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The battle at Oregon to replace quarterback Marcus Mariota was one of the biggest storylines set to unfold in college football’s spring practice, but coach Mark Helfrich found his answer on Monday with the announcement Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams would transfer to Eugene.
Adams has been a prolific quarterback at Eastern Washington for the last three seasons and was a runner-up for the Walter Payton Award (the FCS Heisman) in 2013 and '14.
Here are a couple of things to watch with Adams leaving EWU for Oregon:
He will be Oregon’s starter in 2015:
With Mariota departing, Oregon’s quarterback battle expected to feature Jeff Lockie (41 career pass attempts), Ty Griffin (a Georgia Tech transfer), Taylor Alie (a walk-on) and freshmen Morgan Mahalak and Travis Waller. Adams has the mobility, accuracy, arm strength and skill set to thrive in Oregon’s offense. He’s the best quarterback on the roster.
Stepping up in competition/Previous FBS games:
This is without question the biggest question mark in regards to Adams’ transfer. How will he handle the FCS to FBS move? There’s a small sample size to examine, as Adams has played two FBS opponents at Eastern Washington. In those two contests, Adams combined to throw for 886 yards, 11 touchdowns and completed 54 of 76 throws. Adams also rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State in 2013.
Adams won’t be around at Oregon in spring practice:
Outside of how he transitions to the FBS level, the biggest concern for Oregon has to be getting Adams acclimated to the offense. The California native won’t arrive until the summer, which limits his time to learn the offense and practice with the supporting cast. Adams should thrive in Oregon’s offense, but it’s likely he gets more comfortable and succeeds even more as the year progresses. While Adams needs time to settle into the offense, there’s a critical non-conference matchup (with potential playoff implications) at Michigan State on Sept. 12.
Oregon is still the (significant) favorite in the North:
Had Oregon went into the season without Adams, it’s likely most preseason predictions would have featured more debate and discussion on the North Division favorite. But now that the Ducks have a potential All-Pac-12 quarterback and dynamic playmaker in place, Oregon has to be the clear favorite in the North. While a non-conference road trip to Michigan State awaits in Week 2, most of the Ducks’ toughest Pac-12 games – at Arizona State, at Stanford and USC – are later in the year.
Adams won’t have to do it alone:
It’s going to take Adams a few games to get comfortable with the offense and playing at a higher level, but Oregon won’t have to ask him to win games on his own. The Ducks have a deep supporting cast, including running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner, a standout group of receivers, headlined by Devon Allen, Bralon Addison, Byron Marshall and Darren Carrington. The offensive line has a few holes to address, but several players received significant snaps due to injuries in 2014.
Oregon opens its season with…
Eastern Washington. How’s that for a storyline in 2015?
Here’s a look at Adams’ stats at EWU from 2012-14:
|Year||Games||Completions||Attempts||Pass Yds||TDs||INTs||Rush Yds||TDs|
I asked two writers that watched Adams during his career at Eastern Washington. What exactly does Adams bring to the table and what should we expect from the senior in 2015?
Kyle Kensing, (@kensing45), University Avenue and BleacherReport.com
"Despite getting zero recruiting interest from Pac-12 schools coming out of Southern California, Vernon Adams has proven he can hang with Pac-12 competition.
He's done so twice, in fact. Last year, he accounted for seven touchdowns total against a Washington defense that was loaded with NFL-level talent. In 2013, he went off for six touchdowns in an upset of Oregon State.
No knock on Eastern Washington, which is one of the premier FCS programs, but imagine what Adams can do to the Pac-12 when he's surrounded by more Pac-12-quality players.
I would imagine that's the outlook Mark Helfrich has in adding Adams for this one season. He's experienced, talented and at EWU, he played a style similar to what will be expected of him at Oregon.
Beau Baldwin is one of the more innovative offensive coaches in the FCS, so Adams should transition smoothly at Oregon.
He can run and does, but he's not a 'running' quarterback. It's more a nice weapon he can unleash if he has to, but Adams thrives more as a passer. He has tremendous arm strength and delivers the ball well on the move. That latter attribute should result in Oregon utilizing the pop pass more in 2015."
"Vernon Adams is an electric player and has a great chance to succeed at Oregon. He's a dual threat and will have to adjust from the spread to the read option, but he has the right skill set. He's already shown he can dominate Pac-12 competition. Clearly, he was underrecruited by the FBS when he was in high school. It's a huge loss for the FCS level."
Oregon it is! First off, I want to thank God for this amazing opportunity. I want to thank all of… http://t.co/yMkAHNt1f2— Vernon Adams Jr. (@vadams_qb) February 9, 2015
Used to cover FCS professionally and stayed plugged into it after I was no longer. Adams was the most exciting QB I watched at that level— Kyle Kensing (@kensing45) February 9, 2015
Adams on facing his old team in the season opener. "It's going to be so weird. Now they can finally tackle me."— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) February 9, 2015
Vernon Adams - Eastern Washington Highlights:
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
Don’t count the Thunder out just yet. Even though they’re two spots out of the Western Conference playoffs at the moment, it would take just one signature winning streak to close their current two-game gap. And once Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — the most talented duo in the whole game — are in the postseason, anything is possible.
9. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers were climbing these rankings until Blake Griffin was taken out of action with an elbow infection that will require surgery and keep him out indefinitely. The L.A. depth chart is shallow behind Blake, so keeping things afloat will be a tremendous challenge. But if they can stay in the playoffs without their big man, then they’ll still have one of the best starting units around if he returns to action in the spring.
8. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have been struck by a winter malaise that’s not common in the Tom Thibodeau era. And with starting forward Mike Dunleavy out and Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah still on the mend from injuries, Chicago has been hard to gauge. But we’ve seen them grab enough statement wins to know they’re still in this conversation.
7. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs haven’t blown anyone away yet this season, but they’re also the consummate peak-when-it-matters squad. The dominance they showed in last year’s championship run evoked some of the best teams in NBA history, and if they can return to something resembling that scary form, they could become the favorites to take it all home once again.
6. Portland Trail Blazers
Through hell and the high water of injury troubles, the Blazers have improved by developing their bench into a unit much more effective than it was last year. Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum have become weapons as the Portland starting five continues to get better together, and the team’s defense has been surprisingly efficient. Now that they’re healthy again, we’ll see just how potent they can be.
5. Houston Rockets
James Harden might not win the MVP — Steph Curry’s eminent likability makes him the favorite in a media narrative sense, even if The Beard has put his team on his shoulders more than any other star this season. If Harden and Co. can continue to chug along with their defense-first attack, though, they’ll get Dwight Howard back in time for April and be a team who nobody wants to face.
4. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks, by way of inertia, have proved themselves as contenders. No 42-10 team has ever not has serious potential to win the NBA Finals, and Atlanta’s newness to this realm shouldn’t disqualify them. Plus, as the Spurs showed us last year, no amount of star power is an appropriate match for a team that amasses into something much greater than the sum of its parts.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Ah, so, finally — the Cavs are who we thought they were. Winners of 13 of their last 14, they’ve begun to integrate Kevin Love into their offense in big ways, and their defense has been on a huge uptick ever since Timofey Mozgov came to town. It was fun to watch the Cleveland empire burn before it started, but now it looks like they’re building their throne quite effectively.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis’ grind-it-out style is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the league. A spread-out, three-point-loving style has become the mark for most good teams, but the Grizzlies defy that trend by being so good at a slow, half-court style that they make you play it, too. It remains to be seen whether anyone has the antidote to this terrific, nostalgic molasses.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have simply been more impressive than any other team. Often ranking No. 1 on both offense and defense, they’ve even gone through their spectacular season without consistent health from multi-skilled center Andrew Bogut. Golden State can beat you in so many ways — they’re not just the jump-shooters many claim them to be — and they look poised to unleash their full arsenal this spring.
— John Wilmes
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 9:
• Interesting: The more aggressive a golfer is, the better the results (typically). Romeo, hand me the 3-wood.
• The Brow's legend grows with a walk-off 3.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Dean Smith is one of the rare figures and perhaps the only figure who directly connects the birth of basketball to its modern era.
Smith played at Kansas for Phog Allen, the “Father of Basketball Coaching” who played for the inventor of the game, James Naismith. Smith then coached Michael Jordan. From Naismith to Allen to Smith to Jordan, it would be hard to find a better connection from the infancy of basketball to the modern game.
Beyond the games, records and innovations, Smith was an integral part of bringing athletics into the future by integrating the ACC and taking the lead on social and race issues.
Smith died Saturday, leaving a legacy that was celebrated throughout the sports world. Smith was 83.
Smith was legendary not only for his basketball record or his role in championing civil rights, but also his way of remembering the names of every player he coached, from the Hall of Famers to the walk-ons.
“He made sure that we knew our teachers by their first names, not just the last names,” Tar Heels All-American Vince Carter told Athlon Sports in 2005. He’d come and ask you, ‘so, what’s your teacher’s first name?’ He’d have a coach who was assigned to be at the front door of every one of our classes, every player.”
The mantras started in practice.
Wrote Eric Montross, an All-American who played for Smith from 1990-94, in “Game Day: North Carolina Basketball:”
“The emphasis was on transforming young athletes into mature educated adults of good character, both on and off the court. In my experience, this perspective was emphasized by the unique way that Coach Smith began practices. Instead of beginning in a typical fashion with layup lines or fast-break drills, every Dean Smith practice started with a thought for the day, an impressive mix of life lessons and messages pertinent to the game of basketball.
“One such quote, which I have kept with me now for 15 years, reads: ‘When trying to move a mountain, you must first begin by removing small stones.’ Often the freshmen would be called upon to recite these lines, and if the player did not know the quote, the entire team would be sent to the end of the line to run sprints — that is, the entire team minus the player who made the mistake.”
