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Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-2012-spring-preview
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By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

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

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record:  11-3, 6-2 Big Ten

Spring practice: March 17-April 28 

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Joe Brennan, 6-of-15, 48 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Montee Ball, 1,923 yards, 33 TD
Receiving: Jared Abbrederis, 55 rec., 933 yards, 8 TD
Tackles: Mike Taylor, 150
Sacks: Beau Allen, 4
Interceptions: Shelton Johnson, 4

Redshirts to watch: DL Jesse Hayes, TE Austin Traylor, WR A.J. Jordan, RB Melvin Gordon, LB Jake Keefer, DB Terrance Floyd

2012 Schedule

Big Ten 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Northern Iowa
Sept. 8 at Oregon State
Sept. 15 Utah State
Sept. 22 UTEP
Sept. 29 at Nebraska
Oct. 6 Illinois
Oct. 13 at Purdue
Oct. 20 Minnesota
Oct. 27 Michigan State
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 10 at Indiana
Nov. 17 Ohio State
Nov. 24 at Penn State

Offensive Strength: This one is fairly simple: Running backs. Only two players have ever scored 39 touchdowns in a single season before and Montee Ball is one of them. Packaged with third-year back James White and youngsters Jeffrey Lewis and Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin boasts one of the best tailback corps in the nation…again.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback will be a huge concern for this team. Russell Wilson was a special talent and the best to ever play the position in Madison. Replacing him will be one of the most difficult tasks Bret Bielema has faced as the head coach of Wisconsin. The four players vying for the starting job totaled 15 pass attempts in 2011.

Defensive Strength: The heart of this defense will be the linebackers. With two first-team all-Big Ten performers returning, this unit has a chance to be not only the conference’s top group, but one of the best in the nation. That said, leader and middle linebacker Mike Taylor is recovering from hip surgery and isn’t likely to practice this spring.

Defensive Weakness: The secondary will have two big holes heading into spring football. The team’s top coverman, first-team All-Big Ten cornerback Anotnio Fenelus, and top safety, all-conference honorable mention Aaron Henry, will be sorely missed. They were the most talented defensive backs on the roster and their leadership needs to be replaced.

Spring Storylines Facing the Badgers:

1. Finding a replacement for Russell Wilson is the top priority for the coaching staff. In only one season, Wilson set school records for career completion percentage (72.8%), passing efficiency (191.8 – which was also an NCAA single-season record), single-season passing yards (3,175), touchdown passes (33), completions (225) and total offense (3,513). Best of luck Joe Brennan, Joel Stave, Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips. Phillips (ACL) and Budmayr (arm) are the two most talented options on the roster but likely won’t see much time this spring as the duo is still recovering from injury. This leaves new offensive coordinator Matt Canada with Brennan and Stave as the only two healthy quarterbacks on the roster. These two will need to show marked improvement this spring to allow Bret Bielema to feel comfortable about his signal caller come fall. This dire situation could further influence the chase for former Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien.

2. How will the new coaching staff fit together? Canada is just one of six new faces on the Wisconsin coaching staff. Losing assistants is a double-edged sword that, over time, can cause serious issues to a program. It is a good thing to have highly-sought after coaches on the payroll, but replacing two-thirds of a staff in one year is a tall order. Bielema has shown the ability to reconstruct an excellent coaching staff, but dealing with attrition multiple years in a row will eventually take its toll at some point. Canada has the tallest task as he replaces departed offensive guru Paul Chryst, whose Big Red offenses have paced the Big Ten the last three years. Without a quarterback and having to rebuild one of the nation’s best offensive lines, this could be the year that the coaching turnover finally impacts the Badgers in a major way.

3. How many teams can lose three first-team all-conference offensive lineman and survive? That is what Montee Ball and Canada are going to have to do this spring. Josh Oglesby, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz have all moved on, leaving Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner as the only returning starters. Wisconsin recruits and develops the offensive line as well as any team in the nation, so fans shouldn’t be terribly worried about finding blockers in MadTown. Junior Ryan Groy appeared in all 14 games, senior Robert Burge played in 12, sophomore Rob Havenstein played in 12 and junior Zac Matthias played in nine contests. Having tight end Jacob Pedersen back should also help the blocking scheme develop over the next month. These are the names, among others, who will be asked to step up and produce this spring in the face of a major losses.

4. Replacing the leadership and talent lost in the secondary. Fenelus and Henry were the leaders of this unit and were recognized as two of the best defensive backs in the league last year. Shelton Johnson and Marcus Cromartie return with experience and ideally the recovery of Devin Smith will help with depth. Names like Dezman Southward and Peniel Jean need to step into bigger roles while the returning talent must provide leadership during the spring.

5. To a lesser extent, the defensive line needs to fill holes as well. All-conference tackle Patrick Butrym and top sackmaster Louis Nzegwu have moved on, but there is loads of depth within this group. High potential players like David Gilbert, who missed much of last year due to injury, and Brendan Kelly will fight with Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel for playing time at end while Jordan Kokout and Beau Allen will support Ethan Hemer on the interior. There are a lot of big bodies to work with up front, so the refining the the rotation and keeping healthy will be the top concern for the D-Line.

Related Content Links:

Big Ten 2012 Schedule Analysis

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early Big Ten Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 26, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/april-2012-crossword-solution
Body:
Teaser:
<p> <img alt="" src="http://ath-clients.s3.amazonaws.com/athlon/AthlonSportsAprilSolution.jpeg" /></p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 16:18
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-auto-club
Body:

by Jay Pennell

 
The Sprint Cup Series rolls back across the country this weekend for the fifth race of the 2012 season at Auto Club Speedway. The 2-mile D-shaped oval is situated about an hour from downtown Los Angeles, taking the stars of NASCAR to Hollywood — a far cry from last week's race nestled in the mountains of Tennessee. 
 
Not only is the area surrounding the track much different from Bristol, but the action on the track will be dramatically different, as well.
 
The Auto Club Speedway has become known for long stretches of green flag racing, with fuel mileage always a concern. Thus, finding the perfect balance on the car is key to a successful day. Watch teams closely throughout the weekend as they work on walking that fine line between loose and tight.
 
One team that should have no problem walking a fine line is this week's fantasy favorites: the No. 48 team led by driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus.
 
When it comes to ACS, Johnson is right at home — and it's not just because he's a California native.
 
In 17 career starts, Johnson has an impressive record with five wins, an average finish of 5.1, with 12 top 5s, 13 top 10s, 849 laps led and zero DNFs. 
 
