA Draft. Creighton had been sliding down mock brackets, but the Bluejays’ 91-79 win over the Shockers clinched a Missouri Valley regular season title. His 41-point outburst (on 15-of-18 shooting) was his sixth 30-point game of the season. And McDermott’s not padding his stats, either. Four of those 30-point games have come against Tournament hopefuls Wisconsin, Cal, Akron and Wichita State.

34 for 34. Oklahoma from the free throw line against Iowa State
The Sooners tied a Division I record with a perfect performance from the foul line, making all 34 free throw attempts in the 86-69 win over Iowa State. Only two other teams have gone 34 for 34 from the line. No team has a perfect mark in a game with 35 or more free throw attempts.

17. VCU steals against Butler
Even for VCU, this got out of hand. The Rams forced 23 turnovers in Saturday’s 85-52 rout of Butler, 17 of those takeaways came from a VCU steal. To put this in perspective, Butler opponents are averaging six steals per game. VCU guard Darius Theus nearly matched that on his own with five.

27. Seasons since Bob Huggins had a losing conference record
West Virginia lost 91-65 to Kansas, which isn’t a surprise given the Mountaineers’ struggles this year. The loss is notable by moving West Virginia to 6-10 in the league to seal a losing Big 12 season. The losing conference record will be the first for a Bob Huggins-coached team since his first as a Division I head coach when Akron went 6-8 in the Ohio Valley in 1984-85. Since then, Huggins has led four different schools to winning records in six leagues: Akron in the OVC, Cincinnati in the Metro, Great Midwest and Conference USA, Kansas State in the Big 12 and West Virginia in the Big East.

10.4. Points per game for Cal’s Allen Crabbe since “the shove”
Cal is surging with its seven-game winning streak to put it within a game in the loss column of the Pac-12 regular season title. The Pac-12 scoring leader, though, is not. Crabbe is averaging 10.4 points per game in four games since the shove that earned Cal coach Mike Montgomery a reprimand from the conference. After the game, Montgomery noted the shove “worked” as Crabbe scored 23 points in the game against USC. Crabbe was averaging 19.8 points per game on Feb. 17, but he scored only eight in Saturday’s 62-46 win over Colorado to drop his scoring average to 18.8 per game.

8 of 36. Marshall Henderson from the field in Ole Miss’ losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State
If Ole Miss misses the NCAA Tournament, the culprit almost certainly will be bad losses to South Carolina on Feb. 20 and Mississippi State on Saturday. Marshall Henderson struggled in the two games. Though he scored 16 points against Mississippi State and 11 against South Carolina, he was woefully inefficient. Henderson was a combined 8 of 36 in these two resume-killing losses. He went 4 of 19, including 3 of 18 from three-point range against Mississippi State and 4 of 17 from the field and 3 of 11 from beyond the arc against South Carolina.

<p> Amazing College Basketball Stats of the Week: Feb. 25-March 3</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 06:25
Path: /nascar/carl-edwards-holds-jimmie-johnson-wins-phoenix

A new season brings new hope. And no one in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is in more need of hope than Carl Edwards.

On the outside looking in at last season’s Chase for the Championship, Edwards has been mired in a winless skid that dates back to March 6, 2011. And his 2013 season got off to a dubious start in Daytona during Speedweeks, where he was involved in four wrecks (and a fifth in a test session in January), ultimately finishing 33rd in the Daytona 500.

Factor in a new contract that he signed in 2011 with Roush Fenway Racing that made the 33-year-old Ford Racing’s figurehead, as well as being given RFR’s ace crew chief in Jimmy Fennig, and it’s easy to understand how the pressure has mounted on Edwards to perform.

Consider the weight lifted.

Edwards led the final 78 laps in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 on Sunday, holding off Jimmie Johnson in a green-white-checker finish en route to the win at Phoenix International Raceway.

“It’s tough to go that long without winning, “Edwards said. “And then you come into the season with Jimmy (Fennig) who did so well last year (three wins with Matt Kenseth) … and everybody did so well. We’ve got the fastest pit crew on pit road — and I thought ‘We’ve got to go win some races.’”

Edwards seemingly had the scheduled 312-lap race in hand, cruising nearly a half-second in front of Johnson as the laps wound down. However, a caution for Ken Schrader’s blown tire with three circuits remaining forced the event into NASCAR’s version of an overtime finish. And with fuel an issue, many were unsure if they had enough in the tank to survive the caution laps and a three-lap shootout on Phoenix’s one-mile layout.

The leaders — Edwards, Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — had plenty in reserve, though. When the green waved, Keselowski pushed Edwards, on the inside lane, by Johnson and the driver of the No. 99 did the rest. In clean air, the Missouri native easily held off the pack, winning his 20th career Cup race.

“I was trying to suspend my emotions after that last caution.” Edwards said. “There was two laps to go and I’m saying, ‘Were going to win this race.’ And Brad pushed me — that sealed it right there. I knew that if we were the first ones down into the corner (Turn 1), we’d win this thing.”

Meanwhile, Johnson, Keselowski and Hamlin engaged in a thrilling battle for second. With Johnson and Keselowski door-to-door exiting Turn 2 on the final lap, Hamlin cut across the apron of the track in the dogleg, blocking Keselwoski and pulling even with Johnson. The two came to the finish line trading paint, with Johnson edging out Hamlin. Keselowski was fourth, Earnhardt Jr. fifth.

Johnson, though, was none-too-happy with the deciding restart.

“The leader is not supposed to slow down before he takes off (coming to the green),” Johnson said. “And he (Edwards) did that twice. It put me in a bad position with the 2 (Keselowski) inside of me … and off we went.”

“I was going for anything,” Hamlin said of the finish. “I didn’t have much all day. The pit crew and Darian (Grubb, crew chief) really carried us today getting track position. (It was) just so hard to pass. You’re going to hear it a lot this week that we’ve got a lot of work to do this week to get these cars to pass each other.”

Johnson, with finishes of first and second is off to a hot start this season, but Sunday was about Edwards, his new crew chief, a re-tooled team in only their second race together and NASCAR’s Gen-6 car, which seems to like clean air as much as its predecessor.

Is Phoenix an indication of what lies ahead for the 99 team? Will Edwards be a driver to deal with throughout the season as he was in 2011, or will he fade into obscurity like 2012?

“I think we are (back),” said Edwards. “But next week I think is going to be the true test (for the car) — at the mile-and-a-half (track in Las Vegas).”

<p> Carl Edwards breaks winless skid, wins in Phoenix.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 3, 2013 - 20:16
All taxonomy terms: Phoenix International Raceway, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-2013-phoenix-international-raceway-track-information

Phoenix International Raceway Race Stats

2013 Race Length: 312 miles/312 laps 

Track Qualifying Record: 138.766 mph (Kyle Busch, 2012) 

Race Record: 118.132 mph (Tony Stewart, 1999)


Anonymous Crew Chief's Take on Phoenix International Raceway

“Phoenix is a tough racetrack. The track is going to season, but we’ve tested out there a bunch between the 2013 car and racing out there. It has three unique corners, and the driver has to sign up for that track because it’s fast with a lot of gas and throttle control. I hope NASCAR doesn’t mess with the cars driving across the inside of the backstretch. I think it is fun to see the drivers try something different. They have enough other stuff to worry about without messing with where we race at Phoenix.”


Classic Moments at Phoenix International Raceway

The old man couldn’t be denied.

Mark Martin, back behind the wheel full-time in 2009 after two years of semi-retirement, became the third-oldest winner in NASCAR history and snapped a 97-race winless skid with a commanding victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Martin, 50, won for the first time in only his eighth start with Hendrick Motorsports, the organization he joined in 2009 after two partial seasons with Dale Earnhardt Inc./Ginn Racing following two decades of competition with Roush Racing.

Martin, long known as one of NASCAR’s most physically fit drivers, started from the pole and led 157 of 312 laps on the way to his first win since 2005.

Martin would use the Phoenix victory as a springboard to four more triumphs that season. For the fifth time in his lengthy career, he would finish second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings — this time as bridesmaid to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.


Fantasy NASCAR Take on Phoenix International Raceway


Denny Hamlin—His Phoenix win last February helped spark a season-long resurgence following a dismal 2011. He backed up that showing with a second-place finish in the fall race and is one of only two drivers with three top-15 finishes on the newly configured PIR.

Kevin Harvick—Harvick salvaged his 2012 with a late-season victory in the desert last fall. The win was foreshadowed by a February performance that saw him average a race-best third-place running position and finish second.


