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In 1999, Detroit Lions star running back Barry Sanders shockingly retired at age 31. Almost 17 years later, another one of the greatest players to wear a Lions jersey unexpectedly retired in the prime of his career.
Detroit star wide receiver Calvin Johnson has reportedly told Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and his family that he plans to retire, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Caldwell and the Lions are still hopeful that the All-Pro known as Megatron will change his mind and play in 2016, but one person who knows Johnson well reportedly said, "He's pretty content with his decision."
Johnson has battled a number of injuries throughout the last few seasons. Recently, Johnson has suffered a lingering ankle injury and general soreness that stems from the beating he has taken during his nine-year career.
Apparently, Johnson's body has been so sore that he shared his decision to retire with only two players right after the 2015 season, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Stafford and Tulloch were requested by Johnson to keep it quiet and they granted his wishes.
Regarding the ESPN report, the Lions said they're standing by their statement released on Jan. 6, which was they had "profound respect for Calvin and certainly understand and appreciate his decision to give proper thought and consideration to his football future."
If Johnson does in fact retire, he will go down as one of the best wide receivers, if not players, of his generation. The 30-year-old is the Lions all-time receptions leader (731) and receiving yards leader (11,619), as well as touchdown catches (83). He has been named first-team All-Pro three times and this past season received his sixth straight invitation to the Pro Bowl.
Despite his nagging injuries this past season, Johnson played in all 16 games, catching 88 passes for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. It was Johnson's sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season and the seventh of his career.
Johnson's best season came in 2012 when he set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964. He also caught 122 balls and scored five touchdowns that same season.
While Johnson may not have the statistics that other wide receivers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame had, he should get heavy consideration for an induction into Canton as soon he becomes eligible in 2021.
Johnson was the quickest receiver to reach the 10,000-yard milestone and is 27th on the all-time list, just shy of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who was forced to retired prematurely after a spinal cord injury in 1999.
While Johnson has only made the postseason twice in his nine-year career, it wasn't his fault. Unlike many Hall of Fame receivers, Johnson played with average to mediocre quarterbacks during his tenure in Detroit.
Teams often knew he was the Lions' best player and the defense still could not stop Johnson from getting his hands on the football.
He may not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but with all of his accomplishments on the football field, Johnson should receive a gold jacket and a plaque at the Pro Football Hall of Fame some day. The Lions just hope he decides to postpone the timing for that honor and come back and play for a few more seasons.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
The role of the running back in football has seen a great change over the past couple of decades, in the college game as well as the NFL. Even though the game may be evolving in a different direction from the ground-and-pound style of eras past, there are still some wonderfully talented players finding success running the football.
The recruiting class of 2013 happened to turn out running backs that combined for back-to-back national championships and a Heisman Trophy between Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott and Alabama’s Derrick Henry, but the overall depth of that recruiting class is not as impressive compared to some other years. Some classes have offered some good depth but lacked top-of-the-class star power on the big stage. Each recruiting class, as is typically the case, has a way of having a unique story as the years go by, both at the college and NFL level.
Here is a look at how the running back recruiting classes have stacked up against each other over since 2002.
1. Class of 2003
Best of the Class: Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew, LenDale White
Best of the Rest: Austin Scott, Laurence Maroney, Tashard Choice, Alex Woodley, Michael Turner
Since the turn of the century we have not had too many recruiting classes bring with it a Heisman Trophy-winning running back, but the Class of 2003 had one of the best in Reggie Bush. The dynamic running back was one half of a strong running duo during USC’s national title run. LenDale White joined him as two of the top 10 backs in the class. UCLA’s Maurice Jones-Drew proved to be a solid running back as well, especially in the NFL. Between two first-round and two more second-round NFL draft picks, and a Heisman winner, not to mention a handful of others who would go on to play in the NFL – Laurence Maroney, Tashard Choice, Michael Turner – the Class of 2003 was a very strong one for running backs.
2. Class of 2006
Best of the Class: LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, C.J. Spiller, Toby Gerhart
Best of the Rest: Beanie Wells, Knowshon Moreno, Ben Tate
As good as the Class of 2003 was, 2006’s group was not very far behind. Two of the top NFL running backs today came from this class with Pitt’s LeSean McCoy and Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray. Clemson’s C.J. Spiller added some sizzle to the class as well before moving on to the NFL, and Stanford’s Toby Gerhart was one of the key players under Jim Harbaugh that helped transform the Cardinal program into what it is today. Throw in Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno and Ohio State’s Beanie Wells and you have the makings of a solid and deep running back recruiting class.
3. Class of 2004
Best of the Class: Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster
Best of the Rest: Mike Hart, Ian Johnson, Justin Forsett
The cream of the crop in the Class of 2004 was pretty darn good. A unanimous All-American in Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, who has gone to become a seven-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP. Cal’s Marshawn Lynch would earn Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and a pair of bowl game MVP honors before going on to be a Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowler. Tennessee’s Arian Foster has led the league in rushing touchdowns twice. Mike Hart set a Michigan freshman rushing record and ended his career as the school’s all-time ground gainer. Ian Johnson was an instrumental piece of Boise State’s rise to fame, helping the Broncos stun Peterson and the Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl.
4. Class of 2014
Best of the Class: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook
Best of the Rest: Samaje Perine, Nick Chubb, Royce Freeman, Joe Mixon, Sony Michel
It may be another year (or two) before we truly understand just how great this Class of 2014 may ultimately be, but it is looking stellar entering the 2016 season. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey was a Heisman finalist in 2015 and LSU’s Leonard Fournette was the clear and dominant front-runner for two-thirds of the same season before some late stumbles. Both should be in the race again this fall. So will Florida State’s flashy Dalvin Cook. This is a deep running back class too with Oklahoma’s duo of Samaje Perine (FBS single-game rushing record holder) and Joe Mixon. Georgia has a one-two punch as well with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and do not make the mistake of forgetting about Oregon’s Royce Freeman. This class is loaded and may end up going down as the best of its kind when all is said and done.
5. Class of 2002
Best of the Class: Maurice Clarett, DeAngelo Williams, Jerious Norwood
Best of the Rest: DeShawn Wynn, Ciatrick Fason
College football’s Class of 2002 may not have quite the level of achievement as some other classes, but it does carry one of the ultimate “what if” players in Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett. Clarett was arguably the most impressive freshman running back the game had seen since Herschel Walker and was a key player on Ohio State’s BCS title run against Miami. He set the Ohio State freshman rushing record but unfortunately saw his college career come to an end amid controversy. But this class had some strong positives as well, like first-round NFL Draft pick DeAngelo Williams of Memphis and third-round pick Jerious Norwood out of Mississippi State.
6. Class of 2012
Best of the Class: Duke Johnson, Todd Gurley, Ameer Abdullah, Mike Davis, Kenyan Drake
Best of the Rest: Tevin Coleman, Keith Marshall, Mario Pender, KeiVarae Russell, Dennis Norfleet,
How good was the Class of 2012? Georgia’s Todd Gurley, despite a serious knee injury, ended up being a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The class also turned out Duke Johnson from Miami, who earned All-ACC honors all three years he was on the field and was named the ACC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman also earned unanimous All-American status in 2014. Both Johnson and Coleman would go in the third round of the 2015 draft. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah was also in this bunch, and he was a second-round draft pick that quickly had an impact in the NFL with his all-purpose abilities. Mike Davis was a standout at South Carolina, carrying the torch from Marcus Lattimore and Kenyan Drake had some key contributions for Alabama.
7. Class of 2005
Best of the Class: Darren McFadden, Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart
Best of the Rest: Jamaal Charles, Mike Davis, Marlon Lucky, Antone Smith, LaMarcus Coker, Toney Baker
Moving down the list we come to the Class of 2005, which may not have been ripe with all-time talent but certainly had some impactful players. Perhaps no player had as huge an impact on his college program as Ray Rice at Rutgers. Rice finished his freshman season as a 1,000-yard rusher in the first winning season at Rutgers in 25 years and he would later be a valid candidate for the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. Rice would go on to be a second-round draft pick, but this class also had three first-round selections by NFL franchises – Darren McFadden of Arkansas, Jonathan Stewart of Oregon and Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois. Longhorns running back Jamal Charles was a third-round draft pick, but he has since become a four-time Pro Bowler for Kansas City.
8. Class of 2009
Best of the Class: Montee Ball, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy
Best of the Rest: Bryce Brown, Carlos Hyde, Knile Davis, Stepfan Taylor, Dri Archer, Dion Lewis
Wisconsin’s Montee Ball ended his collegiate career as the FBS’ all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and most career total touchdowns (marks since broken by Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds). For one week, Ball also held the single-game rushing record (it was broken by Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine the next week). Ball was a Heisman Trophy finalist and won the Doak Walker Award in 2012. That same class also turned in another Doak Walker Award winner with Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who made for quite a running combo with Eddie Lacy. Richardson and Lacy helped keep Alabama’s offensive foundation in strong hands and would combine for five BCS championship victories between them. This class also cooked up Knile Davis, Stepfan Taylor, Carlos Hyde and Dri Archer, each of who were huge players for their respective programs.
9. Class of 2008
Best of the Class: Mark Ingram, LaMichael James
Best of the Rest: Kenjon Barner, Andre Ellington, Tauren Poole, Cyrus Gray, Jonas Gray, Chris Polk, Jacquizz Rodgers
The Class of 2008 may not be particularly deep with star players, but the top two help carry the load. That includes Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram and Oregon’s LaMichael James. Ingram was a rock for Nick Saban and Alabama en route to a BCS championship in 2010, in which the bruising back won title game MVP honors. Ingram would later be the only running back chosen in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. LaMichael James, who actually beat out Ingram for the Doak Walker Award in 2010 and was a finalist for the Heisman that same year, would end up as a second-round draft pick a year later. The next-level guys in the class have had some NFL success as well, including Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers.
10. Class of 2011
Best of the Class: Melvin Gordon, Ka’Deem Carey, Tre Mason, Bishop Sankey, Devonta Freeman
Best of the Rest: De’Anthony Thomas, Isaiah Crowell, Kenny Hilliard, Javorius Allen, Akeem Hunt, Mike Bellamy, Jordan Canzeri
The Class of 2011 was a solid group of running backs, but also one without much fanfare outside of Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, a unanimous All-American, Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2014. Washington’s Bishop Sankey was a first-round draft pick in 2014 but played his college years in relative obscurity out west despite setting school rushing records previously held by Corey Dillon. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, a fourth-round pick in 2014, was more heralded, earning consensus All-American honors in 2012 and ‘13. Auburn’s Tre Mason helped the Tigers win an SEC title and play for a national title, and LSU’s Kenny Hilliard also won an SEC title. Devonta Freeman won a national title at Florida State but cashed in after that for the NFL after a 1,016-yard season on the ground.
11. Class of 2013
Best of the Class: Derrick Henry, Ezekiel Elliott, Alex Collins
Best of the Rest: Derrick Green, Kelvin Taylor, Corey Clement
Highlighting the Class of 2013 is Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry of Alabama and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, both now heading to the NFL. Following back-to-back College Football Playoff national championship runs between them. You may be hard-pressed to find two more running backs in the same class with that kind of success in a short period of time, and that helps carry what is an otherwise lacking running back class. That is not so say this is a class void of talent, but compared to other classes the jury is still out overall.
12. Class of 2007
Best of the Class: Joe McKnight, Noel Devine, Jonathan Dwyer
Best of the Rest: Shane Vereen, Fozzy Whittaker, Omar Bolden
The Class of 2007 was a relative down year for running backs, at least in the long-term view. Joe McKnight was a highly rated recruit for USC but never achieved more than third-team All-Pac-10 and honorable mention status. Noel Devine was a record-setting player at West Virginia and helped make a push for a national title shot in Morgantown and would later went undrafted. The most successful back out of this class might be Cal’s Shane Vereen. Vereen flew under the radar for much of his college career with just one season of more than 1,100 yards on the ground, but he would go on to be a second-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2011 and is still active today.
13. Class of 2010
Best of the Class: Marcus Lattimore, Giovani Bernard
Best of the Rest: Silas Redd, Michael Dyer, Lache Seastrunk, Zach Zwinak
The Class of 2010 looked like a solid crop of running backs at the time, but unfortunately some of the hype could not be matched for one reason or another. South Carolina landed the top running back with Marcus Lattimore, who was fantastic when healthy. Injuries would become a troubling trend for Lattimore though, both in college and prevented him from ever playing an NFL game. Up across the northern border, Giovani Bernard was busy racking up yards for North Carolina as well after battling back form his own injury woes early on. Bernard would go on to be an early second-round draft pick and the first running back off the board in 2013. The Class of 2010 also included Silas Redd, who split playing time between Penn State and USC. Michael Dyer helped Auburn win a national title before quickly going on another path that eventually led to Louisville. Lache Seastrunk predicted he would the Heisman Trophy, but needless to say that never happened.
