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All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/todd-gurley-vs-melvin-gordon-which-rookie-running-back-do-you-want-your-fantasy-team-2015
Body:

After two drafts with no running back taken in the first round, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon both went in the first 15 picks of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gurley was the first to go, somewhat surprisingly to St. Louis at No. 10, while San Diego made the first trade of the night by swapping with San Francisco to move up two spots to take Gordon with the 15th overall pick.

 

Both backs could step into starting jobs for their new teams fairly early, so from a fantasy standpoint which rookie is the one to target first come draft day? Let’s take a look at each breaking down the following areas: College Resume, Team Fit, 2015 Schedule and Potential Obstacles

 

College Resume

Todd Gurley – If not for a four-game suspension for violation of NCAA rules and then a torn ACL in November, Gurley may have been in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. In three seasons at Georgia, Gurley rushed for 3,285 yards in 30 games, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He averaged more than a touchdown (36 rushing, six receiving) per game on offense alone and also returned two kickoffs for scores.

 

Melvin Gordon – The Heisman Trophy runner-up to Marcus Mariota, Gordon led the nation in rushing (2,587) and tied for the top spot in scoring (32 TDs). In four seasons at Wisconsin, Gordon rushed for 4,915 yards (boasting an impressive 7.8 ypc) and scored 49 total touchdowns. Keep in mind that in his first three seasons Gordon shared the spotlight with the Broncos’ Montee Ball (2011-12) and Patriots’ James White (2011-13). Gordon did most of his damage as a senior.

Advantage: Gurley gets the nod here because of the SEC’s reputation as being the nation’s best college football conference. Gordon’s production is impressive, but Wisconsin is known for running the ball and the Badgers’ offense is built around just that.

 

Team Fit

Gurley – Jeff Fisher loves to run the ball, going back to his days with the Titans. If Gurley’s knee checks out, Fisher could have his best running back since Eddie George was churning out 1,000-yard seasons from 1996-2003. St. Louis averaged 102.2 yards rushing per game in 2014, with rookie Tre Mason being the most productive back. The initial reports on Gurley’s recovery have been positive, so as long as he’s healthy and picks up the Rams’ playbook, the opportunity for 20-25 carries per game is clearly there.

 

Gordon – Ryan Matthews is now in Philadelphia, but San Diego’s running back cupboard isn’t exactly bare. Danny Woodhead, who only played in three games last season because of a broken leg, will get his share of touches, especially in passing situations, and Branden Oliver showed flashes as well. Gordon wasn’t called on to block or pass protect very much at Wisconsin, so it may take him some time to get up to speed in those areas. Roles can change as the season progresses, but Gordon probably will be used primarily as a two-down back early on.

 

Advantage: Gurley will have to show he can handle the blocking and pass-protection aspects too, but the Rams’ offensive philosophy should present him with more touches out of the gate than Gordon will see with the Chargers.

 

2015 Schedule

Gurley – Playing in the NFC West, the Rams have two games against the defending division and NFC champion Seahawks as well as the Cardinals. Crossover play against the NFC North doesn’t look that scary, especially with Ndamukong Suh no longer on the Lions. The AFC North has some decent defenses, but the Ravens and Steelers also have seen personnel changes on that side of the ball. Overall, it doesn’t appear to be that tough of a slate for a RB.

 

Gordon – The Chargers also get the AFC and NFC North in crossover play. Their swing games are Jacksonville and Miami, two teams that struggled to stop the run last season, but again the Dolphins now have Suh, an All-Pro defensive tackle, up front. As far as the AFC West goes, the Broncos were No. 2 against the run in 2014, but the Raiders (22nd) and Chiefs (28th) didn’t fare as well.

 

Advantage: Gordon gets the slight edge here mainly because of Gurley’s total of four games against Seattle and Arizona. Division-wise, there’s no contest when it comes to the quality of the defenses in the NFC West compared to the AFC West.

 

Potential Obstacles

Gurley – Two seasons ago, Zac Stacy came out of nowhere as a fifth-round pick to rush for 973 yards. Last season, he gets just 293 on 76 carries, while Tre Mason, a third-round selection, leads the way with 765 yards, most of that coming over the final seven games. Gurley has the potential to break out, but will he get the opportunity from Week 1 or will it take some time to grasp the offense? And there’s also a chance the Rams decide to take it slow with Gurley because of his knee.

 

Gordon – San Diego has other options in Woodhead and Oliver, who already figure to take touches away from Gordon regardless of how quickly he learns the playbook. Philip Rivers isn’t the most mobile of quarterbacks and even though he’s entering the final year of his contract, he’s still critical to the Chargers’ success. If Gordon can’t do his job in pass protection or catch the ball, he could be eased into the offense.

 

Advantage: Both rookies will have to earn their playing time, but Gurley’s path to significant touches seems clearer, provided the surgically repaired knee is ready for the workload.

 

FINAL VERDICT

Both Gurley and Gordon figure to be attractive options in fantasy drafts this fall. Running backs could be the difference between a fantasy championship contender and a team that just can’t get over the hump each week. Many fell in love with Montee Ball and Zac Stacy last season and took them early, only to watch them get hurt or struggle to produce. Gurley and Gordon both could develop into top-10 fantasy options, but probably not this season.

 

Even with the questions surrounding the knee, Gurley is a more appealing option with considerably larger upside in my opinion, making him the target. However, at this point, Gurley is a borderline top-25 RB for 2015, as there are questions about his knee and how quickly he will receive a starter’s workload. Gordon also has intriguing upside, but the likelihood of limited touches has him in flex territory, for now.

Teaser:
Todd Gurley vs. Melvin Gordon: Which Rookie Running Back Do You Want on Your Fantasy Team in 2015?
Post date: Friday, May 1, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-quarterbacks-2015
Body:

The Big 12 is known for its high-scoring offenses and quarterback play, but the league enters 2015 with several unknowns under center. TCU’s Trevone Boykin is the clear favorite for first-team all-conference honors and one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy. However, after Boykin is a host of unproven names. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph ranks as our No. 2 quarterback after a promising finish to 2014, while we project Baylor’s Seth Russell to continue the successful run of signal-callers in Waco.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2015.

 

Ranking the Big 12 Quarterbacks for 2015

 

1. Trevone Boykin, TCU

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Under new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, Boykin emerged as the Big 12’s top quarterback and one of the most improved players in the nation. TCU’s offense averaged 46.5 points per game last year, which was a significant bump from the 25.1 mark in 2013. Boykin threw for 3,901 yards and 33 scores last season and ranked second on the team with 707 yards and eight touchdowns. The senior is among the nation’s leaders for the 2015 Heisman Trophy.

 

2. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Rudolph’s emergence at the end of 2014 is a big reason why Oklahoma State is poised to move up the Big 12 standings in 2015. The true freshman did not play through the first 10 games but started the final three contests and guided the Cowboys to a 2-1 mark in that span. Rudolph ended the year with 853 yards and six scores, while completing 57 percent of his passes. With an improving offensive line and one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps, Rudolph should push for all-conference honors in 2015.

 

3. Seth Russell, Baylor

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Russell takes the reins of Baylor’s high-powered offense after Bryce Petty expired his eligibility. Since 2010, the starting quarterback for coach Art Briles has passed for at least 3,500 yards in each season. Additionally, in three out of the last five years, the starter has eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark. Russell threw for 804 yards and eight scores in limited action last year, which included one start against Northwestern State while Petty was out due to a back injury.

 

4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Putting Mahomes at No. 4 assumes he beats out Davis Webb for the job and starts all 12 regular season games. As a true freshman last year, Mahomes threw for 1,457 yards and 16 scores, with a bulk of his production coming in the final three games. Mahomes also brings a different element to the offense with his dual-threat potential. He only managed 104 yards on 46 attempts last season, but the rushing ability only adds to what should be a dynamic Texas Tech offense in 2015.

 

5. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Oklahoma finished spring without a definitive answer under center, but all signs point to Mayfield taking the first snap of the 2015 season. Mayfield sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules after leaving Texas Tech following the 2013 campaign. In Mayfield’s only season with the Red Raiders, he threw for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 186 yards and three scores. In Oklahoma’s spring game, Mayfield led all quarterbacks with 176 passing yards.

 

6. Skyler Howard, West Virginia

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Howard entered spring neck-and-neck with William Crest for the No. 1 spot under center. However, Howard pull ahead throughout the offseason workouts, which may allow the West Virginia coaches to use Crest in an all-purpose role in 2015. Howard gained valuable experienced at the end of 2014 by starting the final two games and threw for 346 yards and three scores against Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl. The junior college recruit was slated to redshirt last season but injuries to Crest and Clint Trickett forced him to play. Considering the track record of quarterbacks in Dana Holgorsen’s offense, it’s safe to assume Howard will post big numbers if he picks up where he left off in the bowl game and the Mountaineers find a replacement for star receiver Kevin White.

 

7. Tyrone Swoopes/Jerrod Heard, Texas

 

There’s a ton of potential with Texas’ quarterback situation in 2015. But will the Longhorns get consistent production from their signal-callers? Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard were both four-star recruits in the 247Sports Composite and finished spring in a tight battle for the No. 1 spot. Last year, Swoopes completed 224 of 384 passes for 2,409 yards and 13 scores. He also rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns. Heard did not play as a redshirt, but he finished the spring on a high note by completing 20 of 29 passes for 177 yards in the spring game. The upside is there for both quarterbacks to take a step forward in 2015, especially with the offense shifting to more of a spread approach. 

 

8. Sam Richardson, Iowa State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Richardson was steady in his second full year as Iowa State’s starter, completing 254 of 451 passes for 2,669 yards and 18 scores. He missed the matchup against Kansas due to injury, but in Big 12 contests last year, the Florida native averaged 239 passing yards per game. The Cyclones should be better on offense in 2015, especially with a talented receiving corps in place, featuring the return of Quenton Bundrage from injury, along with the development of sophomore receiver Allen Lazard. Richardson should also benefit from another offseason to learn under coordinator Mark Mangino. With the returning talent at receiver, No. 8 might be too low for Richardson.