Impressive to say the least. 
 
Yet more importantly for the No. 48 team, this week Hendrick Motorsports scored a huge win over NASCAR. On Tuesday, the penalties and suspensions handed down by NASCAR for unapproved C-posts in Daytona were overturned by the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook. 
 
Now, instead of losing Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for six weeks, they will remain at the track, leading the way for the No. 48 team. In addition, with the points reduction also overturned, the five-time champion sits 11th in the series standings.
 
A proven track record, a resounding win during the week to regain points and personnel, along with an impressive start to the 2012 season (two top 5s and three top 10s in four races) has Johnson as this week's fantasy favorite.
 
Five Favorites: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart
 
While Johnson may be this week's fantasy favorite, you may want to add Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer to your starting roster. 
 
Although he has yet to visit Victory Lane in Fontana, Bowyer has a strong average finish of 10.6. In only 11 starts, he has score a solid seven top 10 finishes and has zero DNFs. 
 
Now driving for MWR and working with crew chief Brian Pattie, Bowyer is starting to work through the difficulties of adjusting to a new team. Despite a 30th-place finish in Phoenix, Bowyer has finished 11th or better in three of the first four races and sits eighth in points. 
 
For Pattie, the biggest thing the team needs to overcome in simple mistakes.
 
"Eliminating mistakes helps you run pretty decent — it’s a hell of a concept," he said. "We haven’t really done too much to get things going the right way. Everybody is understanding each other and Clint is understanding the cars more — and so am I. Hopefully we can keep Clint’s top-10 average at Fontana going this weekend.”
 
I expect them to do just that, leading to a solid day in the fantasy column. 
 
Five Undervalued Picks: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman
 
Picking a darkhorse this weekend is more difficult than most. With many favorites in the field, choose your darkhorse driver carefully.
 
This weekend, I'm keeping my eye on Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton. Slated to make his 23rd career start at ACS, Burton has struggled recently on the intermediate track. In fact, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet has only one top 10 in last seven ACS races, that being a third in 2010. 
 
Yet, after a disappointing effort throughout the entire 2011 season, Burton is eager to get back into contention. One of the biggest issues the No. 31 team encountered last year was on the intermediate tracks. Making an effort to turn that around, RCR brought in new personnel and worked diligently to be a better team at each and every track. 
 
After recording their second top-10 finish of the year last Sunday in Bristol, Burton and his Drew Blickensderfer-led team have a bit of momentum on their side, and are looking to put their intermediate track struggles behind them this weekend.
 
"That was, without a doubt, our weakest point," Burton said, reflecting on their struggles last season. "One-and-a-half and two-mile tracks weren't RCR's strong point last season. We've worked really hard to be better on those tracks. You have to be competitive on these tracks. You can't expect to go and win the championship if you can't go to those tracks and run strong. There are just so many of them on the schedule."
 
Three Darkhorse Picks: Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski
 
Best Average Finish at Fontana (Wins):
1. Jimmie Johnson — 5.1 (5)
2. Carl Edwards  9.0 (1)
3. Matt Kenseth  9.9 (3)
4. Clint Bowyer  10.6 (0)
5. Jeff Gordon  11.2 (3)
6. Kyle Busch  12.0 (1)
7. Kurt Busch  12.9 (1)
8. Mark Martin  13.6 (1)
9. Tony Stewart  14.1 (1)
10. Kasey Kahne  14.9 (1)
 
Follow Jay on Twitter: @JayWPennell
Teaser:
<p> Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Southern California</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-shortstop-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

Troy Tulowitzki remains the clear-cut leader at shortstop followed by Hanley Ramirez and his Marlins' teammate Jose Reyes.

Reports out of spring training are that Ramirez has not only embraced the move to third base due to the arrival of Reyes, but he also has looked good at the plate.

Whether you draft and use Ramirez at shortstop or third, when he becomes eligible there, early signs indicate that you may be getting the offensive force at the plate he was just two seasons ago (.342-24-106 with 101 R and 27 SB). One thing's for sure, if you draft Ramirez, who comes in at No. 19 overall on the Big Board, you certainly don't want a repeat of his 2011 injury-plagued campaign (.243-10-45 in just 92 games).

Overall, there's not a lot of changes in the shortstop positional rankings. Erick Aybar and J.J. Hardy both increased their standing in the Top 200 by at least eight slots, while Emilio Bonifacio went backwards 10 spots, resulting in the three of them swapping positions in the positional rankings.

Stephen Drew cracked the Top 200, but it's all but certain he will not be ready by Opening Day as he continues his recovery from the broken ankle he suffered last July. Drew will most likely start the season on the DL in hopes of returning sometime in May.

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

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

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

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

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

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 6 5 Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 4 9 6 5 6 15 8 6 4
2 19 20 Hanley Ramirez MIA SS 27 29 13 9 16 34 15 13 21
3 24 24 Jose Reyes MIA SS 18 32 21 31 18 61 19 14 19
4 45 43 Starlin Castro CHC SS 44 79 57 63 42 59 37 43 38
5 57 51 Elvis Andrus TEX SS 64 108 60 60 63 92 49 41 42
6 71 66 Asdrubal Cabrera CLE SS 97 86 63 47 54 97 56 92 64
7 81 81 Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 104 102 49 54 69 146 53 76 73
8 116 121 Derek Jeter NYY SS 125 118 113 101 97 - 94 105 118
9 118 123 Alexei Ramirez CHW SS 127 138 86 89 123 131 116 145 129
10 127 139 Erick Aybar LAA SS 153 127 129 95 112 - 131 111 135
11 133 141 J.J. Hardy BAL SS 140 168 111 91 129 191 170 90 134
12 135 125 Emilio Bonifacio MIA SS/3B/OF 124 114 213 83 - 109 142 172 119
13 138 147 Dee Gordon LAD SS 138 145 133 157 169 138 139 162 96
14 151 163 Jhonny Peralta DET SS 142 169 126 106 193 200 159 138 149
15 190 NR Stephen Drew ARI SS - - 160 152 - - 197 151 -
16 199 211 Yunel Escobar TOR SS 192 183 200 161 - - - 153 -
17 214 NR Marco Scutaro COL SS - - 169 - 171 - 182 198 -
18 238 222 Ian Desmond WAS 2B/SS 171 - - - - - - - -
19 256 NR Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS/3B - - - - 191 - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Clint Barmes (PIT, SS), Willie Bloomquist (ARI, SS/OF), Jamey Carroll (MIN, 2B/SS), Alcides Escobar (KC, SS), Rafael Furcal (STL, SS), Alex Gonzalez (MIL, SS), Macier Izturis (LAA, 2B/SS/3B), Jed Lowrie (HOU, SS/3B), Sean Rodriguez (TB, 2B/SS/3B), Ruben Tejada (NYM, 2B/SS)

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 23, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

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

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki remains the clear-cut No. 1 shortstop in Athlon Sports' updated consensus fantasy rankings</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-second-base-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

The top four at second base stay the same as Robinson Cano leads the way followed by Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Ben Zobrist.