By the Numbers
• Dean Smith won 879 career games, breaking Adolph Rupp’s career wins record of 876 in 1997. Smith now ranks sixth on the NCAA’s all-time wins list behind Mike Krzyzewski (1,003), Herb Magee (1,000), Jim Boeheim (963), Don Meyer (923) and Bob Knight (902).
• Only eight coaches have spent more games on the bench than Smith’s 1,133. On that list are Jim Phelan, Krzyzewski, Knight, Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Lou Henson, Rollie Massimino and Lefty Driesell.
• Only three coaches in Division I history have more 20-win seasons: Boeheim (36), Krzyzewski (31) and Smith (30). Smith’s streak of 27 consecutive 20-win seasons is a Division I record by a long shot. The next longest streak belongs to Arizona’s Lute Olson at 20.
• Smith also set the record for ACC wins with 422, a mark that wasn’t broken until this season when Krzyzewski did it on Feb. 4.
Mike Krzyzewski on Dean Smith's passing: "We have lost a man who cannot be replaced." pic.twitter.com/tZbINfnrlE— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) February 8, 2015
• This is a startling number, but perhaps understandable considering the standard Smith set at North Carolina. The legendary Tar Heels coach was only named national coach of the year three times in 1977, 1979 and 1993. The latter may be the most interesting. Smith won the Basketball Times and Naismith coach of the year awards. The other awards were swept by one of his proteges, Vanderbilt’s Eddie Fogler.
• By now, it’s too easy to forget the college part of college athletics, the University of North Carolina included. Even more important than Smith’s on-court records — and there are many — is that 97 percent of his players graduated. Even those that went to the pros returned to UNC to get their degrees.
Smith’s legacy cannot be removed from his stance on social issues. Smith was among the key figures in integrating the ACC and college sports. Willie Cooper was the first black player for the Tar Heels’ freshman team in 1964. Charles Scott was North Carolina's first black scholarship player in 1966 and one of the early African-Americans to play on scholarship a major Southern school. Scott helped the Tar Heels to the Final Four in 1968 and 1969.
What stuck with Scott was that Smith always called him “Charles” rather than Charlie. Scott’s son, Shannon, is a starting guard for Ohio State this season.
The countless ways Dean Smith lives on: Recruited UNC's first black athlete Charlie Scott whose son, Shannon, will start for Ohio St today.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 8, 2015
Beyond Scott, Smith was outspoken on a variety of issues, including opposition to the death penalty, criticism for the Vietnam War and abolition to nuclear weapons. Such vocal and controversial stances are all but gone from college athletics today.
In 2013, though he wasn’t able to receive the award in person, Smith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest national honor for a civilian. The list of other sports figures honored in such a way is staggering: Hank Arron, Muhammad Ali, Bear Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Billie Jean King, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Pat Summitt and John Wooden, for starters.
In many ways, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was the perfect culmination for his career. When he started at North Carolina, John F. Kennedy was the president. Nine presidencies later, Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Smith reached his first Final Four when Lyndon Johnson was in office, won his first national championship with Ronald Reagan in office and reached his last Final Four with Bill Clinton in the White House.
Smith retired in 1997 after reaching his 11th Final Four. Only John Wooden (12) reached more. Smith’s 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 1975-97 remains a record for coaches. His successors, Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty, added four more to extend UNC’s streak to 27. Guthridge reached the Final Four twice in three seasons.
Smith completed his career one of only four coaches to win an NCAA championship, an NIT championship and an Olympic gold medal, joining Adolph Rubb, Pete Newell and Bob Knight. The 1976 gold is notable in particular after the United States lost to the Soviet Union in 1972.
Beyond a coaching tree that includes Hall of Famers Roy Williams and Larry Brown, Smith coached six players who went to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame themselves: Billy Cunningham (1962-65), Bob McAdoo (1971-72, James Worthy (1970-82) and Michael Jordan (1981-84).
Michael Jordan statement on the passing of Dean Smith. pic.twitter.com/zvNgIniu30— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 8, 2015
For the second offseason in a row, seven NFL teams have hired new head coaches. Unlike last year, however, the most recent coaching carousel took a few unexpected turns.
While Atlanta, Chicago and the Jets all fired their head coach on Dec. 29, the day after the regular season ended (also known as Black Monday), the most surprising dismissal came when Denver fired its head coach the day after the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This offseason also saw a mutual parting of ways in San Francisco and Buffalo’s head coach exercising an opt out clause in his contract.
Fortunately, the dust has settled and the coaching carousel has once again come to a complete stop. While it’s entirely too early to fully evaluate each team’s decision, here is an early impression on each hire.
1. Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills
Previous Job: Jets head coach
Career Record: 46-50 (Jets, 2009-14)
While it didn’t end well for Ryan with the Jets, the Bills couldn’t have scripted a better ending to the strange Doug Marrone saga than to land their former foe. Marrone exercising his opt out clause, while costly, could be a blessing in disguise as the franchise now gets a chance to reboot with the brash, boisterous Ryan leading the charge. Ryan’s familiarity with the AFC East should not be overlooked nor the notion that the Bills have already become a more interesting team to follow simply because of his presence and personality. The only thing keeping Ryan from receiving a perfect grade is a questionable track record when it comes to quarterbacks, although he did get to back-to-back AFC Championship Games with Mark Sanchez at the helm. At least Ryan has a new offensive coordinator (Greg Roman) to help him try and change his QB rep with EJ Manuel (or whoever ends up getting the starting job).
2. John Fox, Chicago Bears
Previous Job: Broncos head coach
Career Record: 119-89 (Panthers, 2002-09; Broncos, 2011-14)
3. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
Previous Job: Seahawks defensive coordinator
Career Record: First season
Quinn may have been the last one to land a job on this list, but give credit to the Falcons for being willing to wait. The architect of the defense that played in back-to-back Super Bowls, Quinn finally gets his well-deserved shot at being a head coach. Mike Smith’s firing was somewhat surprising, given the success he had, but the transition from him to Quinn should be somewhat seamless given their similar backgrounds. It’s hard to gauge how successful a rookie head coach will be, but I like Quinn’s chances provided he’s able to upgrade his defensive personnel and stabilize the offensive line.
4. Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders
Previous Job: Broncos defensive coordinator
Career Record: 68-71 (Jaguars, 2003-11)
John Fox's defensive coordniator in Denver the past three seasons, Del Rio has earned his second shot at being a head coach. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Del Rio grew up a Raiders fan and seems to fit their persona to a tee. It certainly didn’t hurt that owner Mark Davis thought the same thing, as he began his pursuit of Del Rio before the regular season ended. Del Rio has experience with young, rebuilding teams and a pretty good track record when it comes to defense. What’s more, Del Rio wanted this job, which is saying something considering how far this franchise has fallen. But with Del Rio now in charge, along with building blocks like linebacker Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, the Silver and Black could be heard from sooner rather than later.
5. Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos
Previous Job: Ravens offensive coordinator
Career Record: 61-64 (Texans, 2006-13)
Kubiak initially stated he would remain in Baltimore, but then John Elway fired John Fox and everything changed. Drafted by Denver in 1983 and where he spent his entire playing career as Elway's backup, Kubiak is the logical fit from the franchise’s standpoint. Between his nine seasons as a player and his 11 as an offensive coordinator, Kubiak has spent as much time as a Bronco as his new boss. Kubiak also enjoyed success with the Texans, but his two playoff appearances were preceded by just one winning season in his first five and were followed up by a nightmarish 2013 campaign that led to his firing after a 2-11 start. On the field, Kubiak’s West Coast offense and Peyton Manning’s skill set do not seem like the ideal fit, and there’s also the matter of Elway not leaving any room for doubt when it comes to expectations. Keep in mind that Fox took this team to a Super Bowl while Kubiak has yet to make it past the Divisional Round. Welcome home Gary, now get to work.
6. Todd Bowles, New York Jets
Previous Job: Cardinals defensive coordinator
Career Record: 2-1* (Dolphins, 2011)
Bowles opened many an eye with his work with the Cardinals’ defense the past two seasons (especially 2014), and he was able to parlay that into his dream job. A New Jersey native, Bowles should be pretty familiar with all of the attention, both wanted and unwanted, that comes with being the head coach of a team that calls the media capital of the world home. A former safety, Bowles’ playing experience should help him develop relationships with his new charges. He also has been a head coach before, serving as the Dolphins’ interim for three games in 2011 after Tony Sparano was fired. Unfortunately all of this experience doesn’t really prepare him for one of the biggest challenges awaiting him – finding out if Geno Smith can be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.
7. Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers
Previous Job: 49ers defensive line coach
Career Record: 1-0* (49ers, 2010)
Nothing against Tomsula, but it’s hard to not perceive his hiring as nothing more than CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke finding their yes-man. How else can you explain Jim Harbaugh leaving the 49ers to become the head coach at Michigan for the same amount of money and the subsequent search that included interviews with at least eight other candidates yet resulted in the hiring of the only one without any previous coordinator or head coaching experience in the NFL? Sorry, one game as the interim head coach in 2010 doesn’t really count nor does his one season as head coach of NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire, who didn’t even qualify for the playoffs that year. And even though Tomsula’s hiring has since been endorsed by the players, how can you justify choosing him over say an experienced head coach like Rex Ryan or a hot coordinator like Adam Gase, who the 49ers interviewed twice, or even in-house candidate Vic Fangio? And then there's the matter that after Tomsula was hired every assistant coach that served under Harbaugh was fired, except one. The popular opinion following Harbaugh’s decision to bolt for his alma mater was there was a power struggle between him and upper management. Tomsula’s hiring pretty much confirms this, no?