 

9. Joe Hubener, Kansas State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Hubener is the favorite to replace the underrated Jake Waters under center for K-State in 2015. The Kansas native has an interesting backstory, as he joined the program as a walk-on after never starting a game at quarterback in high school. In two seasons of playing time with the Wildcats, Hubener has completed 9 of 17 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown. He has rushed for 147 yards and three scores on 29 rushing attempts. Competing with Hubener for the starting job is sophomore Jesse Ertz and incoming freshman Alex Delton.

 

10. Michael Cummings/Montell Cozart, Kansas

 

Cummings is penciled in as the starter in Lawrence, but a knee injury in the spring game has clouded his availability for 2015. If Cummings returns in time, he should be the starter after completing 137 of 244 passes for 1,715 yards and nine scores last year. But if Cummings is sidelined for the full season, Cozart is the likely replacement. He threw for 701 yards and five scores and started five games in 2014. If the Jayhawks look to the future, true freshmen Ryan Willis or Carter Stanley could get a chance to play.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Quarterbacks for 2015
Post date: Friday, May 1, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/grading-first-round-2015-nfl-draft
Body:

Until the new crop of NFL first-rounders hits the field, grading the first round of the NFL Draft is just educated guesswork.

 

Having said that, fans in Tampa Bay and Tennessee should be brimming with excitement as they welcome new starting quarterbacks. Others are left scratching their heads.

 

Below are four different grades for the 32 first-round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft:

 

A: Franchise-changing selection. A great value at key position of need.

 

B: An instant starter who contributes right away.

 

C: Solid pick but has a question of value, upside, risk or position of need.

 

F: A questionable selection with poor value and heavy risk.

 

Grade: A

 

NameTeamPickPos.NCAA
Jameis WinstonNo. 1QBFlorida State
The best QB prospect since Andrew Luck is a complete package at the position... on the field.
Amari CooperNo. 4WRAlabama
Complete professional at the position. Elite hands, speed and polish. Immediate starter and outside star for Derek Carr.
Leonard WilliamsNo. 6DLUSC
Arguably the best player in the draft at No. 6? Lined up next to Sheldon Richardson? Are you kidding?
Andrus PeatNo. 13OTStanford
The best offensive tackle prospect in the draft is a perfect value and need for the Saints.
Shaq ThompsonNo. 25OLBWashington
One of the best pure athletes in the draft who can play multiple positions on multiple sides of the ball. Take him and find a spot for him later.

 

Grade: B

 

NameTeamPickPos.NCAA
Marcus MariotaNo. 2QBOregon
Game-changer at most important position makes this franchise instantly interesting and watchable again.
Dante Fowler Jr.No. 3OLBFlorida
Lack of consistency keeps him from being an "A," but is a star in the making otherwise.
Kevin WhiteNo. 7WRWest Virginia
Loads of upside and talent but has plenty of work left to his game. Was this the most pressing need for the Bears?
Vic BeasleyNo. 8OLBClemson
Awesome player who might be best "B" on the list. Productive big-play machine who was a leader for a winning program.
Todd GurleyNo. 10RBGeorgia
Elite talent, potentially the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson... if he's fully healthy. Injury history keeps him off the "A" line.
DeVante ParkerNo. 14WRLouisville
Got their guy and provided Ryan Tannehill with a playmaker. Big, physical, talent but needs to stay on the field.
Melvin GordonNo. 15RBWisconsin
Only slightly less talented than Gurley. Extremely intelligent and hard-working player with plenty of burst.
Cam ErvingNo. 19OLFlorida State
Versatile prospect who excelled at both center and tackle. Immediately helps everyone on the offense.
Nelson AgholorNo. 20WRUSC
Smaller version of Cooper. Extremely polished pro's pro at the position. Will need no preparation to play and will help special teams too.
Bud DupreeNo. 22OLBKentucky
Productive and dependable player who fits a need and defensive scheme perfectly. A great value as well.
Shane RayNo. 23OLBMissouri
Extremely talented player whose character isn't nearly as big a question mark as late slide indicated. Excellent value.
Laken TomlinsonNo. 28OGDuke
What's not to like? A terrifyingly strong road-grader to protect Matthew Stafford who wants to be a neurosurgeon.
Malcom BrownNo. 32DTTexas
One of the best values in the first round. Elite defensive space-eater will flourish in Pats system.

 

Grade: C

 

NameTeamPickPos.NCAA
Brandon ScherffNo. 5OGIowa
Really solid potential guard but won't play tackle and may never be a star. A huge reach passing on Cat Williams.
Ereck FlowersNo. 9OTMiami
Big-time upside but a project who lacked consistency against only moderate competition. Needs development and could have been a reach. 
Trae WaynesNo. 11CBMichigan State
Thin draft class pushed Waynes higher on the boards. Fills a need but questions about his upside remain.
Danny SheltonNo. 12DTWashington
Giant space-eater improves physicality but may lack overall quickness, explosiveness to be a star.
Kevin JohnsonNo. 16CBWake Forest
Solid but not elite player taken early in the round at a position that may not have been the top need.
Marcus PetersNo. 18CBWashington
Could be best pure coverman in the draft but drops to a "C" due to discipline question marks.
Cedric OgbuehiNo. 21OTTexas A&M
Very athletic and lean but large prospect. Major knee injury in January and some underachievement last fall drop him to "C."
D.J. HumphriesNo. 24OTFlorida
Talented upside but lacks overall size and polish to contribute right away. Has also had major injury issues in the past.
Damarious RandallNo. 30SArizona State
Will likely play cornerback. Has major size for that position but questions about his transition. Would inside linebacker been a better option?

 

Grade: F

 

NameTeamPickPos.NCAA
Arik ArmsteadNo. 17DTOregon
A+ for snagging extra picks but few players did less with more than Armstead while in college. Huge risk selection. 
Breshad PerrimanNo. 26WRUCF
More talented, more productive options all over the board and it feels like a luxury pick in the first round. 
Byron JonesNo. 27CBUConn
Combine creation who never excelled in a lower-tiered league. Was never even all-league in the American Athletic Conference.
Phillip DorsettNo. 29WRMiami
Speedy player but a one-trick pony who isn't much better than other small, slot receivers. Other positions were a greater need.
Stephone AnthonyNo. 31ILBClemson
Solid player at a position of need... if this was the end of the second round. Never was an elite player despite elite physical tools.

 

Teaser:
Grading the First Round of the 2015 NFL Draft
Post date: Friday, May 1, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2015-nfl-draft-day-twos-best-available-prospects
Body:

The first round of the 2015 NFL Draft is in the books.

 

Tampa Bay did the right thing by taking Jameis Winston No. 1 and Tennessee pulled the trigger on its future leader by taking Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick.

 

But there are tons of elite prospects still left on the board on day two of the NFL Draft. The second, third and fourth rounds of the draft are loaded with great talents every year and ’15 won’t be any different.

 

Joel Bitonio, Derek Carr, Lamarcus Joyner, Jordan Matthews and Jeremy Hill were all second-rounders last season. Here are our favorite players left on the board entering the second round:

 

Landon Collins, S, Alabama

The fact that the Crimson Tide playmaker fell out of the first round is astonishing, and he is clearly the best player on the board entering Day 2. He's lightning-quick and explosive and is one of the best tacklers in the class. Coverage skills aren't elite and that's likely what has dropped him on boards.

 

Randy Gregory, OLB/DE, Nebraska

He’s got elite-level athleticism but many have questioned his desire to be great in the NFL. Be it the marijuana issue or his weight fluctuations. He also doesn’t fit naturally into either the 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.

 

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

He’s got the size. He’s got the numbers. He’s got the wins. He’s got the athleticism. Once he refines his deep ball, he could be a big-time playmaker under center. He won’t last long in the second round. He's clearly better than the rest of the QB class left in this draft.

 

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri/Oklahoma

As gifted as Calvin Johnson and as troubled as Jameis Winston. His off-the-field issues are a major question mark despite never actually being charged with anything. On the field, there is no doubting his ability. He’s a superstar from a talent perspective.

 

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

There really isn’t much difference between first-round selections Kevin White or DeVante Parker and Strong. He’s got a huge frame and produced big numbers on a winning team. He’s raw but has massive upside.

 

Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA

The younger brother of Eagles standout, Mychal, Eric was equally as decorated in college. Kendricks won both the Butkus and Lott Trophies his final season and was the defensive leader for the only UCLA team to win at least nine games in three straight seasons. He’s a plug-and-play prospect.

 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

The 5-foot-8, 205-pound running back was electric with the ball in his hands — both as a receiver and runner. When Nebraska needed a big play, he delivered. He rarely gets tackled cleanly and he is a hard-working football nerd.

 

T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt

The big blocker has only played offensive line for two years after playing along the D-line for the Panthers. He's a bit of a project but has elite-level upside and raw talent. He won't last long.

 

Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma

He’s just a redshirt sophomore but he’s got tons of upside. Phillips has a massive frame at 6-foot-5 and 329 pounds with plenty of quickness and burst. If he can sustain consistency, he could be a dominant player in the NFL.

 

Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

Few covermen bring the size NFL teams are craving right now on the outside like Collins does at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds. He got great coaching at LSU and was one of the few Tigers who played up to their potential.

 

Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State

He’s not overly big (6-2, 290) but he has every intangible possible. He’s a great leader, he’s as smart as any prospect in the draft and he’s been a winner his entire career. A Jurrell Casey comparison is apt for this mid-rounder.

 

Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

McKinney has the body of a defensive end but the instincts, quicks and overall game of an inside backer. As the game has evolved, getting bigger and faster, McKinney could be the next breed of middle linebacker.

 

Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami

The second round is where the NFL finds linebackers and 2015 won’t be any different. Perryman is a fantastic inside tackler with great instincts. He got very little help from his fellow defenders and still posted big numbers. Perryman is one of a handful of great LBs still left on the board.

