Articles By All

Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-quarterbacks-rise-2015
Body:

College football’s spring practice session is already underway for some teams, which means the countdown to the 2015 season can officially start.

 

Quarterback play is always under a microscope and several playoff or conference title contenders are breaking in a new starter in 2015. While pinpointing breakout players is easier after spring practice, it’s never too early to examine some of the top rising stars at quarterback.

 

The list of quarterbacks on the rise takes into account players that were not a starter for a full season of games in 2014.

 

10 College Football Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2015

 

Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

Since joining the SEC in 2012, the Aggies have averaged 41.3 points per game. Life after Johnny Manziel presented a few challenges in 2014, but the arrow on Texas A&M’s offense is pointing up headed into 2015. Allen started the final five games for coach Kevin Sumlin, including a four-touchdown performance against Auburn and a 294-yard effort against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. The Arizona native finished 2014 with 1,322 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Allen will be pushed by talented freshman Kyler Murray this offseason, but the edge in experience should help the sophomore hold onto the starting job. With a talented receiving corps returning, Texas A&M’s passing offense should be among the SEC’s best once again in 2015.

 

Mike Bercovici, Arizona State

Bercovici steps into the spotlight in 2015 as he assumes the keys to Arizona State’s high-powered offense from Taylor Kelly. The California native is already a known commodity for coordinator Mike Norvell, as Bercovici started three games in place of Kelly due to injury in 2014. Bercovici torched USC for 510 yards and five scores and threw for 245 yards and one touchdown in a 26-10 win over Stanford last year. In his Arizona State career, Bercovici has thrown for 1,478 yards and 12 scores. He also boasts a 62.2 percent completion percentage and produced three passing plays of 40 yards or more in 2014. The Sun Devils will miss receiver Jaelen Strong, but Bercovici is more than capable of keeping Arizona State’s passing attack firing on all cylinders.

 

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

The insertion of Dobbs into the starting lineup in late October sparked Tennessee to a 4-2 finish over its last six games. The Georgia native threw for 192 yards against Alabama after replacing Nathan Peterman in the first half and guided the Volunteers to a 45-42 upset win over South Carolina by accumulating 467 total yards and five scores. Dobbs also played well in the bowl win over Iowa by accounting for 205 yards and three scores. The junior should have more help from his supporting cast in 2015, as Tennessee should be healthier at receiver, and a young offensive line has a full offseason to grow. Dobbs should push for All-SEC honors in 2015.

 

Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

Johnson varies slightly in style to former starter Nick Marshall, but Auburn’s offense shouldn’t miss a beat in 2015. The Alabama native ranked as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the 2013 signing class and has played well in limited action over the last two years. Johnson completed 29 of 41 passes for 422 yards and six scores in 2013 and threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. He also has two starts under his belt, including one against Arkansas (2014). Johnson may not have the dynamic mobility of Marshall, but the junior is going to have a huge season directing the offense for coach Gus Malzahn. 

 

Josh Rosen, UCLA

Perhaps it’s too early to place much pressure on Rosen, but there’s little doubt the freshman is ready to push for the starting job at UCLA in 2015. With Brett Hundley off to the NFL, the Bruins have an open battle for the quarterback spot this spring, with Jerry Neuheisel and Rosen considered the favorites. Rosen ranked as the No. 12 overall recruit and as a five-star prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite. While Neuheisel has the edge in experience, Rosen has more overall talent and upside. And since he enrolled in time to compete this spring, Rosen should have plenty of time to pickup the UCLA offense. Needless to say, the future is bright for the Bruins with Rosen at the helm.

 

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

It’s no coincidence Oklahoma State’s improvement on offense late in the year came with Rudolph at the helm. The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in five games against Power 5 opponents. Rudolph was the quarterback for two of those efforts, including an impressive 38-35 win over Oklahoma and a 30-22 bowl win over Washington. The South Carolina native finished 2014 with 853 passing yards and six scores in three appearances. Rudolph needs more help from his supporting cast in 2015, but the potential is certainly there for the sophomore to earn All-Big 12 honors.

 

Seth Russell, Baylor

Over the last five seasons, Baylor’s starting quarterback has averaged 4,031 yards and 30 touchdowns. With Bryce Petty off to the NFL, the keys to a high-powered offense are in Russell’s hands. Of course, he has to hold off a challenge this offseason from sophomore Chris Johnson and talented true freshman Jarrett Stidham. However, there’s a clear edge in experience for Russell, as he has one start under his belt and completed 48 of 85 passes in 2014. The Texas native torched Northwestern State for five scores and 438 yards last year and completed 8 of 17 passes for 82 yards in relief of Petty against Texas Tech. With one of the nation’s top receiving corps in place, Russell – if he wins the job – will be next standout quarterback for coach Art Briles.

 

Greg Ward, Houston

New coach Tom Herman has to be excited about Ward’s potential in 2015. The converted receiver replaced John O’Korn under center and started the final eight games at quarterback. Ward showcased his dual-threat potential in the bowl win over Pittsburgh, throwing for 274 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 92 yards on 14 attempts. He also passed for 360 yards against Cincinnati and 336 against Tulane and finished the year with 573 rushing yards and 2,010 through the air. Ward is far from a finished product, but the potential is there for a monster season in Herman’s offense for the Cougars in 2015.

 

Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Clemson has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons and has a good shot at extending that streak to five in 2015. Watson is the biggest reason for optimism and potential at contending for the ACC Championship, as the sophomore is expected to be at full strength in his recovery from a torn ACL by the season opener. The Georgia native ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the 2014 signing class and completed 93 of 137 passes for 1,466 yards and 14 scores in his debut. Watson also rushed for 200 yards and five scores last season. The departure of coordinator Chad Morris was a big loss for Clemson, but with Watson’s return and a talented group of skill players, the Tigers will be among the ACC’s best on offense in 2015.

 

Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

Zaire isn’t guaranteed the starting job for 2015, as Everett Golson remains in the mix after throwing for 3,445 yards last season and enters next season with 23 starts under his belt. However, all signs point to Zaire emerging as Notre Dame’s No. 1 option under center. In seven appearances last season, Zaire completed 21 of 35 passes for 266 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 187 yards and two scores. The Ohio native’s most-impressive outing took place against LSU in the Music City Bowl, throwing for 96 yards and a touchdown, while adding 96 yards and a score on the ground in the upset win over the Tigers. With a strong supporting cast in place, Zaire has all of the necessary pieces for a breakout year.

 

Other Quarterbacks to Watch in 2015

 

Kurt Benkert, East Carolina

Shane Carden posted big numbers in East Carolina’s offense over the last three years. Coordinator Lincoln Riley also departed this offseason, but the Pirates aren’t expected to change much on offense. Benkert – a sophomore – will have the first shot at replacing Carden this spring.

 

Jake Coker, Alabama

The Florida State transfer was supposed to win the job last season but never made a start thanks to the emergence of Blake Sims. Now that Coker has a year of experience in coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense, will the Alabama native claim the starting job?

 

William Crest/Skyler Howard, West Virginia

Crest was poised to spend 2014 as Clint Trickett’s backup at West Virginia but a shoulder injury ended his freshman season. The Baltimore native has tremendous upside and should benefit from another offseason to learn under coach Dana Holgorsen. If Crest is unable to win the job, the Mountaineers have a good fallback option in Skyler Howard, who threw for 829 yards and eight scores in 2014.

 

Luke Falk/Peyton Bender, Washington State

Falk was pressed into the starting job in 2014 after Connor Halliday suffered a season-ending leg injury against USC. The former walk-on threw for 601 yards against Arizona State but also tossed six picks over his last two games. Falk will be pushed by Bender – a three-star recruit in the 2014 signing class – for time this spring. The winner of this battle will post huge numbers in coach Mike Leach’s high-powered passing offense.

 

Tyler Ferguson, Louisville

Three quarterbacks – Will Gardner, Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin – started for coach Bobby Petrino’s team in 2014. Ferguson should push for time next season, as the Penn State transfer is eligible after sitting out last year. In his only season with the Nittany Lions, Ferguson completed 10 of 15 passes for 155 yards and one score.

 

Ryan Finley/Brett Rypien, Boise State

The Broncos have personnel voids to address on offense with the departure of quarterback Grant Hedrick and running back Jay Ajayi, but expect coach Bryan Harsin to find the right answers this offseason. The quarterback battle between Ryan Finley (a sophomore) and Matt Rypien (a true freshman, four-star prospect) will be one to watch this spring. Finley has the edge in experience, but Rypien was a big pickup on the recruiting trail for Boise State.

 

Brooks Haack, UL Lafayette

The Ragin’ Cajuns must replace quarterback Terrance Broadway, but coach Mark Hudspeth has a few talented options in place. Haack was a three-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite in 2012 and the Texas native has been solid as a backup over the last two years, completing 41 of 58 passes for 403 yards and three scores.

 

Ben Hicks, SMU

Hicks seems to be the perfect fit for new coach Chad Morris’ high-powered offense. The Texas native ranked as a three-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite for the 2015 signing class and should push Matt Davis for the starting job this offseason.

 

Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State

In its first season of FBS play, Appalachian State quietly finished 2014 on a six-game winning streak. Lamb turned in a promising freshman campaign, throwing for 2,381 yards and 17 scores and rushing for 483 yards and four touchdowns. The Georgia native started the final 10 games and led the Mountaineers to an average of 34.8 points per contest in that span.

 

Jack Milas, Ball State

Milas emerged as Ball State’s starter midway through 2014 but missed the last game of the year due to a wrist injury. The Illinois native showed promise by throwing four touchdowns and 326 yards against Western Michigan and completed at least 60 percent of his passes in three out of his six games.

 

Brice Ramsey, Georgia

Ramsey isn’t guaranteed the starting job next season, as he will be pushed for time by Jacob Park and Faton Bauta. However, regardless of whether it’s Ramsey, Park or Bauta under center, there’s a good chance the starter puts up solid numbers in Georgia’s offense.

 

Hayden Rettig, Rutgers

Rettig – the brother of former Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig – will compete with Chris Laviano to start in 2015. After sitting out a year due to a transfer from LSU, Rettig will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. Rutgers will have a new play-caller in 2015 after Ralph Friedgen decided to step down, and coach Kyle Flood promoted receivers coach Ben McDaniels to coordinator.

 

Thomas Sirk, Duke

Coach David Cutcliffe is one of the top quarterback gurus in college football. And assuming Sirk holds off Parker Boehme, the Florida native should be the next solid quarterback from Durham. In limited action last season, Sirk completed 10 of 14 passes for 67 yards and three scores. He also rushed for 238 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014.

 

Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

Northwestern hopes to get back to a bowl after a two-year absence, and the first step to a winning record will be settling the quarterback battle. Thorson will compete with Zack Oliver and Matt Alviti for the starting job this spring, and the talented redshirt freshman will be tough to keep off the field. Thorson ranked as a four-star prospect in the 2014 signing class and was the No. 188 overall recruit in the 247Sports Composite. 

Teaser:
College Football's Top 10 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-accs-football-basketball-coaching-tandems
Body:

Step back five years and the list of football-basketball coaching tandems in the ACC looks pretty crazy.

 

That Mike Krzyzewski is the basketball representative at Duke probably makes sense, but what about the Blue Devils having a successful football coach?

 

Now, that’s weird.

 

And what about the No. 2 and No. 3 teams on our list: Louisville and Notre Dame were hardly a glimmer in the eye of the ACC several years ago. Notre Dame, of course, isn’t a full member, but we’ve included the Irish here since men’s basketball is an ACC team and the football team by contract plays its fair share of ACC schools.

 

Semantics aside, with Duke football plus Louisville and Notre Dame in the fold, the ACC has assembled a solid group of football-basketball coaching duos.

 

The goal of our coach tandem rankings is to look at each football and basketball duo as a pair. In general, we’re looking at the duos most likely to keep each school’s fans happy and entertained from the start of football season through the end of basketball season.

 

1. Duke

Football: David Cutcliffe | Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

Krzyzewski’s resume is self-explanatory: More than 1,000 career wins, 11 Final Fours and four national titles. Early NCAA Tournament exits (Mercer in 2014, Lehigh in '12) have vexed the Blue Devils, but that appears to be unlikely with the group Coach K has assembled this season. Cutcliffe has done the unthinkable with the football program by turning the perennial ACC bottom-feeder into a factor in the league race. Duke has won 19 games the last two seasons, reached three consecutive bowl games and won the ACC Coastal Division in 2013.

 

2. Louisville

Football: Bobby Petrino | Basketball: Rick Pitino

The Petrino/Pitino duo is back at Louisville for the first time since 2006. Having both coaches is still a boon for the Cardinals. Petrino went 9-4 and finished in the top 25 in his first season back with the Cardinals, a notable feat considering the revolving door at quarterback and that it was the football program’s indoctrination into the ACC. Petrino has finished in the top 25 in six of 10 seasons as a head coach, including four times in five total seasons at Louisville. Pitino has seven Final Fours and two national championships, including the 2013 title. 

 

3. Notre Dame

Football: Brian Kelly | Basketball: Mike Brey

Is Notre Dame a year-in and year-out powerhouse in either sport? Not yet. Still, both coaches deserve credit for putting the Irish back into the mix. The Irish are two years removed from an undefeated regular season in football, and Kelly is the first Notre Dame coach to post five consecutive winning seasons since Lou Holtz. Mike Brey’s consistency — six NCAA appearances in eight years — gets overlooked because his team hasn’t made it to the Sweet 16 since 2003. Now if only both of them could go a season without losing a player to an academic-related suspension...

 

4. Florida State

Football: Jimbo Fisher | Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

Florida State’s football program is the healthiest it has been since Bobby Bowden was in his prime. In the last three seasons, Fisher has led the Seminoles to a national title, 29 consecutive wins, a College Football Playoff appearance and three ACC titles. The basketball program was on a nice hot streak from 2009-12 under Hamilton with four consecutive NCAA appearances, an ACC tournament title and a trip to the Sweet 16. In three seasons since, FSU has yet to post a winning ACC record.

 

5. North Carolina

Football: Larry Fedora | Basketball: Roy Williams

North Carolina fans don’t like to hear this, but both coaches leave us wanting more these days. Williams is a Hall of Fame coach with seven career Final Fours and two national championships. Yet his team will have five or more ACC losses for the third consecutive season. If Carolina doesn’t reach the Sweet 16 this season, Williams will face his longest Sweet 16 drought since 1998-2000 at Kansas. Fedora’s win total has decreased every season at Carolina, and he’s never finished better than 5-3 in the league.

 

6. Virginia Tech

Football: Frank Beamer | Basketball: Buzz Williams

On career achievements, this duo should rank higher. Virginia Tech is a factor in football because of Beamer, who has been the coach since 1987. And despite 22 consecutive winning seasons, the Hokies are having a bit of identity crisis. The 10- and 11-win seasons have become seven- and eight-win seasons during the last three years. Williams’ credentials at Marquette were impeccable — two Sweet 16s, an Elite Eight and five consecutive NCAAs through 2013 — but he’s working through a major rebuilding project in his first season in Blacksburg.