*Interim head coach
From 1961 to 1997, Smith was the head coach of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. His lengthy list of accolades includes 11 Final Four appearances, two national titles, four National Coach of the Year designations, and an Olympic gold medal won in 1976. He trained many notable NBA players, including Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, Sam Perkins, Jerry Stackhouse, J.R. Reid, Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty, James Worthy, and of course Michael Jordan. Jordan released the following statement, Sunday, in memory of Smith:
“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach — he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”
Stackhouse sent out this tweet, and explained in an XM radio interview how Smith would even assist him with financial management.
Worthy kept it short and sweet:
There are so many things I could say about Coach Dean Smith but simply put, he is the greatest man I've ever known. pic.twitter.com/tWaE2LPYpK— James Worthy (@JamesWorthy42) February 8, 2015
And Worthy’s fellow Los Angeles Lakers trustee, general manager Mitch Kupchak, sent out the following:
“Coach Smith was one of the most influential people in my life, and his passing brings me great sadness. However, he was a great man and someone I loved and respected greatly, and I celebrate the fact that I knew him and had him in my life for as long as I did. His influence on my life didn’t end when I left Chapel Hill, as he was a trusted and valuable advisor to me when I became a player, then an executive in the NBA. He had a hugely positive impact on the lives of hundreds of young men who were lucky enough to call him Coach, and I was blessed to be among them.”
Rest in peace.
— John Wilmes
Athlon Sports has averaged out the four major recruiting services team rankings for the ACC — 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN — and created the ACC consensus team recruiting rankings for 2015. Here is what we learned:
Florida State, Clemson and everybody else
It’s clear who the class of the ACC was in 2015 recruiting. The Seminoles and Tigers were ranked in the top five nationally by both Rivals and ESPN and the top eight by 247. No one else in the ACC was even close and North Carolina finished third with an average ranking just outside of the top 25. That said, for whatever reason, Scout didn’t agree, ranking both Clemson and Florida State outside of the top 10 nationally (take it up with them, fans).
Louisville and Bobby Petrino just completed their first full cycle as a member of the ACC and it appears the Cardinals will do just fine in their new league. The Cards ranked no lower than 32nd nationally by any service and finished solidly in the top half of the league. The same cannot be said about Pitt and Syracuse, who signed the worst two classes in the ACC this fall (mostly due to size for the Panthers).
Florida State and Clemson signed all seven five-star recruits that the ACC landed this cycle. Those two programs, as expected, signed 19 of the 42 four-star recruits as well. Who didn’t sign a single five- or four-star recruit in the ACC? Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse were the only ACC teams that didn’t land a four-star recruit this year.
Middle of the pACCk
The middle of the ACC pack needs to show improvement. Miami was one of the National Signing Day losers after missing out a bunch of quality players and falling outside of the top 25. ESPN and Rivals barely snuck Virginia Tech into the Top 25 and North Carolina was 24th by Scout and ESPN. But those three programs are the next best recruiting brands in the league and have history of competing at a high level in the ACC. So if the league wants to be considered on the same playing field as the SEC or Pac-12 nationally, these three programs need to start threatening top-10 classes on the recruiting trail.
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast Recruiting Special feat. Barton Simmons:
Positive signs in Winston-Salem?
Using Rivals.com team rankings — because they date back the farthest — Wake Forest signed its best class of the modern era this year. Three of the four sites ranked the Demon Deacons 53rd or better, making it the highest-rated class for Wake Forest since Rivals began tracking team rankings in 2002. ESPN ranked the Deacs an exciting 42nd in the nation — ahead of quality programs like Maryland, BYU, Cal, Utah, Iowa and others. Things could be looking up for Dave Clawson.
2015 ACC Consensus Team Recruiting Rankings:
The league’s coordinator carousel this offseason is another example of how things are just different down South. When it comes to coaching, there is no league in the nation more cutthroat than the SEC.
The SEC has hired 14 new coordinators since the end of the season. Six of them have coached in the SEC within the last two years, five were on staff last season and four of them are making the switch to a new SEC school in 2015.
Here are the winners and losers from the SEC’s ’15 coordinator carousel:
The Tigers went from Ellis Johnson to Will Muschamp and the former Florida coach’s impact was felt immediately. Auburn dominated headlines on Signing Day and Muschamp will undoubtly dominate offensive lines for as long as he stays on the Plains. Guschamp is as good an offense-defense tandem as there is in the nation.
It was costly but landing John Chavis in exchange for Mark Snyder was a big win for Kevin Sumlin. Chavis has a long track record of success in the SEC and for the Aggies to not only secure his services but also steal him from a division rival — one who had shut them down in two meetings — can’t be overrated.
Doug Nussmeier is a solid hire but Jim McElwain will likely control the majority of the offense. However, luring Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State and back to Gainesville was a big win for McElwain. His defensive hire was going to be significantly more important than his offensive move and Coach Juice Points was a home run.
Part of what gives Missouri the ability to “overachieve” is the coaching staff’s continuity. So losing Dave Steckel to Missouri State after 14 excellent years of service was a big blow to Gary Pinkel’s staff stability. He couldn’t have landed a better replacement, however, in Barry Odom. He played and coached at Mizzou under Pinkel (2003-11) and did fantastic work turning around Memphis’ defense in three short years.
Going from John Chavis to Kevin Steele can only be considered a major step down. Steele is a great recruiter but that isn’t what LSU needs. The last two years he was in charge of a defense, his unit allowed a pathetic 5.6 yards per play for Clemson in both 2011 and ’12 — ranking 71st and 69th nationally. And technically, Alabama’s defense, while still really good in 2014, was the “worst” it has been since '08. Just ask Urban Meyer. Les Miles did salvage the offseason somewhat by landing ace recruiter and elite D-line coach Ed Orgeron.
Mike DeBord is maybe the most fascinating hire in the SEC this year. He hasn’t coached any football since 2012, hasn’t been relevant in college football since leaving Michigan in '07 and hasn’t been a QB coach since '86. He knows Butch Jones extremely well, brings continuity to the offense and maybe even adds a much-needed power running element. And Michigan did go to two Rose Bowls during his last stint in Ann Arbor. But the game has changed dramatically since then, and normally, there is a reason someone hasn’t held a meaningful position in nearly a decade. DeBord is extremely experienced but there are reasonable questions about his upside, ability to develop young talent and knowledge of the way today's SEC works.
There should always be concerns when hiring a top assistant from a coaching staff where the head coach is really the offensive architect. Shannon Dawson posted some big numbers on offense for West Virginia last year but didn’t really design the offense and didn’t call the plays either. Dawson can only be considered a step back from a young rising offensive mind like Neal Brown.
On the plus side, Brian Schottenheimer will give Mark Richt the exact offensive style he wants, his NFL pedigree suggests that the industry’s best respect him and he knows the SEC from his playing days at Florida. However, his offenses in The League have been far from solid (despite some injuries) ranking 25th, 23rd, 30th and 28th in the NFL in total offense over the last four seasons. Generally speaking, coaches don’t leave a high-ranking NFL job for a coordinator job in college and, many times, NFL offenses are too complex for the college game. This is a step down from Mike Bobo.
Wait and See:
Being able to lure a current head coach away to become a coordinator is no small feat but Dan Enos didn’t exactly set Mount Pleasant on fire during his five-year stint at Central Michigan. He meshes very well with Bret Bielema’s offensive philosophy so odds are this will be a win for the Hogs. But Enos is still very much of an unknown in the SEC.
Andy Ludwig will bring a power offense that has been extremely successful and his ability to coach quarterbacks is a huge need. Derek Mason’s decision to coach the defense is both a win and loss simultaneously. No one can coach, manage and call that defense better than him (win) but it’s nearly impossible to manage every aspect of the game in such a demanding league when you are so focused on one side of the ball (loss). The jury is still very much out on the Dores' moves but there is no doubt they upgraded these two positions from a year ago.
The similarities between DeBord and Jon Hoke are bizarrely similar with a few small twists. Both have deep connections with their new head coaches and haven’t coached in college for a long time. The slight difference is Hoke has been coaching at a high level in the NFL while DeBord has been out of the game for three years. Another difference is Hoke is almost guaranteed to be an upgrade over Lorenzo Ward and is going to call the plays while DeBord could be a step down from Mike Bajakian and will have much less influence than Hoke.
Manny Diaz knows Mississippi State very well having coached there under Dan Mullen in 2010. He was solid for MTSU prior to coming to Starkville and was solid for the Bulldogs, but his track record is a mixed bag since. He did great work last year at Louisiana Tech, taking a unit ranked 70th nationally in total defense the year prior to 35th in '14. However, he also is partly responsible for two of the worst defenses in Texas Longhorns history, giving up over 400 yards per game in 2012-13 in Austin.
Alabama: Lane Kiffin, OC and Kirby Smart, DC
Ole Miss: Matt Luke/Dan Werner, OC and Jason Jones/Dave Wommack, DC
The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is among the best in college football, and the intensity between these two programs went up a notch since Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor to return the Wolverines back to the Big Ten elite.
While these two teams won’t meet until November, that won’t stop the fireworks between the two programs until the matchup on the gridiron.
Standout high school running back Mike Weber was committed to Michigan at one point but is headed to Ohio State after flipping to the Buckeyes late in the recruiting process. However, Weber’s position coach (Stan Drayton) recently left for the NFL. Needless to say, Weber (and his high school coach had some words for Urban Meyer) wasn’t happy with the news and tweeted this following the announcement.