 

Jake Fisher, OL, Oregon

Just pop in the tape of the Ducks with Fisher in the lineup and without. Oregon was a totally different squad when the anchor at left tackle was in the game. He has great athleticism and the size needed to excel at the tackle position. Center Hroniss Grasu also fits into this mold as one of the best players in this draft at his position.

 

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami

He’s small and got hurt a bunch at Miami but this guy can flat out pick up yards. His Combine stats don’t tell the story of his outright playing speed. Johnson is a big play waiting to happen and is a perfect complementary back in the modern NFL offense.

 

Paul Dawson, LB, TCU

Don’t worry about his Combine stats, just watch the tape. He was all over the field for the Big 12 co-champs a year ago, posting 136 tackles, 20.0 for a loss, 6.0 sacks and four interceptions. He made huge plays in huge spots and will do the same in the NFL.

 

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

Looking for a guy who plays bigger, faster, stronger and more consistently than his measurables? Yeldon is your guy. He consistently got tough yards against the best defenses in the nation and rarely got knocked backwards. He’s a lock to produce on the next level.

 

Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

He under-produced at times but has every tool needed to be an excellent NFL D-lineman. He’s big, fast, athletic, agile, flexible and coordinated. Once focused, he could be an every-down starter. A number of other Seminoles could fall on this list as well: Mario Edwards, Nick O'Leary, P.J. Williams, Rashad Greene and Tre Jackson to name a few.

 

Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State

Slot receivers are the new norm and few players bring as much to the position as Lockett does. He’s small (5-9, 185) but has blazing speed and produced in a huge way for KSU. He also excels on trick plays and on special teams.

Teaser:
2015 NFL Draft: Day Two's Best Available Prospects
Post date: Friday, May 1, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/danny-shelton-lifts-nfl-commissioner-roger-goodell-draft-day
Body:

With both the top two picks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, watching the NFL Draft from home, viewers had to wait for a memorable interaction between a draftee and commissioner Roger Goodell.

 

Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton made it worth the wait. The No. 12 pick overall pick of the Cleveland Browns gave Goodell a bear hug and then lifted the commissioner off his feet. 

 

Watch here:

 

 

Teaser:
Danny Shelton Lifts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Draft Day
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 22:18
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/floridas-basketball-program-built-continue-billy-donovan-legacy
Body:

College basketball coaching changes are in a weird place in 2016.

 

Gregg Marshall passed on Alabama to stay at Wichita State. He’ll make more than $3 million to coach the Shockers, he’ll have the institutional support of any major conference team, and he’ll enjoy near-ironclad job security.

 

Shaka Smart didn’t go to UCLA two years ago; he went to Texas this season. And who knows what kind of college job would have pulled Brad Stevens from Butler if the Boston Celtics never took a chance on the Bulldogs coach.

 

Florida isn’t Alabama. Nor is it UCLA. Perhaps not until the Gators hire a successor or two for Billy Donovan will we know exactly what Florida is in college basketball for the long haul.

 

The Gators lost a top-five college coach to the NBA on Thursday. If they didn’t know it before, the Gators will soon learn they aren’t hiring to a top-five job, perhaps not a top-10 job in college basketball.

 

That’s not exactly a bad place to be, considering that Donovan left Marshall for a job that wasn’t even close to top 10 or top 20 in 1996. There's no better way to say it: Donovan took Florida basketball to unimaginable heights. He took the Gators to their second Final Four in school history and added three more. He won 500 career games before he turned 50 and could be a Hall of Famer.

 

When Donovan was hired at Florida, the Gators had been to five all-time NCAA Tournaments and one Final Four. He went to 14 tournaments and four Final Fours, winning two titles.

 

The previous all-time wins leader had 235 victories and was fired amid NCAA sanctions. Donovan finished with 232 wins more than Norm Sloan at Florida and 363 wins more than Lon Kruger, the only other Florida coach to reach the Final Four.

 

Donovan probably have the court at the O’Connell Center named after him some day, and he built the program to a point where the Gators can chase after the most attractive names on the coaching market if they choose.

 

The question, though, is how Archie Miller and those of his ilk look at Florida.

 

They may see Florida as the two-time national champion and a team that has reached the Elite Eight six times in the last 10 seasons. Or as the only SEC program that can consistently challenge Kentucky in the league.

 

At the same time Florida has been putting up blue blood results, Florida can't claim to be a basketball blue blood like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA or Kansas.

 

First, this isn’t a salary issue. Donovan’s salary kept up with those programs, ranking fifth behind Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Rick Pitino and Bill Self.

 

This isn’t a football school issue, either. The Gators may still be one of only a handful of schools — Ohio State, Texas, Michigan, Michigan State and Louisville — who can claim to be both right now. Beyond basketball, Florida’s non-revenue teams have thrived in the last 20 years.

 

Even if the institutional support is there, Florida’s ability to stay at the top is in question.

 

Florida has committed to a $1.2 million upgrade for the basketball weight room (also used by women’s basketball, golf and tennis). Meanwhile, the renovation to the O’Connell Center has been delayed a year.

 

Although Florida has upgraded its football facility and stadium in the last 15 years, the Gators tend to step into the facilities arms race cautiously. The Gators are the last program in the SEC to begin work on an indoor football facility.

 

In other words, Florida’s not going to renovate a facility just because its SEC brethren are.

 

Recruiting may be of greater concern if Florida is going to compete for titles on a yearly basis, especially in a league that has added Bruce Pearl, Rick Barnes and Ben Howland to keep pace with Calipari at Kentucky.

 

Florida is a good state for talent, but not one where the Gators can set up a base. Of the 20 top-50 prospects in the state of Florida since 2010, Florida has signed four of them.

 

That said, in-state recruiting in basketball isn’t the same as in football. Too many prospects move around from high school to high school or AAU team to AAU team.

 

Florida’s never struggled to bring McDonald’s All-Americans to Gainesville under Donovan. The Gators signed 14 in 19 season under Donovan and at a fairly consistent pace from Teddy Dupay, Mike Miller and Brett Nelson through Patric Young, Kenny Boynton and Kasey Hill.

 

There’s also a reason Donovan so embraced the emerging transfer market at a pace second only to Iowa State. 

 

Since the class of 2007 — after Florida’s first national championship, mind you — the Gators signed six McDonald’s All-Americans. Kentucky signed 24, Duke and North Carolina signed 18 each. Kansas signed 10. UCLA — a team Florida knocked out of the NCAA Tournament four times under two coaches during this span — signed nine.

 

Again, Florida shouldn’t be surprised it is hauling in fewer McDonald’s All-Americans than Duke, Kentucky, Kansas or North Carolina. But that much fewer with an established coach with two national titles on his resume?

 

Even if Florida won big with players who didn’t get the McDonald’s stamp of approval — Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Scottie Wilbekin for starters — those are pretty telling numbers.

 

Horford and Noah, highly touted recruits, became two-time champions under Donovan. Wilbekin was a three-star who ended up playing in three Elite Eights and a Final Four.

 

The next coach at Florida will know has quite a legacy to maintain. The question is if he’ll have the tools to do so.

Teaser:
Is Florida's Basketball Program Built to Carry the Billy Donovan Legacy?
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 18:27
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/golf-experts-poll-who-best-announcer-golf
Body:
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at: http://athlonsports.com/golf/golf-experts-poll-are-tigers-problems-mental-or-physical#sthash.ovLdgVAh.dpuf
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at: http://athlonsports.com/golf/golf-experts-poll-are-tigers-problems-mental-or-physical#sthash.ovLdgVAh.dpuf

This one was pretty one-sided and not terribly surprising. The frank, outspoken Johnny Miller stands out in the sometimes safe and vanilla world of golf broadcasting, and he has yet to wear out his welcome with our panel members, who appreciate his candor.  

 

Participants

Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC

Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer

Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio

Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig

Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd

Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett

Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred

Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski

Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander

 

Who is the best announcer in golf?

 Votes
Johnny Miller6
David Feherty2
Jim Nantz1
Frank Nobilo/Jerry Foltz1
No answer1

 

 

Comments from our panel

• "Johnny Miller. He's not bashful about telling it like it is."

 

• "Jerry Foltz on the ground, Frank Nobilo in the tower."

 

• "Johnny Miller. Still."

 

• "Johnny Miller says it the way he sees it.  Can’t get much better than that, even if you don’t agree."

 

• "Love Johnny Miller. The only man with a mic who is not afraid to say exactly how he feels."

 

• "David Feherty is the best when he's not trying to be 'David Feherty.'"

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 14:55
Path: /nba/memphis-grizzlies-eliminate-blazers-who-face-lot-big-questions
Body:

The NBA playoffs are a time of rising prospects and glory, for many teams and players. For others, they’re a painful review of where a franchise stands on the fence between competition and rebuilding.

 

The Portland Trail Blazers don’t quite know where they are on that dividing line, after being ousted from their first-round series, 4-1, by the Memphis Grizzlies. They were a long shot to put up much of a fight against mighty Memphis with their backcourt depth shot, after injuries to Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo.

 

Matthews and roster centerpiece LaMarcus Aldridge are free agents this summer. So is starting center Robin Lopez, who didn’t look so great against the Grizzlies.

The torn Achilles that ended Matthews’ season inspires serious questions about how much of an investment Portland, or any team, should make in him going forward. It’s a sad-but-telling instance of how bad luck and timing with injuries can change somebody’s bank account in this league. 

 

Matthews was leading the league in three-pointers made at the time of his injury, and was the Blazers’ best defender — by many accounts, he was headed for a maximum contract. Now, who knows? What if Matthews had suffered his hurt right after signing a new deal, instead of before? These are the rabbit holes he and his agent are likely looking down.

 

For its part, Portland may have found a bright future without Wes in the person of C.J. McCollum, the second-year guard who had a breakout performance in the Blazers’ final fight last night. He scored a career-high 33 points on scorching shooting in the 99-93 loss.