Brandon Phillips and Michael Young have swapped places at fifth and seventh, respectively, with Dan Uggla falling in between them. Phillips slight move up the Top 200 could be attributed to Reds manager Dusty Baker's assertion that Phillips will star the season as his leadoff hitter. Phillips was moved to the leadoff spot last August and thrived there, hitting .350 with seven home runs, seven stole bases and a .417 on-base percentage.

Chase Utley dropped just a few spots in the Top 200, but that's subject to change as the Phillies' second basemen is dealing with issues with both knees. He left the Phillies' camp earlier this week to see a knee specialist and the team has already said his availability to be ready by Opening Day is in doubt.

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

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

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

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

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

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player: Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 7 8 Robinson Cano NYY 2B 3 16 7 10 10 13 7 8 8
2 15 15 Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 13 14 15 11 21 16 14 19 17
3 22 22 Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 28 30 19 26 14 35 20 15 20
4 50 52 Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 93 72 51 41 45 64 43 51 52
5 53 59 Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 39 101 54 49 49 71 52 47 55
6 55 57 Dan Uggla ATL 2B 100 103 42 52 64 50 45 55 48
7 59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
8 75 64 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B 95 95 83 45 55 96 67 54 84
9 89 83 Chase Utley PHI 2B 68 100 76 71 98 - 74 67 71
10 90 90 Howard Kendrick LAA 1B/2B/OF 85 119 118 79 84 88 91 101 72
11 112 120 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 96 152 92 123 156 139 98 121 70
12 123 129 Dustin Ackley SEA 2B 112 144 171 93 135 152 132 103 117
13 146 148 Neil Walker PIT 2B 141 157 167 104 - 117 154 144 147
14 152 146 Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 139 - 174 148 167 135 134 141 156
15 159 164 Ryan Roberts ARI 2B/3B 162 123 165 112 192 162 189 180 155
16 162 168 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B 182 185 189 113 166 140 165 155 160
17 167 186 Jemile Weeks OAK 2B 165 131 - 180 - 156 145 147 177
18 178 193 Kelly Johnson TOR 2B - 161 175 164 141 199 157 - 188
19 229 NR Aaron Hill ARI 2B - 198 - 168 - - - - -
20 256 NR Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS/3B - - - - 191 - - - -
21 259 NR Darwin Barney CHC 2B - - - 194 - - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Jose Altuve (HOU, 2B), Gordon Beckham (CHW, 2B), Jamey Carroll (MIN, 2B/SS), Allen Craig (STL, 2B/OF), Mark Ellis (LAD, 2B), Orlando Hudson (SD, 2B), Macier Izturis (LAA, 2B/SS/3B), Daniel Murphy (NYM, 1B/2B/3B), Ryan Raburn (DET, 2B/OF), Brian Roberts (BAL, 2B), Sean Rodriguez (TB, 2B/SS/3B), Scott Sizemore (OAK, 2B/3B), Ruben Tejada (NYM, 2B/SS)

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 23, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

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

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' updated consensus fantasy rankings at second base reveal no change at the top</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

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

Auburn Tigers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 8-5, 4-4  SEC

Spring Practice: March 21-April 16

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Clint Moseley, 66 of 108, 800 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Onterio McCalebb, 112 att., 641 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Emory Blake, 36 rec., 613 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Daren Bates, 104
Sacks: Corey Lemonier, 9.5
Interceptions: Three tied at 2

Redshirts to Watch: OT Greg Robinson, OT Christian Westernman, ATH Kris Frost

Early Enrollees:

Zeke Pike, QB (6-6, 225), Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights
Patrick Miller, OL (6-7, 275), West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer
Shane Callahan, OL (6-6, 285), Parker (Colo.) Chaparral
Javiere Mitchell, LB (6-2, 209), Leeds (Ala.) High
Jay Prosch, FB (6, 250), Mobile (Ala.) UMS-Wright

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Clemson (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)
Sept. 8 at Mississippi State
Sept. 15 Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 22 LSU
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 Arkansas
Oct. 13 at Ole Miss
Oct. 20 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 27 Texas A&M
Nov. 3 New Mexico State
Nov. 10 Georgia
Nov. 17 Alabama A&M
Nov. 24 at Alabama

Offensive Strength: Offensive line depth. On a team that finished 100th in the nation in total offense, fans can't point to a clear strength. But the Tigers have recruited at an elite level along the offensive line, and this group, particularly the 2011 class, has loads of potential.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. There is a need to find athletes who can make big plays at wide receiver and running back, but there is no more important position on the field than under center. There is little experience and huge question marks exist with a talented sophomore, true freshman and physically limited junior battling for the starting gig this spring.

Defensive Strength: Overall depth, especially along the line of scrimmage. The top 10 players from the D-Line return in 2012 and this unit has a chance to lead this squad in the fall. Names like Corey Lemonier, Nosa Eguae and rising stars Gabe Wright and Jeffrey Whitaker should only continue to improve.

Defensive Weakness: Overall experience. While this unit is incredibly deep and highly-touted, new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has to develop some experienced leaders. Five of the top seven returning tacklers were sophomores a year ago. Look for leading tackler and rare senior starter Daren Bates to looked upon for leadership.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers:

1. Stabilize the coaching staff. In less than a year, the relationship between national championship head coach and star offensive coordinator soured to the point of divorce. Gene Chizik had to replace both his offensive and defensive coordinators for the first time in his Auburn career this offseason, but it appears that he might have broke even — if not upgraded both positions — when he hired Brian VanGorder from the Atlanta Falcons and Scot Loeffler from Temple. Getting these two heavy hitters, and their schemes, settled into place this spring should be top priority for Chizik. Both will bring what Chizik has apparently been craving for years, a pro-style attack on both sides of the ball. How quickly the deep but youthful defense and inexperienced offense take to these systems could be the difference between a .500 season and challenging for the division.

