Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/10-tips-winning-your-fantasy-football-league
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Getting ready for your fantasy football draft? Be sure to read these 10 tips from Athlon contributor Mike Clay before plotting your championship-winning plan of attack.

 

1. Gather as many studs as possible, Then worry about everything else

League-wide offensive production is growing each and every year. The recent wave of fast-paced and pass-heavy offenses has led to more fantasy points than we’ve ever seen. As a result, there are more fantasy-relevant players at every position. “Wait at <enter position name here>” is a common piece of advice from fantasy pundits, but in this day and age, you truly can wait at any position and end up with a competent group of starters. So what’s the message here? The focus of your first few picks should not be on need or replacement value; rather, it should be on selecting superstars until none remains. I always suggest drawing lines on your cheat sheet to create tiers. Be sure that only superstars are in that first tier at each position. The players who fit the superstar bill can fluctuate depending on your league’s scoring, but they’re usually not terribly hard to determine. This year, it’s the top seven or so running backs, top six wide receivers and tight end Jimmy Graham. Unless your scoring is obscenely favorable for quarterbacks, no passers should be in this conversation.

 

2. Be prepared to adjust on the fly

There are a lot of draft strategies out there: value-based drafting, high ceiling, wide receiver heavy, best player available, tiers. The list goes on and on. Although you’re best served having a game plan in mind come draft day, it’s important that flexibility and the willingness to adjust are a part of your mindset. No two drafts are the same, which means that all the preparation in the world can’t prevent the inside-the-box thinker from panicking when his target is swooped up right before he’s on the clock.

 

There are a few ways you can stay ahead of the game during your draft. The most obvious one is to cross every selected player off your board. Not only does this help you avoid the embarrassment of selecting a player taken four rounds earlier, but it also allows you to keep an eye on the flow of the draft. Maybe you’re in a 12-team league and haven’t picked a quarterback yet. You notice 10 are already off the board. Should you panic and snatch one up? Unless you’re staring at a major value, of course not. The owners who already have quarterbacks will be addressing other positions for a few rounds, which means you can take advantage and wait even longer to select a signal-caller.

 

Drafting near the turn? Glance at the rosters of the teams who pick between your two selections on the short side of the turn. Let’s say you have the 10th pick of the fifth round in a 12-team league, and you’re trying to decide between a quarterback and wide receiver. You glance at the rosters of the teams picking 11th and 12th. Both have a quarterback. The odds of either team picking a second quarterback are extremely low. That makes your decision easy. Pick the best wide receiver and go with the quarterback the next time around.

 

Those are just a few examples of how to adjust on the fly during your draft. Keeping tabs on everything going on around you is the best way to maximize your roster.

 

3. Don’t be the guy who drafts Peyton Manning

Earlier, I mentioned that quarterbacks do not fit the bill as early-round must-target superstars. That’s despite the fact that there are several superstar talents at the position. On top of that, Peyton Manning was arguably the fantasy MVP last season, breaking all sorts of records en route to blowing all other quarterbacks out of the water in terms of fantasy points. So why am I advising against selecting Manning this season? Simple: He’s not going to live up to his average draft position (ADP).

 

In early mock drafts, Manning is coming off the board in the mid-to-late first round. If you believe Manning will equal his 2013 performance, that’s not a bad pick. If you expect regression, it’s a poor selection. And you should expect regression. Manning set the single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns, and his team set the records for most points, touchdowns and 50-plus point games. Historically, teams that have put up extremely high touchdown totals have regressed the very next season. Consider that over the past six years, 12 offenses have averaged at least three touchdowns per game over a full season. Two-thirds of those teams saw a drop in scoring the next season. The average drop-off was a massive 22 percent, and every team dropped by at least 12 percent. Of the four teams that scored more the next season, three saw a boost of just three percent. The fourth was, go figure, the Broncos, who went from 3.1 TDs per game in 2012 to 4.1 per game in 2013.

 

I should also point out the loss of Eric Decker and the fact that we already saw regression from the Denver offense in the second half last season. After averaging an absurd five offensive scores per game through their first eight games, the Broncos put up 3.4 per game the rest of the way. That’s still a very healthy number, but it puts them right there with the league’s other elite offenses. Manning remains a top fantasy quarterback, but the inevitable regression makes him a poor first-round pick.

 

4. With two exceptions, wait at tight end

Much like last year, the tight end position is shaping up to drop off after the top two before leveling off, for the most part, until around the No. 12 spot. Jimmy Graham is your clear No. 1 option, but Rob Gronkowski is so productive when healthy — sometimes more so than Graham — that he has to be considered in the third round. After that, we have a tier of tight ends who will put up similar numbers. A case could be made that Julius Thomas should be in his own tier, but he usually comes off the board before Gronkowski despite overlooked durability questions of his own.

 

The true values come later in the draft. Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten, Jordan Reed, Dennis Pitta and Greg Olsen can all be had in the middle rounds. Even better, the likes of Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett and breakout candidate Zach Ertz usually last into and beyond the ninth round. High-ceiling fliers like Ladarius Green, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert and Dwayne Allen can be had with late-round picks.

 

Graham and Gronkowski (assuming he remains on track to play in Week 1) are worth the early-round pick, but otherwise, the smart move is to wait for a major value later.

 

5. React reasonably to hype

Each year, the fantasy football industry grows exponentially. Punditry grows as a result. We all have guys we love and guys we hate, which leads to a constant seesaw of market value for each player. One week, I write a piece suggesting a breakout season for Justin Hunter. His ADP skyrockets. The next week, Joe Analyst writes a piece explaining why Tavon Austin will bust out during his sophomore season. Hunter’s ADP returns to earth, and Austin becomes overvalued for a while.

 

The key is to take every single piece of advice with a grain of salt. Does the advice make sense? Does the math add up? Is the player truly in a situation where he can succeed? Is he really as good as the analyst suggests?

 

Savvy owners take advantage of overreacting owners by avoiding the noise and sticking to their boards, making occasional tweaks only when it makes sense.

 

6. Go get these sophomore wideouts

All the talk is about the depth of this year’s crop of rookie wide receivers. Sorted by my favorite values, don’t overlook these sophomores:

 

I foreshadowed this earlier, but Justin Hunter actually is an excellent breakout candidate in Ken Whisenhunt’s wide receiver-friendly, pass-first offense. Terrance Williams will start opposite Dez Bryant in Dallas’ pass-heavy offense. Aaron Dobson figures to play nearly every down in an offense operated by Tom Brady. DeAndre Hopkins struggled along with the rest of Houston’s offense last season, but he will be rejuvenated with Bill O’Brien in control. Tavon Austin disappointed as a rookie but showed big-play ability and will be a key part of the Rams’ improving offense. In Buffalo, Robert Woods is being overshadowed by rookie Sammy Watkins, but the sophomore has an excellent shot to play nearly every down in 2014. Markus Wheaton and Kenny Stills have been promoted into starting roles in good (Pittsburgh) and great (New Orleans) offenses, respectively. The likes of Quinton Patton, Stedman Bailey, Marquise Goodwin, Ace Sanders, Marquess Wilson and Brice Butler should be monitored.

 

Keenan Allen and Cordarrelle Patterson are fine picks as well, but both will come off the board in the first half of your draft, making them expensive investments.

 

7. Draft post-hype superstars

We see it every year. A highly talented player makes perfect sense as a breakout. Selected in the first few rounds of every single draft, the player inevitably disappoints before finally busting out the very next season. Last year, Ryan Mathews was a fine example. Knowshon Moreno, DeMarco Murray, Rashad Jennings, Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas also fit the bill.

 

This season, C.J. Spiller should be on your radar. Considering that he was a first-round pick in most drafts, the 2013 season was a major disappointment. Despite dealing with injuries and sharing the Buffalo backfield with Fred Jackson, Spiller still managed 202 carries and eclipsed 1,100 total yards. A lack of usage near the goal line remains a concern, but Spiller is only 27 and one of the top talents at the position. Available in the third round of most drafts, Spiller has top-five upside.

 

Looking for other post-hype candidates? Consider Jake Locker, Mark Ingram, David Wilson, Stevan Ridley, Danny Amendola, Tyler Eifert, Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green.

 

8. Raise the roof

Once you’re comfortable with your starting lineup, ensure that your focus is on acquiring the players with the highest ceiling. Obviously you want to draft high-upside players early as well, but for the most part, the players in this category are unproven. Spending early-round picks on speculative players is risky and best saved for the mid-to-late rounds. I’ve mentioned a bunch of these players throughout this piece, but there are a few categories breakout players tend to fall into. The most obvious one is “talented.” Players drafted in the last three years who have a ton of raw talent but were injured or buried on their team’s depth chart are usually worthy of late-round consideration. Last season, Alshon Jeffery, Zac Stacy, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron fit this category. Another is “opportunity.” These players might not be quite as naturally gifted, but they’ve fallen into a situation where they’ll be playing a significant offensive role or playing enough of a role in a high-scoring offense. The likes of Riley Cooper, Charles Clay and Julian Edelman fit the bill in 2013.

 

9. Be wary of rookies

Each year, there is a massive amount of attention given to the NFL Draft. That, combined with recency bias toward the college superstars of the past season, often leads to rookies being overvalued in fantasy drafts. Last year, 14 rookies were drafted in the top 200 of most drafts. Only four players (Eddie Lacy, Gio Bernard, Le’Veon Bell and Cordarrelle Patterson) outperformed their ADP. The other 10 players were nothing more than waiver wire fodder for most of the season. That was the case for Patterson for a good chuck of the season as well. There were a few other rookies who shined, but the likes of Andre Ellington, Keenan Allen, Jordan Reed, Zac Stacy and Mike Glennon went undrafted in most leagues. The message here is that rookies tend to be overhyped, and you should be very skeptical about choosing them during the first dozen rounds of your draft.

 

10. Don’t draft your handcuffs; draft the best handcuffs

It’s inevitable. The guy who picks Toby Gerhart is going to draft and/or waste a valuable roster spot on Jordan Todman. Trent Richardson owners will stash Vick Ballard. Gio Bernard owners will snag BenJarvus Green-Ellis. You get the picture. There are a lot of backup running backs who qualify as handcuffs but who are not very good and/or would be no more than a committee back in the event that they were called on to start. Todman, Ballard and Green-Ellis fall into that category and shouldn’t be stashed over running backs with higher ceilings. You don’t need to own Jamaal Charles in order to snatch up Knile Davis. Or Matt Forté to grab Ka’Deem Carey. Christine Michael, LeGarrette Blount, Bernard Pierce, Carlos Hyde, Donald Brown, Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason, Charles Sims and Devonta Freeman all make for solid late-round targets.

Teaser:
10 Tips For Winning Your Fantasy Football League
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 16:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-west-2014
Body:

Home to the defending Super Bowl champions and the only division that featured three 10-win teams last season; there is little debate that the NFC West is the NFL’s toughest division entering the 2014 season. So how is Seattle shaping up as the Seahawks prepare their title defense and what about the three other chasing them out west?

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of the four NFC West teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 

 

Arizona Cardinals

 

“The Cardinals have as much front-line talent as any NFL team. The problem is that they reside in the toughest division in the league and there is no guarantee to even make the playoffs.” …

 

“Bruce Arians has had quite a run since taking over as interim coach of the Colts in 2012 and then leading Arizona to a 10-6 mark last year. The players love Arians’ approach and really believe they can go win the Super Bowl in 2014, and they might be right.” …

 

“As Carson Palmer heads into the twilight of his career, he is surrounded by elite-level ability. Larry Fitzgerald has enjoyed a remarkable career despite being, at times, hamstrung by inept QB play, and Michael Floyd is poised to advance his game in his third season.” …

 

“Arians has raved about Andre Ellington, but he had major durability concerns coming out of Clemson, and it would be difficult to think of him as a workhorse over the course of 16 games and the playoffs. For that reason, Jonathan Dwyer was signed from Pittsburgh and Stepfan Taylor could be a stopgap option.” …

 

“With Jonathan Cooper returning from a leg fracture and Jared Veldheer being signed during free agency, this line should be much improved. John Carlson gives them a better-than-average answer at tight end and some inside the organization still think Rob Housler has more to offer from a physical standpoint.” …

 

“Arizona’s front seven has a mixture of experience and youth, but all of them can play. John Abraham can still rush the passer, Darnell Dockett has matured into a consistent Pro Bowler, and Calais Campbell is a force due to his height and athleticism.” …

 

“The Cardinals signed Antonio Cromartie to pair off with Patrick Peterson, and with Tyrann Mathieu expected to successfully return from knee surgery, they can be multiple in their coverage packages. They addressed their need at safety with Washington State’s Deone Bucannon in the first round ” …

 

“The backup-caliber players need to understand that special teams could be the difference between them and the Seahawks and 49ers.” …

 

“If Palmer stays healthy and upright, this team is highly motivated and stronger than people realize.” …

 

St. Louis Rams

 

“Head Coach Jeff Fisher is widely respected and well thought of in league circles because of his work on the Competition Committee and overall presence as a leader of the coaches. However, some are beginning to question his won-loss record and lack of success in St. Louis.” …

 

The Rams appear content to go forward with QB Sam Bradford, but there is no denying the risk involved because of his past injury history. Offensively, the line has been bad for two years running and their best ball-carrier emerged in the form of [2013] fifth-round pick, Zac Stacy from Vanderbilt. They addressed both of those areas in the draft with a pair of Auburn Tigers, OT Greg Robinson and RB Tre Mason.”…

 

“TE Jared Cook has very good skill and should thrive more with a healthy Bradford, but the wide receivers have been a major work in progress over the past two campaigns. It took nearly ten weeks to get rookie Tavon Austin cranked up, so the assumption will be that he picks up where 2013 ended. STL has gotten little out of former second-round pick Chris Givens, so this will be a make-or-break year for him.”…

 

“They were lucky that Rodger Saffold returned to them after the physical fiasco in Oakland and the plan might be to play him at RG with Joe Barksdale at RT and Robinson aligning as a LG.” …

 

“The Rams now have the best defensive front four in the game after selecting Pittsburgh All-American Aaron Donald with their second first-round pick. The linebacking corps isn’t bad, either, with James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree.” …

 

“The Achilles’ heel has been the secondary and that is where they added Florida State’s super-competitive Lamarcus Joyner who can play safety, corner or nickel. And with even more pressure coming from Robert Quinn and Chris Long, this secondary should be improved.”…

 

“The Michael Sam story will get some play upon his arrival and maybe during training camp, but his shot to make the team will be as a situational pass rusher and special teams contributor, period.”…

 

“GM Les Snead and Fisher appear to work well together, but their time in the Gateway of the West will begin to run down without significant progress in football’s most difficult division.”

 

San Francisco 49ers

 

“The 49ers may have the most physically imposing and best-looking team in the entire league. They are big and strong along both lines and have tough, athletic skill players on offense and defense.”…

 

“Despite some of the communication issues between head coach Jim Harbaugh, GM Trent Baalke and football administration director Paraag Maranthe, this is an organization that has built a quality team. “ …

 

“Many inside the NFL think 2014 could likely be Harbaugh’s last season in SF, so it has been interesting to monitor the upward movement of former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini. He is currently the TEs coach, but made his name in New York and New England on the defensive side of the football. There is no question that he is reinventing himself for another run at a head job and would love the opportunity to take over a roster that is absolutely loaded, although DL coach Jim Tomsula would be the in-house favorite.” …

 

“The 49ers have hitched their wagon to QB Colin Kaepernick’s unique combination of rare size and speed at the position. If there is a criticism, it is his penchant to throw almost every pass on a line with no touch whatsoever. On play-actions and bootlegs, he can rifle a flat ball in between defenders, but in the drop-back game, he tends to try and throw it through rather than around people.” …

 

“Expect SF to have more of a backfield-by-committee in place for ’14 as RB Frank Gore still has some in-between-the-tackles ability and they picked Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde in the second round.” …

 

“Defensively, it’s all about what happens with NaVorro Bowman’s return from the brutal knee injury suffered in the playoffs and the off-field problems experienced by Aldon Smith.” …

 

“Look for second-year player Tank Carradine to make a splash after ‘redshirting’ last season. “ …

 

“They are so strong up the middle and that is where Patrick Willis has become this generation’s ‘Ray Lewis.’”…

 

“If they are light anywhere, it would be on the corner where Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers left for Oakland and the remaining group is headlined by Eric Wright [Editor’s note: he retired in June] and Chris Culliver with the anticipation that first-round choice Jimmie Ward will likely be the nickel in 2014. FS Eric Reid is a Pro Bowl talent and they signed Antoine Bethea to replace Donte Whitner.” …

 

“The ‘body’ of this team is ready to return to the Super Bowl, the ‘head’ of this team is what will determine their fate.” …

 

Seattle Seahawks

 

“Pete Carroll became only the third coach in football history to win both a college national championship and Super Bowl joining Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer in that elite club. He was rewarded with an extension during the offseason and between the leadership combination of himself, GM John Schneider and Russell Wilson, this team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.” …

 

“Offensively, Wilson should be able to expand his game to provide more balance to their attack (4th in rushing, 26th in passing) and Percy Harvin is obviously a difference-maker for them when he is healthy and on the field. Golden Tate moved on to the Lions, so Harvin and Doug Baldwin will need to step up in 2014.” …

 

“The offensive line lost Breno Giacomini, but the other four starters return and RT Michael Bowie gained valuable experience as a rookie when he started 8 games during the regular season.” …

 

“Marshawn Lynch has prospered since arriving from Buffalo and his Beast Mode style matches the toughness of their defense.” …

 

“They traded for Terrelle Pryor prior to the draft, so that is a situation to monitor in regards to their backup QB situation.” …

 

“Defensively, the Legion of Boom will continue uninterrupted after Earl Thomas received a new contract in April and Richard Sherman did the same a few weeks later.” …

 

“Up front, the Seahawks lost Clinton McDonald, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to free agency, but they did retain Michael Bennett and still have Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin on the outside. Jordan Hill should figure more prominently on the inside as a second-year player to rotate with Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel.” …

 

“Bobby Wagner, T.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith are ideal fits for this scheme because of their versatility against the run and pass.” …

 

“Byron Maxwell’s emergence opposite Sherman allowed them to let Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner to walk, so expect to see more of Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon this year. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form the league’s best safety duo where they complement each other’s skill set unbelievably well.” …

 

“Seattle is built to last because of the QB, a solid OL and the quality of their overall defense. They preach competition and that’s exactly what they will get from their division rivals in 2014.” …

Teaser:
NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About the NFC West Teams
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFC North, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-2014-team-preview-and-predictions
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General Manager Rick Spielman created 13 categories that he thought described a successful NFL coach. He identified 10 preferred candidates, interviewed seven and fell in love, professionally speaking, with just one. “It’s like when I met my wife,” he said. “You just know.”

 

Mike Zimmer, the self-proclaimed “fixer” and first-time head coach at any level, replaces the fired Leslie Frazier. And, boy, does he ever have some fixing to do after a 5–10–1 season that featured the league’s worst scoring defense and a three-headed fiasco at quarterback. Zimmer and Spielman immediately infused the defense with youth and depth, signing five unrestricted free agents before spending seven of their 10 draft picks on that side of the ball.

 

Offensively, Norv Turner has been entrusted with maximizing a group of talented players and a less-than-ideal quarterback situation that already looks more promising with the franchise-wide acceptance that Christian Ponder never will be a franchise quarterback.

 

OFFENSE

The Ponder experiment is over. Matt Cassel, who had opted out of the second year of his original contract with the Vikings, re-signed in part because he trusts that Turner and Zimmer are committed to him as the starter. That wasn’t the case last year when the Vikings waffled between Ponder, Cassel and Josh Freeman despite obvious examples that Cassel, though not great by any stretch, had the most poise, courage to throw the deep ball and overall success (a 3–3 record).

 

Ponder will start only if Cassel is injured. And even that would depend on whether rookie first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater is ready or not. Ideally, the Vikings want Cassel to be a one-year bridge and then back up Bridgewater in 2015.

 

Unlike former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, Turner can be counted on to not only groom a young quarterback, but also produce a creative and diverse offense. He’s proven over decades that he gets the most out of quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends while still being able to satisfy Hall of Fame-caliber running backs. And, of course, Adrian Peterson will remain the focal point of the Vikings’ play-action, run-first attack.

 

Musgrave’s approach was simple, predictable and puzzling in that it failed to incorporate obvious superstar-in-waiting receiver Cordarrelle Patterson until the team’s season had already collapsed. Patterson, an All-Pro kick returner as a rookie last year, will excel in Turner’s offense even though it’s more complex and he’s still a bit raw as a route-runner.