14. Class of 2015
Best of the Class: Saquon Barkley,
Best of the Rest: LJ Scott, Ronald Jones II, Soso Jamabo, Damien Haris,
Lastly we have our most recent running back class leading into this year’s National Signing Day. There is still much to prove within this recruiting class but there are some early signs of promise. The early leader in the clubhouse is Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who earned second team All-Big Ten honors and was named the conference’s freshman of the year. Barkley showed what he can do by rushing for 194 yards against Ohio State and ended his freshman season with 1,076 yards and seven touchdowns behind an abysmal offensive line. Michigan State also got some good work out of LJ Scott en route to a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff spot. UCLA got a peek at what Soso Jamabo can do, but he played a complementary role as a freshman. We’ll see where this class goes in 2016.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com, TheComeback.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
Your team wins the Super Bowl and you've been drinking... what comes next? Babies of course.
The "Super Bowl Babies Choir" team up with singer Seal and make a pretty awesome commercial to get you in the mood. It makes perfect sense. Happiness, alcohol, and canoodling. Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" gets the remix you never thought it needed.
Carolina and Denver parents watch out, your next bundle of joy could be right around the corner.
Just when it looked like somebody — in this case, the Big Ten — had finally knocked the SEC off its lofty perch in the football universe, the Southerners responded this year with an emphatic and collective, "Not so fast!"
Last year at this time it was the Big Ten doing all the bragging. Not only did Big Ten champ Ohio State conquer the college football world, extending the SEC's absence from the throne to two years, but just a few weeks after the Buckeyes won college football's biggest prize, the two quarterbacks matching up for pro football's most coveted trophy were Big Ten guys — New England's Tom Brady, a Michigan alum, and Seattle's Russell Wilson, a Wisconsin alum.
Brady came out on top, of course, giving the Big Ten back-to-back Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks with Wilson's Seahawks having won the year before. But it didn't stop with the quarterbacks last year. Big Ten member Wisconsin led all teams with six players represented on the two Super Bowl rosters and the Big Ten as a whole led all conferences with 27 players.
Guess all that was enough to wake up the slumbering SEC.
And, like last year for the Big Ten, it started this year in the college ranks. First came the Heisman Trophy, which went to an SEC guy over a Pac-12 guy and an ACC guy. Then came the College Football Playoff, and that's when SEC champ Alabama manhandled Big Ten champ Michigan State, 38-0, in the semis before holding off Clemson, 45-40, in the national title game to return the SEC to the mountaintop of college football.
But it wasn't just Alabama carrying high the SEC banner. The conference turned out a record nine postseason wins with seven of those victories coming in full-blown, muscle-flexing fashion — victories by more than 20 points.
And now, just a few weeks after that SEC-tinted finish to the college football season, comes a Super Bowl that features not one but two quarterbacks from the SEC — Tennessee's Peyton Manning and Auburn's Cam Newton. It marks the third time in Super Bowl history that two SEC quarterbacks will go head-to-head. In Super Bowl XI in 1977, when the Oakland Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings, it was Alabama's Ken Stabler besting Georgia's Fran Tarkenton. And in Super Bowl XLI in 2007, when the Indianapolis Colts downed the Chicago Bears, it was Manning outdueling Florida's Rex Grossman.
And there's more good news for the SEC heading into this year's Super Bowl in Santa Clara.
Super Bowl 50 Power 5 Conference Representation*
*Includes active roster and injured reserve.
And there's more good news... for the SEC. Regardless of what happens this coming Sunday night, it looks like Newton will in all likelihood take home MVP honors for the 2015 season, giving SEC folks just one more reason to belt out that now-familiar chant of "S-E-C, S-E-C!"
That so-called end of the run for the SEC so many were proclaiming this time last year? Well, a Heisman Trophy, a record-setting college football postseason, a national championship, two Super Bowl quarterbacks, a No. 1 position in Super Bowl roster representation and a probable league MVP trophy — all over the span of the past two months — tells a different story.
Here are a few more conference and team-related notes in regards to this year's Super Bowl:
*How do the conferences stack up in terms of Super Bowl star power? Seven members of the Associated Press' All-Pro first team — six Panthers and one Bronco — are set to play Sunday in Levi's Stadium. The SEC leads the way with three of those standouts — Newton, Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis (Georgia), and Denver linebacker Von Miller (Texas A&M). The surprising second-place conference in this respect is the FCS' Big South with two All-Pros. Carolina cornerback Josh Norman and fullback Mike Tolbert both played their college ball at Coastal Carolina. After that, comes the Pac-12 (Carolina center Ryan Kalil, USC) and the ACC (Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Boston College). It probably should be noted that Texas A&M was a member of the Big 12 when Miller suited up for the Aggies from 2007-10.
*What about the two coaching staffs? Well, in terms of the head coaches, it's Pac-12 vs. SEC. Carolina's Ron Rivera is a Cal alum, while Denver's Gary Kubiak played at Texas A&M, albeit back when it was a Southwest Conference member. Mix in the two offensive coordinators and two defensive coordinators, and you add another SEC rep (Carolina OC Mike Shula, Alabama), a Mountain West rep (Denver OC Rick Dennison, Colorado State), a Colonial Athletic Association rep (Carolina DC Sean McDermott, William & Mary) and an American Athletic Conference rep (Denver DC Wade Phillips, Houston).
*As far as teams represented, it's Ohio State leading the way with six (four Panthers, two Broncos). The Buckeyes are followed by Tennessee with four (three Broncos, one Panther), Georgia Tech with four (two Panthers, two Broncos), Florida with three (three Broncos), Arizona State with three (three Broncos), Alabama with three (two Panthers, one Bronco), Auburn with three (three Panthers), Oregon State with three (three Panthers), Georgia with three (three Panthers), Oregon with three (two Panthers, one Bronco) and Notre Dame with three (two Broncos, one Panther).
*Wondering about some of the more unusual college teams and conferences represented in this year's Super Bowl? Carolina has a backup tight end, Scott Simonson, who played his college ball at Northeast-10 Conference member Assumption College, a private, Roman Catholic, liberal arts college in Worcester, Mass. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Simonson has one catch for 10 yards on the season. Perhaps the most well-known Assumption alum right now is Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. The Panthers also have a reserve running back, Brandon Wegher, who previously starred at Morningside College, a private, liberal arts college in Sioux City, Iowa. The little-known, NAIA-level college is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is a member of the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Athlon Sports & Life, in partnership with Geico, has released Trivia-Fu, a new sports trivia app to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. The free app allows players to challenge friends or random opponents to trivia battles featuring 10,000 Super Bowl-related questions across 50 levels. Leaderboards keep track of players' progress, while points are awarded for increased levels of question difficulty (easy, medium, hard).
Gameplay is simple. Connect to Facebook to challenge a friend or go it alone and play against a random foe. Answer as many questions as you can to rack up points in each quarter, but remember to keep an eye on that play clock. Play smart, it only takes one wrong answer before you turn the ball over to your opponent.
Stuck on a question? No problem! Call a timeout and play a Coin Flip card to eliminate two incorrect answers, or maybe play the Substitution card to request a new question. You're limited to three timeouts per match, so use those cards wisely.
Think you know your Super Bowl trivia? Here are a few sample questions from the game to test your knowledge.
Easy: Who is featured in the famous “Hey Kid, Catch!” Coca-Cola commercial during the Super Bowl?
A. Joe Namath
B. Joe Greene
C. Joe Montana
D. John Madden
Medium: Which was the first team to play in three consecutive Super Bowls?
A. Miami Dolphins
B. Buffalo Bills
C. New England Patriots
D. Green Bay Packers
Hard: Who made the tackle on the “One Yard Short” play in Super Bowl XXXIV?
A. London Fletcher
B. Tommy Polley
C. Mike Jones
D. Keith Lyle
Answers: B. Joe Greene; A. Miami Dolphins; C. Mike Jones
Spring practice for nearly all 128 college football teams is slated to start in March, but it’s never too early to preview the quarterback position and how some of the new faces blend in with the returning stars. It’s no secret quarterback play is critical to the success of any program. First-year starting quarterbacks have experienced success at a high level recently, as three of the playoff teams in 2015 had a new starter under center.
With spring practice inching closer for all 128 teams, Athlon Sports is taking an early look at the quarterback position by ranking every starter for 2016. This list could look a lot different by August, especially once some of the battles are settled at Power 5 programs. Our rankings are compiled by using many factors including career stats so far, 2015 statistics, pro potential, projection for 2016, value to the team, recruiting background and just overall talent. Think of this list as an early power ranking for 2016, with tweaks expected at the end of spring and prior to Week 1.
Ranking Every FBS QB for 2016: Pre-Spring Edition
128. Emiere Scaife, Georgia State
Scaife is penciled in as the favorite, but Utah transfer Conner Manning is eligible immediately and will push for time this offseason.
127. Dallas Davis, South Alabama
Davis gets the early nod as South Alabama’s next quarterback after completing 11 of 23 throws for 108 yards and one score last season.
126. Nate German, Rice
German is an intriguing prospect for coach David Bailiff, but he has only two pass attempts in his career. He spent 2015 at receiver and caught 18 passes for 379 yards and three scores.
125. Josh Allen, Wyoming
Wyoming has a wide-open race at quarterback this offseason. Allen was lost for the year after an injury against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 12 but showed promise in limited snaps (3 of 4 for 32 yards).
124. Kevin Olsen, Charlotte
Former Miami quarterback has landed at Charlotte after spending time at Riverside City College. He threw for 1,080 yards and 13 scores in 2015.
123. Devin Powell, Tulane
Tulane is switching to a new offense under coach Willie Fritz, and the quarterback situation heads into spring with plenty of question marks. Tanner Lee transferred, and a couple of quarterbacks join the team from the 2016 recruiting class.
122. George Bollas, Kent State
Bollas and Colin Reardon split time under center for the Golden Flashes in 2015. Bollas tossed two touchdowns and six picks on 167 attempts but showcased his rushing ability by ranking second on the team with 275 yards.
121. Billy Bahl, Miami (Ohio)
Bahl tossed 13 interceptions last season but seven of those came in a two-game stretch (WKU and Ohio). He rebounded late in the year with steady performances against Eastern Michigan and UMass.
120. Ford Childress, Fresno State
Fresno State’s offseason makeover is underway, as Eric Kiesau was hired as the team’s new play-caller, and Zack Greenlee announced his intentions to transfer. Childress is listed here as the starter, but Kilton Anderson and Chason Virgil aren’t far behind.
119. Ikaika Woosley, Hawaii
Nick Rolovich is a good hire for the Rainbow Warriors, but the former Hawaii quarterback opens his first spring with uncertainty under center.
118. Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech
Higgins is penciled in as the early favorite to replace Jeff Driskel, but Price Wilson is one to watch this offseason.
117. Ross Comis, UMass
Life as a FBS Independent will be challenging for UMass, but Comis looks like a solid replacement for Blake Frohnapfel. Comis completed 15 of 21 throws for 171 yards and two touchdowns last year.
116. Jason Driskel, FAU
Jaquez Johnson was limited at times due to injury in 2015, which allowed Driskel to gain valuable snaps for 2016. He completed 77 of 151 passes for 965 yards and three scores, including a 385-yard performance against Buffalo.
115. Dalton Sturm, UTSA
Sturm – a walk-on – stepped into the starting lineup after Blake Bogenschutz was lost for the season due to a concussion. He threw for 1,354 yards and 13 scores and rushed for 361 yards and one touchdown.
114. Grant Rohach, Buffalo
Iowa State transfer is penciled in as the favorite here, but redshirt freshman Tyree Jackson is a name to watch.
113. Perry Hills, Maryland
Maryland’s starter for 2016 is uncertain after three quarterbacks combined to throw 29 picks last year.
112. Jordan Davis, UL Lafayette
Davis played well in the Ragin’ Cajuns final two contests of 2015 and has a favorable path to the starting job after Jalen Nixon was moved to running back.
111. Ahmad Bradshaw, Army
Coach Jeff Monken has two quarterbacks – Bradshaw and Chris Carter – he can build around in 2016.
110. Tyler Rogers, New Mexico State
Rogers threw for 974 yards and seven scores through the first four games of 2015. However, he missed the rest of the year due to injury. Southern Miss graduate transfer Tyler Matthews will push Rogers for the starting job.
109. Justice Hansen, Arkansas State
Hansen is a former Oklahoma quarterback who spent 2015 at Butler Community College. He threw for 1,694 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 226 yards and four scores on the ground. Hansen will compete with James Tabary for the starting job this offseason.
108. Kurt Palandech, UNLV
Palandech is expected to open the offseason as the starter, but junior college recruit Johnny Stanton is a name to watch.
107. Alec Morris, North Texas
Landing Morris as a graduate transfer from Alabama is a huge pickup for new coach Seth Littrell. Morris attempted only one pass in three seasons with the Crimson Tide but should be a good fit in Littrell’s offense.
106. Shuler Bentley, Old Dominion
Bentley opened the year as Old Dominion’s starter but was benched late in the year in favor of David Washington. However, Bentley was pressed into action again when Washington suffered an ACL tear against Southern Miss and responded with back-to-back three touchdown performances to end the year. Will Washington regain the starting job this offseason? The winner of this battle should be higher by August.
105. Bart Houston, Wisconsin
Houston was a big-time pickup for Wisconsin on the recruiting trail, but he’s attempted only 51 passes in three seasons of playing time. He completed 27 of 47 throws for 281 yards in limited snaps last year.
104. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
Coach Derek Mason removed the redshirt from Shurmur midway through 2015. He won his first start against Missouri (10 of 20 for 89 yards) and completed 13 of 26 passes for 166 yards and two scores in the 21-17 victory over Kentucky. Shurmur is a promising player to watch in 2016.
103. Zander Diamont, Indiana
Diamont has seven starts in his two seasons with the Hoosiers, but he’s not guaranteed the job next fall. Junior college recruit Richard Lagow is the name to watch this offseason.
102. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Ertz was lost for the year after a season-ending injury on the first series of 2015. He’s penciled in as Kansas State’s starter here, but redshirt freshman Alex Delton and Joe Hubener are in the mix.
101. Christian Chapman, San Diego State
Starter Maxwell Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury in late November, forcing Chapman to start the final two games of 2015. He aced his first on-field tests, throwing for 203 yards and one touchdown against Air Force in the Mountain West title game and 113 yards in the Hawaii Bowl win against Cincinnati.
100. Perry Orth, South Carolina
The addition of Kurt Roper as South Carolina’s play-caller should help an offense that averaged only 20.1 points a game in SEC contests last season. Orth is slated to compete with Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nunez and incoming freshman Brandon McIlwain for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
99. Chris Laviano, Rutgers
Laviano edged Hayden Rettig for the starting job last season and finished the year with 2,247 yards and 16 touchdowns. The offensive scheme is changing with a new staff in place, and Laviano will have to compete for the job once again.
98. Nate Romine, Air Force
Romine suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 last season. He was granted an extra year of eligibility and is expected to return as the starter.
97. Kurt Benkert, East Carolina
Benkert was slated to start for East Carolina last season, but a torn ACL in August sidelined him for the entire year.
96. Troy Williams, Utah
Former Washington signal-caller spent 2015 at Santa Monica College and returns to the Pac-12 after a standout year in the junior college ranks.
95. JD Sprague, Ohio
Sprague has played in 17 games over the last two years and threw for 275 yards and three scores in a start against Ball State in 2015.
94. Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
Wilkins did not attempt a pass in four appearances last season but rushed for 55 yards on seven carries. He will be pushed by promising redshirt freshman Brady White this spring.
93. Ryan Willis, Kansas
Willis was one of the few bright spots for Kansas in an 0-12 season. He passed for 1,719 yards and nine scores as a true freshman and nearly led the Jayhawks to upset wins over Texas Tech and TCU.
92. Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan
Roback finished 2015 with solid back-to-back performances and is the clear starter for 2016 with Reginald Bell transferring from Eastern Michigan.
91. Mack Leftwich, UTEP
UTEP’s offense is under the direction of new play-caller Brent Pease, and Leftwich is expected to be pushed by Ryan Metz and Kavika Johnson for the starting job this spring.
90. Tago Smith, Navy
It’s no secret Keenan Reynolds will be missed. However, Navy’s offense should be in good hands with Smith at the controls.
89. Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Paxton Lynch left early for the NFL Draft, but Memphis has an intriguing option stepping into the starting lineup. Ferguson – a former Tennessee quarterback – arrives in Memphis after throwing for 2,942 yards and 35 scores at Coffeyville Community College in 2015.
88. David Blough, Purdue
Blough showed promise in his first action with the Boilermakers, including a four-touchdown performance against Nebraska. He will be working with a new coordinator (Terry Malone) in 2016.
87. James Knapke, Bowling Green
Knapke started 13 games and passed for 3,173 yards after Matt Johnson was lost for the season in 2014. What tweaks will new coach Mike Jinks and his staff make on Bowling Green’s offense this offseason?
86. Riley Neal, Ball State
Mike Neu – a former Ball State quarterback – takes over in Muncie after Pete Lembo left to be an assistant at Maryland. Neal is one of the promising pieces for Neu to build around after throwing for 2,276 yards and 16 scores last season.
85. Matt Linehan, Idaho
Linehan cut his interceptions from 18 in 2014 to 11 last year and finished 2015 with a solid performance (21 of 31 for 309 yards and two touchdowns) against Texas State.
84. Bryant Shirreffs, UConn
NC State transfer helped UConn’s offense take a small step forward last year. Shirreffs threw for 2,078 yards and nine scores but also added 503 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
83. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Replacing arguably the best player in school history – Dak Prescott – is no easy task for coach Dan Mullen. Nick Fitzgerald is penciled in as the early favorite, but Elijah Staley is a name to watch this spring.
82. Luke Del Rio, Florida
Florida’s passing attack struggled in the second half of the season, and it’s safe to assume someone other than Treon Harris will take the first snap for coach Jim McElwain in 2016. Del Rio – an Oregon State transfer – is considered the favorite, but Purdue transfer Austin Appleby and true freshman Feleipe’ Franks are in the mix.
81. Chase Forrest, California
The battle to replace Jared Goff is set to begin this spring. Forrest is considered the early favorite, but Ross Bowers and Luke Rubenzer will compete for the No. 1 job.
Related: Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2016
80. Matt Davis, SMU
SMU should be better in its second season under coach Chad Morris. Quarterback play is under the spotlight, as Davis led the team with 761 rushing yards and threw for 2,263 yards and 16 scores. However, redshirt freshman Ben Hicks could push for the starting job.
79. Jerrod Heard, Texas
Texas enters another offseason with question marks on offense. New play-caller Sterlin Gilbert is tasked with implementing a spread attack that can jumpstart an offense that averaged only 25.3 points in Big 12 games last season. Heard can be a dynamic quarterback for the Longhorns, but he will be pushed for snaps by incoming freshman Shane Buechele.
78. Nelson Fishback, WKU
Fishback finished 2015 as Brandon Doughty’s backup, but coach Jeff Brohm has several options waiting to compete for the starting job. Two transfers – Mike White (USF) and Tyler Ferguson (Louisville) – will push Fishback for the starting nod this offseason. The winner of this quarterback battle should be higher on this list by August.
77. Justin Holman, UCF
Injuries and new faces in the supporting cast prevented Holman from building off his 2014 season (2,952 yards and 23 scores). New coach Scott Frost should help Holman get back on track.
76. Trace McSorley, Penn State
Penn State got an early preview of 2016 in the Gator Bowl, as McSorley replaced an injured Christian Hackenberg. McSorley completed 14 of 27 throws for 142 yards and two scores and showcased his mobility by adding 31 yards on the ground. How will McSorley and the Nittany Lions offense adapt to new coordinator Joe Moorhead?
75. Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock was thrown into the fire as a true freshman last season and passed for 1,332 yards and four scores. With a full offseason to work as the starter, the former four-star recruit should be better equipped for his second tour through the SEC.
74. Lamar Jordan, New Mexico
Jordan and Austin Apodaca formed an effective two-quarterback system for the Lobos last season. Jordan started 12 of 13 games for New Mexico and finished third on the team with 807 rushing yards.
73. Garrett Smith, ULM
A shoulder injury ended Smith’s season prematurely, but he showed plenty of promise in 10 games, throwing for 2,033 yards and 17 scores.
72. Brandon Silvers, Troy
Troy’s offense showed slight improvement under first-year coach Neal Brown last season. Silvers missed one game but finished the year with 2,378 yards and 20 scores. He’s tossed just 10 picks in 601 career attempts.
71. Tyler Stewart, Nevada
Stewart was steady in his first season as the Nevada starter. He ranked third on the team with 322 rushing yards and four touchdowns and threw for 2,139 yards and 15 scores. Improving the completion percentage (57.1) and generating more big plays in the passing game are two priorities for Stewart and Nevada’s offense to work on this offseason.
70. Logan Woodside, Toledo
Phillip Ely’s season-ending injury in 2014 pressed Woodside into action, and the Kentucky native threw for 2,263 yards and 19 scores in 12 games. With Ely back under center last year, Woodside was able to use 2015 as a redshirt year.
69. Joel Lanning, Iowa State
New coach Matt Campbell has a track record of success on offense and inherits a few talented pieces to work with next fall. How quickly will Lanning adapt to the new scheme in 2016?
68. Dwayne Lawson, Virginia Tech
Lawson is unproven and isn’t guaranteed to win the starting job. However, new coach Justin Fuente has a good track record at developing quarterbacks. Whether it’s Lawson, Brenden Motley or junior college recruit Jerod Evans, the Hokies should find the right answer under center.
67. Jalan McClendon, NC State
Former four-star recruit has waited his turn behind Jacoby Brissett and played sparingly (8 of 14 for 69 yards) last season. An intriguing option for new coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz.
66. Darell Garretson, Oregon State
Garretson sat out 2015 after transferring from Utah State. In two seasons with the Aggies, Garretson threw for 2,576 yards and 18 touchdowns. Former Utah State coordinator Kevin McGiven coached Garretson from 2013-14 and is slated to call the plays for the Beavers in 2016.
65. John Franklin, Auburn
After watching Jeremy Johnson and Sean White combine for 11 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in 2015, it was clear the Tigers needed a boost at quarterback. Franklin joins the competition from the junior college ranks, and the former Florida State signal-caller should be a good fit for coach Gus Malzahn’s offense.
64. Drew Barker, Kentucky
With Patrick Towles transferring to Boston College, it’s Barker’s time to take control of Kentucky’s offense.
63. Austin Allen, Arkansas
It’s safe to assume the winner of Arkansas’ quarterback battle will rank higher on this list by August. Dan Enos was one of the top coordinator hires of last offseason and helped Brandon Allen develop into an All-SEC quarterback. USC transfer Ricky Town is expected to push Austin Allen for the starting job.
62. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Thorson is talented – No. 188 overall recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite – and guided Northwestern to 10 wins in 2015. While his running skills are a huge asset for the offense, Thorson is still developing as a passer (7 TDs, 1,522 yards).
61. John Wolford, Wake Forest
Wolford has showed promise in his first two seasons with the Demon Deacons, but injuries and a shaky offensive line prevented him from building off his freshman passing totals.
Related: Early ACC Predictions for 2016
60. Matt Johns, Virginia
Johns’ 20 touchdown passes last season tied for third among ACC quarterbacks. However, he also tossed 17 picks and has to adapt to a new play-caller (Robert Anae).
59. Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Dungey showed a lot of promise in limited action last season and is expected to take control of Dino Babers’ high-powered offense.
58. Thomas Woodson, Akron
Woodson assumed the starting quarterback job for the Zips in the fourth game of the year and finished 2015 with 2,793 total yards. His emergence was a key cog in Akron finishing 8-5 – the best mark in program history – and the first bowl win for the school.
57. Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State
Connor Cook was the Big Ten’s best quarterback last season, but the Spartans got an early preview of the 2016 signal-caller battle when Cook was sidelined against Ohio State. O’Connor helped Michigan State pull off the upset by completing 7 of 12 passes for 89 yards and one score. He will compete with Damion Terry this spring for the starting job.
56. Alex McGough, FIU
McGough is quietly developing into one of Conference USA’s top quarterbacks. In 12 games last season, he completed 269 of 420 throws for 2,722 yards and 21 touchdowns.
55. Keller Chryst, Stanford
Chryst has big shoes to fill in replacing Kevin Hogan. The California native ranked as the No. 51 overall recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and completed 5 of 9 passes for 59 yards and one score in limited action last season.
54. Tyler Jones, Texas State
Jones was expected to push for all-conference honors in 2015, but his passing yards and touchdowns dropped, while his interceptions increased to 10. However, Jones has rushed for at least 500 yards in back-to-back seasons. Should rebound under new coordinator Brett Elliott.
53. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Knight is eligible immediately after transferring from Oklahoma. With Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen leaving College Station, Knight is expected to start over Jake Hubenak this fall.
52. Kent Myers, Utah State
Chuckie Keeton has expired his eligibility, which means the full-time job under center is expected to go to Myers. He’s had his share of promising moments over the last two years and accounted for 1,950 total yards and 19 scores in 2015.
51. Nick Stevens, Colorado State
Stevens’ first season as Colorado State’s starter had its share of ups and downs, but he finished the year with 2,965 yards and 24 passing scores. Additionally, Stevens earned second-team All-Mountain West honors.
50. Blake Barnett, Alabama
Barnett is the highest-ranked quarterback signed by Nick Saban at Alabama. After a redshirt year, he should be the frontrunner to start over Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell.
Related: Very Early Top 25 for 2016
49. Chase Litton, Marshall
Rakeem Cato left big shoes to fill at Marshall, but coach Doc Holliday appears to have his next star at quarterback. Litton threw for 2,605 yards and 23 scores last season and completed at least 60 percent of his passes in four out of the last five games.
48. Max Browne, USC
Browne – a five-star recruit – has patiently waited his turn behind Cody Kessler. It’s a limited sample size, but Browne was sharp in three appearances in 2015 (8 of 12 for 113 yards).
47. Brandon Harris, LSU
LSU’s national title hopes could hinge on Harris’ development this offseason. He threw for 13 touchdowns and 2,158 yards but struggled late in the year against Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
46. Jacob Eason, Georgia
It’s not easy starting as a true freshman at quarterback in the SEC, but Eason – the No. 2 quarterback and a five-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite – is up to the task. Assuming he wins the job over Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey, Eason should move up this list by August.
