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Path: /college-football/sec-media-days-steve-spurrier-forgets-past-shots-arkansas-and-tennessee
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When there is a microphone in front of Steve Spurrier all bets are off and no one is safe from his infamous one-liners. During Day 2 of the SEC Media Days the Ol' Ball Coach singled out Arkansas and Tennessee in a contrast of programs against his while also showing that the South Carolina head coach truly has a short memory.

 

After falling flat on his back side in 2014 with a 7-6 record that followed a preseason AP ranking of No. 9, Spurrier took to the podium on Tuesday to put the Gamecocks’ season into perspective along with two other SEC teams stating, “We were 7-6 — same as Tennessee and the same as Arkansas and I think they’re sort of celebrating big seasons last year.”

 

Spurrier added, “So we were celebrating also. We were doing some cartwheels and high-fiving after that Independence Bowl game (24-21 win over Miami) because it was a year that could have gone real south, and guys hung in there and somehow or another found a way to win the game.”

 

Be it old age or the mantra "once a quarterback always a quarterback," thus having a short memory from one play to the next or in this case one season to the next, but Spurrier’s jabs while somewhat accurate do not take his own history into account. Since taking over the helm at South Carolina, Spurrier has as many 7-6 seasons as he does double-digit win seasons, three of each. This distinction does not include a 7-5 season in 2005, going 8-5 in '06, or a 6-6 finish in 2007.

 

The Gamecocks started the upward trend in 2010, posting a 9-5 mark before reeling off three straight 11-win seasons. Even the 11-win seasons are somewhat tainted from a cartwheel-turning standpoint. In 2011 USC finished 11-2 overall but second in the SEC East behind Georgia, failing to make it to the SEC Championship Game.

 

When the chips were on the table in 2012 Spurrier again fell short, losing back-to-back SEC games, to No. 9 LSU (23-21) and to No. 3 Florida (44-11). Florida and Georgia finished atop the SEC East with an in-conference record of 7-1. South Carolina finished 6-2. The Gamecocks repeated the same scenario in 2013, losing two SEC games. USC lost to No. 11 Georgia 41-30 and unranked Tennessee 23-21 when the Gamecocks were the 11th-ranked team in the nation.

 

Another thing missing from South Carolina that is seemingly plaguing the offensive-minded coach is the play of the defense. One can argue that the three 11-win seasons were largely predicated on Ellis Johnson’s recruiting and defensive schemes. Lorenzo Ward took over the coordinator reigns in 2012 when Johnson left for a one-year turn as head coach at Southern Miss. The recruiting and ability to stop the opposition has been suspect and in decline ever since.

 

Since Arkansas and South Carolina joined the SEC at the same time in 1992 the two programs squared off every year until 2013. During that time period Arkansas enjoyed a 13-9 advantage over the Gamecocks. Since Spurrier took over in Columbia in 2005 he has a losing record against Arkansas, as he is just 4-5 against the SEC West foe.

 

Traditionally Tennessee has owned South Carolina (24 wins, 7 losses), but even the SEC's one-liner king has had his troubles with the roughed-up Volunteers, going an even 5-5 over the past five seasons. To make matters worse, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has taken both matchups over Spurrier; 23-21 in 2013 and 45-42 in '14.

 

The outlook for South Carolina in 2015 is suspect, pushing more towards another 7-6 season instead of 11-2. The Gamecocks have four starters returning on offense and six on defense, a defense that finished ranked No. 92 in the nation in 2014. The same defensive unit that allowed 212.2 rushing yards per game.

 

The schedule is not kind to Spurrier and his squad this season either. South Carolina opens the season against North Carolina in Charlotte, gets a surging Kentucky team at home, goes on the road to face Georgia, and then hosts an always-dangerous UCF team. After the Knights come to town the Gamecocks travel to Missouri, host LSU and Vanderbilt, and then travel to Texas A&M and Tennessee. The final three games see Florida, the Citadel, and Clemson coming to Columbia.

 

If Spurrier can manage a record better than 7-6 in 2015, without a proven quarterback under center, the Old Ball Coach just might do cartwheels up and down Williams-Brice Stadium.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
SEC Media Days: Steve Spurrier Forgets Past with Shots at Arkansas and Tennessee
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/important-moments-mlb-first-half
Body:

With the first half of the MLB season completed, it's time to take a look back at some of the key moments from the first few months of action. There have been plenty of memorable moments, ranging from impressive feats to scary moments. After the All Star break, the 30 MLB teams will resume play and make their pushes for the postseason. Here's a look at some of the top moments of the season:

 

Kris Bryant debut

After Kris Bryant dominated spring training and looked destined to begin the season in the Major League, the Cubs utilized a sneaky clause in his contract. By sending him to the minors for 12 days, the Cubs are now able to control him for an extra year. The move, seen as strategic and sleazy, was deemed “a bad day in baseball” by the MLB Players Association. It prevents Bryant some of the freedoms he would have had, and it will certainly be discussed in a possible rule change in the offseason going forward.

 

 

 

Bryce Harper three home run game

On May 6th, everything changed for Bryce Harper. In a game against the Miami Marlins, he set the precedent for the rest of his season and perhaps the rest of his career. With his first three at bats, he belted three straight home runs and electrified the home crowd. At the time, the Nationals had been vastly underperforming, but it’s been much different since then. Harper then followed that performance with three home runs in the next two games.
 

 

Chris Sale streak

For eight straight games, Chris Sale struck out at least 10 batters, matching a feat done just once before done in Pedro Martinez’s historic 1999 season. As he lowered his ERA from 4.36 to 2.87 during this streak, he only managed a 3-3 record, due much in part to a lack of run support. Yet, this incredible accomplishment catapulted him to the top pitcher discussion, as he hits the halfway point at 8-4 with a 2.72 ERA.

 

Woman hit at Fenway

As a woman watched the Red Sox host the Athletics along the third base stands, Brett Lawrie came to hit and grounded out as his bat broke. However, pieces of that bat flew into the seats, hitting that woman in the crowd. The scene became traumatic, as the game stopped and everybody grew silent in shock of what had just happened. Fans in attendance are always told to beware of balls and bats, but this was simply an unavoidable event. Yet, perhaps some added safety measures will be added in the near future, such as an extended net. An Athletics' fan just recently filed a lawsuit against the MLB over the issue.

 

Max Scherzer back to back starts, highlighted by hit by pitch

Having signed Max Scherzer to a massive seven year, $210 million contract, it seems that the Nationals are getting plenty of value from him. Scherzer has been dominant all year, but he really grabbed the spotlight on his June 14th and June 20th starts. In the first start, he allowed just one hit in a 16 strikeout shutout. To top that, he pitched a 10 strikeout no-hitter, which was a perfect game until he hit Jose Tabata with two outs in the 9th inning. However, much controversy arose from whether or not he leaned into the pitch or not.



A-rod’s 3000th hit

In arguably the season’s most impressive milestone, Alex Rodriguez homered for his 3000th hit, becoming just the 29th member of this club. But maybe more publicized was A-rod’s desire for the ball. Zack Hample, who has written books about snagging baseballs at games, naturally caught the home run ball. For an extended period of time, the Yankees tried to negotiate with him for the ball, but to no avail. Eventually, Hample traded the ball to the team in exchange for a $150,000 donation to charity and other Yankees’ goodies.



 

Pete Rose bet as a player

On the eve of what looked to be a possible reinstatement or increased role with the MLB, news broke that Pete Rose had indeed allegedly bet on baseball as a player. After having denied that accusation for many years, a damning report seems to prove otherwise. Now it’s believed that he won’t get that chance, as new commissioner Rob Manfred had been willing to meet with him before. The debate may never end.

 

 

Josh Donaldson catch

As Marco Estrada toyed with a perfect game on June 24th, Josh Donaldson did all he could to help out his pitcher. In the top of the 8th, David DeJesus popped a ball up into the stands by the third baseline. However, that didn’t stop Donaldson from leaping three rows deep into the crowd to record a crucial out. The power hitting third baseman showed off his impressive defensive range, as he has established himself as one of the league’s best players this year. The play certainly helped push him into an All Star game starting spot, leading as the AL's highest vote-getter.


 

Pirates last two games

The Cardinals have maintained the league’s best record for some time now, but their last two games of the first half of the season may provide a glimpse into a great division race. The Pirates hold the third best record in the MLB and sit just 2.5 games back in the NL Central after two impressive wins. In their last two games, the Pirates were down in extra innings, only to come back in both and walk off with victories. In the first, fan favorite Andrew McCutchen hit a two run homerun in the 14th inning. In the next game (and last MLB game before the break), Gregory Polanco singled in the winning run as part of a three run 10th.

 

Todd Frazier becomes Hometown Hero in new Derby format

After years of a disappointing Home Run Derby, the MLB revamped the format in hopes to bolster the event's excitement. And it worked perfectly. Moving it to a timed event sped it up and allowed for more swings per batter. The head to head matchups and bonus time created better drama. There was a strong balance of veteran experience and young players. Then Todd Frazier took the title in front of his home crowd. The MLB helped make a perfect ending to a much better Derby.
 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/sec-dominates-butkus-award-watch-list-16-players
Body:

Like the many college football awards handed out year after year, over the last decade the SEC has led the way when it comes to ownership of the Butkus Award, which honors the nation’s top collegiate linebacker. Over the last 10 years, Patrick Willis (Ole Miss – 2006), Rolando McClain (Alabama – 2009), and C.J. Mosley (Alabama – 2013) have each represented the SEC as the winner of the prestigious award.

 

If the 2015 preseason Butkus Award watch list is any indication of the odds, a SEC player could be taking home another award at the end of this season.

 

Related: SEC Dominates Preseason Outland Trophy Watch List with 15 Nominees

 

The watch list was released on Tuesday with 16 SEC players among the 51 linebackers that made the cut. Of the Power 5 Conferences the Pac-12 was second with 11, the Big Ten posted eight, the ACC had five, and the Big 12 only had three.

 

The SEC players that are receiving the most preseason hype at linebacker include Reggie Ragland (Alabama), Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd (Georgia), Kentrell Brothers (Missouri), OLB/DE Curt Maggitt (Tennessee), and Antonio Morrison (Florida). Of the group Brothers arguably has the strongest track record, after registering 122 tackles as a junior in 2014.

 

The one SEC player in the group not to sleep on is Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis. Ellis is moving from middle linebacker to the weak side this season. Ellis filled in at Mike for two years but despite his 6-foot-2, 237-pound frame, is better suited for the outside. In 2014 Martrell Spaight owned the outside for coordinator Robb Smith's defense, leading the SEC with 128 tackles.

 

The Pac-12 could very easily win the Butkus Award in back-to-back seasons. The criteria for the award are debatable, but last year UCLA Bruins senior linebacker Eric Kendricks took home the trophy after a season that included 145 tackles. The honor rightfully went to a Pac-12 player but one could argue Scooby Wright was the nation’s best linebacker last season. The Arizona Wildcat exploded on the scene with 163 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, and 14 sacks.

 

Should UCLA go back-to-back, Myles Jack, the Bruins' do-everything stud linebacker and part-time running back, is the most likely candidate. Jack had 88 stops last season. His stat line should increase in 2015 with a move from the outside to the inside of UCLA's 3-4 defense.