 

7. Miami

Football: Al Golden | Basketball: Jim Larranaga

Golden left Temple with the reputation of a miracle worker and walked into the Nevin Shapiro mess at Miami. After a self-imposed bowl ban in his first two seasons, Miami went 9-4 in his third year before falling to 6-7 last season. With quarterback Brad Kaaya starting his second season, Golden is entering a critical fifth year. Larranaga has taken George Mason to a Final Four and won the ACC at Miami. That’s a pretty darn good career right there, never mind that he has 547 career wins otherwise.

 

8. Syracuse

Football: Scott Shafer | Basketball: Jim Boeheim

Boeheim probably would like us to spend more time thinking about the four Final Fours, the 2003 championship and the 964 career wins rather than the last 12 months. The Orange were the last undefeated team in the country last season and ended on a 3-6 skid. And now, due to NCAA issues, Syracuse forfeited its chance to go to the postseason this year (in a season that likely would have ended in the NIT anyway). Shafer has had a rough two seasons since taking over for Doug Marrone. Syracuse football is 10-15 overall and 5-11 in the ACC under Shafer.

 

9. Virginia

Football: Mike London | Basketball: Tony Bennett

Bennett is quickly becoming college basketball’s best miracle worker. Despite no McDonald’s All-Americans on his roster, Bennett has the Cavaliers en route to a second consecutive ACC regular-season title. He also has a pair of Sweet 16 appearances under his belt at Virginia and Washington State. London may have saved his job with a three-game improvement in 2014, but the Cavs’ football coach still has three losing season in five years.

 

10. Pittsburgh

Football: Pat Narduzzi | Basketball: Jamie Dixon

Few coaching tandems seem so perfect for their particular school. Dixon has already established a rugged, blue collar program with Pitt basketball, and Narduzzi did the same with his defenses at Michigan State. Dixon’s overall resume at Pitt is great (10 NCAA appearances in 12 seasons), but Pitt is flirting with its second NCAA miss in four years. The Panthers also haven’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2009. Narduzzi is a first-time head coach, but he was in demand as one of the best DCs in the country at Michigan State.

 

11. Clemson

Football: Dabo Swinney | Basketball: Brad Brownell

Swinney has returned Clemson to national prominence. The Tigers have won 10 or more games in four consecutive seasons and finished four seasons in a row in the AP top 25, the first time either has happened since the late '80s/early '90s. The lingering question for 2015 is if he can do it without offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Clemson is no basketball power, but Brownell hasn’t exactly elevated the Tigers, either. He has one NCAA appearance in five seasons. His win in the 2011 First Four is Clemson’s only NCAA win since 1997.

 

12. Georgia Tech

Football: Paul Johnson | Basketball: Brian Gregory

Just when it appeared Georgia Tech hand slid into mediocrity, Johnson led the Yellow Jackets to an 11-win season, a top-10 finish and an Orange Bowl victory. Johnson is unconventional beyond the option offense, but he led Georgia Tech to an ACC title in 2009 and has never had a losing conference season. Gregory is headed to his fourth consecutive season with at least 12 conference losses in four seasons in Atlanta.

 

13. NC State

Football: Dave Doeren | Basketball: Mark Gottfried

Doeren improved from 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the ACC in his first season to 8-5 and 3-5 in his second. Now, the question is if he can take that momentum into his third season. Gottfried has upped the talent level for the basketball program but has delivered sporadic results. Consistency, though, eludes the Wolfpack in basketball right now.

 

14. Boston College

Football: Steve Addazio | Basketball: Jim Christian

Addazio has two identical seasons of 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the ACC, two seasons which actually exceeded preseason expectations. Boston College will have its fourth consecutive losing season overall in Christian’s first season with the program. He has a long climb ahead.

 

15. Wake Forest

Football: Dave Clawson | Basketball: Danny Manning

Clawson and Manning had successful runs at Bowling Green and Tulsa, respectively, but Wake Forest hasn’t given them much to work with in their first seasons in Winston-Salem.

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Football-Basketball Coaching Tandems
Post date: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-north-carolina-duke-preview-and-predictions
Body:

It’s not just you: The Duke-North Carolina rivalry is played a little later these days.

 

The two Tobacco Road foes meet for the first time on Feb. 18 this season. Last year, they didn’t meet for the first time until Feb. 20. Compare that to years past when the first game generally will be played in early February.

 

The late start doesn’t make the meeting any less interesting. Perhaps even it raises the stakes as both teams have more of their regular season resumes behind them. A win for Duke would be another item on a ledger for a potential No. 1 seed. A win for North Carolina would be a key building block for the Tar Heels’ postseason run.

 

North Carolina at Duke

 

Site: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C.

Time: Wednesday, 9 p.m. Eastern

TV: ESPN

 

What’s up for grabs?

Duke will look to continue its recent dominance of the rivalry. The Blue Devils are 8-3 against North Carolina since 2009 with only one of those losses coming at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Beyond that, postseason considerations are at play. Both teams will have trouble catching Virginia for the ACC regular season title, so both will try to hang onto a top-four finish in the standings and a bye to the quarterfinals in the ACC tournament. Duke is No. 3 in the league at 9-3 while North Carolina is tied for fourth with Louisville at 8-4.

 

You’ll tune in to watch:

Another strong Duke performance or a bounceback effort from North Carolina. The second-half comeback against Virginia on Jan. 31 seemed to re-energize Duke. At that point, the Blue Devils had gone 3-3 in their last six games. Starting with the Virginia win, Duke has won five in a row, including a 30-point rout of Notre Dame. North Carolina will need to be better than what it has shown if it’s going to stop Duke’s momentum. The Tar Heels are starting to look like a team with a clear ceiling. They’ve lost three of their last four to Louisville, Virginia and Pittsburgh and have not defeated a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team since Jan. 10.

 

Pivotal player: Justise Winslow

Duke’s Big Two freshmen of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones is back to being a Big Three. Winslow is averaging 14 points per game since going scoreless against St. John’s on Jan. 25. Duke is averaging 120 points per 100 possessions during Winslow’s hot streak.

 

Biggest question: Can North Carolina stop anyone?

North Carolina is coming off a miserable defensive performance against Pittsburgh. The Panthers couldn’t miss against the Tar Heels, averaging 1.44 points per possession, shooting 65 percent from the field and assisting on 30 of 37 made field goals. Roy Williams says North Carolina guarded capably in that game, and Pitt just made shots. That may be true, but UNC is 10th in the ACC in defensive efficiency and hasn’t held an opponent to under one point per possession since facing Wake Forest on Jan. 24.

 

Predictions:

David Fox: Duke 80-67

Mitch Light: Duke 76-70

Jake Rose: Duke 78-66

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview: North Carolina at Duke Preview and Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-jt-barrett-showcases-recovery-ankle-injury-removed-screws-photo
Body:

Ohio State’s quarterback situation will be one of the nation’s most intriguing battles to watch this offseason.

 

Out of the trio competing for the No. 1 spot – Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett – Jones is the only passer healthy for spring ball.

 

While Miller and Barrett aren’t expected to participate in spring ball, both have indicated via social media over the last few weeks that they are getting closer to full strength.

 

On Tuesday, Barrett posted a picture on Instagram of the screws from his ankle, which was injured against Michigan:

 

Teaser:
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett Showcases Recovery From Ankle Injury With Removed Screws (Photo)
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 17:06
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-best-shooting-guards
Body:

6. Tyreke Evans

Evans has been doing point guard duty for his New Orleans Pelicans lately, but only because of an injury absence from Jrue Holiday — the two is ‘Reke’s natural spot. The 25-year-old’s vast talents have not been truly unlocked in New Orleans, or with his previous Sacramento Kings squad. But a terrific winter has shown that Evans is a crazy-talented freelancer who’s capable threatening triple-double territory on any given night. Combined with Holiday and Anthony Davis, Evans is in the best situation of his career, and looks poised to spread roundball optimism down south.

 

5. Wesley Matthews

Damian Lillard’s coming-out party over the past two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers has been a hell of a story. But it wouldn’t be possible without Matthews at his side; the Blazers’ guard is one of the most underrated players around, providing a “three-and-D” combo that’s the envy of front offices across the league. He’s made the third-most three-pointers in the NBA this season, and he stymied James Harden through much of his team’s first round series victory over the Houston Rockets last year. Does his resumé really need anything more?

 

4. Jimmy Butler

The Bulls’ breakout All-Star is one of the most frenetic players in the league. He covers more distance than anyone in the NBA, according to mileage reports, and that bit of data is hardly surprising. Watching Butler, one begins to wonder whether he’s got a clone who secretly subs in for him every few minutes; he affects nearly every Bulls play, on both sides of the ball. He finds alley-oop opportunities, open jumpers, invades passing lanes and runs down scorers with the intensity of a soldier. Does he even sleep? It came as no shock when Floyd Mayweather recently said that the relentless Butler could make an easy transition into boxing.

 

3. Kyle Korver

The Hawks’ historically hot-handed shooter is so good a marksman that he’s rarely appreciated for the all-around player that he is. Korver can’t create shots for himself at a high rate, but there really aren’t any other deficiencies to his game. He’s a crisp passer with an eye for the open man, a firm defender, and a terrific hustle player with more muscle and speed than you think. And at 6’7”, he creates some matchup issues that are going to tie opposing defenses into knots when the Eastern Conference playoffs roll around.

 

2. Klay Thompson

37 points, one quarter. Klay Thompson’s internet-breaking performance isn’t soon to be forgotten, and here’s the thing: it was a representative feat. While Steph Curry’s backcourt partner with the Golden State Warriors can’t shatter record books every night, you always have to guard him like he might. As deadly a shooter as there is, Thompson is also shrewd at recognizing defenses and creating opportunities, and a staunch to defender to boot. If the vaunted Warriors are going to make a real run at a title this season, it’ll be in no small part because of their All-NBA candidate Klay.

 

1. James Harden

James Harden’s defensive embarrassments are a thing of the past, and so is acknowledging him only for his singular facial hair and scoring ability. Harden must now be mentioned among the very best players in the game, as he’s whipped himself into one of the fiercest competitors around. A more willing — and smarter — facilitator than he’s ever been, the 2015 version of Harden is a roving, hyper-intelligent army tank who creates problems on every play with his I.Q. and unparalleled footwork. No team relies as much on one player as the Rockets do on Harden, and they could hardly be making that investment in a better man.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 16:40
All taxonomy terms: MLB Draft, MLB
Path: /mlb/look-back-2005-mlb-draft
Body:

Take a look at any draft, no matter the sport, and there are going to be some people chosen in the top eight or 10 picks who never make it. In some years, the misses far outweigh the hits.

 

The 2005 MLB version didn’t fit that description. If you’re looking for a prime example of the exception to the draft rule, consider this episode. Six of the first seven and eight of the first 12 players picked became All-Stars. And we’re not talking just a bunch of one-and-dones for the Midsummer Classic. Five of the eight earned multiple berths. And three of the four players who didn’t gain that distinction enjoyed big-league careers. That’s a pretty good winning percentage for those doing the drafting.

 

It had hits elsewhere, but for sheer star power at the top, it’s tough to beat 2005.

 

1. Diamondbacks: Justin Upton, OF

Great Bridge (Va.) HS

’07-12, Arizona; ’13-14, Atlanta

A steady source of outfield power who has hit more than 25 homers in a season four times, Upton had his biggest year in 2011, when he hit .289 with 31 homers. Although he will strike out quite often (100-plus Ks in seven straight seasons), Upton is a big run-producer. Though not the superstar Arizona thought he would be when it drafted him No. 1 overall, Upton has delivered considerably.

All-Star Games: 2

 

2. Royals: Alex Gordon, 3B

University of Nebraska

’07-14, Kansas City

A cornerstone of the Royals’ rebuilding process that culminated in a trip to the 2014 World Series, Gordon is an all-around standout who has won four Gold Gloves and been a productive middle-of-the-order bat for K.C. A two-time All-Star, Gordon began as an infielder but settled in left field. He has hit 20 or more home runs twice and in 2011 led the majors with 51 doubles.

All-Star Games: 2

 

3. Mariners: Jeff Clement, C

USC

’07-08, Seattle; ’10, ’12 Pittsburgh

Clement’s abbreviated career was hampered by injury and poor production, as he managed just a .218 batting average as a part-time catcher, first baseman and DH. He bounced around the minors in between shortened MLB stints and never gained enough traction to become an everyday player. After spending September 2012 with the Pirates, he became a free agent, never reached the majors again and retired before the ’14 season.

All-Star Games: 0

 

4. Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

University of Virginia

’05-14, Washington

 A two-time Silver Slugger winner, Zimmerman personifies the Nationals like no other member of the organization. He has been part of the franchise since its move to D.C. and has been a stalwart at third base and in left field. Zimmerman has hit 25 or more homers four times and driven in 100 or more runs twice. In 2009, he hit .292, with 33 homers and 106 RBIs.

All-Star Games: 1

 

5. Brewers: Ryan Braun, 3B

University of Miami

’07-14, Milwaukee

The five-time All-Star and 2011 NL MVP has had a career that has featured triumph and controversy. One of baseball’s most accomplished sluggers, he was also suspended for the final 65 games of the ’13 season for PED use. He won the 2011 MVP award after hitting 33 homers and knocking in 111 runs. He was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2013 season for a positive urine test. He appealed, and the penalty was overturned on a technicality. He was caught again in 2013, and the charges stuck.

All-Star Games: 5

 

6. Blue Jays: Ricky Romero, LHP

Cal State Fullerton

’09-13, Toronto

After a blazing start to his career over the first three seasons, Romero’s fortunes faded, as poor performance and injury removed him from the majors. He won 42 games from ’09-11 and was 15–11 in 2011 with a 2.92 ERA and 178 strikeouts, a performance that earned him an All-Star invite. But he became increasingly ineffective after that and spent 2014 in the minors and on the DL, due to a knee injury.

All-Star Games: 1

 

Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine 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. Order your copy today!

7. Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Long Beach State

’06-14, Colorado

One of the premier infield talents in the majors, “Tulo” combines the ability to hit for power and average with excellent fielding that has earned him a pair of Gold Gloves. A four-time All-Star, Tulowitzki has topped 30 homers twice and has batted over .300 four times. But injuries have limited his production over the past three years, and he missed a total of 222 games from 2012-14.

All-Star Games: 4

 

8. Devil Rays: Wade Townsend, RHP

Rice

Townsend was drafted by Baltimore in 2004 but couldn’t agree to terms and returned to finish his degree at Rice before entering the draft again in ’05. A rare miss by Tampa Bay, he never climbed higher than AA ball and posted a 7–21 record in five minor league seasons. He was plagued by injury during his time in the minors and underwent Tommy John surgery and a procedure to repair a torn labrum.

All-Star Games: 0

 

9. Mets: Mike Pelfrey, RHP

Wichita State

’06-12, New York Mets; ’13-14, Minnesota

At one point, Pelfrey was considered a linchpin of the Mets’ rotation, and his 15–9 record in 2010 was proof of that. For four seasons, he was a fixture among the team’s starting pitchers, but after a 7–13 performance in 2011, Pelfrey underwent Tommy John surgery and missed almost all of the ’12 campaign. He has spent the past two years with Minnesota, but elbow, groin and shoulder injuries limited him to just five starts last season.