45. Kenny Potter, San Jose State
Potter was a good find for coach Ron Caragher out of the junior college ranks. In his first season at the FBS level, Potter threw for 1,984 yards and 15 scores and ranked second on the team with 415 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
44. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois
Hare was on his way to a solid 2015 campaign but a season-ending Achilles injury in early November prevented him from playing in Northern Illinois’ final five games. An Achilles injury isn’t an easy recovery, but Hare will be back as one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC.
43. John O’Korn, Michigan
O’Korn is the leader to replace Jake Rudock on a crowded Michigan quarterback depth chart. He threw for 3,117 yards and 28 scores as a freshman in 2013 but took a step back (951 yards and six touchdowns) and was replaced by Greg Ward in 2014.
Related: Early Big Ten Predictions for 2016
42. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota
Leidner showed improvement as a passer in 2015 and finished the season on a high note (223 yards, 1 TD) against Central Michigan. How big of a difference will new coordinator Jay Johnson make with this offense next season?
41. Favian Upshaw, Georgia Southern
Looking for a breakout star for 2016? Take a look at Upshaw. He gashed Bowling Green for 199 rushing yards and four scores in the GoDaddy Bowl and averaged 7.3 yards per carry in limited snaps last season. Kevin Ellison also returns in 2016, giving the Eagles two outstanding options at the position.
40. Patrick Towles, Boston College
Towles is eligible right away as a graduate transfer from Kentucky. After a promising 2014 campaign (2,718 yards, 14 TDs), Towles took a step back and was later benched in favor of Drew Barker. Expect Towles to benefit from a fresh start in Chestnut Hill.
39. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh
Tennessee transfer was solid (20 TDs) in his first season with the Panthers. Has to find a new go-to target with receiver Tyler Boyd off to the NFL.
38. P.J. Walker, Temple
Walker already owns the school record for touchdown passes (52) and is poised to finish his career at Temple as the program’s all-time leading passing yardage.
37. Dane Evans, Tulsa
Evans showed marked improvement under first-year coach Philip Montgomery, throwing for 4,332 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2015. The Texas native will be one of the top quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference next fall.
36. Sean Maguire, Florida State
Maguire isn’t guaranteed to start next fall, as Florida State has two talented freshmen – Malik Henry and Deondre Francois – waiting in the wings.
35. Skyler Howard, West Virginia
Howard finished the 2015 season on a high note with 532 passing yards and five scores in the Cactus Bowl win over Arizona State. Cutting down on the picks (14) and raising the completion percentage (54.8) are two areas for Howard to work on for next season.
Related: Early Big 12 Predictions for 2016
34. Dakota Prukop, Oregon
The Ducks are taking the FCS graduate transfer route once again to find their next starting quarterback. Prukop is one of the hardest quarterbacks to rank on this list. He earned first-team All-America honors by the Associated Press in 2015 after accumulating 3,822 total yards and 39 scores. How quickly will he adapt to the Pac-12?
33. Wes Lunt, Illinois
Lunt certainly has the talent to be one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks. Is this the year he puts it all together?
32. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Armstrong has the most career passing yards (6,691) of any Big Ten quarterback returning next fall. Cutting down on the interceptions (16 in 2015) is his top priority in 2016.
31. Kenny Hill, TCU
Kenny Trill is back after sitting out 2015 due to NCAA transfer rules. He passed for 2,649 yards and 23 scores before losing the starting job at Texas A&M in 2014. Has big shoes to fill in replacing Trevone Boykin.
30. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Trubisky spent the last two seasons as the backup to Marquise Williams and is ready for an opportunity to be the full-time starter for the Tar Heels in 2016. In limited action last season, Trubisky threw for 555 yards and six touchdowns and completed 40 of 47 passes. Trubisky is poised to be one of the ACC’s breakout stars.
Related: Early ACC Predictions for 2016
29. Thomas Sirk, Duke
Sirk is the next standout quarterback for coach David Cutcliffe. Work remains as a passer, but he added 803 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in 2015.
28. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
What a difference a year makes. Georgia Tech went from the champion of the ACC’s Coastal Division to a 3-9 team. Thomas is the catalyst for the Yellow Jackets’ offense, and coach Paul Johnson’s team needs him to resemble the player that rushed for 1,086 yards in 2014.
27. Tanner Mangum, BYU
Taysom Hill’s season-ending injury in the opener was a big loss for the Cougars, but Mangum kept BYU’s offense performing at a high level. In his first snaps in a BYU uniform, Mangum helped lead the team to wins over Nebraska, Boise State, Utah State and Cincinnati. Former four-star recruit is poised to take another step forward next season.
26. Davis Webb, Colorado
Webb is eligible immediately at Colorado after transferring from Texas Tech. He had back-to-back seasons of at least 20 touchdowns with the Red Raiders in 2013-14. Sefo Liufau’s status for 2016 is in doubt after an injury suffered late in the 2015 season.
25. Brett Rypien, Boise State
As a true freshman last year, Rypien was the Mountain West’s top quarterback (3,350 yards, 20 TDs). Ryan Finley is back from injury and will compete with Rypien for the starting job.
24. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
Kiel missed three games and had an up-and-down season in 2015. However, he’s also the quarterback that threw for 3,254 yards and 31 scores in 2014 and should rebound next fall.
23. Brent Stockstill, MTSU
Stockstill was one of the nation’s top freshman quarterbacks in 2015 and should thrive under new play-caller Tony Franklin. Stockstill’s 327 completions last season were the most by a freshman in FBS history.
22. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
Central Michigan struggled to establish its ground attack, leaving Rush to carry the offensive workload in 2015. He responded with 3,848 passing yards (a career high) and 25 passing scores.
21. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
The state of Michigan should be home to the MAC’s top quarterbacks in 2016. Terrell gets a slight nod over Cooper Rush in our early MAC rankings, but both quarterbacks should have big seasons. Terrell threw for 3,526 yards and 29 scores last year.
20. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State
Despite throwing for 2,387 yards and 31 touchdowns and adding 436 yards and six scores on the ground, Lamb flew under the national radar last season. Expect that to change in 2016 as he’s the best quarterback returning in the Sun Belt.
19. Quinton Flowers, South Florida
Flowers turned in a breakout year in 2015 and helped USF make a four-game jump in the win column. Another offseason to work with coach Willie Taggart should help Flowers take the next step in his development as a passer.
18. Anu Solomon, Arizona
Injuries prevented Solomon from building off his freshman season, but he finished strong with 329 passing yards and two scores in the New Mexico Bowl.
17. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss
Coach Todd Monken left Hattiesburg for the NFL, but Southern Miss is still the favorite to win Conference USA’s West Division in 2016 with Mullens returning for his senior season after throwing 38 touchdowns last year.
16. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Jackson enters the offseason firmly entrenched as Louisville’s No. 1 quarterback. The Florida native has room to grow as a passer (54.7 completion percentage in 2015), but showcased his dynamic, play-making ability with 960 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
15. Jake Browning, Washington
Browning is one of the top rising stars in the nation. After a solid freshman season (2,955 yards and 16 passing scores), Browning should push for all-conference honors in 2016.
14. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Beathard was a big reason why Iowa climbed into playoff contention and nearly won the Big Ten title last season. He threw for 2,809 yards and 17 scores and ranked fourth on the team with 237 rushing yards last season.
13. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
A foot injury late in the year hindered Rudolph against Oklahoma and Ole Miss, but he took a clear step forward in his development and is poised for an even better 2016 campaign.
12. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Dobbs led all SEC quarterbacks with 671 rushing yards last season and posted solid totals (2,291 yards and 15 touchdowns) as a passer. Dobbs needs to generate more big plays in the passing game after Tennessee finished ninth in the SEC in passing plays of 30 yards or more in 2015.
11. Malik Zaire, Notre Dame
Will Zaire take the first snap for Notre Dame next fall? Or will DeShone Kizer hold onto the starting job after taking over for Zaire due to injury in 2015? The winner of this battle could be a few spots higher this fall.
10. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Rosen would be higher on this list if we simply ranked based on pure talent. He passed for 3,669 yards and 23 scores as a true freshman in 2015 and is only going to get better with more snaps.
Related: Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2016
9. Luke Falk, Washington State
Falk led the nation in 2015 by averaging 380.1 yards per game and was tied for fourth with 38 touchdown passes. Expect even bigger numbers in his second year at the controls of coach Mike Leach’s offense.
8. Brad Kaaya, Miami
Kaaya’s touchdown total dipped from 26 (2014) to 16 in 2015. However, his yardage was up and completion percentage increased by nearly three points. Should have a huge season under the direction of new coach Mark Richt.
7. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Mahomes directs Texas Tech’s high-powered attack and accounted for 46 overall scores last season. He also ranked fourth nationally by averaging 357.9 passing yards per game in 2015.
6. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Kelly passed for 31 scores and 4,042 yards in his first year in Oxford. Supporting cast is a question mark in 2016 after left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Laquon Treadwell departed early for the NFL, but Kelly is the clear No. 1 quarterback in the SEC next season.
Related: Early SEC Predictions for 2016
5. Greg Ward, Houston
Coach Tom Herman is one of the nation’s top offensive coaches, and Ward will continue to thrive under his direction. He accounted for 281.1 total yards per game and 38 overall touchdowns last season.
4. Seth Russell, Baylor
A neck injury ended Russell’s 2015 season in late October. But prior to the injury, Russell was setting a torrid pace, tossing 29 scores and only six picks on 200 attempts. Can he hold off Jarrett Stidham for the starting job?
3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
After a back-and-forth battle with Cardale Jones last season, Barrett is the clear leader and answer at quarterback for Ohio State. Expect to see Barrett resemble the player that scored 45 touchdowns as a freshman next fall.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mayfield was the driving force behind Oklahoma’s improvement on offense and run to the Big 12 title and playoff appearance. Under the direction of new coordinator Lincoln Riley, Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 36 scores and his mobility (405 yards and seven touchdowns) was a huge asset behind an offensive line that struggled at times.
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson set the bar high in his first season as the full-time starter for Clemson. And it's not crazy to suggest he could be even better as a junior next fall. Watson passed for 35 touchdowns and 4,104 yards and guided the Tigers to an appearance in the national title game last season. His supporting cast remains one of the best in the nation, and top receiver Mike Williams is back after missing nearly all of 2015 with a neck injury.
An 18-year-old Virginia Tech student has been charged with the abduction and murder of 13-year-old Nicole Madison Lovell.
According to The Roanoke Times, Lovell had been missing since Wednesday and her remains were found near NC Highway 89, which is just inside the North Carolina border. Days later they arrested Virginia Tech's David Edmond Eisenhauer. He was charged with abduction but once Lovell's remains were found, the charges of first-degree murder came.
Eisenhauer was a Virginia Tech freshman on the cross country team.
"In the case of a felony arrest, the university has the authority to place a student on interim suspension," a Virginia Tech spokesperson said. "The entire Virginia Tech community extends its support to Nicole's family and friends."
A second Tech student was also charged with helping Eisenhauer dispose of Lovell's body. Natalie Keepers allegedly helped the track start after Lovell was murdered.
"Eisenhauer used his relationship to his advantage, to abduct and then kill her," Blacksburg police chief Anthony Wilson said.
More details to come.
Who would have thought that a scientist and engineer best known for inventing the telephone in 1876 would have multiple applications to the college football world nearly 140 years later? But thanks to Alexander Graham Bell, coaches have been able to ditch telegraphs and smoke signals in exchange for a direct phone call to a wanted recruit expediting the process significantly. For some recruits, the thought in hindsight could be they wish they never took at least one phone call to a given program.
Another scientific application more times than not wrongly credited to the Scottish inventor is the Bell Curve. The Bell Curve, or the Gaussian function named after mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, has multiple applications but can be used to find a “norm” or median average along with the outliers. In the world of college football, 5-star recruits represent the outliers of a large sample size numbering in the hundreds of thousands every year. Recruiting services typically award 5-star status to about 30 players every year. The number of programs able to land these top recruits are limited when taking into consideration there were 127 FBS teams during the 2015 season.
A 5- star “bust” can come in many forms - be it over-hyped, injury, bad coaching, or just plain bad luck. The bell curve within can root out which top prospects were worth their rankings* and which ones have fallen flat, at least for now, and remember, this is picking apart the players that are supposed to be the best of the best in each given recruiting class.
Class of 2009
RB Bryce Brown, Wichita East (Kan.) – Tennessee
WR Rueben Randle, Bastrop (La.) – LSU
OT D.J. Fluker, Foley (Ala.) – Alabama
DT Sheldon Richardson, Gateway (Mo.) – Missouri
QB Matt Barkley, Mater Dei (Calif.) – USC
The Bust – Bryce Brown
On the collegiate level, Brown was as big of a dud as there is or ever will be, especially as the No. 1 overall player in his class. After back-to-back seasons at Wichita East High School with more than 1,800 yards rushing, Brown decided to attend Tennessee. He was a backup in 2009 and then transferred to Kansas State to follow his brother, Arthur, who left Miami for the Wildcats, in the spring of 2010. Bryce Brown sat out 2010 and was then held out in '11 after just two games due to allegations that he received improper benefits. Brown's collegiate production consisted of 460 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Tennessee and a grand total of 16 yards on three carries in two games for Kansas State.