2. The quarterback position is clearly the biggest issue for new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler. Two of his three options were incredibly highly-touted prospects who player in SEC states and offer big frames and dual-threat ability. Kiehl Frazier threw just 12 passes during his freshman season and Loeffler has no idea if he can excel as a passer in the system. Zeke Pike brings a massive 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame and his own athletic ability to the position. However, he is a true freshman going through his first collegiate practices. Clint Moseley, the least touted prospect of the bunch, has the most starting experience after getting the nod in the final six games on '11. The fact that he hasn't separated himself since the end of the year has to be a concern. Don't expect Loeffler to make an announcement any time soon as he isn't likely to name a starter until deep into the summer months. But make no mistake, how each of the signal callers handles his new offense this spring will speak volumes to how he sets the pecking order.

3. Aside from the obvious issues at quarterback, Loeffler has stated that his "objective, besides running the football, is to find out who our playmakers are," the new OC told AL.com. Emory Blake is a solid place to start at one wide out position and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen can and should be a big part of the passing attack as well. Onterio McCalebb has big play ability but is the only running back with any significant experience whatsoever. Working out the Tre Mason, Corey Grant, Mike Blakely rotation will be key for the Tigers this spring.  In the passing game, names like Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton need to step up and help out whoever is playing quarterback.

4. VanGorder's job this spring to ensure the development of a plethora of talented youngsters. In a league where nine teams rank in the top 50 in total defense and the top 36 in scoring defense, Auburn stood (nearly) alone in defensive ineptitude last fall, beating only Ole Miss in both categories. There is no reason to believe, however, that this group won't show marked improvement in 2012. Chizik should see a seemless transition from Ted Roof's 4-3 system. VanGorder runs a similar 4-3 scheme with a desired emphisis on speed. Top tackler Bates returns for his final season as do a host of talented defensive front seven players: Lemonier, Wright, Eguae, Whittaker, Angleo Blackson, LaDarius Owens and Jake Holland, to name a few. Replacing Nieko Thorpe in the secondary and Eltoro Freeman at linebacker are the only two holes to fill on this unit. This spring is all about talent development and installing the new scheme. Like the offensive line, this is one of the most talented units in the nation and there is no reason why they should not be dramatically better in '12.

5. Only two starters are gone from the offensive line that formed the SEC's fourth-rated rushing attack. Much like the defense, development is the name of the game for this unit this spring. Youngsters Reese Dismukes, Chris Slade, Blake Burgess and Tunde Fariyike played every game last fall and will be joined by talented redshirt freshmen Greg Robinson and Christian Westernman in the rotation. Toss in veteran John Sullen and the Tigers have the makings of a tremendous collection of hog mollies. In fact, 16 of the 22 offensive linemen on the Auburn roster last season were underclassmen, so growth and maturation is the key to success for this group.

Related Content Links

2012 Recruiting Class: No. 12 Auburn Tigers
College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles for 2012

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

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

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

Teaser:
<p> Auburn Tigers 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /columns/garage-talk/nascar-wrestling-awkward-realties-after-hms-penalty-overturned
Body:

by Tom Bowles

Are you a NASCAR fan? No? Well then this first paragraph doesn’t pertain to you. But if you’re a diehard, I want you to do me a favor. Pretend you’ve never heard about this sport, that the only “car going in circles” you know is your weird neighbor who does burnouts in his Mustang around the cul-de-sac. For a moment, pretend you’re brand new, a stranger curious about the biggest NASCAR story to happen this year that doesn’t have a GoDaddy.com logo plastered across its chest.

Take a deep breath, lose yourself in the course of your imagination and listen carefully as a perfect stranger trying to understand both NASCAR and the Chad Knaus penalty that wasn’t at Daytona:

Once upon a time, there was a five-time NASCAR champion driving for the richest team on the circuit whose car came to his sport’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, for pre-race inspection. You see, before each stock car ever goes onto the trac,k inspectors look at them to make sure they’re legal, using all sorts of technical tools from rulers to a gigantic, alien-looking claw that gets placed over the car. But before this particular Chevy, driven by Jimmie Johnson, ever turned a lap, the inspector looked at it from a distance, and said, “Something doesn’t look right.” That’s it; no detailed inspection, no claw-like tool to measure its accuracy, nothing. Just like that, the car was deemed illegal without running a lick of practice (not the race … practice) and Johnson’s team was forced to “fix” it and bring it back into line.

This time, the car passed, even fitting the Metallic Template of Doom and there were no other problems for the rest of Speedweeks. What ran during the sport’s big race, the Daytona 500, was as legal according to NASCAR as that enviro-friendly Toyota Prius you’re your mother-in-law just purchased. But NASCAR was really, really mad those eyeballs seemed to see “something that didn’t look right.” So they penalized Johnson 25 positions, almost the equivalent to a regular season defeat in the NFL, and suspended crew chief Knaus (think head coach) and car chief Ron Malec (associate head coach) for six weeks. The team, which is often compared to baseball’s New York Yankees, was also handed a $100,000 fine.

As you might imagine, team owner Rick Hendrick (NASCAR’s George Steinbrenner) didn’t much like that and filed an appeal. The next “court of justice” was composed of three people, none of which had been involved with the inspection process and were, at best, vaguely familiar with the rules in question. After all, two had been retired from racing for several years and one never even focused on stock car racing during his career. But these people all thought the eyeball test was good enough, kept the penalties and forced Mr. Steinbrenner (er, Hendrick) to make a final appeal to the Stock Car Racing Commissioner, John Middlebrook. This man, a retired General Motors executive (Hendrick runs a GM car in the series) who’s also an old friend of Hendrick heard the appeal on Tuesday and, like magic, some of the penalties went away.

But not all of them. Armed with little more than a paragraph statement, Middlebrook removed the suspensions, gave back the points but kept the fine intact in the most classic example of “mixed message” you’ll ever see. These people were found “guilty,” then “not guilty” all at once a month after the initial inspection. When asked to justify the verdict… um, well, you couldn’t ask Middlebrook because he wasn’t available for comment. The hearing also wasn’t publicized, so despite Hendrick’s claims that other cars were allowed to fix similar pre-race inspection problems, we will never really know what happened behind closed doors, who those cars were or the details of certain evidence presented in front of the judge.

There you have it. All of the information above is factually correct, details of NASCAR’s main publicity last month while the NCAA found Cinderellas, the NBA trade deadline buzzed and baseball prepared for opening day. If you were a perfect stranger, unfamiliar with stock car racing, would you be turned onto the sport over all alternatives? Would you go, “Oh, I want to see what happens next”?