 

Up front, the offensive line underachieved last season and needs to live up to the level one would expect of a unit that’s still young and enters its third season intact. Left tackle Matt Kalil, a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2012, had too many lapses in his second season. Left guard Charlie Johnson struggled and may be challenged by younger players.

 

Peterson is 29 and has had knee, hernia and groin surgeries the past three years. But he looks ready to surpass his 1,266-yard effort from 2013. Peterson will get some help from rookie Jerick McKinnon, the kind of third-down, change-of-pace back Turner likes. 

 

DEFENSE

The Vikings have played a Cover-2 base defense since 2006. Zimmer, meanwhile, has displayed admirable versatility throughout his career. He’s a 4-3 guy who has posted top-10 defenses using his own 4-3 scheme and a 3-4 alignment he learned working for Bill Parcells.

 

The selection of UCLA’s Anthony Barr ninth overall fills a huge need at strong-side linebacker and will be a key ingredient as Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards transform the Vikings into a more unpredictable unit capable of easily mixing fronts, coverages and blitz packages. Barr, who has played linebacker for only two years, is raw, but his 6'5", 255-pound frame comes with unusual length, speed and cornerback-caliber agility. He’s a natural rusher from the up or down positions and has the skills to cover the seam downfield, which has been a weakness for the Vikings.

 

Up front, the Vikings said goodbye to Jared Allen and Kevin Williams and hello to a dramatic youth movement. Everson Griffen, 26, steps in for Allen after four years as an heir apparent. He possesses a freakish combination of speed, size, position flexibility and potential. Meanwhile, Sharrif Floyd, who had a nondescript rookie season, takes over for Williams and will be given a chance to live up to being a 23rd overall pick. Linval Joseph, 25, moves in at nose tackle, giving the Vikings their first legitimately sized nose since Pat Williams in 2010.

 

In the secondary, Spielman is finally starting to assemble a solid unit after the team experienced some bad misses in the draft. Free safety Harrison Smith, a first-round pick in 2012, is instinctive, fast, physical and will be an All-Pro one day if he stays healthy. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a first-round pick in 2013, is a potential Pro Bowler who needs to prove he can be durable.

 

Meanwhile, the other starting corner is Captain Munnerlyn, a prized free-agent signing and a huge upgrade over Chris Cook, who was a four-year disappointment on and off the field. Munnerlyn also can slide inside over the slot in the nickel, something Josh Robinson failed at last year when asked prematurely to fill that role after Antoine Winfield was cut in a salary cap move. Finding a suitable third corner on the current roster will test Zimmer’s reputation as “the fixer.”

 

SPECIALISTS

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was one of Frazier’s three assistants retained by Zimmer. That’s because the Vikings are as good if not better top to bottom than any other team when it comes to special teams. Patterson, the kick returner, turned a ridiculous combination of size and speed into an NFL-leading 32.4-yard average and a league-record 109-yard return. Meanwhile, at punt returner, Marcus Sherels staved off being released and averaged a franchise-record 15.2 yards per return, good enough for second in the league.

 

Kicker Blair Walsh, an All-Pro as a rookie when he made a record 10-of-10 field goals of 50 yards or longer, struggled from long range last year (2-of-5), but he will be fine. Punter Jeff Locke was typically inconsistent as a rookie last year but should improve.   

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

If turnovers aren’t an issue at quarterback, there’s enough firepower in Turner’s creative hands to maintain a balanced, run-oriented attack that highlights Peterson, camouflages Cassel and taps the potential of Patterson. Defensively, there’s more of a leap of faith required. How quickly can a unit that’s been overhauled with youth get up to speed in Zimmer’s system? The schedule-maker doesn’t give them much time with an opener on the road at St. Louis followed by games against Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, the latter on the road on a Thursday night. An 8–8 finish might be a nice place to start.

 

PREDICTION: 4th in NFC North

 

(Teddy Bridgewater photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings' Web site, www.vikings.com)

Teaser:
Minnesota Vikings 2014 Team Preview and Predictions
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2014-team-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Phase 1 for the regime of general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley in Jacksonville was about survival, attempting to cobble together a roster last year that would avoid being totally outclassed. And the Jaguars did stay upright — barely, winning four games in the season’s second half. And now there is Phase 2, which is about being competitive in general and against the NFL’s best teams in particular.

 

The Jaguars went 0–7 last year against teams that made the playoffs, losing each game by at least 16 points. In 2014, the team wants to cut that margin and maybe even win some of those contests to confirm that it’s on the right path. To that end, Caldwell was active in free agency, adding eight players while also waving goodbye to veterans like running back Maurice Jones-Drew, right guard Uche Nwaneri and the retired Brad Meester and Russell Allen.

 

OFFENSE

The Jaguars’ message to quarterback Blake Bortles once they drafted him third overall in May: Hurry up and wait. The Jaguars produced the draft’s first “Wow!” moment when they a) stayed at No. 3 instead of trading down and b) chose Bortles instead of higher-ranked names like Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack. Bortles is the future, but Chad Henne is the present. Henne is well versed in the offense, respected in the locker room and huddle and stands tall in the pocket. But he’s also a player who is 18–32 as a starter in his career and has 55 touchdowns and 62 interceptions. Henne will keep the seat warm until Bortles is deemed ready to play (maybe at midseason, maybe after the Week 11 bye, maybe 2015). What should help Henne is a free-agent and draft season that re-tooled the offense. The Jaguars ranked last in points and second-to-last in yards, and upgrades were necessary. The end result is new faces, fresher legs and more speed.

 

After eight years and one league rushing championship, Jones-Drew was allowed to walk in free agency to Oakland. He will be replaced by Toby Gerhart, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry in four years as Adrian Peterson’s backup in Minnesota. The Jaguars were intrigued by Gerhart’s lack of wear and tear, his ability to get yards after contact and experience as a receiver out of the backfield. A hip flexor injury kept him out of the first preseason game, but that was probably more for precautionary reasons than anything.

 

The Jaguars then took advantage of a deep receiver class in the draft. USC’s Marqise Lee fell to them at No. 39, and then they traded up to No. 60 late in the second round to take Penn State’s Allen Robinson. Both bring what the Jaguars have lacked in the passing game — a willingness to go over the middle for the tough catch and a knack for getting to the end zone. The Jaguars hope that their presence will open up the seam routes for tight end Marcedes Lewis and that the coverage downfield will shade away from Cecil Shorts. Getting Lewis back for a full year after he was slowed by a calf strain last September/October gives the Jaguars a fine blocker (they averaged 0.6 more yards per carry when he was on the field) and a red-zone target (touchdowns in four straight games last year).

 

But the Jaguars’ most expensive signing was designed to improve an offensive line that has been plagued by performance and durability issues in recent years. Zane Beadles arrived from Denver on a five-year, $30 million contract to play left guard and serve as a leader. Luke Joeckel, coming off a broken leg, has moved from right tackle to left tackle. Brandon Linder, whom the Jaguars traded up in the third round to draft, is the likely new right guard. Mike Brewster will enter camp as the favorite to start at center, and Austin Pasztor, a former guard who impressed last year, will start at right tackle. The goals of this group are to stay healthy, run-block better and prevent a third straight year of 50 sacks by its opponents.

 

DEFENSE

The Jaguars basically have to do everything better on defense. In addition to increasing their sack total, they have to stop the run better (29th last year), produce more takeaways (only 21) and be more effective on third down (27th).

 

Call the Jags’ defense “Seattle South,” both in the personnel and the scheme. Red Bryant was signed to be an early-down run-stopper at defensive end, and Chris Clemons was added to improve a pass rush that was last in 2012 and tied for last in 2013. Both played for Bradley and defensive line coach Todd Wash in Seattle. The scheme: Use big bodies at three of the defensive line spots and replace them with speedy pass-rushers on third down.

 

Bradley often says a team can’t have enough pass-rushers, and that is reflected in the Jaguars’ acquisitions. Clemons and draft pick Chris Smith join holdovers Jason Babin and Andre Branch. Ideally, Bradley wants to have four “Leo” (open-side end) players active on Sundays.

 

At linebacker, the Jaguars hope they’ve added an ascending player in Dekoda Watson, who had only six career starts in four years with Tampa Bay but signed with the Jaguars hours after the free-agent market opened. They believe he can add a dimension against tight ends, a season-long bugaboo in 2013, and also fit into the pass-rushing defensive end rotation. He joins middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, a tackling machine who is the defense’s heart and soul, and Geno Hayes, who is coming off knee surgery.

 

If the Jaguars are better stopping the run and more effective with a four-man pass rush, that could mean good things for a secondary that started three rookies at various points last year. Veteran Alan Ball returns at one corner and is paired with second-year pro Dwayne Gratz, who has a nose for the football but was sidetracked by two high-ankle sprains last year. At strong safety, former second-round pick Johnathan Cyprien came on during the season’s second half. At free safety, Winston Guy (another Seattle alum) and Josh Evans will compete in camp. Guy and Evans are hard hitters but need to become surer tacklers.

 

SPECIALISTS

The Jaguars were top 10 in covering kicks and punts and returning kicks, but last in punt returns. Ace Sanders was drafted as a receiver/punt returner but never got untracked on special teams. The second-year player from South Carolina also announced prior to the start of training camp that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team after he was notified he would be suspended the first four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.  A candidate to replace Sanders is Tandon Doss, signed as a free agent from Baltimore. The Jaguars’ kicker-punter-long-snapper team of Josh Scobee-Bryan Anger-Carson Tinker returns intact. Scobee still gets good distance on his kickoffs and is adept at the directional kick, and Anger’s consistent hang time allows his teammates to get down the field.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

Is it OK to say “Wait until next year” before the current year has even started? In the Jaguars’ case, probably. The goal this year should be to play better against the league’s elite teams, decide which players should make up the core moving forward and get Bortles late-season experience so that he’s ready to start in 2015.

 

PREDICTION: 4th in AFC South

Teaser:
Jacksonville Jaguars 2014 Team Preview and Predictions
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple.

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro best (and worst) logos in college football. 

Note: Since college football is now an autonomous sport, only the Big 5 (including Notre Dame) are eligible.
 

College Football's Best Official Logos

 SchoolLogoAnalysis
1.TexasThe best logo in college football, the Longhorn is classic, simple, unchanging but also unique and creative. There is nothing else to say.
2.ClemsonThere are tons of Tigers, Wildcats and Bulldogs in college sports but none use their mascot quite like Clemson. The Tiger Paw print is synonymous with Clemson athletics and is utterly simple but still edgy and creative. 
3.GeorgiaFind me a more effective marriage of color and simplicity of design and I'll hand these writing duties over to you. Georgia's logo is so timeless that I can't remember there ever being another that represented the football team. When you see this, there's no confusion as to what you're looking at.
4.Michigan StIt's clean, classic, gets the point across and is recognizable. It has some fierce edginess to it, the color scheme is perfect and there is no doubt it represents a Spartan.
5.WashingtonSimple, tasteful, unchanging and very obvious. This emblem with its signature gold trim is one of the best in the nation and leaves little doubt as to what it represents.
6.USCThe interlocking "S-C" is as famous as any logo in the nation. The other logo with the script team nickname above the "SC" isn't needed for a major brand like USC.
7.Notre DameIt is one of the most recognizable logos in college sports. There is some creativity in the interlocking N and D but it's done in a simple, classic and vintage way. I like the N better than the D.
8.North CarolinaThe interlocked N-C are as famous as any brand logo in the nation. There are simple touches of style — the font and black trim — that make this logo completely unmistakable.
9.AuburnHard to find fault in the interlocking A-U. Again, trimming away all the waste and boiling a logomark down to its most basic typically nets the best results.
10.TennesseeAs a logo, Tennessee's is as direct and to-the-point as it gets. Think what you will of the orange (personally, I'm no fan), but the unique working of the "T" is as good as it gets. As an aside, UT's retro Davy Crockett logo is badass.
11.MiamiIt's as simple as it gets but also brings loads of creativity and history. No other logo turns into a hand signal like "The U" and the two-tone color scheme and pattern is unique.
12.Penn StHistorically speaking, few logos are as traditional as the Nittany Lions oval. The smooth looking Lions head has great lines and appears to be hunting... Wolverines or Buckeyes? Few logos combine classy and aggresive like PSU.
13.IowaIt also comes in black, which is slightly more stylish. While maintaining a simple and historic look, the Hawkeye emblen also brings some creativity. In fact, I've no idea what an actual Hawkeye looks like.
14.OklahomaThere is no doubting what the interlocking "O" and "U" stand for, right? The smooth lines and lack of extras in the font make this a fantastic logo. 
15.UCLAThe script "UCLA" is one of the most well-known logos in all of sports much less college football. And the way the word Bruins is incorporated makes it one of the most informative in the nation while still being fairly simple.
16.StanfordMichigan State and NC State know exactly what the smart kids from Palo Alto were thinking when this logo was created. It's classic and simple with a touch of style in the stroked white/red trim. Stanford boasts one of the best brand logos in the nation.
17.OregonIt doesn't get any simpler than the Oregon "O." There is some subtle style to the font that makes it cooler than the average "O." The clean classic look works but some yellow trim might make it the best in the league. 
18.Kansas StAll of Kansas State's design work, color scheme and uniforms are underrated and the logo is the same. Aggressive, stylish but yet still fairly simple and clean.
19.Texas A&MSomeone from A&M needs to call Texas Tech and explain how effective beveling is done. Like Vandy, Texas A&M's logo is simple and therefore works as a potent branding mark.
20.Ohio StateNormally, a name in a logo doesn't work, but the "S" is perfectly designed into the "O" and it works. It makes it busier than the cleaner, more classic logos above. The colors and trim are second to none.

Others receiving votes: West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Colorado, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Indiana


College Football's Worst Official Logos

TeamLogoAnalysis
Oregon StThe Beavers updated their look recently with a new edgier looking logo. And, frankly, they did a good job. This one is smoother and streamlined and is more aggressive. It's tough to make a beaver look mean, however.
NorthwesternThe purple "N" has plenty of things going on around it. The font is seriously bizarre and not really intimidating anyone.
South CarolinaSurprisingly, it's not the gamecock that turns me off here, it's the 90 degree angles on the inside of the "C" — shave those off and the awkwardness of this logo is minimalized. Sure, the rooster could use an upgrade, but let's be honest, it may be time to start from scratch.
KansasThe cartoon Jayhawk is a signature logo but doesn't really create an intimidating image in any sense of the word. And why is it dancing?
Boston CollegeThe cartoon eagle and italicized/overlapped BC just doesn't exude tradition and excellence like some other logos. The colors aren't bad but it's too busy to be considered a great logo..

 

Teaser:
Ranking College Football's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Oakland Raiders, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/oakland-raiders-2014-team-preview-and-predictions
Body:

General manager Reggie McKenzie spent his first two seasons in Oakland cutting high-salaried players and getting the Raiders out of salary cap hell. The Raiders entered free agency this year with around $65 million in cap space, and McKenzie started spending like a man who had won the lottery. He signed nearly a dozen free agents, most of them in their late 20s and early 30s, veterans with strong résumés and huge chips on their shoulders.

 

“We’re just kind of the throwaways it seems like,” says former Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew. “Everybody here has something to prove. We all know we have something left, whether it was a bad year last year or things didn’t work out from another team, whatever it may be. As a whole, we’re fighting for the same thing, which is respect.”

 

The Raiders’ free-agent haul also included ex-Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, former Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and former Green Bay wide receiver James Jones. All three own Super Bowl rings. McKenzie used more of the Raiders’ cap space when he traded for quarterback Matt Schaub, another veteran with something to prove.

 

After back-to-back 4–12 seasons, McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen will face some heat in Year 3 of their regime. Team owner Mark Davis has proven to be more patient than his father, the late Al Davis, but his patience has limits.

 

OFFENSE

Oakland hopes the 33-year-old Schaub can resurrect his career and rejuvenate the Raiders’ passing attack. Schaub has passed for more than 4,000 yards three times in his career, but he’s coming off his worst season and was benched in Houston. At one point, he threw a pick-six in four straight games, setting an NFL record. Schaub finished with 10 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 73.0, by far his lowest since being traded by Atlanta to Houston in 2007. If Schaub falters, Allen’s options will probably be rookie Derek Carr, a second-round pick, and second-year pro Matt McGloin, who started six games last season.

 

The Raiders added some experience to their young receiving corps by signing Jones. He made 30 starts over the past two seasons for Green Bay, catching a combined 123 passes for 1,601 yards and 17 touchdowns. Rod Streater, who made the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2012, led the Raiders with 60 catches for 888 yards and four touchdowns last season. At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Streater is a big, physical receiver who could complement the smaller, quicker Jones. Denarius Moore has speed to get deep and a knack for making acrobatic catches, but he has lacked consistency since coming to Oakland as a fifth-round pick in 2011 out of Tennessee. Tight end Mychal Rivera, another Tennessee product, flashed big-play ability as a rookie.

 

If they can stay healthy, Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden could form a powerful one-two punch at running back. Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing in 2011 with 1,606 yards, his third straight season cracking the 1,300-yard mark. He has 8,071 career rushing yards but averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry last season when he rushed for just 803 yards. McFadden, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft, has been plagued by injuries and has just one 1,000-yard rushing season. In a surprise move, the Raiders re-signed him for one year. Jones-Drew seems more suited for a starting role in the Raiders’ power-running scheme, but McFadden adds explosiveness and versatility with his skill as a pass-catcher. Fullback Marcel Reece, coming off his second straight Pro Bowl season, is another versatile weapon.

 

Jones-Drew, McFadden and Reece will run behind a new-look offensive line. The Raiders, who lost starting left tackle Jared Veldheer as a free agent to Arizona and released starting right guard Mike Brisiel, could have four new starters joining holdover center Stefen Wisniewski. Menelik Watson, a second-round pick last year, will get a chance to win the starting job at right tackle. Donald Penn, a free-agent pickup from Tampa Bay, is ticketed for left tackle. Former New York Jet Austin Howard should take Brisiel’s spot at right guard unless Watson falters and he’s needed at right tackle. Kevin Boothe, who returned to the Raiders after seven seasons with the New York Giants, will battle Khalif Barnes and rookie Gabe Jackson at left guard.

 

DEFENSE

The Raiders allowed 453 points last year, the second-highest total in franchise history. They ranked 28th against the pass, 13th against the run and 22nd in total defense. A defensive makeover was in order, and that’s what McKenzie and Allen delivered. The Raiders desperately needed to bolster their anemic pass rush and improve their secondary, especially at cornerback. They used free agency to address both needs. They also used the No. 5 overall draft pick to land outside linebacker Khalil Mack, a gifted pass-rusher and a disruptive force.

 

Tuck will start at right end, while Woodley, an outside linebacker with Pittsburgh, will start at left end in Oakland’s 4-3 scheme. Tuck has 60.5 career sacks, including 11 last season. He’ll likely move inside and play tackle in the nickel, with Mack lining up at right end. Woodley has 57 career sacks. Former Texan Antonio Smith is expected to start at one tackle spot and add a pass-rush push up the middle.

 

The Raiders signed former 49er cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Brown will likely start along with D.J. Hayden, a first-round draft pick last season. Rogers is expected to be the nickel and could start if Hayden struggles after an injury-plagued rookie season. Hayden underwent surgery earlier this summer to repair a stress fracture in his foot, which has turned him into merely an observer during training camp. The team is hopeful he will be back on the field before the end of the preseason.  Free safety Charles Woodson, another veteran with a Super Bowl ring, decided to play another season after returning to the Raiders from Green Bay last year. Starting strong safety Tyvon Branch returns after missing the final 14 games last season with a broken leg.

 

Mack appears ticketed to start at weak-side linebacker. Middle linebacker Nick Roach, a former Chicago Bear, led the Raiders with 112 tackles and had 5.5 sacks last year, his first with Oakland. Strong-side linebacker Sio Moore, a third-round pick from Connecticut, had 50 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a rookie.

 

SPECIALISTS

Marquette King took over for long-time punter Shane Lechler and averaged an NFL-best 48.9 yards per punt as a rookie. King, however, had a net of just 40.1, tied for 12th in the league. He needs to combine more control and accuracy with his power. Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski had an off year after signing a four-year contract extension. Taiwan Jones, who has developed into a special teams coverage ace, averaged 24 yards on kickoff returns.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

If Schaub can regain his 4,000-yard passing form, Oakland’s free-agent pickups produce and Mack makes an impact, the Raiders have a chance to finish .500. Of course, those are big ifs, and the Raiders face a killer schedule that includes games against defending Super Bowl champion Seattle, New England and San Francisco.