 

Butkus Award Watch List (SEC players in bold)

 

Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
Kendall Beckwith, LSU
Zeek Bigger, East Carolina
Joe Bolden, Michigan
Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
Richie Brown, Mississippi State

Kelby Brown, Duke
James Burgess, Louisville
De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota
Su'a Cravens, USC
Brooks Ellis, Arkansas
Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
Travis Feeney, Washington
Leonard Floyd, Georgia
Josh Forrest, Kentucky
Kris Frost, Auburn

Darien Harris, Michigan State
Myles Jack, UCLA
Cory James, Colorado State
Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss

Peter Kalambayi, Stanford
Raphael Kirby, Miami
Carl Lawson, Auburn
Cory Littleton, Washington
Antonio Longino, Arizona State
Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
Blake Martinez, Stanford
Tyler Matakevich, Temple
Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
Mason Monheim, Illinois
Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
Antonio Morrison, Florida
Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland
Jared Norris, Utah
Reggie Northup, Florida State
Montese Overton, East Carolina
Joshua Perry, Ohio State
Reggie Ragland, Alabama
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee
Luke Rhodes, William & Mary
Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
James Ross, Michigan
Anthony Sarao, USC
Michael Scherer, Missouri
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Terrance Smith, Florida State
Eric Striker, Oklahoma
Jason Wittingham, Utah
Scooby Wright III, Arizona

 

— 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.

Teaser:
SEC Dominates Butkus Award Watch List with 16 Players
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-honors-living-legends-all-star-game
Body:

As the MLB unveiled the Franchise Four for each team, as voted by the fans, they also honored the four best living players of all time. The fans ultimately decided that those players were Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, and Johnny Bench. See reasons below why they earned this title:

 

Aaron, a record 25-time All Star, was atop the MLB all time home run list with a whopping 755 for many years, until Barry Bonds passed him in 2007. The legend holds MLB records in total bases, RBIs, and extra base hits, having both consistency and durablity throughout his long career.

 

Though arthritis cut Koufax’s career short, he dominated over the span of his 12 seasons played, including three Cy Young Awards, three Triple Crowns, and four World Series titles. With a career record of 165-87 and a sub-3 ERA, Koufax’s ability to strike out batters contributed greatly to his success.

 

Most famously known for “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series, Willie Mays went to 24 straight All Star Games and won 12 straight Gold Gloves. Arguably the best all-around player in MLB history, his strong defense was supplemented by a bat that powered 660 home runs and over 3000 hits.

 

While a member of the infamous Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, Bench helped lead the team to two straight World Series title amid a career of 14 All Star appearances and 10 Gold Gloves. No other catcher in history has been able to replicate his combination of power and defense, which made him ever so valuable.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 11:52
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldog-fans-need-focus-present-quarterback-not-future
Body:

It’s less than two months until the start of college football season, arguably the greatest time of year for everyone in the South and most of the rest of the country, and Georgia fans are understandably excited about their football team.

 

Related: Georgia Bulldogs 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

Since Mark Richt took over in 2000, Bulldog faithful have been able to enjoy an unprecedented amount of success — SEC championships in 2002 and ‘05, multiple BCS bowl games, and their team has yet to finish in third place in the East. There have been good years and not so good years but on the whole, Georgia has been pretty good.

 

This season is no different, as Georgia will enter a preseason top-10 pick, the favorite to win the SEC East and is considered a College Football Playoff contender. This team returns freshman stud running back Nick Chubb, who is on the Maxwell Award watch list and will likely be a Heisman Award contender if his team does well. Greyson Lambert, formerly of the University of Virginia, has transferred in and will compete with both Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta for the starting quarterback position. Although the quarterback position may not look like much on paper, these are the guys that are here and will lead this team. What I have a hard time wrapping my head around is why Georgia fans are so quick to fast forward through this season?

 

Which brings me to Jacob Eason. If you have been living under a rock or just don't pay attention to college football recruiting, you may not know who Jacob Eason is. The HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR at Lake Stevens (Wash.) High School is about to start his senior season. Yes, his senior season, which means he hasn't even graduated yet. But if you read any number of Twitter accounts, it's all any diehard Georgia fan wants to talk about. Now, I get it. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback is rated by many as the No. 1 quarterback in next year’s class. He is big, strong, smart, etc. But can we pump the brakes for just a second on him and every move that he makes?

 

The quarterback position has been somewhat of a headache for Bulldog fans since Aaron Murray departed in 2013. Murray graduated from Georgia and left with career records in passing yards, completions and touchdown passes. His replacement, Hutson Mason didn't have a bad year when you look at his numbers, and, more importantly, while he certainly didn’t win many games on his own, he also didn’t lose any. Georgia finished the 2014 season 10-3 so let’s not act like Mason ran this team into the ground. Ramsey was an Elite 11 finalist but hasn't had the impact many had hoped for. Some think Lambert was just in a bad system in Virginia and will benefit from a better situation in Athens (who wouldn't?).

 

Either way, both guys have the added advantage of Chubb in the backfield, left tackle John Theus anchoring an offensive line that only lost one starter from last year and a defense led by second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who was able to talk Leonard Floyd into coming back to school instead of going to the NFL. Pruitt's defense is loaded with talent and will have the added advantage of another year in his system. All of this will help either Ramsey or Lambert in what should be a tough year with Georgia having both Alabama and Auburn on the schedule and also has to play in Knoxville. Other than that, the Bulldogs only have three true road games, which should take some pressure off of the quarterback.

 

So what does all this mean? It means Georgia has a chance to have a really great year and no one should be thinking about next year, at least not yet. Eason is coming to Georgia, this we know. He is a great pick up and looks to have all the tools to be a great college quarterback. We live in a world where few people stop and enjoy what's right in front of them. The day of Jacob Eason will come. But he will not in any way, shape or form suit up for Georgia this fall. Stop wasting your time talking about him. Focus on what you do have and that's a really good team with great pieces all around.

 

Now if you could just figure out who will start at quarterback.

 

— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports radio personality on WBHF 1450 in Cartersville, Ga. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails

Teaser:
Georgia Bulldog Fans Need to Focus on the Present Quarterback Not the Future
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mike-trout-takes-home-mvp-all-star-game-win
Body:

With the best stars in the MLB all on the field together in the All Star Game, Mike Trout made his case for the top player in the league. In the game's first at bat against Zack Greinke, who hasn’t allowed a run in 35.2 innings, he launched a home run to opposite field. Not only did the blast give the AL a 1-0 lead, but it also was the last remaining piece of Trout’s career All Star Game cycle.

 

Unsurprisingly, the star centerfielder took home MVP honors, with one hit and two runs in three at bats. He now becomes the only player to win back-to-back All Star Game MVP awards and just the fifth to win multiple titles. The 6-3 AL win provides the league home field advantage in the World Series. The home team has won five of the past six World Series, so it certainly plays some important role.


See Mike Trout's leadoff home run below:

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-non-conference-games-2015
Body:

The College Football Playoff Committee proved the general trend of tougher scheduling last fall. 

 

The Big Ten may not get one team in the Playoff — it could actually end up with two in college football's version of the Final Four. A big reason why that's even possible is Michigan State's non-conference showdown with Oregon.

 

In fact, with five of the best teams in the league facing quality opponents in Week 1, the Big Ten could be a big story just one weekend into the season.

 

There are more than a dozen great non-conference games in the Big Ten in 2015.

 

 AwayHomeDate
1.Sept. 12

Two national title contenders finishing the back half of a home-and-home? Yes, please. The Spartans will be fired up at home and have revenge on their minds after the 46-27 loss in Eugene last fall. The winner will get a huge Playoff notch in its belt in what should be one of the best games of the year regardless of conference.

2.Sept. 5*
The modern Big Ten power and traditional SEC power have only met once in history, a 15-0 Badgers win at home in 1928. The fast track in Arlington, Texas, should help an already superior Alabama team. The Crimson Tide is a 10-point favorite over the Big Red. A win by Wisconsin would rock the college football world right out of the gate.
3.Sept. 7
With revenge on the mind, fans on both sides can bet that Ohio State will be fired up. But Tech boasts one of the best defenses in the nation and they will be at home at night in one of the loudest buildings in college football. Additionally, everyone will probably have to wait until Labor Day night to find out who is starting at QB for Ohio State.
4.Sept. 19
Nebraska's 41-31 win in Lincoln last year broke the all-time series tie (6-5). Both teams should be good enough to make a run in their respective leagues but both head coaches still need a marquee win (for different reasons). Mike Riley needs a statement win in his first month on the job while Al Golden needs to show progress in a big way this fall. However, there is no national title on the line like in many previous Miami-Nebraska bouts.
5.Sept. 3
These two have only met three times with all three games taking place in Ann Arbor. Utah has won two of those meetings, including a 26-10 thumping of the Wolverines last season. On a Thursday night with Jim Harbaugh leading the way, this game should be much more intriguing and could be one of the best matchups of the first weekend.
Related: Big Ten Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands
6.Sept. 26
Older fans of both sides will likely remember the first and only meeting between BYU and Michigan. The Cougars won the 1984 Holiday Bowl 24-17 en route to a national championship. The Maize and Blue will be finishing a brutal first month of the Jim Harbaugh era that features two Pac-12 foes and the Taysom Hill-led Cougars.
7.Sept. 3
There are few chances in the non-con this fall for the Big Ten to make a statement, which adds to the intrigue of this season-opening Thursday night tilt in the Twin Cities. TCU will be a top-ranked team and is an 18-point favorite heading to TCF Bank Stadium. The Frogs stomped the Gophers 30-7 in Fort Worth last fall but Minnesota is 1-0 against TCU in its home state — thanks to a win in 1974 in Minneapolis.
8.Sept. 5
The color schemes alone will look amazing on the floor of towering Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. BYU and Nebraska get their seasons started in style in the first-ever meeting of the two national brands. Fans who are unfamiliar with Cougars dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill will learn all about him (if healthy) and Big Red Nation will get their first look at the Mike Riley-led Huskers.
9.Sept. 26
This is sort of an underrated rivalry that has seen 51 different editions. West Virginia has won 27 total and eight of the last nine meetings, including an epic 40-37 victory in College Park last fall. These are two very interesting coaches who know each other very well.
10.Sept. 19
The Panthers and Hawkeyes have played six total times in history and the series is tied 3-3. This includes a 24-20 Iowa win in Pittsburgh last year, spurred by backup quarterback C.J. Beathard's effective passing (7-of-8). He is now the starter and will have to face both rival Iowa State and Pitt in his first three starts of the season.

* - neutral site

 

Best of the Rest:

 

Iowa at Iowa State, Sept. 12

Stanford at Northwestern, Sept. 5

Northwestern at Duke, Sept. 19

Oregon State at Michigan, Sept. 12

Illinois at North Carolina, Sept. 19

Minnesota at Colorado State, Sept. 12

Washington State at Rutgers, Sept. 12

USF at Maryland, Sept. 19

Purdue at Virginia Tech, Sept. 19

Western Kentucky at Indiana, Sept. 5

Kansas at Rutgers, Sept. 26

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Non-Conference Games of 2015
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/rob-gronkowski-funny-die-hilarious-trailer-gronking-remember-patriots
Body:

We finally get to see A Gronking to Remember in film form.

 

Funny Or Die enlisted the help of Charlotte McKinney to give a visual representation of the book about Rob Gronkowski's escapades. Let's hope this actually gets made into a full-length feature film.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 10:59
Path: /college-football/arkansas-georgia-missouri-lsu-best-running-back-sec
Body:

The SEC has a storied tradition of producing some of the top running backs at the collegiate level year after year. The 2015 season will be no different with Georgia, Missouri, LSU and Arkansas each returning a 1,000-yard rusher. The Razorbacks actually have the distinction of returning a pair.

 

These talented ball carriers include Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Missouri’s Russell Hansbrough, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, and Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins from Arkansas. Each tailback scratched their way to a standout season in 2014 but which is the best heading into 2015?