A few of you circus-lovers and Desperate Housewives aficionados might. But if I’m guessing correctly, most would snicker in the corner or wonder how in the world this is a sport in the first place. That’s painful to write, especially considering I’ve covered NASCAR for six years and been following for 22. But this series of events presents an awkward reality, making NASCAR and everyone involved leave the courtroom sporting an ugly black eye. For a sport trying hard to find new fans, let alone win the old ones back, it’s not the storyline it anticipated to start 2012.

Consider Hendrick Motorsports, which has had to deal with the distraction over the last month that ultimately shouldn’t have been at all (according to the verdict). Were they guilty? It’s hard to tell when you keep a $100,000 fine on the record, even if that’s the type of money Hendrick carries around in his shoe.

Whether it’s fair or not, Knaus, accused now half-a-dozen times in his Cup career for major violations, has the fresh stain of “cheater” written on his uniform all over again. Johnson’s five titles, by the conspiracy theorists, will again be called into question the same way people will wonder if Lance Armstrong doped to win the Tour de France. Legitimacy on the line is never a good thing, for any sport under any circumstance. How many people now think this team can buy itself innocence? (And for the record, I’m one of those that thought these penalties were too harsh.)

Next up are the NASCAR inspectors, whose credibility was questioned in the wake of an eyeball test that was ultimately deemed a joke by Middlebrook. Rumors of Daytona favoritism now run rampant, that these officials allowed some cars to fix the same problem without ultimately reporting a violation. Does that mean they have to ultimately change their pre-race procedures in order to be taken seriously? How quickly will NASCAR adjust? And will teams laugh at them or cry foul whenever a possible violation is pointed out the next time? Failure to enforce a penalty like this one might even leave inspectors more hesitant to bring a future situation up, for fear of another stain on their resume. They needed the backing of their bosses, and ultimately (although it came through appeal) it didn’t happen.

Then there’s NASCAR itself, whose appeals process is now under fire for both the time it took and the people involved. How could Middlebrook, whose ties to Hendrick go back 20-plus years, not recuse himself from the case? How could NASCAR, knowing the possibility of this penalty being overturned, not expedite the process, considering the seriousness of the violation so the final decision came no longer than two weeks after the initial one? Thirty-plus days later would be a slight problem if the consequences were handed out at Homestead-Miami this November … don’t you think? For a sport that seemingly held momentum in its hand after last year’s thrilling finale, credibility is now the issue of the day. Somehow, through it all the art of competition has been lost in a season of parity (four winners, four races) and an amazing Daytona 500 that included a jet dryer explosion. Ratings are down, as are attendance and this major story is a PR nightmare.

And there’s Johnson himself, caught in the crossfire when all he did during the Daytona 500 was get wrecked on Lap 2. Yep, with all this controversy, the car — with new C-posts — only made one full circuit in the season’s biggest race. Who knew a 42nd-place finish could script more drama than your weekly wrestling match, the type of manipulation the sport’s brass is being compared with as a joke, again, following another hardly believable series of events.

What a mess. I think, no matter what side you’re on, we can agree on that.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles discusses the odd events surrounding the Chad Knaus penalty and how only part of it being overturned sends mixed — and confusing — signals.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 18:36
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-toughest-path-final-four
Body:

The editors at Athlon Sports debate some of the hot topics surrounding the NCAA Tournament.

What No. 1 seed has the toughest remaining path to the Final Four?

Nathan Rush: Syracuse has not been the same since Fab Melo was suspended. The Orange were lucky to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 in their nail-biter against UNC-Asheville. Coach Jim Boeheim’s team had the talent to advance to the Sweet 16, but beating a tough Wisconsin club and either Ohio State or Cincinnati will be too tall a task without the 7-foot Brazilian big man Melo on the floor.

Mitch Light: Tough call. I don’t think it’s North Carolina, even with Kendall Marshall’s injury. I will go with Michigan State. The Spartans will be tested by Louisville in the Sweet 16, but I’ll take Tom Izzo over Rick Pitino in the showdown of coaching legends. Then, Marquette — assuming it beats Florida — awaits. The Golden Eagles are very talented and are playing with a ton of confidence. The most intriguing matchup will be Jae Crowder vs. Draymond Green, two of the most versatile big men in the nation. Marquette was my Final Four pick out of the West before the Tournament began, and I’m sticking with Buzz Williams’ club.

Patrick Snow: I think it’s close between Michigan State and Syracuse, but the Spartans look to have a slightly more difficult road to New Orleans. First up for MSU is Louisville, a red-hot team with a coach who has taken three different schools to the Final Four. The Cardinals have been a very streaky team, and the Big East Tournament champions currently seem to be on a UConn-like tear from last season. If Tom Izzo’s bunch beats Louisville, it would face the winner of Marquette and Florida. The Golden Eagles have lost only three games since Jan. 11, and they have a pair of high-scoring seniors in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Meanwhile, the Gators destroyed their competition in the first two tourney games and have five players who average in double-figures. I still expect the Spartans to make the Final Four, but the Phoenix regional will be difficult.

Braden Gall: Easily the Syracuse Orange. Wisconsin lives and dies by the 3-point shot, and we all know the easiest way to beat a zone is to knock down shots from the outside. They are physical, experienced and won’t back down from the challenge. Jim Boehiem is also staring at a matchup with either Cincinnati or Ohio State in the Elite 8. The Buckeyes offer both the interior strength to take advantage of the Melo-less defense and the outside shooting and perimeter defense to slow the outstanding trio of Syracuse guards. Even the defensively minded Bearcats have played the Orange tough this season, losing a close one at home during the regular season and knocking off the Orange in the Big East tourney. North Carolina will likely have to face Kansas, and Michigan State is staring at a brutal match-up with Marquette, but no team faces a potential two-game combo like Syracuse could endure — all without the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

Mark Ross: Just as soon as North Carolina gets John Henson back against Creighton, Kendall Marshall fractures a bone in his right wrist in the win against the Bluejays. He hasn’t been ruled out of Friday’s game against Ohio, but even if Marshall does play, you have to assume he will be limited at the very least, perhaps even to the point of playing basically one-handed. As talented as the Tar Heels are, Marshall, who ranks second in the nation in assists, is clearly the engine that makes this offense run. Marshall has also been more assertive when it comes to scoring, as he has scored 11 or more points in each of the last six games. But Roy Williams doesn’t need Marshall to score — he needs him to run the offense, because the only options behind Marshall with any experience running the point are Stilman White and Justin Watts, who combined to average less than 12 minutes per game. Marshall, not surprisingly, leads the team at 33 minutes per game. Should Carolina get by Ohio, with or without Marshall, then an even tougher task looms against the winner of the Kansas-NC State tilt. Bottom line: The one time of the year you need to be at full strength is March and Carolina is anything but at this point.
 