 

Aldridge, meanwhile, is strapped with the dilemma of deciding whether to stick it out as a beloved hero in Oregon, or try the challenge of upstarting a transitioning franchise elsewhere. There will be no shortage of suitors for the big man: The New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs are all known to covet his skills. But is it worth it for him to leave what he’s worked so hard to help build, for dubious prospects elsewhere? Aldridge will have to answer that question, this July.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 14:25
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/get-nerdy-these-nfl-helmets-marvel-comics-mascots
Body:

Two of the most popular programming in America this week may be the NFL Draft and the premiere of The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

 

In other words, this is a good time to mash the two worlds together. What if the Avengers were the mascots for the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.

 

We’ve already seen NBA logos re-imagined as football helmets and college football helmets re-designed among other new looks.

 

Now, designer Justin Kozisek brings us have NFL teams re-imagined with mascots from Marvel Comics. Some of the A-list heroes are there — Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and The Hulk, but Kozisek also digs deep for Fin Fang Foom, Sentry and Iron Fist.

 

It’s pretty much a bonanza for the 12-year-old version of ourselves.

 

 

MFL Helmets
Teaser:
Designer Re-Imagines NFL Teams with Marvel Comics Helmets
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 12:58
All taxonomy terms: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
Path: /jameis-winston-talks-nfl-draft-and-tampa-bay-buccaneers
Body:

Who should go No. 1 overall in this year’s NFL Draft?

 

“Me,” says Jameis Winston. “Enough said.”

 

That type of confidence from the 21-year-old Florida State quarterback should come as no surprise to anyone who has even casually followed Winston’s controversial career. For his fans, that swagger is a prerequisite for any potential “franchise” player to reach the pinnacle of the profession. For Winston haters, that perceived cocky attitude makes the 6'4", 231-pound passer the embodiment of what’s wrong with today’s “entitled” athletes.

 

Being the No. 1 pick is only the first step of Winston’s long-term plan. The Heisman Trophy and national title winner wants to do it all at the next level. And he wants to enjoy the ride along the way. 

 

“That’s always been a dream of mine, to win some Super Bowls and be in the Hall of Fame,” says Winston. “I enjoy the spotlight. I love it. Any chance that I get to show my smile off or just be around and have fun with other people, it’s awesome.”

 

To paraphrase a sports cliché: “It’s not the X’s and the O’s. It’s the Jameises and the Joes.” Winston can play. His achievements precede him. So does his reputation, which has been shaped in the media to the point where he became a caricature of himself before his 21st birthday. Now he has to convince future employers that he can be the on-field CEO and off-field face of an NFL franchise.

 

“I just want their trust,” Winston says. “I believe I am the best player in this draft. I believe that I could be playing in the NFL for a pretty long time. And I just want their trust.”

 

A laundry list of off-the-field indiscretions includes a Title IX rape investigation (that resulted in no charges being filed) as well as more juvenile run-ins — like shoplifting $32.72 worth of crab legs from a local Publix and standing on a table to yell a tasteless yet popular Internet meme. Comedian Kevin Hart visited Tallahassee and publicly told Winston to, “Stop doing dumb (stuff).” The high-profile ups and downs have certainly made an impact on Winston. 

 

“I just learned that I had to grow up. Everything that happened at Florida State, I feel it made me a better person and a better young man,” says Winston. “My family raised me right and my football family, they know who I am. And they stood beside me. First of all, they knew the truth. And they also knew what type of person I was.”

 

In the months leading up to the draft, Winston has done everything in his power to repair his image and prepare himself for the NFL. He flew to New York to clear the air with Commissioner Roger Goodell, who Winston says is “a very fun guy to be around.” He trained in San Diego with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., who also worked with former No. 1 picks Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. Winston shined on the field and was charming in interviews at the NFL Combine and his Pro Day.

 

At Florida State, Winston was able to compartmentalize his stresses and continue a remarkable track record of on-field success — as a star quarterback in the fall and two-way baseball player in the spring. Philosophies learned on the diamond have been a major part of Winston’s formula for success on the gridiron, especially when the stakes are high.

 

“Baseball is a game of failure. You gotta have a strong mind in that sport. And playing quarterback, we’re the most scrutinized and most praised position in all of sports. So you gotta have a strong mind,” says Winston, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers and finished his career at FSU with a 1.94 ERA, nine saves and 52 strikeouts over 60.1 innings.

 

“One thing that helped me out was being a pitcher, how relentless I am just trying to take over a game. As a quarterback, sometimes I just try to take over a game. Two-minute drills. Third downs. Situational football is something I take pride in.”

 

This is the first spring of Winston’s career that the Bessemer, Ala., native has not played baseball. And, in scouting terms, even though his “floor” is higher than his competition due to the pro-style offense he ran under coach Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, Winston’s “ceiling” is even higher considering he’s never been a full-time QB.

 

“I love being a quarterback year-round. It’s amazing,” says Winston. “It’s made a huge difference, especially with my mechanics for football. I never had a chance to just work on the football side of my game. I always watched film. But I never had to work on just my release and my drop and just fine-tuning everything. …

 

“I don’t even know how good I can be at quarterback because I never worked this much at it.”

 

Winston is the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team whose fanbase includes a significant percentage of FSU fans and plenty of Seminole alumni — including Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and Brad Johnson, to name a few. It seems too good to be true. But Winston could go from the Noles to the Bucs.

 

“If that’s possible, I would love that opportunity. I just would love the privilege of playing in the NFL,” says Winston. “If it happens to be in Tampa, that would be obviously a blessing.”

 

As for those who doubt his ability to transition from college to the pros? Well, after everything Winston has gone through, he’s not too worried.

 

“I don’t got many concerns,” says Winston. “I’m just looking forward to playing football. That’s one thing I love to do, is play football. Whatever may come my way, I’m ready for it.”

Teaser:
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the No. 1 prospect in the NFL Draft
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 12:26
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/potential-coaching-candidates-replace-billy-donovan-florida
Body:

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley is no stranger to conducting a job search in order to replace a championship coach.

 

He’s done it with Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer on the football side. And thanks to Billy Donovan’s brief dalliance with the Orlando Magic in 2007, he started the process to replace Donovan once before. Ironically, the likely replacement in ’07 was then-VCU coach Anthony Grant, who returned to the staff as an assistant this season.

 

Presumably, Donovan’s time with the Oklahoma City Thunder will be longer than his four-day tenure in Orlando, and the Gators will need to hire a new coach.

 

Here are a few potential candidates who might end up in the mix to replace the best basketball coach in program history.

 

Archie Miller, Dayton

He’s one of the hottest coaching candidates out there after taking Dayton to the Elite Eight and NCAA round of 32 in the last two seasons. The 2014-15 season was especially impressive as the shorthanded and undersized Flyers finished 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 and defeated Boise State and Providence in the NCAA Tournament. Miller, however, just agreed a contract extension through 2022 at Dayton. Is Miller waiting for a job like Florida or perhaps a bigger target?

 

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Alabama did all it could to woo Marshall from Wichita State, but he resisted. And to Wichita’s credit, the Shockers responded with a contract extension and a raise to a reported $3.3 million a year. Florida is a better situation than Alabama, will that be enough for the coach to both make the move and walk away from a school that did all it could to keep him. Marshall has turned Wichita State into one of the nation's premier programs, leading the Shockers to 30 wins in each of the last three seasons, including a Final Four in 2013 and a 35-1 season in 2013-14. Marshall also led Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons.

 

Chris Mack, Xavier

The last three Xavier coaches went to Wake Forest, Ohio State and Arizona with all enjoying success at the major conference level. Mack is just as capable to flourish at a higher level after three Sweet 16 appearances in six seasons.

 

Anthony Grant/John Pelphrey, Florida

The Gators are in a bind by making a coaching change in late April and early May. The carousel has slowed (in particular with Shaka Smart now at Texas and Marshall and Miller agreeing to contract extensions). Grant and Pelphrey have both won on the mid-major level at VCU and South Alabama, respectively. But they’re also back at Florida after being fired from SEC head coaching jobs.

 

Richard Pitino, Minnesota

Donovan did a good job of sending assistants to bigger and better jobs, but few of them would be realistic candidates. Shaka Smart just left VCU for Texas. Anthony Grant and John Pelphrey returned to Donovan’s staff because they were fired at Alabama and Arkansas, respectively. Matt McCall is 33 and was just hired at Chattanooga. That leaves Pitino, who was a Florida assistant for two seasons in between stints working for his father at Louisville. The 32-year-old Pitino is 14-22 in the Big Ten at Minnesota but led an impressive one-year turnaround in his first head coaching gig at FIU.

 

Mike White, Louisiana Tech

White turned down Tennessee hired Donnie Tyndall last season. The 38-year-old is primed for a move, but no NCAA Tournament appearances despite three Conference USA regular season titles is a bit concerning. The Bulldogs are 44-8 in C-USA the last three seasons, stalling in the league tournament each year.

 

Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

The star has dimmed at bit for Dixon during the last four seasons. His program was once one of the biggest overachievers in the Big East, reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of his first seven years. Pitt has missed the Tournament in two of the last four seasons and has won only three Tournament games since the heartbreaking loss to Villanova in the 2009 Elite Eight.

 

Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

Jacobson has been at Northern Iowa since 2001 and as head coach since 2006. The entire run includes six NCAA appearances. Jacobson led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 with an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in 2010, but this year’s squad (31-4) may have been his best team in Cedar Falls.

 

Steve Prohm, Murray State

In four seasons at Murray State, Prohm has coached a team that went 31-2 in 2011-12 and another that won 25 in a row en route to a 27-5 record in 2014-15. He unearthed point guard Cam Payne out of Memphis two years ago and watched him develop into a pro prospect. He’s an Alabama graduate who was not a factor in the Crimson Tide’s coach search.

 

Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

The former Frank Martin assistant has been a head coach for only two seasons, but it’s been quite the run. The Lumberjacks are 61-8 in two seasons with two Tournament appearances and two conference titles. His pressure defense has finished in the top 10 in defensive turnover rate in teach of the last two seasons.