 

Related: SEC Football 2015 All-Conference Team

 

What makes a great running back? Size, speed, strength, vision and production on the field are good starting points. A product of the system, good or bad, should be taken into consideration along with the surrounding talent. A projection to the next level is not relevant, this is college football.

 

Before going forward lets acknowledge that every contender on the list had to split carries with someone else. Hansbrough with Marcus Murphy, Chubb with Todd Gurley, Fournette with Terrence Magee, and Williams and Collins with one another.

 

Related: SEC Running Back Rankings for 2015

 

The Contenders

We have five contenders. Of the five, the returning player with the least amount of yards last season was Fournette. The true freshman had 1,034 yards with 10 touchdowns on the ground. One stat going in his favor, he had the fewest amount of touches among this quintet with 187. Fournette’s yards per carry average of 5.5 ranks third out of the five contenders.

 

The downside, Fournette (6-1, 230) only had seven receptions for 127 yards with no scores. The impressive 18.1 yards per catch average is just that, impressive but also a product of a bad passing attack, which just might hold him back in this respect again in 2015.

 

The fourth running back in terms of yardage gained was Hansbrough. Hansbrough, also the smallest (5-9, 196) pounds, came up with 1,084 yards on 205 totes, finding the end zone 10 times. Outshined by senior teammate Murphy in the passing game, Hansbrough only had 11 receptions for 58 yards with no scores. Murphy had 28 receptions for 212 yards and a touchdown, so it's possible Hansbrough could see an uptick in his receiving totals in 2015.

 

One of the more talented backs that just seems to be held back by his own work ethic is Collins. The Razorback carried the ball 204 times for 1,100 yards with 12 touchdowns, but had fumbling issues in 2014. He was a non-factor in the passing game under former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Chaney would have rather watched the Arkansas punter do his thing on fourth down than throw to a back out of the backfield on third down to keep the chains moving.

 

The second-best rushing total of the 2014 season among our returnees belongs to Williams. Williams and Collins are essentially physical clones, both measuring in at 6-foot tall and around 225 pounds. Where Williams sets himself apart is in determination.

 

The Allen, Texas, native runs hard on every touch, staying on his feet after first contact and slipping easily to the next level of the defense. He had a 5.6 yard per carry average, totaling 1,190 yards rushing with 12 scores. Another victim in the Chaney passing scheme, Williams only had 65 yards receiving on 11 catches but did add two scores to his stat line.

 

The true breakout star in 2014 was Chubb. Although similarly sized (5-10, 220) to his counterparts, the Cedartown, Ga., native plays bigger and stronger than his peers.

 

Chubb was the second-leading rusher in the SEC behind Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne, finishing his true freshman campaign with 1,547 yards on 219 carries. Chubb was the top tailback in the SEC in rushing touchdowns with 14 and also chipped in two receiving scores. His 18 catches for 213 yards made him one of the more productive receivers out of the backfield.

 

The one note about Chubb that can work for or against him is how his touches were laid out over the season. Gurley started the season for Georgia but then was suspended for four games before suffering a season-ending injury. In his first five games Chubb only had 35 carries. While most teams are playing FCS schools or lower-tiered FBS programs gearing up for conference games, Georgia suited up against Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt during that tough stretch.

 

In the five conference games he started, Chubb absolutely tore it up, rushing for 143 yards against Missouri, 202 against Arkansas, 156 against Florida, 170 against Kentucky, and 144 against Auburn.

 

The question stands, did Chubb benefit from fresh legs only playing parts of the Bulldogs' first five contests against tough teams? How will he respond in 2015 being “the man” from the opening snap of the season?

 

Positives and Negatives

Of the five contenders only Collins has posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. Williams came close in 2013 with 900 yards on 150 carries. Hansbrough rushed for 685 yards in 2013 as part of a three-man rotation in the Tigers’ backfield. Chubb and Fournette were true freshmen in 2014, so they have the smallest sample sizes to analyze.

 

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

 

In 2015 Georgia and Arkansas enter the season with veteran offensive lines. The Razorbacks may have a slight advantage under center with third-year starting quarterback Brandon Allen managing the game. Arkansas also has a new offensive coordinator in Dan Enos, which could mean more and varied types of touches for Collins and Williams, increasing their ending stat lines.

 

Related: College Football's Top 20 Running Back Tandems for 2015

 

LSU has three starters returning on the offensive line but still has a large question mark under center. All teams know our five contenders are going to get the ball and will more than likely see seven to eight men in the box on first down and third-and-short, but until LSU proves it can get the ball downfield Fournette will have to drag more guys across the field to get his yards. Can he hold up?

 

Hansbrough’s season could go either way. Missouri has three offensive linemen returning but lost its four leading receivers. Junior quarterback Maty Mauk is wildly hit or miss. Hansbrough, like Fournette, will be the featured offensive weapon in 2015. Can he hold up to the pounding throughout the season until offensive coordinator Josh Henson finds reliable targets for Mauk in the passing game? Missouri has an easy schedule again in 2015 which should help Hansbrough.

 

Who is the Best?

The most consistent runners are Williams and Collins. Fournette is great but seemingly has a far more daunting task ahead without a quarterback under center, plus he plays in the SEC West. The back with the most to prove is Hansbrough, is he a true No. 1 SEC tailback? The most dynamic all-around back has to be Chubb.

 

SEC Honorable Mention

Jalen Hurd (Tennessee), Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt), Derrick Henry (Alabama), and even in a stretch Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott.

 

Players to Watch

Kendall Sheffield (Alabama), Damien Harris (Alabama), Kerryon Johnson (Auburn), Derrius Grice (LSU), Jordan Cronkrite (Florida), Jordan Scarlett (Florida), Sony Michel (Georgia), Stanley “Boom” Williams (Kentucky), Brandon Wilds (South Carolina), Kenyan Drake (Alabama), Nick Gibson (Mississippi State), Jaylen Walton (Ole Miss), Tra Carson (Texas A&M), and Jay Bradford (Texas A&M).

 

— 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.

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Kickoff for the 2015 college football season is just around the corner. With media days underway and players reporting to camps in August, it won’t be long before teams are officially preparing for the opening week.

 

With the season countdown under 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to take a look at the best 50 players in college football for the upcoming year.

 

Ranking the best 50 players in college football is no easy assignment. Every aspect of a player was weighed in this evaluation: Pro potential, positional importance, college statistics and awards, projections for 2015 and coaching changes or personnel losses.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Just missed the top 50: Michigan State C Jack Allen, Virginia Tech DE Dadi Nicolas, Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander, Ohio State DT Adolphus Washington, Ohio State OG Pat Elflein, Arkansas TE Hunter Henry, Oklahoma LB Eric Striker, Ohio State S Vonn Bell

 

* Florida State RB Dalvin Cook was removed due to the uncertainty of his status for 2015.

 

College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

50. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska

In his first full season as a starter, Collins was a force on the interior for the Cornhuskers. He recorded 14 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries in 13 games.

 

49. Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State

Higgins was one of the top players from the Group of 5 ranks last season, catching 96 passes for 1,750 yards and 17 scores. New coaching staff and quarterback could have an impact on his statistics in 2015.

 

48. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Buckner is a physically imposing lineman at 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, and the Hawaii native is starting to scratch the surface of his potential. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season after recording 81 tackles (13 for a loss), four sacks and one forced fumble.

 

47. Jared Goff, QB, California

Goff had a breakout campaign last season directing coach Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid offense. In 12 games in 2014, Goff threw for 35 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Here’s a scary thought for the Pac-12: He’s only going to get better in 2015.

 

46. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU

Hill is recovering from a season-ending leg injury sustained in the 35-20 loss to Utah State. When healthy, Hill is one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks. Hill threw for 2,938 yards and 19 scores in 2013 and also rushed for 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

45. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

300-pound tackle developed into one of the Big 12’s most underrated players last season. Billings recorded 37 stops (11.5 for a loss) and one forced fumble in 2014. The Texas native will team with end Shawn Oakman to form one of the nation’s top defensive lines. 

 

44. Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State

When he’s not tackling trees, Zettel is attacking opposing Big Ten quarterbacks. In 13 games in 2014, Zettel recorded 42 tackles (17 for a loss), eight sacks and three interceptions. The senior was a big reason why Penn State held opponents to just 18.6 points a game last year.

 

43. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

All signs point to Johnson as college football’s breakout star for 2015. Johnson completed 28 of 37 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns in limited action last year.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

42. Duke Williams, WR, Auburn

Williams could easily rank much higher on this list by December. In his first year with the Tigers, he averaged 16.2 yards per catch and grabbed 45 receptions in 10 games. Will be the go-to target for quarterback Jeremy Johnson. 

 

41. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper is arguably the top all-purpose threat in college football. He averaged 108.5 total yards per game last season and needs to be South Carolina’s top playmaker once again in 2015.

 

40. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

In addition to setting the FBS single-game rushing record (427 yards), Perine finished 2014 with 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a true freshman. Even with Oklahoma changing offensive schemes and coordinators, Perine and the rushing attack is still a major focal point for the Sooners.

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

39. Su’a Cravens, LB/S, USC

With the high-powered offenses in the Pac-12, having a player with the versatility of Cravens is huge for USC. The hybrid linebacker/safety has recorded 120 stops and seven interceptions in two years with the Trojans. Cravens was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last season.

 

38. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

Hackenberg struggled behind an inconsistent offensive line last season. However, the junior has all of the necessary talent to be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

 

37. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Starting as a true freshman in the SEC at left tackle is no easy assignment, but Robinson anchored the line for Alabama for all 14 games in 2014. The Louisiana native is already one of the top offensive linemen in the nation.

 

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

 

36. Adoree’ Jackson, CB/WR, USC

Expect to see plenty of Jackson in 2015. The sophomore will line up on both sides of the ball and is a dynamic threat on special teams. Jackson recorded 49 tackles and caught 10 passes for 138 yards and three scores. He also averaged 29.7 yards per kickoff return and took two for a touchdown.

 

35. Max Tuerk, C, USC

Tuerk is a versatile lineman for USC and was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2014. Over the last three years, Tuerk has started games at guard, tackle and center. The senior is considered one of the top draft prospects in the trenches for the 2016 NFL Draft.

 

34. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

Conner was the ACC’s Player of the Year last season after rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 scores in 13 games. In conference-only matchups, Conner averaged 6.2 yards per carry and posted 16 rushing touchdowns.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

33. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

2015 will be Henry’s time to shine. After working in a backup/No. 2 role to T.J. Yeldon over the last two seasons, Henry will be Alabama’s go-to option. He led the Alabama offense with 990 yards and 11 rushing scores last year.

 

32. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Lee was one of the top freshmen in the nation last season. In 15 starts for Ohio State, he recorded 81 tackles (16.5 for a loss) and 7.5 sacks. Lee was also a key cog in the playoff run, recording two tackles for a loss and two sacks against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

 

31. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Decker enters 2015 with 29 consecutive starts and is regarded as one of the NFL’s best tackle prospects for 2016. Over the last three games of 2014, the Buckeyes averaged 292.7 rushing yards per game – a clear sign of just how dominant the offensive line can be for Ohio State.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

30. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

From walk-on to one of the Big Ten’s top offensive linemen. That’s Conklin’s story entering 2015, as he’s started 26 games over the last two years for the Spartans. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2014 and will be the anchor for Michigan State’s line this season.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

29. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Treadwell’s 2014 season was cut short by injury, but all signs point to the junior returning to full strength this fall. After catching 72 passes for 608 yards and five scores as a freshman in 2013, Treadwell grabbed 48 receptions for 632 yards and five touchdowns last season.