Teaser:
<p> The editors at Athlon Sports debate some of the hot topics surrounding the NCAA Tournament.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 14:58
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /columns/garage-talk/backseat-drivers-fan-council-2
Body:

by Dustin Long

Thousands of empty seats on Sunday have created questions about Bristol and the racing there. Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council discussed the matter and voted for which version of Bristol they liked the most — new Bristol or old Bristol. You might be surprised by the results on that and other issues in the sport, including if fans should be allowed to attend the drivers meeting as happened at Las Vegas.

Here’s what your fellow fans said on a variety of issues this week:

 

WHICH IS BETTER? NEW BRISTOL OR OLD BRISTOL?

38.7 percent said they were fine with either way
31.0 percent said they preferred the New Bristol
28.6 percent said they preferred the Old Bristol
1.7 percent said neither

What Fan Council members said:
• It really bothers me that people say if you liked the old Bristol you just like the wrecks. The old Bristol provided hard door-to-door racing much like the local short tracks. The new Bristol provides the same racing we will see this weekend in California — spread out 2-3 wide racing. There's nothing wrong with that but the schedule is full of these kinds of tracks. Besides, no one EVER complained about the old Bristol before 2007.

• While the one lane produces more wrecks it also slowed the race to a crawl at times. The new design lets drivers race, which is what fans pay to see

• I love short tracks. Period. I will take it any way I can get it.

• I'll repeat above — I love short track racing! Racing at Bristol, without wrecks, is the way it should be. Lots of exciting racing! A true race fan does not need to see wrecks, which take drivers out of competition and are expensive to owners.

• Sorry but the beating and banging was what separated Bristol from other races. Old school.

• Tired of feeling guilty because the new Bristol bores me. Bristol was different ... it was intense, it was suspenseful, it was fun, it was EXCITING. It is not that any longer, which is why you see a half-empty race there, something that would've been unheard of just a few years ago. It's not the economy. What made Bristol special and unique has been lost.

• I do miss beating and banging (not a fan of crashing)...

• How quickly we forget. I miss the beating and banging part, but the "old Bristol" was a one-lane conveyor belt, except when someone got impatient and bumped their way forward, usually causing a wreck. 

• The kind of racing we get now would be considered great if it happened at Michigan or California. The only problem with it is that it doesn't give us the high drama at the end that the old Bristol did. And that drama Bristol provided was one of the most highly-anticipated races of the season. The taking away of the highlight of the season to some is what is really driving the revolt against the new Bristol.

• I know there are a lot of people that don't like the new Bristol but coming from a long-time fan that LOVED the old style of Bristol, you gotta love the new racing once you get over the fact you are not going to see 10-15 cautions, but you are going to see lap after lap of side-by-side racing!

• 2- and 3-wide, as noted above, makes for a far more exciting race and allows for more tactics then simply move the guy in front out of the way...

• Bristol is BRISTOL!!! The way racing oughta be!!! The drivers love the New Bristol, why shouldn't we??? I would watch them race in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot!!!


RATING SUNDAY’S CUP RACE AT BRISTOL

58.6 percent called it Good
21.1 percent called it Fair
16.1 percent called it Great
4.2 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• It was decent. Does the racing surface need to change? No. Does Goodyear need a better tire? Yes, remember in "Days of Thunder" when Cole ran 50 laps his way and 50 laps Harry's way? Harry's way was quicker. Let's get back to that where you can wear your tires out.

• It went too fast with all the green flag laps. Put the track back so we get more cautions.

• Loved it. Really wish hotel prices where not so high. I would love to add it to my list of tracks I visit. The racing is sooooo much better then in years past and a lot less wrecking.

• As a longtime area resident, it saddens me to see Bristol half full. Many people I know personally have given up their season tickets since the change in configuration. There was a reason Bristol was special. There was a reason people had it at the top of their favorite track list. There was a reason you couldn't get a ticket for years. Say all you will about side-by-side racing ... the reality is now the leader gets in front, runs away, and there's long boring green flag stretches. The intensity that made Bristol great is gone.

• It was a good race. There was a lot of passing, pit strategy, and other things that happened that kept me wondering what was going to happen.

• We used to have Bristol parties and cookouts, but our attendance suffered as well. That GREAT facility DESERVES a better product.

• I thought it was a really good race with lots of side-by-side racing and passing. I also really like it when the dominant cars are allowed to be dominant and put most of the field laps down. If a team hits on a good setup and the driver can drive, let them do what they can do.

• I want my Bristol back, and so does the vast majority of fans (evidenced by the half full track). I'm tired of everyone blaming the economy. It’s the track and lack of excitement. Gave my seats of 12 years up two years ago for no other reason other than the boring racing, and so did the group of nine I went with every year. Why change something that was perfect? No idiot would decide to take the banking out of Talladega, so why did some idiot decide to change Bristol? And to those who say they love that style of racing, I'm sure Michigan or Fontana or Atlanta would love to have you, but for me, I want MY OLD Bristol back.

• Great racing though sad the stands were so empty. Scary to think the outsiders who say we only like wrecks might be right, based on that

• Actually thought it was pretty boring. They need to tear up the track and repave it!


SHOULD FANS BE ALLOWED IN THE DRIVERS MEETING?
At Las Vegas earlier this month, the track set it up so that drivers meeting was outdoors and fans could attend. Some drivers were asked about what they thought of that the following week at Bristol and a few said they weren’t in favor of it. So, Fan Council members were asked if fans should be allowed to attend the drivers meeting:

53.3 percent said fans should NOT attend the drivers meeting
35.9 percent said SPEED and Sprint should broadcast the meeting to fans
7.3 percent said this should be an issue for each track. If they have room, allow fans
3.5 percent said fans SHOULD attend the drivers meeting

What Fan Council members said:
• I think the access the fans get is substantial. ... In recent years, fans have gotten near unlimited access. So, now they think they need it all. Some things aren't really needed to be given access to non-competing members.

• I think the drivers meeting should be for them and officials only!!!! This part of the race prep should be all business, not sure if guests should be included.