 

Dan Hurley, Rhode Island

Arizona State just hired Hurley’s brother Bobby, but Dan has orchestrated arguably the better programs. He’s never been to the NCAA Tournament but has led dramatic improvement at two spots already. Wagner went 13-17 in his first season and 25-5 in his second. Rhode Island improved from 8-21 in his first year to 23-10 and an NIT appearance in his third.

 

Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Krystkowiak led a major rebuilding project at Utah, taking over a shell of a roster and going 6-25 in his first season. The Utes improved their Pac-12 record each season and reached the Sweet 16 in 2015. Krystkowiak also took Montana to the NCAA Tournament twice, leading an upset over fifth-seeded Nevada in 2006. He also has significant experience in the NBA, including more than a year as a head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

Larry Shyatt, Wyoming

Florida might be in dire straits if the Gators get to Shyatt. It’s not that he’s a bad candidate. He was an assistant on Florida’s two national championship teams and took Wyoming to the NCAA Tournament last season. But he’s also 64 years old with a 70-84 tenure at Clemson on the resume. 

Teaser:
Potential Coaching Candidates to Replace Billy Donovan at Florida
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 11:38
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-quarterbacks-2015
Body:

It’s no secret Ohio State’s quarterback battle is the most intriguing storyline in college football this year. Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett will compete this fall to take the first snap against Virginia Tech, and the winner of the competition – assuming they start the full year – should be a Heisman candidate.

 

Michigan State’s Connor Cook ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten quarterback, and the steady senior is poised to keep the Spartans in the hunt for 10 wins. After Cook, there’s a group of intriguing quarterbacks, starting with Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg. The junior hopes to rebound after a sluggish 2014 season.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big Ten for 2015. 

 

Ranking the Big Ten Quarterbacks for 2015

 

1. Cardale Jones/Braxton Miller/J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

 

The Buckeyes have three proven and talented quarterbacks competing for the top spot this offseason. We listed all three names here, but the early favorite to take the first snap of the season has to be Cardale Jones. With Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett recovering from injuries, Jones has been the top quarterback in the spring and played well in Ohio State’s final three games last year. If Jones starts the full season, he should be one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and a Heisman contender.

 

2. Connor Cook, Michigan State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Michigan State is 23-3 with Cook entrenched as the starting quarterback, and the senior should keep the Spartans among the nation’s top 10 teams in 2015. In two years as the starter, Cook passed for 46 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions and 5,969 yards. Cook isn’t going to post monster statistical totals in Michigan State’s offense, but he rarely makes mistakes and has earned back-to-back second-team Big Ten honors.

 

3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

2014 was a struggle for Penn State’s offense. With a rebuilding offensive line, the passing and rushing attacks for the Nittany Lions were never able to get on track. The overall depth and talent is better up front for Penn State in 2015, which should allow the offense to take a step forward in coach James Franklin’s second season. Hackenberg’s passing totals regressed from throwing 2,955 yards and 20 scores in 2013 to 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2014. Talent isn’t an issue for Hackenberg, but he needs more help from the offensive line.

 

4. Wes Lunt, Illinois

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

It’s a tossup among quarterbacks No. 4-7 on this list. Lunt is arguably the most talented passer out of that bunch, but he has yet to put everything together for a full season of production. However, that could change in 2015. Lunt’s 2014 season was limited by a leg injury, and he finished the year with 1,763 yards and 14 passing scores. The Fighting Illini offense will miss Mike Dudek’s playmaking ability at receiver while he recovers from a torn ACL. However, the cupboard at receiver isn’t bare for Lunt. Geronimo Allison (14.59 ypc in 2014), Justin Hardee and Malik Turner provide three capable options in the passing game.

 

5. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Armstrong move up this list by the end of November. Of course, that’s assuming the junior has an easy transition to a new offense. New coach Mike Riley is changing up Nebraska’s offense to more of a pro-style attack, and Armstrong has to progress as a passer this season. In 13 games last year, Armstrong passed for 2,695 yards and 22 scores. He also added 705 yards and six scores on the ground. With Jordan Westerkamp, Jamal Turner and De’Mornay Pierson-El returning at receiver, everything is in place for Armstrong to succeed in 2015.

 

6. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Sudfeld’s 2014 season was cut short by a shoulder injury suffered against Iowa. Prior to his injury, Sudfeld was still trying to adapt to a new group of receivers and threw for 1,151 yards and six scores through six appearances. But rewind back to 2013 and it’s easy to see Sudfeld’s potential in Kevin Wilson’s offense. In 12 appearances (with eight starts), Sudfeld threw for 2,523 yards, 21 scores and completed 60.2 percent of his throws. Assuming he’s healthy, Sudfeld will have Indiana in contention for a bowl this season.

 

7. Jake Rudock, Michigan

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

After a two-year stint as Iowa’s starting quarterback, Rudock transferred to Michigan for his final year of eligibility. C.J. Beathard was expected to replace Rudock as the starter with Iowa this season, so getting a chance to learn under Jim Harbaugh and remain in the Big Ten is a good move for the senior quarterback. Rudock was productive from 2013-14 with the Hawkeyes, throwing for 4,819 yards and 34 touchdowns to interceptions. How quickly will he mesh with the supporting cast at Michigan? Harbaugh is one of the Big Ten’s top offensive coaches, and Rudock should have a solid year in 2015.

 

8. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

In his first full season as Minnesota’s starter, Leidner led the Golden Gophers to an 8-5 record and a 5-3 mark in Big Ten play. The Minnesota native passed for 1,798 yards and 11 scores and rushed for 452 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. While Leidner’s debut was solid, there are plenty of areas for him to work on in 2015. Leidner has to become a better passer after completing just 51.5 percent of his throws last year. The struggles in the passing game aren’t solely on Leidner’s right arm, as Minnesota has to develop more playmakers at receiver. That task is even more critical with the departure of tight end Maxx Williams to the NFL.

 

9. Joel Stave, Wisconsin

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Stave has been a steady presence for Wisconsin over the last three seasons. The Wisconsin native has passed for 4,948 yards and 37 scores since 2012. New coach Paul Chryst is tasked with improving the Badgers’ passing attack after averaging only 148.7 yards in 14 games last season. Considering the punishing rushing attacks Wisconsin has generated recently, a prolific passing game isn’t needed. However, Stave has to elevate his performance if the Badgers want to challenge Ohio State and Michigan State for a spot at the top of the Big Ten in 2015.

 

10. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Jake Rudock was a solid starter for Iowa, but Kirk Ferentz and coordinator Greg Davis hope Beathard brings more big-play ability to the offense. In nine appearances last year, Beathard passed for 645 yards and five scores and completed 52 of 92 throws. It’s a small sample size to draw conclusions from, but it’s interesting to note Beathard completed three passes of 40 yards or more last year. Rudock had just eight with more playing time. With a strong arm and good mobility, Beathard could provide a spark for an Iowa offense that produced only 12 plays of 40 yards or more last season and ranked seventh in the Big Ten in scoring.

 

11. Caleb Rowe, Maryland

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

An offensive makeover is underway at Maryland this offseason. Quarterback C.J. Brown expired his eligibility, the receiving corps lost key targets Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, and the offensive line could have two promising freshmen start at the tackle positions. Rowe did not participate in spring practice while recovering from a torn ACL, but he is the favorite to replace Brown under center in 2015. The South Carolina native is a better pocket passer than Brown and is 123 of 229 for 1,768 yards and 12 scores over the last three years.

 

12. Zack Oliver/Matt Alviti/Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

 

It’s a wide-open battle to replace Trevor Siemian at Northwestern. Oliver, Alviti and Thorson finished spring with little separation, meaning the quarterback competition will extend into the fall. Thorson has the most upside, but Oliver and Alviti have the edge in experience. Oliver started the finale against Illinois last year and threw for 221 yards on 23 completions.

 

13. Chris Laviano, Rutgers

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Laviano edged slightly ahead of LSU transfer Hayden Rettig for the starting quarterback job at the conclusion of spring practice. In Rutgers’ spring game, Laviano completed 8 of 10 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while Rettig went 4 of 7 for 37 yards. Laviano also played in five games as Gary Nova’s backup last season, completing 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards. There’s some upside with Laviano, especially with top receiver Leonte Carroo returning for his senior year and an underrated stable of running backs. But will there be a transition period with Ben McDaniels taking over for Ralph Friedgen as the team’s play-caller?

 

14. Austin Appleby, Purdue

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Appleby and Chris Laviano easily could be flipped on this list. However, for now, the edge goes to Appleby at No. 13. The Ohio native started the final six games of 2014 and passed for 1,449 yards and 10 scores, while adding 198 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Appleby isn’t secure in the starting job, as Danny Etling and David Blough will push for time once again in the fall.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2015
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nba/dallas-mavericks-have-shaky-short-term-future
Body:

After getting bounced from the first round of the NBA Playoffs by the in-state rival Houston Rockets, four games to one, the Dallas Mavericks face very uncertain territory.

 

Franchise cornerstone piece Dirk Nowitzki showed against Houston that he’s no longer quite great enough to build around. While his shot is still a beautiful sight, his aging legs mean he’s no longer able to create the needed air space to score with great volume and efficiency. More importantly, he’s become a sieve on defense — Rockets super-sub Josh Smith moved around him like he was nothing more than a glorified pylon, through much of the series.

 

Rajon Rondo’s stay in Texas was an utter disaster, and there’s virtually no chance he’ll return to Dallas as a free agent this summer. Starting shooting guard Monta Ellis has a player option for next season, and can become a free agent himself if he chooses. With the expected jump in salary caps league-wide, it would seem he’s likely to test the market at the very least, and would come at a greater cost to Dallas even if he stays.

 

Starting center Tyson Chandler? Also headed for free agency. As is the lone bright spot from the Mavericks’ short-lived postseason run, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who made himself a lot of extra money with his performance against Houston.