Ryan Newman—Ranking fourth in the Phoenix-specific PEER rankings is Newman, who has a pair of top-5 finishes on the new track surface and led five laps last fall.

Runs on Seven Cylinders

Dale Earnhardt Jr.—A two-time winner on the old PIR surface, Earnhardt has yet to come away with an admirable finish on the new configuration, finishing 24th, 14th and 21st in the last three races.

RELATED: 8 Amazing NASCAR Stats for Phoenix International Raceway

RELATED: Fantasy NASCAR Picks for Phoenix International Raceway

<p> A NASCAR fan's guide to Phoenix International Raceway</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 3, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nascar/ranking-nascar-sprint-cup-series-racetracks

The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is a long and winding road consisting of 36 points-paying races held on 23 racetracks across America. The venues are diverse, with half-mile bullrings, twisting road courses, high-speed intermediates and white-knuckle plate tracks. Some thrill, some bore, some are in steeped in history, others lack any semblance of uniqueness.

But we have them all here, ranked from best NASCAR Sprint Cup racetrack to worst, having factored in entertainment value, historical significance, location and the overall ambiance of the facility:


1. Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega, Al. • 2.66-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: May 5, Oct. 20
The one track that defines speed in a sport dictated on going fast, Talladega is the be-all, end-all of superspeedway racing. The original 200 mph track that Buddy Baker christened in 1970 in a winged Dodge, Talladega is the site of the fastest qualifying lap, the fastest 500-mile NASCAR race and some of the scariest crashes in motorsports history. In 1987, Bobby Allison went airborne and tore part of the frontstretch fencing down, nearly taking out the flag stand and putting the car in the front row. Thus, restrictor plate racing was born. The National Motorsports Hall of Fame is located at Talladega as well, and the infield on race weekend is essentially Mardi Gras without the cops.

2. Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Fla. • 2.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: Feb. 24, July 6
When Bill France Sr. conjured the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, he wanted it to be the fastest and most impressive track in auto racing. Mission accomplished. Thirty-two degrees of banking in the turns, wide-open throttles and host to everything from NASCAR, GRAND-AM, AMA Motorcycle, go-karts and Monster Energy Super Cross events. It has also been witnessed some of NASCAR’s most memorable finishes and wild aerial antics — as well as the sport’s darkest hour in February 2001. Two weeks of NASCAR racing, known as Speedweeks, kick off the season, with the Truck Series, Nationwide, ARCA and Sprint Cup running their premier events. Hope always springs eternal on the beach in February.

3. Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville, Va. • .526-mile oval • 2013 dates: April 7, Oct. 27
If nostalgia is your thing, look no further than Clay Earles’ gem in Martinsville, Va. At .526 miles, it’s the shortest track on the circuit, but also NASCAR’s oldest, dating to the first year of the sport in 1948. While some fans may bemoan how NASCAR has gone “too corporate” and “lost its soul,” Martinsville is viewed as a holdout, amidst pink hot dogs and the Grandfather clock that serves as racing’s coolest trophy. There is no shortage of beating, banging and retaliation – and Victory Lane is held right on the frontstretch for all the fans to experience.

4. Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, Tenn. • .533-mile oval • 2013 dates: March 17, Aug. 24
“Racin’ the Way it Oughta Be!” the track located in what is known as Thunder Valley promotes — and with good reason. The August night race was once the hardest ticket to get in racing, but has recently become obtainable. A track repave in 2008 created two groves of racing, and therefore eliminated the wreck-fest that once was Bristol. The .533-mile oval is a bit secluded, but that is part of its allure. When you walk into the grandstands that reach over 10 stories high, you get a feel for what it must’ve been like at Roman coliseums or what Rudy’s dad felt when he saw Notre Dame Stadium for the first time: “This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.”

5. Darlington Raceway
Darlington, S.C. • 1.336-mile oval • 2013 date: May 11
“The Track Too Tough to Tame,” introduced in 1950, was NASCAR’s first speedway longer that one mile. Though it looked like one of racing’s grandest tracks, Darlington was on its way out a few years ago. But the addition of lights around the 1.336-mile, egg-shaped oval has kept it relevant. During a time when many tracks can’t give tickets away, Darlington continues to sell. Once a Labor Day tradition, the famed Southern 500 is now Saturday Night’s Main Event in early April. While that smacks in the way of tradition, Darlington’s gritty and abrasive surface — once ground smooth following a repave — refuses to be anything but old school. What sporting facility do you know of whose shape and construction was dictated by the landowner wanting to retain his minnow pond? At least that’s the way the grand old tale is told.

6. Richmond International Raceway
Richmond, Va. • .75-mile oval • April 27, Sept. 7
Following the first race of the 1988 season, the old .542-mile Richmond Fairgrounds was reconfigured into the modern .75-mile short track gem that it is today. An hour or so outside of Washington D.C., it’s a great destination for family, friends, racing and history. Often credited as being the ideal track for stock cars, Richmond is old-school charm with new-school amenities. It also serves as the transfer race into NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.

7. Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, N.C. • 1.5-mile quad-oval • 2013 date: May 18 (All Star), May 26, Oct. 12
The track that Curtis Turner built with the help of mob money and a .38 Smith, the city that serves as the heart of NASCAR is also the home to NASCAR’s crown jewel speedway. Home to the sport’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, and the All-Star Race, Charlotte is home to some of NASCAR’s most endearing memories. The original 1.5-mile oval is no cookie cutter, though following its 2005 repave, it has lost a bit of its character. Virtually all of the NASCAR teams are located within a stone’s throw of the speedway, so shop tours are must-see attractions if you’re going to a race. Plus, Uptown Charlotte is as nice as Chicago – minus the murder and congestion. Drive 20 minutes outside of town to and you’re instantly transported back to Mayberry.

8. Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, N.Y. • 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course • 2013 date: Aug. 11
Fans are hot and cold on road course racing, but what’s not to like about The Glen, located in upstate New York? If you can’t get your old lady to go with you, fear not, Niagara Falls is just around the bend. This track seems to bring out the best in drivers, so there’s usually some scrapping (Boris Said vs. Greg Biffle; Kevin Harvick vs. Juan Pablo Montoya), great insults (Sterling Marlin calling Biffle a “bug-eyed dummy”; Ryan Newman saying Sterling’s hair piece fell down over his eyes), and some wild, late-race action. Last year’s tussle between Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose was easily the best finish of the season.

9. Atlanta Motor Speedway
Hampton, Ga. • 1.54-mile quad-oval • 2013 date: Sept. 1
Before Michigan went Mayfield on speed last June (and until the plates come off at Talladega and Daytona), Atlanta was pretty much the fastest ticket on the circuit. Geoff Bodine reeled off a lap of 197.478 mph – and that was in 1997, 16 years and 150 horsepower ago. It’s also played host to a couple of the closest finishes in NASCAR history (Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte in 2000 and, ironically, Kevin Harvick driving what was the Intimidator’s car following his untimely passing in 2001). Although it isn’t Darlington, it honorably holds down the Southern 500’s former date on Labor Day weekend. As this list has proven, the oldest tracks produce the best racing – and Atlanta is no different.

10. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Speedway, Ind. • 2.5-mile oval • 2013 date: July 28
When the term “hallowed ground” was coined, it likely was done so when describing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2.5-mile oval is most famously known as the home of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500. But in 1992, when fans packed the grandstands to watch a NASCAR/Goodyear tire test, it all but sealed the deal as to what track would soon be on NASCAR’s schedule. As a “bucket list” destination for any sports fan, prime seats are not a challenging get for the Brickyard 400 — and although you can’t see the entire track from any one location, it’s kind of hard to find a bad seat.

11. Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas • 1.5-mile quad-oval • 2013 dates: April 13, Nov. 3
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and this is no exception. Yeah, it’s a 1.5-miler, but the speeds are crazy fast and the banking falls away exiting Turn 2. The racing has matured since it received a second date in 2005, and usually provides some big speed and late race heroics; witness last year’s door slamming battle between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. Besides, where else do drivers get a shotgun for winning the pole and a pair of six-shooters for claiming victory in the race?

12. Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, Calif. • 12 turn, 1.99-mile road course • 2013 date: June 23
To many fans, it’s still Sears Point because no one could figure out what an Infineon was. This used to be NASCAR’s best road course until they messed with success and installed “The Chute” rather than utilize the Sports Car carousel course. It has now devolved into a fuel mileage venue, but late-race yellows tend to spring up and foster a fight to the finish. The elevation changes and curb bouncing are a break from the left turn-only rules, and how someone hasn’t plowed into the tire barrier at Turn 3a is beyond me. Plus after the race, go get glazed on a vineyard tour if you’re in attendance. Or if you’re at home, just wait until the 3:00 pm start time while basting in Midwest midsummer humidity.

13. Michigan International Speedway
Brooklyn, Mich. • 2-mile D-shaped oval • 2013 dates: June 16, Sept. 18
The Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Mich., are home to two races a year. About an hour outside of Detroit, this is one of the races that has always been key for the manufacturers to brag about having won — which has to sting a bit with Toyota having won four of the last seven. Michigan used to pack ’em in uncomfortably close, but seating rearrangements have made it comfortable again to see a spectator-friendly 400-miler. MIS has also updated the facilities in recent years and has done a masterful job of resolving the traffic and parking issues that made getting out of the track a perfect excuse to not go at all. The middle stages of a Michigan race can get strung out, however things historically tighten up at the end for a memorable finish. They were hitting 215 mph into Turn 1 here in practice last year before a slower tire was introduced, reducing the pole speed to a pedestrian 203.241 mph. Will the new Gen-6 cars push the envelope back over 210 this year?

14. New Hampshire International Speedway
Loudon, N.H. • 1.058-mile oval • 2013 dates: July 14, Sept. 22
Kyle Petty once said they should fill NHIS up with water and make it a bass pond. Of course, everyone cites Petty as saying that about every track, so who knows at this point. Anyway, many agreed with him after the Magic Mile produced nothing but duds the first 12 years or so on the circuit. Recently, it has provided a number of memorable finishes, and in part dictated the outcome of the 2010 Chase. It produced some of the closest finishes of the CoT era, and is notable for being the track to help draw fans from the Boston market. Say what you will about the recent downturn in attendance – NHIS fans still show up, even packing the stands for the must-see Modified race.

15. Dover International Speedway
Dover, Del. • 1-mile oval • 2013 dates: June 2, Sept. 29
Dover used to be the most brutal race on the schedule. You think the races are bad at 400 laps? They used to be 500 – on asphalt. Now, with its concrete makeover, it’s basically a big Bristol, only faster. Much like in the old days, the races can get a bit strung out during the middle portion, but if somebody loses it in the tight confines, there’s really no place for others to go, making this a treacherous joint.

16. Phoenix International Raceway
Avondale, Ariz. • 1-mile, D-shaped oval • 2013 dates: March 3, Nov. 10
How have times changed in NASCAR? Phoenix is now considered a short track even though it’s one mile in length, yet measured in kilometers. Don’t ask me what the KPH is for the pole speed, because I’m not wired that way. Phoenix now hosts two dates, and by the time drivers get back in November, they’re usually pretty cranky after nine months on the road. Therefore, tempers run high, water bottles are thrown at cars, and sometimes Clint Bowyer will run through the garage to beat up Jeff Gordon after getting turned head-on into the wall.

17. Kansas Speedway
Kansas City, Kan. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: April 21, Oct. 6
Bristol has Thunder Valley, Kansas has Tornado Alley. Hosting its first NASCAR race in 2001, Kansas was a welcome addition to the schedule, particularly for fans located in the Midwest, Great Plains and all points westward. Built during an era where cookie cutter, 1.5-mile tracks were being churned out with the kind of regularity seen only in a maternity ward, it’s not exactly the most unique track on the circuit. With the addition of a casino outside the track, there’s more to do than watch the race, get sunburned and corn. Lots of corn. On the downside it is Kansas, so be prepared for an onslaught of Wizard of Oz puns, costumes and innuendo.

18. Homestead Miami Speedway
Homestead, Fla. • 1.5-mile oval • 2013 date: Nov. 17
Another 1.5-mile speedway built in the late 1990s, Homestead-Miami Speedway became host to the season ending racing, replacing one of Atlanta’s dates on the schedule. Homestead-Miami was first envisioned as essential to the growing Latino market in South Florida and inclusion into another major sports market during NASCAR’s boon years. All three touring series wrap up the year here, so it’s going to be witness to some close racing for both wins and championships. It underwent a facelift in 2003, switching from a flat track format to progressive banking. Suddenly, the racing was interesting and the first Chase for the Championship in 2004 saw one of the most dramatic finishes in the sport’s history for a title go down to the last lap between five drivers. It ranks a bit low here due to it having only one date, being a long trek for many and because it’s place on the calendar falls the week before Thanksgiving. The last time I checked though, you don’t have to shovel sunshine.

19. Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nev. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 date: March 10
Las Vegas Motor Speedway — or more accurately, its owner, Bruton Smith — has been clamoring for a second date since it received its first in 1998. It’s a major market track, and unlike some venues, there is actually something to do besides going to the racetrack. The only issue is the race probably won’t be the highlight of your trip. But that’s not really a problem, as it is still a great vacation destination; LVMS is also home to the Richard Petty Driving Experience, as well as exotic car rentals. Depending on the day, you can indulge your inner Dean Martin or Mark Martin. And since its Las Vegas and in the desert, your inner Jeremy Mayfield. Or Ron Jeremy. Whatever floats your boat.

20. Pocono Raceway
Pocono, Penn. • 2.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: June 9, Aug. 4
The tricky triangle in the middle of the mountains, Pocono is one of NASCAR’s oldest speedways, technically being a superspeedway, as it is 2.5-miles in length. Pocono is unique in that it’s not an oval, drives like a road course and even the Turn 4 wall has a question mark painted on it. Pocono was patterned to comprise three famous flat American racetracks: Turn 1 after the Turn 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the Tunnel Turn is an ode to the track in Trenton, N.J.; the final turn a tip of the cap to the Milwaukee Mile. Pocono has been witness to some of the most heart-wrenching and endearing moments in the sport’s history: Bobby Allison’s near-fatal accident in 1988, Davey Allison’s violent tumble in ’92 and Dale Earnhardt’s and Rusty Wallace’s emotional tribute to fallen competitors Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki in ’93. It was also the first race Tim Richmond won after being hospitalized for what later would be revealed to be AIDS. And, of course, who could forget Earnhardt flipping off Jeremy Mayfield after getting his cage rattled on the final lap in 2000?

21. Auto Club Speedway
Fontana, Calif. • 2-mile, D-shaped oval • 2013 date: March 24
The sister track to Michigan, the 2.0-mile oval in Fontana, Calif., has fallen off the map in recent years. An hour outside of Los Angeles, it was once heralded as the most important new track for NASCAR to gain ground in a major market. How far has it fallen? ACS used to have two 500-mile dates, including a Chase race, but now only hosts the fifth race on the schedule – and even that has been reduced to 400 miles. Attendance has been a major issue in recent years, with completely empty grandstands being attributed to fans shopping for souvenirs during the race. Uh, yeah. Okay. However, after dialing it down to a one-and-done locale, Auto Club has been the site to some interesting races, with Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart racing to beat the rain in 2012 and a last-lap, three-way battle between Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in 2011.

22. Kentucky Speedway
Sparta, Ky. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 date: June 29
Located in Sparta, Ky., Kentucky Speedway is probably best known for having a traffic problem. The inaugural event in 2011 didn’t go so smoothly, with a number of fans missing the first hour of the race while being stuck on the highway — and others actually being turned away completely. With all of the hoopla surrounding it “finally” getting a date, the real question should have been why it needed one at all. Last year’s event was a snoozer, with a margin of victory of 4.399 seconds. There are existing tracks with twice the character that would provide a more competitive show than this 1.5-mile oval.

23. Chicagoland Speedway
Joliet, Ill. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • Sept. 15
Chicagoland hosted its first Sprint Cup race in 2002. Since then, it has been host to 12 races – eight of which had a margin of victory less than one second. Needing a promotional kick in the fender, NASCAR awarded Chicago the first Chase date in 2011, however that’s been a bumpy ride for the facility. The first year was rained out and run on a Monday. Last season, Brad Keselowski won by over three seconds, with the final 73 laps run under green flag conditions. It seats 75,000 people, which is 25 percent less than what Wrestlemania III pulled in 1986 at the Silverdome. About an hour outside of Chicago proper, you’ll likely not find a track with less character. But if you want to visit a wayward uncle in prison, this is your ticket.

by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter: @VitoPugliese

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your favorite and least favorite tracks in the Comment section below.