Which brings us to this Harbaugh tweet from Saturday…was this directed at Ohio State?
Thought of the day - What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! - Sir Walter Scott— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) February 7, 2015
After Harbaugh's tweet, Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni tweeted this in response:
Thought of the day... pic.twitter.com/fA1yJD6SBr— Mark Pantoni (@markpantoni) February 7, 2015
Are we reading too much into these tweets? Or was Harbaugh's tweet a jab at Ohio State over the Weber recruiting situation? Either way, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is certainly more interesting with Harbaugh back in Ann Arbor.
Revenge was the name of the game this week in college basketball.
Not too long ago, the cracks appeared to be showing for teams like Duke, Villanova and Iowa State as they took key losses. A few weeks later, those losses now look like wake-up calls as all three answered in rematches.
Duke would find no drama in its second game against Notre Dame this season as the Blue Devils embarrassed a top 10 team by 30 points. Villanova took its only loss in regulation in a lopsided defeat to Georgetown, but the Wildcats returned the favor with an impressive defensive performance against its classic Big East rival. And Iowa State, which lost a head-scratcher to Texas Tech two weeks ago, turned around for a 37-point rout.
Yet the story of the week may be the continued win streak by Kentucky. The Wildcats lost all three meetings to Florida a year ago, but needed all 60 minutes to put away the Gators in their first matchup this season.
1. Kentucky keeps finding ways to stay undefeated
Winning conference road games is tough, and we’re sure Kentucky’s not going to get enough credit for answering the call each game in an otherwise mediocre SEC. The Wildcats’ 68-61 win at Florida is a perfect example of why Kentucky remains undefeated. The Gators played arguably their best game of the season (only days after their worst game of the season in a loss at Vanderbilt), Kentucky had some key lapses, and still the Wildcats walked away with a win. Andrew Harrison was a non-factor (no field goals, three turnovers), and the Wildcats shot 3-of-14 from 3-point range. Still, Kentucky won because it was 21-of-22 from the free throw line while Florida went 7-of-14. And Karl-Anthony Towns played his best game of the season with 19 points and eight rebounds. Towns is averaging 15.3 points per game in his last three, and Aaron Harrison rebounded from a one-point game against Georgia for 23 against the Gators. We’ve known this for a while, but taking out Kentucky is going to take an outstanding effort from a darn good team.
2. Duke looks like the scariest team in the country
Time to stop worrying about what’s wrong with Duke and try to figure out how anyone is going to slow down the Blue Devils. On Jan. 28, Notre Dame beat Duke 77-73 in South Bend for the Blue Devils’ third loss of the season. Duke hasn’t lost since. The rematch against the top-10 Irish was a thorough 90-60 beatdown. Notre Dame took a 6-0 lead, and from there, Duke went on a 43-7 run during the first half. This came with Jahlil Okafor playing only eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Meanwhile, Justise Winslow continued his hot streak, flourishing in transition for 19 points. Guard Matt Jones obliterated his career high with 17 points (3-of-5 from 3) off the bench. And when Okafor was in the game he simply went 9-of-11 form the field for 20 points with 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. Quite the statement for Duke.
3. Virginia needs to adjust without Justin Anderson
On the court Saturday, Virginia played yet another stifling game against a quality opponent. The Cavaliers defeated Louisville 52-47, holding the Cardinals to 13 points in the first half and 0.85 points per possession overall. The rub, though, is pending hand surgery for Justin Anderson, arguably the team’s most important player. Surgery to repair a broken finger may put him out for 4-6 weeks, through the first week of March or into the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers face only three KenPom top 100 teams (North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse) before the finale against Louisville, but Anderson’s absence will be a key speed bump for a team that’s had trouble closing out games in recent weeks.
4. Oklahoma State makes a major statement
Oklahoma State found one way to separate itself from the depth of the Big 12, arguably the deepest league in the country. The Cowboys defeated Kansas 67-62 to give the Pokes a win over Kansas in each of the last three seasons, including the last two games in Stillwater. Kansas did not have a great game, turning the ball over 18 times, but the key for Oklahoma State is the emergency of secondary scorers. For most of the season, the Pokes could count on only Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte to light up the scoresheet. That’s changed. Four Cowboys scored in double figures against KU. Point guard Anthony Hickey has become the key No. 3 with 12 points per game in the last four.
5. Another red flag for Arizona?
On first glance, Arizona’s 81-78 loss to Arizona State shouldn’t be a major warning sign. The season is long, and this was a road game against a capable rival. The Sun Devils got a little hot from 3 (7-of-15) and were able to pull off the upset. But this is also the third loss of the season for Arizona against a team that won’t be in the NCAA Tournament. The other two were to UNLV and Oregon State, both on the road. Arizona may still be a title contender at 20-3 but these losses may cost the Wildcats a No. 1 seed.
6. Villanova avenges its worst loss of the season
OK, Villanova, we’re believers again. The Wildcats lost by 20 to Georgetown back on Jan. 19 for one of its two losses of the season, and from there they faced the dregs of the Big East. On Saturday, Villanova made a statement in its rematch with the Hoyas, defeating Georgetown 69-53 in a defensive turnaround. Georgetown averaged 1.18 points per possession and shot 51.1 percent from the field in the first meeting. In the second game in Philadelphia, Villanova held Georgetown to 0.79 points per possession and 30 percent shooting from the field, including 1-of-17 from 3-point range. Villanova was especially effective off takeaways, outscoring Georgetown 24-8 on turnovers despite being in the red in turnover margin (20-15).
7. Time to start buying into Baylor
There are plenty of Baylor and Scott Drew skeptics out there. Some of that is earned, for sure. Dare we say this is a year to start buying into the Bears? Baylor demolished West Virginia 87-69 on the road for their fourth win in their last five Big 12 games. Wins in bunches don’t come often in this league, so Baylor’s hot streak must be noted. Baylor went on a 21-0 run in the first half and took advantage of West Virginia’s struggles in the halfcourt. Against the Baylor zone, West Virginia shot a mere 6-of-23 from 3. Meanwhile, Rico Gathers was a beast as always on the glass with 16 rebounds, five on the offensive glass. Gathers’ 17 points against West Virginia was his second-highest total in a Big 12 game in his career.
8. Time to start selling West Virginia?
The other side of Baylor’s rout in Morgantown: Maybe West Virginia is a team to start looking at a little more critically. The Mountaineers’ elite pressure defense helped turn around the team this season, but West Virginia doesn’t do much of anything else very well. Now, the Mountaineers’ other deficiencies are starting to catch up to them. Their last three Big 12 losses — to Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor — have been routs. The loss also highlights that West Virginia has only two top-50 RPI wins and one of those is over Wofford.
9. Shorthanded Illinois is making a move
On Jan. 24, Illinois was 13-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten, thanks in part to an injury to guard Rayvonte Rice. Now, Rice and fellow guard Aaron Cosby are still out with suspension. That hasn’t been a problem for Illinois, which won its third consecutive game with a 59-54 road win over Michigan State. Malcolm Hill, who scored 19 points against the Spartans, has become Illinois’ best player as the Illini have quietly become an NCAA bubble team. Even before the win over Michigan State, Illinois had a 2-3 record against the RPI top 20 with wins over Baylor and Maryland.
10. Temple is the turnaround team no one’s talking about
The consistently underrated Fran Dunphy has led a remarkable turnaround in Philadelphia, leading the Owls to a 17-7 start and 8-3 in the American Athletic Conference. The Owls went 9-22 (4-14 AAC) a year ago, and after a 61-60 comeback on the road against Memphis, the Owls are in the NCAA Tournament discussion. The final shot, a Josh Brown jumper off a bounce pass from Will Cummings, deserves attention, especially since Dunphy elected not to take a timeout. But the real story is that Temple is back to defending at a high level after a three-year slump. The Owls rank eighth in the nation in defensive efficiency on KenPom and 13th in defensive effective field gal rate, both the best for Temple since 2009-10.
• Providence coach Ed Cooley was hospitalized Saturday after leaving the Friars’ game against Xavier early in the second half. After overnight observation for high blood pressure, Cooley is expected to return Wednesday against Villanova.
• UCLA built momentum for its at-large credentials and then promptly ended its hot streak with a 64-62 loss at Cal. The Bruins defeated Utah, Colorado and Stanford just before sustaining their worst loss of the season, at least considering the opponent.
• Seton Hall’s at-large credentials are crumbling, too. The Pirates fell to 5-6 in the Big East after back-to-back losses to DePaul and Marquette. Not a great omen with Georgetown, Providence and Villanova in the next two weeks.
• Georgia welcomed back Marcus Thornton after a two-game absence due to a concussion — the Bulldogs lost both games. Thornton scored only eight points in 26 minutes, but the Bulldogs still found a way to beat Tennessee 56-53.
• Texas Tech gets the award for worst box score of the week. The Red Raiders scored only 38 points in a loss to Iowa State, in part by going 0-of-8 from the free throw line.
• No team had a more exciting week than St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies had buzzer-beaters to defeated two of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 in Davidson and VCU.
On Saturday, Syracuse will play its first meaningless game of the season.
Wait, that’s not entirely true. The game means something for Pittsburgh, a team clinging to the NCAA Tournament fringe but more than likely host an NIT game.
In that way, the Panthers aren’t all that different from Syracuse, another team that at least until Wednesday still had the slimmest of hopes of participating in March Madness.
The difference, though, is that Syracuse isn’t playing any more games that really matter. Instead, Syracuse, facing an NCAA investigation, elected to get a head start on its potential sanctions by forfeiting its chance at any postseason. No NCAA Tournament. No ACC Tournament. No NIT. No CBI.