 

28. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

Boyd has been Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver since stepping onto campus in 2014. Over the last two seasons, Boyd has recorded 163 catches for 2,435 yards and 15 touchdown catches. With quarterback Chad Voytik returning, along with new coordinator Jim Chaney calling the plays, Boyd should be a lock for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.

 

27. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s defense has to improve if the Fighting Irish want to make a run at a playoff spot in 2014. Smith is one of the impact defenders for coach Brian Kelly, starting all 26 games in his career. In 13 contests last season, Smith recorded 112 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

 

26. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Is Ragland the next first-round pick at linebacker for the Crimson Tide? It’s certainly possible. The senior was steady as the leader for Alabama’s linebacker corps in 2014, recording 95 tackles (10.5 for a loss) and one forced fumble.

 

25. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

The No. 2 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite lived up to the hype as a freshman. In 13 games, Garrett recorded 53 tackles (14 for a loss) and 11.5 sacks. He’s only going to get better as a sophomore in 2015.

 

24. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

Ogbah was underrated nationally last season, but Big 12 offenses know just how good this junior is for Oklahoma State. The Texas native won the Big 12’s defensive lineman of the year award in 2014 after recording 49 tackles (17 for a loss) and 11 sacks.

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

23. Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor

Drango is the anchor for Baylor’s offensive line, which is one of the best in college football. The senior has 35 career starts and is a first-team Athlon Sports All-American for 2015.

 

22. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Tennessee is a team on the rise entering 2015, and coach Butch Jones is starting to put all of the pieces together to build one of the SEC’s top defenses. Barnett was an impact freshman in 2014, recording 72 tackles (20.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. The Nashville native was at his best in SEC games, recording all 10 of his sacks in conference action.

 

21. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

With Eric Kendricks off to the NFL, Jack is now the unquestioned leader of UCLA’s defense. And in addition to his production on defense, Jack remains a threat to steal a few carries on offense and continue as a two-way threat. In 13 games last season, Jack recorded 88 tackles and rushed for 113 yards and three scores.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

20. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Calhoun has been a consistent force off the edge for coach Mark Dantonio. After recording only six stops in 2012, Calhoun has posted back-to-back seasons of at least 37 tackles and has 15.5 sacks in that span. The senior is a big reason why Michigan State should have one of the nation’s top defensive lines in 2015.

 

19. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

Oakman is physically one of college football’s most impressive players. At 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds, Oakman has all of the tools to be a top selection in next year’s draft. And Oakman’s talent is starting to match his production. In 13 games last season, Oakman recorded 51 tackles, three forced fumbles and 11 sacks.

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

18. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Even though play-caller Chad Morris left Clemson to be the head coach at SMU, the Tigers hope the offense won’t miss a beat behind Watson. Before suffering a torn ACL against Georgia Tech, Watson threw for 1,466 yards and 14 scores. Assuming Watson stays healthy, he should make a push for All-American honors this year.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

17. Cody Kessler, QB, USC

USC is loaded for a run at the playoffs this year, and if the Trojans are going to reach the top four, they will have to do it on the strength of an offense that averaged 35.8 points per game in 2014. Kessler threw for 3,826 yards and 39 scores in 13 games last season.

 

16. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette might have the most overall talent of any running back in college football. After rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 scores on 187 attempts last year, the sophomore should easily exceed those totals with more opportunities in 2015.

 

15. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Stanley has blossomed into the one of the nation’s top tackle prospects over the last two years. After starting 13 games on the right side in 2013, Stanley shifted to the left tackle spot and started every contest (13) for Notre Dame in 2014. He’s an Athlon Sports All-American for 2015.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

14. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Cook won’t post the monster statistical numbers of some quarterbacks on this list, but the senior has developed into a top NFL prospect and is 23-3 as a starter in East Lansing. Over the last two seasons, Cook has passed for 46 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions.

 

13. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

It’s a close call between Chubb and Elliott for the No. 1 spot among running backs on this list. After Todd Gurley was lost to a suspension and ACL tear last season, Chubb kept Georgia’s rushing attack among the best in the SEC. He finished 2014 with 1,547 yards and 14 scores, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt.

 

12. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

No running back in college football was performing at a higher level than Elliott at the end of 2014. Elliott delivered in some of Ohio State’s biggest games, including 154 yards against Michigan State, 220 against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, 230 against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and 246 in the national title win over Oregon.

 

11. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Tunsil is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl loss against TCU. However, all signs point to Tunsil returning to full strength by the fall. The junior has 20 career starts and earned first-team All-SEC honors last year.

 

Related: The SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury in 2015

 

10. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

Prescott was a big reason why Mississippi State reached double-digit victories for the third time in program history in 2014. In addition to earning first-team All-SEC honors, Prescott threw for 3,449 yards and 27 scores, while rushing for 986 yards and 14 touchdowns.

 

Related: SEC's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

9. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

Boykin was one of college football’s most improved players in 2014, and the senior has TCU among the favorites to earn a playoff spot in 2015. Under the guidance of new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, Boykin led all Big 12 quarterbacks with 3,901 passing yards and 33 scores. He also added 707 yards and eight scores on the ground.

 

Related: Big 12 2015 Predictions

 

8. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

Robinson’s contributions to the Alabama defense go beyond the box score. As a nose tackle/end in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 alignment, the Texas native isn’t going to produce huge numbers in the defensive scheme. However, Robinson anchors one of the nation’s top defenses up front and recorded 49 tackles last season.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
 

7. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche helped to anchor the defensive line for the “Landshark” defense, as Ole Miss limited opponents to 16 points a game in 2014. The Georgia native has recorded 69 tackles and four sacks over the last two years and earned first-team All-SEC honors last season.

 

6. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Fuller is a lockdown corner for coordinator Bud Foster and is an Athlon Sports first-team All-American for 2015. The Baltimore native started all 13 games and earned second-team all-conference honors as a true freshman in 2013. Fuller started all 13 games again in 2014 and was a third-team All-American by Athlon Sports. With Brandon Facyson returning, Virginia Tech should have one of the nation’s top cornerback tandems.

 

Related: College Football's Best Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

5. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Just like Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller, Hargreaves III has been an impact defender since the first day on campus. The Tampa native started the final 10 games in 2013 and earned All-SEC honors as a true freshman. Hargreaves III elevated his game even higher in 2014, earned Associated Press All-America honors and leading the SEC with 13 pass breakups.

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

4. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

Wright wasn’t a huge prospect on the recruiting trail, but the California native has blossomed into one of college football’s best defenders. The 6-foot-1 linebacker started 12 games as a freshman in 2013 and recorded 83 stops. Wright was even more dominant in 2014, posting a whopping 163 tackles (29 for a loss), 14 sacks and six forced fumbles.

 

3. Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

A strong case could be made for Ramsey to rank No. 1 on this list. After a standout debut in 2013 (49 tackles, one interception), the Tennessee native was a versatile and prolific defender for coordinator Charles Kelly. In 14 games, Ramsey recorded 79 stops (9.5 for a loss), three sacks, two interceptions and 12 pass breakups. With the departure of cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, Ramsey is expected to play cornerback in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

2. Ohio State Quarterbacks

Yes, we are cheating just a bit here. Instead of ranking all three quarterbacks from the Buckeyes within the list, let’s just group them in one spot. All three – Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller – are worthy of Heisman consideration if any can start a full season of games. But here’s the big question: Who will coach Urban Meyer pick?

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Dominant. That’s the best way to describe Bosa’s play for Ohio State over the last two years. As a true freshman in 2013, Bosa recorded 44 tackles (13.5 for a loss) and 7.5 sacks. The Florida native continued to wreak havoc against offensive lines as a sophomore, recording 21 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Bosa’s play in the trenches sets the tone for Ohio State’s defense, and the junior has been projected by some as the top overall draft prospect for 2016.

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Since Ken Dorsey had consecutive top-five Heisman Trophy finishes in 2001 and ‘02, Miami has struggled to find an elite quarterback. Hurricane fans were tantalized at times by the play of Brock Berlin, Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. But in the end, none of those players fully met expectations in large part because they simply did not win enough games.

 

Enter Brad Kaaya.

 

The quarterback from West Hills, Calif., had a tremendous true freshman season, breaking several Miami first-year passing records along the way. He won the job in camp and never let go, throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

 

The problem was that Miami still went 6-7. The four losses to end the year, and especially the three defeats that followed the tough Florida State game on Nov. 15, changed everyone’s view on what could have been a nice season. While Kaaya’s numbers in the games following FSU were not great, they weren’t awful either.

 

And there’s the rub. Miami was not able to win the games coming down the stretch when Kaaya was just okay; he needed to be great. It’s a lot to ask one player to shoulder that kind of load and it should be unnecessary when that player is a true freshman on a team that had seven players taken in the latest NFL Draft.

 

This fall, the pressure on Kaaya ramps up even more. Only two other offensive starters return. Four offensive linemen need to be replaced and the leading returning receiver had just 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. The defense also loses a bunch, and new leaders must be found to replace Anthony Chickillo and Denzel Perryman.

 

Related: Miami Hurricanes 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

Clearly, the most accomplished player on the 2015 Hurricanes is the sophomore quarterback. Like seemingly everyone else on the team, Kaaya is young. But make no mistake about it, this is his team. It can’t be anyone else’s.

 

To top it all off, Kaaya is well aware of his coach’s tenuous job situation. Each Miami loss could be the crack that sends Al Golden plummeting through the thin ice on which he currently operates.

 

No one is expecting a whole lot from the Hurricanes this fall. Athlon Sports has them ranked No. 43 entering the season and projects a date with Indiana in the Arizona Bowl. With an inexperienced roster and a tough schedule, 2015 could be a difficult ride for Miami. In total, Kaaya has a ton on his plate entering just his second campaign.

 

What he does have, however, is a great opportunity. The next step is not contending for a national championship; it’s contending in the ACC Coastal Division. If Kaaya puts up good numbers again, develops even more as a leader of the program, and has Miami in a position to make Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech nervous at the end of November, he will have done his job and then some.

 

All of those possibilities will have to be connected for his development to materialize. Kaaya needs to put up the stats for his team to win and the only way he puts up those numbers is to lead the way for the younger offensive unit.

 

When 2015 turns to ‘16, it’s unlikely that Kaaya will be placed alongside Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, and all the other star quarterbacks in Hurricanes’ lore. But he has a chance, with improved play and improved team results, to take a big stride in their direction.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years and his work also has been published on PhilSteele.com.

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Have you ever wanted to throw balls at LeBron James' head? Jimmy Fallon has created just the game for you!

 

On the "Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon," James got to play a new game called "Faceketball," and there are no losers when playing this game.

 

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A change in the weather was brewing across the state of Virginia last November, on Black Friday at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium. The heat was about to dissipate on Virginia’s Mike London, and be turned up on Tech’s Frank Beamer.

 

With 2:55 left in the annual battle for the Commonwealth Cup, Virginia took a 20–17 lead. The Cavaliers appeared on the verge of beating the Hokies for the first time in a decade, qualifying for a bowl game, and easing the pressure on London.

 

Just two days before, London had received a vote of confidence from athletic director Craig Littlepage, who announced that the long-embattled coach would be back in 2015, no matter the outcome. To some, it seemed premature. But with the game winding down and Virginia on top, Littlepage looked prescient.

 

A Virginia win wasn’t to be, however. The Hokies moved 75 yards in just three plays to stun the Cavaliers and establish the coaching narratives for the 2015 season, in both Blacksburg and Charlottesville.