<p> Ranking NASCAR's racetracks.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 19:07
Path: /mlb/top-20-mlb-prospects-world-baseball-classic

The 2013 World Baseball Classic starts March 2, with round robin pool play getting the party started for the 16-team international tournament won by Japan in both 2006 and ’09. The championship round runs from March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Until then, many of the world’s top players will be going head-to-head from Tokyo to Miami.

Here’s a rundown of the top 20 MLB prospects playing in the WBC this time around.

Top 10 WBC Prime Prospects
These twentysomethings are players who are either working their way up an MLB farm system or making big enough waves internationally that they could make the jump to the bigs sooner rather than later.

Player, Pos., Country
Ht., Wt., Team, Age
2012 Statistics

1. Jose Abreu, 1B, Cuba
6-2, 258, Cienfuegos, 26
Cuban NL: .394, 35 HR, 99 RBI, 1.379 OPS

The Cuban slugger’s combination of plate discipline and power have drawn comparisons to both Miguel Cabrera and Barry Bonds. If his 2011-12 season wasn’t awesome enough, his age 24 year in 2010-11 produced a .453 average, 33 HR and a 1.583 OPS. Abreu has been hyped as the “best offensive weapon on the planet.”

2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Netherlands
6-3, 185, Boston Red Sox, 20
A-AA: .307, 20 HR, 81 RBI, .896 OPS

The Red Sox top prospect is the most exciting shortstop the farm system has seen since Hanley Ramirez. The X-man leads a loaded Dutch lineup that also includes Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Schoop as well as veteran Andruw Jones.

3. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Canada
6-6, 225, Pittsburgh Pirates, 21
A-AA: 9–8, 3.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 116-142 K-IP

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is one of the Pirates’ co-aces of the future, along with 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole.

4. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Japan
6-2, 205, Rakuten, 24
JPPL: 10–4, 1.87 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 169-173 K-IP

Now that Yu Darvish is stateside, Tanaka is the ace of the Land of the Rising Sun. His 2012 season was a down year compared to 2011, when Tanaka went 19–5 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.875 WHIP and 241 strikeouts in 226.1 innings.

5. Alfredo Despaigne, OF, Cuba
5-8, 214, Granma, 26
Cuban NL: .326, 36 HR, 105 RBI

Another Cuban power hitter, the diminutive Despaigne homered off Stephen Strasburg in the 2008 Olympics and has twice set the HR record in Cuba — with 32 in 2008-09 and then 36 jacks in 2011-12, breaking the record held by last year’s AL Rookie of the Year runner up Yoenis Cespedes.

6. Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Netherlands
6-1, 195, Baltimore Orioles, 21
AA: .245, 14 HR, 56 RBI, .710 OPS

Schoop can scoop anywhere in the infield, providing dynamic defense from short, second or third. That versatility will come in handy for Holland.

7. Andre Rienzo, RHP, Brazil
6-3, 190, Chicago White Sox, 24
A-AA-AAA: 7–3, 2.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 113-103.1 K-IP

The ace of Barry Larkin’s Brazilian beisbol club has pitched well since being suspended 50 games for a positive PED test.

8. Jose Berrios, RHP, Puerto Rico
6-0, 187, Minnesota Twins, 18
RK: 3–0, 1.17 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 49-30.2 K-IP

A teenage Puerto Rican prodigy who is mature for his age, Berrios those BBs over the plate.

9. Kenta Maeda, RHP, Japan
6-0, 161, Hiroshima, 24
JPCL: 14–7, 1.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 171-206.1 K-IP

Japan’s other ace, Maeda has a three-quarter delivery and excellent command of the strike zone.

10. Hayato Sakamoto, SS, Japan
6-1, 176, Yomiuri, 24
JPCL: .311, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 16 SB, .815 OPS

Bigger and stronger than Kaz Matsui, Japan’s best shortstop has downplayed his interest in MLB.

Next 10 WBC Prospects
Not quite in their prime, these prospects are either too old, too young or unlikely to defect or post.

11. Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Canada
6-7, 260, Philadelphia Phillies, 24

Potential closer of the future pitched 14.2 innings with a 3.68 ERA for the Phils last season.

12. Yulieski Gourriel, 3B, Cuba
6-0, 196, Sancti Spiritus, 28

Son of former National Team star, Lourdes, has been called the “Cuban Derek Jeter” but is unlikely to defect.

13. Frederich Cepeda, OF-DH, Cuba
5-10, 201, Sancti Spiritus, 32

One of the Cuban mainstays, Cepeda hit .500 with three HRs in 6 games and 24 AB in the 2009 WBC.

14. Alexei Bell, OF, Cuba
5-8, 187, Santiago, 29

Another usual suspect on Cuba’s National Team, Bell was the first player to hit 30 HR and 100 RBI in Cuba.

15. Seung-Yeop Lee, 1B, Korea
6-0, 210, Samsung, 36

“The Lion King” has still got it, crushing for .307, 21 HR, 85 RBI and a .966 OPS in Korea last season.

16. Shinnosuke Abe, C, Japan
5-11, 214, Yomiuri, 33

The big-hitting backstop mashed .340, 27 HR, 104 RBI and a .994 OPS in Japan last season.

17. Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP, Chinese Taipei
6-1, 198, Sanmin Senior High School, 18

Wanting to sign with an MLB team as soon as he can, Tseng’s game will be on display at the WBC.

18. Erisbel “Barbaro” Arruebarruena, SS, Cuba
6-0, 198, Cienfuegos, 22

A slick-fielding newbie to Team Cuba, “Barbaro” is a mystery man who could have baseball abuzz soon enough.

19. Tae-Kyun Kim, 1B, Korea
6-0, 220, Chiba Lotte, 30

A big hitter who shined in the 2009 WBC but has slipped of late, jumping from Korea to Japan professionally.

20. Kang Jung-Ho, SS, Korea
6-0, 180, Hyundai, 25

One of Korea’s rising stars for many years, Jung-Ho has come into his own and should shine in the WBC.

WBC Hall of Fame Five
These WBC alums were relative unknowns who have since evolved into high-paid MLB stars.

Yu Darvish, RHP, Japan
6-5, 216, Texas Rangers, 26
MLB: 16–9, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 221-191.1 K-IP

Served as the lights out closer on Japan’s second straight WBC championship team.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cuba
6-4, 205, Cincinnati Reds, 25
MLB: 5–5, 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 38 SV, 122-71.2 K-IP

An erratic yet charismatic lefty for Cuba was one of the top closer’s in MLB last year.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Cuba
5-10, 210, Oakland A’s, 27
MLB: .292, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, .861 OPS

A five-tool quick-twitch outfielder who carried the A’s to a longshot playoff berth.

Norichika Aoki, OF, Japan
5-9, 176, Milwaukee Brewers, 31
MLB: .288, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB

Japan’s best outfielder since Ichiro has not been a star but has been serviceable.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Korea
6-2, 255, Los Angeles Dodgers, 25

The rising MLB rookie was a horse for Korea’s gold medal-winning 2008 Olympic team.

<p> Top 20 MLB Prospects in World Baseball Classic, including Cuba's Jose Abreu, Netherlands' Xander Bogaerts, Canada's Jameson Taillon, Japan's Masahiro Tanaka, Cuba's Alfredo Despaigne, Netherlands' Jonathan Schoop, Brazil's Andre Rienzo, Puerto Rico's Jose Berrios, Japan's Kenta Maeda, Japan's Hayato Sakamoto, Canada's Phillippe Aumont, Cuba's Yulieski Gourriel and Korea's Seung-Yeop Lee.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 14:23
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-virginia-seals-bid

Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: Conference-by-conference Tourney projections and bubble watch


Virginia seals a bid?
The question for sometime has been what would Virginia need to do to overcome a handful of really bad losses. The Cavaliers’ loss to Old Dominion early in the season would be one of the worst for an NCAA at-large teams and that doesn’t get to a home loss to Delaware, a road loss to George Mason and ACC road losses to Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Well, defeating Duke at home might be the game that clinches the NCAA Tournament for Virginia. The Blue Devils entered Thursday ranked No. 1 in the RPI, but Mike Krzyzewski spent most of the evening in a foul mood. With a 73-68 win over Duke, Virginia has top-30 wins over Duke, NC State, North Carolina and Wisconsin, the latter on the road.

Gonzaga’s case for a No. 1 seed.
Gonzaga already had momentum for a No. 1 seed, but in the last week Duke lost to Virginia, Michigan lost to Penn State, Indiana lost to Minnesota, Florida lost to Tennessee, Miami lost to Wake Forest, and Michigan State lost twice. Gonzaga, though, keeps winning. The Zags defeated BYU 70-65 on Thursday with one game left before the West Coast Conference Tournament. Not a bad week for Gonzaga’s seeding hopes.