Pittsburgh still has an opportunity to do what Syracuse cannot. Maybe Pitt will win the NCAA Tournament. Maybe Pitt will beat Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia. That’s all highly unlikely, for sure, but Panthers coach Jamie Dixon’s team can still try to pull off the feat.
No matter how much Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim tries to dress this up as a self-imposed punishment with teeth or tries to acknowledge mistakes, this move is as cynical as they come.
Syracuse, as an institution, decided to make the lost season official. The timing is, to put it mildly, convenient.
Syracuse has lost three of its last five and eked out a two-point win against lowly Virginia Tech on Tuesday. Hope is pretty slim for a meaningful postseason. This will probably be only the second Syracuse team to fail to win 20 games since 1982.
No question, Syracuse did the smart thing as a program, sacrificing what’s likely to be a mediocre postseason in hopes that by the time the Orange are ready to be a more realistic contender in future the sanctions will be done and gone.
“You can’t wait and say, ‘We’ll take it next year,’” Boeheim told host Chris McManus on his weekly coach’s radio show. “You have to take it.”
That’s not entirely true. Syracuse could have waited out the NCAA or could have announced a postseason ban for 2015-16. Syracuse could have announced the ban before the season — the investigation concluded in October — before it became evident the Orange would fall well below their own standard.
Instead, Syracuse elected to change the conditions of this season. The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy has gone so far as to call it “a disgrace that rises to the highest level of all that is untoward in college athletics.”
Denying guys like Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament — a goal they thought they had until this week — is “reprehensible,” DeCourcy writes.
Indeed, the players are the primary losers here. Not Boeheim, whose march to 1,000 wins will only be marginally impacted. Not the program, which gets to avoid a likely NIT invite so a better team can play in the NCAA Tournament.
Boeheim tried to save face this week, but in some ways his defense makes the curiously timed self-imposed sanctions seem worse.
Boeheim says he believes the self-imposed punishment indeed has teeth. Syracuse still has a shot at the NCAA Tournament, he says, and playing in the NIT and ACC Tournament is still a chance for his young team to improve.
The former is a long shot. Syracuse is ranked No. 71 in the RPI with only two wins against teams in the top 90 — No. 47 Iowa and No. 62 Long Beach State. His team is woefully thin with the season-ending injury to freshman forward Chris McCullough. And his team, already 15-7, has the toughest portion of the ACC schedule ahead of it. The Orange still have to face Duke twice, plus Notre Dame on the road and Virginia and Louisville at home.
The latter, the extra practice time and experience in a one-and-done situation, is a legitimate sanction for the Orange.
But who loses if Syracuse doesn’t get those extra games or practices? Syracuse has only two top 100 prospects for the 2015 draft, according to DraftExpress.com. One is out for the rest of the season with injury. The other is Christmas, a senior. Both are second-rounders right now at best.
Syracuse though has a handful of juniors and underclassmen who could become pros or solid college players. Even Boeheim says NIT experience could be good for them. Instead, the Orange's season ends March 7 at NC State.
“I saw Hakim Warrick grow up in the NIT when he was a freshman,” Boeheim told McManus. “He came in and had an unbelievable game at Richmond. It led to a breakout year as a sophomore, so you’re giving up something.”
So exactly who is giving up something? Not any of the adults in the room.
Of course, Syracuse isn’t the first to decide when it will serve its sanctions. Miami football announced midseason that it would self-impose a postseason ban in 2011 and '12, amid the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
Ohio State learned the wrong lesson when the Buckeyes elected to play out a 6-7 season under an interim coach that ended in a Gator Bowl loss. The Buckeyes served a bowl ban in 2012, when a 12-0 season ended without a Big Ten title game or a BCS bowl appearance.
This shouldn’t even be an option for schools. That the NCAA allows programs to decide when it serves a punishment is preposterous. The NCAA tacitly encourages such behavior from institutions that broke rules in the first place.
In other words, the NCAA is investigating a program for doing something against the rules and then allows the program to decide when and how it serves its sentence. Syracuse gets to plea bargain and punish its current players for something that happened several years ago.
At least as far as NCAA rules are concerned, these are serious issues. Fab Melo, who was declared ineligible for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, is having his academic record investigated. James Southerland, who missed six games in 2012-13 due to an academic issue, is also believed to be involved.
At one point, Syracuse itself admitted that the NCAA was investigating the program’s adherence to its own drug policies.
And Syracuse’s own investigators looked into an internship program that placed Syracuse athletes at an Oneida, N.Y., YMCA. The investigation centered on a former YMCA employee that had exceptional access to men’s basketball players and had been sued by the YMCA for allegedly misappropriating $338,000 worth of funds.
According to an ESPN source, the issues stretch back for more than a decade, ending in 2013. “Things were going on consistently for a long time,” the source told ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy.
Boeheim has been there for the entire time, plus for Syracuse’s previous postseason ban in 1993. Should he know everything going in the athletic program? No, but these are issues that span several years and several areas of NCAA interest. Perhaps he should know something.
In the end, Syracuse may end up dodging any major sanctions. The NCAA isn’t known for its track record of consistency. But skipping out on the postseason this year has another effect: Even at 15-7 now, the Orange may end the season approaching a .500 record; They could very well find themselves in a position where one and done in the ACC Tournament and NIT hands Jim Boeheim the first losing season of his career.
Perhaps the notion of two postseason bans in his career, including one has he’s marching toward 1,000 wins, is enough to dent his tremendous legacy of building his alma mater into a national power.
But decades from now, his ledger merely will read 1,000 wins and one or two below-average seasons in the twilight of his career.
Again, how convenient.
On top of the bad loss was a worse media gaffe by their point guard and leader, Chris Paul. Paul took to criticizing rookie female referee Lauren Holtkamp after the game. He wasn’t too pleased with a technical foul call in the third quarter.
"I think we have to show better composure, but at the same time some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous," Paul told reporters. "The tech that I get right there was ridiculous. I don't care what nobody says, I don't care what she says; that's terrible. There's no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, 'Uh-uh.' I said, 'Why, uh-uh?' And she gave me a tech. That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her.”
Poor choice of words, CP3. While criticizing a rookie referee is hardly taboo, and while the “her” in “this might not be for her” is technically correct, many are going to read this as sexist.
Personally? Paul doesn’t strike me as the politically incorrect type; just a guy who got beat badly by one of his close friends — LeBron — on national TV, and was thus liable to say all kinds of dumb nonsense in his post-game frustration. He was throwing a bit of a hissyfit at the wrong time. That’s the peril of having a job where they throw microphones into your face right after you take a shower.
In any event, it’s a bad look for Paul, his team, and for the league, and it should surprise no one when he inevitably gets fined for his words.
— John Wilmes
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 6:
• Brian Williams got caught in a lie, and the Internet sprang into action.
• Tiger withdrew yesterday, citing an inability to activate his glutes. Hate it when that happens. If this spells the end, then Tiger can sit on his glutes and count the $1.3 billion he's earned.
• Pete Carroll cried at 4:50 am Tuesday morning. Boy, coaches keep tight schedules.
• In case you're not on Gronk overload, here he is dancing to MC Hammer.
• Chris Paul called out a lady ref after last night's game. Off to sensitivity training with him.
• I know some of you are excited for "Better Call Saul." So this one's for you.
• Tom Hanks reunited with a former co-star at last night's Rangers game.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Super Bowl is over, which means the NFL season is complete and it’s almost time for baseball! Spring training will start up in two weeks in Florida and Arizona with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs set to open the 2015 MLB season on Sunday night, April 5. Opening Day will follow, as the San Francisco Giants look to defend their World Series title.
Florida plays host to 15 teams, the Grapefruit League, during spring training, while the greater Phoenix metropolitan area is home to the other 15 teams that make up the Cactus League.
To help get you ready for the upcoming season, Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine is available on newsstands and to order online now. Starting with 22 unique covers to choose from, Athlon covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between.
This year's edition includes "15 Things to Watch in 2015," a look back on the 2005 MLB Draft, features on World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, the return of New York Yankees outcast Alex Rodriguez, and Joe Maddon’s arrival as manager of the Chicago Cubs, and much more. As always, there are team-by-team previews for all 30 clubs, with rosters, stats and schedules as well as analysis on the top 10 prospects in their farm system. Athlon also offers its predictions on how this season will shake out, both for the regular and postseason, as well as for the major awards. Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview is the most complete preseason publication available today. Order your copy now!