All-Star Games: 0

 

10. Tigers: Cameron Maybin, CF

T.C. Roberson (N.C.) HS

’07, Detroit; ’08-10, Florida; ’11-14, San Diego

With a blend of speed and size, Maybin was considered the perfect outfield prospect. But during his eight years in the majors, he has not delivered on his substantial promise. Maybin has had his moments, like when he stole a total of 66 bases in 2011-12 for the Padres. But his highest batting average for a season has been .264, and he has spent just two campaigns (’11-12) as a full-time outfielder.

All-Star Games: 0

 

11. Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, CF

Fort Meade (Fla.) HS

’09-14, Pittsburgh

The four-time All-Star was voted NL Most Valuable Player in 2013 and has become one of the majors’ top all-around players. McCutchen’s blend of speed, power and the ability to hit for average has made him a catalyst in the Pirates’ recent run to the postseason. McCutchen has hit above .300 for the past three years, and in 2012 he smacked a career-high 31 homers. That year, he also won his first Gold Glove.

All-Star Games: 4

 

12. Reds: Jay Bruce, CF

West Brook (Texas) Senior HS

’08-14, Cincinnati

A two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner, Bruce has been a steady power producer for the Reds, hitting at least 20 homers in each of his first six years in the league and at least 30 from 2011-13. A torn meniscus hurt his production in 2014, but Bruce remained a formidable presence in the middle of the Cincinnati lineup. In 2012, Bruce had a slugging percentage of .514, and the next season he drove in a career-high 109 runs.

All-Star Games: 2

 

13. Orioles: Brandon Snyder, C

Westfield (Va.) HS

’10-11, Baltimore; ’12, Texas; ’13, Boston

It took Snyder five years to reach the majors, and he hasn’t been able to find a regular job during the parts of four years he has been on big-league clubs. Snyder has spent time at catcher, first and third but was never a full-time member of a team. He signed a minor league contract with Boston before the 2014 season but never reached the big leagues, instead playing 35 games in AAA and hitting .206 with eight homers.

All-Star Games: 0

 

14. Indians: Trevor Crowe, CF

University of Arizona

’09-11, Cleveland; ’13, Houston

For a while, it looked as if Crowe was headed for a spot in the Cleveland outfield. After making his big-league debut in 2009, he played in 122 games, hitting .251, with 24 doubles. But Crowe lasted in Cleveland for just 15 games the next season and was out of the majors in 2012. He played 60 games for the Astros in 2013 but hit only .218, and after signing a contract with Detroit in 2014 was cut loose in July.

All-Star Games: 0

 

15. White Sox: Lance Broadway, RHP

TCU

’07-09, Chicago White Sox; ’09, New York Mets

After pitching a total of 27 games — with two starts — and compiling a 2–2 record with a 5.24 ERA in three seasons with the White Sox and Mets, Broadway was out of the majors. He made 20 starts for the Blue Jays’ AAA team in 2010 and went 3–11, in the conclusion of his professional pitching career. Broadway has since taken up acting.

All-Star Games: 0

 

16. Marlins: Chris Volstad, RHP

Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Community HS

’08-11, Florida; ’12, Chicago Cubs; ’13, Colorado

Although Volstad only had one year with a winning record as a starter, he did make 102 starts from ’08-11 with the Marlins and went 12–9 in 2010. He became a free agent after the 2011 campaign and was signed by the Cubs, for whom he went 3–12. Volstad appeared in six games for the Rockies in ’13 but failed to register a decision. He spent the 2013 and ’14 seasons in the minors and had 17 starts in the Korean Baseball Organization.

All-Star Games: 0

 

17. Yankees: C.J. Henry, SS

Putnam City (Okla.) HS

There are those who believe Henry should have stuck with his other sport, basketball, for which he was highly recruited. His brother, Xavier, plays in the NBA, but C.J. never made it to the Show. In fact, he didn’t escape High-A ball. He struggled in the field and at the plate and was out of the minors after 2008. He played in the Frontier League in 2013 but didn’t compete in ’14.

All-Star Games: 0

 

18. Padres: Cesar Carrillo, RHP

University of Miami

’09, San Diego

The total of Carrillo’s MLB experience is three starts for the Padres in 2009 — a 1–2 record with a ghastly 13.60 ERA and 16 hits allowed in 10.1 innings pitched. He has spent 10 years in the minors, the last two in independent ball. He was implicated in the Biogenesis scandal in 2012 and was suspended for 100 games. Though Arizona signed him to a contract in early 2014, he couldn’t hang with the team.

All-Star Games: 0

 

19. Rangers: John Mayberry Jr., RF

Stanford

’09-14, Philadelphia; ’14, Toronto

Son and namesake of the former Royals slugger, Mayberry never displayed the necessary consistency to warrant a full-time starting position. Mayberry spent five-plus seasons with the Phillies as a reserve, going on occasional short binges that would tantalize before reverting to his inconsistent form. He hit 15 homers in 2011 and 14 in ’12 but wasn’t able to drive the ball on a regular basis. Philadelphia traded him to the Jays in a waiver deal on Aug. 31, 2014.

All-Star Games: 0

 

20. Cubs: Mark Pawelek, LHP

Springville (Utah) HS

The lefty never climbed higher than High-A ball during his five years with MLB organizations and topped out at three wins during that time. His final season was 2010, when he made three starts for Gateway of the Frontier League. In 2013, he pitched for Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

All-Star Games: 0

 

21. A’s: Cliff Pennington, SS

Texas A&M

’08-12, Oakland; ’13-14, Arizona

Pennington spent most of three years (’10-12) as the A’s regular shortstop and hit a career-high .264 with 26 doubles in 2011. He was traded to Arizona following the ’12 campaign, after losing his starting job and has been a reserve middle infielder for the D-backs the last two seasons.

All-Star Games: 0

 

22. Marlins: Aaron Thompson, LHP

Second Baptist (Texas) School

’11, Pittsburgh; ’14, Minnesota

Thompson had a strong beginning to his professional career and was named a South Atlantic League All-Star at one point, but his pitching record during five years in the Marlins’ system was 22–34. He pitched in four games for the Pirates in 2011, making one start, and threw seven times for the Twins last year with a 2.45 ERA and six strikeouts in 7.1 innings pitched.

All-Star Games: 0

 

23. Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Oregon State

’07-13, Boston; ’14, N.Y. Yankees

A strong all-around player with good speed, a quick bat and excellent glove, Ellsbury is a former All-Star who can create trouble for opposing teams with his bat and on the basepaths. He has led the AL in steals three times, including a career-high 70 in ’09. In 2011, Ellsbury was the runner-up in the MVP voting, thanks to a .321 average, 32 homers and 105 RBIs. After the 2013 season, he signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees.

All-Star Games: 1

 

24. Astros: Brian Bogusevic, LHP

Tulane

‘10-12, Houston; ’13 Chicago Cubs

Although Bogusevic was drafted as a pitcher and spent three-plus years in Houston’s system as a hurler, he was converted to the outfield in ’08. He hit .287 with the Astros as a part-time outfielder in 2011 and was a starter in ’12 but hit only .203. After spending part of 2013 with the Cubs, he was in the minors for all of ’14 and signed a minor league deal with the Phillies after the season.

All-Star Games: 0

 

25. Twins: Matt Garza, RHP

Fresno State

’06-07, Minnesota; ’08-10, Tampa Bay; ’11-13, Chicago Cubs; ’13, Texas;  ’14, Milwaukee

A starting pitcher who has posted a 75–75 record during his big-league career, Garza bounced among four teams before signing a four-year, $50 million deal with the Brewers before the ’14 season. Garza’s finest season came in 2010, when he went 15–10 with a 3.91 ERA for Tampa Bay. Garza struck out 197 hitters in 2011 with the Cubs and has twice logged more than 200 innings in a season.

All-Star Games: 0

 

26. Red Sox: Craig Hansen, RHP

St. John’s

’05-06, ’08 Boston; ’08, ’08-09, Pittsburgh

Although Hansen had a stretch with the Red Sox during which he appeared in 70 games during parts of two seasons, he never became a reliable reliever, and his career was waylaid by sleep apnea and a weakening of the arm that ended his time in professional baseball. In four seasons, Hansen posted three saves and had an ERA of 6.34.

All-Star Games: 0

 

27. Braves: Joey Devine, RHP

NC State

’05-07, Atlanta; ’08, ’11, Oakland

If Devine had not had to endure two Tommy John surgeries, he might have become one of the majors’ top relievers. But he missed 2009 and ’10, and after a solid 2011, had to go under the knife again.

All-Star Games: 0

 

28. Cardinals: Colby Rasmus, CF

Russell County (Ala.) HS

’09-11, St. Louis; ’11-14, Toronto

Rasmus has been a steady outfield producer for the Cards and Jays, although he has never had a breakout season. After a lackluster 2014 (.225 average, 18 HR, 40 RBI), Rasmus became a free agent.

All-Star Games: 0

 

29. Marlins: Jacob Marceaux, RHP

McNeese State

In six professional seasons, Marceaux never reached the majors. He rose as high as AA ball, and in 2008 was 4–1 as a reliever with the Marlins’ Carolina affiliate. Marceaux began as a starter but couldn’t develop consistency.

All-Star Games: 0

 

30. Cardinals: Tyler Greene, SS

Georgia Tech

’09-12, St. Louis; ’12, Houston; ’13, Chicago White Sox

A utility infielder who saw action with three teams over five seasons, Greene never became a consistent starter. His greatest activity came in 2012, when he played 77 games with the Cardinals.

All-Star Games: 0

 

Other Notable Selections

 

Luke Hochevar, RHP

Dodgers (Round 1 – Supplemental) • University of Tennessee

Hochevar didn’t sign with the Dodgers, spending a year in an independent league. He was then taken No. 1 overall the following season by Kansas City.

 

Clay Buchholz, RHP

Red Sox (Round 1 – Supplemental) • Angelina (Texas) College

A two-time All-Star, Buchholz has become a fixture on the Red Sox starting staff, amassing a 66–44 record in eight seasons.

 

Jed Lowrie, 2B

Red Sox (Round 1 – Supplemental) • Stanford

After spending five seasons as a part-timer with Boston and Houston, Lowrie spent 2013-14 starting for Oakland and hit .290 in 2013. He signed a three-year deal with the Astros in December.

 

Chase Headley, 3B/OF

Padres (Round 2) • University of Tennessee

Headley hasn’t been a star throughout his nine years with San Diego and the Yankees, but in 2012, he won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and led the NL with 115 RBIs. He signed a four-year deal with the Yankees in the offseason.

 

Yunel Escobar, SS

Braves (Round 2) • Martires de Barbodos (Cuba) HS

Escobar has not earned an All-Star berth during his time with Atlanta, Toronto and Tampa Bay, but he has been steady in the field and reliable at the plate.

 

Brett Gardner, OF

Yankees (Round 3) • College of Charleston

Gardner has been a fixture in the New York outfield for the past five years. He led the AL in steals (49) in 2011 and in triples (10) in ’13.

 

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP

Devil Rays (Round 4) • Hoover (IA) HS

Although Hellickson was laid low by elbow surgery before the 2014 season, he had been a big part of the Tampa Bay rotation from 2011-13, when he won 35 games. He was traded to Arizona after the ’14 campaign.

 

Marco Estrada, RHP

Nationals (Round 6) • Long Beach State

Estrada bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen during his seven seasons with the Nats and Brewers. The hard thrower was dealt to Toronto in the offseason.

 

Michael Brantley, OF

Brewers (Round 7) • Central (Fla.) HS

In his sixth big-league season, Brantley had his best year, posting 20 home runs, 97 RBIs and a .327 batting average for Cleveland, a performance that earned him an All-Star berth and a third-place finish in the American League MVP voting.

 

Will Venable, OF

Padres (Round 7) • Princeton

Venable has demonstrated the ability to play all three outfield positions during his seven years with San Diego, including the last five as a starter. In 2013, he slugged 22 homers.

 

Austin Jackson, CF

Yankees (Round 8) • Billy Ryan (Texas) HS

Jackson has led the AL in triples twice during his five years in the big leagues and has played well in the field. The runner-up in the 2010 Rookie of the Year balloting, Jackson was traded by Detroit to Seattle during the 2014 season.

 

Logan Morrison, LF/1B

Marlins (Round 22) • Northshore (La.) HS

Morrison has proven to be a valuable outfielder and first baseman, first for the Marlins, for whom he hit 23 homers in 2011, and most recently for Seattle.

 

Tommy Hanson, RHP

Braves (Round 22) • Riverside (Calif.) Community College

From 2009-12, Hanson was a solid contributor to the Braves’ rotation, winning a total of 45 games. But injuries have detoured him and limited his MLB starts to 13 over the past two years.

 

Jaime Garcia, LHP

Cardinals (Round 22) • Sharyland (Texas) HS

During his first two full years in the majors, Garcia looked like a potential ace and won 26 games. Since then, shoulder problems have limited him greatly and cast doubt over his future.

 

Sergio Romo, RHP

Giants (Round 28) • Colorado Mesa University

Romo has become a valuable part of the Giants’ success and is one of the top closers in the majors. In 2013, he earned an All-Star berth on the way to 38 saves.

 

— Written by Michael Bradley for Athlon Sports

Teaser:
A Look Back at the 2005 MLB Draft
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/seton-halls-sterling-gibbs-suspended-after-punching-villanovas-ryan-arcidiacono
Body:

Seton Hall suspended guard Sterling Gibbs for two games for throwing a punch at Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono while fighting for a loose ball during the Wildcats’ 80-54 win Monday.

 

Gibbs was ejected for a flagrant foul for the incident in the second half.

 

Gibbs was clearly remorseful after the incident, apologizing publicly to Arcidiacono on Twitter. To the Villanova guard’s credit, he accepted the apology and moved on.

 

 

In a statement after the game, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said:

 

“I am extremely disappointed in Sterling’s actions tonight. Our student-athletes are entrusted to uphold the morals and values of good sportsmanship and personal conduct that we preach to them on a daily basis. Tonight’s incident involved a young man of high character showing poor judgement in the heat of competition. It was regrettable, and we will address the issue.”

 

In the immediate aftermath, ESPN analyst Jay Williams tweeted that Gibbs should be suspended for the remainder of the season.

 

 

 

 

The Gibbs incident is the latest setback in a season that started with promise for Seton Hall. The Pirates, who have not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2006, started 12-2. However, Seton Hall has lost five in a row and eight of its last 10 in conference play.

 

Gibbs and star freshman Isaiah Whitehead nearly came to blows after a loss to Georgetown last week, reported The Setonian, the school’s campus newspaper. Starting guard Jaren Sina abruptly left the team last week.

 

Willard attempted to downplay the issues surrounding his team.

 

“There is no chaos outside the program,” Willard told NJ.com. “The only chaos is you guys (the media).”

Teaser:
Seton Hall's Sterling Gibbs Suspended After Punching Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 13:52
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/matt-kenseth-2015-season-driver-preview
Body:

Predicting where Matt Kenseth will end up at the end of this season isn’t easy after the results he’s turned in during the past two years. But there is good news buried inside that confusion: Even if Kenseth replicates the worst of his first two seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he’ll be a top-10 driver.