 

Assembling a team around the declining Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons — who missed all of the series with a knee injury, and may be having surgery that could affect his play going forward — makes for some dubious prospects, at best. Especially in the ever-loaded Western Conference.

 

All these question marks amount to some pretty slim chances at elevated competition in Mavericksland, and some serious decisions for owner Mark Cuban about whether he should begin to rebuild, instead of hunting down marginally better returns in the short term, by spending more money this summer.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 10:23
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/11-crazy-predictions-2015-nfl-draft
Body:

There shouldn’t be much drama with the No. 1 pick, but the first round of any NFL Draft is never boring.

 

Throw Chip Kelly, Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell, Adrian Peterson, the Browns, Rex Ryan and 32 million of their closest friends (and wanna-be analysts) into a brand-spanking new blender in Chicago and fireworks are bound to ensue. And entertain.

 

Part of what makes the NFL Draft one of the biggest sporting events of the year is its unpredictable nature.

 

Players drop, owners reach, trade offers are flying and some teams (looking at you Minnesota) have even passed on drafting anyone at all.

 

So what craziness should fans be looking for this weekend?


Brett Hundley is a first-round pick

Hundley is a poor man’s version of Mariota with a big frame, a winning track record, huge production and well above-average athleticism. Don’t be surprised if Hundley is a first-round draft pick Thursday night. How awesome would it be if Kelly and the Eagles don’t trade with anyone and simply draft Hundley at No. 20?

 

Trading up for Marcus Mariota

The most obvious and talked about trade for any team in the league is the move up to the second pick to presumably take Mariota. Tennessee doesn’t want to pick No. 2 and many teams — San Diego, Cleveland, Philadelphia — have shown interest. However, don’t be surprised if a surprise team ends up making the move to get the second pick and draft the Heisman winner. Like, say, the Cardinals? Either way, someone is trading up to draft Mariota.

 

Related: Don't be Stupid Tampa Bay, Take Winston No. 1

 

Browns will ruin their future

With Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel last year, the Browns might have set their franchise back years. Should they screw up two more first-round picks again this year, this team is all but guaranteed another decade of losing. Offering a Redskins-esque package to trade up to draft Mariota or taking risks on players like wide receivers Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, defensive lineman Arik Armstead or defensive back Byron Jones would ruin any chance of making the playoffs in Cleveland.

 

New WR record

In 2004, Larry Fitzgerald led a deep wide receiver class that still owns the first-round NFL Draft record for the most taken (7). Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Jaelen Strong, Dorial Green-Beckham, Perriman, Dorsett and Devin Smith have all seen their stock fly as high as the first round. I'm saying eight get picked tonight, setting a new record.

 

Dorial Green-Beckham is a top 10 pick

DGB has legitimate off-the-field issues that he will need to answer, but his on-the-field talent may be second-to-none at his position. He is 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds with elite-level athleticism. Should he mature and behave, he could be the best player in the entire draft.

 

The Raiders will do something intelligent

Odds are either Leonard Williams or Cooper will be available for the Raiders with the fourth pick — and they could be the best two prospects in the draft. And, yes, Oakland will do the right/intelligent/smart thing and draft either Williams or Cooper.

 

Chip Kelly will blow our minds

This could be trading for Peterson. This could be shipping Sam Bradford to Cleveland. This could be trading up to get Mariota. This could be naming Tim Tebow his starting quarterback four months before Week 1. I have no idea what it will be but you can bet Kelly will do something totally off the wall. And it will be totally calculated. 

 

Jerry Jones will get more airtime than his pick

Jones took offensive guard Zack Martin with the 16th pick in the draft last season. The year before he traded up to take center Travis Frederick with the 31st pick. Both selections elicited a collective “Who?” from fans in Big D. Both players have been studs for the Cowboys in two years and we should expect much of the same this season. Don’t say who this time when Jones selects Kevin Johnson, Jordan Phillips, Damarious Randall or Jalen Collins. Just trust in the newer, savvier Jones.

 

Related: The Top 100 Prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft

 

Not one but two RBs go in the first round

A running back hasn’t been selected in the first round since 2012 and that involved a total bust (Trent Richardson), a guy who’s already retired (David Wilson) and Doug Martin. However, not only will one running back get drafted in this year’s first round but expect to see two players from this position called on Thursday night. Look for Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon to both land in the first round.

 

Adrian Peterson won’t be traded

The biggest name to be traded during the first round of the NFL Draft could be Peterson. He doesn’t want to be a Viking any longer but it doesn’t make a ton of sense for Jones to mortgage the Cowboys' future to get him. Arizona, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Jacksonville also make sense but will the price be right? No, Peterson will be a Viking after the NFL Draft and that means he will be in the Minnesota backfield in Week 1.

 

The first-round trade record will be broken

The rookie wage scale has changed the way the league views first-round picks. They are less valuable and therefore more likely to be traded. The 2012 set the record with 16 of the 32 picks traded. The 2013 draft saw 14 different picks traded and last April featured nine picks traded in the first round. Look for the tonight's wheeling and dealing to break the 2012 record.

Teaser:
11 Crazy Predictions for the 2015 NFL Draft
Post date: Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/uconn-revamps-uniforms-and-helmets-2015
Body:

UConn is making a few alterations to its uniform and helmet after just two years of a new design.

 

On Wednesday night, the Huskies unveiled their new look for coach Bob Diaco’s second year.

 

Overall, this is a good design for UConn. And the helmet with the updated logo is a solid look.

 

Check out the full gallery of images here.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
UConn Revamps Uniforms and Helmets for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 20:57
Path: /college-football/unlv-unveils-new-uniforms-and-las-vegas-themed-helmets-2015
Body:

It’s a new era of UNLV football with first-year coach Tony Sanchez making the jump from Bishop Gorman High School to the head coach position with the Rebels.

 

And Sanchez is hoping to revamp the program with a fresh start, including new uniforms and helmets for 2015.

 

On Wednesday night, UNLV unveiled its new uniforms and helmets for 2015, including a “Welcome to Las Vegas” sticker on the back of the helmets.

 

 

Teaser:
UNLV Unveils New Uniforms and Las Vegas-Themed Helmets for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 20:24
All taxonomy terms: Baltimore Orioles, MLB
Path: /mlb/empty-camden-yards-eerie-place-baseball-game
Body:

One of the most bizarre games in Baltimore Orioles history was played in front of nobody.

 

The announced attendance for Wednesday’s game between the Orioles and Chicago White Sox was zero as Camden Yards was closed to the general public due to the ongoing civil unrest in Baltimore.

 

Though the game was closed to fans, it was open to the broadcast teams and other media members.

 

The sights and sounds of the game were ranged from humorous to downright eerie. Here’s a quick look:

 

 

 

 

Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis hit a fourth-inning home run that reverberated through the empty stadium. Inside the stadium, the call from Gary Thorne of MASN could be heard from the booth where WGN's Hawk Harrelson was on the call for the White Sox.

 

 

 

At one point, Thorne was having enough fun to invoke Jim Nantz calling the Masters on this Adam Davis double.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
An Empty Camden Yards is an Eerie Place for a Baseball Game
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 16:14
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-breakout-players-nba-playoffs-first-round
Body:

6. Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs

Mills already made his name in last year’s Spurs’ title run, but his legend is growing anew this spring. After having a so-so regular season, in which he missed 31 games due to injury, Mills is absolutely scorching against the Los Angeles Clippers. San Antonio’s best lineups feature him, not Tony Parker, at the point guard spot. His ridiculous 53 percent mark from beyond the arc is a big part of that. And at 26.37, he has the sixth-highest player efficiency rating among all playoff ballers. Mills is well on his way to proving himself as a starter-quality player this postseason — he could even be the Spurs’ point guard of the future.

 

5. John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are giving the Chicago Bulls all they can handle, and Henson’s been a big part of their surprising mettle. A tenacious defender and rebounder down low, the third-year big man has upped his game considerably in the postseason. His minutes have gone up as he’s proved himself guarding Pau Gasol, and his rebounding totals have nearly doubled. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Henson hasn’t looked shaken in the face of pressure. The Bulls may have expected to stomp over the inexperienced Milwaukee, but they’ve risen to the occasion with the calmness of a veteran squad.

 

4. Al-Farouq Aminu, Dallas Mavericks

For at least one man, Chandler Parsons’ season-ending injury had a silver lining. In extended minutes on the wing, in lieu of Parsons’ availability, Aminu has done a lot to improve his value as a free agent this summer. Shooting 55 percent from the field, and a startling 64 percent from three-point land over 30 minutes per contest, he was one of the Mavericks’ best players in their short-lived playoff battle with the Houston Rockets. Based on the way he’s played, Dallas almost certainly won’t be able to pay both him and Parsons going forward.

 

3. Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards

This sophomore forward was considered left for dead by many, not too long ago — a bust, a wasted draft pick, a forgotten man. But coach Randy Wittman suddenly injected Porter into his team’s most effective lineup against the Toronto Raptors in the first round, and Otto thrived next to stretch power forward Paul Pierce. Shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, he’s combined with The Truth and Bradley Beal for an ensemble of Wizards’ floor-spacing shooters that finally maximize John Wall’s defense-penetrating game to an MVP-like level. Porter has earned himself considerably more rotation minutes next season with his performance in these playoffs.

 

2. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks

Middleton, as he was in the regular season, has been a head-turning player in the playoffs. Like Henson and the rest of the Bucks, he is a long and well-disciplined defender who is giving Chicagoans nightmares these days. Middleton’s shooting marks have been down against a prickly Bulls defense, but he’s made them when they count. He dropped in a bevy of assassin-like three-pointers at the conclusion of Game 3 that brought Milwaukee back from down double digits, to help force two overtimes. Middleton heads into restricted free agency this July, and you better believe the Bucks will have to match some hefty offers from other teams if they want to retain his services.