|Team||Location||Pitchers & Catchers||Position Players|
|Reporting Date||First Workout||Reporting Date||First Workout|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Scottsdale, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Atlanta Braves||Lake Buena Vista, FL||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 25||Feb. 26|
|Baltimore Orioles||Sarasota, FL||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Boston Red Sox||Lee County, FL||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Chicago Cubs||Mesa, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 25||Feb. 25|
|Chicago White Sox||Glendale, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 24|
|Cincinnati Reds||Goodyear, AZ||Feb. 18||Feb. 19||Feb. 23||Feb. 24|
|Cleveland Indians||Goodyear, AZ||Feb. 18||Feb. 20||Feb. 22||Feb. 24|
|Colorado Rockies||Scottsdale, AZ||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 27||Feb. 27|
|Detroit Tigers||Lakeland, FL||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 24|
|Houston Astros||Kissimmee, FL||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Kansas City Royals||Surprise, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Los Angeles Angels||Tempe, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Glendale, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 26|
|Miami Marlins||Jupiter, FL||Feb. 20||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 24|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Phoenix, AZ||Feb. 20||Feb. 22||Feb. 25||Feb. 26|
|Minnesota Twins||Fort Myers, FL||Feb. 22||Feb. 23||Feb. 27||Feb. 28|
|New York Mets||Port St. Lucie, FL||Feb. 19||Feb. 21||Feb. 24||Feb. 26|
|New York Yankees||Tampa, FL||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 25||Feb. 26|
|Oakland A's||Mesa, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Clearwater, FL||Feb. 18||Feb. 19||Feb. 24||Feb. 24|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Bradenton, FL||Feb. 18||Feb. 19||Feb. 23||Feb. 24|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Jupiter, FL||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|San Diego Padres||Peoria, AZ||Feb. 19||Feb. 20||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|San Francisco Giants||Scottsdale, AZ||Feb. 18||Feb. 19||Feb. 24||Feb. 24|
|Seattle Mariners||Peoria, AZ||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 24||Feb. 25|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Charlotte County, FL||Feb. 21||Feb. 23||Feb. 25||Feb. 28|
|Texas Rangers||Surprise, AZ||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 25||Feb. 26|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Dunedin, FL||Feb. 23||Feb. 23||Feb. 27||Feb. 27|
|Washington Nationals||Viera, FL||Feb. 20||Feb. 21||Feb. 26||Feb. 26|
Add body No. 2 to the dispatched head coaches of the 2014-15 NBA season. Jacque Vaughn joined the previously fired Mike Malone in the unemployment line yesterday, when the Orlando Magic excused him as their man.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports — who broke the news — reports that assistant coach James Borrego is expected to fill in as the interim leader for now, while rumors that Scott Skiles could step into the job on a permanent basis have been alive for at least a week. Skiles is a former Magic point guard and head coach for the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. ESPN’s Chris Broussard is the one to connect him to the job opening, while Wojnarowski has also floated his name.
Vaughn, a 39-year-old who played point guard for five different NBA teams from 1997 to 2009, had just a .269 winning percentage over three-and-a-half years of leading Orlando. The Magic didn’t have high expectations for any of his teams; they handed Vaughn the keys at an obviously transitional moment, when Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy had been traded and fired, respectively, in the summer of 2012.
But there has been little-to-no improvement in central Florida, and the team’s front office clearly became convinced that Vaughn wasn’t the right man to get the most out of a young roster featuring Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton.
Is Skiles the man to right the ship for them? Who knows. The fiery coach has had success in turning teams around, but he also tends to grate on his players over time. He’s gotten all of his squads to the playoffs, while he’s also had ugly mid-season exits from every coaching job he’s had.
— John Wilmes
This weekend of college basketball may be a key lesson in the important of matchups in college basketball.
Let’s start with Duke: A team that’s had trouble with stopping opposing guards. Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant knows first hand and would like to again prove that guards like him are Blue Devil Kryptonite.
Then there’s Villanova, a team that’s made easy work most of its Big East schedule but lost in a blowout to Georgetown. Does John Thompson III hold the key to beating up on Nova? The Wildcats will find out.
In the Big 12, West Virginia often wins the matchup in the full-court press, and Baylor often wins the matchup on the offensive glass. Which one will take over in Morgantown?
And Virginia’s ability to defend might only be only matched by their resilience in the last week. Louisville has displayed plenty of mental fortitude, too, this season, but do the Cardinals have the offensive game to beat Virginia in Charlottesville? Maybe not.
College Basketball Weekend Preview: Feb. 7-8
All times Eastern
Tennessee at Georgia
Saturday, noon, ESPN2
With a top 25 RPI and a 2-4 record against the top 50, Georgia has a passable NCAA resume. The Bulldogs have lost their last two games, but that came without leading scorer Marcus Thornton, who was out with a concussion. If Thornton returns, Georgia can re-establish itself during the next week against a pesky Tennessee team and on the road against Texas A&M.
Pick: Georgia 70-59
Baylor at West Virginia
Saturday, noon, ESPNU
Neither is going to catch up to Kansas for the Big 12 title, but these are two squads that each do one thing really, really well. West Virginia is an average defensive team in the halfcourt, but the Mountaineers lead the nation in turnover rate and steal percentage. Led by Rico Gathers, Baylor is the nation’s best offensive rebounding team. Steals and second-chance points will be the name of the game. We’ll take it.
Pick: West Virginia 68-62
Notre Dame at Duke
Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS
Duke gets another shot at Notre Dame after the Irish got two late miracle shots to help defeat the Blue Devils 77-73 on Jan. 28. Expect another shootout as Notre Dame and Duke rank in the top four nationally on offensive efficiency. Duke is only getting more dangerous, especially as freshman Justise Winslow (30 points and 21 rebounds in his last two games) rounds into March form.
Pick: Duke 75-70
Georgetown at Villanova
Saturday, 2 p.m., FOX
Villanova had a bit of a Creighton problem last season, losing twice to the Bluejays in routs. Might the Wildcats have the same issue with Georgetown this year? Villanova has lost twice this season; the only time in regulation came by 20 to Georgetown. That meeting truly was an outlier against a solid defensive squad from Nova. Georgetown averaged 1.18 points per possession in that game and shot 51.5 percent from 2 and 50 percent from 3 in that meeting. Does Villanova get revenge?
Pick: Georgetown 68-65
Kansas at Oklahoma State
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN
Never doubt Kansas in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have reeled off five wins in a row since an 86-81 loss at Iowa State. Kansas, though, has played three of those five games at the Phog, the only road games against TCU and slumping Texas. Kansas beat Oklahoma State 67-57 on Jan. 13, but it wasn’t easy. In a sloppy effort, the two teams combined for 71 free throw attempts and shot 6-of-28 from 3-point range.
Pick: Kansas 72-68
Louisville at Virginia
Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN
Virginia deserves credit for answering its first loss of the season with a quick, resilient win. The Cavaliers lost in the final five minutes to Duke on Saturday and then turned around to beat North Carolina convincingly on the road on Monday. The Cardinals have re-established themselves as contenders, but they may be an awful matchup against Virginia’s defense. Long-range shooting from multiple players is one of they keys to the pack-line defense, and Louisville doesn’t exactly meet that criteria.
Pick: Virginia 67-57
SMU at Tulsa
Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPNU
SMU-Tulsa probably wasn’t many people’s idea of a key American Athletic Conference game to start the season, but it’s turned out to be a game between the top two teams in the league standings. Tulsa has been one of the surprises of the league, starting 5-5 and then winning 11 in a row, including 10 in the AAC. SMU won eight in a row before losing at home to Cincinnati on Thursday. The Bearcats are 2-0 against SMU for the Mustangs' only two AAC losses.
Pick: SMU 63-60
UCLA at Cal
Saturday, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
OK, UCLA, you have our attention. Since Jan. 29, the Bruins have defeated Utah at home and Stanford on the road, the latter giving UCLA a season sweep of the Cardinal. The Bruins have had some poor performances against top 100 teams this season, but they also haven’t lost to a team outside of the RPI top 100. That makes for a team inching its way into the NCAA Tournament, provided it can sustain its momentum on the road against a Cal team riding a three-game win streak.
Pick: UCLA 70-65
Kentucky at Florida
Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN
Kentucky may not be challenged in SEC play, but the Wildcats going on the road against one of its top rivals in conference is worth keeping an eye on. The Gators started to play their way into being one of the more interesting teams in the second half of the conference season before a no-show against Vanderbilt on Tuesday. The matchup of Kentucky’s frontcourt size does not favor Florida, to say the least.
Pick: Kentucky 70-59
Maryland at Iowa
Sunday, 3:15 p.m., Big Ten Network
A key game for confidence for both teams. Iowa has lost three of the last five, albeit twice to Wisconsin. Maryland hasn’t won a Big Ten road game since Jan. 10 against Purdue, losing in lospided fashion to Indiana and Ohio State. All the action, though, will be on one side of the court — Maryland’s offense and Iowa’s defense are in the bottom four of the Big Ten in efficiency while Iowa’s offense and Maryland’s defense are both in the top four.
Pick: Maryland 68-66
Joining Houston Rockets MVP candidate James Harden (who gets the nod as Western Conference Player of the Month) is the entire starting five for the Atlanta Hawks, representing the Eastern Conference: Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford.
In Adam Silver’s NBA, this move isn’t entirely surprising. The league’s new commissioner — who just hit his one-year mark on the job — is all about grand symbolic gestures.
When 2014 draft hopeful Isaiah Austin, a standout big man from Baylor University, saw his hopes dashed a by tragic diagnosis of Marfan Syndrome, Silver made him a ceremonial pick on draft night, offering him a job in the league so long as he finishes his degree at Baylor.
And there’s also, of course, Silver’s brash lifetime ban of disgraced former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling — the move that announced Silver’s presence to many followers of the league.
The decision to give the Hawks’ front five this award as a collective is, similarly, a sign of Silver’s relatively radical ethos. A celebration of teamwork and selflessness, the gesture could perhaps encourage other lineups throughout the league to skew their games in a direction less concerned with individual achievement, and more concerned with group achievement.
The curious announcement should also turn some more heads to what’s going on in Atlanta. Although they had their 19-game winning streak snapped by Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans this past Monday, the Hawks had a lossless January. And it’s not as if they did it with a creampuff schedule: their victim list through the month included the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.
Three of the Hawks’ starters (Teague, Horford, Millsap) were, additionally, selected as reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
— John Wilmes
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott recently showed off an awesome tattoo celebrating the Buckeyes’ national championship win. And now a fan of Ohio State (Kevin Alexander) has added to the offseason artwork with an impressive tattoo of current coach Urban Meyer, former coach Woody Hayes and two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin.
In this story from Cleveland.com, Alexander details his decision to get an Ohio State tattoo on Wednesday and why he decided to switch from a Block “O” to the Hayes, Griffin and Meyer artwork.