 

PREDICTION: 4th in AFC West

Teaser:
Oakland Raiders 2014 Team Preview and Predictions
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2014-team-preview-and-predictions
Body:

In what was a typically tumultuous offseason for the Redskins, the most significant upheaval occurred in the head coach’s office, where the team switched from a gritty ex-quarterback still driven by his failure to make it to the NFL as a player to a gritty ex-quarterback still driven by his failure to make it to the NFL as a player.

 

The hope, however, is that new Redskins coach Jay Gruden will succeed where Mike Shanahan failed — by instilling a healthier, less suffocating culture around the team, avoiding major personnel blunders and, most important, connecting on both a professional and emotional level with third-year quarterback Robert Griffin III.

 

On the field, the Redskins’ fortunes remain tethered to the health and production of the talented but headstrong Griffin, whose first 24 months in the NFL included a slew of endorsements, a division title, a Rookie of the Year award, a devastating knee injury and an unceremonious benching at the end of 2013. His third season will be a pivotal one both for Griffin and for the franchise that employs him.

 

OFFENSE

To this point, Gruden’s coaching career has been one long education in offensive philosophy — from his days at Louisville playing under Howard Schnellenberger to his apprenticeship in Tampa Bay under big brother Jon to his many years building a reputation as an offensive savant in football’s bush leagues (AFL, UFL, WLAF). But he has never had a weapon at his disposal quite like Griffin. What will Gruden do with him?

 

Here’s what he won’t do: Run him 120 times, as Shanahan did in 2012. The read-option offense — a significant and controversial part of the offense Shanahan designed for Griffin — will be used sparingly, as Gruden’s self-described top priority with Griffin is keeping the young man healthy. Griffin may finally get his wish: An opportunity to prove himself as a classic, drop-back passer — albeit one who can still take it to the house with his legs at any time.

 

The Redskins’ most significant personnel move of the offseason was signing Pro Bowl receiver/kick returner DeSean Jackson away from Philadelphia, simultaneously giving themselves another playmaking receiver to pair with Pierre Garçon and weakening a division rival. The Redskins have so much receiver depth now — with Aldrick Robinson and newly signed Andre Roberts on board — that veteran Santana Moss could have a hard time making the roster.

 

Gruden’s offenses have traditionally been heavily tight end-centric, which could portend a monster season for Jordan Reed, who was on his way to an 80-catch rookie season in 2013 before a concussion cut short his campaign. Griffin loves him as a target, and even with veteran Logan Paulsen — a superior blocker who can also line up at fullback — returning in 2014, Reed should be a major part of the offense.

 

Another player who could benefit from Gruden’s arrival is Roy Helu Jr., a talented running back who was sometimes buried in Shanahan’s offense. Although third-year pro Alfred Morris remains the Redskins’ go-to back on first and second downs, Helu’s pass-catching abilities could make him an essential third-down presence in Gruden’s offense, which highly values pass-catching running backs. The third running back on the roster is likely to be sixth-round pick Lache Seastrunk out of Baylor.

 

DEFENSE

Of all the victims of Shanahan’s micro-managing ways, perhaps nobody had it worse than defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who was frequently overruled by his head coach and, by all accounts, forced to rein in his preferred attacking style. That is expected to change under Gruden, who coached under Haslett briefly in the UFL and who has given Haslett full autonomy to run the defense any way he sees fit.

 

What will that mean on the field? For starters it means outside linebacker Brian Orakpo is likely to be unleashed as a pass-rusher rather than dropping into coverage as he frequently did last season. The same is likely to be true, to an extent, of the other outside linebacker, Ryan Kerrigan. This is a make-or-break season for Orakpo, whom the Redskins hit with the franchise tag, and at the very least he should get an honest chance to prove he is an elite pass-rusher.

 

Orakpo will have a new partner in the pursuit of quarterbacks after the Redskins signed defensive lineman Jason Hatcher away from the archrival Dallas Cowboys this offseason. Hatcher is 32, but is coming off a career-best 11 sacks in 2013. The Redskins are likely to shift him from tackle to end to take greater advantage of his pass-rushing skills. Hatcher underwent arthoscopic knee surgery in June and missed the early part of training camp, but he should be ready to go for the regular season.

 

Haslett’s 2013 defense tied for 30th in the NFL in most points allowed, and nowhere were the deficiencies more obvious than in the secondary, which seemed to consist of only two kinds of players — aging veterans and underachieving youngsters. The re-signing of veterans DeAngelo Hall and Brandon Meriweather and the signing of 34-year-old Ryan Clark this offseason suggest the team still doesn’t fully trust younger secondary players such as David Amerson, Philip Thomas and Baccari Rambo. Clark may be the one to step into the leadership void created by the retirement of London Fletcher.   

 

SPECIALISTS

The Redskins ranked 32nd in net punting average, tied for 31st in yards per kickoff return and 28th in yards per punt return — among other issues. Step one in fixing the problem was hiring Ben Kotwica, a detail-oriented West Point product, away from the Jets to serve as special teams coordinator. Next, the Redskins jettisoned punter Sav Rocca (and added Robert Malone, formerly of the Buccaneers, Lions and Jets), and stocked up on special teams-oriented linebackers, such as Akeem Jordan, Darryl Sharpton and Adam Hayward. The expected return of reliable long-snapper Nick Sundberg from knee surgery should also shore up the punting and field goal units. Kicker Kai Forbath will be in a battle for his job during training camp after the team drafted Zach Hocker out of Arkansas in the seventh round.

 

The first shot at returning punts is likely to go to either Chris Thompson or Richard Crawford — with Jackson a possible wild card, given his success returning punts early in his career — while kick returning duty could fall to either Thompson or Roberts. 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

In the span of a calendar year, Griffin went from the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year to a backup. Over the same year, the Redskins went from an NFC East champion to a 3–13 embarrassment. The parallels are no coincidence; the Redskins will rise or fall in direct relationship with the performance of their quarterback. The hope is that with a new coach he trusts, a bolstered offensive attack and another year between him and knee surgery, Griffin can lead the Redskins back to the playoffs in 2014. They have the pieces to do it.

 

PREDICTION: 4th in NFC East

Teaser:
Washington Redskins 2014 Team Preview and Predictions
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/coaches-talk-anonymously-about-byu-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches from around the nation to talk anonymously about BYU.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Opposing Coaches Anonymously Scout BYU


“They use Taysom Hill to his ability – really, really talented, fast and stronger than you think. He’s a strong runner. A little bit better passer than you think.”…

“I think you’ll see more teams adding a guy in the box against Hill, and he’ll have to make them pay with his arm.”…

“We’ll see if Hill can do it. It’s his decision-making – he’s a decently accurate kid, but I would just say within their scheme, he’s not real disciplined in his reads and progressions. There’s indecision, which causes panic, which causes bad decisions, which causes picks.”…

“They complement Taysom with Jamaal Williams well.”…

“They had some good receivers they will lose this year.”…

“They are just average talent on the offensive line, so what they did with pace and the quarterback run game can minimize an average offensive line.”…

“Not sure what held them back. Their schedule is always pretty tough so they don’t have a lot of gimmes.”…

“They are always long and strong on the defensive line. They always have a four-technique that can hold it down in the run game.”…

“They have overachieving linebackers inside. Kyle Van Noy was one of the most athletic ones we’ve played in a long time. You can do so much with your playc-alling with him because he can rush, he can defend the run. He’s not real physical at point of attack, but he’s a little slithery. Not real sure who will be their leaders with him gone.”…

“A few of their other best defensive players are gone, too.”…

“Being independent can be hard. What are you playing for? Playoffs? OK. But when you’re not in a league it’s tough.”…

Teaser:
Coaches Talk Anonymously About BYU for 2014
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/big-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

Baylor


“With them, it’s all about the vision. When Art Briles took the job, just having the vision of where they wanted to be. They weren’t very good when he took over and didn’t have good facilities. The vision to trust the coaches to get it right, even when they weren’t having success early. Even as close as 2012, there was a point they weren’t very good. They’ve done a phenomenal job upgrading the facilities and recruiting players that aren’t always highly rated but can really play.”…

“Bryce Petty is a good player. He’s very competitive, he throws the ball with velocity and is extremely accurate.”…

“The guy I really like is Antwan Goodley. He reminds me of Michael Crabtree as a receiver. He’s physical and fast and strong.”…

“They are well coached and sound on defense, Phil Bennett is obviously a great coach.”…

“They lost a lot of seniors, but they also have a lot of guys that played a lot of ball for them last year.”…

“They are so unique on offense, they are very simple on defense. It’s not tricky to be able to scheme them up.”…

“Offensively they are very unique with their wide splits and power run game, so you have to be able to be physical with them up front and not get beat over the top. That’s easier to say than to do, of course.”…

“If they get a couple of first downs on you, they will get momentum and can hit big plays in a hurry.”…

“You need to turn them over but that’s hard to do with Petty being so accurate.”…

 

Iowa State


“They always play really hard. You catch them at Ames and it’s a big difference. They can beat a lot of teams there.”…

“I know they were down last year, but they are always pretty steady like Kansas State.”…

“Their deal is the quarterback. They’ve been up and down at that spot for the last couple of years. They’ve managed to hold on by playing really good defense and getting creative enough on offense to make plays.”…

“I see them being slightly improved from last year. The Mark Mangino hire is an interesting one. He’s a guy that knows the league, though it’s changed a little bit since he was in it. The thing you know is it’s going to be his deal. Coach Paul is going to mess with the defense and Mangino will handle the offense. He did a good job when he was at Kansas, throwing the corner route, throwing the comebacks, good run-pass scheming. I think everybody’s got enough good people in this league.”…

“With Iowa State, you’re talking about the team that knocked off Oklahoma State two years ago. Everybody’s got talent. They are always sound defensively. They do a great job scheme wise and the way they play the game, with a lot of effort and tenacity, really tough guys.”…

“Without question, they are a tough out defensively. But the question with them is can they manufacture enough offense to keep it interesting?”…

“ I don’t remember much playmaking outside of maybe the tight end (E.J. Bibbs).”…

 

Kansas

 

“They do a good job defensively. Their scheme is pretty good.”…

Offensively, obviously Charlie Weis knows what he’s doing.”…

“They are well-coached overall, but their team changes drastically because of all the junior college stuff they are doing.”…

“It’s hard to get a grip on their roster. It’s a team that’s tricky to figure out, but one that I think is getting better.”…

“Schematically, they are tough to gameplan for because they have a lot of offense. They are very multiple. It’s the NFL mold where you’re changing things a good bit.”… 

“Defensively they do a good job of changing things and molding to a three-down front.”…

“They do a lot on offense and a lot of defense, which is unique. Guys like Baylor, you know what they are doing but it’s hard to defend. Kansas is kind of the opposite. Their schemes change a bunch, which makes it hard to gameplan for but easier to play against.”…

“With Jake Heaps, the transfer quarterback that struggled, they ran one offense, and with the other quarterback (Montell Cozart) it was a whole different offense.”…

“The running back, James Sims, was very good. He will be a big loss for them.”…

“They have a linebacker, Ben Heeney, that was really good last year.”…

“They had a few active cornerbacks. I think their defense was relatively young so they should have a good group returning.”…

 

Kansas State


“To me they are loaded at quarterback.”…

“They will miss the John Hubert kid, the runner. He was really steady for them.”…

“They’ll always be good offensively because of the style of play and the people they play with. You won’t see much fluctuation in production as long as Bill Snyder’s there.”…

“They have one of the top receivers of the year in Tyler Lockett. That guy is really good.”…

“They lost quite a few impact players on defense. Safety Ty Zimmerman was a four-year starter for them. They have a good inside tackle that I think they are losing, and a good defensive end is back (Ryan Mueller).”…

“With them, it’s about where you’re playing them. In Manhattan, it’s probably a 10-to-14-point difference every time. They will get a punt blocked or make a few plays there and next thing you know you’re giving up points.”…

“They are always big on the offensive and defensive lines. Snyder always gets big kids.”…

“They fill in with junior college guys every year there and there will never be a drop-off.”…

“The junior college quarterback, Jake Waters, he’s pretty good. I thought he got better as the year progressed.”…

“The way they played Michigan in the bowl game, K-State was hitting its stride later in the year. They should be a player in league play.”…

“Lockett is special. He really helps them stretch the field.”…

“There’s not really a glaring weakness with them. They just play sound football.”…
 

Oklahoma


“They’ll be the preseason favorites, mainly because of how they finished last year beating Oklahoma State and Alabama.”…

“Trevor Knight had a huge performance in the bowl game, that gives him a lot of momentum coming into this year.”…

“They’ll always be really skilled across the board.”…

“The secondary’s always good. The Zack Sanchez kid probably played as good as any freshman could have played last year in that position. He’ll be a little better.”…

“Third year in Mike Stoops’ defensive system, they’ll get better there. They’ll be more comfortable.”…

“To me, they are the team where, if you ask the coaches in the league, most of them will say Oklahoma is the favorite.”…

“Knight was erratic at times. He’s a spark guy. If there’s a spark, you can start a fire. At least you have the ability to make something happen with him.”…

“The thing that will help them is as long as Blake Bell’s not sitting over his shoulder (Bell moved to tight end), that’s a good thing for Knight. That hurt him some last year, and it hurt Bell some, too, It’s just tough.”…

“Bell is a big tight end. The Belldozer.”…

“One guy they’ll really miss is Jalen Saunders. They’ll need a few guys to replace him.”…

 

Oklahoma State


“They’ll probably be down a little. They lost a bunch of good guys on defense.”…

“What’s been impressive about them the last few years is how they’ve played on defense has kind of been overlooked. They lost good safeties that have been four-year starters.”…

“Losing the quarterback, now it’s going to be J.W. Walsh, he’s kind of been up and down so far. We’ll have to see how that goes. I think they lost the top four receivers, too.”…

“From the outside looking in, it’s a rebuilding year. That’s the way I see it.”…

“Defensively they had an identity, but they had guys that played a lot of snaps for them and won a lot of football games.”…

“They do a good job scheme-wise and they have good people. They had a safety that was really good (Daytawion Lowe). They had Justin Gilbert, who’s probably a first rounder. They had one of the most dominating two-techniques (Calvin Barnett) we saw last year - they’ve done it with some good guys, and they’ll be breaking players in.”…

“Josh Stewart coming out early had to be a blow to them. They were probably counting on him.”…

“The running backs were pretty good and they return good depth there.”…

“It’s going to be on how J.W. plays and finishes. I don’t know if they have another guy that’s ready right now.”…

 

TCU


“Making offensive changes this offseason means they are adjusting to the Big 12 as opposed to being in the Mountain West and staying true to what you do. They are just kind of catching up with the times so to speak with more of a no-huddle.”…

“They probably have a little bit of a quarterback issue. Trevone Boykin will probably be their guy, I would think.”…

“I think their skill players have been really good last few years, on both sides of the ball, especially in the secondary. Really good skill guys, and they don’t always get credit for it.”…

“I think they are a little bit of a darkhorse team. They were probably 15 points away from being 8-4 instead of 4-8.”…

“They are certainly a team people might look at and think they aren’t a contender, but I think they are.”…

“Their offensive line was a problem, but that should be better. They have a junior college kid (Frank Kee) coming in that should help them. A lot of schools wanted him. Everybody will have some line issues because it’s a hard to average eight or nine good offensive linemen every year.”…

“With the quarterback, it all depends on the style of play and how Boykin fits the new methods. I know Sonny Cumbie and they hired Doug Meacham – they are both from the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach tree so it just depends on how that fits Boykin. That’s a strictly throwing offense from the shotgun. I think he has a lively arm and is a good player.”…

“TCU will always play the kind of defense that gives them a chance.”…

“It will be interesting to see what (Trevone) Boykin can do as a wide receiver, if they are able to keep them there. He has some ability. Looked good there.”…

 

Texas


“A lot of it hinges on David Ash’s health. If he stays healthy, offensively certainly it will increase their odds. He’s a little hot and cold, probably not as consistent as what you’d like, but who knows in a new system – it may fit him better. I’m thinking Shawn Watson will be in the middle of the play-calling even though they are selling (Joe) Wickline (as the offensive coordinator)…

“They’ve got some good running backs – Johnathan Gray is good, Malcolm Brown is good.”…

“Their line, they lost a few up front, lost a leading receiver, they lost a few that are good players. But overall they have enough depth there.”…

“They are always good defensively; they may act like they are in and out, but they are like Oklahoma on defense. They’ll always be good because they recruit guys who can play well on the back end.”…

“With a new system and adjustments, who knows how long that will take. Right now they are a big question mark. That’s just the way I see it. That’s just the way it’s been – not a lot of guys drafted recently.”…

“Johnathan Gray is really good and it hurt them when he got hurt.”…

“They have a young receiver I think is good, (Kendall Sanders). He should give them a boost this year.”…

“Defensively the Cedric Reed kid was a good defensive end. Losing Jackson Jeffcoat is a big one.”…

“Their back-end guys should be fine. They are always pretty experienced.”…

“Ash is a good football player. He’s a little hot and cold, probably not as consistent as what you’d like but who knows in a new system –it may fit him better.”…

 

Texas Tech


“Defensively, they had a lot of seniors and a lot of depth so they’ll have some things to replace.”…

“When I think of them offensively, it’s up-tempo and good, well-coached quarterback play.”…

“That tight end (Jace Amaro) was such a tremendous difference-maker for them. That’s got to be priority No. 1 for them – replacing his production. He himself converted about 30 percent of their third downs. I’m glad he’s gone.”…

“They are just up-tempo and high energy on both sides of the ball”….

“Kliff Kingsbury is sharp. He has a bright mind. People say he’s young and inexperienced, but the only thing that kid’s ever done is play football. He played four straight years at Texas Tech, went to Houston as a quality control guy, then coached for 3-4 years. Football is the only thing that’s in that guy’s life. He’s transitioned just like I thought he would.”…

“Quarterback Davis Webb, I think he’s really good. He’s got good savvy. Kliff does a good job teaching confidence. He runs better than you’d think. They have a promising guy coming in as well. Now that the other quarterbacks transferred, it’s good for cohesion that the Webb kid doesn’t have to worry about what’s behind him.”…

“They are going to throw the ball a bunch and make adjustments based on what the defense gives them.”…

“The offensive and defensive lines are above average. One of their defensive linemen (Kerry Hyder) gave us fits last year. I’m glad he’s gone.”…

 

West Virginia


“This is a big year for West Virginia. You’re looking at a team that beat Oklahoma State, which almost won the league, last year in Morgantown. They aren’t that far off.”…

“The defense did some good things – they weren’t as consistent as they’d like but it seemed like they were better than the year before when it was sort of a liability.”…

“The question becomes what do you do at quarterback? Dana played three different guys and it seems the FSU transfer (Clint Trickett) gave them the best chance to win. In that system, it helps when you have a full offseason or even a full year as a starter, and I think the Trickett kid came in late in the offseason, so he was finally getting his footing.”…

“They had a chance to beat Texas but couldn’t get a first down late in the game. Maybe, with all three quarterbacks being there all offseason and playing a year in the system, they’ll settle down.”…

“It was kind of curious to see Dana struggle with quarterback play. Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith can make a lot of quarterbacks look good, but Dana’s good with quarterbacks and he’ll get them right.”…

“Running back Charles Sims was a good player for them, but they have a transfer from Pittsburgh (Rushel Shell) that should help them.”…

“Defensively I couldn’t really name a guy that stuck out to me. They were pretty active but weren’t necessarily full of standouts there”...

Teaser:
Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple.