Temple survives a scare.
The Owls may have played themselves into the field int the last two weeks with a four-game winning streak, but they had to survive a non-conference scare Thursday night. Khalif Wyatt scored 12 of the last 14 points to defeat Detroit 83-78. Defeating Detroit (RPI No. 61) won’t make-or-break a Tournament bid for Temple, but it’s better to have an extra top-100 win on the resume.

Related: Roundtable debate: Who are the top five point guards?

Deshaun Thomas in a supporting role.
Thomas remains Ohio State’s top scorer, but Thad Matta has to be pleased others besides Thomas have led the way. Only seven times all season a Buckeye other than Thomas has led Ohio State in scoring, and two of those were in back-to-back games. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 24 points as Ohio State had to sweat through a 63-53 win over Northwestern. Thomas scored 19. Against Michigan State on Sunday, Aaron Craft led Ohio State in scoring with 21 points.

Big East maneuverings.
News reports from and ESPN on Thursday afternoon indicated the Catholic Seven could break off from the Big East as soon as next season and could add Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 immediately. Creighton, Dayton and Saint Louis could be realistic targets at a later date if the league expands to 12.

Just for fun, let’s look at what that league would be this season. Here’s a look at the new 12-team league with projected NCAA Tournament seedings from Jerry Palm’s latest bracket.

Team Seed
Georgetown 1
Butler 4
Saint Louis 4
Marquette 5
Creighton 10
Villanova 12
St. John's NIT
Xavier NIT
Providence NIT
Seton Hall  

All times Eastern

Louisville at Syracuse (noon, CBS)

When these two teams first met on Jan. 19, no one would have projected Georgetown to be the Big East’s most likely team to be a No. 1 seed, but here we are. The Cardinals are still in the mix for a regular season conference title, sitting a game behind the Hoyas. Syracuse is still in the mix, but this likely is a must win before the Orange visit D.C. in the regular season finale.

Alabama at Florida (noon, ESPN)
The Tide simply have too many bad losses (Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, LSU) to be a strong at-large candidate. A win in Gainesville would set up for a more meaningful SEC Tournament for Bama.

Butler at VCU (noon, ESPN2)
VCU is getting close to wrapping up an NCAA Tournament bid. A win over Butler may do it. If the Bulldogs can defeat VCU in Richmond, where the Rams haven't lost in Atlantic 10 play, it could be a further boon to the seeding of a team that has defeated Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana, Gonzaga and Temple.

Tennessee at Georgia (1:30, SEC Network)
Want to be in the Tournament, Tennessee? Take care of business by beating Georgia on the road. The Vols’ last road trip was a quadruple overtime win over Texas A&M.

Iowa State at Oklahoma (1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The Cyclones lost in devastating fashion to Kansas. Iowa State may be in the field, but Fred Hoiberg’s team can erase doubts by winning in Norman.

Wichita State at Creighton (2 p.m., ESPN2)
We’re starting to wonder how many bids the Missouri Valley could get. Wichita State and Creighton once looked like locks, but the Shockers lost to Evansville twice and Southern Illinois. Meanwhile, Creighton has lost four of seven. The winner of the MVC regular season finale may sleep a little easier about its at-large prospects.

Connecticut at Cincinnati (2 pm., Big East Network)
After losing five of the last six, Cincinnati has played itself on the bubble. The Bearcats have to find some way to stop this slide or risk being left out of the field.

Kentucky at Arkansas (4 p.m., CBS)
Athlon put the Wildcats back in the field this week. A game at Fayetteville is a great chance to prove the Wildcats can compete without Nerlens Noel. Florida and Missouri lost at Arkansas, so a Kentucky win would be a statement. Arkansas is on the bubble, but its dismal road record is holding back the Hogs. The Razorbacks need to win this game to set up a key game at Missouri on Tuesday.

Miami at Duke (6 p.m., ESPN)
After Miami lost to Wake Forest, Duke missed an opportunity to make up ground for a regular season ACC title by losing at Virginia on Thursday. Miami clinched at least a share of the regular season title with the Blue Devils’ loss.

Kansas State at Baylor (7 p.m., ESPN2)
Baylor’s big statements that it belongs in the field were a home win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 21 and a road win at Kentucky on Dec. 1. Do the Bears have anything more to show us?

St. John’s at Providence (8 p.m., Big East Network)
The Red Storm are trying to get into the Tournament picture. Providence has been a tough out this season, defeating Villanova twice plus Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

Arizona at UCLA (9 p.m., ESPN)
The Pac-12 title is up for grabs, but Oregon and Cal are also in the mix with the two preseason favorites. Arizona may not be in danger of losing a Tournament bid, but Arizona has something to prove after losing by 11 to USC on Wednesday.

Villanova at Pittsburgh (noon, Big East Network)

The Wildcats ensured no one would feel sorry for them if they miss the field when they lost to Seton Hall. Villanova can prove it belongs by finishing well against Pitt and Georgetown -- or it can go to the Big East Tournament riding a three-game losing streak.

Michigan State at Michigan (4 p.m., CBS)
Did Michigan play itself out of a No. 1 seed by losing to Penn State on Wednesday? Maybe. Michigan State is still in the mix. Trey Burke’s rebound from a six-turnover effort against the Nittany Lions is another key storyline.

ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (2): Butler, Saint Louis
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (3): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 19 teams

RELATED: Tourney Hopes—A Deep Dive Into The SEC's Current Resume

<p> Daily Bubble Watch and NCAA Tournament Tracker: Virginia seals bid?</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 11:04
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-2013-spring-football-preview

Front the first snap to the last, Rich Rodriguez' first season in Tucson was extremely entertaining if nothing else. He took a team that won four games and was primarily a passing offense and turned it into a bowl-winning squad built around his patented zone-read spread option attack. With all 11 starters returning on defense and a Heisman Trophy-contending tailback returning on offense, expectations in the desert should be much higher in season two under RichRod — even without a proven commodity at quarterback.

Arizona Wildcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 11

Returning Leaders:

Passing: B.J. Denker, 25-of-37, 259 yds., 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Ka'Deem Carey, 303 car., 1,929 yds., 23 TDs
Receiving: Austin Hill, 81 rec., 1,364 yds, 11 TDs
Tackles: Jake Fischer, 119
Sacks: Marquis Flowers, 5.5
Interceptions: Marquis Flowers, 3

Redshirts to watch: DE Kyle Kelley, WR Trey Griffey, DL Dwight Melvin, WR Jarrell Bennett, OL Zach Hemmila, OC Beau Boyster, QB Javelle Allen

JUCO Transfers to Watch: QB Jesse Scroggins (JC), OL Steven Gurrola (JC)

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Northern Arizona
Sept. 7 at UNLV
Sept. 14 UTSA
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Washington
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at USC
Oct. 19 Utah
Oct. 26 at Colorado
Nov. 2 at Cal
Nov. 9 UCLA
Nov. 16 Washington State
Nov. 23 Oregon
Nov. 30 at Arizona State

Offensive Strength: The running game. The best player on the team may be the best running back in the nation. Ka'Deem Carey returns with Heisman aspirations and three starting offensive lineman to block for him.

Offensive Weakness: Under center. Matt Scott redshirted as a junior and it could not have worked out better in his one season as the starter. He led the Pac-12 in total offense last year, and now, RichRod has to fill a gap that produced 343.8 yards per game.

Defensive Strength: Depth and experience. The linebacking corps is the most talented area of the defense, but the top 15 tacklers, including all 11 starters, are back on defense. Needless to say, this doesn't happen too often in college football.

Defensive Weakness: Overall production. The bodies are there. The experience and depth is there. But the numbers were not. This unit ranked 118th in total defense and 102nd in scoring defense last year. Yes, the Pac-12 has great offenses, but this side of the ball has to be more productive.

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats

1. Evaluate your quarterbacks. RichRod's top goal in the spring is to figure out what type of players he has under center. True freshman Anu Solomon isn't getting to campus until summer and USC transfer Jesse Scroggins is dealing with a foot issue that will limit his participation this spring. Leading the offense this spring then falls to senior B.J. Denker, redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and sophomore Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham. Isham has the most on-field experience and Denker saw the field last fall for Arizona. Organizing the pecking order at QB will be key for Arizona this spring.