Check out the full story here
And here’s a few photos from Alexander’s new tattoos:
Don’t be that guy.
Don’t be the old, stodgy curmudgeon who refuses to acknowledge that society moves forward.
Don’t ignore facts, research and statistical data because of some longing for the days of the Wing-T and leather helmets. Don’t let an anecdotal stat about the Super Bowl starting lineups, lazy reporting on the NFL Draft or an undefeated season from Boise State blind you to the truth.
Recruiting matters and so do the rankings. More importantly, this isn’t an opinion.
It’s a fact.
Does it take great coaching, quality development, a conglomerate of hard-working support staffers and even a bit of luck to win a championship? Are recruiting rankings an inexact science filled with busts?
Of course, but to win championships in college football, it takes great players. In general, teams with better players according to the recruiting rankings win more games and players who have more stars are more likely to get drafted.
Again, those aren’t opinions.
The 2014 College Football Playoff featured three of the top four rosters according to the recruiting rankings. Based on the last five classes, Alabama had the No. 1 roster in the nation in ‘14, Florida State was No. 2 and Ohio State was No. 4 nationally. Oregon wasn’t far behind with the 14th-ranked roster in America.
Both Florida State (No. 5) and Auburn (No. 10) had two of the top 10 rosters in the nation a year earlier based on the same criteria and they met in the ’13 BCS title game. In 2011, Alabama and LSU were two of the top three rosters in the nation based on the previous five recruiting classes. They met in the BCS title game that year and only lost to each other. Notre Dame vs. Alabama? Yup, both top-10 rosters.
Additionally, signing the No. 1 class in the nation has historically produced national titles.
Since 2002 (as far back as Rivals.com team rankings go), nearly every team that landed a No. 1 class in the nation eventually won a national championship. Texas signed the top class in 2002 and won a title three years later. LSU signed the top class in 2003 and won two titles with those players. USC inked the top class in 2004 and played in back-to-back title games. Florida won the recruiting championship in 2007 and the BCS championship in '08. Alabama claimed three national championships after winning four recruiting titles in between 2008-12.
Further, every single BCS national champion had at least two top-10 classes in the four years leading up to its championship season.
Still need more?
The good folks at SB Nation — Matt Hinton and Bud Elliott — have done marvelous work breaking down the statistics as it relates to recruiting rankings. I suggest reading the articles, but the gist of their research reveals two telling and undeniable truths: 1) Teams with better recruiting classes win more games and 2) players with more stars are more likely to be drafted.
Working with the top 75 teams in the nation — the six “BCS” leagues, Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU — Hinton plotted out where those teams ranked in recruiting and what happened when they played each other. In nearly 1,500 matchups between 2010-13, the “higher-ranked team according to the recruiting rankings won roughly two-thirds of the time” and the larger the talent differential, the easier it was to predict wins and losses. To quote the author, "it's a landslide."
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast Recruiting Special feat. Barton Simmons:
Essentially, in a world where it’s nearly impossible to predict outcomes, picking games based purely on star rankings is actually your best bet.
There are roughly 4,500 scholarships signed each National Signing Day with about 30 prospects receiving the heralded five-star ranking. An additional 400 will get four stars while the other 4,000 check in as three- or two-star prospects. So when a stat says only 16 five-stars were drafted against 71 two-stars (like in 2014), it’s utterly lazy reporting.
Elliott provides the real data. The ratios indicate that four- and five-star recruits are 995 percent more likely to be drafted in the first round than a three- or two-star prospect. Additionally, based on the 2014 NFL Draft, a five-star recruit has a 60 percent chance of getting drafted (16 of 27) and a four-star has a 20 percent opportunity (77 of 395). Meanwhile, three-star recruits have just a 5.5 percent chance (92 of 1644) and two-stars/unranked players have less than a three-percent likelihood of getting drafted (71 of 2,434).
I’m no mathematician but 60 is significantly larger than 2.9.
Three of the best four rosters in the sport, according to the rankings, eventually filled playoff spots this year. Landing the top class has led directly to competing for a national title over the last 10 years. Higher ranked recruiting classes regularly defeat lower ranked classes at nearly a 70 percent clip. And higher ranked prospects are significantly more likely to get drafted by the NFL than lower ranked ones.
Recruiting at an elite level doesn’t guarantee success. Bad coaches underachieve with great players all the time. But no one has won a national title without elite talent.
So if you don’t like glorifying teenagers or pompous announcement ceremonies, that’s fair and totally acceptable. But don’t lie to yourself about the value of the rankings.
Remember, facts not opinions.
Dustin Johnson called his victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship "one of my biggest wins," and he relied on his driver during a stellar weekend, leading the field with an average of 328.3 yards off the tee with his smooth, rhythmic swing. Here, Dustin and his instructor, top-ranked teacher Butch Harmon, share Dustin's secrets for producing those jaw-dropping tee shots.
DUSTIN JOHNSON'S EFFORTLESS POWER
If I feel like I have to try to hit one far, then I'm not swinging correctly. Butch Harmon and I always talk about effortless power, instead of power with effort.
When I'm on the launch monitor, when I'm swinging really hard — which I never do on a golf course — I can get one 330-335 in the air. A normal swing, when I'm on the golf course, it's going to fly maybe 300. Anywhere between 290 and 300. Obviously, I can step it up once in a while and maybe fly one 310. But I never like swinging with that mindset. I don't want to hit it hard. Maybe when I'm on the driving range and just goofing around I'll smash 'em sometimes for fun. But on a golf course, I might swing 85 to 90 percent at the highest.
My keys to effortless power:
• Obviously, keeping my right knee flexed, letting my arms get back down in front of the clubhead — those things slow me down a little bit and keep me from over-swinging. Some of the longest drives I've ever hit are ones that I felt like I hit easy and smooth.
• Great balance. I'm never coming out of my shoes. If I'm swinging correctly, I'm in balance. You'll notice that if I'm not swinging well, if I've gotta work to hit one far, then I'm not going to be in balance. When I'm swinging correctly, I'm going to hit it even further, and I'm going to stay balanced.
Butch Harmon's Take:
What I want amateurs to notice about Dustin's swing on the tee is his beautiful rhythm and balance. The middle of the clubhead makes contact with the ball with a nice, smooth tempo, and he has a balanced finish.
That rhythm and balance allow Dustin to make a good, aggressive, confident swing without over-swinging. Dustin has tremendous self-confidence with the driver, and that confidence is required on the tight driving holes of the PGA Tour.
Other things to notice:
• Dustin maintains an unusual bowed left wrist at the top of his backswing. I haven't worked to fix that, because it works for him.
• His flexibility and athleticism allow him to use a strong, fast unwind as he approaches the impact position. That allows him to unleash tremendous power on the golf ball.
• Dustin's head rotates through as his body unwinds, and that allows him to generate clubhead speed.
• Two keys: We've worked on a level shoulder turn, and we've worked especially hard on keeping the flex in his right leg.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 5:
• SI has released the cover of its swimsuit issue, and resentment of Derek Jeter grows. Here are five things you need to know about cover model and Jeter gal-pal Hannah Davis.
• If you have time to kill, browse all 52 SI Swimsuit covers in the issue's history.
• Packers DL Letroy Guion had some interesting cargo in his ride, including a sizable amount of weed and cash.
• Belichick sticks up for Carroll. Smart, especially since his own management of the end of the game was not flawless.
• Today's palate cleanser: Watch a Tennessee orthodontist make 41 one-handed catches in a minute.
• The Heat committed the most absurd turnover in history last night.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
College football’s 2015 National Signing Day is officially in the books. Prospects from across the nation and for all 128 FBS programs inked a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, which should provide all coaches with a good snapshot of how their program looks for the upcoming season.
There will be several impact performers from the 2015 class this season, and it’s impossible to narrow the names down to just 10. However, now that signing day is complete, let’s take a look at 10 names to watch in 2015 and how they could impact their team in on-field action.
10 Instant-Impact College Football Recruits for 2015
Byron Cowart, DE, Auburn
247Sports Composite: No. 1 Strong-Side Defensive End, No. 3 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Cowart: With Will Muschamp calling the defensive signals at Auburn next year, expect the Tigers to show marked improvement on defense. Cowart is a key piece of the puzzle for Muschamp, as the Tigers need an improved pass rush to compete for the SEC title. In 2014, Auburn mustered only 21 sacks, with 10 of those coming in conference play. Cowart and the return of end Carl Lawson should significantly boost the Tigers’ performance in the trenches next year.
Breiden Fehoko, DT, Texas Tech
247Sports Composite: No. 8 Defensive Tackle, No. 50 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Fehoko: Texas Tech’s defense is in need of a major fix after giving up 6.2 yards per play last season. While the numbers weren’t pretty from last year, there’s hope for a turnaround with the addition of new coordinator David Gibbs. And Gibbs has to be optimistic about his defensive line for next season, especially with Fehoko ranked as one of the top 50 recruits in the nation. The Hawaii native recorded 16 sacks and six forced fumbles at Farrington High School in 2014. Expect Fehoko to play right away for the Red Raiders in 2015.
Martez Ivey, OL, Florida
247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 OT, No. 2 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Ivey: It’s a cliché, but winning championships and contending for SEC titles has to start in the trenches. New coach Jim McElwain has major holes to fill up front on the offensive side this offseason, as the Gators return just one starter on the line and lost four players with starting experience. Guard Trip Thurman is the lone returning starter from a group that gave up only 16 sacks in 2014. Ivey ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports Composite, and while the increased physical demands of playing in the SEC will be a challenge, the playing time is certainly there for the talented tackle.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
247Sports Composite: No. 1 OLB, No. 10 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Jefferson: It’s no secret Texas coach Charlie Strong is one of the top defensive minds in college football. The Longhorns limited Big 12 offenses to just 23.4 points per game (No. 2 in conference) in 2014 and should be one of the best in the conference once again in 2015. Jefferson is an instant-impact defender for Strong and should play right away with Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond departing the linebacking corps.