 

Kenseth, of course, was simply golden during his first run with JGR in 2013. He won a series- and career-high seven times and pushed Jimmie Johnson harder than any other driver.

 

But last season proved to be far different. Kenseth was largely as consistent as ever, recording the same number of lead-lap finishes (30) as the previous year while increasing his top-5 and top-10 results. However, in the stat that counts — visits to Victory Lane — he put up a surprising goose egg. Kenseth qualified for the postseason through points, a product of his consistency, and actually remained eligible for the title through the third round.

 

For a time, it even looked like he could become the sport’s first winless champion. When it didn’t happen, Kenseth was realistic, recognizing the lack of speed that hampered him.

 

“In 2013, we were exceptionally fast at most race tracks,” Kenseth says. “Between the (2014) aero changes and getting the cars down and all that stuff, we just didn’t seem to have a handle on it the way we did the year before. Our balance was just way off, and we never really did get it fixed the way we wanted to.”

 

Interestingly, Kenseth wasn’t too surprised at how he and his JGR teammates performed. In testing before the 2014 season, the JGR Toyotas never had the same handling comfort — and thus the speed — as they had with the 2013 rules package. It’s a deficit from which they never recovered. That’s changed for this season, Kenseth said after test sessions revealed major improvement based on 2015 rules.

 

“I feel the best about the aero changes, getting the downforce off the cars,” Kenseth says. “Hopefully that will make it a little bit easier to pass in traffic and the cars a little more free. I’m hoping that will help.”

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

Among the tweaks this year are decreased rear spoiler heights, a reduced-horsepower engine and a new set of in-car suspension adjustment tools for the driver’s use. Should Kenseth adapt well, expect it to make a substantial difference in how well he and the rest of the JGR stable perform. Despite teammate Denny Hamlin earning a spot in the final race to determine the champion, JGR teams won only twice in Sprint Cup — and one of those wins came on the restrictor-plate track at Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR’s ultimate equalizer.

 

In Kenseth’s favor is the addition of Carl Edwards, Kenseth’s former Roush Fenway Racing teammate, to the JGR lineup as the multi-car operation expands from three to four teams. Kenseth and Edwards had a positive working relationship at RFR prior to Kenseth’s departure for JGR in 2013. Edwards also brings in substantial new sponsorship, allowing JGR to hire more engineers and shop staff while dedicating more resources to research and development. An influx of funding from Kenseth’s main backer, Dollar General, and the addition of old partner DeWalt give the team more funding even with the departure of longtime JGR supporter Home Depot.

 

The organization is also undergoing a hefty transition of several key staff members thanks to the addition of Edwards and the disappointment of 2014 — though Kenseth’s main point of contact, crew chief Jason Ratcliff, won’t change. This season, Edwards will work with Darian Grubb, who moved over from Denny Hamlin’s team. Grubb was replaced in that role over at the No. 11 Toyota by Kyle Busch’s former crew chief, Dave Rogers. That leaves Busch with Adam Stevens, promoted from the JGR XFINITY Series teams, on his pit box going forward. Expect the changes to boost performance.

 

Kenseth, 43, will start his 545th Sprint Cup race and 16th consecutive full-time season at NASCAR’s highest level when the green flag drops on the 2015 Daytona 500. Having made 10 of 11 Chases, a record topped only by Jimmie Johnson, there’s no reason to believe the consistency will stop.

 

“I really feel more confident about (2015) than I did last year at this time,” Kenseth says.

 

With changes made and plans for improvement over a moderately successful run a year ago, it’s not hard to understand why.

 

Fantasy Stall

No wins? No problem  Kenseth’s fall from seven wins in 2013 to zero in 2014 had more to do with speed than skill. His No. 20 car dropped from second to seventh in average green-flag speed rank. If JGR regains speed in 2015, look for Kenseth to take advantage.

Expect excellence  The one- to 1.49-mile tracks, such as Phoenix, Dover and Darlington, are welcome sites for the veteran, who averaged a 7.4-place finish in seven races at tracks that fall in that mileage range last year.

Seal the deal  Kenseth gained 37 positions in the final 10th of races last year. His closing acumen was amplified in the daylight, where he gained 46 positions across 25 races in daytime hours.

A top-10 fixture  In what many felt was a down season after a career year, Kenseth scored two more top-10 finishes — 22 in all, up from 20 — in 2014.

 

No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Primary Sponsors: Dollar General, DeWalt

Owner: Joe Gibbs

Crew Chief: Jason Ratcliff

Year With Current Team: 3rd 

Under Contract Through: 2016

Best Points Finish: 1st (2003)

Hometown: Cambridge, Wis.

Born: March 10, 1972

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
1754431151270131$105,899,162

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Matt Kenseth 2015 Season Driver Preview
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Overtime, News
Path: /mlb/jim-cantore-shares-incredible-images-fenway-covered-snow
Body:

Opening Day is less than two months away.

 

Just keep repeating that, Boston Red Sox fans. Maybe it will help warm the soul. After one look at Fenway Park, though, maybe not.

 

Boston is enduring its snowiest month on record, and not even Fenway can escape.

 

The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore and his producer Steve Petyerak tweeted several images of Fenway buried in snow during the last few weeks. The white stuff is piled up to the right field wall but not quite to the Green Monster. Yet.

 

The images are pretty remarkable.

 

The Red Sox home opener is April 13 against the Nationals, assuming the snow can be cleared by then.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Jim Cantore Shares Incredible Images of Fenway Covered in Snow
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 11:16
All taxonomy terms: Kyle Busch, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/kyle-busch-2015-season-driver-preview
Body:

Kyle Busch demands perfection from the racecar and has no qualms about ratcheting up the pressure on his crew chief to make that happen. It’s understandable that Busch has a periodic revolving door of team leaders, a merry-go-round that resulted in the move of former crew chief Dave Rogers to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 team for this year.

 

The two were at odds for much of the Chase, which is surprising, because that’s when Busch snapped it together after a summer slump that endangered his playoff bid. Outside of a Talladega wreck, you could argue that the 2014 Chase was Busch’s best in terms of consistency. Busch won once last year and finished 10th in points, impressive considering he was 17th — with four DNFs — heading into the Chase.

 

Busch, who’s been vocal about the changes for 2015, insists that his relationship with Rogers was just fine, thank you. Any public back-and-forths between the two were a case of two parties demanding nothing less than perfection.

 

Internal sources claim differently, although Rogers’ move in the offseason was part of a larger shift of employees at JGR, both across series and across teams. When the music stopped, it was Busch’s XFINITY (formerly Nationwide) Series crew chief Adam Stevens who landed on Busch’s Sprint Cup team for this year.

 

Stevens wasn’t necessarily Busch’s first pick. “There was definitely a wish list on my end, and there was definitely a ‘Hey, you’re getting Adam Stevens’ on their end,” Busch says. “I went and did some of my due diligence, talked to a few of the guys that I had on my list. I got a good response from that, but at the end of the day it just all came down to bringing Adam up.”

 

Busch sees Stevens’ transition from managing an XFINITY Series team to a Cup program as a challenge. “For Adam, just going from the (XFINITY) level to the Cup level, you’re working with probably 40 people in the (XFINITY) shop and with 400 in the Cup shop,” Busch says. “It’s a lot more people, a lot more things on your plate, and I’m sure you can get overwhelmed quite quickly.”

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

Should Stevens manage the transition, the organization has high hopes. Since pairing up at the start of the 2013 season, he and Busch have 19 XFINITY victories in 52 starts, winning at an unthinkable 36.5 percent clip. Even a sliver of that success puts Busch on better footing in Cup, where he’s struggled by comparison. 

 

Stevens is making the transition to Cup just as JGR is undergoing an expansion to four teams with the addition of Carl Edwards. This move has Busch enthused, as he felt for much of 2014 that the lack of a satellite program, like Hendrick Motorsports has with Stewart-Haas Racing, left his organization with a big disadvantage in terms of resources.

 

“Having Carl on board is going to be great for the team. He’s obviously gotten results in years past,” Busch says. “Having a bunch of new people at JGR and getting the engineering department all ramped up with more people. … It’s just going to make us a stronger team.”

 

Busch says any jumps in performance won’t come from the new rules package that cut downforce and reduce horsepower. It’ll make the Cup cars handle more like their XFINITY series counterparts. “It’s just a baby step. I don’t think it’s markedly different,” he explains. “You’re going to see some speeds slow down from the track records maybe, but it’s just going to be about trying to see what balance is going to be like with the horsepower to drag and everything else.”

 

Differing from the majority, Busch claims that the JGR problems are in-house, related simply to getting the cars to turn better. But having the cars in Cup handle more like those in the second-tier series may be a step in favor of Busch’s on-track handling preference. He’s become a regular dominator of the XFINITY Series in recent seasons — which brings things back full-circle to the Stevens promotion.

 

“The relationship we’ve had over the last year has gone really well,” Busch says. “We’ve won lots of races and we’ve been competitive. That level at the (XFINITY) level is obviously a lot less than what it is at the Sprint Cup level, but I still think he’s got a good repertoire within the shop and his guys. When you can have all of that, then there’s no better thing than to try and move that guy up.”

 

It’s a mixed message coming from Busch, who seems torn on all the changes. But replicating any XFINITY success on the Sprint Cup level would mean very positive things for Busch come November.

 

Fantasy Stall

The car didn’t fit him It’d be tough to find a driver who desires a car with a looser handling condition than Busch, who was stymied by the tight-skewing rules package of 2014. It affected his laps led; the 453 he led for the season was his lowest total since his rookie year in 2005.

Gotta love those quad-ovals  Busch averaged an eighth-place finish on the quad-oval intermediates of Las Vegas, Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta in 2014.

The spring Richmond race In the last eight spring races at Richmond, Busch won four times, led 613 laps and averaged a finish of 4.4. His last eight fall races at Richmond? Zero wins, 53 laps led and an average finish of 12.1. Perhaps he just prefers Virginia in the springtime?

Crew chief help  Busch’s crew chief fed him 57 positions across green-flag pit cycles at all oval tracks, save for Daytona and Talladega.

 

No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Primary Sponsors: M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Doublemint Gum, Snickers

Owner: Joe Gibbs

Crew Chief: Adam Stevens

Year With Current Team: 8th 

Under Contract Through: 2017

Best Points Finish: 4th (2013)

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev.

Born: May 2, 1985

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10s PolesTitlesEarned
1136529118178160$69,281,569

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Kyle Busch 2015 Season Driver Preview
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB Draft, MLB
Path: /mlb/top-25-high-school-prospects-2015-mlb-draft
Body:

The 2015 MLB Draft isn't until June 8-10, but it's never too early to take a look at the next potential crop of impact players. When it comes to making the leap from high school to a top prospect in the minor leagues, look no further than the reigning MVPs in each league. Clayton Kershaw out of Highland Park (Texas) High School was the No. 7 overall pick in 2006, while Mike Trout from Millville Senior (N.J.) was taken with the 25th overall selection in 2009. Obviously, those two first-round picks have worked out well for the Dodgers and Angels, but what about this year's high school class? Are there any Kershaws or Trouts in this group? Only time will tell.

 

Related: Top 25 College Prospects for 2015 MLB Draft

 

Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine 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. Order your copy today!

1. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS

Rodgers, a Florida State commit, has an advanced bat with a chance to hit for average and power while sticking at shortstop.

 

2. Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente (Calif.) HS

Last year’s high school class featured countless players with plus fastballs. Allard fits right with that group, with an easy 91-94 mph fastball and a solid breaking ball.

 

3. Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS, Concord, Calif.

A massive (6'7") lefty with massive stuff, Hooper has one of the best fastballs in the class as he’ll touch 95-97 mph at his best.

 

4. Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS, N. Richland Hills, Texas

Speedy outfielder who is among the fastest players in the class and shows an advanced understanding of how to put the bat on the ball and get on base.

 

5. Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Ga.

Son of long-time big league outfielder Mike Cameron, Daz is also a smooth center fielder with excellent bat speed and the speed to create havoc when he gets on base.

 

6. Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

If you’re a hitter from a northern state, you better play well on the summer showcase circuit as you won’t face the same competition during the high school season. Plummer positioned himself well with an excellent summer.

 

7. Chris Betts, C, Woodrow Wilson HS, Long Beach, Calif.

One of the better power bats in the draft class, Betts has shown significant improvement behind the plate. He became more and more polished as a receiver throughout the summer.

 

8. Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS, Indianapolis

Russell, a Texas A&M signee, is one of the pitchers batters hate to face, especially with a wood bat, as his ability to make the ball run in on batters breaks bats.

 

9. Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS

Nikorak has been one of the hardest throwers in this class, topping out at 96 mph at the Perfect Game National showcase.

 

10. Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna (N.Y.) HS

A speedy outfielder with excellent range and instincts in center field, Whitley impressed throughout the summer, showing more advanced instincts than expected for a prospect from the Northeast.

 

11. Demi Orimoliye, OF, St. Matthew HS, Orleans, Ont.

Orimoliye intrigues scouts now, but they are even more excited about what he could be with further polish. The big (6'4", 225) outfielder has power and speed.

 

12. Beau Burrows, RHP, Weatherford (Texas) HS

Burrows has the makings of three quality pitches with a 90-95 mph fastball, a quality changeup that has late movement and a 12-to-6 curveball.

 

13. Kyle Tucker, OF,  Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.

The younger brother of Astros outfield prospect Preston Tucker, Kyle is one of the more well-rounded prospects in this year’s class. Has good speed and strength.

 

14. Austin Smith, RHP, Park Vista Community HS, Lake Worth, Fla.

Another potential power pitcher with size, Smith throws a heavy 88-93 mph fastball that he works down in the zone to generate ground balls.

 

15. Cornelius Randolph, SS,  Griffin (Ga.) HS

Randolph may end up moving to second or third base because of his thick lower half, but he is a left-handed hitting infielder with a chance to hit for average and power.

 

16. Juan Hillman, LHP, Olympia HS, Orlando, Fla.

The school that has produced first-rounders Jesse Winker and Nick Gordon in recent years could get another first-rounder in 2015.

 

17. Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville (Tenn.) HS

Clarksville doesn’t produce a whole lot of baseball players — the last player from Clarksville High School to be drafted was back in 1967. Everett, a Vanderbilt commitment, should change that, as he throws strikes with a 90-94 mph fastball.

 

18. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) HS

A long and lean (6'5", 160) Vanderbilt commitment, McKenzie gets swinging strikes thanks to his lively low-90s fastball.

 

19. Chandler Day, RHP, Watkins HS, Pataskala, Ohio

The 6'4", 167-pound Day is a skinny righthander with lots of projection ahead of him, but he has present stuff with an easy 91-93 mph fastball. Also committed to Vanderbilt.

 

20. Cole McKay, RHP, Smithson Valley HS, Spring Branch, Texas

McKay has shown a 92-94 mph fastball with good riding life to run in on right-handed hitters. The LSU commit has mixed in a curveball and changeup with impressive potential.