 

Tech’s win extended Beamer’s bowl streak to 22 years and quieted some of the growing skepticism about his fitness to continue to lead what he’d built in 28 years with the Hokies. After a victory over Cincinnati in the Military Bowl, athletic director Whit Babcock broke a season-long silence and clarified where things stood with the 68-year-old coach.

 

The bottom line was that Babcock was satisfied with Beamer’s plan for reversing a three-year decline and returning to ACC title contention. As the leader in FBS wins among active coaches, Beamer had earned the right to try to turn things around.

 

“We have high expectations here, and the guy who’s our coach created them,” Babcock told reporters.

 

Buy the 2015 Athlon Sports ACC Football Preview

 

Beamer certainly did, playing for the national title in 1999, winning at least 10 games in every season from 2004-11, and claiming four ACC titles during that stretch. The Hokies are 22–17 the past three seasons, though, and have entered a delicate phase in their aging coach’s tenure. Could an icon have lost his edge? Overstayed his welcome? Babock emphasized that there was “never a day” in the 2014 season when Beamer’s job was in jeopardy. But he and Beamer agree that improvement is needed — and soon.

 

“There were no ultimatums issued, no magic numbers issued,” Babcock says. “I support Coach, and I think we’re going to be a lot better next year.”

 

Littlepage expressed similar sentiments when announcing that London would be back. He said he’d seen signs of progress in “many areas” in 2014.

 

“I trust the plan Mike has in place and believe his leadership provides the best opportunity for Virginia football to be successful in the future,” he said.

 

Clearly, it’s a crucial season for both of the Commonwealth’s ACC coaches. But the similarities end there. Beamer is on firmer ground and seems better positioned to write his own ending. For London, this year is make or break.

 

Babcock says he wanted to see if Beamer was “ready to get back in the saddle and dig” after a wearying up-and-down season. The coach had throat surgery in December, leaving the day-to-day work of bowl preparation to his assistants and coaching the Military Bowl from the press box.

 

Beamer lost his voice for a bit, but not his drive. He said he was back to full strength for spring practice and feeling refreshed.

 

“When you get out there and you’re not a part of it, you kind of start thinking how much you want to be a part of it,” he said in his pre-spring press conference.

 

Last season was humbling and exasperating. At times — like after a 30–6 loss to Miami — Beamer appeared to be campaigning for his job, citing his team’s youth and pointing to brighter days ahead. The same team that beat eventual national champ Ohio State lost six of its next nine, including four out of five at home, and bottomed out in a 6–3 double-overtime defeat at Wake Forest in which the offense scratched out a season-low 254 yards.

 

The Hokies were decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball. Tailbacks Shai McKenzie and Trey Edmunds went down, as did cornerback Brandon Facyson and defensive tackle Luther Maddy.

 

Still, the defense held up better. An offense that struggled all year took much of the blame. The Hokies ranked 96th in total offense and 98th in turnovers lost and sacks allowed. Quarterback Michael Brewer was inconsistent, the offensive line was often ineffective and big plays were scarce.

 

Third-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has promised improvement, saying that this is the season when familiarity should kick in, and a leap forward can happen.

 

With most of last year’s offense back, the Hokies could indeed be better. Beamer is counting on it. Despite last season’s struggles, he called the Military Bowl win one of his proudest moments at Tech, considering the adversity the team faced.

 

As for Beamer’s long-term plans, Babcock says he and the coach have not discussed much beyond 2015. Beamer’s contact runs through 2019, when he’ll be 72.

 

“We’ll know it when we know it,” is all Babock will say about a possible retirement date for Beamer.

 

London hasn’t earned the luxury of leaving on his own terms. After finishes of 4–8, 2–10 and 5–7, his stay on the proverbial hot seat enters its third season. The Cavaliers were 2:55 away from changing the storyline, at least for one offseason. Virginia couldn’t close things out, however, either in the game or the season. A 4–2 start provided hope that a program dogged by inconsistency and meltdowns at inopportune times might have turned a corner. But Virginia went 1–5 in the final six games, and old questions about the Cavaliers’ preparation and London’s game management surfaced again.

 

A late drive in a loss at Duke got mired in miscommunication, with a harried timeout, and then a delay of game penalty. A week later vs. North Carolina, Virginia blew a coverage on a routine pass route, was caught napping on an onside kick, and set up the Tar Heels’ winning field goal with a penalty for having 12 players on the field.

 

The usual distracting chatter followed Virginia into November. Littlepage’s statement didn’t do much to quiet it, and London missed an opportunity in Blacksburg on a frigid Friday night.

 

“I feel very thankful and humble about the fact that I’ll be the head coach of this team next season,” he said prior to spring practice. “You can speak to the players about how they felt. I’m very indebted to President (Teresa) Sullivan and Craig Littlepage, and very respectful of the job that I have to do.”

 

Lauded for his ability to connect with players as a recruiter, London retains the loyalty of the team. When the heat was on last year, many players said they considered him a father figure and were playing to save his job.

 

“He’s a genuine guy,” cornerback Demetrious Nicholson says. “He sticks to his word. His door is always open to talk about anything. He has that great relationship with players that makes you want to play for him.”

 

London’s teams have done well in the classroom and the community. He’s a one-man wave of positivity, always stressing the bigger picture of life and education and rarely letting any pressure he’s feeling show — perhaps because he’s known real pressure outside the gridiron.

 

Before he got into coaching, he worked as a detective in Richmond, Va. One night, a suspect whom London had cornered in an alley after a chase pointed a gun at his head. The man pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t go off.

 

Years later, London donated bone marrow to help save the life of his then-7-year-old daughter, who had a rare blood disorder.

 

That’s not to say he downplays the importance of what happens between the lines.

 

“It’s important that we win football games,” he says. “It’s important that we perform.”

 

Heading into his sixth season overall, and his third with a revamped staff, London insists that the team is on the right path. The administrators who granted him another year did him no favors with the schedule, however. With UCLA, Boise State and Notre Dame on the slate, the challenge is daunting.

 

With significant losses from last year’s team on both sides of the ball, a window may have closed on the best chance to turn things around. And with just two years remaining on his contract, the cost of buying London out won’t be as steep as it’s been the past two years.

 

Nicholson says the players have learned to ignore the chatter about their coach’s uncertain status.

 

“We don’t really worry about whether Coach is getting fired,” he says. “We just focus on our goals at hand and trying to take care of business.”

 

Unless Virginia greatly exceeds expectations, players will have to spend another long season trying to tune out the noise.

 

-by Ed Miller, the Virginian-Pilot

Teaser:
Frank Beamer, Mike London Enter 2015 with Dueling Hot Seats
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /mlb/washington-nationals-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Washington Nationals Mt. Rushmore

No other franchise suffered as much from the effects of the 1994 players strike as the Montreal Expos. One of the most tragic injustices in baseball is the fate of the 1994 Expos. On pace to win 105 games and six games ahead of the mighty Atlanta Braves, the most promising season in franchise history was erased by the strike. The team never recovered from the losses at the turnstiles or in local broadcast deals and eventually fell under the control of MLB. Ted Lerner purchased the franchise in 2006, and financial stability has been strong since. This franchise is the only one of the 30 current organizations never to win a postseason series after a full season of play. The only series this franchise can claim is the 1981 NLDS between first- and second-half NL East champions. The Montreal Expos defeated the Philadelphia Phillies is the best-of-five series, 3-2. The Expos were then beaten by the Dodgers in the NLCS. Now competing in its 47th season, the team has finished with the best record in its division twice in addition to 1994, and second eight times. Given that history, it’s surprising to find as many worthy candidates for the Expos/Nationals Mt. Rushmore.

 

Andre Dawson
Along with his friend Tim Raines, Dawson was part of the first dismantling of a contender in the late-1980s (the second coming after the 1994 strike). Reportedly, Dawson signed a blank contract to join the Chicago Cubs after no other team made strong overtures for the future Hall of Famer’s services. While a member of the Expos, the Hawk won Rookie of the Year, was MVP runner-up twice, won six Gold Gloves as a center fielder, hit 225 home runs, stole 253 bases and drove in and scored more than 800 runs in his 1,443 games. Playing all those seasons on the hard turf at Olympic Stadium took a toll on his knees, retarding his production in his later years.

 

Tim Raines
Raines is the franchise’s all-time leader in runs and stolen bases, and is second on the franchise list in average and hits. The seven-time All-Star finished in the top 7 in MVP voting three times as an Expo. He owns four stolen base titles, a batting title and led the NL in runs scored twice, once in 1987 even though he wasn’t signed by the Expos until May 1 after getting caught in the middle of the owners’ collusion in free agency bidding.

 

Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero, who never saw a pitch he couldn’t hit, was the last real star in Montreal. He left the team via free agency prior to the 2004 season. He had three seasons of 1.000+ OPS and in 2002 he led the National League with 206 hits and was one home run shy of reaching 40-40 status. He ended his tenure in Montreal with 1,004 games, 234 home runs and a franchise-best .323 batting average.

 

Gary Carter
The Kid made a couple of Opening Day starts in right field before settling in behind the plate. His broad smile and fan appeal was a fixture in Montreal from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. He ranks second, third or fourth in most offensive categories. The Hall of Famer made seven All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves behind the plate. Four of his All-Star appearances were starts, and he hit three home runs and batted .400 in his All-Star starts. He led the National League in RBIs in 1984. The Expos reluctantly traded their superstar to the Mets for four established major league players prior to the 1985 season fearing they would not be able to afford him and would lose him to free agency. His final franchise tallies include 220 homers and more than 2,400 total bases in over 1,500 games.


Close Calls
Unlike the others on this list of candidates, Tim Wallach spent most of his productive seasons in Montreal. Consequently, he is high on the all-time list in most every category. But he didn’t seem to have the star impact the other players carried.

 

From 1969-76 the Expos had eight different starting pitchers on Opening Day. Steve Rogers was the eighth and made eight consecutive Opening Day starts of his nine total for the team. He leads the franchise with 158 wins and 37 shutouts.

 

Felipe Alou managed the team through some tough economic times for eight-plus seasons, leading the team to two of their best seasons in history (1993-94).

 

Le Grand Orange, aka Rusty Staub, was the first major league hero in Montreal. He was the team’s All-Star rep its first three seasons and his No. 10 is retired even though Andre Dawson wore it proudly for 10 years after Staub.

 

Surprisingly, Jose Vidro is fifth in hits and games played. He’s also the only player to start multiple All-Star Games as a member of the franchise other than the four players selected above.

 

While Ryan Zimmerman has become a fan favorite during his tenure, the player with the greatest upside and best chance to make Washington's Mt. Rushmore is outfielder Bryce Harper.

 

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals



 

Teaser:
<p> No other franchise suffered as much from the effects of the 1994 players strike as the Montreal Expos. One of the most tragic injustices in baseball is the fate of the 1994 Expos. On pace to win 105 games and six games ahead of the mighty Atlanta Braves, the most promising season in franchise history was erased by the strike. The faces on this monument played in Montreal, but some youngsters in Washington could soon replace them.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/st-louis-cardinals-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

St. Louis Cardinals Mt. Rushmore
The Mt. Rushmore for the team nearest and dearest to my heart also proves to be the most difficult for me to select. There are six strong candidates — five Hall of Famers and one who will be — and a handful of others who would make most teams’ mountains. One of the most storied and tradition-laden franchises in baseball, the Cardinals have enjoyed more success than any other National League team. They won six World Series and lost three in the 21 seasons from 1926-46. Since that time, it’s been a little bit of every-other-decade success for the Redbirds. No World Series appearances in the 1950s; three in the ’60s, winning two. None in the ’70s; three in the ’80s, winning one. None in the ’90s; two in the ’00s, winning one, before winning another in 2011. With 11 titles, the Cardinals rank second all-time, a distant second behind the Yankees. The organization has been loyal to managers. Since 1965 (47 seasons), only four men — Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa — have managed more than 91 percent of the Redbirds’ games. Obviously, the discussion begins with Stan the Man. Musial is the No. 1 name on all Cardinals fans’ lists. After that, it becomes a tough choice.