A seventh-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, Brown has found some success in the NFL. In four seasons with the Eagles, Bills and this season the Seahawks, Brown has rushed for 1,076 yards and seven touchdowns in 42 games.
Class of 2010
DE Ronald Powell, Rancho Verde (Calif.) – Florida
OT Seantrel Henderson, Cretin-Derham Hall (Minn.) – Miami
WR Kyle Prater, Proviso West (Ill.) – USC
DT Sharrif Floyd, George Washington (Pa.) – Florida
SS Keenan Allen, Northern Guilford (N.C.) – California
The Bust(s) - Seantrel Henderson and Kyle Prater
Henderson never lived up to the hype. He started for the Hurricanes as a true freshman but seemingly kept getting into trouble or never pushed himself to reach his potential. He was a two-time All-ACC honorable mention as a junior and senior but never was all-conference much less an All-American.
One can flip a coin on the disappointment from a given fan base between Henderson and Prater. Prater was set up in a great situation at USC but Pete Carroll left and new head coach Lane Kiffin and Prater did not seem to be on the same page. After playing in 10 games with one reception for six yards, Prater left the Trojans for Northwestern. His senior season was his best and only real season of production, when he caught 51 passes for 535 yards with two scores.
Class of 2011
DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Pointe (S.C) – South Carolina
LB Curtis Grant, Hermitage (Va.) – Ohio State
WR George Farmer, Junipero Serra (Calif.) – USC
OL Cyrus Kouandjio, Hyattsville DeMatha (Md.) – Alabama
RB De’Anthony Thomas, Crenshaw (Calif.) – Oregon
The Bust – Curtis Grant
Injuries played a part in Grant’s “bust” label, but he fell far short of fulfilling the expectations that were assigned to him based on his superlative high school career. Grant had productive junior and senior campaign for the Buckeyes, tallying 58 and 64 stops respectively. He finished his time at Ohio State with a mere 8.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks.
Class of 2012
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Mo.) – Missouri
OL D.J. Humphries, Mallard Creek (N.C.) – Florida
DT Mario Edwards Jr., Denton Ryan (Texas) – Florida State
DB Shaq Thompson, Grant Union (Calif.) – Washington
RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Texas) – Texas
The Bust – Dorial Green-Beckham
Another coin could be flipped from this group between “DGB” and Johnathan Gray. Gray had a productive four years at Texas, rushing for 2,610 career yards with 17 scores but never rushed for more than 780 yards in a season.
Green-Beckham had the talent but numerous off-the-field problems derailed his own career. He transferred to Oklahoma after being dismissed from the Missouri program in 2013, sat out in ‘14, and then entered the NFL. Green-Beckham had a solid freshman season for the Tigers with 28 receptions for 395 yards and five scores. As a sophomore, he showed glimpses of his all-around talent, catching 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 scores. Still so much more was expected of the tall, athletically gifted target, so it’s certainly understandable to label him a bust. Tennessee took DGB in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and while once again he showed flashes as a rookie, he is very much a work in progress.
Humphries is a borderline bust and argument could certainly be made to put him with Green-Beckham and Gray. Humphries was named to the SEC All-Freshman first team, but then injuries plagued his sophomore and junior seasons. He declared early for the NFL draft and was the Arizona Cardinals’ first-round pick (No. 24 overall).
Class of 2013
DT Robert Nkemdiche, Grayson (Ga.) – Ole Miss
CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Wharton (Fla.) – Florida
LB Jaylon Smith, Bishop Luers (Ind.) – Notre Dame
DE Carl Lawson, Milton (Ga.) – Auburn
WR Laquon Treadwell, Crete-Monee (Ill.) – Ole Miss
Finally a year without any busts! Jaylon Smith lived up to the attention, earning second team All-American honors in 2014 before becoming a consensus All-American and Butkus Award winner this past season. Unfortunately, Smith tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl, which will probably impact his position for the upcoming NFL draft.
Laquon Treadwell lived up to the No. 1 wide receiver status not only with his pass-catching abilities, but he also was a willing and aggressive blocker in the run game. He was having a breakout sophomore season in 2014 until he broke his leg and dislocated his ankle against Auburn in early November. He bounced back in a big way, tallying 82 receptions for 1,153 yards with 11 touchdowns this past season.
If anyone is on the bust edge here it is Carl Lawson, but it’s because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He tore his ACL in 2014 and then suffered through hip injuries in this past season. He played in 11 games as a true freshman, finishing with 20 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks. He sat out in 2014, and recorded 17 tackles, three tackles for a loss, and one sack in seven games as a sophomore, which would have been his true junior season. The talent and want-to is there, but will injuries prevent him from ever being an All-SEC performer?
Vernon Hargreaves III might be the best of the bunch. Hargreaves was a three-time All-SEC performer, named a first team All-American as a sophomore, and was a consensus All-American during his junior year. He finished his Florida tenure 10 interceptions, 27 passes defended and 121 total tackles. He declared he was leaving early for the NFL at the end of this past season.
While Hargreaves is arguably the best of the bunch Robert Nkemdiche might be the most physically talented of the lot. Not only does he have the size (6-4, 300), but he’s also just as strong and quick, which helps him make plays, especially against the run. He registered 81 career tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, and six sacks. He didn’t get to play in the Sugar Bowl, as he was suspended due to an off-the-field incident, but it was clear pretty much from the start of the season that Nkemdiche would be leaving early for the NFL.
*Top five for each year according to Rivals.com rankings.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.
The NCAA has filed charges against Ole Miss, including three of their sports programs.
The only problem for the Rebels football program is that it is not an easy thing for recruits to hear so close to National Signing Day. The majority of the information is based on the women's basketball team, and the other is somewhat outdated Laremy Tunsil issues.
Ole Miss defensive tackle Herbert Moore took to Twitter to comment on the allegations.
It's funny cause you can see the fear in everybody's heart. False allegations is really pathetic. If you ain't got haters you ain't poppin🔵🔴— Herbert Moore (@__LandShark99) January 29, 2016
It's funny how they make stuff up before the big recruiting weekend 😑😑😑— Herbert Moore (@__LandShark99) January 29, 2016
For the haters. You can't stop nothing that's God given. So goodluck with that #DabOnThemFolks💯🙏🏾🔵🔴🔵🔴— Herbert Moore (@__LandShark99) January 29, 2016
Can't wait to see everyone face when the lies blow up in they face. It's all good tho. #OleMiss 🔵🔴🔵🔴— Herbert Moore (@__LandShark99) January 29, 2016
Moore wasn't the only person to comment regarding the timing of it all. Much of the information is dated, but It's odd it would happen so close to a big recruiting weekend.
Who invented the forward pass in football?
This year marks the 110th anniversary of a 1906 rule change that made the forward pass a legal play (albeit an unpopular play in its infancy). Following 18 football-related fatalities nationwide in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt demanded rules reform to make the game safer. The first forward pass completion was from St. Louis University’s Bradbury Robinson to Jack Schneider on Sept. 5, 1906.
Popular folklore has credited Knute Rockne with the innovation, in large part due to the 1940 movie “Knute Rockne: All American” — which famously starred Ronald Reagan as George “The Gipper” Gipp. While Rockne may not have been the originator of the pass, he certainly was instrumental in its success, catching one of three TDs thrown by Gus Dorais during a 35–13 Notre Dame win at Army on Nov. 1, 1913, in a game that is acknowledged as the seminal moment in the popularization of the forward pass in football.
Shut the front door. A $700 tailgate? That’s out of bounds. The rock star chef of Food Network fame is indeed bringing Flavortown to the Bay Area. “The Players Super Bowl Tailgate” down the street from Levi’s Stadium will include a “Super Steak Sandwich Station” (served on garlic butter toasted sourdough torpedo rolls), “Whole Hog Throwdown” (served on Hawaiian rolls with crumbed chicharrones), “Low Country Jambalaya,” “Mac Daddy Mac and Cheese Bar,” “Live Nacho Bar,” “Beau Mac’s Killer Raw Bar” (crab, lobster, shrimp, chowder and more!), “Super Bowl 50 Meatball Madness” (Mexican, Old-School Italian, American Slider, Falafel) as well as charcuterie, salads and desserts (highlighted by “Doughnut Bread Pudding with Brown Butter Bacon Bourbon Glaze”). The tailgate will also have Erin Andrews as emcee and “over 25 active NFL players” ready to pregame before the Big Game.
Should Ken Griffey Jr. have received 100 percent of the Hall of Fame vote?
In his first year of eligibility, Ken Griffey Jr. received a record 99.3 percent of the Hall of Fame vote, appearing on 437 of 440 ballots submitted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. But, for whatever reason, three voters prevented “The Kid” from being the first unanimous selection in Hall of Fame history. Aside from a stellar career that included the 1997 AL MVP, 10 straight Gold Gloves in centerfield and 630 home runs, Griffey Jr. represented all that was fun about baseball.
Always smiling with his cap turned backwards, “Junior” was the No. 1 overall pick in 1987 and broke into the big leagues at 19, playing on the same Mariners team as his dad, Ken Griffey Sr. “The Natural” then took over the game with his oft-imitated lefty swing and highlight-reel diving catches. Don’t forget his video game and Nike endorsements, iconic Upper Deck rookie card and absence of steroid speculation. Ken Griffey Jr. absolutely deserved 100 percent of the Hall of Fame vote.
The University of Mississippi has been charged with rules violations in three sports, including football.
According to Yahoo Sports, Ole Miss have received a Notice of Allegations for "roughly 30 violations". Football, women's basketball, and track and field were all on the notice. This isn't exactly the news you want to hear so close to college football's signing day, as it could change a lot of minds.
Some violations took place before Hugh Freeze got to Oxford in 2012, but it's possible he's included. Officials in the SEC have voiced their concerns in regards to Ole Miss' recruiting practices. The Rebels will have 90 days to respond to the NCAA's allegations.
Ole Miss' recruiting class currently sits at No. 4 according to Rivals.
For the most part, Bears fans have a love-hate relationship with Jay Cutler. Sometimes, it's more hate than love.
Elizabeth Porter Bowman was a huge Bears fan who recently passed away at the age of 78. In her obituary, ran in the Chicago Tribune, it states that she was not too fond of the Bears quarterback. Really, can you blame her?
"A lifelong fan of the Cubs, Blackhawks, and Bears (except Jay Cutler)."
Athletes usually don't care if they're well-received, but that's got to sting a little.
There is no bigger stage in the NFL, or arguably sports in general, than the Super Bowl. As Super Sunday prepares for its 50th anniversary, there have been countless of Hall of Famers who have lived up to their legacy and reputation with the Lombardi Trophy on the line. The most important game of the season also has produced its fair share of under-the-radar MVPs as well.
But when it comes to the ultimate test in professional football, which players have shone brightest? Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ All-Time Super Bowl Team, which is quarterbacked by the man known simply as “Joe Cool.”