 

21. Alonzo Jones, 2B/OF, Columbus (Ga.) HS

Jones is one of the fastest players among this year’s high school class, but he’s not just a speedster —he’s thickly built with some strength to go with that blazing speed. Jones is also committed to play at Vanderbilt.

 

22. Kyler Murray, SS/OF, Allen (Texas) HS

Murray is one of the best athletes and best prospects in this year’s draft class, but scouts aren’t even sure he’ll keep playing baseball after high school. He’s also one of the top quarterback prospects in the country and has signed to play at Texas A&M.

 

23. Kyle Molnar, RHP, Aliso Niguel HS, Aliso Viejo, Calif.

An athletic pitcher who works to both sides of the plate with a 91-93 mph fastball and a quality breaking ball and changeup, Molnar is one of the more polished pitchers in the class.

 

24. Dakota Chalmers, RHP, ­Lakeview Academy, Gainesville, Ga.

Chalmers, a University of Georgia signee, has stuff that got better as the summer heated up. By October, Chalmers was sitting at 91-93 mph while showing excellent control.

 

25. Luken Baker, 1b/RHP,  Oak Ridge HS, Conroe, Texas

Better known as a pitcher despite his plus power at first, the big and thick Baker gets lots of ground balls with a 90-95 mph fastball with plenty of sink. He’s committed to TCU.

 

— Written by Baseball America's J.J. Cooper for Athlon Sports

Teaser:
Top 25 High School Prospects for 2015 MLB Draft
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 10:10
All taxonomy terms: MLB Draft, MLB
Path: /mlb/top-25-college-prospects-2015-mlb-draft
Body:

The 2015 MLB Draft isn't until June 8-10, but it's never too early to take a look at the next potential crop of impact players. Among the college prospects, defending College World Series champion Vanderbilt leads the way with three Commodores in the top 10. At the top of the list is lefthander Brady Aiken, last year's No. 1 overall pick who didn't sign with Houston. Will Arizona take Aiken first again this June?

 

Related: Top 25 High School Prospects for 2015 MLB Draft

 

Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine 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. Order your copy today!

1. Brady Aiken, LHP, TBD

We don’t know where Aiken will play this year after last year’s overall No. 1 pick’s deal with the Astros fell through because of elbow concerns. But his arm looks healthy, and he’s got the best pure stuff in the class.

 

2. Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke

Matuella carries plenty of concerns because he’s taken summers off, and he has a back injury that forced him to sit out fall ball, but he has shown top-five stuff for Duke.

 

3. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville

The ace of Louisville’s College World Series team last year, Funkhouser has big stuff. But befitting someone with his name, his nasty stuff isn’t always easy to control and throw for strikes.

 

4. Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt was so deep that Buehler was the fourth starter on its national championship club last year and now is one of the top pitching prospects in the country.

 

5. Dansby Swanson, 2B/SS, Vanderbilt

Swanson was arguably the best player in the College World Series last year. Now he gets a chance to move from second to shortstop to quarterback the Commodores’ title defense.

 

6. Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia

Virginia’s aces don’t have a great pro track record yet (Danny Hultzen is the most prominent example), but Kirby is a lefthander with polish and athleticism.

 

7. Alex Bregman, SS, LSU

The 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year struggled as a sophomore — he hit .316 after a .369 freshman campaign — but has lots of swagger and a track record of hitting.

 

8. Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU

Ferrell was a closer who came in to finish off Brandon Finnegan’s starts last year with a 95-100 mph fastball. Now, he will get a chance to start on Friday nights for the Frogs.

 

9. Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky

Cody is a big-bodied (6'7") righthander with a big fastball (93-96 mph). He battled injuries as a sophomore, but a strong summer in the Cape Cod League has scouts very interested.

 

10. Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt

Fulmer served as a moment-of-truth pitcher for the Commodores last year, switching from the pen to the rotation and pitching well as the starter in Vanderbilt’s national championship win. He’s an emotional leader with the results to back it up.

 

11. Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston

Unlike most of the pitchers on this list, Lemoine doesn’t really have above-average stuff yet. But thanks to a good body and a very clean delivery, scouts believe he will continue to develop.

 

12. Ian Happ, OF, Cincinnati

Happ might be able to stick at second base in pro ball, but most scouts believe he’ll move to the outfield. That will hurt his draft value, but his track record of hitting makes him hard to ignore.

 

13. James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA

Kaprielian has one of the best breaking balls in the draft class, as he showed repeatedly with Team USA last summer. But he’s got to prove his fastball is good enough to set up his breaking ball.

 

14. Phil Bickford, RHP, College of Southern Nevada

A first-round pick in 2013 who was erratic as a freshman at Cal State Fullerton, Bickford was better this summer as a reliever in the Cape Cod League. He transferred to a junior college to become draft eligible this summer.

 

15. Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona

Newman is a typical college shortstop prospect. He may not be able to stick at short in pro ball, but his quality bat and defensive versatility will make him a potential first-round pick.

 

16. D.J. Stewart, OF, Florida State

Stewart has always hit, and he looks like he could hit for power. But so far he’s been a corner outfielder who doesn’t provide the home run numbers one would expect. He’s got one more year to prove to scouts there’s more thump.

 

17. Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona

A Division II righthander, Ponce used the Cape Cod League to rocket onto the national scene by showing a 93-96 mph fastball and a very useful cutter.

 

18. Gio Brusa, OF, Pacific

Brusa hit for average and power in the Cape Cod League last summer, but he did it with a swing-at-everything approach that scares scouts.

 

19. Jacob Nix, RHP, TBD

Nix signed with the Astros last summer as a fifth-round pick, but ended up having the contract voided when Brady Aiken didn’t sign. He may have to go to a junior college because of eligibility issues.

 

20. Richie Martin, SS, Florida

Another well-rounded college shortstop who won’t wow scouts with exceptional tools, but he impresses with his baseball aptitude, athleticism and understanding of the game.

 

21. Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois

Jay is an electric, small-bodied, left-handed reliever who had a great summer with Team USA. He’s going to try to start, but can he hold up in that role?

 

22. Dillon Tate, RHP, UCSB

Tate is an athletic, high-energy reliever who was hitting 97-99 mph for Team USA last summer in short stints.

 

23. Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State

Harris showed some versatility for Missouri State, serving as both a weekend starter and a closer during his sophomore season. He should be the club’s ace this spring.

 

24. Mac Marshall, LHP, Chipola (Fla.) JC

Another of the Astros’ 2014 draft refugees, Marshall ended up not signing when the Astros didn’t sign Aiken and Nix. He’s a lefty with plus stuff and some feel for pitching.

 

25. Marc Brakeman, RHP, Stanford

Brakeman has largely worked as a reliever at Stanford but will start this spring after striking out 47 batters in 33 innings in the Cape Cod League. He mixes a quality 90-95 mph fastball and an above-average changeup.

 

— Written by Baseball America's J.J. Cooper for Athlon Sports

Teaser:
Top 25 College Prospects for 2015 MLB Draft
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/18-worst-nfl-combine-busts-first-round
Body:

Each year, the NFL drafts players in the first round based entirely on the NFL Scouting Combine or Pro Day workouts. To be considered a combine bust a player must fit three criteria:

 

1. They were average college players

2. They performed well at the combine/Pro Day

3. They are not good NFL players

 

Here are the top first-round NFL Combine busts of the modern era (1999): 

 

1999: Lamar King, DE, SEA

The pride of Saginaw Valley State posted 12 sacks against the likes of Michigan Tech and Ferris State. But his freakish 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame played extremely well at the Combine. He posted 12 sacks in 37 career NFL starts and was out of the league after just five seasons.

 

2000: R. Jay Soward, WR JAC

The USC wide receiver was always dripping with potential but was never a star in college. He never improved on a modest sophomore season and busted out of the NFL after just 14 catches in 13 games.

 

2003: Johnathan Sullivan, DL, NO

The Saints traded not one, but two first-round picks to move up to take this problematic lineman. He was never a star at Georgia but scouts salivated over his 6-foot-3, 315-pound frame at the Combine. Sullivan registered 1.5 sacks in three NFL seasons.

 

2003: Andre Woolfolk, CB, TEN

The former Sooner was a below-average wide receiver for Oklahoma for three years before moving to corner for his final year. The Titans made the big mistake of taking the bust in the first round just a few picks ahead of Nnamdi Asomugha, Charles Tillman, Rashean Mathis and Drayton Florence. Woolfolk started 12 games in his NFL career.

 

2005: Troy Williamson, WR, MIN

The Vikings mysteriously drafted this unproductive pass catcher after he ran well at the Combine. He caught 13 total touchdowns in college and never caught more than 43 passes in any season at South Carolina. But Minnesota took him seventh overall anyway. He caught four touchdowns in his five-year career.

 

2005: Travis Johnson, DT, HOU

He wildly underachieved in three years at Florida State before a solid final campaign. But an impressive showing at the Combine made him the No. 1 DT taken in the 2005 draft. He lasted four years in Houston and two in San Diego, posting six career sacks.

 

2005: Matt Jones, ATH, JAC

Jones was 30-20 as a starter at quarterback for Arkansas who never topped 2,600 yards of offense in any season. Yet, his freakish upside overshadowed his off-the-field issues and got him drafted in the first round. Jones lasted four years and never caught more than five touchdowns or recorded more than 761 yards receiving in a season.

 

Related: The NFL Combine: A Complete Waste of My Time

 

2006: John McCargo, DL, BUF

He had a huge frame and appealing measurables at the Combine but the Bills made a huge mistake trading up to get this NC Stater. Maybe they thought he was like first-round teammates Mario Williams or Kamerion Wimbley despite lacking any recognition or statistical production. He started one game in his NFL career.

 

2007: Jamarcus Russell, QB, OAK

He had one solid season at LSU but largely underachieved even in Baton Rouge. Matt Mauck and Matt Flynn led LSU to BCS national titles the year before and after Russell's three-year stint as a starter. Rehashing his NFL career isn't even worth the time. He's arguably (and literally) the biggest bust in NFL history after what experts called the best Pro Day workout in draft history.

 

2007: Craig Davis, WR, SD

The burner from LSU wasn't even considered a starter for the Tigers until his final season. He caught seven total touchdowns in college before an impressive Combine got him into the first round. He caught two career NFL touchdowns in two career NFL starts. 

 

2007: Chris Henry, RB, TEN

Okay, he wasn't a first-rounder but he is the inspiration for this list. He was a terrible college player, starting three career games in four years and averaging 3.3 yards per carry. He was a Combine beast, posting huge numbers in most events. And he was a garbage NFL player, rushing for 122 yards on 32 career NFL carries.

 

2008: Kentwan Balmer, DE, SF

Balmer posted just 3.5 sacks in his final year at North Carolina but his Combine numbers got him into the end of the first round in '08. He lasted two seasons with the 49ers and started just 11 times in 46 career NFL games.

 

2009: Tyson Jackson, DL, KC

He was inconsistent at LSU and never a first-team, all-conference performer but his freakish athletic ability made him the third overall pick. In five years in KC, Jackson posted nine sacks in 55 career starts. He's stuck around but has been anything but a top-five pick.

 

2009: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, OAK

Like Jackson, DHB has been a contributor on the NFL level. But nothing about his college career — three seasons between 600 and 800 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns — should have made him a top-10 pick. But his Combine performance convinced the Raiders to take him seventh overall. He played on his third team in three years in 2014.

 

2010: Dan Williams, DT, ARI

Williams had a solid senior year at Tennessee but was never a star for the Vols. He's never started more than 11 games in any season and has just two career starts for the Cardinals. In 2014, he played in all 16 games for the first time in his NFL career.

 

2011: Danny Watkins, OL, PHI

The 23rd overall pick from Baylor started for two modest years in Waco. His bullish frame and quick feet got him drafted in the first round but the Eagles quickly found out how big a mistake that was, cutting him after just two seasons. He played one more year in Miami before retiring from football.

 

2013: Barkevious Mingo, DE, CLE

Mingo was dripping with potential his entire career at LSU but never delivered. He averaged less than 40 tackles per season with 5.0 sacks per year in three campaigns in Baton Rouge. His potential once again tricked the scouts at the Combine, as he ended up being the sixth overall pick in the '13 draft. He's started 14 games in two years and has 7.0 sacks. There is still plenty of time for him to develop.

 

2013: D.J. Hayden, CB, OAK

Hayden was a solid player for Houston in a much-less-competitive Conference USA. But the reason he was drafted unreasonably high (12th) was his pro day performance. Hayden has started 10 games in two seasons and has fewer tackles than 18 other defensive backs and fewer interceptions than 13 taken after him in the '13 draft.

Teaser:
18 Worst NFL Combine Busts of the First Round
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL, News
Path: /college-football/nfl-combine-complete-waste-my-time
Body:

The television ratings for the NFL Network's broadcast of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine were up 60 percent compared to 2010.

 

In fact, the 2015 rendition will start a day earlier — Friday through Monday — in an effort to continue ratings growth.

 

People love the underwear Olympics, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why. 

 

Maybe it's football withdrawal, maybe it's fantasy uber-nerds trying to get a leg up on drafts that are six months away or maybe it's simply being able to see a favorite player's face sans gladiator helmet.

 

But I still can't comprehend what value is gleaned this made-for-TV event. In particular, for NFL decision-makers.

 

Unless Amari Cooper runs a six-second 40-yard dash or Leonard Williams benches 225 pounds three times or Marcus Mariota can't complete a single pass against air, there won't be any redeeming value to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

 

Not on the field, at least. In fact, more times than not, the on-field evaluations at Lucas Oil Stadium actually muddy the scouting waters rather than clarify them. Scouts too often value what a prospect does in spandex running in a straight line over three or four seasons' worth of actual football games.

 

There is tremendous value for head coaches, general managers and scouts who get to sit down and get to know future employees face-to-face. These job interviews are the only aspect of the NFL Combine with any substantial meaning, and, of course, this is the only part of the circus that isn't televised.

 

Every year the draft is littered with guys who weren't good players in college but impressed at the Combine only to go on to fail miserably in the NFL.

 

J.J. Watt is a huge dude who is really strong and can run fast, jump high and works really hard. Julio Jones has a massive wing span, tremendous ball skills and elite explosiveness. Aaron Donald has superhuman strength, hands and quickness for a guy of his size.

 

It doesn't take an expert of NFL scouting to know those guys were elite players and belonged at the top of the draft. No, all you need is two eyeballs and a TV set on Saturdays.

 

The funny thing about great football players is that they are, well, great. But that doesn't stop NFL franchises — ones that spend a considerable amount of money scouting and drafting players — from making bone-headed decisions in the draft based on how guys perform in their skivvies.

 

Someone is going to draft Oregon's Arik Armstead in the first round this year.

 

The former five-star recruit is a 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive end who projects as a high first-round pick because he's going to look really pretty in shorts and a t-shirt in Indianapolis. Otherwise, there is no reason he should be considered a first-rounder.

 

The Ducks D-lineman played in 39 games in his three-year career in Eugene and never finished higher than sixth on the team in sacks or 10th in tackles. His career production for one of the best teams in college football: 87 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, 4.0 sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. 