 

 

Stan Musial

Stan the Man is on the short list for MLB’s Mt. Rushmore, and no doubt would be a unanimous choice among Cardinals fans. Musial dominates the Cardinals’ all-time leaderboard, even leading in triples. He spent his entire career in St. Louis and remains an icon. He made 24 All-Star teams, was MVP three times with four runner-up finishes, won seven batting titles, is fourth all-time in the majors in hits, second in total bases, ninth in runs and sixth in RBIs. That’s quite a resume. He also was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian.

 

Bob Gibson

Gibson had as intimidating a mound presence as any pitcher ever. The menacing righthander spent his entire career with the Cardinals and was instrumental in the three pennant winners in the 1960s. There are the two Cy Young awards and 1968 MVP, but Gibson’s World Series performances were off the charts. In three Series he made nine starts with nine complete games, going 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA. He had 92 strikeouts in 81 innings and a 0.889 WHIP.

 

Lou Brock

Known for his stolen base records, Brock was much more than a one-dimensional player. Other than establishing season and career stolen base records, Brock had 3,023 hits — 2,713 of them with the Cardinals. He scored 1,427 runs for St. Louis and drove in 900 runs in his career, 640 of them from the leadoff spot. He is as beloved in St. Louis now as the day he retired.

 

Ozzie Smith

The Wizard came to St. Louis in 1982 as a .230-hitting defensive shortstop and retired as one of the greatest shortstops to play the game. During his 15 years in St. Louis, Smith made 14 All-Star teams, won 11 Gold Gloves and even a Silver Slugger in 1987 to go with his runner-up finish in MVP balloting. He had 1,944 hits, 991 runs and 433 stolen bases for the Cardinals in addition to saving more than 1,000 runs with his glove.

 

Close Calls

Had Albert Pujols re-upped with the Redbirds and finished out his career in St. Louis, there is little doubt that he would have ended up on the mountain. King Albert completed the most astonishing 11 seasons in team history in 2011.

It’s equally painful leaving off Rogers Hornsby, one of the best hitters in the game prior to 1930. From 1921-25, the Cardinals’ second baseman averaged .402 with 29 homers, 120 RBIs and 123 runs. But by most accounts he wasn’t the most popular teammate and he bounced from team to team after spending 12 years in St. Louis to start his career.

During the 1980s and ’90s, Red Schoendienst was always alongside greats Musial, Gibson and Brock donning red blazers at every major Cardinal event. In addition to his Hall of Fame career, Red managed a couple of pennant winners in the 1960s and remained an influential presence as a special coach for several years after his managerial career ended.

In terms of popularity and impact on the franchise, Whitey Herzog deserves consideration. He took over a franchise in 1980 that was drawing just over one million, had drug problems and hadn’t won in 11 years. Over the next decade, “Whiteyball” accounted for three World Series appearances, lifted attendance to three million for the first time and turned the franchise down the path it travels now.

August “Gussie” Busch Jr. bought the team in 1953, and nurtured it as an iconic franchise that became Cardinal Nation, bringing six pennants and three World Series titles in the 1960s and ’80s.

For his emotional post-9/11 speech alone, Hall of Famer Jack Buck deserves some mention as the Cardinals’ long-time broadcaster.

When Dizzy Dean was in his prime, he was right there with Babe Ruth as the biggest star in the game. It was just short-lived.


Few players have captured the hearts of fans in St. Louis the way that Yadier Molina has. Tony La Russa refered to him as the most indispensable player on the 2011 championship team, a club that included Pujols. Redbird pitchers will tell you that he deserves an MVP trophy.
 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The Mt. Rushmore for the team nearest and dearest to my heart also proves to be the most difficult for me to select. There are six strong candidates — five Hall of Famers and one who will be — and a handful of others who would make most teams’ mountains. Stan the Man Musial is the No. 1 name on all Cardinals fans’ lists. After that, it becomes a tough choice.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/san-francisco-giants-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

San Francisco Giants Mt. Rushmore
This organization began playing in 1883 as the New York Gothams before becoming known as the Giants in 1885. The Giants broke the hearts of many New York fans when the team moved to San Francisco in 1958. The Giants won five World Series while in New York. Attendance has always been strong for the Giants. They led the NL in attendance for most seasons prior to World War II. Upon moving to the Bay Area, they ranked in the top four in the NL in attendance the first eight seasons by the Pacific. Since 2000, the Giants have enjoyed crowds ranking among the top five in the league every season but two. There are few franchises with more difficult decisions for Mt. Rushmore. A franchise rich in tradition and success will certainly claim many worthy candidates. Tough calls all the way around here. Arguments will ensue.

 

Willie Mays
Perhaps the only player with no arguments against him would be the Say Hey Kid. Triples, stolen bases, RBIs and walks would be the only significant offensive categories in which you won’t find his name atop the list for the all-time franchise leaders. (And he’s second or third on those lists.) In fact, the Hall of Famer is widely considered among the best to ever play the game for any team at any position. He hit 646 home runs for the Giants and totaled 3,187 hits and scored 2,011 times. His career spanned both New York and San Francisco, making him a fan favorite in both cities.

 

Mel Ott
The first-ballot Hall of Famer reached base more as a Giant and drove in more runs than Mays. Only Mays has more total bases and hits. Ott made his debut with the Giants at age 17 in 1926, but didn’t become a regular until 1928. From that season through 1945, his last season as a full-time player, he averaged 28 home runs, 102 RBIs and 102 runs. Not a bad 18-year run. He walked 100 times in 10 of those seasons and had a .400 or better OBP 14 times. His OPS topped 1.000 seven times. He won six home run titles and finished in the top 11 in MVP voting eight times. As a 20-year-old in 1929, he posted career highs in home runs (42), RBIs (151) and OPS (1.084), and none of those led the National League.

 

Christy Mathewson
One of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mathewson won 372 games with the Giants. From 1901-14 he averaged 26 wins a season. In those days it wasn’t unusual for an ace to make occasional relief appearances. Big Six, as he was called, did that a handful of times each year, notching what would now be known as a couple of saves each year to go with his 26 wins. He led the NL in wins four times, ERA five times and strikeouts five times. Mathewson is the only hurler to win 30 games four times since 1900. The New York ace perhaps did his best work in the World Series. He tossed three complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series against the Philadelphia A’s. Over those 27 innings, he gave up 13 hits and walked one batter. He made 11 starts in the Series over his career with an ERA of 0.97.

 

Barry Bonds
Okay, let’s get the controversy out of the way up front. Did Barry Bonds use steroids or not? Most everyone believes it, but it has yet to be proven. And did MLB have a rule in place restricting or banning their use when Bonds played? No. What about HGH or other PEDs? But the numbers are what the numbers are. Bonds owns the six best on-base seasons in team history and the six best slugging seasons. His slugging percentage as a Giant is 100 points higher than Mays’. Bonds won five MVPs with the Giants (one of which was five years before his head expanded). He batted .312 with 586 home runs and 263 stolen bases in San Francisco. But the strongest argument for Bonds stems from the excitement he created at the ballpark. Just once in franchise history had the Giants drawn 2 million fans until Mr. Bonds showed up in 1993. That season, the Giants welcomed 2.6 million through the gates. And from 2000-04, the height of the Barry Bonds Era, the franchise enjoyed its five largest attendance seasons. And that doesn't count the many kayakers anxiously awaiting Bonds' home run balls in McCovey Cove.


Close Calls
With 469 home runs for the Giants, Willie McCovey ranks fourth in hits, homers, RBIs and total bases. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1959 and an MVP 10 years later.

 

In one of the most spectacular feats in All-Star Game history, Carl Hubbell struck out five Hall of Famers in succession in 1934. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin all went down on strikes.

 

Juan Marichal won 238 games for the Giants, tied for third behind Hubbell and Mathewson.

 

Long-time manager John McGraw led the club to 10 pennants between 1903-32 and won three World Series.

 

Bill Terry was the last player in the National League to hit .400 and ranks in the top five in hits, runs and RBIs. His .341 batting average is best in team history.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question was posed earlier this season whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore. That certainly piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/san-diego-padres-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

San Diego Padres Mt. Rushmore
In the 46-year history of the San Diego Padres, the team has finished in the upper half of its division just 11 times, so winning is not necessarily synonymous with the Padres. It took seven years for the 1969 expansion team to win as many as 65 games. In its 10th season (1978) the Padres broke through the .500 barrier. But San Diego has been an easy team to root for throughout its history and has typically been loyal to leaders. San Diego is one of only two teams with just two managers since the beginning of the 1995 season. (Atlanta is the other.) There could never be a San Diego Mt. Rushmore without No. 19, Tony Gwynn, or Trevor Hoffman with his 552 saves for the franchise.

 

Tony Gwynn
Gwynn is no doubt known as Mr. Padre in San Diego. Perhaps, the only player so clearly honored for any franchise. One of only 17 players who spent an entire 20-year career with one team, Gwynn ranks 16th in major league history with a .338 lifetime average. He owns the nine highest season batting averages in team history.

 

Trevor Hoffman
The future Hall of Fame closer has the highest strikeout per nine innings ratio in team history and the lowest WHIP. Teams can win a lot of games when pitchers are not allowing runners on base and striking batters out regularly. Hoffman appeared in 902 games in San Diego, 527 more than any other pitcher.

 

Dave Winfield
The tall, talented outfielder is one of three players with more than 1,000 games with the club, joining Gwynn and Garry Templeton. He is second in runs and total bases and third in hits, one behind Templeton. Winfield, who also played more than 1,000 games for the Yankees, was the first player to be enshrined in Cooperstown as a Padre.

 

Randy Jones
The lefthander was the epitome of craftiness. Barely throwing hard enough to break a window, Jones was the first major award winner in San Diego, winning the Cy Young award in 1976. Jones pitched for some bad teams but is the Padres’ only two-time 20-game winner.

 

Close Calls
The only truly close call was franchise home run leader Nate Colbert, who once hit five home runs in a doubleheader.

 

Shortstop Garry Templeton ranks among the top three in most offensive categories.

 

Eric Show is the only pitcher in team history with 100 wins.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/pittsburgh-pirates-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates Mt. Rushmore
The club's recent drought of 20 consecutive losing seasons seems like distant history now that the club has made a couple of postseason appearances the past two years. But overall, Pittsburgh's success has been spotty. The team made the playoffs six times in the 1970s, which was one more time than all of their previous history. I thought the Pirates’ group was fairly straightforward, but there’s certainly room for argument. It’s clear there isn’t a strong pitching history in Pittsburgh.

 

Roberto Clemente
The greatest Pirate on and off the field. Clemente doubled off Jon Matlack of the Mets for his 3,000th hit in what would be the final regular season plate appearance of his career. In addition to his MVP in 1966 and his three batting titles, he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and was World Series MVP in 1971.

 

Honus Wagner
The Hall of Fame shortstop was just 33 hits shy of 3,000 for the Pirates in 2,433 games. Wagner was the first baseball hero in the city of Pittsburgh starring for the Bucs from 1900 -17.