All-Super Bowl Offense
QB: Joe Montana, SF
With four Super Bowl wins, Montana has a career Big Game passer rating of 127.8, the best ever. Joe Cool tossed 11 touchdown passes to six different receivers with no interceptions. During his Super Bowl career, he threw 28 passes on third down, completing 19 of them for 14 first downs. Honorable Mention: Tom Brady, NE
RB: Franco Harris, PIT
There is no shortage of candidates at running back. Harris rushed for 354 yards in Pittsburgh’s four Super wins in the 1970s and had another 114 yards receiving. In the four games, Harris had 18 touches on third down resulting in 10 first downs and three touchdowns. And Harris is the only runner with more than 100 carries in Super Bowl history. HM: Emmitt Smith, DAL
RB: Roger Craig, SF
In three Super Bowls for San Francisco, all wins, Craig amassed 413 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns, including 101 yards receiving in Super Bowl XXIII. HM: Terrell Davis, DEN
WR: Lynn Swann, PIT
Fans who saw him in the Super Bowl probably remember flying, acrobatic catches. But Swann meant more to the Steelers than just a couple of circus catches. He is second all-time with 364 receiving yards, all coming in three Super Bowls. HM: John Stallworth, PIT
WR: Jerry Rice, SF
Rice is another no-brainer. Let’s see: most Super Bowl receptions in a career (33), most yards receiving in a career (589) and game (215), most yards from scrimmage in a career (604), the only player to score three TDs in a game twice. Oh, and he earned an MVP. HM: Isaac Bruce, STL
TE: Jay Novacek, DAL
One of quarterback Troy Aikman’s favorite clutch targets, Novacek scored the first Dallas touchdown in Super Bowls XXVII and XXX. In three wins he totaled 148 yards and two scores on 17 catches. HM: Shannon Sharpe, DEN/BAL
LT: Jon Kolb, PIT
The only constant along the Pittsburgh offensive line during their run of four Super Bowls in the 1970s, Kolb led the way for Franco Harris’ running and protected Terry Bradshaw in the passing game. HM: Mark Tuinei, DAL
LG: Nate Newton, DAL
Emmitt Smith became the all-time leading NFL rusher thanks in large — and we do mean large — part to Newton. In Newton’s three Super Bowls, the Cowboys scored 52, 30 and 27 points. HM: Russ Grimm, WAS
C: Jim Langer, MIA
Langer anchored the line during Miami’s back-to-back titles in the 1970s. In Super Bowl VIII, Miami rushed 53 times for 196 yards, most of it straight up the middle with bruiser Larry Csonka. HM: Ray Mansfield and Mike Webster, PIT
RG: Joe Andruzzi, NE
In three New England wins, the Patriots rushed for 372 yards, and Andruzzi helped protect MVP Tom Brady allowing him to stay comfortable in the pocket. HM: Jerry Kramer, GB
RT: Erik Williams, DAL
The heart and soul of the Cowboys’ offensive machine was the offensive line. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were the beneficiaries of the hard work done by the likes of Williams. HM: Forrest Gregg, GB
All-Super Bowl Defense
DE: Charles Haley, SF/DAL
Haley was more of an outside linebacker in San Francisco's 3-4 alignment. He is the only player to win five Super Bowls. Honorable Mention: Reggie White, GB
DE: Richard Dent, CHI
The Monsters of the Midway had a stacked roster of defensive stars but Dent won the MVP in Super Bowl XX with 1.5 sacks as the Bears gave up a total of 10 points to New England. HM: Richard Seymour, NE
DT: Joe Greene, PIT
As the heart of the front of the Steel Curtain, Greene intimidated quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen. In four Super wins, opponents averaged less than 100 yards rushing against Pittsburgh as Greene made life miserable for Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton and Vince Ferragamo. HM: Alan Page, MIN
DT: Russell Maryland, DAL
The offense received much of the credit, but Dallas recorded eight interceptions and held teams to less than four yards a carry in their three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s. Maryland was a load up front in all three games. HM: Jethro Pugh, DAL
LB: Jack Lambert, PIT
Lambert was in the middle of all things defensively for the Steelers for 11 seasons, including four trips to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh would not have been 4-0 in the most important game of the season without him. HM: Tedy Bruschi, NE
LB: Ray Lewis, BAL
Lewis is one of two linebackers to win a Super Bowl MVP (XXXV) and nearly a decade later posted seven tackles in winning his second Lombardi Trophy with the Ravens. It was his final game in the NFL. HM: Keena Turner, SF
LB: Chuck Howley, DAL
This Cowboy is one of two at his position to ever win an MVP (V) and is the only player to win an MVP for a losing team in Super Bowl history. He also won a Super Bowl the following year with a big performance (INT, fumble recovery) in Dallas' win over Miami. HM: Mike Vrabel, NE
CB: Herb Adderley, GB/DAL
Adderley was a member of Green Bay’s first two title teams, returning an interception 60 yards for a score in Super Bowl II. He played in two more for Dallas, winning one and losing one. HM: Ty Law, NE
CB: Mel Blount, PIT
Blount played for four winners, and contributed with an interception in Super Bowls IX and XIII. HM: Deion Sanders, SF/DAL
S: Cliff Harris, DAL
One of only 13 players in NFL history, Harris changed the way the free safety positon was played. He won Super Bowl VI and XII. HM: Troy Polamalu, PIT
S: Ronnie Lott, SF
Instrumental in the Niners’ four Super Bowl wins, Lott played corner in the first two before moving to safety. None of his nine postseason interceptions came in the Super Bowl, probably because quarterbacks avoided him. HM: Jake Scott, MIA
RS: Desmond Howard, GB
Earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI with a kick return for a touchdown, but also had two punt returns of more than 30 yards. HM: Jacoby Jones, BAL
K: Adam Vinatieri, K, NE/IND
Never has there been a more clutch kicker in the Super Bowl.
P: Larry Seiple, MIA
Always a threat to take off and run (also played some tight end), Seiple kept the Redskins and Vikings bottled up in Super Bowls VII and VIII.
Shooting free throws is tough.
Add in a svelte, 18-time Olympic gold medal winner in his Speedo breaking your concentration and it would be pretty much impossible to hit one. That's exactly what happened when Michael Phelps attended an Oregon State vs. Arizona State game. The swimmer participated in the "Curtain of Distraction" and was he ever.
In each issue of Athlon Sports & Life, we pick six of our favorite things you need to know about. They may be books, automobiles, games, gear, booze, apparel or whatever happens to be awesome. Here's what made our list this issue:
A fitness-tracking timepiece that balances form and function? Yes, please. We downloaded the watch’s phone app and had it synced up in minutes to track distance, steps and calories burned. You can customize the watch's look with various quick-release straps. The "Gift Set" version we tested came with two: an orange nylon strap and a black silicone/work-out friendly alternative. More traditional straps are available online. The battery life is estimated at more than one year, so there’s no need to recharge it.
Mission Belt (Sports Editions)
Besides the fact that you can show off your school spirit by displaying your team’s logo on the buckle, the Mission Belt is also cool in its own right. Since it locks in place without the use of holes, you can adjust it to fit perfectly around your waist. Licensing includes NCAA, NBA and NHL.
Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game
If the big game had a yearbook, this would be it. It’s comprehensive and perfectly executed from beginning to end. The historic photography is stunning, while the insightful commentary from players who were in the actual games make it hard to put down. $40 www.amazon.com
50 Years, 50 Moments: The Most Unforgettable Plays in Super Bowl History
Super Bowl MVP Jerry Rice compiled his list of the most iconic, strategic, and record-breaking moments in football history, from the Super Bowl’s inception to today. The 464-page book is an engaging must-read for NFL fans. $29.99 www.harpercollins.com
Every beer drinker loves the taste of a well-poured draft beer. For most, that’s impossible to achieve at home. Until now. This portable, battery-powered machine gives your bottled, canned or growlered beer that unique draft-poured taste. How? They claim the device uses high-frequency sound waves and oscillation to create a great head and flavorful taste. And that's exactly what it does. $169.99 www.fizzics.com
Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack
If you’re looking to ease someone into a love of whiskey, Gentleman Jack is a great place to start. This Tennessee whiskey is charcoal mellowed before going into the barrel; then it’s mellowed again after reaching maturity to make it extra smooth. The distillery calls it “double mellowed.” And after multiple samples, so were we. It’s sweet to the nose, and offers a short finish. Perfect for any tailgating occasion. $39 www.jackdaniels.com
Recruiting is perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching hobbies of the college football enthusiast. It’s just as enjoyable as it is nerve-wracking. Fan bases celebrate when four- and five-star prospects commit to their school, but the lofty expectations that come with those rankings don’t always pan out.
Let’s have a look back at the top 10 players of 2012 according to Rivals.com to see who stepped up, who slumped and who surprised.
1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
No. 1 Dual-Threat, No. 10 Nationally
During Winston’s brief but magical two years, he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to a national championship as a redshirt freshman. He’s now the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Who was No. 1: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
2. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
No. 6 Wide Receiver, No. 45 Nationally
Cooper had an unheard of 1,727 receiving yards coupled with 16 touchdowns as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2014. He chose to opt out of his senior season and was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the No. 4 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Who was No. 2: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
3. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
No. 5 Running Back, No. 42 Nationally
A premier rusher in the SEC during his career, Gurley racked up 3,285 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns over three years of play. That’s particularly impressive considering he sat out several games of his sophomore and junior seasons due to injury.
Who was No. 3: Mario Edwards, DT, Florida State
4. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy
N/A QB, N/A Nationally
One of the finest athletes to play the game, Reynolds holds multiple records including rushing touchdowns (31), career and individual rushing touchdowns (88 and 64, respectively) and yards from scrimmage (1,191).
He also collected 180 points on 2015 Heisman Trophy ballots despite playing for a military academy with little sexy media buzz.
Who was No. 4: Shaq Thompson, S, Washington
5. Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
No. 2 Guard, No. 33 Nationally
The 2015 Outland Trophy Award winner, Garnett helped make way for Stanford’s No. 19 rushing attack and open holes for the sensational Christian McCaffrey.
Who was No. 5: Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas
6. Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
No. 1 Inside Linebacker, No. 43 Nationally
A 2015 consensus All-American, Ragland also was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year as the Crimson Tide marched on to claim their most recent national championship. He notched 220 tackles (117 solo), 17.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and four forced fumbles during his four-year career.
Who was No. 6: Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
7. Taylor Decker, OT Ohio State
No. 23 OT, No. 221 Nationally
A consensus 2015 All-American, Decker spent his two years at Ohio State being a reliable pillar of excellence on the offensive line. Thanks to his play, the Buckeyes went on to win the first-ever College Football Playoff in 2014.
Who was No. 7: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
8. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
No. 1 Wide Receiver, No. 1 Nationally
A selection by the Tennessee Titans in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Green-Beckham helped show that Missouri could compete in the SEC. He totaled 1,278 in his two-year college career and lead the conference in receiving touchdowns with 12 in 2013.
Who was No. 8: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
9. Adolphus Washington, DE, Ohio State
No. 2 DE, No. 25 Nationally
Washington spent his four years as a Buckeye being a destructive force. He tallied 142 tackles (71 solo), 25 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, forced three fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Who was No. 9: Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
10. Mario Edwards, DT, Florida State
No. 1 Defensive Tackle, No. 3 Nationally
A defensive demon for the Seminoles, Edwards tallied 78 total tackles (46 solo), 20.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles in his sophomore and junior years.
Who was No. 10: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
The Best of the Rest:
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
No. 2 Running Back, No. 12 Nationally
Stefon Diggs, WR Maryland
No. 2 WR, No. 8 Nationally
Cardale Jones, QB Ohio State
Not Ranked QB, Not Ranked Nationally
Ty Darlington, Center, Oklahoma
No. 2 Center, No. 163 Nationally
Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford
No. 3 OT, No. 19 Nationally
DeVante Harris, CB, Texas A&M
No. 3 CB, No. 69 Nationally
Tyler Matakevich, OLB, Temple
N/R OLB, N/R Nationally
Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
No. 1 DE, No. 6 Nationally
DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
No. 17 DE, N/R Nationally
Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame
No. 18 DT, No. 224 Nationally
Trae Elston, S, Ole Miss
No. 28 S, N/R Nationally
Vadal Alexander, OT, LSU
No. 11 OG, No. 234 Nationally
Darius Hamilton, DE, Rutgers
No. 2 DE, No. 11 Nationally
D.J. Foster, ATH, Arizona State
No. 5 ATH, No. 71 Nationally
Deon Bush, S, Miami
No. 6 S, No. 83 Nationally
Late Raiders owner Al Davis summed up the goal of every player in the Super Bowl when he said, “Just win baby.” However, we’re not communists and there are times when a player’s performance transcends his team.
After 49 Super Bowls, it has become abundantly clear that an exceptional Super Bowl performance is not just defined by MVP honors. There are so many other factors, including but not limited to statistics, contributions to the team and the adversity the player faced. Whittling down the list is not easy, but here are 50 Super Bowl performances that have stood out over the past half century.
50. Leonard Marshall, DL, New York Giants – Super Bowl XXI
In the domination of the Broncos, Marshall had two sacks and forced a fumble.
49. Roger Craig, RB, San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XIX
The 49ers’ offense spread the workload in its 38-16 victory over the Dolphins, but Craig carried a good portion of it, running for 58 yards, catching seven passes for 77 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
48. Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers – Super Bowl XXXVIII
He saved his best performance of the 2003 season for last, throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns. If it weren’t for an Adam Vinatieri field goal at the end, Delhomme might be higher on this list.
47. Ottis Anderson, RB, New York Giants – Super Bowl XXV
To stop the Bills’ no-huddle attack, the Giants’ offense needed to control the clock. Anderson rose to the challenge, carrying the ball 21 times for 102 yards and a touchdown.
46. Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl XL
Ward caught five clutch passes for 123 yards, including a 43-yard toss from wide receiver Antwaan Randle El for a touchdown.
45. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII
Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, including one that put the Cardinals in position to win. Sadly for him, the Steelers still had time.
44. Max McGee, WR, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl I
McGee came off the bench to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. He finished the day with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns. And he did it all with a wicked hangover.
43. John Elway, QB, Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII
Elway’s MVP performance was a fitting cap to a Hall of Fame career.
42. Ricky Sanders, WR, Washington Redskins – Super Bowl XXII
The first of three players in this game to appear on this list, Sanders kick-started Washington’s second quarter explosion with an 80-yard score. He finished the day with nine receptions for 193 yards and two touchdowns, not counting a pass from President Ronald Reagan at the White House.
41. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts – Super Bowl XLI
Manning guided the Colts’ offense past the Bears in workmanlike fashion in the rain.
40. Clarence Davis, RB, Oakland Raiders – Super Bowl XI
Davis rushed 16 times for 137 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per carry against the Minnesota Vikings’ Purple People Eaters, one of the best defensive lines of all time.
39. Chuck Howley, LB, Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowl V
The Colts committed seven turnovers, including two interceptions by Howley, and still won. Howley remains the only member of a losing team to be named Super Bowl MVP.
38. Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl XXXI
Favre was excellent in his only Super Bowl victory, throwing for 246 yards and two touchdowns and running for another. He also did not make any mistakes.
37. Rod Martin, LB, Oakland Raiders – Super Bowl XV
Martin picked off Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski three times, a Super Bowl record that still stands.
36. Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl II
Starr called his own plays and guided the Packers’ offense in a rout of the Raiders.
35. Jake Scott, DB, Miami Dolphins – Super Bowl VII
Scott intercepted two passes, including one in the end zone in the fourth quarter, to help secure the Dolphins’ close win over the Redskins.
34. Roger Staubach, QB, Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowl VI
After earning the starting job earlier in the season, Staubach put on a passing clinic, completing 12 to six different receivers.
33. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints – Super Bowl XLIV
The Colts virtually shut down the Saints’ running game so Brees took to the air, completing 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards, and helped regain New Orleans’ pride.
32. John Stallworth, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl XIV
Stallworth only had three receptions, but they were for 121 yards and included a 73-yard bomb that pulled the Steelers ahead of the Rams for good.
31. Timmy Smith, RB, Washington Redskins – Super Bowl XXII
Smith shocked everyone when he ran for a Super Bowl-record 204 yards. Then he disappeared off the face of the Earth.
30. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens – Super Bowl XLVII
Flacco did not throw any picks during the Ravens’ playoff run. He showed the same discipline in the Super Bowl, while throwing for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
29. Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Oakland Raiders – Super Bowl XI
Three of Biletnikoff’s four receptions set up Raider touchdowns.
28. Dwight Smith, DB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl XXXVII
Smith returned two picks for touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 48-21 dismantling of the Raiders.
27. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants – Super Bowl XLVI
In this war of attrition, Manning did not make any mistakes and made big plays when needed. What more could anyone ask for?
26. Malcolm Smith, LB, Seattle Seahawks – Super Bowl XLVIII
With the Broncos driving in Seahawk territory in the second quarter and threatening to cut into Seattle’s 15-0 lead, Smith intercepted Peyton Manning’s pass and ran 69 yards for touchdown. He also recovered a fumble and had nine tackles.
25. Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowl XXVIII
Smith did the heavy lifting for the Cowboys’ offense in this game, rushing for 132 yards on 30 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
24. Jim Plunkett, QB, Oakland Raiders – Super Bowl XV
After experiencing a revival of his career in Oakland, Plunkett took care of business in the Super Bowl, throwing for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
23. Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl XLIII
Holmes caught nine passes for 131 yards and most importantly, he kept his toes in bounds for the game-winning score.
22. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl XLV
Rodgers accounted for most of his team’s offense as the Packers held on to beat the Steelers.
21. Troy Aikman, QB, Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowl XXVII
Aikman threw four touchdown passes as the Cowboys slaughtered the Bills.
20. Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl XIII
Facing an equally determined foe in Roger Staubach, Bradshaw put together his best Super Bowl performance, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Both were records at the time.
19. Richard Dent, DE, Chicago Bears – Super Bowl XX
Dent had 1.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and blocked a pass as the ’85 Bears crushed the Patriots.
18. Desmond Howard, KR/PR, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl XXXI
Howard is the only player to be named Super Bowl MVP because of his special teams work. His kick and punt returns produced 244 yards and included a 99-yard touchdown that sealed the Packers’ victory.
17. Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XXIV
Montana exposed gaps in the Broncos’ coverage for five touchdowns in the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history.
16. Marcus Allen, RB, Los Angeles Raiders – Super Bowl XVIII
Allen rushed for 191 yards on 20 carries and put the nail in the Redskins’ coffin with a 74-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
15. Steve Young, QB, San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XXIX
A Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes. Enough said.
14. Kurt Warner, QB, St. Louis Rams – Super Bowl XXXIV
His 414 yards passing is a still a Super Bowl record. Plus, he did not throw a single interception in a game that came down to the last play.
13. Larry Csonka, RB, Miami Dolphins – Super Bowl VIII
Csonka accounted for more than half of the Dolphins’ offense as the Vikings were not able to stop him.
12. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants – Super Bowl XLII
Manning’s numbers in this game (19-of-34, 255 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) do not stand out, but he gave a gutsy performance in leading the upset of the greatest team never to win a Super Bowl.
11. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots – Super Bowl XXXVIII
Brady engaged in a shootout with the Panthers’ Jake Delhomme and came away victorious, as both quarterbacks passed for more than 300 yards.
10. Franco Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl IX
Harris’ 158 yards rushing was more than the entire Vikings’ offense gained in the entire game.
9. Doug Williams, QB, Washington Redskins – Super Bowl XXII
Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl with a dominant performance that included four touchdown passes in the second quarter.
8. John Riggins, RB, Washington Redskins – Super Bowl XVII
Riggins rushed for 166 yards and made the most clutch fourth down carry in Super Bowl history when he broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run.
7. Harvey Martin/Randy White, DL, Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowl XII
Martin and White led a Dallas defense that forced eight turnovers. They are the only co-MVPs in Super Bowl history.
6. Phil Simms, QB, New York Giants – Super Bowl XXI
Simms had an unbelievable 88 percent completion rate as he threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
5. Joe Namath, New York Jets – Super Bowl III
Namath’s numbers were not memorable by any stretch of the imagination, but he guaranteed his victory and then called his own plays in an upset that may have saved pro football as we know it.
4. Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XIX
Montana’s best Super Bowl performance came against Dan Marino. Joe Cool threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 59 yards and another score.
3. Terrell Davis, RB, Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXII
The heart and soul of the Broncos’ upset of the Packers was Davis, who rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries. He did all of this while battling a migraine too.
2. Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl X
You have probably seen every one of his four receptions in this game in Super Bowl highlight reels.
1. Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XXIII
Rice caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl-record 215 yards and scored a touchdown. He also made a clutch first down when the 49ers faced second-and-20 on their legendary 92-yard game-winning drive.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Tom Brady, Eli Manning photos courtesy of Getty Images)
Programs such as Baylor and TCU have risen up the ranks in the Big 12 in recent years through a mix of cunning coaches, unique schemes and fantastic player development. While their successes are starting to pay dividends on the recruiting trail, these upstarts generally lack the depth of some of the traditional powerhouses. That can make moving on from departing stars a little trickier.
The Big 12 is bidding adieu to a number of key contributors from the Bears and Horned Frogs this spring. Taken together, the two programs combine four of the 10 toughest players to replace in the conference in 2016. Their ability to find capable fill-ins will go a long way towards determining if they will continue contending at the top of the conference.
10 Toughest Players to Replace in the Big 12 in 2016
Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor
Billings' decision to forego his senior year in Waco led to one huge collective sigh of relief among Big 12 coaching staffs and offensive linemen. With apologies to co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah, the Bears' defensive tackle was the best defender in the conference last season. Even with its recent surge in recruiting, programs like Baylor don't exactly stockpile nasty defensive linemen of Billings' caliber. (Few do.) His loss leaves a gaping hole in the Bears’ D.
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Sorry, Andy Dalton, but Boykin took your place at the top of the list of great TCU quarterbacks under Gary Patterson. Injuries dogged the Horned Frogs' field general down the stretch run of the 2015 season, but when healthy, Boykin was every bit as electric as he was in '14. Adding to Patterson's worries, Alamo Bowl hero Bram "Red Baron" Kohlhausen also graduated. That leaves Texas A&M transfer Kenny "Trill" Hill and the bro-country-frontman-monikered Foster Sawyer competing for the open job in the offseason.
Le’Raven Clark, OL, Texas Tech
Clark leaves Lubbock as one of the most accomplished players in school history. The fifth-year senior made his third appearance on the All-Big 12 team in 2015 and had 51 consecutive starts in four years. Kliff Kingsbury will miss his steady presence on Patrick Mahomes’ blind side.
Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Corey Coleman might have been the most productive wideout in the league last fall, but Doctson will be the toughest to replace. Boykin owes much of his success to Doctson, who is a master of corralling deep balls. He gave the Horned Frogs a legitimate deep threat to round out their arsenal of receiving weapons as they made the transition to the Air Raid in the last two seasons.
Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor
Karl Joseph, DB, West Virginia
Joseph's mid-season knee injury struck a big blow to the Mountaineers' salty defense, which was never the same after he went down. Aside from his leadership, Joseph is a potential first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. WVU will have a tough time replacing his physical presence in helping against the run and punishing receivers in the middle of the field.
Emmanuel Ogbah, DL, Oklahoma State
Ogbah’s ability to wreak havoc in opposing defenses was one of few bright spots on OSU’s defense in ‘15. The Houston native led the conference with 13 sacks for the season and finished second in tackles for a loss with 17. As OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer looks for Ogbah’s replacement this spring, the early entrant may work his way into the first round of the upcoming draft.
Hassan Ridgeway, DL, Texas
Ridgeway failed to match his previous production as he fought through injuries last season. Nevertheless, he gave the Texas D an imposing presence up the middle. Best of luck to Charlie Strong when it comes to finding an adequate replacement for Ridgeway among the group on hand in Austin.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Quarterback Baker Mayfield deserves a healthy amount of credit for reigniting Oklahoma's offense in 2015. The same goes for Shepard, though, whose absence in the second half of the 2014 season played a big role in the Sooners' tailspin. Shepard was a model of consistency throughout the '15 campaign and turned it on in OU's biggest games, including two highlight-reel touchdowns against Tennessee and 14 catches for 177 yards and a pair of scores versus Baylor.
Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
Another standout on the offensive line. A four-year starter on the offensive line for Bill Snyder, Whitehair garnered a first-team spot on the 2015 All-Big 12 squad. Whitehair’s combination of durability and versatility should make him a valuable asset at the NFL level. He was even more valuable to the Wildcats over the last four years.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.
The marriage between Missouri football and Maty Mauk is over.
The school released a statement to confirm the news that Mauk will no longer be a part of the program.
Missouri has dismissed QB Maty Mauk pic.twitter.com/GMjQKXzGxV— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) January 28, 2016
Mauk took to Twitter to get out an apology to the Mizzou fan base and those who supported him. Only time will tell where he'll go from here.
Charles Barkley is never going to keep his opinion to himself, and some would argue that it's perfectly fine.
The NBA analyst joined Dan Patrick to talk about race, the Super Bowl, and Cam Newton's Auburn days. Barkley goes on to say if Newton did get paid to play football for Auburn then it was a "good investment". Joking aside, he's right. That would've been money well spent considering the Heisman and national championship.
Why does Cam Newton feel like a victim?
Why does he believe that because he’s an African-American quarterback, that he scares people?
It's an important and legitimate question because his personality and play on the field definitely move the needle.
Racism exists in this country and anyone who tries to deny it is simply ignorant. There are people and organizations that live with hatred in their hearts for different races, genders, sexual orientations and religious beliefs.
But a bigot would hate Cam Newton regardless of his position on the field or level of success, right? A bigot would hate Cam Newton if he was a cab driver or grocery store clerk or NFL quarterback.
There are certainly some out there using veiled language to mask their personal beliefs, but is that the majority of NFL fans or media members?
The response to Newton’s comments on Wednesday have been overwhelmingly positive. Column after column has praised Cam for being Cam.
Praised him for his unbelievable on-the-field accomplishments that, by the way, will almost assuredly win him the NFL MVP. Praised him for his work in the community and with the children of Charlotte. Praised him for being “unapologetic and larger than life.”
Those columns are all correct. Newton hasn't done anything wrong, cheated in anyway or juked the NFL system to gain an advantage.
Don’t sell me on Twitter Bros, either. You know the type, the keyboard cowboys who sit in their mom’s basement and spew digital garbage.
Twitter Bros send death threats to 19-year-old kickers who miss game-winning field goals. Twitter Bros wish torn ACLs on high school athletes who don’t commit to their favorite school. Twitter Bros send sexual assault threats to Curt Schilling’s daughter.
Bigots' and Twitter Bros' opinions aren't representative of the greater population and exist largely on the fringe of common sense — and of most communities.
A certain amount of “twitter hate” simply comes with the territory of being a public figure. It’s an inherent evil for successful athletes of all races, teams, sports and positions.
So other than one really lame Nashville mother who didn’t like Newton’s hip gyrations and proceeded to write a misguided letter to The Charlotte Observer, I can’t really find these so-called "detractors," "haters" or "critics" who are scared of Cam Newton.
The only people who should be scared of Cam Newton are defensive coordinators.
Most of us love watching Cam Newton because he is awesome. Just like we love watching Odell Beckham Jr. and J.J. Watt — and all of the antics and flare that come along with watching them do what they do on a football field.
But you know who does get actual “hate” for being unapologetic? Or brash? Or larger than life?
Tom Brady. Johnny Manziel. Dez Bryant. Jay Cutler. Greg Hardy. Tony Romo. Jameis Winston. The list goes on and on.
Brady might be the most hated man in the NFL. The media, fans, other NFL franchises and even the NFL itself are Brady “haters,” attacking his character and professional integrity at every possible turn. The NFL spent millions of dollars and eight months over a rule that most people view as ridiculous.