 

Watt posted 61 tackles, 20.5 for a loss, 7.0 sacks, seven passes broken up, three forced fumbles and three blocked kicks in his final season alone at Wisconsin. Armstead is projected to be a top-10 pick — which is higher than Watt was taken in 2011 when Houston made him the 11th overall selection. That's insane.

 

Armstead is just the next in a long line of combine-induced, head-scratching first-round draft selections.

 

USC's R. Jay Soward was a first-round pick of the Jaguars in 2000 after glistening with potential at the Combine despite a mediocre college career. He lasted 13 games and caught 14 career passes in the NFL. The Jags also drafted quarterback-turned-wide receiver Matt Jones a few years later only to have that blow up in their face as well. How about John McCargo of the Bills in 2006? He was the third-best member of his own defensive line at NC State and Buffalo traded up to draft a player who would go on to start one NFL game. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Troy Williamson were top-10 picks in 2009 and '05 after speedy 40 times only to prove unworthy of their lofty draft status.

 

Quickly, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft that the Saints traded two first-round picks to acquire? Yup, Johnathan Sullivan. He had 1.5 sacks in three NFL seasons.

 

LSU has featured more than a few first-round Combine busts. JaMarcus Russell is a poster child for why Combine or Pro Day workouts should be taken with a grain of salt. He's literally the biggest bust in NFL history after only one quality season at LSU. That same year, Craig Davis landed in the first round because of his overall speed and quickness. Yet, Davis didn't even start at LSU until his senior year and caught seven career touchdowns in college. He hauled in two career NFL touchdowns in two career NFL starts. Tyson Jackson and Barkevious Mingo largely underachieved in college, dominated the Combine and haven't even proven they can be NFL starters.

 

Despite not being a first-round pick, my favorite Combine workout warrior is Chris Henry. The Arizona Wildcats running back started three games in college, rushing for 892 yards in four years at a clip of just 3.3 yards per carry. Yet, his freakish combine led the Tennessee Titans to draft Henry 50th overall early in the second round in 2007. 

 

He rushed for 122 yards on 32 career carries in his four-year NFL career.

 

Related: Worst 18 NFL combine busts of the modern era

 

The lesson should be don't overvalue what takes place this week in Indianapolis. How a player looks in tight shorts or how fast he runs in a straight line or how high/far he can jump standing still in a t-shirt should not supersede how a prospect plays the game.

 

Again, the funny thing about great players is they are great. You know, on the field, between the lines when the ball is snapped.

Teaser:
The NFL Combine: A Complete Waste of My Time
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, SEC, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-secs-football-basketball-coaching-tandems
Body:

The SEC in general is regarded as the nation’s most football-mad conference. That much is true, but no longer is that coming at the expense of basketball.

 

Football coaches in the league generally will have among the highest salaries in the country and the most tools at their disposal to contend for national championships.

 

Outside of Kentucky, basketball hasn’t been as much of a consistent priority.

 

All it takes to see that this is changing is a quick peek at Auburn. The Tigers have one of the top football coaches in the league in Gus Malzahn, arguably the best offensive mind in the SEC. Now, they have one of the top basketball coaches.

 

After rolling the dice on Jeff Lebo and Tony Barbee, Auburn went with a proven winner in the SEC and a big-time personality in Bruce Pearl. That move gives Auburn the best one-two coaching punch in the SEC.

 

The goal of our coach tandem rankings is to look at each football and basketball duo as a pair. In general, we’re looking at the duos most likely to keep each school’s fans happy and entertained from the start of football season through the end of basketball season.

 

So even though Alabama has a great football coach and Kentucky has a great basketball coach, their counterparts on the other side of the athletic department are working to pick up the slack — with varying degrees of success.

 

1. Auburn

Football: Gus Malzahn | Basketball: Bruce Pearl

During the course of two seasons, Auburn made two hires that changed the trajectory of its football and basketball program. Football had been relatively consistent back to the Pat Dye era, but it was clear Malzahn and his up-tempo, run-oriented offense brought something special to the Tigers. He was the offensive coordinator of the 2010 championship team and took Auburn back to the title game in the first season after his return in 2013. The ascent won’t be as rapid for the basketball program under Pearl, who has reached the Sweet 16 or better in four of his last seven seasons as head coach. Still, he’s brought in elite recruits and already has Auburn basketball fans following his cult of personality.

 

2. Kentucky

Football: Mark Stoops | Basketball: John Calipari

Calipari has simply led the Kentucky basketball program to an undefeated start this season — and that’s on the heels of an appearance in the national championship game. Simply put, no one in the game is better at recruiting top talent, and he may never get the credit he deserves in managing the egos of players who are one step away from the NBA Draft lottery. The football program is a tougher sell, but Stoops is doing good work. Stoops signed a top-25 class in 2014 and kept the 2015 class respectable. Kentucky improved from 2-10 to 5-7 in Stoops’ second season and could have been bowl eligible if not for close calls with Florida and Louisville.

 

3. Arkansas

Football: Bret Bielema | Basketball: Mike Anderson

Say this about Arkansas’ coaching duo: They create a clear identity. Bielema knows exactly what he wants to do with his program — build a punishing run game behind an imposing offensive line. That led to a surprising turnaround in his second season with the Hogs, going from 3-9 to 7-6 in 2014. Anderson has a similar identity with the 40 Minutes of Hell inspired by his mentor Nolan Richardson. The turnaround has been a little slower for Anderson, though this will be his best season — and first NCAA appearance — in four years at Arkansas.

 

4. South Carolina

Football: Steve Spurrier | Basketball: Frank Martin

We liked this duo a little more a year ago. At that point, Spurrier had South Carolina on a streak of three consecutive 11-win seasons and top-10 finishes. On the basketball side, Martin deserved the benefit of the doubt as he tried to revive South Carolina’s moribund basketball program. History still says these guys will figure it out, but this has not been a great year for South Carolina’s football and men’s basketball programs. Six combined conference wins makes this a year to forget.

 

5. Alabama

Football: Nick Saban | Basketball: Anthony Grant

Saban has few peers in college football coaching. In a ranking of football coaches alone, Saban would be at or near the top, depending on where Ohio State’s Urban Meyer fits. Basketball is another story. Grant arrived at Alabama as one of the hot young coaches in the sport after his tenure at VCU. The Crimson Tide, though, have been inconsistent on the court despite talented rosters. One NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons might not be enough for Grant to stay in Tuscaloosa.

 

6. Florida

Football: Jim McElwain | Basketball: Billy Donovan

The Spurrier-Donovan and Meyer-Donovan duos were among the best tandems in the country. The constant has been Donovan, who is having an uncharacteristically subpar season after three Elite Eights and a Final Four. That said, he should win 500 career games by the time he’s 50. McElwain’s track record as a head coach is only three years long, but he took Colorado State from four wins to eight to 10.

 

7. Ole Miss

Football: Hugh Freeze | Basketball: Andy Kennedy

Freeze has led Ole Miss on a steady rise on the football field from seven wins to eight to nine. The latest season was not a hollow nine wins by any means as the Rebels were ranked as high as No. 3 and reached one of the coveted Playoff contract bowl slots in the Peach Bowl. Meanwhile, Kennedy has been Ole Miss for nine years, hard to believe as it is. He finally got over the NIT hump in 2013 with a trip to the NCAA round of 32. He should lead Ole Miss to the second NCAA berth of his tenure this season.

 

8. Texas A&M

Football: Kevin Sumlin | Basketball: Billy Kennedy

Sumlin has proven that Texas A&M will be a factor in the SEC and in recruiting. He’s delivered upsets of No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Auburn, a Heisman trophy and a top-10 finish — yet overall his teams are 13-11 in the SEC. Kennedy has yet to deliver a 20-win season to the Aggies in four seasons in basketball. If that doesn’t change this year, it probably will next season when the Aggies add a highly touted signing class.

 

9. LSU

Football: Les Miles | Basketball: Johnny Jones

Perhaps no coaching duo in the country causes more high blood pressure among its fans. Miles’ teams have won 10 more games in four of the last five seasons, but end-of-game situations have been — shall we say — dramatic. Jones’ teams have had the talent to go toe-to-toe with teams like Kentucky, but they’ve been susceptible to puzzling losses during the last two seasons. LSU’s conference record in football has declined every year since 2011, and the basketball program has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament under Jones.

 

10. Georgia

Football: Mark Richt | Basketball: Mark Fox

The Marks make up the longest-tenured football/basketball tandem in the SEC with 19 seasons combined. They’ve also been the victim of a little bad luck in recent years. Richt has watched key injuries claim some of his top players on offense (though his team won 18 games the last two seasons anyway), and Fox watched players unexpectedly leave early for the NBA Draft (though his team should reach the NCAA Tournament this season). Georgia football hasn’t won an SEC title since 2005, and Georgia basketball hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2002.

 

11. Mississippi State

Football: Dan Mullen | Basketball: Rick Ray

Mullen enjoyed a breakout last season, taking a consistent bowl team to College Football Playoff contention. Mullen was already the first Mississippi State coach to go to four consecutive bowl games before going 10-3 and reaching the Orange Bowl last season. Ray has a major rebuild on his hands with the basketball program, but the Bulldogs have already eclipsed last year’s SEC win total (from three to five) and could pass their overall win total (14) from his first season.

 

12. Missouri

Football: Gary Pinkel | Basketball: Kim Anderson

Since 2007, Pinkel has led Missouri to two Big 12 championship games and two SEC championship games. The Tigers are 0-4 in title games, but Mizzou’s status as an overachiever in both conferences under Pinkel is ironclad. Missouri isn’t a recruiting powerhouse by any means, but the Tigers have been competitive with the powers in two conferences at the top of their games. In basketball, Anderson gets an incomplete grade at best. Coming from Division II, Anderson was a questionable hire to begin with, and his first roster at Mizzou is hardly SEC-ready.

 

13. Tennessee

Football: Butch Jones | Basketball: Donnie Tyndall

For the first time since Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee may have a football coach who will stick. Jones delivered the Volunteers’ first winning season since 2009 and picked up major momentum in recruiting during the last two cycles. Optimism is at a high point, but the Volunteers are still seeking their first winning conference season since 2007. Tyndall, a standout coach at the mid-major level, has done fine work with a rebuilding basketball team in his first season, but NCAA issues from Southern Miss are following him in Knoxville.

 

14. Vanderbilt

Football: Derek Mason | Basketball: Kevin Stallings

Mason has the unfortunate task of following up James Franklin at a place that just started to get used to competing in the SEC. Mason went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC in his debut season and immediately shuffled his coaching staff. Stallings is the second-longest tenured basketball coach in the league after Donovan and is generally regarded as one of the league’s best minds. Yet since the Jeffery Taylor/John Jenkins/Festus Ezeli class left, Vanderbilt is 19-29 in the SEC in three seasons.

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Football-Basketball Coaching Tandems
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/michigans-austin-hatch-receives-usbwa-most-courageous-award
Body:

Michigan freshman basketball player Austin Hatch will receive the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Most Courageous Award for 2015 for his perseverance in the face of unthinkable adversity.

 

If you haven’t heard about Hatch’s background, you should. It’s been one of the most inspiring stories of the basketball season.

 

Hatch survived two separate plane crashes over the course of eight years, but lost members of his immediate family in both. Four years ago, after the second plane crash, Hatch spent two months in a coma with a traumatic brain injury.

 

After intensive rehab, Hatch eventually enrolled at Michigan where John Beilein honored his scholarship. He’s played in four games this season.

 

When Hatch was 8, he and his father survived a plane crash that claimed the life of his mother, older sister and younger brother. In 2011, after Hatch’s commitment to Michigan, Hatch was involved in another plane crash that claimed the life of his father and stepmother.

 

Hatch has shared his story several times this season. It’s worth your time to check it out:

 

 

 

Here’s a clip from Hatch’s first appearance in an exhibition game against Wayne State:

 

 

Teaser:
Michigan's Austin Hatch Receives USBWA Most Courageous Award
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 18:26
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/too-soon-rivals-will-actively-monitor-two-sixth-grade-prospects
Body:

Projecting how high school athletes might perform on the college and pro level is difficult enough.

 

Now, Rivals.com will monitor at least two sixth graders for the first time in the history of the site.

 

In a post last week about a camp in Boston for middle school athletes, Rivals mentioned Tyson Thornton of Springfield, Mass., and Daron Bryden of Enfield, Conn., will be the first sixth grade prospects the site will “actively monitor.”

 

Monitoring eighth graders isn’t new for Rivals. The site is tracking as many as 15 eighth graders, but no seventh graders, according to SI.com. Even colleges have been known to take commitments from prospects as young as 13 or 14, even though they can’t by rule hand out written scholarship offers until the start of their senior years.

 

Sixth graders — that’s the class of 2021, by the way — is new and questionable ground.

 

Just as a point of clarity, let’s point out that the two sixth graders were moved up at the camp to compete with the eighth graders, so at least in the eyes of the NextGen Boston organizers, these kids are ahead of the curve. And Thornton is a 5-foot-11, 167-pound sixth grader.

 

But Bryden is a 5-foot-2 quarterback. By “actively monitor,” does Rivals intend on charting the kids’ growth spurts in real time? How often will Rivals recruiting analysts be in touch with middle school kids (or parents)?

 

Bryden actually has a pretty interesting story. Both his mother and father are deaf, though he and his siblings are not. Bryden also appeared on “Kids Do the Darndest Things” when he beat NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in an accuracy competition.

 

 

But this is all pretty weird, right? Covering 11-year-olds as recruiting athletes or college or pro prospects is a little overboard isn’t helpful to anybody, is it?

 

Teaser:
Rivals Will Start to Actively Monitor At Least Two Sixth-Grade Prospects
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 17:25
All taxonomy terms: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA
Path: /nba/kevin-durant-goes-marshawn-lynch-all-star-media
Body:
Kevin Durant, as teammate Russell Westbrook has previously done, looks to be joining Team Marshawn Lynch in terms of his media availability.

 

The perennial All-Star and reigning NBA MVP blasted All-Star reporters in New York City. After hearing a question he didn’t like about Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks’ job security — a favorite topic of NBA analysts — Durant scolded the media. From Darnell Mayberry of NewsOK.com:

 

“You guys really don’t know (expletive)… To be honest, man, I’m only here talking to y’all because I have to. So I really don’t care. Y’all not my friends. You’re going to write what you want to write. You’re going to love us one day and hate us the next. That’s a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y’all.”

 

Durant went on to reveal much of his humanity:

 

“I'm 26 years old so I'm in my mid-20s, almost to 30. My first few years in the league I was just finding myself. I think most of the time I reacted based off of what everybody else wanted and how they viewed me as a person. And I'm just learning to be myself and not worry about what anybody says. I'm going to make mistakes. I just want to show kids out here that athletes, entertainers, whoever, so-called celebrities, we aren't robots. We go through emotions. We go through feelings. And I'm just trying to express mine and trying to help people along the way. But I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm just this guy that got programmed to say the right stuff all the time and politically correct answers. I'm done with that. I'm just trying to be me and continue to grow as a man.”