 

Paul Waner
From 1926-40, Big Poison forged a Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh with a .340 batting average for the Pirates. He scored 1,493 runs and drove in 1,177 while with the team and amassed 2,868 of his 3,152 career hits.

 

Willie Stargell
Pops was the inspirational leader of the “We are Family” group that won the 1979 World Series, as well as the leader on the field, batting .415 with five home runs in the 10 postseason games. He also shared the NL MVP award that season with Keith Hernandez and was instrumental in the 1971 championship as well. From 1971-73 Stargell was in the top three in MVP voting and averaged .296-42-119.

 

Close Calls
Max Carey played in Pittsburgh for 17 seasons during the Dead Ball Era and had more than 2,400 hits for the Pirates with 688 stolen bases, leading the NL 10 times.

 

A well-timed home run in 1960 made Bill Mazeroski a legend as did his steady work around the bag at second. The argument over whether he truly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame will be reserved for another day.

 

For such an historic franchise, the Pirates are short on Mt. Rushmore-worthy pitchers. Wilbur Cooper, winner of 202 games with the team, is the closest pitcher — but not a serious threat to the honorees.

 

Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan played just 10 years with the Pirates, but would be a strong candidate to have his likeness carved into the mountain for many franchises. For Pittsburgh, he’s merely the second-best shortstop.

 

From 1946-52, his first seven seasons in the majors, Ralph Kiner led the NL in home runs each year (sharing the title on three occasions), averaging 42 long balls a season.

 

When Pie Traynor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1948, All Simmons, Charlie Gehringer and Jimmie Foxx were among those not elected at that time.

 

Few current Pittsburgh fans know much about Carey, Traynor, Cooper, Vaughan and even Kiner. But all remember Dave Parker. The Cobra spent just 11 years in Pittsburgh but won the NL MVP in 1978 after finishing third in 1975 and ’77.


Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is now the face of the franchise. The perennial MVP candidate should go down in history as one of the all-time greats in the Steel City.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/philadelphia-phillies-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Philadelphia Phillies Mt. Rushmore

For a franchise that’s been playing baseball in Philadelphia since 1883, it’s astounding that the organization can boast of only two World Series titles (1980, 2008). The Phillies have won 100 games in a season just twice, but lost that many on 14 occasions. I’m convinced there are two non-negotiable members in this honored quartet: Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt. Beyond that, let’s roll with the discussion.

 

Mike Schmidt
The 12-time All-Star, two-time MVP, 10-time Gold Glove winner, eight-time home run leader and Hall of Fame third baseman has a .908 OPS during a non-offensive era. He’s suited up for the Phils more than anyone else — 610 times more than anyone. Needless to say — or maybe not — he leads the franchise in home runs, RBIs, hits, runs, walks and strikeouts. Of the 35 players with more than 1,500 runs and RBIs, Schmidt is one of only 17 who have done it with one team.

 

Steve Carlton
Lefty’s tops on the all-time list with 241 wins and 3,031 strikeouts. He made 499 starts for the Phillies, 39 of them shutouts on his way to four Cy Young awards. From 1972-83, the workhorse averaged 19 wins, 274 innings and 230 strikeouts.

 

Pete Alexander
Grover Cleveland (Pete) Alexander has 190 wins with the Phils and owns the best winning percentage (.676). Perhaps the first ever steal in the Rule 5 Draft as the Phillies drafted him out of the Syracuse organization in 1910. He won 190 games in seven seasons before being dealt to the Cubs for Pickles Dillhoefer, Mike Prendergast and $55,000.

 

Jimmy Rollins
Rollins is second in games and ranks in the top three in total bases, hits, runs, doubles and stolen bases. The shortstop anchored the five straight division titles from 2007-11.

 

Close Calls
Robin Roberts, a Hall of Famer who spent the first 14 of his 19 seasons toiling for the Phillies, is second to Carlton with 234 wins. From 1949-56, Roberts was 172-111, while the rest of the team was 466-483. 


Chuck Klein ranks in the top 5 in many categories including home runs, runs, RBIs and total bases. He spent parts of 15 seasons with the Phillies and had 1,705 hits, batted .326 and had more than 950 runs and RBIs.

 

Richie Ashburn, a four-time All-Star with the Phillies, had 2,217 hits — 17 behind Schmidt — and batted .311 in 12 seasons.

 

The mysterious Ed Delahanty, who had four brothers in the major leagues, collected 2,214 hits for the Phillies, but 1,848 of them were in the 1800s. That’s a long time ago for fans to really embrace someone.

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/new-york-mets-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

New York Mets Mt. Rushmore
A franchise seemingly known for tough times as much as good times has 23 winning seasons in its 53-year history. Of the seven times the Mets reached the postseason, two of those experiences were simply amazing. The 1969 season, in which the Mets won 100 games en route to a World Series title, came after eight seasons of futility. Prior to 1969, the Mets escaped the cellar in the 10-team National League just twice, with a high-water mark of 73 wins. Most fans remember the unbelievable fashion in which the Mets overcame desperate odds to win the 1986 World Series. A simple Mookie Wilson ground ball to first became one of the most memorable plays in baseball history. Tom Seaver is the only clear choice for the Mets’ Mt. Rushmore. The arguments — which offer as tough decisions as any team — may begin right….now.

 

Tom Seaver
Tom Terrific was that and more for 11-plus seasons as a Met. During his first tenure, Seaver was named Rookie of the Year, won three Cy Young awards and finished second one year. He won three ERA titles, two wins titles and five strikeout titles. His 198 wins and 2.57 ERA are easily the best in Mets history.

 

Dwight Gooden
Doc is second to Seaver is most every significant pitching category for the Mets, buoyed by his magical 1985 season in which he posted a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. That was his lone Cy Young award, but he finished in the top five three other times. He finished with 157 wins, 23 shutouts and a 3.10 ERA with the Mets.

 

David Wright 
Currently the face of the franchise, Wright is first all-time in hits, runs, total bases, doubles, RBIs, extra-base hits and second in average. The third baseman has been a model professional, through good times and bad in New York.

 

Davey Johnson
New York finished last or next-to-last 15 times in the franchise’s first 22 seasons. Then manager Davey Johnson arrived and the team finished either first or second in each of his seven years at the helm. That is the only seven-year stretch of winning seasons in team history. An extremely close call with Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza, but years down the road — if not now — fans will be more proud to call Johnson their own.

 

Close Calls
The franchise leader in home runs and RBIs, Darryl Strawberry was Rookie of the Year and finished second and third in MVP voting during his eight-season tenure in Flushing. Tough to leave him off.

 

One of the best catchers of all-time, Mike Piazza spent seven-plus seasons in New York and hit .296 with 220 home runs in 972 games. He hit one of the most dramatic home runs in Shea Stadium history as baseball returned after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

 

The franchise leader in hits and games played is original Met Ed Kranepool, who played in 1962 at age 17. He became the everyday first baseman in 1965 at age 20 and made the All-Star team. The Bronx native played all of his 18 seasons for the Mets, getting a pinch-hit double off Bob Forsch in his final at-bat in 1979.

 

Gil Hodges was the manager who took the Amazin’ Mets to the promised land in 1969.

 

The architect of the great teams of the 1980s, Frank Cashen, deserves credit for making the Mets relevant again after several lackluster seasons.

 

John Franco is the all-time leader with 276 saves.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> Tom Seaver is the only clear choice for the Mets’ Mt. Rushmore. The arguments — which offer the toughest decisions of any team yet — may begin right….now.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/milwaukee-brewers-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

Milwaukee Brewers Mt. Rushmore
A franchise that began as the Seattle Pilots in 1969 lasted just one season in the northwest prior to moving to Milwaukee in 1970 under new ownership that included Bud Selig. The Brewers have the distinction as the only franchise to compete in four different divisions at some point: the AL West from 1969-71, the AL East from 1972-93, the AL Central from 1994-97 and the NL Central from 1998-present. But Milwaukee has just two division titles, the first in 1982, and the second in 2011. In 46 complete seasons of competition, the Brewers have finished at .500 or better just 17 times. The 2002 season marked the only time the franchise lost 100 games, and the only season with a worse record than the expansion season of 1969. The two names that scream loudly to any Milwaukee fan for Mt. Rushmore are Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Finding two additional names takes a bit more digging.

 

Robin Yount
The most popular man in Milwaukee (who never played for the Green Bay Packers, that is) won two MVP awards, one as a shortstop in 1982, the second as a center fielder in 1989. Yount made his major league debut on Opening Day in 1974 at age 18 and spent his entire 20-year career with the Brewers. The Hall of Famer amassed 3,142 hits, 1,632 runs and 1,406 RBIs in a Brewers uniform.

 

Paul Molitor
With Yount firmly entrenched at shortstop, Molitor was forced to find other positions in order to break into the Brewers’ lineup. Like Yount in 1973, Molitor was drafted No. 3 overall in 1977. And also like Yount, Molitor found himself in the Brewers’ Opening Day lineup the following season. A shortstop by trade, Molitor stated at five different positions the first five Opening Days of his career (shortstop, DH, second base, left field and third base). In 15 seasons in Milwaukee, Molitor totaled 2,281 hits, 412 steals and a .303 batting average in 1,856 games.

 

Cecil Cooper
Ranking third in most offensive categories in Brewers history (albeit a distant third) is enough to get Coop in this honored company. He has 154 more RBIs than Molitor, which ranks him second in that category. Cooper in fifth with 201 home runs. Of the nine 120-RBI seasons in team history, Cooper owns three of them, most of anyone. The former first baseman also owns three of the team’s seven 200-hit seasons, again, tops on that list. Acquired prior to the 1977 season from Boston, Cooper batted .302 over 11 seasons with the Brew Crew. During his first seven seasons with the team, he finished fifth in MVP voting three times over four seasons with an eighth-place vote mixed in. He won two Gold Gloves and batted .316 from 1977-83, averaging 22 home runs and 95 RBIs. His .352 average in 1980 would have been good enough to win an AL batting title 22 times during the 30 years from 1962-91, but George Brett chased .400 in 1980, ending at .390, leaving Cooper to settle for runner-up.

 

Bud Selig
You can say what you want about Selig’s tenure in the Commissioner’s office, but he worked tirelessly to bring baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves left for Atlanta after the 1965 season. It isn’t a stretch to say that the owner-turned-Commissioner is responsible for bringing baseball back to Milwaukee.

 

Close Calls
Along with Yount and Molitor, Jim Gantner shares the record for games played by three teammates.


Mike Caldwell averaged 15 wins and 231 innings from 1978-83, and won 102 games.


Had he signed a long-term contract with the franchise, Prince Fielder most certainly would have hit his way onto the mountain.


Stormin' Gorman Thomas averaged 35 home runs and 98 RBIs from 1978-82.

 

Ryan Braun appeared to be on his way to a spot in the quartet until PED problems clouded his record. He now has much more ground to make up. Putting together a couple of clean Braun-like seasons would be a nice start, but that doesn't appear likely.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals



 

Teaser:
<p> After one disastrous year in Seattle, the Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970. From the American League West to the AL East, to the AL Central to the National League Central, the Brew Crew has won two division titles. Two Hall of Famers — Robin Yount and Paul Molitor — are the faces of the franchise. Who else belongs on the Brewers' Mt. Rushmore?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/los-angeles-dodgers-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers Mt. Rushmore

The Dodgers’ franchise owns a rich history in both Brooklyn — for 74 seasons dating to 1884 — and Los Angeles, where the Dodgers have played since 1958. There was only one World Series title in Brooklyn (1955), but the team made nine World Series appearances while in Brooklyn, six of them coming in the franchise’s final 11 seasons there before moving west. There have been nine World Series appearances since moving to L.A., with the Dodgers winning five of them, the latest coming in 1988.