Bryant was flat out insulted by a Dallas-based columnist and it resulted in a locker room blowup. Cutler is criticized, second-guessed and laughed at every time he throws an interception. By everyone. Romo couldn’t go on a vacation without the media questioning his commitment to his team.
And Manziel? Hardy? Winston? There isn’t enough time in the day to discuss these guys.
Even Newton’s opponent in the NFC title game, Carson Palmer, was destroyed by the media and fans for his departure from Cincinnati.
These criticisms are valid and deserved. There in lies the rub.
Has the NFL tried to investigate or suspend Newton for anything? Have columnists attacked his personal character or doubted his commitment to the game or his team? Has anyone accused him of off-the-field issues or questioned his professional integrity? Is there some sort of on-going public witch hunt targeting him?
Do a quick Google search. Mostly, you'll find a lot of positivity.
Even the NCAA — the slowest moving, most opaque and inconsistent organization in the history of sports — reinstated Newton in ONE DAY during his 2010 run to a BCS national championship and Heisman Trophy. The NCAA can't do anything in one day.
Clearly, Heisman voters, like NFL MVP voters, have no issue with Cam Newton.
The reality is that most everyone actually enjoys Cam Newton and actually enjoys the breathtaking display he’s given us every step of his career (except maybe Alabama or Florida fans).
Do I think he and Auburn got away with something in 2010? Sure (it might have been the best investment in the history of sports). Do I think you should dance for 10 seconds after a three-yard gain on your own 30-yard line? No (I prefer touchdowns and turnovers). But none of that impacts the joy I get from watching him play the game at an elite level. If the worst thing that's ever said about him is "I don't like his TD dance," then I think he's doing just fine.
Newton says he’s criticized because he’s incomparable. Since I can’t find any legitimate examples of this so-called criticism, I’d say it’s quite the opposite.
He’s interesting, appreciated and must-see entertainment because he’s incomparable. Not hated.
Let's face it: mock drafts are almost always wrong, and most of them look pretty much the same leading up to the actual NFL Draft. It's time to have a little fun with these things.
I've gone ahead and thrown together my own mock of the first round with one caveat: you can only pick draft-eligible players from the Big Ten. I understand that 31* Big Ten players will not be drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft come April 28. It will, however, be interesting to see if some of these players end up on the same teams in later rounds based on need and fit. If nothing else, it yielded a decent snapshot of the talent representing the Big Ten for the upcoming draft.
NOTE: This mock was done based on need and fit. I'll need Ohio State fans to remember that before sending me an email or tweet containing career advice in regard to Joey Bosa's landing spot.
(For the purpose of this exercise Carolina was given the last pick, which will be awarded to the winner of Super Bowl 50, merely to determine an order.)
All-Big Ten 2016 NFL Mock Draft
1. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The Titans desperately need a blindside protector for Marcus Mariota. Decker would fit the bill, and he may even end up being the actual pick when Tennessee is on the clock.
2. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Cleveland STILL needs a long-term fix at quarterback. They need to go get the safest, most NFL-ready signal-caller available. Cook is that guy.
3. Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
The Chargers are a relatively complete team with the exception of the wide receiver position. They don't just need a prototypical wideout, they need a playmaker. Carroo is the Big Ten's best playmaker at wide receiver.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
The loss of DeMarco Murray became apparent as the season wore on. Putting Elliott in the Dallas backfield behind that O-line turns the Cowboys into an extremely dangerous team offensively.
5. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
The Jaguars are young, talented and close to getting over the hump. Adding a big, physical shutdown corner like Apple could complete the puzzle.
6. Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
The Ravens secondary hasn't been the same since Ed Reed left. Bell's physical style of play and athleticism are exactly what the Ravens need to get back to the top of the division.
7. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Chip Kelly is going to need a monster to open holes and protect his quarterback. Conklin is as mean as they come, an upgrade at the position, and an anchor on the line for a decade.
8. Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Speaking of anchors, Spriggs has been that guy on the offensive line of the most exciting and dynamic offense in the conference for the past two seasons.
9. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Bosa falls this far because of value. He's a terrific talent, but not the franchise-changing player you take in the first five picks. That said, adding him to the current Bucs D-line is a scary thought.
10. Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State
The Giants need more depth at defensive end. They know what they are getting from a character standpoint, as Nassib's brother Ryan is already on New York's roster. Carl Nassib has the physical tools to develop into a J.J. Watt-type player.
11. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
The Bears are starving for a pass rusher. Calhoun is the best in the Big Ten, if not the entire country.
12. Joshua Perry, OLB, Ohio State
The Saints are dire need of help on defense -- particularly at outside linebacker. Perry is a big-bodied athletic defender who is ready to start in the NFL immediately.
13. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
New Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is a quarterback himself and is going to want his own signal-caller to run his newly installed system. Hackenberg is probably as good as it gets from a fundamentals standpoint.
14. Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota
You can never have too many corners in today's NFL. The Raiders have a need for depth at the position and Murray would be the best available at this point.
15. Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
The Rams are going to be looking for a new face to their franchise after the move to L.A. Jones has shown that he is not intimidated by the spotlight. His mobility and big arm might remind coach Jeff Fisher of a similar player he had success with in Tennessee -- Steve McNair.
16. Anthony Zettel, DE, Penn State
Zettel is a powerful end with a quick burst, almost demanding to be double-teamed on every snap. He'd be a scary compliment to Ziggy Ansah on the other side of Detroit's defensive line.
17. Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State
The Falcons need help in a lot of places, but getting Matt Ryan a dependable security blanket and additional red zone target is of extreme importance moving forward. Vannett is a safe pick here.
18. Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
Howard is just the sort of hammer the Colts need as they look for a long-term fix at running back. He's a tough and patient runner between the tackles, but he also possesses the ability to break one and keep opposing defenses honest.
19. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Lee is the sort of fast, hard-hitting linebacker Rex and Rob Ryan like. He plays very much like Jonathan Vilma and would be the perfect guy to fill the void left by the Kiko Alonso trade last year.
20. Jordan Walsh, G, Iowa
The Jets have the skill guys they need and a solid defense. They need help in the trenches and Walsh is a sound interior lineman.
21. Jack Allen, C, Michigan State
The Redskins have their franchise quarterback. It's time to get Kirk Cousins a franchise center he can grow old with together. It might as well be a fellow Spartan.
22. Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State
Washington is a versatile defensive tackle who can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3, possibly even sliding to the end spot in either scheme depending on the situation. The Texans -- aka New England South -- put a lot of stock in versatility.
23. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Getting Teddy Bridgewater more weapons is priority No. 1. Thomas would give Minnesota a big possession receiver who can also stretch the field if he needs to, complementing rising star and fellow Big Ten alumnus Stefon Diggs.
24. Joe Schobert, LB, Wisconsin
The Bengals need more character guys who can maintain composure at all times while playing at a high level in heated divisional rivalry games. Schobert is the perfect fit.
25. Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB, Minnesota
Boddy-Calhoun had a bit of a disappointing year, but there's no denying the talent and potential. The Steelers will take any help they can get at cornerback.
26. Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State
Seattle's passing game found new life at the end of the season. If Pete Carroll wants to keep that going, he'll need someone who can draw attention away from Doug Baldwin. Burbridge is a sure-handed, solid route runner who can do just that.
27. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
Collins' game is rooted in effort and physicality. He's always moving forward and would be a dangerous running mate to B.J. Raji on the Packer D-line.
28. Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska
Lewis has a nasty edge to him, which you want from all of your linemen at the professional level. He'd be a nice bookend to Eric Fisher. Additionally, his natural position is guard, so he gives you depth across the board.
29. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Miller is a bit of a luxury pick here. The Cardinals are a fairly complete team when healthy, so they could go a lot of different ways with the pick. Given Bruce Arians "abstract" approach, I'm thinking he'd like the idea of a Swiss Army knife-type of threat who could literally line up anywhere on offense.
30. Henry Krieger Coble, TE, Iowa
We saw Owen Daniels do some damage in the AFC Championship Game. That said, if the Broncos are set to move forward with Brock Osweiler as the signal-caller, they're going to want some different options outside of Daniels and Vernon Davis -- two aging veterans -- for him to target at the tight end spot. The sure-handed Krieger Coble makes sense here.
31. Tyvis Powell, FS, Ohio State
As good as the Panther defense already is, they'll be looking to upgrade at the safety spot. Powell is the best on the board at this point.
*New England does not have a first-round pick this year, which was forfeited as part of the Patriots' punishment handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the Deflategate scandal.
We understand that the Super Bowl is football's biggest game of the year, but it's amazing to see just how much money players can earn (not including their regular salary) for one 60-minute game.
For example, in Super Bowl 50 the winning players will each earn a whopping $97,000, while each player on the losing team will earn $49,000. How does that stack up hisotrically? Here's a look at the winner's and loser's share from Super Bowls I-XLIX from the past 49 years.
|Super Bowl||Date||Winner (Share)||Loser (Share)|
|XLIX||2/1/15||New England ($97,000)||Seattle ($49,000)|
|XLVIII||2/2/14||Seattle ($92,000)||Denver ($46,000)|
|XLVII||2/3/13||Baltimore ($88,000)||San Francisco ($44,000)|
|XLVI||2/5/12||N.Y. Giants ($88,000)||New England ($44,000)|
|XLV||2/6/11||Green Bay ($83,000)||Pittsburgh ($42,000)|
|XLIV||2/7/10||New Orleans ($83,000)||Indianapolis ($42,000)|
|XLIII||2/1/09||Pittsburgh ($78,000)||Arizona ($40,000)|
|XLII||2/3/08||N.Y. Giants ($78,000)||New England ($40,000)|
|XLI||2/4/07||Indianapolis ($73,000)||Chicago ($38,000)|
|XL||2/5/06||Pittsburgh ($73,000)||Seattle ($38,000)|
|XXXIX||2/6/05||New England ($68,000)||Philadelphia ($36,500)|
|XXXVIII||2/1/04||New England ($68,000)||Carolina ($36,500)|
|XXXVII||1/26/03||Tampa Bay ($63,000)||Oakland ($35,000)|
|XXXVI||2/3/02||New England ($63,000)||St. Louis ($34,500)|
|XXXV||1/28/01||Baltimore ($58,000)||N.Y. Giants ($34,500)|
|XXXIV||1/30/00||St. Louis ($58,000)||Tennessee ($33,000)|
|XXXIII||1/31/99||Denver ($53,000)||Atlanta ($32,500)|
|XXXII||1/25/98||Denver ($48,000)||Green Bay ($29,000)|
|XXXI||1/26/97||Green Bay ($48,000)||New England ($29,000)|
|XXX||1/28/96||Dallas ($42,000)||Pittsburgh ($27,000)|
|XXIX||1/29/95||San Francisco ($42,000)||San Diego ($26,000)|
|XXVIII||1/30/94||Dallas ($38,000)||Buffalo ($23,500)|
|XXVII||1/31/93||Dallas ($36,000)||Buffalo ($18,000)|
|XXVI||1/26/92||Washington ($36,000)||Buffalo ($18,000)|
|XXV||1/27/91||N.Y. Giants ($36,000)||Buffalo ($18,000)|
|XXIV||1/28/90||San Francisco ($36,000)||Denver ($18,000)|
|XXIII||1/22/89||San Francisco ($36,000)||Cincinnati ($18,000)|
|XXII||1/31/88||Washington ($36,000)||Denver ($18,000)|
|XXI||1/25/87||N.Y. Giants ($36,000)||Denver ($18,000)|
|XX||1/26/86||Chicago ($36,000)||New England ($18,000)|
|XIX||1/20/85||San Francisco ($36,000)||Miami ($18,000)|
|XVIII||1/22/84||L.A. Raiders ($36,000)||Washington ($18,000)|
|XVII||1/30/83||Washington ($36,000)||Miami ($18,000)|
|XVI||1/24/82||San Francisco ($18,000)||Cincinnati ($9,000)|
|XV||1/25/81||Oakland ($18,000)||Philadelphia ($9,000)|
|XIV||1/20/80||Pittsburgh ($18,000)||Los Angeles ($9,000)|
|XIII||1/21/79||Pittsburgh ($18,000)||Dallas ($9,000)|
|XII||1/15/78||Dallas ($18,000)||Denver ($9,000)|
|XI||1/9/77||Oakland ($15,000)||Minnesota ($7,500)|
|X||1/18/76||Pittsburgh ($15,000)||Dallas ($7,500)|
|IX||1/12/75||Pittsburgh ($15,000)||Minnesota ($7,500)|
|VIII||1/13/74||Miami ($15,000)||Minnesota ($7,500)|
|VII||1/14/73||Miami ($15,000)||Washington ($7,500)|
|VI||1/16/72||Dallas ($15,000)||Miami ($7,500)|
|V||1/17/71||Baltimore ($15,000)||Dallas ($7,500)|
|IV||1/11/70||Kansas City ($15,000)||Minnesota ($7,500)|
|III||1/12/69||N.Y. Jets ($15,000)||Baltimore ($7,500)|
|II||1/14/68||Green Bay ($15,000)||Oakland ($7,500)|
|I||1/15/67||Green Bay ($15,000)||Kansas City ($7,500)|