 

1. Deron Williams 2.0, Brooklyn Nets

Back from the dead is a man who used to be a primary character in barbershop arguments involving the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Co. Deron Williams hasn’t looked like one of the NBA’s elite point guards for years, but against the Atlanta Hawks you wouldn’t know that. He’s led his Nets to a shocking 2-2 score in their first-round battle with the East’s leading team. Monday night, he turned back the clock and brought back the bulky-but-quick crossover that used to spend the whole league into spin cycles, collecting 35 points as Brooklyn tied up the series with a 120-115 victory. Now, let’s see if he can do it again.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 14:49
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/penn-state-coach-james-franklin-surprises-walk-scholarship
Body:

A football scholarship is no small matter, especially for those who have toiled as walk-ons for years.

 

Penn State head coach James Franklin surprised junior linebacker Von Walker on Tuesday with a surprise scholarship.

 

These videos are somewhat common now, but the clip of Walker calling his mom afterward is great. Check out the video:

 

Teaser:
Penn State Coach James Franklin Surprises Walk On with Scholarship
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 13:07
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/what-if-nba-teams-had-helmets
Body:

What if NBA teams had helmets? It’s an interesting question posed by James Politi and Luke Daly.

 

The NBA has a good collection of logos – new and old-school designs – so what better way to answer that question than to actually design helmets with NBA logos?

 

To help pass the long offseason until the start of the NFL, Politi and Daly created helmets for all NBA teams. Check out this link to view all of the images:

 

Here are some of our favorites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
What if NBA Teams had Helmets?
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 12:17
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-quarterbacks-2015
Body:

Quarterback play is usually a strength in the Pac-12, and all signs point to 2015 as another deep year for signal-callers on the West Coast. USC’s Cody Kessler leads the way in our quarterback rankings, but California’s Jared Goff is a rising star and should have a huge season in Sonny Dykes’ offense.

 

After Kessler and Goff is a duo of intriguing quarterbacks in Arizona’s Anu Solomon at No. 3 and Oregon’s Vernon Adams at No. 4. As a graduate transfer, Adams has only one season of eligibility remaining. However, he is a huge addition to the Ducks as they look to replace Marcus Mariota.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Pac-12 for 2015.

 

Ranking the Pac-12 Quarterbacks for 2015

 

1. Cody Kessler, USC

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

The Trojans have playoff aspirations in 2015, and coach Steve Sarkisian’s team might have to lean on its offense early in the season with the departure of Leonard Williams at defensive end. Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for USC next season, as Kessler is poised to challenge for All-American honors, and the receiving corps is stocked with talent. In 13 games last year, Kessler threw for 3,826 yards and 39 scores. He also tossed just five interceptions. One area for Kessler to improve in 2015: Performances against top 25 teams. In games against ranked teams in 2014, Kessler threw only four touchdowns to three interceptions.

 

2. Jared Goff, California

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

California’s offense thrived in coach Sonny Dykes’ second year, increasing its scoring average from 23 points a game in 2013 to 38.3 in 2014. A big reason for the offensive explosion was the development of Goff. In his second year as the starter, Goff threw for 3,973 yards and 35 scores to only seven interceptions. The junior is poised for an even better 2015 season, as California returns one of the nation’s best receiving corps and an underrated running back Daniel Lasco.

 

3. Anu Solomon, Arizona

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Solomon was solid in his first year as the starter, completing 313 of 540 passes for 3,793 yards and 28 scores. He also rushed for 291 yards and two touchdowns. But Solomon suffered an ankle injury late in the year and struggled in his final two outings, tossing two picks against Boise State and throwing for only 34 yards against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. While Solomon’s finish left something to be desired, he should rebound with a full offseason to heal. Coach Rich Rodriguez is among the nation’s top offensive minds, and with a loaded receiving corps in place, Solomon is poised to improve off a promising freshman campaign.

 

4. Vernon Adams, Oregon

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Adams is easily one of the nation’s most intriguing quarterbacks for 2015. In three years at Eastern Washington, Adams threw for 10,438 yards and 110 scores and added 1,282 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. With one year of eligibility left as a graduate student, Adams transferred to Oregon for his final season. The senior inherits big shoes to fill with Marcus Mariota off to the NFL, but Adams is a dynamic replacement. It may take a game or two for Adams to adjust to the FBS level. However, the California native should keep Oregon’s offense performing at a high level and will be among the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks in 2015.

 

5. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

This will be Bercovici’s first opportunity to be Arizona State’s No. 1 quarterback for a full season, but he’s already a known commodity in Tempe. The California native started three games in 2014 and finished last season with 1,445 yards and 12 passing scores to just four interceptions. Bercovici torched UCLA’s secondary for 488 yards and threw for 510 yards (and the game-winning Hail Mary as time expired) versus USC. If the senior picks up where he left off as a fill-in for Taylor Kelly, Arizona State’s offense will be among the best in the Pac-12 once again. And he has a little extra help on the way with the addition of UCLA graduate transfer Devin Lucien at receiver.

 

6. Kevin Hogan, Stanford

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Stanford’s defense is expected to take a step back with the departure of a handful of key players. But even if the Cardinal isn’t as dominant on defense in 2015, coach David Shaw’s team could match last year’s win total with improvement on offense. Hogan is a three-year starter under center and is coming off back-to-back solid outings to end Stanford 2014 season. Against UCLA and Maryland, Hogan completed 30 of 39 passes for 423 yards and four scores. If Hogan picks up where he left off in 2014, the senior should have his best season in a Stanford uniform.

 

7. Sefo Liufau, Colorado

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Liufau threw for 3,200 yards and 28 scores in his first full year as Colorado’s starting quarterback. The Washington native also completed 66.1 percent of his passes in Pac-12 games and finished 2014 by throwing for 317 yards against Utah. Liufau’s development is a big reason why the Buffaloes are poised to take a step forward in coach Mike MacIntyre’s third season after winning just one conference game over the last two years. Top receiver Nelson Spruce also returns, giving Colorado one of the Pac-12’s top quarterback-receiver connections in the conference.  

 

8. Travis Wilson, Utah

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Wilson returned from an injury-shortened 2013 season to throw for 2,170 yards and 18 touchdowns. The California native lost the starting job to Kendal Thompson for two games but still guided Utah to its best record in Pac-12 play since joining the conference in 2011. In addition to his passing numbers, Wilson added 309 yards and five scores on the ground. The Utes need to find playmakers at receiver, but the offensive line is solid, and running back Devontae Booker is one of the best in the Pac-12. With a good supporting cast, the Utah coaching staff hopes Wilson puts everything together for a solid senior season.

 

9. Josh Rosen, UCLA

2015 Year of Eligibility: True Freshman

 

Talent certainly isn’t an issue for Rosen. The California native ranked as the No. 12 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete in spring practice. It’s never easy starting as a true freshman for a Power 5 team, but Rosen is UCLA’s best option at quarterback. Is he ready to take the reins of the Bruins’ offense in 2015? While he will need time to learn, UCLA should have a solid defense and returns standout running back Paul Perkins.

 

10. Luke Falk, Washington State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Falk isn’t guaranteed to start, as redshirt freshman Peyton Bender is still in the mix. However, Falk finished the spring on a high note, throwing for 323 yards and two scores in Washington State’s final scrimmage. Falk started the last three games of 2014 after Connor Halliday suffered a season-ending leg injury against USC. In five games last year, Falk completed 156 of 243 passes for 1,859 yards and 13 scores. If he holds off Bender, Falk is going to post huge numbers in Mike Leach’s high-powered offense.

 

11. K.J. Carta-Samuels, Washington

2015 Year of Eligibility: Redshirt Freshman

 

The Huskies have a three-way competition for the starting job with Cyler Miles not expected to return to the team in 2015. Carta-Samuels, Jeff Lindquist and true freshman Jake Browning will continue their battle into the fall after a close competition in the spring. Carta-Samuels is penciled in as the favorite here, but Lindquist or Browning could take the top spot in the fall. Carta-Samuels ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite.

 

12. Seth Collins, Oregon State

2015 Year of Eligibility: True Freshman

 

All signs point to a rebuilding year in Gary Andersen’s debut at Oregon State. The Beavers return just nine overall starters and have significant question marks on both sides of the ball. Collins – a true freshman from California – finished spring ball with a slight edge over redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell for the starting job. Collins was regarded as a three-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite and completed 12 of 22 passes for 208 yards and two scores in Oregon State’s spring game. 

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/kurt-busch-dominates-rain-soaked-richmond-first-sprint-cup-victory-over-year
Body:

Richmond, where art thou? One of NASCAR’s premier short tracks, a battleground whose second race date serves as the regular season finale has spent much of the past few years off the pace. In the XFINITY Series this weekend, Denny Hamlin led 248 of 250 laps, dominating to the point his competition looked like they’d lost a cylinder. In the last four races at Richmond, the XFINITY race has averaged a paltry 2.5 lead changes while the Cup event hasn’t fared much better. Kurt Busch led 291 of 400 laps Sunday and was never challenged over the final 100. 

 

No wonder why the stands, once over 100,000 strong have been half-full in recent years. The mystery only deepens considering Richmond was always considered the perfect mix, a multi-groove racetrack “slow” enough that you could avoid NASCAR’s dreaded “aero push” and run side-by-side continuously. That’s why its second date earned its lofty place as the sport’s regular season finale, heightening the drama of who would make the Chase.

 

Now, the track is chasing a reputation that’s quickly slipping away. While the sport is focused on fixing 1.5-mile ovals, Richmond’s problems are quickly becoming just as glaring.

 

Let’s take a look Through The Gears at four storylines making headlines midweek…

 

FIRST GEAR: Kurt Busch taking charge

 

Kurt Busch, missing the first three races for a suspension based on domestic violence charges has hardly skipped a beat since returning.  Now armed with a victory that launches him inside the Chase, the No. 41 car was already set on a course of if they’d reach Victory Lane… not when. His 520 laps led on the season are already second best in the series, trailing only teammate Kevin Harvick and his point total is already good enough for 18th in the standings. Busch, whose Chase bid quickly flamed out last season, has gone from accused criminal to championship contender in a matter of two months.