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the Big Ten's football logos:

 

 SchoolLogoAnalysis
1.Michigan StateIt's clean, classic, gets the point across and is recognizable. It has some fierce edginess to it, the color scheme is perfect and there is no doubt it represents a Spartan.
2.Penn StateHistorically speaking, few logos are as traditional as the Nittany Lions oval. The smooth looking Lions head has great lines and appears to be hunting... Wolverines or Buckeyes? Few logos combine classy and aggresive like PSU.
3.IowaIt also comes in black, which is slightly more stylish. While maintaining a simple and historic look, the Hawkeye emblen also brings some creativity. In fact, I've no idea what an actual Hawkeye looks like.
4.Ohio StateNormally, a name in a logo doesn't work, but the "S" is perfectly designed into the "O" and it works. It makes it busier than the cleaner, more classic logos above. The colors and trim are second to none.
5.IndianaThe historic brand of Hoosiers athletics is well known. The intersecting, symmetrical "IU" is simple and clean with the added touch of block seraphs.
6.MichiganIt doesn't get any more simple that the block "M" of Michigan. The font is excellent but it could use some trim or accents. Take or leave the bannered Michigan.
7.MinnesotaThere is much more style to this "M" as compared to Michigan's but it's also busier. The seraphs are cool and the trim is solid. An underrated logo.
8.NebraskaAgain, simple and straight forward gets the point across. The colors and subtle trim are great and it appears that the Huskers have a monopoly on this letter. I'm not a fan of the Huskers font at all as that could use an upgrade.
9.RutgersI'm usually a big fan of timeless marks that skip the cartoonish fads. However, the "R" could use just a touch of pizzaz. But only a touch.
10.MarylandThe Testudo logo is excellent and this "M" standing alone is unique and fairly good looking. But the added obsession with the state flag in Maryland drops this one down a peg or two.
11.PurdueThe black and gold logo is tough to read and comes at the viewer at an odd angle. The incorporation of the team name into the train icon is creative but doesn't solve the cartoonish overall feel.
12.WisconsinLet's face it, the floating "W" isn't the best Wisconsin logo but it is synonymous with the only successful era of Badgers football. The drop shadow is cool but only adds to the cartoonish look.
13.IllinoisThe "I" by itself is nice and the "Illinois" can stand alone — and both look good that way. Together, it seems forced and MAC-ish.
14.NorthwesternThe purple "N" has plenty of things going on around it. The font is seriously bizarre and not really intimidating anyone.
Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pac-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes
 

North Division

 

California


“They just struggled. Defensively, they were one of the worst in the country.”…

“The offense wasn’t controlling the ball really well. The defense couldn’t stop anybody. They made some staff changes.”…

“I know they are high on the young quarterback, Jared Goff, but they had no one to protect him last year. They have to get better up front to give him time.”…

“There’s still some talent there – they lost five guys to the draft – and this year’s recruiting class was pretty good.”…

“They run the Air Raid, which puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but Cal wants to complement that with big backs in the running game, and they didn’t have that last year. Maybe with a year of recruiting and development they can get that.”…

“Injuries just killed them last year. It happens to everybody, but they got hit bad.”…

“Sonny just had a nightmarish first year. They were moving defensive lineman to the offensive line midseason.”…

“They need to find ways just to win a few games. They basically needed to score 50 points to win last year because the defense was so bad and they couldn’t do it.”…

“Hiring Art Kaufman to run the defense is one of the more important hires in the league because Cincinnati was a top-10 defense last year.”…

“If they can just get some help defensively and find a few young playmakers, build the depth a bit, that can go a long way for them.”…
 

Oregon


“To me the whole thing that happened to them was Mariota was hurt for 4-5 games. They never ran him. When he was running, nobody was beating them. He ran again in the bowl game and you could see a different guy. If he stays healthy, they are the best team in the league and the most explosive.”…

“They lost some guys on defense, and losing their coordinator is going to be huge.”…

“Offensively, if healthy, with the run-pass dimension, they are basically unstoppable. Mariota’s running is such a big part of their offense, that when he was out it was tough.”…

“Mariota reminds me a lot of Colin Kaepernick. When he ran, forget it. That’s the same thing with him. Against Stanford, they had no design runs for him. That’s a huge dimension.”…

“They are huge on the defensive line, they were one of the biggest teams we saw. They had some big boys up there.”…

“You’ve got to know how to pick up Stanford’s stunts. If not, it’s tough to deal with. That’s what happened.”…

“The young tight end, Pharaoh Brown, he is a specimen of a player. He can run, is big and athletic.”…

“The young tailback, Thomas Tyner, he’s a lot faster than you think. I didn’t realize how fast he was until he’s on the field. He’s a powerful back. He’s really good. I don’t know if people realize how good he really is yet.”…

 

Oregon State


“They were a big-play team. Of course, many of the big plays came with receiver Brandin Cooks, who was phenomenal and will be sorely missed.”…

“I thought they did a good job getting the ball to the running backs in the passing game.”…

“Sean Mannion can make every throw. They are a threat to score from anywhere.”…

“Their defense played really hard. Defensive end Scott Crichton caused a lot of problems, played hard, played aggressively. They’ll definitely miss him.”…

“Safety Ryan Murphy impressed me. He’s a playmaker.”…

“I thought they were really high in effort and played sound and fundamental. They always brought it every game.”…

“A concern would be that, since they are such a big-play-oriented team and do so much straight drop back, it seems when they turn the ball over, they turn the ball over in droves. The games they lost, it seemed they had 4-5 turnovers.”…

“They had enough firepower, good special teams, well coached - just turned it over too much.”…

“They are trying to throw the ball downfield a lot, and that causes problems. We basically double covered Cooks a few times and Mannion still threw it. He came down with it and we should have come down with it. It’s kind of feast of famine. It’s a huge part of their offense and sometimes it can be a negative. It’s like basketball with a guard that keeps shooting. Mannion won a lot of games for them, too.”…

“I would think this year they would have more balance.”…
 

Stanford


“Obviously they were pretty senior-heavy last year, so they could be young in the back end. Still, they have quite a bit left there.”…

“What they do schematically is pretty darn good.”…

“One of the things they did is, though their first-line guys were senior-heavy, they still played a lot of guys in a steady rotation. Those guys will be ready now.”…

“With the staff, they’ll keep a lot of continuity in what they are doing.”…

“One of the top defensive teams in the country, no doubt.”…

“I think one of the keys to their offense, the thing that makes them tough, is the explosive receivers they’ve got. The Montgomery kid is one of the top players in the conference, and he doesn’t get a lot of pub.”…

“They’ll do a great job running the football.”…

“They have a couple of tough receivers that make them go. They’ll miss Gaffney, who was making a lot more of those bigger runs late in the year.”…

“I think it’s one of the most overstated parts of their offense is the ability to hit vertical shots. I think it’s pretty clear, they are going to run the ball.”…

“One thing they might be missing is the elite tight ends they had in the past. Last year’s guys didn’t have as much experience, so maybe there was a bit of a drop off there.”…

 

Washington


“I know they lost quite a few guys, but Coach Petersen, everyone has a ton of respect for him as a coach and what he does. It will be quite intriguing to see what he does, especially what they do schematically on offense and defense.”…

“Petersen is adaptive. If you look at the different ways he won while at Boise, he was always very innovative. He’s been very successful over a good period of time. He keeps players accountable. The question coming in was can he sustain recruiting and it seems they did pretty well last year.”…

“Marcus Peters, I think he’s one of the top corners in the league. They have some good outside linebackers, some guys up front who can cause some trouble.”…

“If you look at talent, they will always be up there in the Pac-12. Sark recruited well there but couldn’t produce a breakthrough season. With a new coach they will be motivated.”…

“I think Petersen has shown he’s a really good coach, but how does everything fit? It has to be a good marriage. It seems it will be on the surface but still hard to tell.”…

“Replacing Bishop Sankey and Keith Price won’t be easy. Sankey was their safety valve. You could go to him 25 or 30 times and he would get it done. Not sure what they have in the backfield now.”…

“They were pretty high on the quarterback Cyler Miles, but he was suspended during the spring, so who knows where that will go.”…

 

Washington State


“I thought they were pretty good on defense, and talent wise, with their defensive line, you saw in some games they did a few good things. They weren’t always dominant, but they did dominate the USC game up front. They mauled them.”…

“They are returning a lot of guys, and they have the quarterback, Connor Halliday, returning who’s in his third year, so that offense will put up points again.”…

“Leach knows what he’s doing. They have a bunch of guys they feel comfortable with in their third season.”…

“If you can jump out on them, that’s what can hurt them, because they turn the ball over when they get rattled because they throw so much. When you turn the ball over and are not as efficient as you’d like to be, it’s hard to win.”…

“You have to be balanced in what you’re doing, or at least that’s what some believe in. Everybody has his own way. But with throwing as much as they do, if you don’t have an elite quarterback, that system can place a lot of pressure on the passer. I’m not sure Halliday is elite enough in that regard, though maybe another year in the system will make him so. Leach hasn’t always had elite quarterbacks and has made it work, but eventually you hit a ceiling because defenses sit on those short routes.”…

“Their receivers are getting better and the quarterback should be better than he was.”…

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:

 

South Division

 

Arizona


“They’ve done a good job defensively. They are probably the most improved defense in the league.”…

“Coach Rodriguez does a good job. He kind of changed up to adapt to the personnel.”…

“They are still young with a bunch of players. They lost probably the best player in the league last year. After watching him for two years, Ka’Deem Carey was unbelievable. Replacing the quarterback and him will be big.”…

“If they are able to get someone in there to manage the game at quarterback it will be crucial, because they will have different transfers coming in and a few receivers back from injury, so they need to find a rhythm quickly.”…

“They have a chance to be explosive offensively, depending on whom they have calling the shots at quarterback. But they’ve always been run-heavy so that probably won’t change.”…

“Everything will start with the run. They try to be balanced. They’ve got a ton of quarterbacks, though —I think they have six or seven. I have no idea who the guy will be, which can be a good or bad thing. Junior college transfers, high school kids – they have a ton on scholarship. I’m not sure who the guy is going to be.”…

“Defensively, they play a heavier technique, an inside shade to try to stop the interior run game. They were able to stop the run more efficiently. It forced teams to do other things. They did a good job against Oregon though that was when Mariota was limited.”…

 

Arizona State


“At times, they were the best team in the league.”…

“They lose a bunch of guys on defense, but Todd Graham does a great job with that unit, so they should be fine.”…

“The quarterback, Taylor Kelly, is really underrated. He’s not as flashy as the other guys but he’s really good. He just gets things done. I really like him. He might not play in the NFL, but he’s a great player for that scheme.”…

“They’ve got some big receivers that I’ve seen. Really big and athletic. They’ve done a good job finding those guys and getting them involved. From the sidelines you say, ‘Gosh, those receivers are huge and they can run.”…

“I thought Stanford beat them twice handedly, and it looked like to me, defensively, that they stunt a lot and press you a lot, and Stanford was able to stay in there, run on them and play-action pass. That’s how they got hurt. Texas Tech spread them out and hit them with seam routes when they blitzed. That’s how those two teams hurt them - two different ends of the spectrum, but when they were pressuring they were attacking the one-on-one. With Stanford, when they saw a crease, they hit it.”…

“They were big but just okay on the offensive line. I think they were probably fourth or fifth there, but they were so good with what they did. They didn’t just maul you, but they were good technique wise.”…

 

Colorado


“Very well-coached.”…

“Paul Richardson was a concern, but his departure is a relief for Pac-12 cornerbacks.”…

“It’s a very different team from the year before. They seemed to be disjointed in 2012. No strategic plan on either side of the ball. These coaches know what they’re doing. Kids reflected that. Played with a ton more confidence.”…

“They did a really good job coming in on short notice and getting their system in and they do a good job schematically. They finished up the year pretty strong so signs are positive - but how far they are able to progress is hard to tell. You just never know because it’s hard to gauge their talent level – they’ve been a bit behind since joining the Pac-12 - but the coaching staff is good. Can they recruit enough will be the question?”…

“They had a true freshman middle linebacker, Addison Gillam, who made a ton of plays.”…

“The best player was a defensive end, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who’s gone. He was strong, one of their best players the last couple of years. Losing him will be big.”…

“They’ve been really young the last few years, so if they can get the right personnel in there, they have a chance. They almost always have good first-half game plans.”…

“It seems quarterback Sefo Liufau is mentally tough and does all the things they want, but I’m not sure how prolific he is. He could turn into that, but do they have a quarterback that can push them to the middle-of-the-pack in the league or better?

 

UCLA


“A lot of people are going to be placing them to finish first in the league. Their best offensive lineman declared early, but the young guys they are high on and already played some, probably by design. I think they’ve done a good job, it’s just about how you catch them.”…

“You can have success moving the football on them. They make you finish drives and can turn you over, but if you’re sound you can get yards and score on them. You can also sneak in a big play or two on them.”…

“Defensively they continue to grow as a unit. They lost a couple of talented playmakers.”…

“Myles Jack is athletic, you have a guy at that size who can run around like he does, either at running back or linebacker. He’s impressive. Playing offense and defense can be good and bad for a young player. It will be interesting to see how they do that again because do you want to overuse him?”…

“Brett Hundley’s biggest thing is extending plays. When I watch him, I don’t see him throw a ton on time. He’s not a guy from what I’ve seen who’s going to hit the mark. When he’ll hurt you is when he runs around. He’s hurt a lot of people that way. If you can get to him, he can struggle a little bit. You’ve got to keep him contained. If you let him outside, the offense is tough to stop.”…

 

USC


“Just extremely talented. I know they lost five guys or so early to the draft, but going into our game I thought defensively they were one of the most talented in the country.”…

“Defensive end Leonard Williams is one of the toughest players in the entire league.”…

“They were talented at a lot of positions but struggled with depth. The teams that played tempo and were able to sustain drives on them with multiple positions could hurt them. Extremely talented enough to offset that, though.”…

“They will change a little bit defensively. With Justin Wilcox coming in, they are a base three-down team, but there will be some changing of formations and personnel. It’s their third defensive coordinator in three years.”…

“They probably have the best set of running backs in the league.”…

“I keep hearing it’s an open competition at quarterback, but Cody Kessler’s their guy, it seems.”…

“I think they are probably getting closer to where they want to be.”…

“The defensive linemen are really talented.”…

“They are not at top strength with full scholarships. It will be interesting to see what Sark does. They finished well in recruiting, but if you can’t recruit at USC you have some issues.”…

“Defensively, I thought they were dang good in front seven when they wanted to play. The safeties will come down and hit you but are maybe overly aggressive. Wasn’t impressed with corners based on caliber USC should have. You could confuse their front seven with blocking schemes up front.”…

 

Utah


“They have a really good defensive line, which surprises no one. They always do.”…

“They struggled a bit when their quarterback (Travis Wilson) was hurt. If he’s healthy, it will really help their team. When Wilson was the quarterback, they were able to do some things in those games because of the throws he could make.”…

“When they beat Stanford, it showed how physical and tough they are.”…

“Wilson is athletic and throws better than average, but they didn’t use him to their advantage as a dual-threat quarterback – they tried to make him a play-action guy and he’s just okay at that”….

“On defense, they are really aggressive. I think they were a little lean on the back end, which is a bad spot to be thin the Pac-12. Their inside guys were really powerful. Maybe their outside guys aren’t as good of pass rushers as you need with speed sideline to sideline, but they are stout against the run against powerful teams.”…

“Down the line, they can compete. Their corners were pretty big, and they did a lot of zone blitzing. When they have lock-down corners, they are really good. The last few years they haven’t had the same caliber of cornerback. Have had to play more zone pressures.”…

“When Wilson was there they were doing pretty good, but that was a big loss for them. If he’s healthy, that will help the offense.”…

“I’m not sure what happened with (former offensive coordinator) Dennis Erickson. The offense was sort of handcuffed because of the quarterback injuries.”…

Teaser:
Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the ACC's football logos:
 

 TeamLogoAnalysis
1.ClemsonThere are tons of Tigers, Wildcats and Bulldogs in college sports but none use their mascot quite like Clemson. The Tiger Paw print is synonymous with Clemson athletics and is utterly simple but still edgy and creative. 
2.North CarolinaThe interlocked N-C are as famous as any brand logo in the nation. There are simple touches of style — the font and black trim — that make this logo completely unmistakable.
3.MiamiIt's as simple as it gets but also brings loads of creativity and history. No other logo turns into a hand signal like "The U" and the two-tone color scheme and pattern is unique.
4.Florida StateMajor props for taking a tradition-rich logo and tweaking it ever-so-slightly, thus modernizing it without losing any of the recognizable punch. Frankly, the tradition/success of the football team makes the logo in this case.
5.Virginia TechVirginia Tech has one of the best combination letter logos in the nation. It is hard to make it work but the simplicity and color pattern combines two letters that fit together nicely.
6.PittFew teams have a logo that is simply the program's name. With drop shadows and arched font, the Panthers sport one of the cooler looks.
7.VirginiaThe Cavalier sabres crossed beneath the seraphed "V" is equal parts classic and creative. Few logos can combine these aspects of graphic design.
8.Georgia TechThe Ramblin Wreck's interlocking "G-T" is a historic look that isn't really good or bad. It's got some creativity but not too much.
9.NC StateThe block "S" is a popular logo for many college football teams (Michigan State, Stanford) but NC State takes it a step further by adding the N-C. The black trim is a nice touch and the overall package has good symmetry.
10.SyracuseOnce again, the block "S" is a classic look and feel and is difficult to screw up. It's a simple, classic logo. It's never a bad idea to stick with simple and classic (color scheme aside).
11.Wake ForestThere is too much "Looney Tunes" to this one for my taste but at least it's got an aggressive style. The colors are simple (which is good) but the figure might be a bit antiquated.
12.DukeThe font is bizarre, that is for sure — and that is what keeps it from being one of the league's top logos. However, it is a signature logo that everyone knows all across the nation.
13.LouisvilleAn admirable stab at taking an Old English "L" and giving it a contemporary look. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work well with the cool, stylized "ouisville." That said, the cardinal is looking meaner these days, so they've got that going for them.
14.Boston CollegeThe cartoon eagle and italicized/overlapped BC just doesn't exude tradition and excellence like some other logos. The colors aren't bad but it's too busy to be considered a great logo.
Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/coaches-talk-anonymously-about-notre-dame-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches around the nation to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Coaches Anonymously Scout Notre Dame for 2014

 

“I know they lost a lot up front with two of their best players, Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt, coming out, but their other defensive linemen certainly looked the part in pregame warm-ups, so they should be fine there.”…

“Both coordinators are going to be new. I think Coach Kelly will call the plays on offense so that will probably keep the continuity, while defensively expect them to be very multiple.”…

“They are going to have some young guys who will have to play, especially up front.”…

“They are going to have talented guys across the field.”…

“I do like Everett Golson. He’ll help. He does a good job extending plays. The pass game wasn’t as consistent as they would have liked two years ago but he’s definitely someone who can hurt you pulling the ball down and extending plays.”…

“They’ve got a true freshman last year, linebacker Jaylon Smith, He’ll be a really good player. He’s probably one of the top ones coming back for them.”…

“At the skill positions offensively, they were pretty good but not great. They are big and good looking but probably average for what they should be at Notre Dame.”…

“What was most impressive about their offense is the dual-threat ability of the tight end position and how they played off tight end action in the running game. The tight end (Troy Niklas) was really solid for them – he did a little bit of everything, really talented blocker. Losing him will be big.”…

“I liked George Atkinson III, too, but he’s gone as well. He had natural burst and speed.