2. Get Ka'Deem Carey focused. Despite multiple incidents in the offseason, Carey is a go for spring ball. His pretrial hearing for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges stemming from a December incident involving his pregnant ex-girlfriend has been pushed back to March 20. Carey also was kicked out of a Wildcats basketball game on Jan. 24 following a verbal altercation with a police officer. Carey needs to learn that no one is bigger than the game and even rushing for 2,000 yards doesn't mean he can get away with stupid, inappropriate conduct. The offensive line returns three starters and the running game could be one of the nation's best — if Carey can become a leader instead of a liability.

3. Overcoming injuries. Like many teams this spring, the Wildcats are dealing with numerous injuries and will be without many key performers in practice. Star linebacker Marquis Flowers (shoulder), starting cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson (shoulder) and Jonathan McKnight (shoulder) and nose tackle Dan Pettinato (knee) will be missed on defense. But so will key reserves C.J. Dozier (shoulder) and Kirifi Taula (shoulder). Supporting cast players on offense like wide receivers David Richards (foot) and Trevor Ermisch (hernia) also will be sitting out this spring. This is a great opportunity to get some young talent on the field and develop the depth chart. 

4. Improve fundamentals on defense. Considering all of the shoulder injuries on defense, maybe form tackling will be an area of focus during spring practice? In fact, all fundamentals will need some work on this side of the ball. This team returned just four starters a year ago and faced the best offenses in the nation out West, so excuses can be made to try to explain the horrific defensive statistics from the 2012 campaign. With so much talent returning with a full season or more of experience, there won't be nearly as many excuses this time around. So fine-tuning their overall defensive prowess should be the focus this spring.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Pac-12 Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

Pac-12 Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

<p> Arizona Wildcats 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-debate-who-nations-top-point-guard

In a college basketball season marked by uncertainty, determining the nation’s top players at any position is a tall task.

That starts at point guard. At midseason, we picked Trey Burke, Phil Pressey and Michael Carter-Williams as All-America point guards up to then. But we acknowledged we wouldn’t be shocked to see that group change order or welcome newcomers.

The order changed, but not at the top.

Burke separated himself from every other point guard on our panel of eight reporters, bloggers and editors. In addition to being a near-unanimous No. 1, Burke was the only point guard to appear on every ballot.

We asked eight writers and editors from inside the Athlon offices and outside to provide a their top five point guards and an explanation of their top picks.

Here are the results of the voting, awarding five points for each point guard at No. 1, four for No. 2 and so on.

Name Pts. Name Pts.
1. Trey Burke, Michigan 39 7. Aaron Craft, Ohio State 7
2. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse 18 8. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State 4
3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State 16 T-9 Peyton Siva, Louisville 2
4. Phil Pressey, Missouri 13 T-9 Nate Wolters, South Dakota State 2
5. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's 12 11. Myck Kabongo, Texas 1
6. Shane Larkin, Miami 8    


Dienhart’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Carter-Williams
3. Pressey
4. Canaan
5. Siva

Tom Dienhart,
Point guard may be the deepest position in the nation. I have to go with Burke. He showed again on Sunday why he's so good, notching 26 points, eight assists and one turnover in a win over Illinois. Burke is so quick, able to get to the rim off the bounce and also pull up for a jumper. He's deadly in transition and limits turnovers. And, best of all: Burke, who averages 18.6 points and 6.9 assists, makes those around him better as a deft passer.

Eisenberg’s ballot:
1. Burke
2. Larkin
3. Smart
4. Pressey
5. Dellavedova

Jeff Eisenberg, The Dagger on Yahoo! Sports
It's a testament to how good Trey Burke has been this season that selecting the nation's best point guard isn't a greater challenge. Although Shane Larkin has thrived in Miami's ball-screen heavy offense and Marcus Smart has transformed Oklahoma State with his versatility and competitiveness, no point guard has made a greater impact than the Michigan sophomore. Burke can win a game so many different ways, from his 39.7 percent outside shooting, to quick first step to the basket, to his ability to create for his teammates. Better yet, his exceptional decision making enables him to use those tools at the appropriate time. Not only is he averaging 18.9 points per game, his assist-to-turnover ratio is best among all point guards nationally.

Ennis’ ballot
1. Burke
2. Craft
3. Dellavedova
4. Pressey
5. Siva

Mark Ennis, Big East Coast Bias
It wasn’t easy ranking point guards because each has his own skill set that fits the role his respective team needs him to play. I put Trey Burke first because he’s been a consistent scoring threat while also getting the rest of the Michigan lineup involved. Aaron Craft is driving Ohio State’s late season surge with his defense and leadership. Matthew Dellavedova and Phil Pressey are the heart and soul of their respective teams, carrying the offenses at times for clubs that will be tough come tournament time. Peyton Siva, like Craft, makes his team better not so much by scoring, but by steadying the team and playing smothering defense.

Fox’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Larkin
3. Smart
4. Carter-Williams
5. Pressey

David Fox, Athlon Sports
Despite struggling mightily against Penn State earlier this week, Burke is my clear No. 1 point guard with his ability to run Michigan’s offense to near-perfection, never mind scoring the way he does. It took that fluke of a loss to reinforce how great Burke has been. His six turnovers that night were the most since the end of last season and as many as his previous five games combined. For the remainder of my ballot, I gave strong consideration to two point guards who elevated their teams to new heights in Larkin and Smart. And when Pressey and Carter-Williams are on, they rival Burke. But both have played out-of-control at times this season.

Gall’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Carter-Williams
3. Craft
4. Pressey
5. Canaan

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports
Aaron Craft is the best defender and the best leader. Micheal Carter-Williams is the most talented and the best future NBA prospect. Phil Pressey is the best pure passer and ball handler. But the best all-around floor leader in the nation is Michigan's Trey Burke. He can score from the outside, in fact, his only weakness is his penchant to take too many threes. He has the size and speed to be a lottery pick and has a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season. Throw in more than three boards per game on what could be the best team of the group and it's hard to argue with Burke as the nation's top point guard.

Light’s ballot:
1. Smart
2. Burke
3. Carter-Williams
4. Pressey
5. Dellavedova

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
This was very tough, but I will give the nod to Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State over Trey Burke of Michigan. Smart has made a tremendous impact on the Oklahoma State program as a freshman. Heading into the weekend, the Cowboys are 21–6 overall and 11–4 in the Big 12, one game behind Kansas and Kansas State. Smart’s production has been solid (14.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.4 apg), but his value to the team — and pardon the cliché — cannot be measured by the box score. He is a tremendous leader, even as a freshman, who is willing to do whatever it takes to get his team a win.

Ross’ ballot
1. Burke
2. Dellavedova
3. Carter-Williams
4. Wolters
5. Smart

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
Not only is Burke the nation's top point guard in my eyes, he's one of the leading contenders for national player of the year honors. Burke does it all, leading the Wolverines (23-5, 10-5 Big Ten) in scoring (18.8 ppg), assists (6.9 apg) and steals (1.4 spg). He leads the Big Ten in assists and is second in scoring, while also leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.9. He also shoots 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line. There may be other point guards that score more or are better on defense, but when it comes to the complete package there's none better than Burke.

Rush’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Smart
3. Dellavedova
4. Carter-Williams
5. Kabongo

Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
Burke has established himself as the premier point guard in the college game this season, while Smart is clearly the top pro prospect among lead guards eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft. Burke has been brilliant — averaging 18.8 points, 6.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while posting FG-FT-3PT shooting percentages approaching the 50-80-40 trinity. Burke's most impressive statistic, however, is his 3.57 assist-to-turnover ratio. He's also led the Wolverines to a 23–5 overall record and undefeated mark in Ann Arbor. Burke is the best.

Jim Young,
Why is Miami on top of the ACC? Perhaps it’s because Larkin has emerged as the league’s top point guard. Larkin doesn't overwhelm you with scoring (just 12.7 ppg in league play) but, given the talent around him, he doesn't have to. He passes (4.8 apg), takes care of the ball (2.2 A/TO ratio) and takes it away (1.9 spg). Oh, and he's efficient (112.4 ORtg). Most impressive? When it comes down to crunch time, on a team loaded with seniors, it's clear that Larkin, a sophomore, is the go-to guy.