 

Transparency has been a big buzz word of all things Internet Era, and athletes like Durant and Lynch are using an increasingly informed, increasingly accessible audience to break down the athlete archetype of the strong, docile, well-meaning and silent type. It’ll be interesting to keep watching K.D.’s celebrity evolution.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: Kyle Larson, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/kyle-larson-qa
Body:

Kyle Larson won the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year, wheeling his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet SS to a higher top-10 finish rate (47.2 percent) than what Richard Petty (42.9) and Jeff Gordon (36.7) did during their freshman seasons in the sport’s most grueling division. In advance of his highly anticipated sophomore campaign, the 22-year-old racer sat down with Athlon Sports for an exclusive interview, discussing his dirt racing background, his strengths and weaknesses and the critics who questioned his rapid rise to the Cup Series.

 

Who was your biggest racing influence?

      Probably my dad. He was the one that got me into this. He built me my first go-kart. He didn’t race at all; he was just a huge fan growing up. He grew up a couple of doors down from (two-time Knoxville, Iowa, Raceway Sprint Car champion) Tim Green. He’d go to West Capital Raceway (Calif.) when he was a kid. He met my mom when they were teenagers and got her into liking racing too.

 

In your first full season of stock car racing, you won the championship in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, widely considered NASCAR’s top developmental division. We’ve heard stories that you constantly picked everyone’s brain about this type of car while you were there. It seems like you worked awfully hard for someone perceived to be an overnight success.

       Well in my eyes, I don’t know that I did, but I guess if that’s what is being said, then I probably was. I worry about the way cars drive more than the parts and pieces that go onto them. That first year, I hardly even led laps. I just tried to take everything in. I watched other young guys like Corey LaJoie, Brett Moffitt, Chase Elliott and Darrell Wallace Jr. and learned from them, because they all grew up racing stock cars. I learned a lot just driving behind them. I was just trying to adapt quickly.

 

Across your three years in stock cars, you haven’t led much despite having strong average finish records. Do you prefer playing from behind?

    Oh, trust me, I wish I could lead all the laps and have the most dominant car. I think a big reason for not leading is because I’m a better long-run driver than short-run driver. Even though I’m not exactly trying to, I feel I take care of my tires early in runs, and then I’m able to pick spots off toward the end of them. Last year I felt like every time I was close to the lead it was time for green-flag stops or a caution came out. I think short-run speed takes experience. In Nationwide, I felt I was better on short runs in my second year than I was in my first.

 

As a rookie, you ranked fourth in adjusted pass efficiency (53.13 percent) in the Cup Series in 2014 while ranking first specifically on the fast intermediates (54.22 percent). Becoming that efficient usually takes drivers years. What has allowed you to become such a nuanced passer?

     Understanding how the air works when you’re behind people, and trying to find clean air helps to pass, especially on the intermediates. I think that’s why it comes so easy there. Intermediates relate to 3/8- or half-mile dirt tracks. Winged sprint cars really helped me understand how dirty air works. You have that big wing on top that’s sticking up and punching a huge pocket into the air, and you have to find ways to keep good air on your wing so your car handles right. I’m glad I grew up racing the kind of cars I did, because it taught me to not waste time when you’re behind someone on the track.

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

There was a lot of interest in your driving services prior to 2011. What made Ganassi the most appealing option?

     To me, I thought Chip (Ganassi) was the most excited about me coming into the organization. He didn’t have any development drivers at the time, and the other teams did. He had a plan for me. And even though their cars weren’t the greatest when I signed, you could see that they were getting better. I signed in 2011 and thought that if I got to Cup in 2015, I’d be in a great spot. I got to Cup earlier than I expected it, but now I feel like it was the perfect time.

 

Your crew chief, Chris Heroy, went from Juan Pablo Montoya, a driver with a seemingly rigid handling tolerance, to you, someone who can conceivably thrive regardless of a car’s setup. How do you feel the dynamic between you and Chris has improved?  

     It improved a lot. Even though we tested together in 2013, I came from a way different background than he did, and especially what Juan did. It took about six races … the terms I used to describe how the car was handling were different. At Phoenix (in March), I was really loose to start the race and he asked me to give him a 1 to 10 number on how loose I was. I told him I don’t like numbers, because my 7 might be different than his 7. I just want to get the car close (to my liking), and I’ll drive it. I feel like there are veteran drivers that worry too much about how well their car is handling and it gets in their head. I just feel like once you start the race, that’s what you’ve got. In stock cars, lines change during the race. I choose to focus more on moving around to find extra grip and a line that works for my car.

 

The short tracks were the only track type where you did not average a finish better than where you ran. Why do you feel a track like Martinsville presented such a challenge?

     Martinsville is my worst racetrack, by far. I think it’s because in Sprint Cars, you might go race at a quarter-mile racetrack, but you’re still going to carry a ton of momentum into the corner. Martinsville is totally backwards from what I grew up learning. There, I almost come to a stop and try to get the car pointed before driving to the other end of the track. At mile-and-a-halfs, you try to carry a lot of momentum into the corner. That’s why I’m better there. Tracks like Martinsville and Richmond don’t really suit me that well because I have to use a lot of braking and slow down a lot. I’m sure I’ll get better over the years, but I’m definitely struggling at those places right now.

 

If you could have one race from 2014 to do over, which one would it be and what would you do differently?

     The first Michigan race. We were really strong, and at the end we played fuel strategy right to where when we had to make a stop, we wouldn’t have to put a full fuel load in, making our pit stop quicker. Well, the stop before that, I sped on pit road and got penalized — I had to go to the back (of the field). Had I not sped, I would’ve had that track position, and we would’ve had a quicker stop than Jimmie Johnson’s team did. I don’t know if I would have won, but it would have been a really good chance to get a win.

 

There were many in the industry who felt you weren’t ready for the Cup Series when your promotion was announced in the fall of 2013. Do you feel now that you were ready back then?

     Definitely. I’ve been “too young” everywhere I’ve raced. I knew there would be doubters. I was confident in myself that I could come out here and compete. I did it in go-karts when I was eight and did it in sprint cars when I was 14 and racing against 50-year-olds. I felt like I showed them that I belonged. I’m glad I did. I did an interview early last year with Darrell Waltrip, and he asked whether I thought I’d picked a bad year to come out as a rookie because I was going up against Austin Dillon. I laughed to myself because I was pretty confident that I would beat him.

 

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Kyle Larson Q&A
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Kyle Larson, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/kyle-larson-2015-season-driver-preview
Body:

A year ago, there were a lot of questions about Kyle Larson’s readiness and ability. Was he too young, at age 21, to drive in Sprint Cup? Did his track record — he was winless in the Nationwide Series — warrant a promotion? Was owner Chip Ganassi being too aggressive bumping veteran Juan Pablo Montoya, especially considering that his top prospect didn’t even sit in a stock car until 2012?

 

It took just five races for the rookie to change the narrative entirely. At Fontana, Larson nearly swept both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events, falling one position short of his first Cup win. From there, it was like a gun went off; Larson sped through the field like a bullet train while positioning himself as NASCAR’s next big superstar. It seems silly, in hindsight, to have ever possessed any doubt about his capability.

 

Related: Q&A with Kyle Larson

 

Simply earning top freshman honors, for which Larson bested a crowded field of eight, was the main goal for 2014. Now, he looks like a shoo-in for the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup and the driver who can transform Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR operation.

 

Answering those doubts seemed to motivate Larson. “There was a lot of room on the Kyle Larson bandwagon to start (last season),” he said in November. “I think a lot of people chose Austin Dillon to win (Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year), and I was pretty confident in myself and in my team that we could do it.”

 

Larson won the award on the strength of eight top-5 finishes and 17 top 10s, besting Dillon by 88 points in the final standings. He finished second three times in 2014 and was oh-so-close to winning a race.

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

“I kind of set out as a goal to be a top-15 car all season, and I noticed right from the start of the season we’d be a top-10 car most races,” he says. “I changed the goals a little bit to run top 10 every race, and now, the way things are going, you want to be top 5.”

 

Larson shined the most once the Chase got underway. He missed qualifying for the title fight by just a few points but clicked off three top-5 finishes and six top 10s in the 10-race span to close the year. How impressive was the postseason? Had Larson qualified, he would have advanced all the way to NASCAR’s Round of 8.

 

All told, it was a sterling rookie debut, filled with momentum that should carry into 2015. Larson played a huge role in the success of the No. 42 and placed as the highest-achieving non-Chase driver in the season-ending point standings.

 

Perhaps most important, Larson’s racing style rarely brought criticism from the sport’s veteran driving corps, a group known for repudiating the ways of successful rookies.

 

Larson’s most successful tracks in 2014 were the 1.5- and 2-mile speedways that make up the majority of the schedule. His first win will come soon, possibly by the tour’s return to Auto Club Speedway on March 22. A Chase bid will follow, making him an intriguing postseason player. In just a year, he’s gone from question mark to unquestioned contender.

 

Fantasy Stall

Reliable passer  Larson ranked fourth in the series in adjusted pass efficiency in 2014 (53.13 percent) and first in efficiency at the quad-oval tracks, encompassing Las Vegas, Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta, with a 54.22 percent mark.

Big gainer  He averaged a finish better than his average running position on all track types except short tracks. At tracks 1.0-1.49 miles in length, he averaged a finish 3.6 positions better than where he typically ran.

Martinsville is the worst  The sweeping high banks Larson enjoys at bigger tracks don’t exist at Martinsville, where he struggled in 2014, finishing 27th  and 30th.

Not a leader  Larson’s 53 laps led were paltry and reflected his output in smaller divisions. He led only 64 laps during a title-winning 2012 season in the NASCAR K&N East and just 102 laps in the Nationwide Series in 2013.

 

No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Primary Sponsor: Target

Owner: Chip Ganassi

Crew Chief: Chris Heroy

Year With Current Team: 2nd 

Under Contract Through: 2017

Best Points Finish: 17th (2014)

Hometown: Elk Grove, Calif.

Born: July 31, 1992

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
240081710$5,711,004

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Kyle Larson 2015 Season Driver Preview
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-15-impact-juco-transfers-2015
Body:

Incoming freshmen usually steal the spotlight on college football’s signing day, but there’s no shortage of intrigue and potential surrounding the junior college recruits that may have inked signed in December.

 

While the transition from junior college to the FBS level is challenging, prospects already have at least one year of playing experience and are usually recruited to fill a specific void for the upcoming season.

 

The 2015 recruiting haul of junior college prospects is no exception, as several key transfers are headed to the SEC, with Auburn’s Jovon Robinson expected to be an impact performer. Outside of the SEC, Penn State tackle Paris Palmer, Florida State’s Lorenzo Phillips and USC receiver De’Quan Hampton are other names to watch.

 

Here’s a quick look at some of the key impact junior college recruits for 2015:

 

15 Impact Junior College Transfers for 2015

 

Tony Bridges, CB, Ole Miss

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 7 Overall, No. 1 CB

 

The Rebels had one of the stingiest pass defenses in the SEC last season, limiting opponents to just 12 touchdown passes and 192.1 yards per game. This unit has some offseason work ahead, as standout cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt have expired their eligibility. Golson’s ball skills will be missed after he recorded 10 interceptions and eight pass breakups last year. Bridges was a late flip to Ole Miss from Auburn, and the 6-foot-2 defensive back arrives in Oxford after earning NJCAA first-team All-America honors in 2014.

 

Chris Carson, RB, Oklahoma State

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 23 Overall, No. 4 RB

 

Carson was a late flip from Georgia to Oklahoma State, and the Georgia native should be an instant-impact performer for the Cowboys. With three quarterbacks receiving snaps under center and a revamped offensive line, 2014 was a transition year for Oklahoma State’s offense. The Cowboys averaged only 121.7 rushing yards per game in Big 12 action. With Desmond Roland (770 yards) out of eligibility, combined with the dismissal of Tyreek Hill (534 yards), Rennie Childs (294 yards) is the team’s top option at running back. Expect Carson to at least earn a split of the carries in 2015, as his 6-foot-2 frame should add some punch to the rushing attack.

 

Davon Durant, LB, Arizona State

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 6 Overall, No. 1 ILB

 

Arizona State’s defense returns largely intact next season, but Durant is expected to carve out meaningful playing time in coach Todd Graham’s aggressive scheme. Durant is expected to push for time at the Devilbacker position (defensive end/linebacker hybrid) in 2015, but even if he doesn’t start there, the South Carolina native will carve out snaps somewhere in the linebacking corps and add depth to a unit that already features Viliami Moeakiola, Salamo Fiso and Antonio Longino. Durant played in five games at Butler Community College in 2014 and recorded 45 tackles and three sacks. 

 

Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 29 Overall, No. 3 S

 

It’s no secret Texas A&M needs to upgrade its defense in order to win the SEC West. The Aggies took a big step towards that goal by hiring John Chavis away from LSU to coordinate the defense, and coach Kevin Sumlin also reeled in another elite class to upgrade the talent. Evans will have an opportunity to earn immediate playing time this season after the Aggies allowed 15 passing scores in SEC play. The Mississippi native intercepted six passes over the last two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and earned first-team All-MACJC honors in 2014. 

 

Devonte Fields, DE, Louisville

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 5 Overall, No. 1 WDE

 

Fields is easily the most accomplished player on this list. The Texas native had a standout freshman campaign at TCU in 2012, earning AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the year honors after recording 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss. After an off-field incident prior to 2014, Fields was dismissed from TCU and landed at Trinity Valley Community College. Last season, Fields appeared in 12 games and recorded 6.5 sacks. With Lorenzo Mauldin and B.J. Dubose out of eligibility, Louisville is counting on Fields to help keep the pass rush near the top of the ACC. Fields has potential to earn All-ACC honors in 2015.
 

De’Quan Hampton, WR, USC

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 13 Overall, No. 2 WR

 

High expectations surround USC in 2015, and the Trojans could be a national title contender if all of the pieces fall into place. One area coach Steve Sarkisian will be watching this spring is the receiving corps. Top target Nelson Agholor left for the NFL after grabbing 104 receptions in 2014. JuJu Smith is back after a standout freshman campaign (54 catches), but quarterback Cody Kessler needs a No. 2 and No. 3 target to emerge. Could Hampton – a 6-foot-4 physical target – be one of the answers? Kessler and Sarkisian certainly hope Hampton can help ease the departure of Agholor, while teaming with Smith, fellow junior college recruit Isaac Whitney and Darreus Rogers to keep USC’s passing offense performing at a high level.

 

D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 4 Overall, No. 1 DT

 

The Rebels have upgraded their talent and overall depth up front in recent years, and coach Hugh Freeze and line coach Chris Kiffin appear to have another standout coming to Oxford in Jones. The South Carolina native spent two years at East Mississippi Community College and recorded 12 sacks in that span. At 310 pounds, Jones has the size to push for snaps on the interior, which should help to spell Robert Nkemdiche and Issac Gross. Look for Jones to be a disruptive force for Ole Miss in 2015.

 

Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 2 Overall, No. 2 RB

 

Coach Butch Jones continues to elevate the talent level in Knoxville, and the 2015 signing class could feature a handful of impact newcomers. One of the top names to watch is Kamara, as the former Alabama running back should team with sophomore Jalen Hurd to form one of the top one-two backfield combinations in the SEC next year. Kamara redshirted at Alabama in 2013 and spent 2014 at Hutchinson Community College. In his only year in the junior college ranks, Kamara rushed for 1,211 yards and 18 scores. 