“It will help if they can develop a home run hitter, and maybe the receiver (DaVaris Daniels) could be that for them.”…

Teaser:
Coaches Talk Anonymously About Notre Dame for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/acc-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Coaches Talk Anonymously on Notre Dame

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

ACC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

Atlantic Division

 

Boston College

 

“They are replacing skill position kids, which is tough.”…

“Defensively, they’ll get some injured guys back so they should be better there. Malachi Moore is a big defensive end that will help them.”…

“They signed a big class because they had so many seniors at the skill positions a year ago.”…

“The quarterback played a bunch of ball and obviously Andre Williams was such a great player. They have a lot of unknowns at several spots for next year but have recruited well.”…

“Boston College was interesting last year because there were whispers Addazio would go to the spread but they were straight power running game all year, which was a good move by them because they adapted to their personnel.”…

“I think Addazio wants to have a quarterback who can use make plays with his feet, and maybe the Florida transfer, Tyler Murphy, can do that.”…

“They lost two tackles but return all of their inside guys so everything won’t be tough and brand new for them.”…

“It’s uncertain whether they really have the answer at quarterback yet, and replacing Williams with a committee of backs won’t be easy. He was so strong and durable and carried them for stretches a year ago.”…

“They have an M.O. – don’t turn the ball over, play tough and keep the game tight. They were in it with FSU and Clemson a year ago.”…
 

Clemson

 

“Their front seven on defense is really good, and getting Vic Beasley back solidifies it.”…

“Offensively they lost a lot of weapons, which will help the teams that play them.”…

“Replacing skill players like Sammy Watkins and a three-year starter like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, that’s a lot of speed and talent that caught a lot of teams off guard. That’s really hard to replace.”…

“Their inside guys were very stout and physical. They have a strong side defensive end (Shaq Lawson) that’s a powerful guy, a weapon as a pass rusher. Beasley loves third and long. When he came back, a lot of coaches in the ACC said uh oh. He’s a premier player in pass rush, just good enough in run game, not great. They position him well and have a good scheme.”…

“Brent Venables does a good job with positioning players to make plays.”…

“They can turn the ball over a little bit, and if you can keep them in a long field, that can throw them off what they want to do.”…

“Clemson’s offense is sort of an unknown right now – you know with Chad Morris they’ll be competitive, but Watkins was a heckuva safety valve to have.”…

“I really liked Clemson safety, Robert Smith. Corey Crawford, a defensive end, is solid. Just a solid front they have. You wouldn’t find one goat over where you’d say we’re attacking this guy.”…

“This might be a year where Clemson’s defense is more explosive than its offense.”…

 

Florida State

 

“They’ve got a whole lot coming back.”…

“Tight end Nick O’Leary is back – he’s a really good player.”…

“The defense has lost some players in the secondary, they were by far the best secondary we played without question.”…

“Not sure schematically what they are going to do since they had kind of moved to a 3-4 from a 4-3 played a lot of nickel. With the new defensive coach coming in again and Jeremy Pruitt gone, I’m not sure how that will change.”…

“They are just really fast across the board. They didn’t have a weakness on their team a year ago.”…

“They had depth, good speed, the offensive line was really good, the tight end position, multiple tailbacks you had to worry about.”…

“With three straight No. 1 recruiting classes, I don’t see their talent dropping of a whole lot, even though they are young in a few spots.”…

“With Jameis Winston, you’ve got to get him down, get to him early and you can’t let him make plays, which is really tough. If you don’t get to him enough early and if he has time, the receivers are too good.”…

“They do a nice job running the ball, which helps, them because they can get one-on-one matchups on the outside. The quarterback (Winston) is the best.”…

“Rashad Greene’s really good, quick. What he did after the catch was impressive.”…

“O’Leary is a really good player. Good ball skills, runs really good routes, tries to block, not a great blocker but tries hard, gives good effort.”…

“Auburn had some success against them because when you have that much time to prepare for somebody early on, you can do some things based on tendencies.”…

“You have to tackle well and pressure the quarterback, force him to throw some interceptions, which he doesn’t do a lot.”…

“I wouldn’t think anybody would be a favorite over them in our league.”…

 

Louisville

 

“Louisville will miss Teddy Bridgewater and their success will depend on the play of his replacement, but they are established with high-caliber players at every position and will immediately be thrust into the upper half of the ACC talent wise.”…

“If you had to pick one problematic area for them, elite defensive back coverage was one of the only weaknesses. Pass rush was too good to get exposed except in crucial situations like in the UCF game. They allowed UCF to get back in that game after it didn’t get enough pressure and it didn’t allow Louisville to blow other teams out like they probably should have.”…

“Their running offense was talented but was never as productive and dynamic as it could have been. Maybe they will develop that more now that the quarterback is gone.”…

“You can’t understate the loss of Bridgewater. He was great at the line of scrimmage checking into plays and could make every throw. It’s hard to just roll a new guy in there and expect the same without a few mistakes early, but Bobby Petrino is known for his quarterback track record. His system is quarterback-friendly.”…

“Will Gardner, who’s got the momentum to start, has a strong arm, but I hear he’ll be pushed by Reggie Bonnafon, the incoming freshman.”…

“Overall, they are pretty stout in all areas. They are very deep after a handful of Charlie Strong recruiting classes.”…

“Bobby walks into a nice situation. The guy they’ll really miss is Calvin Pryor, though. Huge hitter and difference-maker.”…

 

NC State

 

“They were pretty weak everywhere, save maybe specialists, because it was such a rebuilding job. A lot of freshmen and sophomores.”…

“The new quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, he’ll help a lot, as far as leadership and talent.”…

“They played a bunch of true freshmen at wide receiver and running back and tight end. They should be better than they were.”…

“Defensively, they’ve got some good young linemen, Kentavius Street being one of them. They’ll have to grow up quickly.”…

“The left tackle who was hurt last year, Rob Crisp, he’ll be back. Safety Jarvis Byrd has missed multiple years due to injury but they get him back – he’s not an all-conference guy – but a tough guy.”…

“Joe Thuney is one of the best guards in the league. He’s a lot better inside but I think they had to move him outside because of injuries.”…

“I know they are high on defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. He’s had a great offseason for them.”…

“For Dave Doeren, you don’t know what you’re getting when you take a job. Once you get into it, you’re kind of figuring out what the issues are, and they had a good bit of them lineup wise with recruiting, transfers or injuries, discipline and academic issues – they were able to fill a lot of needs in this last class.”…

“I think they like where they are character-wise right now. But those young players have to produce. They are short on known commodities. It’s a big year for them.”…

 

Syracuse

 

“They were very physical up front and defensively. By the end of the year they were playing extremely physical.”…

“Middle linebacker Marquis Spruill, who’s gone, was the heart and soul of that defense, you could tell. He was the motor that got the thing going. He’ll be a guy they’ll need to replace.”…

“On the back end they were OK. You could run behind them a couple of times.”…

“Coach Shafer is recruiting to his mentality – he’s a fiery, tough guy. That’s what you’ll get.”…

“The quarterback (Terrel Hunt) was hot and cold throughout the year but he found their niche late in the season. He could take charge at times. He can keep plays alive with his feet, throws the ball and runs the ball well, can keep the ball alive on third down, smart with the ball. He was maybe turning the ball over a little bit too much early on.”…

“The American, when it was the Big East, was a good league, so Syracuse came in and wasn’t fazed by the physicality of the ACC. You didn’t have the big time BCS teams but you had good solid football.”…

“The style of football matched up well. It’s a tough league – Year 1 they are finding that out, because teams mix it up with tempo and traditional sets. Syracuse played physical power football and it’s a good mix.”…

“They had a big back that was a good player, Jerome Smith, a big kid out of Delaware.”…

“The offensive line was decent. Their guards and centers were older guys. At wide receiver, I didn’t remember a game-changer, but they do have size there.”…

 

Wake Forest

 

“Talent wise, they weren’t at the top of the league, or really anything close.”…

“The nose guard they are losing, Nikita Whitlock, was a really active player for them. He’ll be really hard to replace. I’m not too sure what they’ll do schematically with the new coach, but Whitlock was a guy you had to deal with.”…

“Up front, they were serviceable – weren’t great, weren’t terrible.”…

“The linebackers were OK. They weren’t really athletic. They tried to play physical and down and around the box. It’s not the upper-tier talent team that Clemson was.”…

“Dave Clawson is a good coach – he always has had really well-coached teams. They were rough teams – not super talented, but rough kids that liked to hit. Even in the secondary, you could tell that unit was well coached. They’ll bring that attitude.”…

“Offensively, I’m not sure what they’ll do but it should be a good fit overall with the new staff. The problem is they didn’t have much firepower.”…

“Losing wideout Michael Campanaro is tough. He’s was really good player – that’s really all they had. They didn’t have a lot of support around him. I know he was injured throughout the season, which hurt them as well.”…

“Recruiting, not sure what they brought in because of the short time with a new coach.”…

“You have to play really tough football at a place like Wake, because wins won’t come easy.”...
 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:


Coastal Division

 

Duke

 

“It’s truly impressive what they’ve been able to do, because they are not all that impressive looking as far as personnel.”…

“The defense doesn’t scare you. Pound for pound, they might have been more talented in 2012. But they are great scheme wise and play well together. That’s a credit to coach Cutcliffe.”…

“They do a great job taking away what you want to do.”…

“They did a nice job mixing the two quarterbacks. They have a good system there.”…

“Talent wise, it’s still tough sledding for them, though I think their depth has improved the last few years.”…

“They aren’t going to win a lot of recruiting battles with the top schools. But they have an identity and players feed off each other, which helps them.”…

“Don’t understate the loss of Kurt Roper to Florida. He’s a bright guy and he was with Cutcliffe back to their Ole Miss days. It’s Cutcliffe’s offense, but Roper had a good feel for the offense. I wonder if that will affect them.”…

“I’m not sure what they’ll have on defense. They had a few good pass rushers and a steady secondary, but they lost some players.”…

“Can they keep the momentum going? Because it’s amazing to watch, seeing them all year and they beat teams more talented than them. It’s impressive, no doubt.”…

 

Georgia Tech

 

“It’s just hard to recruit there because of the option.”…

“They had a fortunate streak of really good wide receivers a few years ago, but if you’re a top receiver, why would you go to Georgia Tech? You’ll run eight routes a game. They don’t really have the Calvin Johnsons or Stephen Hills that they used to.”…

“I think the system catching up to them. It’s not a system that translates to the NFL.”…

“They have some good running backs – they’ll always have that – but overall we felt they had one of the worst offensive lines in the league. There’s just not really an imposing or athletic presence there.”…

“They did have sort of a hybrid tight end/receiver we liked, Darren Waller. He’s about as impressive as you’ll see for that size.”…

“Defensively, they had a good looking team. Ted Roof has done a nice job settling that unit down and simplifying things for them. They could really rush the passer at times last year.”…

“Jeremiah Attaochu and Emmanuel Dieke were really athletic and could get in your backfield, but they have to replace both of those guys.”…

“Linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days is a good player.”…

“I’m not sure what happened with Vad Lee, the transfer. He’s talented but, again, it’s a system thing – he didn’t want to run the option.”…

“The option is always tough to prepare for – Georgia Tech can always get at least a few quality wins out of it – but I’m not sure it’s a sustainable model.”…

 

Miami

 

“Stephen Morris probably hurt them more than he helped them.”…

“They have a good pool of talent, but then I thought offensively they were erratic as Morris was erratic. As long as Duke Johnson was there, it didn’t matter all that much. When you took him out of the equation, they were a little bit like running on one leg.”…

“Defensively, what surprises me is they are not very fast overall as a team. It’s opposite of what you’d expect of a Miami team based on their history.”…

“I just don’t think they are extremely quick or fast on defense, which you’d think wouldn’t be a problem.”…

“Linebacker Denzel Perryman looks the part. Good player.”…

“The offensive line I thought was really, really good - maybe the most talented in the league overall. They have a lot of depth there and should be good again.”…

“They were just kind of surprisingly erratic on defense. The defensive line was just average.”…

“I thought Morris was sometimes a little too emotional as a quarterback. You can’t be up and down. I don’t know how to describe it. He was trying to make plays that aren’t there and wearing his feelings on his sleeve a little bit. I just thought there was some of that going on. He was talented. I don’t know much about his replacement (possibly Ryan Williams), but they need someone who won’t hurt them with bad throws.”…

“Duke Johnson is good enough to erase a lot of problems. He’s special.”…

 

North Carolina

 

“Marquise Williams does give Larry Fedora the ability to run his natural spread offense. But I thought they were better when they had Bryn Renner for the most part. He’s a talented quarterback who utilized their weapons better and allowed them to be a little more consistent because of the way he throws the ball.”…

“The jury is still out on Williams.”…

“I think they have a potential great one in (running back) T.J. Logan. He didn’t get a lot of touches last year, but you can tell the talent’s there.”…

“They had some growing pains on the offensive line that made it a little tough to run the ball last year.”…

“They aren’t great at wide receiver. It’s hard when you don’t have an elite playmaker at receiver, but they ain’t going to miss on a bunch in recruiting. They’ll always have players at UNC. They could use an extra playmaker, though.”…

“Defensively, they are improving. They had some good players in the defensive backfield, especially safety Tre Boston and linebacker Norkeithus Otis – they are both pretty active and can cover a lot of ground. They will help.”…

“I think North Carolina is going to have a good football team. It’s a process with depth for them. Though they inherited a bunch of talented players, it can be hard to rebuild that overnight. The way they responded last year was important because their season was going south early on.”…

 

Pittsburgh

 

“Offensively, it’s all about the receivers. They lose Devin Street, but Tyler Boyd is back – he’s special. He’s just polished, athletic and can run. He’s a big play waiting to happen.”…

“Having Boyd is a big help to whichever quarterback replaces Tom Savage, who was better than you’d think.”…

“On the offensive line, they were decent but not the kind of maulers you’d expect from a Pitt team.”…

“I wasn’t as high on the offensive line as you might think. They are pretty big and physical and run to the ball, but they aren’t really scaring you”….

“Somehow they have to replace Aaron Donald. But you can’t. At times, he was almost unblockable. Couldn’t do anything with him one on one. Nobody else in the league affected games up front like he could.”…

“Defensive end Bryan Murphy, nobody talked about him, probably because Donald was so good, but Murphy could play.”…

“They fit in pretty well in the ACC – they’ve done a good job recruiting and a good job of keeping players at home. Can they hold off teams coming into Pittsburgh? Because there are a lot of them.”…

“A lot will hinge on what their quarterback plans are. I’m not sure what they had behind Savage. Chryst is known to be pretty good with quarterbacks so we’ll see what they can conjure up.”…

 

Virginia

 

“I don’t see them being much better.”…

“It’s the strangest thing – on defense, they can look like the ‘85 Bears some moments and look like they want to avoid contact the next. They just didn’t play real hard all the time. I don’t know if it was because they were losing or what, but the defense is talented enough to be at least decent. They don’t play all the time.”…

“Defensive end Eli Harold was unbelievable when he was playing hard. That wasn’t all the time.”…

“Linebacker Henry Coley – we thought he was the best linebacker in the entire league. Tough, solid, physical player.”…

“They have a corner – Maurice Canady – that we were impressed with.”…

“I think their quarterback situation is kind of a mess. David Watford is not a guy that I think can win consistently for them. Backup Greyson Lambert wasn’t particularly impressive.”…

“For whatever reason, consistency just eludes Mike London. I thought they had their moments when they played extremely well. However, finding a way to win and be consistent seems to be a challenge for them.”…

“They are better than they were at quarterback from the year before, but it’s a lot of coaching changes and assistant coach moving parts and just a lot of change there overall. Programs aren’t built overnight. It takes some consistency.”…

“Their linebacking core is pretty good and they had some good-looking defensive players in certain spots.”…

“I know they have some talented young players coming in. They’ve recruited well enough where they aren’t far off. The climate can always change pretty quickly in this league. But I couldn’t name a lot of guys on offense for them.”…

“The offensive and defensive lines looked the part. They had a few things to work with.”…

 

Virginia Tech

 

“Logan Thomas was erratic.”…

“I don’t know what their identity is offensively, and I don’t know that they do.”…

“I thought they were one of the best defensive teams in the country. Look at what they did against any opponent.”…

“They suffered losses in the defensive front, but the defense is terrific.”…

“They lost Kyle Fuller, who is a great playmaker. He had the ability to stop the option by himself by the way he could cover tight ends and play almost as a linebacker and a corner.”…

“Kyle Fuller’s brother, the corner, Kendall, is a great young player.”…

“I can’t name a lot of guys on offense that really scare you.”…

“I’d say kind of establishing the run game has been more difficult for them than they want to have happen, at least compared to in the past. They used to be so good there.”… 

“Thomas was not consistently performing at a level where he’s dangerous all the time, and that’s what they’ll need from the new guy, whoever it is.”…

“The key to greatness for any quarterback, collegiately and in the NFL, what you are looking for is consistency. The greats aren’t running fast or electric all the time, but they are so consistent. Virginia Tech just hasn’t had that at quarterback, though Logan’s receivers didn’t exactly help him all the time. They had a good bit of drops from what I understand.”…

“Their young defensive end, a South Florida kid (Dadi Nicolas), he’s a playmaker. He’s a handful to handle. He didn’t start but played a lot. Really talented.”…

Teaser:
ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the Big 12's football logos:

 

 TeamLogo Analysis
1.Texas Arguably the best logo in college football, the Longhorn is classic, simple, unchanging but also unique and creative. There is nothing else to say.
2.Oklahoma There is no doubting what the interlocking "O" and "U" stand for, right? The smooth lines and lack of extras in the font make this a fantastic logo.
3.Kansas State All of Kansas State's design work, color scheme and uniforms are underrated and the logo is the same. Aggressive, stylish but yet still fairly simple and clean.
4.West Virginia When it comes to creativity, this one gets high marks for the way the letters have been worked together without putting too much flair into the design. It also reminds fans of the WVU landscape as well.
5.TCU The block font will always be in style and the arched type works best with three letters rather than four or more. An underrated logo.
6.Oklahoma State The letters are uniquely combined and the font is solid. The grey outline isn't the best and gives this logo a third unneeded color.
7.Iowa State The power "I" and arched State are very unique across all of college football. But nothing can be done about the color scheme.
8.Texas Tech The big-T, little-T combo is pretty cool but this logo is extremely busy. Beveled font and three different colors don't exude tradition.
9.Baylor Normally, block lettering is great but the Bears' font is just a little off and seems a bit antiquated. The color scheme isn't the best, but is used well.
10.Kansas The cartoon Jayhawk is a signature logo but doesn't really create an intimidating image in any sense of the word. And why is it dancing?
Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/sec-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the SEC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

SEC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

East Division

 

Florida

 

“They are the ones that I think can have the quickest turnaround because of who they have on defense.”…

“Their talent on defense is fantastic, but that talent didn’t always work hard last year. There were a lot of guys who were worried about next-level play instead of worrying about this level of play.”…

“If they can stay healthy offensively, they can have a quick turnaround. They’ve got a lot of talent on defense I’m not saying they’ll make it to a national championship game, but they could have an Auburn-like turnaround.”…

“They didn’t have a lot of guys that could make plays at wideout, which is amazing at a place like Florida.”…

“The quarterback situation is bad. When Jeff Driskel got hurt, the kid that left in the offseason (Jacoby Brissett) could have played but they didn’t have anybody there. Driskel goes down and the offense was devastated. That’s the danger of when you stockpile a bunch of quarterbacks or you miss on a quarterback. All of a sudden your starter gets hurt and then the guy who wasn’t the starter but was pretty good leaves. The days of waiting until the fifth year to start are few and far between.”…

“They lost Jon Halapio, who was a good player but was dinged up. When you have to play a lot of guys up front, it usually pays dividends down the road. Maybe that’s what happens for them”…

“Kurt Roper is a sharp guy.”…

“Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was one of the best young players I have seen in the game in a long time, and he deserved every bit of accolades that came his way.”…

“Their defensive line was the freakin’ real deal. Darious Cummings, an inside guy, he’s a pretty powerful guy in there. Tough to handle. They’ve done a good job recruiting defensive linemen.”…

 

Georgia


“They were pretty darn young on defense, which isn’t always an excuse, because they were loaded there.”…

“Youth is more important with offense than defense. A young defense can really struggle.”…

“They have talent on defense, but the talent has to play hard. (Former defensive coordinator) Todd Grantham is a good coach, but his guys didn’t always seem to play hard.”…

“They’ve had guys dismissed at defensive back, which will hurt.”…

“With the new defensive coordinator (Jeremy Pruitt) it will be a learning curve but they are very talented. They were very young last year.”…

“Replacing the quarterback is a big, big loss. Aaron Murray was a heckuva player. Last I heard they are pretty high on the new guy (Hutson Mason) but to ask him to do all the things Murray did will be tough. Just his overall command of the offense and his composure was impressive.”…

“I don’t know what they have coming back up front offensively but it seemed they had a pretty good core coming back.”…

“The running back, Todd Gurley, as long as he can stay healthy, he’s the real deal. He’s big time.”…

“Gurley is as good as I have seen in the league. I think he is better than the backs that Alabama has had. He has game-changing ability. The Bama backs have all been good, but they have had great talent around them. Gurley is great without any help. Nobody wants to tackle the kid, and he runs away from everybody on the defense.”…

“Any time you have inexperience, it’s going to sting you eventually. That was kind of their deal was their lack of experience.”…

“They recruit so well that there won’t be a huge dropoff, and last year’s injuries were brutal. Everybody in the SEC East has questions next year – everybody. So it will be an interesting year.”…


Kentucky


“Just average. That’s the reality of the situation.”…

“I know they have to be excited about the quarterback, Drew Barker. We loved him coming out. He’s the real deal. There’s one thing that’s hurt them in the past, they haven’t had solid quarterback play in a long time. They might give him a baptism by fire and just throw him in, see what he can do. What else do they have there? Probably not much. Might as well.”…

“I think they liked a few things Max Smith did there but I’m not sure he’s the answer long term.”…

“Mark Stoops deserves a lot of credit for getting the recruiting pieces he needs. They’ve recruited really well.”…

“Some of the guys they have coming in are not typical Kentucky players. Getting the 370-pound nose tackle (Matt Elam) over Alabama? That doesn’t happen at Kentucky. They haven’t had talent there for a long time. Now they have to do something with the talent. I hope they give him time to do so.”…

“As far as the roster returning, they had some decent linebacker play and both defensive ends are decent – not spectacular but decent. That pretty much sums it up.”…

“They have a good coaching staff but the players they inherited don’t really jump out at you or scare you.”…

"I liked the linebacker (Avery Williamson), he was active and a good tackler, but he’s gone now.”…