<p> College basketball debate: Who is the nation's top point guard?</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/tcu-horned-frogs-2013-spring-football-preview

The 2012 season was a year of transition for Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs. Patterson didn't lose a single conference game (23-0) the three years prior to entering the Big 12. In their first season as a "BCS" or power conference team, the Frogs lost five conference games — as many as the previous five seasons combined. But that was to be expected now that Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State were on the schedule instead of Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado State. This team proved it could win on the road with all four Big 12 wins coming away from home, but the grind of a tougher schedule took its toll. That said, TCU acquitted itself well in its first year against the big boys, and with an extremely talented defense returning, the Horned Frogs could be in store for a return to national prominence in 2013.

TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: March 1-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Trevone Boykin, 167-of-292, 2,054 yds., 15 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: B.J. Catalon, 123 car., 582 yds., 2 TDs
Receiving: Brandon Carter, 36 rec., 590 yds, 6 TDs
Tackles: Joel Hasley, 79
Sacks: Devonte Fields, 10
Interceptions: Jason Verrett, 6

Redshirts to watch: QB Tyler Matthews, OL Chad Childs, WR Ja'Juan Story (transfer)

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 LSU (Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 7 Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 14 at Texas Tech
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 SMU
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma
Oct. 12 Kansas
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26 Texas
Nov. 2 West Virginia
Nov. 9 at Iowa State
Nov. 16 at Kansas State
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Baylor

Offensive Strength: Quarterback. The old adage goes "if you have two QBs, you have none." But that might not ring true with TCU. Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin both have proven to be quality options and each brings a different dimension to the offense. The duo give Patterson plenty of options for 2013.

Offensive Weakness: Leadership. Starting quarterback Casey Pachall was the antithesis of leader when he was dismissed from the team early in the year. With star power departing at running back and wide receiver, someone needs to step up and become the leader of the offense.

Defensive Strength: The secondary. Jason Verrett returns as one of the nation's top covermen, as do the other four starters in TCU's unique 4-2-5 defensive scheme. As a whole, this unit returns its top nine defensive backs, including three all-Big 12 performers.

Defensive Weakness: New coaches. This defense has loads of upside and talent returning despite the loss of star defensive end Stansly Maponga. But coordinator Randy Shannon must be replaced on the defensive coaching staff. Former Kansas assistant DeMontie Cross needs to prove his mettle this spring.

Spring Storylines Facing the Horned Frogs:

1. Trevone Boykin vs. Casey Pachall? Casey Pachall had an outstanding sophomore season in 2011 and was on a tear through four games (10 TD, 1 INT) to start 2012. However, substance abuse issues caused Patterson to remove Pachall from the field and locker room for the rest of the season. The good news was redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin stepped in and did an admirable job. However, now that Pachall is back in the fold, Patterson has to decide what to do with his QBs. Each player brings a unique skill set to the offense and the play calling would be dramatically different depending on who is on the field. The earlier this decision can be made, the better.

2. Find a workhorse back. Patterson has long used a stable of backs to power his rushing attack. However, it might be time to find a workhorse back that the offense can count on. Waymon James led the team in rushing in 2011 and returns to the field after missing most of 2012 with an injury. Sophomore-to-be B.J. Catalon led the team in rushing last year but didn't reach paydirt one time nor did he surpass 600 yards on the ground. There's also another option as elite recruit Aaron Green will be eligible after transferring from Nebraska. There's no arguing the success Patterson has enjoyed with his committee approach, but it might be time to turn one guy loose and give him the bulk of the carries. Patterson will use the spring to help sort out the pecking order in the backfield.

3. Replace two All-Big 12 blockers up front. The best named offensive lineman in program history, guard Blaize Foltz, has to be replaced up front. He and center James Fry were All-Big 12 performers and both are no longer on campus. Finding pieces to plug the holes up the gut of the offensive line will be huge this spring. The pivot is the most important position and Foltz was the best blocker on the team. Look for Joey Hunt and John Wooldridge will get the first crack at center and guard respectively.

4. Develop play-makers at linebacker. Devonte Fields is a superstar in the making and will anchor the defensive line as a just a sophomore. The talent and depth in the secondary is well documented. However, without All-Big 12 linebacker Kenny Cain (graduation), the linebacking corps looks to be the area of focus this spring. Joel Hasley is the lone returning tackler with experience, as no other linebacker on the roster had more than 18 tackles a year ago.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

Big 12 Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

<p> TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-2013-spring-football-preview

One of the youngest teams in the country may be a little closer to growing up.

Miami played 21 freshmen last season, including 10 who started at least one game. That made the Hurricanes one of the youngest teams in the country.  On the field, it showed -- particularly on defense. The ‘Canes endured a three-game losing streak in October and had one of the worst defenses in the league.

Yet Miami finished 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC despite having the prospect of a bowl game and a conference title game yanked away midseason. Al Golden returns with 14 players who started at least seven games, but that does not include a handful of players who contributed greatly -- including budding star Duke Johnson.

Miami Hurricanes 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-5 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Stephen Morris, 245 of 421, 3,345 yds., 21 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Duke Johnson, 139 car., 947 yds., 10 TDs
Receiving: Phillip Dorsett, 58 rec., 842 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: Shayon Green, 67
Sacks: Anthony Chickillo, 4
Interceptions: James Gaines, 2

Redshirts to Watch: LB Jawand Blue, DL Jacoby Briscoe, WR Jontavious Carter, QB Preston Dewey, DL Dwayne Hoilett, OL Danny Isidora, WR D'Mauri Jones, DL Jake O'Donnell

Early Enrollees to Watch: TE Standish Dobard, OL Hunter Knighton

JUCO Transfers to Watch: LB Devante Bond, DL Ufomba Kamalu, TE Beau Sandland

2013 Schedule

Aug. 30 FAU
Sept. 7 Florida
Sept. 21 Savannah State
Sept. 28 at USF
Oct. 5 Georgia Tech
Oct. 17 at North Carolina
Oct. 26 Wake Forest
Nov. 2 at Florida State
Nov. 9 Virginia Tech
Nov. 16 at Duke
Nov. 23 Virginia
Nov. 29 at Pittsburgh

Offensive Strength: Start with sophomore Duke Johnson, who become Miami’s most explosive offensive threat in several seasons. The running back was ninth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game and averaged 10.7 every time he touched the ball. He finished the season with 14 total touchdowns, including 10 rushing, one receiving, one passing and two on kickoff returns. He’ll be back in 2013 running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Quarterback Stephen Morris is also back after passing for 3,354 yards, the fifth-highest total in program history.

Offensive Weakness: Johnson will be the Hurricanes' top threat on offense, but Miami’s meager rushing averages are surprising. Miami ranked 81st nationally at 144.9 yards per game and 42nd in yards per carry at 4.7. Mike James, who carried eight more times than Johnson last season, is gone. No other tailback had more than 16 carries. With Eduardo Clements battling injury, Miami may look to newcomers to spell their star running back. Johnson topped out 16 carries in a game last season, but twice in the final three games. Developing depth will be a major question during the spring.

Defensive Strength: Miami graduated one senior starter on each side of the ball. On defense, the Hurricanes will have to hope last season’s youth contributed to producing one of the worst units in the ACC. With a full season under its belt, this group of returning veterans may be improved simply by having more experience. The Miami defense could also be a takeaway-prone group at times last season. Four times last season, Miami forced three or more turnovers as UM averaged two takeaways per game.

Defensive Weakness: The Hurricanes were a mess on defense last season, finishing last in the ACC in both rushing yards and passing yards allowed per game. The run defense may be more pressing, however. Miami mixed and matched its starting lineup all season, but nowhere more than in the linebacker corps. Most of the Canes’ personnel there returns, with the exception of starting linebacker Gionni Paul. Eddie Johnson, another returning starter at outside linebacker, is suspended indefinitely.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hurricanes

1. Miami v. The NCAA. This is an off-field story, but one that could have repercussions throughout college sports. University president Donna Shalala’s fiery response to the NCAA notice of allegations indicated Miami is not going to take many more sanctions without a fight. If more news develops during spring practice, coach Al Golden will continue to be the public face, especially concerning Miami’s postseason eligibility.

2. Miami’s revamped offensive coaching staff. The Hurricanes scored a victory in the assistant coaching carousel when they hired James Coley from Florida State as offensive coordinator to replaced Jedd Fisch, who took the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coley will call plays at Miami, an opportunity he didn’t have at Florida State with Jimbo Fisher manning those duties. The ‘Canes didn’t do too much shuffling on his staff, moving Hurlie Brown from an administrative role to running backs coach, Brennan Carroll from tight ends coach to wide receivers and hiring Larry Scott from USF to coach tight ends. With the nine returning starters including Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris, there might not be much reason for Coley to change things drastically.