 

Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 37 Overall, No. 1 QB

 

If the Rebels can find an answer at quarterback, coach Hugh Freeze’s team certainly has the talent to win the SEC West next year. Kelly redshirted at Clemson in 2012 and played in five games with the Tigers in 2013. The New York native was dismissed in the spring of 2014 and landed at East Mississippi Community College. Kelly threw for 3,906 yards and 47 scores last season in the junior college ranks. The 6-foot-3 quarterback had an off-field incident in December, but assuming he stays out of trouble, Kelly has a good chance to start the opener against UT Martin.

 

Jeremiah Ledbetter, DT, Arkansas

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 18 Overall, No. 2 DT

 

Coach Bret Bielema has Arkansas headed in the right direction, and the Razorbacks should take a step forward in the win column in 2015. Coordinator Robb Smith was one of the SEC’s top assistant hires last season, as Arkansas’ defense made steady gains throughout the year. Smith will have his work cut out for him in the spring, especially up front where end Trey Flowers and defensive tackle Darius Philon are off to the NFL. Ledbetter was an active defensive lineman at Hutchinson Community College the last two seasons, recording 22.5 career sacks and second-team NJCAA All-American honors in 2014. He should help soften the blow of Philon’s early departure to the NFL.

 

Marquavius Lewis/Dante Sawyer, DE, South Carolina

 

247Sports Composite Rank: Lewis: No. 3 Overall, No. 1 DE, Sawyer: No. 16 Overall, No. 2 WDE

 

South Carolina’s defense is looking for answers after allowing 6.2 yards per play and giving up 36.8 points per game (SEC-only contests) in 2014. Coach Steve Spurrier adjusted the coaching staff to provide help, hiring Jon Hoke to team with Lorenzo Ward as co-defensive coordinators. The Gamecocks also dipped into the junior college ranks by bringing in Sawyer and Lewis. Both players are expected to help jumpstart an anemic pass rush that registered only eight sacks in SEC play last season. Lewis recorded 18.5 sacks in two years at Hutchinson Community College.

 

Paris Palmer, OT, Penn State

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 12 Overall, No. 2 OT

 

Improving the offensive line is expected to be the biggest area of focus for coach James Franklin and line coach Herb Hand this spring. The Nittany Lions allowed 44 sacks last season and had their scoring average drop from 28.7 in 2013 to 20.6 in 2014. Adding to the preseason concerns for this unit was the departure of left tackle Donovan Smith to the NFL. Palmer is expected to help ease the loss of Smith and strengthen the line at one of the tackle spots after playing two years at Lackawanna College. 

 

Lorenzo Phillips, LB, Florida State

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 17 Overall, No. 1 OLB

 

Florida State’s defense has to room to improve after allowing 5.5 yards per play last season. The Seminoles enter spring with a few question marks, starting up front with the departure of tackle Eddie Goldman and end Mario Edwards Jr., while the linebacking corps dealt with numerous injuries last season. Linebacker Reggie Northrup’s availability for the 2015 season is also in question due to a torn ACL. Playing time in the front seven is certainly available for Phillips, as the Louisiana native is an instant-impact recruit for the Seminoles. In 2014, Phillips recorded 14 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss at East Mississippi Community College. Phillips won’t arrive until the summer, but he has potential to help in the front seven as an edge rusher.

 

Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 9 Overall, No. 1 OT


Mississippi State returns one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in senior Dak Prescott, but the line loses three starters, including left tackle Blaine Clausell. However, the Bulldogs may not see a drop in performance by the offensive line if Rankin is able to secure a starting spot this offseason. The Mississippi native enrolled in time to compete in the spring after earning All MACJC honors in 2014. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Rankin already has the size needed to compete right away in the brutal SEC West. 

 

Jovon Robinson, RB, Auburn

 

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 Overall, No. 1 RB

 

Robinson originally committed out of high school to Auburn but was ruled ineligible after a guidance counselor at his high school (Wooddale) changed one his grades to help the running back qualify in 2012. Robinson was the NJCAA player of the year in 2013 after rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 scores. With Cameron Artis-Payne, Nick Marshall and Corey Grant departing, the Roc Thomas (214 yards) and Peyton Barber (54) are the top returning options at running back. Robinson is expected to win the starting job and push for 1,000 yards for coach Gus Malzahn’s high-powered offense in 2015.

 

Other Key JUCO Transfers to Watch in 2015

 

Chase Abbington, RB, Missouri

Cory Butler, DB, Utah

Johnathan Calvin, DL, Mississippi State

Malik Cuellar, OL, Missouri

Jeremy Cutrer, S, LSU

Jamal Danley, OL, Oklahoma

Allen Edwards, DL, Pittsburgh

Anthony Fotu, DL, Arizona

Marcell Frazier, DL, Missouri

Donald Gray, WR, Mississippi State

Paul Harris, WR, Louisville

Brandon Hodges, OT, Texas

Tyler Howell, OL, Missouri

Khalil Hunter, OL, Louisville

William Johnson, CB, Oklahoma

Traver Jung, LB, Mississippi State

Shalom Luani, S, Washington State

Justin Martin, CB, Tennessee

Kameron Miles, S, Boise State

Nehemiah Mitchell, DE/LB, Vanderbilt

Camion Patrick, WR, Indiana

Aaron Porter, LB, Washington State

Maurice Porter, OT, Baylor

Dominique Reed, WR, Arkansas

DeVondre Seymour, OT, Georgia

Jason Smith, QB/ATH, Auburn

Jeremy Smith, RB, Louisville

Maurice Swain, DT, Auburn

Jonathan Taylor, DT, Alabama

Demond Tucker, DT, Iowa State

Quincy Vasser, DL, Texas

Isaac Whitney, WR, USC

Teaser:
College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2015
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-big-12s-football-basketball-coaching-tandems
Body:

The Big 12 academic year has been an experiment in contrasts in recent years.

 

In football, new powers have taken over with Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State claiming championships since 2011.

 

Yet in basketball, the old guard — the only true blue blood in the league — continues to rule as Kansas appears headed to its 11th consecutive Big 12 title.

 

It makes sense, then, that of the top football-basketball coaching tandems on our list, one comes from a traditional power and the other comes from a new-age contender.

 

Oklahoma tops our list even after a lackluster football season by Bob Stoops’ standards. The Sooners, in general, are contenders in both football and men’s basketball under Stoops and Lon Kruger, respectively.

 

That said, Baylor is quickly gaining. Art Briles has claimed the last two Big 12 football titles, and basketball coach Scott Drew looks to have one of the better teams of his tenure, only a year after reaching the Sweet 16.

 

Indeed, these are strange times in the Big 12 when Baylor — a non-factor in both sports a decade ago — is pressing to have the most competitive program in an academic year.

 

The goal of our coach tandem rankings is to look at each football and basketball duo as a pair. In general, we’re looking at the duos most likely to keep each school’s fans happy and entertained from the start of football season through the end of basketball season.

 

That means it may look at little strange to see a top football coach or top basketball coach near the bottom of the rankings. That’s nothing against, say, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self. Rather, the football side is the one that has to kick it up a notch to at least give Jayhawks fans something to cheer in September and October before basketball season rolls around.

 

1. Oklahoma

Football: Bob Stoops | Basketball: Lon Kruger

Even though Stoops is coming off an 8-5 campaign, the most disappointing since he’s been a head coach, Oklahoma has the most solid coaching duo in the league. Stoops has won at least 10 games in four of the last five seasons and made more BCS games than any other coach under the old system. Kruger, whose forte is rebuilding programs, has completed his reclamation of OU basketball with his best team this season. No program is more likely to be in a major bowl game and the NCAA Tournament in the same season as Oklahoma.

 

2. Baylor

Football: Art Briles | Basketball: Scott Drew

The year before Briles was hired, Baylor football was riding 12 consecutive losing seasons. When Drew was hired, Baylor was emerging from one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history. It’s tough to find a duo who improved their school’s situation more from the day they were hired until 2015. Briles had Baylor on the verge of the College Football Playoff and won the last two Big 12 titles. And Drew has twice taken Baylor basketball to the Elite Eight and once to the Sweet 16.

 

3. Kansas State

Football: Bill Snyder | Basketball: Bruce Weber

Kansas State failed to sign a top 50 recruiting class in 2015, but that doesn’t matter. We’ll end up talking about the Wildcats as a top 10 team at some point anyway. That’s the deal for Snyder, whose teams have been the biggest overachievers in college football. Weber’s team has fallen below expectations this season, but he’s still two years removed from a 27-win season and a share of the Big 12 title.

 

4. TCU

Football: Gary Patterson | Basketball: Trent Johnson

In only TCU’s third season in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs won a share of the league and were in playoff contention until the final week of the season. Most of all, Patterson deserves credit for altering his offensive philosophy for a 12-1 season in 2014, not an easy ask for any coach who had already been wildly successful earlier in his career with two BCS bowls out of the Mountain West. Johnson, who took both Nevada and Stanford to the Sweet 16, has an uphill battle with TCU’s neglected basketball program, but the Frogs’ 14 wins this season is the most of his tenure.

 

5. Texas

Football: Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Barnes

Is there any reason why Texas shouldn’t have the best coaching tandem in the league? Not long ago, Texas indeed had one of the top duos. From 2003-05, the Longhorns reached a Final Four and won a football title under Mack Brown and Barnes. Now, both programs are in a state of flux. Strong is entering Year Two of his project to return the Longhorns to national contention. Barnes has reached the NCAA Tournament in 15 of 16 seasons at Texas, but this season is shaping up to be another disappointing campaign. Barnes’ preseason top 10 team is flirting with a losing record in the Big 12.

 

6. Oklahoma State

Football: Mike Gundy | Basketball: Travis Ford

Are either Gundy or Ford the most accomplished coaches at their individual sports in the Big 12? No. But remember, this is a ranking of tandems, and it’s tough to argue Oklahoma State keeps things interesting from the start of football season until the end of basketball season. Gundy has led Oklahoma State to four of Oklahoma State’s 10 top 20 finishes all time, including No. 3 and a Big 12 title in 2011. Ford has made up for last season’s disappointing 21-13 campaign with a surprising top-25 team this year.

 

7. Kansas

Football: David Beaty | Basketball: Bill Self

Remember: This is a ranking of coaching tandems as a duo. Self is is on his way to his 11th consecutive Big 12 title, but football is on its third football coach since its last bowl game. The football side made a bold move in hiring the 44-year-old ace recruiter Beaty. The former Texas A&M position coach is an unknown commodity, but being an unknown is a step up from his predecessor, who was known to not be very good.

 

8. Iowa State

Football: Paul Rhoads | Basketball: Fred Hoiberg

Iowa State needs to be creative to be competitive. The Cyclones have creativity at both spots. Hoiberg as turned Iowa State into Transfer U and one of the few places that plays an up-tempo — and successful — offensive system. Rhoads has been notable for his impassioned speeches, but he has one winning season and a career 14-48 Big 12 record in six years.

 

9. West Virginia

Football: Dana Holgorsen | Basketball: Bob Huggins

No doubt, this is one of the more interesting college pairings in terms of personality. And as a Big East tandem, it was one of the best. Holgorsen won the Big East in his first season, but he’s 18-20 in three seasons in the Big 12. Huggins has 758 career wins and reached the Final Four with WVU in 2010, but he’s yet to reach the NCAA Tournament as a Big 12 member.

 

10. Texas Tech

Football: Kliff Kingsbury | Basketball: Tubby Smith

This would make an interesting buddy cop show. The two are separated in age by 28 years. Kingsbury is Coach Cool. Tubby Smith is ... not as cool. What would make both coaches more cool, though, would be more wins. Since starting his career with seven consecutive wins, Kingsbury is 5-13. Meanwhile, Smith led Kentucky to the 1998 national title but hasn’t had a winning conference record in the Big Ten or Big 12 since leaving Kentucky. 

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Football-Basketball Coaching Tandems
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 08:20
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/new-oak-trees-planted-auburns-toomers-corner
Body:

Toomer’s Corner at Auburn looks more familiar these days. Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr. poisoned oak trees at Toomer’s Corner in 2010, leaving the memorable location looking quite different after the trees were removed in 2013.

 

However, Toomer’s Corner is on its way back after two new oak trees were planted over the weekend.

 

Check out some photos from the tree planting and the revival of Toomer’s Corner: 

 

 

Teaser:
New Oak Trees Planted at Auburn's Toomer's Corner
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/internet-fooled-fake-fat-jameis-winston-photo
Body:

Separating facts from fiction during the run-up to the NFL Draft is tough enough.

 

Now, we’ve got to contend with bad Photoshops, or at least optical illusions.

 

Someone posted a photo of a tubby-looking Jameis Winston on Twitter on Saturday. Folks with a good eye drew attention to Winston’s shadow not matching up with his gut plus that absurdly skinny waist.

 

The image didn’t stand up to close scrutiny, but it was just enough to fool the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen.

 

 

 

George Whtifield, the QB coach preparing Winston for the draft, told The Big Lead the photo was taken in mid-January, and, no, Winston does not have a gut. Maybe it was a bad angle. Maybe it was that leash around his waist. Winston will be at the NFL Combine this week.

 

Sander Philipse of SBNation’s Bucs Nation traced the fakery back to Barstool Sports, a site that probably doesn’t adhere to the most strict journalistic standards.

 

Teaser:
Internet Fooled By Fake Fat Jameis Winston Photo
Post date: Saturday, February 14, 2015 - 14:08
Path: /nba/nba-trade-deadline-roundup
Body:

While the NBA All-Star festivities are underway in New York this weekend, some more weighty affairs may occur in league front offices. The trade deadline is February 19, or just six days away, and there are still some major pieces potentially in play.

 

Amar’e Stoudemire

The New York Knicks’ beleaguered big man is taking baths in red wine and seeking a buyout from Phil Jackson’s disastrous club. The Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers and Stoudemire’s former Phoenix Suns team are all said to be in the mix for his services, with Phoenix in the lead.

 

Reggie Jackson

The writing’s been on the wall for Jackson and the Oklahoma City Thunder, even since before OKC traded for ostensible Jackson replacement Dion Waiters. Jackson’s list of suitors is a little small, since he’ll be available in free agency this summer, so he could be viewed as a costly rental. But the Thunder seem to know they’ll lose him now or then, as it’s no secret that he’s unhappy coming off their bench. So they’d be wise to get a return on Reggie.

 

Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler

When the Denver Nuggets traded Timogey Mozgov — now thriving with LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers — it was seen as a potential white flag and ensuing fire sale from the Rockies franchise. Afflalo is a very useful two-way guard, while Chandler is dangerous at perhaps the NBA’s least deep position — small forward. The Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat and Clippers are all said to be interested in these two.

 

Ray Allen

After putzing about in semi-retirement for the season, Jesus Shuttlesworth is now making his decision about which team deserves his shooting services. He’s said to have whittled his list down to the Golden State Warriors, Cavs, and Atlanta Hawks. We may see him making gigantic playoff shots in crunch time, once again.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, February 13, 2015 - 14:34

Pages