Missouri


“They are replacing a lot on the defensive front and the quarterback, though I think they like the young guy, Maty Mauk.”…

“They lose a middle linebacker that was really physical, a straight-line guy but really solid. One of the inside guys was a senior as well. They’ll have some work to do from that regard”…

“What a blessing that quarterback situation was. James Franklin was in and out because of injury but with Mauk coming in to play, now they know what they have and I think they like what they have. It’s a positive experience for them. That will work out well for them in the long run.”…

“The wideouts were matchup problems, but the top three receivers from last year are gone.”…

“The running back, Josey, was a senior. They’ve got some work to do in the running game.”…

“Maty Mauk is a tough competitor, comes from good football family. Experience he gained from last year will pay huge dividends. That stuff still counts.”…

“For what they do, their offensive line is very effective. They aren’t overpowering guys, won’t maul people out there but are good at space blocking. Evan Boehm is a really good player.”…

“They’ll ride the Mauk kid I’m sure. Their receivers are so rangy and long and can get downfield in a hurry that they will make life easier for Mauk in his first full year. Some of those guys you can get physical with, but for the most part that offense will get theirs.”…

“It’s inevitable that they will take a step back on defense next year. Any time you lose that many guys on the defensive front, you are going to take a step back.”…


South Carolina


“We thought Connor Shaw was outstanding. The other kid (Dylan Thompson) got a lot of good reps. But Shaw was what made everything work there.”…

“When they were really getting it, Mike Davis ran hard. I would put him right in there with Todd Gurley as far as SEC East backs who are big time.”…

“I thought the inside guy, Kelcy Quarles, was a really good player – it wasn’t just Clowney there. I don’t know how the depth is there.”…

“Most will say Clowney was this or that – I’ll tell you, you had to gameplan for him. You had to have a special plan for him, anybody who said they didn’t was full of (expletive). That was the one guy in the county you had to do that for. That changes things for them. We had protections designed to slide toward him so we were not putting tackles in a lot of one-on-one situations. I didn’t think their other ends were incredibly great, so they won’t command that sort of attention.”…

“The safeties were OK.”…

“Thompson is probably a lot like the Mauk kid. Like Georgia and Mizzou, they all had quarterbacks that were their guys, but at one point or another the starters got hurt and backups came in and got valuable experience.”…

“Traditionally South Carolina was always at seven or eight wins and Steve has been able to get them up to the 10-win mark, which is impressive. It will be interesting to see how much longer he’ll go.”…


Tennessee


“They are still trying to figure themselves out. They’ve recruited well but they are replacing all five starters up front that will be a heckuva task there now. They lost a lot of starts there, including the Tiny Richardson kid who was powerful.”…

“You want to catch those guys early. You don’t want to play them late because they’ll be better but will be a little disjointed early. They’ll have a lot of young guys playing so you want to catch them in September. Get them before they kind of get their feet on the ground.”…

“I like linebacker A.J. Johnson. I was surprised he came back. I thought he might’ve declared. He was a good player. Very active.”…

“Their defensive line was average, linebackers are pretty good, secondary wise they were young and weren’t overly impressive as far as being an SEC-caliber defense but that youth will help them.”…

“The biggest question on offense is replacing those linemen.”…

“I thought quarterback Josh Dobbs was average. He’s a really smart kid and all that stuff, but from a talent and skill level, average. I’m talking about precision, getting the ball out on time, throwing with accuracy - you like to have a guy who can push the ball downfield. He was average in those areas, but a lot of that comes with young, so maybe he can develop that. Some guys need to see a guy wide open before they throw the ball and it’s too late. That’s the difference between good and great ones, getting the ball on time.”…


Vanderbilt
 

“Losing Jordan Mathews is going to be huge for them. That’s 100-plus catches that they’ll have to replace. That’s the biggest question mark.”…

“On defense - they lost the whole secondary, basically. Thy have some good young talent in there but it’s unproven.”…

“On the front, the defensive front should be pretty solid. They have some really good young linebackers, three guys I think could be impactful, but they are going to a 3-4 under Derek Mason, so I’m curious how they’ll fit those guys into the personnel.”…

“The defensive ends left there were pretty solid. The front seven will be solid and can compete each week in the SEC. The secondary is the big question mark.”…

“On offense, I don’t know how many catches they have coming back at receiver – it might be less than 30.”…

“The quarterback situation, the Johnny McCrary kid’s very talented but a little bit of a loose cannon. Patton Robinette is a really solid kid but can he carry them late in games? I don’t know.”…

“The offensive line guys, they lost Wesley Johnson, who was one of the best lineman in the league, but they have a lot returning, a lot of guys that know how to win in the SEC. that will help them.”…

“The previous staff recruited well, so there is some talent on that roster.”…
 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:

 

West Division


Alabama


“Defensively they’ll be OK, probably won’t be up to their great standard. Losing Deion Belue, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri – that’s really going to hurt on the back end. Linebackers, they’ll be slightly above average. Up front on the defensive line they might actually be better. D.J. Pettway is a more disciplined a player than Adrian Hubbard.”…

“The quarterback, I don’t know who it will be. It’s almost like what they do in the spring really doesn’t matter because they are bringing in (FSU transfer Jacob Coker).”…

“It’s probably the best receiving corps as a whole since Nick’s been there.”…

“The running backs are really solid, not as good as the 2010 lineup but really good. Kenyon Drake is maturing and Derrick Henry is doing a lot better with protections, assignments, developing the passing game – he could always run the ball.”…

“Losing Chad Lindsay is going to hurt because they had depth issues at offensive line. I think they wanted to move Ryan Kelly to left tackle. Now they have to rely on some young kids coming in.”…

As it sits, Alabama might be an eight-win team on paper. Obviously a lot hinges on how well the FSU kid does coming in - will be make or break the season? The freshman, David Cornwell, is not ready. If they have to go with Blake Sims, their offensive play-calling will be very limited. They would run the ball a lot, wouldn’t be very exotic with the passing game.”…

“It will be interesting to watch Lane Kiffin run the offense – Doug Nussmeier was really good. Lane can do it but I’m curious to see how strong his running concepts are with this team, because that’s obviously a big strength for them.”…

 

Arkansas


“I didn’t think they were very explosive last year with some of their skill players on the offensive side of the ball.”…

“The secondary was not really impressive.”…

“They did have a couple of good defensive linemen, especially Chris Smith, but he’s gone now.”…

“They will continue to struggle a little bit. They should be better but continuing to struggle.”…

“Based on what they are doing, I just don’t think they can score enough. It starts with the offense – they are not set up to score a lot of points. It’s ball control, grind it out, I-formation, play-action football.”…

“Their quarterback is back (Brandon Allen) and they should be better as a result, but I’m not sure if he’s the answer long-term.”…

“Alex Collins is a hard-nosed runner, physical kid. I do really like him. He can get them tough yards and a few scores. But that can’t be your whole offense.”…

“They have a hard time covering in the secondary. They sort of regressed as the year went on. They were probably better early on because they still had the confidence.”…

“Keep in mind, Bret didn’t inherit much. The recruiting transition from Petrino leaving to John L. Smith for a year was never going to be smooth. There were guys on that roster they wouldn’t have taken when he was at Wisconsin. So he needs time to get that done. But they need a boost at the skill positions, such as receiver and cornerback. They just don’t have a lot of playmaking there.”…


Auburn


“Looking at them on defense, they lost Dee Ford and they lost Chris Davis – just a few players, but if you look at the plays they made in the big games, especially Ford, those are significant losses based on Auburn’s body of work. They are going to be missed but they do have a lot of players returning.”…

“The linebackers will be average. A few of them are just guys.”…

“The secondary’s not tremendous with ball skills but they do have a lot of speed and recoverability. That’s their strength.”…

“Up front, I think they’ll have the best defensive linemen. Montravius Adams, he’s gonna be the next Glenn Dorsey.”…

“Losing the left tackle, Greg Robinson, he was the best in the SEC. I think he’s better than the (Jake) Matthews kid.”…

“If Auburn can develop a passing game, they will be probably the best team in the West.”…

Defensively, they are going to stop a lot of people.”…

“The only time the offensive line matters in Gus’ offense is when they go from tackle to wildcat, to the three-man side.”…

“They’ll miss (Tre) Mason. They were really high on him.”…

“Can Nick Marshall develop into a passer? If he doesn’t they’ll have to let their defense keep them in a lot of games. Being one-dimensional can only get you so far.”…

“Obviously they had a lot of success, but they’ll want to do something new, because Gus will want to grow that thing and be more multiple. If he can do it, they’ll be deadly next year.”…


LSU


“Obviously losing quarterback Zach Mettenberger hurts them a little bit. They have a couple of talented options coming up there but it will be interesting to see how they develop that talent. Cam Cameron has the personnel to go to a dual-threat quarterback but he’s more of a pro-style guy.”…

“They might have lost a few key players up front but return that good left tackle (La’El Collins).”…

“Those two receivers they had are gone and they were two of the best. I’m not really sure who’s filling those roles because they got the ball so much.”…

“Obviously the question is, who is the quarterback that will step up?”…

“The defense last year was pretty inexperienced and quite honestly weren’t very good.”…

“John Chavis’ scheme isn’t really that hard. He always does a good job hiding deficiencies just enough where he puts players in position to make plays. They had a lot of growing up to do up front. It all depends on how those guys develop. If they don’t get better up front, their team won’t be better. There really wasn’t one from last year that stood out, at least not compared to the standard LSU has set for that spot.”…

“Losing those guys will catch up with them. Slowly, if you lose kids to Alabama or Texas schools, you can still have stars but do they still have quality depth they used to?”…

“None of those guys on defense coming back really stuck out to me.”…
 

Mississippi State


“They’ve always been known for having a big-time defensive lines.”…

“Linebacker Benardrick McKinney, he’s a pretty decent player. He’s active.”…

“The guys up front were monsters when we played them. You could really struggle with them. I thought they were pretty impressive. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins does a good job.”…

“If they ever get a really good quarterback, they can be pretty darn good. I know they are pretty high on Dak Prescott but since he didn’t start all of last season I’m not exactly sure what they have in him. He’s talented but still a bit of an unknown.”…

“Losing Gabe Jackson on the offensive line is big – he just mauled people. He created holes that you don’t know are going to be there now.”…

"This is a big year for Dan Mullen, who’s done a nice job there but hasn’t really broken through. I’d imagine they think it’s time to do that since they return a lot of starters and they are counting on Prescott to make a jump. But their defense will always keep them respectable. The question is, can they beat the teams they aren’t supposed to? They haven’t done much of that.”…

A lot of their success will depend on which defensive linemen are coming back, and it seems like they are returning a bunch. The best one they have is Chris Jones. He’s got NFL-type talent. He’s a little raw but the ability is obviously there.”… 

“Mississippi State is an intriguing team. It could go either way for them – they could break through or be toward the bottom of the SEC West.”…

 

Ole Miss


“They are probably the second-best team in the West, maybe better.”…

“It’s a young defense with really good athletic ability, Dave Wommack a heckuva coach.”…

“They are going to be hard to beat. Playing them at home is tough.”…

“Bo Wallace is not a big time quarterback but he’s functional. He won’t really screw it up a lot. Sometimes that’s what you need.” …

“The Nkemdiche brothers – both Denzel and Robert are studs.”…

“Tony Conner is great. He’s an absolute stud. They can run up front, on the back end. Great instincts, physical player, everything you’d want, he’s got it.”…

“The defensive coordinator keeps it simple enough for them to not mess up assignments. They fly to the football.”…

“Losing Donte Moncrief hurts.”…

“The offensive line was young but pretty dang good. I think they’ll be good up front. The Laremy Tunsil is a darn good player, young left tackle, he’s as big time as it gets.”…

“I like the big Ndemdiche kid (Robert) better. He’s more disruptive as a player than his brother. His brother’s a good player, good instincts, physical player. I like them both, but if I was in a draft room, the younger one brings more to the defense.”…

I think Ole Miss is going to be dang good. Don’t be shocked if they win the division. I wouldn’t. It’s sort of wide open this year with Alabama possibly down and LSU losing playmakers – they’d have to knock off Auburn, which should still be great. Huge year for Hugh Freeze.”…


Texas A&M


“They had really young guys on defense, so the biggest deal with them was they weren’t very big and got knocked off the ball up front. Even when they were decent in the secondary, you could run the ball in between the tackles. As long as those guys have stated growing and continue to develop, you won’t be able to do that.”…

“They’ll be good on defense. Mark Snyder got a lot of flack last year because people put up some points but he’s a good coordinator. He’s going to get those guys in position to make plays.”…

“What’s going to kill them is losing not only Johnny Manziel, but a couple of really good receivers and the Jake Mathews kid.”…

“How well they do as a team depends on how their defense does.”…

“I don’t know if their offense will have enough firepower – they’ll always be pretty good under Sumlin, but losing a guy like Evans, he was a playmaker. Losing him will really hurt them.”…

“Last year they had a safety that was terrible, defensive line wasn’t good, really nobody on defense. Those studs they had in 2012, four guys that were difference-makers. When those guys left, there was nobody.”…

“Sumlin has always been a good recruiter. They’ll get good young players. How soon can they be ready to play is the question? They’ve stockpiled a lot of skill guys and some talented defensive front seven guys the last two years so we’ll see if they can emerge.”…

Teaser:
SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos. Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the SEC's football logos:

 

 TeamLogoAnalysis
1.GeorgiaFind me a more effective marriage of color and simplicity of design and I'll hand these writing duties over to you. Georgia's logo is so timeless that I can't remember there ever being another that represented the football team. When you see this, there's no confusion as to what you're looking at.
2.AuburnHard to find fault in the interlocking A-U. Again, trimming away all the waste and boiling a logomark down to its most basic typically nets the best results.
3.TennesseeAs a logo, Tennessee's is as direct and to-the-point as it gets. Think what you will of the orange (personally, I'm no fan), but the unique working of the "T" is as good as it gets. As an aside, UT's retro Davy Crockett logo is badass.
4.Texas A&MSomeone from A&M needs to call Texas Tech and explain how effective beveling is done. Like Vandy, Texas A&M's logo is simple and therefore works as a potent branding mark.
5.VanderbiltThe star and the "V." Nothing flashy. Message delivered. Simple, effective. Well done. (Although Vandy has never been able to get the right shade of mustard or gold or whatever that color is.)
6.LSUAnother SEC school logo that is vastly improved from its previous incarnation, I like the contemporary font used for LSU. The Illustrator'd "tiger" lacks some punch, but I'm learning to live with it. If I must.
7.AlabamaAlabama's logo screams "college!" as much as any in the conference. I'm not a fan of the font used for the "A," as more stylized scripts exist that could naturally center it up.
8.KentuckyBeing a UK grad, I'm admittedly biased, but that may be a good thing. Because I have a vested interest, I can say this slightly modernized block logo is light years beyond the old vertical "UK" with the cat in the background. Oftentimes you are your favorite team's worst critic, but this is one incarnation of the logo that I hope is utilized for years to come.
9.MissouriMissouri has a dynamic logo that screams aggression, and they get points simply for not going the huggable animal route. Carving some of the fat off this mark — a la Michigan State's spartan — would tone the activity down and make for a sharper brand.
10.Mississippi StateI actually like what MSU has done to update what was once a run-of-the-mill "block logo." The faux-banner works, as does the contemporary "M" that has one stem in yesterday, the other in today.
11.FloridaIt's the colors. That's what has always bothered me about Florida's logo. The green on blue is harsh on the eyes while the entire concept of the cartoon gator is too ... "rounded." This is an alligator with razor sharp teeth, right? So borrow some of Missouri's hard, dynamic angles, give me some streamlining and scare me!
12.ArkansasWell, it's a hog. Like Kentucky's, this logo is a vast improvement on Arkansas' previous incarnation. My issue it that animal logos are best used as stylized representations, not literal "drawings." There is mucho potential here ... get the university's design department cranking up the creativity!
13.Ole MissI know there's some tradition that I'm most likely stomping on, but the Brush Script feel of this font-only logo is dated. (For those unaware, the font "Brush Script" went out of style about the time Archie Manning was moving from Oxford to New Orleans.) On the plus side, they've managed to not incorporate the rebel flag, so that's saying something.
14.South CarolinaSurprisingly, it's not the gamecock that turns me off here, it's the 90 degree angles on the inside of the "C" — shave those off and the awkwardness of this logo is minimalized. Sure, the rooster could use an upgrade, but let's be honest, it may be time to start from scratch.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the Big Ten to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Big Ten Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

East Division

 

Indiana


Opposing coaches size up the Hoosiers:
 

“Defensively I’m sure their focus this season will be finding a way stop the run.” …

“They had some kids that looked good, especially on offense. They were youthful from what I remember.” …

Offensively they are scary as hell with very good running backs and receivers. Kevin Wilson does a nice job with that scheme. They are pretty multiple and can spread it out on you. They are a threat to score a bunch of points.” …

“It’s hard to pinpoint what the issues were on defense, but they’ll have to try to get bigger and stronger up front and plug in holes with recruiting.” …

“The spread offense and stopping the run game are priorities for them. That’s sort of been their M.O. for a long time.” …

“They’ve had some great offenses in the past and put up a gazillion points and still win five games. It’s sort of strange.” …

“I can’t really name any of their top defensive guys. A lot of times they either had trouble getting pressure or they couldn’t cover on the back end. But they were a huge threat offensively.” …

“Wide receiver Cody Latimer is a great player – he’s gone, or at least I hope so.” …

 

Maryland

 

Opposing coaches size up the Terrapins:

 

“An explosive team that has tools at positions that can and should make a significant impact for them.” …

“Their issues are the best players are not all the time available or healthy. It was a scouting report factor to look at. They’ve had on and off the field issues with players leaving, which does not help.” …

“Stefon Diggs is as good as any skill player in the country. He is as good as advertised.” …

“Randy Edsall, despite what some say, is a good coach.” …

“Another important factor: Will recruiting hold up and can they keep the best players in state? That remains to be seen.” …

“Penn State with James Franklin will make things interesting along the 95 corridor and the beltway.”…


“The linebackers and the secondary groups were the best.” …

“Their quarterback, C.J. Brown, was a pretty good player. He is impressive.” …

“Mike Locksley is a really good football coach, their offensive coordinator.” …

“Their special teams are well coached schematically, that’s one thing we were impressed with.” …

“They aren’t overly impressive on the offensive and defensive lines. Just normal there. Nobody stood out.” …

“They didn’t have a really big time player except the quarterback when we played them. He was the best player on the team I thought.”…
 

Michigan

 

Opposing coaches size up the Wolverines:

 

“What are they going to do new offensively? They just hired Doug Nussmeier. Where they’ve struggled, they haven’t been what they thought they’d be on the offensive line. They lost both their tackles now.”…

“Devin Gardner’s back, so it will be interesting to see, are they building an off for Gardner for one more year or building for the future for Shane Morris or whomever they recruited? Nussmeier comes from Alabama, and the Alabama model offensively is to be pretty conservative, run the ball with play-action passes. That wasn’t a quarterback-driven offense but McCarron was great at what they needed. So if you’re not going to use Devin’s feet and athleticism, are you going to miss the boat? Because I don’t think he’s like McCarron – he’s got to make up for lack of accuracy with his legs and creativity and extending plays.”…

“I think they were very meager running the football. They struggled protecting the quarterback. The statistical things you evaluate – offensive line, rushing yards, yards per carry, they were pretty poor in those areas.”…

“Defensively, I don’t think they were near what they want to be. They have a great defensive coordinator, he’s a very good coach, but as the defense is designed to stop the run it’s become more of a passing league in some ways. Great, you held them to 100 yards rushing but they threw for 350 and you got beat.”…
 

Michigan State

 

Opposing coaches size up the Spartans:


“Their model is good. They know how to reload the pieces to fit their scheme.”…

“I expect them to be coming out of the gate as the best defense in the conference, even though they lose several starters.”…

“That November game against Ohio State in East Lansing will go a long way. They’ll certainly be good enough to win at least 9-10 games and stay in the thick of conference race. They’ll probably be better on offense, too.”…

“They’ve found a little identity there. I thought Connor Cook was one of the difference makers for him the second half of the season. His play against Ohio State and in the Rose Bowl was very good. He was a little bit of a late bloomer.”…

“Mark Dantonio worked for Jim Tressel all those years, so they model their program where it’s replacing pieces and not overhauling. They can recruit to their positions for development.”…

“Darqueze Dennard will be hard to replace, and Denicos Allen will be missed, Marcus Rush will be a good player for them coming back. He’s a solid guy.”…

“Both of their corners played well all season, and they get one back.”…

“They limit what routes you can run against them. They know how to stop the routes you can run. They kind of minimize their exposure. You can’t run every play in your offense because they are ready for at least half of it.”…

“They aren’t going to miss Max Bullough as much as everybody thought. The kid who replaced him in the Rose Bowl was pretty good.”…

“They might be a little bit less on defense but improved on offense, which will balance itself out.”…

“Defensive end Shilique Calhoun was quick off the edge, I thought.”…

 

Ohio State

(EDITOR'S NOTE: All quotes obtained prior to Braxton Miller's season-ending injury.)