• This would add so much value to the pit pass. And did anyone notice how NOT full Bristol was? You gotta go the extra mile to pack those bleachers in the bad economy.

• I think the drivers meeting should be for drivers and crew members only. That also means no journalists/reporters in there, even though I know that's how we get most of our news.

• If NASCAR is going to attract younger fans, they need to be more transparent. The younger generation is used to knowing everything about everything. There are no more secrets when it comes to celebs and sports.

• By broadcasting the meeting, the drivers would have the intimate setting that they prefer and the fans would be able to see what is going on. It's a win-win for everyone.

• At Bristol, they broadcast it on the Jumbotron which to me was a nice touch while allowing the competitors the privacy they needed to get the information.

• This meeting is for drivers to clarify rules and ask for explanations. It was STUPID that it was out in the open for fans. I was even there, and it was a ridiculous zoo. Don't get me wrong — I am all for fan access, and nobody does it better than LVMS. BUT, the drivers need this meeting to help avoid costly mistakes and the fans certainly didn't contribute to that atmosphere.

• If the track can accommodate it, I think it's a good idea to have it open to the public. One of the major differences between NASCAR and other major sports in the access granted the fans. As long as it's not distracting to the drivers and teams, I think it's a good idea.


SPLIT SCREENS?
With the start of the NCAA basketball tournament at the same time as Bristol, Fan Council members were asked how the NCAA Tournament impacted their NASCAR TV viewing.

90.2 percent said it didn’t impact them — they watched all the NASCAR events they planned
5.2 percent said they watched a lot more of the NCAA Tournament than NASCAR
4.5 percent said they watched a little more of the NCAA Tournament than NASCAR

What Fan Council members said:
• Bristol race > NCAA Tournament. Now, California, I might have to skip to watch the game.

• NASCAR is my sport of choice. I have very little interest in basketball.

• NASCAR is on the top of my list when it comes to television programming. Until the NHL playoffs start, there isn't anything I'd watch over a NASCAR race.

• Sorry NASCAR ... This is the ONLY time of the year that I have to try to balance another sport vs races. Usually I tape Nascar and watch it between basketball games. Thankfully it's only for 2 or 3 weekends.

• I was hooked on the NCAA tournament the first couple of days, but when the Sprint Cup race came on it was all NASCAR for me.

• I have NO interest in stick and ball sports.

• I'm a college hoops junkie ... love it!! But have 3 TV's set up in the living room so I didn't miss anything from either side.

• As a race fan, it doesn't matter what else is on. I watch the racing first and only change the channel if the action, or lack of it, warrants a channel change


Fans can join the Backseat Drivers Fan Council by sending Dustin an email at dustinlong002@gmail.com.

Please include the following information: Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver. 

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council gives its input on Bristol, whether fans belong in the Drivers Meeting and how the NCAA Tournament effects NASCAR.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 14:04
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-third-base-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get you ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

Jose Bautista still leads the way at third base, that is until Miguel Cabrera gains position eligibility at the hot corner.

Hanley Ramirez is also making the switch to third, and for what it's worth, he would come in behind Evan Longoria in these rankings. Neither he nor Cabrera appear below because they have not gained third-base eligibility at this point.

David Wright is someone to keep an eye on these next few weeks as he is dealing with a torn abdominal muscle in his left side. It's the same injury that fellow third baseman Ryan Zimmerman suffered during spring training last season.

Zimmerman originally tried to play it through, but was put on the DL shortly after the start of the season and ended up having surgery in early May. He finally returned in the middle of June, but it took him a few weeks to get going and he finished the season with career lows in both home runs (12) and RBIs (49).

Wright is trying to let his abdominal muscle heal with rest and treatment in hopes of avoiding surgery, but it's a situation that definitely bears watching.

Brett Lawrie has been tearing the cover off of the ball during spring training, which probably is part of the reason for his slight rise in the Top 200 and passing Michael Young in the third base rankings.

The biggest risers at third in the rankings are Martin Prado (No. 140 overall, up from No. 157) and David Freese (No. 166, up from No. 198).

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

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

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

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

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

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 5 4 Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 11 2 5 6 3 6 5 5 5
2 18 17 Evan Longoria TB 3B 33 20 11 16 17 19 16 7 13
3 28 30 Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 31 37 27 34 29 53 23 29 26
4 34 29 David Wright NYM 3B 73 23 29 24 20 91 26 23 29
5 35 36 Ryan Zimmerman WAS 3B 29 42 34 42 32 60 47 24 33
6 39 48 Pablo Sandoval SF 3B 34 54 33 44 68 27 38 69 39
7 48 56 Brett Lawrie TOR 3B 71 55 46 67 44 33 63 71 45
8 59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
9 62 61 Alex Rodriguez NYY 3B 98 66 67 50 53 83 72 58 46
10 69 72 Kevin Youkilis BOS 1B/3B 58 45 98 59 77 105 76 68 60
11 74 74 Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 89 107 58 64 86 62 73 57 74
12 115 113 Mark Reynolds BAL 1B/3B 120 98 156 107 111 101 123 124 128
13 135 125 Emilio Bonifacio MIA SS/3B/OF 124 114 213 83 - 109 142 172 119
14 140 157 Martin Prado ATL 3B/OF 152 122 168 128 150 115 162 157 150
15 159 164 Ryan Roberts ARI 2B/3B 162 123 165 112 192 162 189 180 155
16 166 198 David Freese STL 3B 145 192 194 160 145 169 - 117 167
17 174 180 Mike Moustakas KC 3B 186 181 190 130 - 149 - 148 172
18 203 194 Edwin Encarnacion TOR 3B - - - 144 162 - - - 191
19 220 NR Chase Headley SD 3B - 179 - - - 188 - 184 -
20 256 NR Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS/3B - - - - 191 - - - -
21 269 NR Pedro Alvarez PIT 3B - - - 200 - - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE, 3B), Chris Davis (BAL, 1B/3B), Macier Izturis (LAA, 2B/SS/3B), Chipper Jones (ATL, 3B), Jed Lowrie (HOU, SS/3B), Daniel Murphy (NYM, 1B/2B/3B), Placido Polanco (PHI, 3B), Sean Rodriguez (TB, 2B/SS/3B), Scott Sizemore (OAK, 2B/3B), Ian Stewart (CHC, 3B), Danny Valencia (MIN, 3B), Ty Wigginton (PHI, 1B/3B/OF)

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 21, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

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

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' has updated its consensus fantasy rankings at third base</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-first-base-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

At first base, not much has changed in the updated positional rankings. Miguel Cabrera, who's moving to third this season, and Albert Pujols flip-flop places atop the first base rankings, followed by Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder, the reason why Cabrera is moving over to the hot corner.