 

Jackie Robinson
For reasons that transcend the game itself, Robinson arguably belongs on baseball’s Mt. Rushmore. In his relatively short career with the Dodgers, Robinson won NL Rookie of the Year, an MVP in 1949 and the hearts of Dodgers fans, many of whom initially shunned the Hall of Famer. With his speed, defense, determination — not to mention talent — he was a catalyst in every aspect of the game.

 

Sandy Koufax
Four pitchers have more wins in a Dodgers’ uniform than Koufax, including three Hall of Famers. But during a five-year stretch from 1962-66, Koufax averaged 22 wins, seven shutouts, a 0.926 WHIP and 1.95 ERA. Suffice it to say that any manager would sign up for those numbers just once. And two months before his 31st birthday, Koufax turned in his uniform, citing elbow pain as becoming too severe.

 

Duke Snider
The Duke had seven All-Star seasons in Brooklyn before moving west and having another two solid seasons in Los Angeles. From 1953-55 he finished in the top four in MVP voting each season, narrowly missing the award in 1955, falling just five points shy of teammate Roy Campanella. He is the Dodgers’ all-time leader in home runs and RBIs and is second in total bases and third in runs.

 

Vin Scully
It’s true that the historic franchise has several players and at least a couple of managers worthy of having their likenesses etched in Dodger stone, but Scully’s list of honors and awards and Hall of Fame memberships is endless. He received a lifetime achievement Emmy Award 20 years ago. Scully began broadcasting for the team in Brooklyn in 1950. The native of New York made the move west with the team and has become synonymous with the franchise. Always working alone in the booth, the adept storyteller’s warm, conversational commentary not only describes the action on the field, but bestows upon listeners insight and knowledge in as entertaining way as anyone ever has from behind the microphone. Current Dodger Clayton Kershaw was not yet born when the legendary voice was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Hall of Fame in 1982.


Close Calls

Zack Wheat, the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, hits and total bases, led the team to two World Series.

 

Perhaps there has never been an ambassador for the game of baseball like Tommy Lasorda, not to mention an ambassador for Dodger Blue.

 

Working on one-year contracts, Walter Alston managed the team from 1954-76, leading the Dodgers to seven World Series, winning four. He had just four losing seasons, and of the 20 95-win seasons in team history, Alston was at the helm for seven of them.

 

Roy Campanella was an All-Star in eight of his 10 major league seasons, winning the MVP award three times.

 

Third all-time in games played as a Dodger, Pee Wee Reese tops the list in runs and is second in hits.

 

An intimidating presence on the mound, Don Drysdale won 209 games in his career spent exclusively with the Dodgers.

 

Dazzy Vance was 28-6 with a 2.16 ERA as NL MVP in 1924, his best season.

 

No one won more games, logged more innings or had more strikeouts as a Dodger than Don Sutton.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> This is the latest in the series naming the greatest individuals in the history of each franchise — or each franchise's own Mt. Rushmore. The question was posed earlier this season whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore. That certainly piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/miami-marlins-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
 

Miami Marlins Mt. Rushmore

The Miami Marlins have existed for just 22 full seasons, joining the National League in 1993. Success has been rare and fleeting. The Marlins have posted just six winning seasons in the their 22 campaigns and have yet to win a division title. However, the 1997 and 2003 squads parlayed wild card berths into World Series championships. With spotty attendance and no baseball-only stadium until 2012, the Marlins have been unable (some would say unwilling) to retain or sign high-priced players. So there are no long-tenured stars in Florida history. This Mt. Rushmore will change dramatically over the next 10 years or so. The State of Baseball in Miami isn't great right now. The 2013 season was the franchise's second-worst in history.

 

Hanley Ramirez
The All-Star shortstop was a perennial MVP candidate during most of his tenure in Miami. He was Rookie of the year in 2006, and won a batting title with a .342 average in 2009 when he was MVP runner-up. Although he  played just six and a half seasons, he ranks first in total bases and runs created for the franchise. He is second in runs and hits.

 

Jeff Conine
An original Marlin, Conine was selected from the Kansas City Royals in the expansion draft. He was an integral part of both championship teams in Florida, batting .304 in 32 postseason games for the Marlins. Conine earned MVP honors in the 1995 All-Star Game, the only Marlin so honored. He is second on the Marlins all-time list in games and RBIs, third in hits and total bases.

 

Giancarlo Stanton
Prior to the 2015 season, Stanton signed the richest contract in baseball history. With his first home run of the season, he became the franchise's all-time home run leader. And he has crept into the top 10 on most other offensive lists.

 

Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera made his major league debut on June 20, 2003 and quickly became a fixture in the Marlins’ lineup. During his five seasons in South Florida, Cabrera received MVP votes every year. He averaged .313 with 28 homers and 105 RBIs per season. Those numbers increased to 32 home runs and 115 RBIs if you eliminate the half season in 2003. Cabrera hit four postseason home runs during the Marlins’ championship run in 2003.


Close Calls
Jim Leyland, the manager who led the Marlins to their first title, deserves some mention.

 

Dave Dombrowski, the general manager who built the Marlins' championship team in 1997, also had a hand in rebuilding the club prior to the 2003 title.

 

Third baseman Mike Lowell ranks first in RBIs and second in total bases.

 

The ageless Livan Hernandez was just 24-24 in his four seasons with the Marlins, but he was 4-0 in the 1997 postseason, earning MVP honors in both the NLCS and World Series.

 

No one has more hits or scored more runs in a Marlins uniform than second baseman Luis Castillo.

 

Jack McKeon managed the team to the title in 2003 after taking over a losing team 38 games into the season.

 

Josh Beckett won just 41 games in five seasons, but the 2003 World Series MVP had one Mt. Rushmore moment as he shut out the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in Game 6 to clinch the Series.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals



 

 

Teaser:
<p> With spotty attendance and no baseball-only stadium, the Marlins have been unable to retain or sign high-priced players. So there are no long-tenured stars in Florida history. This Mt. Rushmore will change dramatically over the next 10 years or so.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/colorado-rockies-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
 

Colorado Rockies Mt. Rushmore
For a franchise that began in 1993, there has been very little to celebrate. With no division titles, the Rockies have made just three postseason appearances as the National League wild card team, and won two playoff series, both in 2007 before getting swept in the World Series. Amazingly, there have been just six managers and virtually only three first basemen in team history. Beyond Todd Helton and Larry Walker, there is plenty to argue about.

 

Todd Helton
There is no doubt that Helton is Mr. Rockie. He may be challenged over the next 10 years by Troy Tulowitzki—if Tulo remains with the team—but for now there is no argument. He is the franchise leader in games, hits, runs, homers, RBIs, total bases and more. The career .316 hitter has more than 2,500 hits and 1,300 walks. He has topped 1,400 in both runs and RBIs. He owns three Gold Gloves to boot. Helton, who once started at quarterback at the University of Tennessee (ahead of Peyton Manning), will receive serious Hall of Fame consideration in 2019.

 

Larry Walker
Ranking second to Helton in all those categories is Walker. The former right fielder leads the franchise in average and OPS. Walker signed as a free agent prior to the 1995 season and put together nine-plus outstanding seasons in Denver, including an MVP season in 1997. As a member of the Rockies, Walker won three batting titles, a home run crown and five Gold Gloves in addition to his MVP award.

 

Troy Tulowitzki
It’s way too early — or so it seems — to put Tulowitzki on Mt. Rushmore. But, he has made nine consecutive Opening Day starts. Only Helton (16) and Walker (8) have more more Opening Day starts for the Rockies. He’s creeping up the all-time lists, and Tulo is poised to become the most beloved of all. He certainly earns brownie points here by signing a long-term deal and showing loyalty to the franchise, although that player-club relationship seems to be a bit strained now.
 His spotty injury history may prevent him from overtaking the Toddfather.

Aaron Cook
So maybe you didn’t expect to see a pitcher on the Rockies’ mountain. Chances are that he’ll be usurped by Carlos Gonzalez in a few years. But for now, we like the franchise leader with 74 wins. He’s the only Colorado pitcher to start more than 200 games and log more than 1,300 innings.

Close Calls
Clint Hurdle managed the team to its only appearance in the World Series.

In the days before the humidor, hitters like Vinny CastillaDante Bichette and Andres Galarraga posted huge numbers in the thin air of the Mile High City.

The aforementioned Carlos Gonzalez was on pace to join the group a few years ago, but injuries have dramatically slowed his production.

Matt Holliday’s career in Colorado was brief, but he won a batting title and will always be remembered for scoring the winning run in the 13th inning of the one-game playoff that put the Rockies into the playoffs in 2007 (even if he never really touched the plate).

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals



 

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/cincinnati-reds-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Cincinnati Reds Mt. Rushmore

The salad days for the Cincinnati franchise were clearly the 1970s. Of the Reds’ 15 postseason appearances in their history, six of them came during that decade. Those were the days of the Big Red Machine, artificial turf, Riverfront Stadium and doubleknit uniforms. During that decade, the Reds averaged better than 95 wins a season and had six MVPs. But the winning actually started the decade before. From 1961-81, the Reds had just two losing seasons, going 76-84 in 1966 and 79-83 in 1971. Johnny Bench, in the discussion for best catcher all-time, and Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, are clear members of the quartet. Nos. 3 and 4 require earnest study.

 

Johnny Bench
Logging close to 15,000 innings behind the plate took on toll on the Hall of Fame catcher. During his Rookie of the Year season in 1968, Bench caught in 154 games, the third-highest total since World War II. He earned MVP awards in 1970 and ’72. He led the NL in home runs twice and RBIs three times. Defensively, he is considered one of the best ever. As part of his 14 All-Star seasons, he was awarded 10 consecutive Gold Gloves. Bench hit 10 postseason homers for the Reds, five in the World Series.

 

Pete Rose
Charley Hustle has gained as many detractors over the years as he had fans in the 1970s, but there is no denying his impact on the franchise. As the leadoff hitter and catalyst for the Big Red Machine, Rose collected 3,358 hits with the Reds including hit number 4,192, celebrated at the time as the hit that broke Ty Cobb’s all-time record. He’s also the franchise record holder in runs, doubles and total bases.

 

Barry Larkin
The fourth overall pick in 1985 played his entire career in his hometown of Cincinnati. He was named to 12 All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves and was named MVP in 1995. He amassed 2,340 hits, second in team history behind Rose, and scored 1,329 runs, which ranks third in a Reds uniform.

 

Frank Robinson
The NL MVP in 1961 scored and drove in more than 1,000 runs while with the Reds. Robby finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times during his 10-year career in Cincinnati, including his Rookie of the Year season in 1956. A little more than three months after his 30th birthday he was traded to Baltimore in a deal the Reds would rue for years.

 

Close Calls
It’s tough to leave off a Hall of Fame second baseman with back-to-back MVP awards, but Joe Morgan was with the team for just nine seasons and his accomplishments fall just short of those of Robinson and Larkin.

 

An argument could be made that the demise of the Big Red Machine began with the trade of Tony Perez to Montreal in December of 1976.

 

One of the most charismatic, upbeat managers of all-time, Sparky Anderson led the Big Red Machine for nine seasons, winning five division titles and finishing second three times.

 

One of the first stars in Cincinnati, Edd Roush won batting titles in 1917 and ’19.

 

The shortstop of the Big Red Machine, Dave Concepcion, is second all-time in games and third in hits.

 

Eppa Rixey — one of the great names in baseball — is the all-time leader in wins for the Reds with 179.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him [email protected]
 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00

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