Opposing coaches size up the Buckeyes:


“A very quarterback-driven offense. Without a doubt they have good skill. They have a good scheme.”...

“I have a lot of respect for the running back Carlos Hyde, he’s was a really good player. They’ll miss him a bunch.”…

“Philly Brown, had a good skill set but kind of played spotty last year. He was versatile, though – they had him all over the place. They should have good depth at receiver even without him.”…

“Defensively, I love the freshman defensive end (Joey Bosa). I love the way he played, pad level, intensity. Inside backer (Ryan Shazier) is really good and he’s gone. The back end, they were able to make a few plays but could give up a few big ones, too.”…

“Talented, talented team. If you can match up with them on the offensive and defensive lines, you can give them a good fight. For us it wasn’t like, ‘Oh no, you have to play OSU again.’ They can overwhelm people sometimes, though. “…

“With the running backs I’ve seen they have, they can make do without Hyde, but the offensive line loses a ton of experience. An athletic quarterback like Braxton Miller can complement a new offensive line, which helps.”…

“Obviously, they will coach Braxton up to not take as many hits but Braxton is a cool customer, he doesn’t seem to get fazed.”…

“If you can get your play-action passes going, you can make some big plays against them. They were a little bit suspect in the defensive backfield.”…
 

Penn State

 

Opposing coaches size up the Nittany Lions:


“They are not as far down as people want to make it seem. Maybe it’s depth or whatever you talk about, but you just watch them, start with the defensive line, they had some great players. The cupboard was not bare.”…

“The defensive ends were good, the backers are exactly what you’d expect from Penn State.”…

“Offensively they had a nice crew at wide receiver and they had a great quarterback.”…

“Christian Hackenberg – great player, makes a lot of good decisions. Where he was from the beginning of year to the end was much different.”…

“They are not a team where you look at them and think, ‘Oh my gosh they’ve been on NCAA restrictions.’…

“With the front crew they can play against anybody. They made some big plays against us.”…

“I don’t know much about James Franklin, but he seems like a high-energy guy.”…

“With O’Brien, Penn State did a good job understanding what the quarterback needed to do. I thought he did very good job as offensive coordinator developing his kids and getting his guys in the right spots. It was a structured offense. They didn’t vary from it, they were who they were. Play-calling was excellent, and they could change plays with what they saw. With using the young quarterback to get the play called, they were as good as I’ve been around.”…

“We’ll see how they do without O’Brien’s playcalling.”...

“They’ll miss defensive tackle DaQuan Jones – he was the best in the league, in my opinion. He was physically stout, didn’t have a weakness. It’s like no one talked about him. They’ve got to replace a few guys on the line.”…
 

Rutgers

 

Opposing coaches size up the Scarlet Knights:

 

“New offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen is a big hire for them. He will get the most out of the talent they have.”…

“Without a proven quarterback and only Leonte Carroo as a marquee receiver, they will not be dynamic enough to win consistently in the Big Ten.”…

“Carroo will be their best player. It’s hard to say how good he can really be because their quarterback play has been so bad.”…

“I thought they looked good up front on both sides of the ball.”…

“Their secondary was their biggest weakness. They were young there from what I remember.”…

“There’s decent skill there at receiver but not a lot of breakout star power.”…

“The quarterback play was very inconsistent. That was the biggest issue. Gary Nova had some good moments early in the year but every time you looked over during the season, he was giving the ball away. He killed their momentum. We didn’t think he was that good coming in.”…

“I think they will struggle to be .500 in that league, especially on the east side.”…

“The defensive line was really solid. They had good athleticism and can apply pressure.”…

“They had a good recruiting class going but lost some key guys after that Dave Cohen incident (claims of bullying a player). Was terrible timing after what happened with the basketball coach.”

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:


West Division

 

Illinois

 

Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Illini:


“They were athletic. They’ve had their ups and downs. Maybe in Year 3 they will have both sides of the ball clicking at once. They haven’t had that yet.”…

“I loved Nathan Scheelhaase. He was a really good football player. He probably didn’t get enough credit but he moved the ball.”…

“They have some good-looking skill players and are on the verge of potentially taking the next step. I thought they were coached well and we were able to make some plays against them. You can get some big plays on them early in the game and then they’ll eventually make plays but then they are behind. Just seemed to play from behind a lot. Hard to win that way.”…

“I thought personally it was a physical team and they did some good things. Settling into what they want to do on offense and defense will be key, because they have quite a lot of things going on schematically, especially on offense with the passing concepts, so that takes time. But they are right there.”…

“You have a team that’s close but not close enough yet. If they catch fire and believe they can win, that’s infectious.”…

“Their wideouts are good looking. It’s not like you’re looking at players that don’t look the part.”…

“I haven’t heard much about the new quarterback (Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt).”…

“No defensive players necessarily jumped out at you – a few good inside backers are gone now.”…
 

Iowa

 

Opposing coaches size up the Hawkeyes:


“If you like old-school, grind-it-out, knock-the-snot-out-of-each-other-for-four-quarters style of football, that’s what our game against Iowa was like last year. It was amazing.”…

“I like the way they carry their program.”…

“They have a very tough front seven on defense. As tough as there is, snap in snap out – they sort of say, here’s what we do, come get us, we’re going to play well and tackle well.”…

“I love the James Morris kid. They’ll miss him.”…

“With their outside linebacker, they had one of the best tandems in the league. They lost a lot of experience there and that both of those guys are gone.”…

“They are settling in at the quarterback position. Jake Rudock was good in the play-action game, checking runs in the right spots. He wasn’t flashy but he got it done.”…

“They had the best offensive line in the conference. The left tackle, Brandon Scherff – he’s all that. If he’s not a first round draft pick, I’d be absolutely shocked.”…

“I don’t know if there’s an area where you can expose them. You just have to pick the spots and make the plays. Maybe if you can break a few big runs and get out early you’ll be in good shape because they aren’t necessarily built to play from behind, or at least they won’t put up 50 a game, but it’s a fistfight against them.”…

“You won’t outscheme Iowa. Your kids have to make a play to beat them.”…  
 

Minnesota

 

Opposing coaches size up the Golden Gophers:


“They are a tough crew. It’s a slugfest. They are built much like Iowa. They are very physical, fundamentally sound. I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff for the way they prepare their kids, especially on the defensive back end where they are physical.”…

“Losing the big kid inside on defense (Ra’Shede Hageman) is a big deal but they appeared to be recruiting well. Hageman could dominate some games and then others he wouldn’t really impact all that much.”…

“Offensively, they did a few different things. They do enough to keep you on edge. You have to coach your tail off against them. The way they use the fly sweep is creative. They are creative in the running game and in play-action.”…

“The wide receiver spot offensively is a bit of a problem for them. They have a good offensive line and good running backs but can they get the ball consistently downfield in the passing game? Getting a go-to receiver will be a huge deal for them.”…

“On defense, their skill guys were very good. They maybe had the most or one of the top guys in the league on skill on the defensive back end.”…

“Minnesota’s a really tough place to play when it’s colder than hell, soldout crowd and they’re always hanging in there. They are a difficult team to play.”…

“Philip Nelson, who transferred to Rutgers (later dismissed), didn’t necessarily scare you but they are high on their new quarterback (Mitch Leidner).”…
 

Nebraska

 

Opposing coaches size up the Cornhuskers:


“They hadn’t been what they wanted to be on defense, considering Bo Pelini is a defensive coach. Where they’ve been a little disappointing is defensive consistency. For John Papuchis, his first defensive coordinator gig is Nebraska. That’s a big job. It’s not like he started at a springboard place. Nebraska’s still Nebraska.”…

“They were pretty young on defense last year, so maybe another year will have Bo’s defense where he wants it.”…

“Having Randy Gregory back will help. He is an absolute stud. He’s so explosive and fast for his size. He’s physical, can cover, just a smart player. Doesn’t really have a weakness.”…

“Bo was on the perceived hot seat but they are always solid. There hasn’t really been a dropoff. They’ve been consistent, even with their starting quarterback out all year.”…

“They couldn’t do everything they wanted to last year because even when Taylor Martinez came back against UCLA, he wasn’t the same and they couldn’t run him very much.”…

“Last year they lost a guard (Spencer Long) to injury. He was really good.”…

“This year they should have more options with Tommy Armstrong, whom I know they are high on.”…

“Ameer Abdullah just gets it done, whatever they need. It will be interesting to see how much they try to run the option with Armstrong and Abdullah, because they did that some last year but that was maybe in part because the quarterback was inexperienced.”…

“They have enough to win the division, no doubt. Their offensive line will be young but it will be talented.”…
 

Northwestern

 

Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

 

“Injuries everywhere – just a tough, tough, tough year for them. Their kids played tough and they never quit or stopped believing.”…

“Tougher than hell. Compete every single week. They’ll be in the right spots, are fundamentally and technically sound.”…

“The speedy guy, Venric Mark, he changes the team. Makes them a different team on offense, and not just because of his athleticism, but competitiveness, too. He draws the whole team toward him. My guess is he’s a tremendous leader and a lot of kids follow him in a good way. Getting him back is a huge thing for them.”…

“They’ll have a chip on their shoulder, ready to play.”…

“They’ve got to replace the quarterback (Kain Colter). When they were smoking on offense, the (Trevor Siemian) kid would come in and pace them, but without Colter they wouldn’t be as dynamic in the quarterback running game. Maybe they have another guy they like but I would doubt they’d go back to a two-quarterback system.”…

“They just lost a bunch of hard fought games.”…

“They had a couple big, tall defensive linemen that were talented players.”…

“Salty on defense on the front seven, always where they needed to be.”…

“The offensive line was very functional for what their offense was built for, which became tough because of injuries. They weren’t going to overwhelm you there.”…

“I don’t look at Northwestern and say they were outmatched in the Big Ten. I thought they were physical and tough. It wasn’t that these guys were outmatched.”…
 

Purdue


“When we played against them it was still fairly early and they hadn’t lost their sails yet. They had a tough go but I have a lot of respect for Darrell Hazell.”…

“I really like them, they played hard the whole year and felt pretty good about recruiting, so it will be interesting to see the steps they take.”…

“I’m sure they know what they want to do on offense and defense and just need to find a way to implement those plans.”…

Quarterback, they have to get that fixed. Not sure what the plan is there.”…

“They are a pretty good-looking team when they jog out there, though. It was just, the pieces to the puzzle - they couldn’t really handle the running game very well. There was probably a lot of transition that goes into that, so they had some pieces to the puzzle they had to figure out.”…

“I think Darrell’s a good coach. He didn’t seem fazed or, ‘Oh my God what’s next’ from what I noticed. It’s like anything else, it’s a matter of recruiting.”…

“I thought they had some stout looking kids on the defensive line inside, the safety and the corner did some good things. I don’t think they are overwhelmed. They have some good players. They’ll be fine.”…

 

Wisconsin

 

Opposing coaches size up the Badgers:


“It will be interesting to see what transpires in Year 2 under Gary Andersen. It’s a really good defensive system but they lose a lot of good players. They’ll have to rebuild that. They have a good coordinator, a good defensive plan with tough, hard-nosed kids, very similar to Michigan State that away.”…

“It will be interesting to see how much they develop the passing game. Joel Stave got exposed a little bit as things played out. They are not sure if he can win close games for them. They know he can win the games where he’s running the offense and they could win regardless. They’ll probably search within what they’ve got.”…

“They recruited a really good player from New Jersey – running back Corey Clement He’s got a chance to be really good but he’s playing behind Melvin Gordon, who’s also great.”…

“Obviously it’s not just they have a great of line and a great system, they have some talent. Their lines are always good and they love having a 1-2 punch attack running the ball.”…

“You have to be able to throw the ball against them. You can get some big plays against them throwing the football.”…

“They lose Chris Borland, the center of the defense. Phenomenal player. I don’t know if you have a replacement for them. Team leader.”…

“We tried to use speed against them, because they know how to stop the interior run game. You have to get the ball on the perimeter with speed and throw the ball downfield.”…

“I’m not sure if they are strong enough on the back end similar to Michigan State where they can play tight man coverage.”…

“They were a little one-dimensional in the passing game offensively.”…

“They play two deep on the defensive line. Whoever they lose up front, they are probably already set to replace them.”…

Teaser:
Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/bret-bielema-faces-tough-rebuilding-project-hogs-looking-progress-2014
Body:

From his ill-timed thoughts on player safety to his team’s epic struggles, Bret Bielema is the easiest target in the SEC.

 

But let’s be honest about his on-field challenges at Arkansas: He inherited a mess of a roster in December 2012 with a stealth move from Madison to Fayetteville.

 

This isn’t an apologist’s view. Privately, assistant coaches are saying it now as they said it a year ago. Bielema must put in serious work to resurrect the Razorbacks, who are fresh off the program’s first winless conference season since 1942.

 

“When he took over (at Arkansas), he had players that wouldn’t have made it at Wisconsin,” says a former Bielema assistant coach familiar with both programs.

 

Bielema did pretty well with those Badgers, finishing 68–24 along with three Big Ten titles. Bielema didn’t exactly dominate top-flight competition — he was 2–4 in bowl games and went 1–5 against Ohio State — but he almost always beat the teams he should have and took advantage of transitional periods at Michigan and Penn State.

 

His SEC challenge is more daunting. There’s no question which team will occupy the seventh spot in the preseason SEC West rankings — the one that lost eight conference games by an average of 21 points. That is shocking for a program that just three years ago was unpacking back-to-back top 10 seasons and a Sugar Bowl berth.

 

The handoff from Bobby Petrino to John L. Smith to Bielema was so clumsy (though unavoidable) that athletic director Jeff Long must recognize the extent of the rebuilding job that’s necessary in Fayetteville.

 

Defensive seniors will have played for three head coaches and four defensive coordinators.

 

Following Bielema’s ‘Never Yield’ mantra is only one factor in the climb to respectability. Bielema must manufacture a vertical passing game, establish the kind of defensive identity that carried the Badgers and bolster recruiting.

 

Finding Star Power

 

Bielema’s staff at Wisconsin coaxed standout performances from mildly recruited players such as linebacker Chris Borland and defensive end J.J. Watt. Finding those players is about talent evaluation and a little luck, but it’s also an inexact process. In other words, a two- or three-star diet in the SEC probably won’t work.

 

That’s why it’s crucial for Arkansas to improve on four straight years of back-end SEC recruiting (ninth or worse) while developing a few breakout players from the current roster.

 

Despite impressive defensive line play last season, the Razorbacks still ranked last in the SEC in scoring defense (in league games) because of the inconsistency in the back seven. Finding impact players at linebacker and cornerback will be huge, as if that weren’t obvious from LSU’s final-minutes win over the Razorbacks on an Anthony Jennings’ deep ball. These were the most depleted positions when Bielema took over.

 

In spring ball, Bielema was high on cornerbacks Jared Collins, Tevin Mitchel and Carroll Washington. The Razorbacks will return at least four impact upperclassmen in the secondary, and don’t be surprised if freshman safety Randy Ramsey plays early and often. One league head coach says Ramsey has All-SEC potential.

 

Middle linebacker Brooks Ellis and weak-side linebacker Martrell Spaight will have another year of starter’s experience. Otha Peters is finally healthy.

 

The defensive line is an advantage thanks to All-SEC candidate Trey Flowers off the edge and tackle Darius Philon, who had nine tackles for a loss a year ago. Those two can only do so much to aid Arkansas’ 25 touchdown passes allowed in 2013, second-to-last in the league.

 

On offense, Arkansas will need continued improvement from tight end Hunter Henry, who was productive yet erratic as a freshman with 28 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns.

 

Keep an eye on early enrollee quarterback Rafe Peavey, who might push Brandon Allen for starter’s reps.

 

Can the Hogs Go Vertical?

 

Arkansas will have one of the league’s best rushing attacks thanks to Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, each of whom could eclipse 1,000 yards this year. One problem: That’s about all the offense has right now, at least on paper.

 

Keeping more than seven defenders out of the box could be the difference between 3–9 and bowl eligibility.

 

Bielema is dedicated to the power-run offense with I-formations and play-actions. Alabama does this, too. Georgia does some of it. So does LSU. But those three programs have enjoyed stability at head coach and surefire top-10 recruiting classes anchored by 320-pounders who specialize in pancakes.

 

Arkansas might have a decent offensive line but not enough to offset the dearth of playmaking on the edge.

 

For four straight seasons (2009-12), Arkansas’ passing game produced a 3,000-yard passer, the only SEC team to do so.

 

Last year, Brandon Allen and his backups couldn’t eclipse 1,800.

 

Even the SEC is deviating from its traditional ways — most teams run a ton of nickel and dime defense — yet Bielema and Nick Saban still spin the oldies.

 

Allen’s 10 interceptions and a league-low quarterback rating (109.02) among starters of at least nine games suggest he’s not the answer. But obviously Allen aims to change that.

 

Wide receiver Demetrius Wilson was supposed to break out last year but tore his ACL before the season. He didn’t practice in the spring. Leading returning receiver Keon Hatcher could make a jump, but his 27 catches a year ago illustrate the team’s lack of depth. The Razorbacks need at least two receivers to emerge.

 

Collins is phenomenal. The running game will probably be, too. Doesn’t mean Arkansas will score enough. It needs more balance.

 

Reason for Hope

 

Mizzou and Auburn playing in the SEC title game was the best and worst thing that could have happened to Arkansas.

 

The respective Tigers vaulting from a combined two conference wins in 2012 to championship contenders the next reminded Arkansas that SEC teams, like in the NFL, can enjoy quick turnarounds.

 

But those two teams’ rosters weren’t Brazilian-model-thin like Arkansas’. Auburn had several top-five recruiting classes under Gene Chizik. Mizzou had dynamic playmaking and a stout defensive line.

 

Now, Arkansas fans might expect a similar ascension in Fayetteville, even if the rebuilding job is far greater.

 

A near-certainty is that Arkansas will improve. It has to win one conference game, right? A beast of an SEC West doesn’t help, but enough optimism exists for Bielema to sell it at booster tours and press conferences. After October blowouts by South Carolina and Alabama by a combined 104–7 score, Arkansas fought back. The Razorbacks had a chance to win their final three games.

 

When in doubt, play to your strengths — the offensive/defensive line and the running game. Then, develop a passing game, and Arkansas might have something.

 

That places the onus on Bielema to reignite his rep as a defensive specialist.

 

After all that, it’s still gonna take some time.

 

Written by Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) of CBSSports.com for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 SEC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Bret Bielema Faces Tough Rebuilding Project; Hogs Looking for Progress in 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/jimbo-fisher-improved-facilities-florida-state-nation-elite
Body:

Jimbo Fisher was only kidding, but the image he conjured during a press conference before Florida State’s spring practices commenced was colorful and plenty accurate.

 

When asked about the challenges of moving forward with a program that has aspirations of national contention every year, Fisher likened himself to his children, who seem to spend the majority of their time around him looking for something other than fatherly advice.

 

“They go to mom a lot, but they come to me for money,” Fisher said to big laughs.

 

Fisher plays that role when he speaks with FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox. It takes more than fine athletes to satisfy the appetite of big winners. There have to be facilities fit for the most exclusive country club — Oregon has a barbershop in its football building — donors willing to wield platinum checkbooks, and a support system capable of helping players with their classwork and the normal rigors of college life. The list doesn’t end. And neither do Fisher’s requests.

 

“I always have something for them, I promise you,” Fisher says.

 

It’s hard to believe Fisher would have to draw up a wish list at Florida State, but the Seminole program is not yet on a par with some of college football’s aristocracy, despite last year’s national championship and the Bowden heyday, which included 14 straight years of double-digit wins and top-five finishes, and two national titles. FSU is just now reaching parity with the best of the best in terms of facilities and has finally begun to mobilize its donor base to fund the program on a level that’s in line with its competitors.