The biggest changes are all injury or illness-related as Ryan Howard (Achilles), Ike Davis (lung infection), Justin Morneau (concussion-related symptoms and numerous surgeries) and Mark Trumbo (stress fracture in foot) all dropped in the rankings. Howard is out until at least May, if not longer, which is the main reason why he has fallen in the rankings. Davis and Trumbo were both limited early on in spring training by their situations, but appear to be back on track, while Morneau has struggled to find his timing and power at the plate.

There has been some positive news on the injury front, however. Kendrys Morales, who last played on May 29, 2010 due to a severely fractured ankle, has been making slow, but steady progress during spring training. He is scheduled to make his long-awaited return to game action later this week.

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

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA - USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

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

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

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 1 3 Miguel Cabera DET 1B 2 1 1 4 4 1 4 3 1
2 2 1 Albert Pujols LAA 1B 1 3 2 3 2 3 3 4 3
3 9 7 Joey Votto CIN 1B 16 12 10 12 9 5 9 10 7
4 10 9 Adrian Gonzalez BOS 1B 7 13 14 7 11 11 13 9 9
5 17 16 Prince Fielder DET 1B 17 26 18 15 12 7 18 18 14
6 23 21 Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 22 33 24 23 24 18 27 31 23
7 36 33 Carlos Santana CLE C/1B 52 17 52 30 35 32 46 40 41
8 38 38 Mike Napoli TEX C/1B 57 43 47 27 39 30 41 36 53
9 39 48 Pablo Sandoval SF 1B/3B 34 54 33 44 68 27 38 69 39
10 46 42 Paul Konerko CHW 1B 70 97 36 37 40 38 35 65 47
11 52 49 Eric Hosmer KC 1B 41 106 45 39 74 43 40 60 68
12 59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
13 69 72 Kevin Youkilis BOS 1B/3B 58 45 98 59 77 105 76 68 60
14 70 79 Michael Morse WAS 1B/OF 103 83 71 53 82 42 70 83 62
15 77 76 Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 43 48 131 58 66 77 85 93 95
16 83 87 Lance Berkman STL 1B/OF 105 78 59 77 96 52 77 99 86
17 90 90 Howard Kendrick LAA 1B/2B/OF 85 119 118 79 84 88 91 101 72
18 98 98 Billy Butler KC 1B 55 111 102 129 153 37 121 85 123
19 109 107 Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 81 147 120 76 143 81 127 97 115
20 112 120 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 96 152 92 123 156 139 98 121 70
21 115 113 Mark Reynolds BAL 1B/3B 120 98 156 107 111 101 123 124 128
22 141 149 Nick Swisher NYY 1B/OF 163 170 150 146 115 137 158 114 153
23 142 143 Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 136 - 182 150 117 126 192 113 98
24 145 136 Adam Lind TOR 1B 158 - 135 142 133 110 115 195 142
25 158 183 Gaby Sanchez MIA 1B 156 182 162 133 200 154 175 115 161
26 160 118 Ryan Howard PHI 1B 159 126 196 171 187 - 160 150 94
27 161 137 Ike Davis NYM 1B 157 149 208 172 152 - 168 140 111
28 165 153 Justin Morneau MIN 1B 59 191 - 176 181 - - 126 151
29 172 200 Carlos Lee HOU 1B/OF 161 - - 147 - 150 183 123 175
30 182 190 Kendrys Morales LAA 1B 154 - - - 168 122 - - 176
31 207 NR Lucas Duda NYM 1B/OF - - - - - 173 - 143 190
32 209 155 Mark Trumbo LAA 1B/OF - - - 155 - - 177 - 185
33 210 NR Brandon Belt SF 1B/OF - 197 - 190 186 192 - 154 -
34 218 NR Carlos Pena TB 1B - - 192 - 182 180 - 178 -
35 223 216 Yonder Alonso SD 1B/OF 181 - - - - 176 - - -
36 232 NR Mike Carp SEA 1B/OF - - - - - 166 - - -
37 236 NR James Loney LAD 1B - - - - - 168 - - -
38 253 NR Adam Dunn CHW 1B/DH - - - - 188 - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Chris Davis (BAL, 1B/3B), Todd Helton (COL, 1B), Aubrey Huff (SF, 1B/OF), Garrett Jones (PIT, 1B/OF), Adam LaRoche (WAS, 1B), Mitch Moreland (TEX, 1B/OF), Daniel Murphy (NYM, 1B/2B/3B), Justin Smoak (SEA, 1B), Ty Wigginton (PHI, 1B/3B/OF)

— by Mark Ross, updated on March 21, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

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

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' updated consensus fantasy rankings reveal the AL's strength and depth at first base</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Luke Donald, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2012-majors-no-8-luke-donald-1
Body:

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

 

No. 8: Luke Donald

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

 

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take:

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

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 34
Wins: 0

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

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

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

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 10:27
Path: /mlb/los-angeles-angels-2012-preview
Body:

Los Angeles Angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Content Links:

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

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

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

by Matt Taliaferro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

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

by Dustin Long

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

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

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

Keselowski sees the issue differently.

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

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

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

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

Certainly, different methods help different drivers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

No. 9: Steve Stricker

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

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take:

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

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 53
Wins: 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Positional rankings will be updated beginning later this week

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

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

— by Mark Ross, Updated on March 20, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

·       Bob Stoops is 66-3 in home games 

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

·       Patterson is 7-3 in bowl games

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

·       Gundy is 1-6 vs. Oklahoma

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

·       Snyder is 7-1 vs. Kansas

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

Related Content Links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

·       Coach Whittingham is 6-1 in Bowl Games

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

·       Coach Riley is 5-1 in Bowl Games

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

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

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

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

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

Related Content Links:

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

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

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

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

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

Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-4, 7-1 SEC

Spring Practice: March 20-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

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

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

Early Enrollees:

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

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Storylines Facing the Bulldogs:

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

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

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

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

Related Content Links

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

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

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge for yourself.


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

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

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

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

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

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

-by Rob Doster

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

by Matt Taliaferro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— by Mark Ross, published on March 19, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Peyton Manning decides to resume his NFL career with Denver, choosing the Broncos over the 49ers and Titans</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 13:13

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