 

“Standing on the truth the whole time, that gave me the feeling of when I do get back to the car, it's going to be easy to focus,” he said, “And I think I've shown that.”

 

Busch, whose protective order against Patricia Driscoll still remains in effect, has the drive to win several more races this season. The No. 41 and No. 4 cars are working together so closely, nailing the setups each week to the point they’ve surpassed chassis and engine provider Hendrick Motorsports as the favorites each week.

 

SECOND GEAR: Driver musical chairs

 

For years, we haven’t seen many driver changes in-season but 2015 has been the year of the substitute. After three months subbing for Kyle Busch, David Ragan is moving from Joe Gibbs Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing beginning next week at Kansas. Ragan, who’s currently on the “bubble” in terms of making the Chase will drive the No. 55 Toyota for the rest of the season. Former driver Brian Vickers, still battling health issues will run part-time when and if he does return to the organization.

 

For Ragan, it’s a fantastic opportunity after years running for underfunded Front Row Motorsports. That team now needs to make a driver decision, opening up a ride for a middle-tier guy on the bench like Cup veteran Reed Sorenson. But the most intriguing switch is at JGR, whose brain trust is putting rookie Erik Jones, just 18 into the No. 18 car beginning at Kansas. Jones, who did an admirable job subbing for Denny Hamlin at Bristol has already won in the XFINITY Series this season. The team, high on Jones’ future potential feels he could be a top-5 contender or even eke out a win in the car.

 

But that development also comes fraught with risk. If Jones succeeds, that means a move up to Cup will be a near-necessity for 2016. JGR, whose four cars are filled by veterans, has no room to put him anywhere. Perhaps that could mean Hamlin is in trouble? On the flip side, if Jones tanks it’ll be hard to find sponsors willing to move him up. Either way, it’s hard not to think about JGR’s past history with a young talent named Joey Logano. Logano, moved up to Cup too soon, struggled and never fully developed until he left the organization. You hope the expectations on Jones don’t turn into too much, too soon for a simple substitute role while Busch keeps healing.

 

THIRD GEAR: Roush’s rough ride

 

It’s hard to believe Roush Fenway Racing, once the top Ford organization doesn’t have a single car inside the top 20 in series points. Newcomer Trevor Bayne has been most disappointing of all, the former Daytona 500 winner not posting a single finish inside the top 15. Greg Biffle hasn’t so much as sniffed the top 10 since that season-opening race, dropping to irrelevance just one year after signing a contract extension. Finally, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been unimpressive outside of Bristol (fourth). Combined, the organization has led just eight laps, a sting for a group that once had drivers winning eight races or more over the course of a season.

 

Other organizations linked to Roush, like Richard Petty Motorsports have also struggled mightily. Sam Hornish Jr., whose car is being funded largely out of his owner’s pocket, sits outside the top 30 in Sprint Cup points. He and teammate Aric Almirola also have yet to score a top-10 finish this season. It’s a sad scenario for two teams who underwent major overhauls in the offseason, taking major risks to catch up only to take a further step back.

 

FOURTH GEAR: Talladega’s Russian roulette

 

With an underwhelming season thus far, Talladega offers a chance for NASCAR to get back on track. It’s where all 43 cars have a chance to win, the draft creating a rare scenario where the Davids of the world are equal to Goliath.

 

For drivers like Landon Cassill, whose small team pours most of their extra money into restrictor-plate cars Talladega offers perhaps their only chance to win all year. Guys like David Gilliland, Justin Allgaier or even Cole Whitt could throw a wrench into the Chase with a surprise upset victory. Those drivers will be taking chances, and an aggressive race is expected Sunday that will come paired with the backdrop of the dreaded “Big One.”

 

Certainly, big names will be top contenders too, with Jeff Gordon, who ran strong at Daytona expected to have a strong car again for ‘Dega. But for a sport badly in need of a new story, having one of the underdogs pull through would be a big boost in what’s been a quick fade to 2015 thus far.

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Kurt Busch Dominates Rain-Soaked Richmond For First Sprint Cup Victory in Over a Year
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/american-annual-entertaining-informative-thought-provoking
Body:

Every year delivers events that change our lives, alter our thinking and inspire us beyond measure. And every year, people pass away, leaving us sad, sometimes shaken and almost always introspective. This past year was certainly no different.
 
Finally, there is a book that encapsulates the past year and offers relevant perspective to the events and people who changed the world in 2014. The American Annual: 2014 in Perspective was published by AMG/Parade in February.

 

Derek Jeter bid farewell. The Winter Olympics introduced us to fresh faces like Mikaela Shiffrin. Tim Howard became a national hero at the World Cup. Americans were introduced to 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis, a role model in many ways during the Little League World Series. The San Francisco Giants, led by an incredible pitching performance by Madison Bumgarner, won their third World Series in five years. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich continued to prove—in his own way—that he was a mastermind among NBA coaches. Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers posted a record-breaking season, comparable to the great Sandy Koufax. And we finally had a Final Four in College Football, although a catchy name has yet to emerge. 

 

These are just a few of the sports subjects that The American Annual tackles. In addition, an entertainment section explores how Jimmy Fallon hit the REFRESH button on late night TV. The stylish, 160-page coffee table book also offers perspective on ISIS, the threat of Ebola in the U.S. and why Sony cancelled a $75 million movie.

 

As we do every year, we said final good-byes to many American icons in 2014. For some, we celebrated long, full lives. For others, the loss feels too soon and too sudden. In The American Annual, we celebrate cherished memories and contributions that made us think, smile, cheer and learn. Here’s to Tony Gwynn and Chuck Noll, who made us cheer; Don Meyer and Frank Jobe, who—each in their own way—had such profound impacts on others’ lives; Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, who made us laugh; Eileen Ford, who made us rethink women’s roles in business; and Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney and James Garner, who always made us smile. 

 

Readers will enjoy reminiscing about the celebrities we lost in 2014.

 

The American Annual lends perspective to the events of 2014—the celebrations and the tragedies—as well as the people who changed the world. For these entire stories plus many others, go to AmericanAnnual.com for ordering information. 

 

The book is a bargain at $15.95, and is a terrific keepsake for any 2014 graduate, newlywed or newborn.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 10:04
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-football-teams-nfl-draft-2005
Body:

A decade is a long time in college football. Dynasties begin and end. Conferences ebb and flow. National champions are crowned and de-throned.

 

Even as the SEC as a conference replaced USC as the sport’s dominant figure over the last decade, the Trojans remained the prominent team for the NFL draft through the last 10 years.

 

The Trojans have churned out more NFL Draft picks in the last 10 cycles than any other team, despite the SEC’s status as the powerhouse conference of the era.

 

Make no mistake, the SEC is a force on draft day. Alabama has produced more first-round picks than any other team in the last 10 years. Of the top 10 college teams in the NFL from 2005-14, four are from the SEC.

 

The SEC has sent more total players (466) and first-round picks (93) to the draft that any other league by a wide margin.

 

But as far as a single school in the last 10 drafts, USC is still on top.

 

Athlon Sports has looked at each power conference in the NFL Draft in the last 10 seasons. We’ve collected the top 25 teams here.

 

For a more in-depth look at each team in each power conference, we’ve collected them here:

ACC

Big 12

Big Ten

Pac-12

SEC

 

We've also collected the draft numbers for every active coach.

 

College Football's Top Teams in the NFL Draft

2005-2014

 

 SchoolTotal PicksFirst Round2004-13 Record
1.681489-27 (.767)
2.6314104-27 (.794)
3.579105-28 (.789)
4.55794-37 (.718)
5.541380-40 (.667)
6.531680-30 (.727)
7.521392-24 (.793)
8.471194-36 (.723)
9.46675-50 (.600)
10.42696-35 (.733)
T11.41999-30 (.739)
T11.41585-44 (.659)
T13.40668-57 (.544)
T13.40578-48 (.619)
T13.40399-35 (.739)
16.39476-50 (.603)
T17.36484-46 (.646)
T17.36484-39 (.682)

T17.

36498-30 (.766)
20.35967-58 (.536)
T21.34992-37 (.713)
T21.34748-60 (.444)
T21.34677-49 (.611)
T21.34583-44 (.654)
25.33273-52 (.584)

FBS Conferences in the NFL Draft

2005-14

 

ConferenceTotal PicksFirst Round
46693
40363
38254
34238
23337
1346
1209
675
530
442

*in their current lineups

Teaser:
Ranking College Football Teams in the NFL Draft Since 2015
Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: John Wall, Washington Wizards, NBA
Path: /nba/washington-wizards-are-looking-title-contenders
Body:

The regular season and the playoffs are simply not the same, and in the NBA the difference between the two may be more pronounced than in any major sports league.

 

The Washington Wizards are showing us this quite clearly today. The Wizards have advanced to the second round of the postseason after making mincemeat of the Toronto Raptors in a sweep. Now, they wait and rest as the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets carry on with their 2-2 deadlock of a series for the right to face them.

 

It’s looking like this won’t be much of a privilege. Point guard John Wall has been arguably the MVP of this year’s second season, averaging 12.5 assists per game as he zips through defenses and makes life easy for Washington bigs and perimeter shooters. Starting center Marcin Gortat is shooting 75 percent from the floor. Paul Pierce is emboldening the whole crew, talking a brand of trash that breaks enemies down on their insides.

 

Perhaps most important of all, though, is that head coach Randy Wittman seems to have pulled his head out of the mud. After a season spent struggling through frustrating lineups and play calls, he’s suddenly utilizing a five-man set that includes Pierce as a stretch power forward and makes the Wizards look frequently unguardable.

 

Was Wittman playing possum all along? This is an idea that fans and analysts have recently had fun with, particularly given this seemingly telling moment, in which the supposedly witless leader couldn’t figure out his clipboard:

 

With the Hawks looking taxed by a team that barely made the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers losing Kevin Love for the postseason and the Chicago Bulls struggling against the Milwaukee Bucks, Washington suddenly almost appears to be the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

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Post date: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - 14:25

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