Canton Kaumatale, DL, Oregon
247Sports Composite: No. 16 Nationally, No. 3 Strong-Side Defensive End
Why You Need to Know About Kaumatale: Oregon is losing end Arik Armstead and nose guard Sam Kamp, leaving a line that was already thin on depth with a need for instant-impact performers. Enter Kaumatale. The Hawaii native checks in at 290 pounds and will only get better and physically ready for Pac-12 play with an offseason in Oregon’s weight room. Kaumatule has good quickness off the line and a 6-foot-7 frame will allow him to provide plenty of headaches for opposing offensive linemen. Kaumatule should be a good fit in Oregon’s 3-4/4-3 scheme.
Iman Marshall, DB, USC
247Sports Composite: No. 1 CB, No. 4 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Marshall: USC signed one of the nation’s top classes this season, and Marshall could be the top freshman from the signing haul in 2015. The Long Beach native has coveted size for cornerbacks at 6-foot-2 and was regarded by coach Steve Sarkisian for his physicality at the line of scrimmage. USC gave up 20 passing scores in 2014, but with Marshall involved and the development of safety Su’a Cravens, this secondary should take a step forward on the stat sheet in 2015.
Kahlil McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
247Sports Composite: No. 2 DT, No. 6 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About McKenzie: Tennessee has a chance to surprise in the SEC East this year if the lines of scrimmage develop over the offseason. McKenzie is the type of difference maker that the Volunteers lacked on the interior this season, as Tennessee’s defense ranked ninth in the SEC against the run. McKenzie did not play his senior year of high school but dominated as a junior with 12 sacks and 74 tackles. At 327 pounds and a 6-foot-3 frame, McKenzie is the type of player coach Butch Jones needs to get Tennessee’s defense near the top of the SEC.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 WR, No. 11 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Ridley: Alabama recorded 290 receptions last season, and 183 of those catches are gone as DeAndrew White and Christion Jones expired their eligibility after the Sugar Bowl, while Amari Cooper left for the NFL. Chris Black (15 catches) and ArDarius Stewart (12 catches) are the top statistical returning wide receivers for 2015. Ridley was considered a five-star prospect and had a monster junior year by catching 41 passes for 1,131 yards and 12 scores in 2013. With Cooper, Jones and White leaving, there’s an immediate opportunity for Ridley to play major snaps in 2015.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 Pro-Style QB, No. 12 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Rosen: Brett Hundley is gone, leaving a huge void under center for the Bruins. Jerry Neuheisel is the team’s most-experienced option at quarterback, but the job is expected to be a three-man battle this spring. Asiantti Woulard is also in the mix with Rosen and Neuheisel for snaps in 2015. Rosen enrolled in time to compete this spring, which should give the California native a chance to play right away. Starting as a true freshman quarterback in the Pac-12 is never easy, but Rosen has a chance to do just that in 2015.
Trent Thompson, DT, Georgia
247Sports Composite: No. 1 DT, No. 1 Nationally
Why You Need to Know About Thompson: He’s the No. 1 recruit in the 2015 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. Keeping Thompson in the state of Georgia and out of the hands of another SEC rival was a big deal for coach Mark Richt and coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The 6-foot-4 defensive tackle should be poised for immediate playing time this fall, with nose tackle Mike Thornton and defensive ends Ray Drew and Toby Johnson expiring their eligibility. It’s always tough for linemen to physically prepare for the challenge of playing in the SEC, but all signs point to Thompson being up to the task.
Other Players to Watch in 2015
Blake Barnett, QB, Alabama
Terry Beckner Jr., DT, Missouri
Jake Browning, QB, Washington
Derwin James, S, Florida State
CeCe Jefferson, DE, Florida
Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss
Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M
Jamal Peters, S, Mississippi State
Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
Kendall Sheffield, CB, Alabama
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
After suffering one of the most difficult-to-watch leg injuries in pro basketball history at a televised Team USA scrimmage, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George began to heal with alarming speed.
That trend has continued, and George is now looking almost ready to play. After Pacers president Larry Bird said things were looking good recently, George sent out this tweet:
March?!— Paul George (@Yg_Trece) February 3, 2015
"It seems like every week Paul is getting better and better," Bird said to reporters on Tuesday. "So if we do have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and [George] can get some games under his belt and get ready to go next year ... I always say if a player is ready to play, they gotta play. We're not going to hold him back if he's able to go out there and play. When you're out like that, you lose something. ... I still think it's important if he's able to play, he should be out there.”
Bird’s approach shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. His Boston Celtics teams of yore frequently pushed through injuries. Then-teammate Kevin McHale played with a broken navicular bone in his right foot suffered in March of 1987, all the way through to an NBA Finals loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.
And while George isn’t promising to play in such a compromised state — McHale’s gambit has resulted in a visibly hobbled step he now displays on the sideline as coach of the Houston Rockets — he and his team look like they’re definitely not going to go down the maddening, confusing, constantly prolonged recovery route that teams like the Chicago Bulls have with ever-valuable superstar Derrick Rose.
In the shaky Eastern Conference, one month of George could be the difference between the playoffs and the draft lottery for Indiana. Despite having their worst season since 2009-10 at 17-32, the Pacers are just 4.5 games away from the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
— John Wilmes
Recruiting is the basic blueprint for any college football program. And recruiting isn’t just a one-month exercise, as coaches are essentially on the trail all year for multiple classes.
New coaches are often placed into a difficult position, as it takes a year or two to build relationships for a signing class. Most new coaches only have a couple of months (if that) to target their prospects to fit the new systems and fight for commitments on the recruiting trail.
Florida and Michigan are two programs that didn’t land top-10 classes in 2015 largely due to the coaching turnover and the short time to ink the 2015 prospects. Needless to say, we can’t read much into how new coaches recruited this season due to the short turnaround time. However, the numbers are certainly interesting. And it will be critical to see how these numbers change after each coach has a full year to recruit.
Sure, there are going to be hits and misses in the team and player projections each season, but there’s plenty of accuracy and meaning behind the final rankings.
Let’s take a look at how the new coaches for 2015 recruited (rankings and data from 247Sports)
Power 5 Conferences
|Pittsburgh||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Paul Chryst (2014)||23||43||18||2||0|
|Pat Narduzzi (2015)||14||62||11||2||0|
|Kansas||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Charlie Weis (2014)||25||51||19||1||0|
|David Beaty (2015)||26||72||16||0||0|
|Michigan||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Brady Hoke (2014)||16||20||7||8||1|
|Jim Harbaugh (2015)||14||38||8||6||0|
|Nebraska||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Bo Pelini (2014)||25||36||22||2||0|
|Mike Riley (2015)||20||31||16||3||0|
|Wisconsin||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Gary Andersen (2014)||26||33||20||3||0|
|Paul Chryst (2015)||20||34||17||2||0|
|Oregon State||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Mike Riley (2014)||30||63||22||0||0|
|Gary Andersen (2015)||18||70||17||0||0|
|Florida||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Will Muschamp (2014)||24||9||15||8||1|
|Jim McElwain (2015)||21||21||16||3||2|
Group of 5 Conferences
|Houston||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Tony Levine (2014)||26||76||19||0||0|
|Tom Herman (2015)||19||89||7||0||0|
|SMU||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|June Jones (2014)||24||81||9||0||0|
|Chad Morris (2015)||23||79||12||0||0|
|Tulsa||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Bill Blankenship (2014)||24||80||9||0||0|
|Philip Montgomery (2015)||19||105||3||0||0|
|Buffalo||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Jeff Quinn (2014)||23||97||6||0||0|
|Lance Leipold (2015)||19||121||3||0||0|
|Central Michigan||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Dan Enos (2014)||19||119||2||0||0|
|Colorado State||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Jim McElwain (2014)||26||87||5||0||0|
|Mike Bobo (2015)||14||119||5||0||0|
|UNLV||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Bobby Hauck (2014)||19||117||3||0||0|
|Tony Sanchez (2015)||22||115||5||0||0|
|Troy||Total||National Rank||3 Stars Signed||4 Stars Signed||5 Stars Signed|
|Larry Blakeney (2014)||17||130||1||0||0|
|Neal Brown (2015)||23||109||7||0||0|
It's starting to get boring — although, the 2015 recruiting national championship race was closer than it has been in years.
Steve Sarkisian and USC made a valiant push, landing big name after big name over the final 48 hours of the '15 cycle. When the last fax came through, however, it wasn't enough to overcome Saban. In fact, both Rivals and Scout actually rank USC's class No. 1 in the land. However, ESPN's list ultimately gave the consensus top class to Alabama by having USC at No. 3. It marks the fifth straight No. 1 class in the nation for Alabama.
Most seemed to agree that the Trojans and Tide boasted the best two collections of talent, but there were major disagreements when the rankings move beyond the top two slots. Scout, for example, ranked No. 3 Florida State (11th) and No. 7 Clemson (15th) the lowest of the four major recruiting services by a wide margin. ESPN and Rivals didn't think nearly as highly of the UCLA Bruins class as Scout or 247. There were major disagreements on LSU, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and TCU as well.
Very rarely, as was the case with Nebraska or Louisville, the four services were in complete harmony.
This is why 247Sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN's 2015 team recruiting rankings have been combined to give fans a consensus class order.
2015 Team Recruiting Rankings