3. Getting the most out of the defensive line. Miami needs help all over the defense, but the Hurricanes have a substantial chance to improve across the defensive front. Tackle Curtis Porter played only the final four games last season. Having him healthy could be a huge asset to Anthony Chickillo and the pass rush. Expectations have been high for Chickillo, but his 2012 production was similar to 2011. Added talent at the tight end position from the junior college ranks enabled Miami to move starting tight end Dyron Dye to defensive end.

4. Adjusting personnel in the back seven. Linebacker and defensive back will see the most changes of any position on the team. Besides losing a full-time starter at linebacker and cornerback, outside linebacker Eddie Johnson, who was fourth on the team with 59 tackles, is suspended indefinitely. Part-time starting cornerback Thomas Finnie also left the team.

5. The arrival of Beau Sandland. Miami was once a home for great tight ends from Jeremy Shockey to Kellen Winslow to Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham. Like many position groups at Miami, tight end took a dip in the last few years. Miami is eager to add a true difference-maker at the position, and the Hurricanes may have one in 6-4, 250-pound junior college transfer Beau Sandland.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the ACC Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

ACC Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

<p> Al Golden's young Hurricanes look to grow up during spring practice</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, Golf
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-Feb

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for March 1.

Rory McIlroy withdrew from the Honda Classic today after chopping up the first eight holes (Nike hardest hit). At least Rory has girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki to console him. She's history's 29th-most stylish athlete, according to's top 100 countdown. Here's the complete list.

• Breaking news: High school recruit 40 times are a sham. Either that, or guys get slower after spending four years in a world-class weight and conditioning program.

• One magazine rack in the DFW airport is censoring the one belonging to Kate Upton.

• You've probably seen adidas' hideous new college basketball uniforms by now. If not, put on your sunglasses and click here.

Coach K is complaining about court-storming following Virginia's upset of Duke and subsequent celebration. I'm inclined to agree. Putting drunk, euphoric college kids in close proximity with large, angry opposing athletes is a recipe for disaster.

An offseason rundown of SEC quarterbacks. With Johnny Football, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray carrying the torch, the SEC takes a back seat to no one in the QB department. Speaking of the SEC, opens its recruiting notebook to examine LSU

• Call it hockey-tonk: An interesting read on how Nashville became a hockey town.

• David Feherty is not afraid to look like a jackass. The latest example: He crashed a bike into Paul Azinger's bushes with cameras rolling.

Ryan Swope: Breaking stereotypes, and making the NFL safe for white wideouts.

• I've never linked to a Harlem Shake video before. I guess I should before the thing totally dies. Here's the Miami Heat treating us to their version.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Feb. 28

• February's ending, and it's been a good month for fans of comely ladies. Here's a rundown of the month in sports-related babes.

Louisville's Chane Benahan absolutely threw down last night. If he had to take out a guy's jaw with his knee to do it, so be it. Gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.

• Some guys are really worth rooting for. Kansas' Ben McLemore is one.

Stephen Curry had his MSG moment last night, like all the great ones do. He poured in 54 in a losing effort against the Knicks.

Monta Ellis tossed in a ridiculous game-winner, then nonchalantly ran off the court, like Barry Sanders tossing the ball to an official. Badass.

• SEC first-team running backs Eddie Lacy and Mike Gillislee are gone. But that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of capable rock-toters left. The best returning running backs in the SEC.

Ten compelling storylines coming out of the NFL Combine. One of them is Manti Te'o, about whom one team rep said, "I'm just not sure he's good enough to offset the crap. It's a road I hope we don't go down. I'd rather find a better athlete." Ouch.

Alex Smith's trade to the Chiefs is mother-approved. That's a relief.

• Today's fun countdown: the seven biggest freakouts in sports history. I'm sure we all could think of more.

• Athlon Sports sells great sports collectibles. Athlon does not sell any of these items: the worst sports collectibles of all time.

• While major leaguers soft-toss and soak in the sun, real baseball is being played in small stadiums across the country. In one of them, NC State's Brett Williams made a major league-quality catch.

• The Wizards broadcaster mistook an airball for a game-winner. Comedy ensued, as he continued to celebrate while players walked dejectedly off the court.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Feb. 27

• They've announced the cast for the next season of Dancing with the Stars, and as usual, the world of sports is well represented. Here's a slideshow of sports figures who have competed in past seasons, including the lovely Erin Andrews (right).

This jackass coach swept the leg of an opposing pee-wee hockey player, earning a suspension. I hear there's an opening for him at the Cobra Kai dojo.

• Speaking of the jerk from "Karate Kid," here are some of the worst coaches in sports movie history.

Shamarko Thomas ate it on his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He gets an A for effort, though.

• Speaking of Combine 40s, it's become an annual ritual: Rich Eisen runs the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, suit and all.

• There was news yesterday that A-Rod's charity didn't funnel much of its money to its actual mission. Color me shocked. A-Smith is a different story, however. Alex Smith's charity is a model of efficiency.

LeBron threw down another pregame dunk that was as good as anything at the NBA Slam Dunk competition.

Stephen Curry went on an ankle-breaking spree last night, unleashing a couple of filthy cross-overs.

• Blake Griffin did what Blake Griffin does, only this time he did it left-handed.

• More strangeness from Rocky Top: A former Tennessee strength coach apparently broke into the Thompson-Boling Arena offices armed with a saw.

• English teens have a tenuous grip on what the American version of football is all about, although as one commenter says, they probably know more about football than I know about soccer.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Feb. 26

• We're living in the Year of Jennifer Lawrence. Just when you think the reigning Best Actress couldn't get any more adorable, she has this precious post-Oscar encounter with the great Jack Nicholson.

• Les Miles and Nick Saban are duking it out over another recruit. Oh, and this one's in the eighth grade. Recruiting is officially out of control. Of course, once you check his highlight reel, you'll wonder why your favorite coach hasn't offered him too.

• Now that NASCAR season is in full swing, here's a rundown of the stupidest NASCAR-related products available for purchase. Not even your redneck brother-in-law with the Dale Jr. bedsheets will want this stuff.

This local anchor didn't do her homework before interviewing Olympic runner Mo Farah. As one of the commenters points out, she probably works for NBC and hasn't seen the tape-delayed results yet.

Dennis Rodman has gone to North Korea on a diplomatic mission. We can all sleep easier tonight.

• My Twitter feed is overflowing with Combine 40 times. Rather than dissect the DB times, I'd prefer to watch this hypnotic GIF of Landry Jones' unusual gait

• The PGA Tour commissioner is opposed to the proposed ban on anchored putters. His announcement only muddied the waters.

• Today's trip down MJ Memory Lane: Jordan scored 58 (a Bulls record that he would break several times) on this date in 1987 against the Nets. Here are the highlights.

• More classic, vintage hoops footage: Bill Russell, in his San Francisco Don days, goes coast to coast and leaps over a hapless defender for a layup. If Russ played today, he might be a wicked slasher.

Tackling a streaker can be risky business.

• Sometimes, kids do things that actually give you hope for the future. Today's video features one of those times.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Feb. 25

• Tragedy and triumph marked the weekend at Daytona, but I'll leave the analysis to the professionals. Here's a rundown of NASCAR-affiliated hotties, including Jeff Gordon's better half, Ingrid Vandebosch (pictured).

• Rapper 50 Cent made an awkward, ill-fated attempt to kiss Erin Andrews as the two roamed the Daytona infield. Deadspin slowed it down and put it to music.

• Speaking of Daytona, the day after the disaster, the fans came back.

• Okay, it's official: James Franco must be kept away from open microphones. I think this was an honest mistake, but it sure sounded like an insult.

• So what will scheduling look like in college football's brave new world of realignment and playoffs? Here's your answer.

• The only thing better than fat-guy touchdowns is fat guys running the 40 to the Chariots of Fire theme.

A kid's first ski jump did not go well. He's fine, so it's okay to laugh.

Is Kevin Sumlin getting a little full of himself? I guess when you win 11 games and coach the Heisman winner, you're entitled.

• In case you work and had to go to bed at a decent hour, here's a complete list of last night's Oscar winners.

Ed Reed patrolled the Oscars red carpet like he does the Ravens secondary: like a boss.

Floyd Mayweather celebrated his birthday in the most Floyd Mayweather way possible.

• The buzzer-beating trend has trickled down to third graders. Here's a half-court game-winner. They'll have time to work on their court-storming.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 09:30