 

Despite its huge success during the late ’80s and ’90s, Florida State is not found on the rolls of college football’s most tradition-bound programs. It didn’t start playing ball until 1947 and wasn’t even thought about beyond the state lines until Bowden took over in ’76. Without generations of alumni and donors to draw upon, and with a location that makes it hard for fans to come for games and stay, FSU has had to move quickly to create an infrastructure congruent with that of its competition. Doing that leads to wins, but it also convinces Fisher that Tallahassee is the place to stay long-term and end annual rumors that he is a candidate for whatever top job (say, Texas) happens to open.

 

“I think we have been behind,” says senior associate AD Monk Bonasorte, who was a standout defensive player for Bowden from 1977-80. “The facilities we’ve added have helped us.”

 

Last year, the Noles opened an indoor practice facility. By the start of this season, they will have new locker, meeting and office space. It all matters, even the ability to practice inside, which doesn’t seem to mean much in Florida. Snow and cold aren’t the issues in Tallahassee, but freak late summer and fall rainstorms are. So are hours of lightning that can prevent outdoor work. The new team amenities need no explanation, other than to say that premium high school recruits are savvy enough to know whether lockers are made of cherry or mahogany. There’s no barbershop planned, but it isn’t 78 degrees in mid-March in Eugene, Ore., either.

 

“Every day, other institutions are continually improving their facilities,” Wilcox says. “That’s what we have to work at on an annual basis.”

 

When Fisher approaches Wilcox or any other administrator with his wish list, he does so knowing that everything he wants is necessary. Remember that he fell out of the Nick Saban coaching tree, so his requests are made to create a climate that will allow him to compete with the Alabama sideline cyclone, and not just for esoteric reasons. Saban has set the template, and Fisher is following it. “If you’re sitting still, someone is going past you,” Fisher says.

 

One of the keys to the fundraising efforts that have supported the facility growth is the re-engagement of Bowden, who remains a living legend in the state, despite the program’s struggles during his final four seasons. Bowden’s decision to step out of the limelight during Fisher’s first few years was generous, but Bowden has moved back into the public consciousness and has been helpful in the school’s identifying some previously untapped resources and enticing them to endow the program.

 

The one thing that even Bowden can’t overcome is Tallahassee. Nestled in Northwest Florida, about 20 miles from the Georgia border, the state capital isn’t easily reached by most of the state. Further, because it isn’t home to much industry or many business headquarters, there isn’t a hospitality infrastructure that can accommodate thousands of fans who want to stay for home football weekends. It may sound ridiculous, but this is the first year in several that the Noles sold out their season ticket allotment. And that’s as much due to the arrivals of Clemson, Florida and Notre Dame as it is to the residual excitement of last year’s national title or to the growing affection for the program.

 

It is a testament to Bowden’s charisma that the Seminoles were able to sustain such overwhelming success for so long without the same tradition or facilities as the schools against which they competed for recruits. Personality went a long way at the end of last century. These days, brick and mortar — not to mention funky uniforms — are what draw top talent, and Florida State has taken the necessary steps to make sure that big-time recruits have no reason to look elsewhere. That also goes for Fisher, whose new contract, announced right before the title game win over Auburn, is worth $4.015 million annually and makes him one of the top 10-15 highest-paid coaches in the country. As long as he has the ability to mine the fertile Florida talent vein with the same facilities as do his rivals — and gets paid like a CEO — he will stick around. And Florida State will continue to win big.

 

“Different people take different jobs for different reasons, and you would hope the success Jimbo has here and the opportunities he has to win are enough,” Bonasorte says. “Coaches want to win. At Florida State, with the availability of recruiting and the kids you can bring in, you should be able to win.”

 

Even with all of that, Fisher’s going to keep asking for more. And Wilcox had better have his wallet at the ready.

 

This is going to get pretty expensive.

 

Written by Michael Bradley (@DailyHombre) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 ACC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Jimbo Fisher's Drive and Improved Facilities Push FSU Among Nation's Elite
Post date: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-most-pathetic-nfl-teams-expansion
Body:

The Seattle Seahawks own the 16-game NFL record for fewest points scored with 140 in 1992. Seattle also owns the all-time mark for fewest yards in a game when it totaled minus-7 yards against the L.A. Rams in 1979.

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the modern NFL mark for worst point differential by being outscored by 287 points in 1976. The Baltimore Colts allowed an NFL-record 533 points back in 1981. The Houston Oilers claim the NFL mark for most interceptions thrown in a single season with 48 picks tossed in 1962. And the Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s single-season sacks allowed mark with 104 back in 1986.
 

Needless to say, there are many ways to measure NFL ineptitude. So while offensive and defensive statistical production (or lack thereof) is a huge factor in measuring pathetic-ness, wins and losses are still the most important way to evaluate any team.
 

Who are the worst NFL teams since expansion in 2002?
 

1. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)

Point Differential: -249 (268 PF, 517 PA)

Offense: 30th (268.3 ypg), 27th (16.8 ppg)

Defense: 32nd (404.4 ypg), 32nd (32.3 ppg)


No other team has ever gone winless in the modern NFL era (16-game regular season), which means the Detroit Lions must be considered the worst team due in large part to the massive "0" in the win column. Winning is all that really matters in sports and the Lions failed in truly epic fashion. Top it off with the worst defense of the expansion era, as this team fell just 16 points shy of setting an NFL record for points allowed (533). This team posted an NFL-worst four interceptions on defense, was next to last in sacks allowed (52.0) and finished 14th in the NFC in turnover differential. Dan Orlovsky led a five-man QB platoon that featured 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a combined 71.3 QB rating.


2. 2009 St. Louis Rams (1-15)

Pt Differential: -261 (175 PF, 436 PA)

Offense: 29th (279.4 ypg), 32nd (10.9 ppg)

Defense: 29th (372.8 ypg), 31st (27.3 ppg)


This team redefined the term offensive struggles as its 175 points were only 35 away from the NFL mark set by Seattle (140) in 1992. It is the all-time low for a Rams team that played 16 games while the 261-point differential is the worst in franchise history as well. Marc Bulger was the leading passer with 1,469 yards, 5 TDs and 6 INTs. The team itself finished with 12 total TD passes and 21 INTs and a collective passer rating of 64.0. The Rams were shutout twice and scored 10 or fewer points in nine games. St. Louis also finished 31st in the NFL in turnover margin (-13). The Rams were one of only three teams since 2002 to win one or fewer games.


3. 2009 Detroit Lions (2-14)

Pt Differential: -232 (262 PF, 494 PA)

Offense: 26th (299.0 ypg), 27th (16.4 ppg)

Defense: 32nd (392.1 ypg), 32nd (30.9 ppg)


While the '09 Rams set offensive football back two decades, the '09 Lions continued to show its lack of defensive prowess. The Rams did defeat the Lions (17-10) that year, but for the season, Detroit scored nearly 100 more points and won twice as many games. This Lions team also finished dead last in turnover margin (-18) and No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford missed the final six games of the season. The Lions went 0-6 after Stafford was lost.


4. 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15)

Pt Differential: -170 (267 PF, 437 PA)

Offense: 28th (287.5 ypg), 26th (16.7 ppg)

Defense: 23rd (342.2 ypg), 30th (27.3 ppg)


This version of the Fish lost the first 13 games of the season before winning their only game of the year over Baltimore. Cleo Lemon was 1-6 as the starter, John Beck went 0-4 and Trent Green was 0-5. The trio combined to throw 12 touchdown passes — 16 fewer than the opposition. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing after playing only seven games (602 yards) while Jesse Chatman actually got the most carries (128). The only shot Cam Cameron has had to be a head coach in the NFL was his one-win season at the helm of the Dolphins.


5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (2-14)

Pt Differential: -233 (232 PF, 465 PA)

Offense: 27th (287.3 ypg), 31st (14.5 ppg)

Defense: 28th (371.9 ypg), 31st (29.1 ppg)


The 233-point scoring differential was a franchise record at the time and would still be the Rams' worst-ever scoring season had it not been for the 2009 team that came along the next year. This team lost the final 10 games of the year and scored only 19 offensive touchdowns all season. In fact, this offense was the most scored upon OFFENSE in the NFL. That is right, the Rams offense had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns, a number that tied for the league lead.


6. 2011 St. Louis Rams (2-14)

Pt Differential: -214 (193, 407)

Offense: 31st, (283.6 ypg), 32nd (12.1 ppg)

Defense: 22nd (358.4 ypg), 26th (25.4 ppg)


If not for the 2008 and '09 teams, this team would have been the most outscored Rams team in history. The 193 total points scored are the second-worst in team history for one that played 16 games. Losing Sam Bradford to an injury after 10 games certainly didn't help the offense as the team finished with nine touchdown passes and a paltry 53.2 percent completion rate. St. Louis also led the league in sacks allowed with 55.0 while the rushing attack contributed only seven scores of its own.


7. 2010 Carolina Panthers (2-14)

Pt Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)

Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)

Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)


The offense did little to contribute to this football team whatsoever. Not only were the 196 total points scored the worst in the 18-year history of the franchise, but this season also was the only time the Panthers failed to reach 250 points. Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1) combined for a nasty 9:21 TD:INT ratio while finishing 30th in 3rd downs (30.4 percent) and 25th in turnover margin. To top it off, the 408 points allowed were third worst in franchise history on the defensive side of the ball.


8. 2011 Indianapolis Colts (2-14)

Pt Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)

Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)

Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)


Obviously, without Peyton Manning, the Colts experienced its worst season since 1998, No. 18's rookie year. If not for a "torrid" 2-1 finish to the year, the Colts were in danger of challenging the winless Lions of 2008. In the first 13 losses, Indy allowed less than 23 points only one time. The total points scored, which included only 14 total touchdown passes (or 12 less than Manning's career low), and point differential were the worst numbers for the Colts since the 1993 season. The top ball carrier, Donald Brown, led the team in rushing despite making just two starts all year (645 yards).


9. 2004 San Francisco 49ers (2-14)

Pt Differential: -193 (259, 452)

Offense: 26th (286.6 ypg), 30th (16.2 ppg)

Defense: 24th (342.6 ypg), 32nd (28.3 ppg)


San Francisco was two games worse than every other team in the NFL that year, and, technically, the 49ers were winless in regulation as both wins came in overtime. The Niners were 30th in the NFL in points scored and dead last in points allowed while finishing 31st in turnover margin (-19). Tim Rattay (1-8) and Ken Dorsey (1-6) were equally ineffective, throwing 16 TDs against 21 INTs and completing only 57.9 percent of their passes. The ground game finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at just over 90 yards per game. The 452 points allowed were one point shy of the franchise record set in 1999 and the 193-point differential was an organizational record.


10. 2005 Houston Texans (2-14)

Pt Differential: -171 (260, 431)

Offense: 30th (253.3 ypg), 26th (16.3 ppg)

Defense: 31st (364.0 ypg), 32nd (26.9 ppg)
 

There were some bad Texans team and David Carr paid a big price. After getting sacked a league-worst 76 times as a rookie, Houston once again led the league in sacks allowed in 2005 with 68. This franchise will be playing in just its 13th season this fall, but the '05 team set the benchmark for fewest wins (tied with last year's team), points allowed and point differential, all of which led to the firing of Dom Capers. Carr started every game and averaged a pathetic 155.5 yards passing per game, threw only 14 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions and fumbled 17 times.
 

The...Worst of the Rest?
 

2012 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

This team was outscored by nearly 200 points (minus-189), yet beat the Tennessee Titans as well as a shocking early season upset of the Colts. This team ranked 29th in total offense and 30th in total defense in 2012.


2004 Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Began 3-3 before losing nine straight in which they scored more than 15 points only one time. Trailed only the Niners for worst record. The offense was led by Jeff Garcia for 10 games, Luke McCown for four and Kelly Holcombe for two.
 

2002 Houston Texans (4-12)

The lowest scoring team in franchise history (213 pts) finished last in total offense as well as sacks allowed with 76. The first year of the Texans was salvaged by two strange wins over playoff teams (NYG, PIT) and is the only thing keeping this team out of the top ten.


2011 Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12)

The Bucs led the league in turnovers (40) and posted the worst turnover margin (-16) in 2011. After starting 4-2, Tampa Bay crumbled down the stretch with 10 straight losses and set a franchise mark with 494 points allowed (keep in mind, that is a BUCCANEERS franchise record).
 

2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)

This team couldn't get off the field in 2008 as it was the worst 3rd down team in the league (47.4 percent) and dead last in sacks (10). It finished 31st in total defense and the 440 points allowed and -149-point differential are Chiefs single-season records.


2006 Oakland Raiders (2-14)

The Silver and Black defense was good enough to keep them out of the top ten, but the offense was nearly historic in its struggles. The 168 points scored were 28 away from the all-time NFL mark, these Raiders finished dead last in sacks allowed (72), turnover margin (-20) and both scoring and total offense. Oakland was also 31st in the league with 23 interceptions thrown.

Teaser:
10 Most Pathetic NFL Teams Since Expansion
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/will-muschamps-future-florida-hinges-revamped-offense
Body:

The days of Steve Spurrier’s Fun ’n’ Gun are long past — relegated to record books, YouTube clips and faded memories among longtime Florida Gators fans.

 

Tim Tebow is doing TV, Percy Harvin is preparing for his sixth NFL season and Urban Meyer is coaching at Ohio State.

 

The Gators’ offense followed them out the door, apparently never to return.

 

Left now are question marks, coaching transition and waning patience from even the most loyal Florida fans.

 

Head coach Will Muschamp enters his fourth year on the hot seat following the program’s first losing season since 1979. While Muschamp’s defenses have finished each year ranked in the top 10 nationally, his offenses have not once cracked the top 100. The Gators averaged 14.4 points during a seven-game losing streak to cap 2013’s 4–8 season, leaving Muschamp with time for one more Hail Mary to save his coaching career in Gainesville.

 

Enter Kurt Roper, the longtime protégé of Duke head coach and quarterback whiz David Cutcliffe, one-time mentor of Eli Manning at Ole Miss and the man handed one of the toughest jobs in college football.

 

Roper’s up-tempo scheme carried the Blue Devils to new heights and helped Duke’s offense go toe-to-toe with Johnny Football and Texas A&M during a shootout loss in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Now, Roper has one offseason at Florida to teach his system to a collection of unprovens, unknowns and underachievers.

 

Or else he and the Gators’ coaching staff might not be back for another offseason.

 

“We have to produce,” Muschamp says. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. I’d feel a little bit more uncomfortable if we didn’t have some of the talented players we have on our football team.


Florida's Offense Over the Last Three Years
 2013
(SEC rank)
2012
(SEC rank)
2011
(SEC rank)
Total offense316.7 ypg
(14th)     
334.0 ypg
(12th)
328.7 ypg
(10th)
Yards per play4.79 ypp
(14th)
5.25 ypp
(12th)
5.42 ypp
(6th)
Rushing145.8 ypg
(13th)
187.7 ypg
(3rd)
143.0 ypg
(8th)
Passing170.9 ypg
(12th)
146.3 ypg
(14th)
185.7 ypg
(5th)
Scoring18.8 ppg
(14th) 
26.5 ppg
(10th)
25.5 ppg
(8th)

“I feel confident in the players we have and the changes we’ve made in our staff moving forward.”

 

The Gators finished 2013 ranked last in the SEC in points and yards. Even in 2012, when Florida went 11–2 and earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl, the Gators were last in the league in passing.

 

The day after Florida’s season ended with a 37–7 loss to Florida State and without a bowl bid for the first time in 23 years, Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis after two seasons.

 

Muschamp is banking on Roper and veteran offensive line coach Mike Summers to tap into the potential of a host of high-level recruits who have failed to produce as planned.

 

Chief among them is junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who will be the key if the Gators’  offense is to turn things around in 2014. Driskel is 11–3 as a starter at Florida, but he rode the coattails of the nation’s best defense as a sophomore in 2012, finishing with 12 touchdown passes and 35 sacks, many because he held onto the ball too long. Last season, Driskel had five turnovers, including three critical miscues during a 21–16 loss at Miami, before he broke his leg in the season’s third game, against Tennessee.

Related: College Football's Top Players Returning From Injury for 2014

 

But one thing Driskel has shown he can do is run; he totaled 716 rushing yards, not including sacks, in 2012.

 

Roper will place Driskel in the shotgun and use the spread formation to highlight the dual-threat abilities that made him the nation’s No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2011. Too often, Driskel appeared paralyzed by the decision-making required of Pease’s pro-style system.

 

“He’s talented, folks,” Roper said in March during spring practices. “I mean we’re sitting here talking about a guy that’s really, really gifted. And his experience shows whenever we have conversations. He understands football. It’s not his first rodeo.”

 

Upbeat evaluations are as common that time of year as springtime allergies. Optimism also does not hide the facts. No returning Gator wide receiver caught more than one touchdown in 2013, while the tight ends (not including Virginia transfer Jake McGee) combined for four receptions. Tailback Kelvin Taylor, son of former NFL star Fred Taylor, displayed a hard-running style as a first-year player, but the Gators lack a home-run threat anywhere on offense to change a game in one play.

 

Meanwhile, Summers, a 34-year coaching veteran, faces one of his toughest assignments yet when it comes to the Gators’ offensive line. Florida allowed 66 sacks the past two seasons and lost two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries in 2013. UF’s run game averaged 3.6 yard per carry. Worse, the Gators lost their two best linemen, three-year starters Jon Harrison and Jon Halapio.

 

“They don’t have a receiver on their football team that would start at another SEC school right now,” Scout.com national recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg says. “Think about that. This is the University of Florida.”

 

Under Spurrier, the Gators revolutionized SEC football. The Fun ’n’ Gun era produced four straight SEC championships, a national title and 59 40-point games.

 

The Gators won two more national titles using Meyer’s spread offense, with Tebow at the controls and thoroughbreds like Harvin lined up beside him.

 

Offensive talent flocked to Gainesville during those days. Lately, top recruits are jumping ship.

 

When five-star running back Dalvin Cook of Miami changed his commitment in January from Florida to Florida State, the Gators lost the kind of big-play threat they have lacked since Harvin. Cook also left Florida fans with a bad taste in their mouths when he explained his decision.

 

“Coach Roper is a great coach, but I don’t think Florida has the athletes like Duke got,” Cook said. “That’s all I can say.”

 

Recruiting misses, injuries and coaching turnover have plagued the Gators dating to Meyer’s final season in 2010.

 

To see the big picture, look no further than sixth-year senior wide receiver Andre Debose.

 

Debose was tabbed “the next Percy Harvin” when he signed with the Gators in 2009. Since then, he has worked with five wide receivers coaches, four offensive coordinators and endured two season-ending injuries.

 

These days, Debose is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last August, hoping finally to make his mark during the extra season gained by the NCAA’s medical hardship waiver. A five-star recruit with four touchdown catches in three seasons, Debose will turn 24 the day before the Gators’ SEC opener on Sept. 13 at home against Kentucky. He believes he stuck around long enough to see Florida finally turn things around on offense.

 

“I expect this offense to definitely put up some numbers,” Debose says. “I feel like the whole SEC is changing to the spread from the smashmouth. It’s going to be a challenge this season for other teams to stop us.”

 

Roper says that the offense that Florida will put on the field will be far easier to execute than it will be for opposing teams to stop.

 

“The Gators want to have an offense that is simple to learn, but complicated to defend,” he says.

 

The mandate for Debose, Roper and the entire Florida offense this season is not complicated in the least: It’s time to produce.

 

Written by Edgar Thompson (@osgators) of the Orlando Sentinel for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 SEC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Will Muschamp's Future at Florida Hinges on an Offensive Overhaul
Post date: Monday, July 21, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/recruiting-757-key-talent-area-virginia-tennessee-and-florida-state
Body:

There are at least six good reasons why top college football programs recruit the Tidewater area of Virginia. Let’s try Bruce Smith, Michael Vick, Percy Harvin, Lawrence Taylor, DeAngelo Hall and Plaxico Burress. Should we keep counting? OK, let’s try Tajh Boyd, Ronald Curry, Jerod Mayo, Kam Chancellor, Dré Bly and E.J. Manuel.

 

Those are just a handful of the galaxy of stars who learned to play football in the Tidewater area — also known as ‘the 757’ for the region’s area code — which is one of the country’s most fertile recruiting grounds.

 

If you like athletes, grab a map and head this way. Most assistant coaches can tell you where to start.

 

“You name a top-25 program, they are there,” Virginia Tech running backs and associate head coach Shane Beamer says. “Everyone comes to Virginia to recruit now. It used to be probably Virginia, Virginia Tech, Penn State, North Carolina. Now you have Michigan and Ohio State hitting it hard, Florida, FSU.”

 

The 2014 recruiting class included three Tidewater players in the 247Sports Top 100, impressive for an eastern sliver of Commonwealth land with a population of about 1.7 million in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Hampton.

 

That’s not counting Richmond, which is about 100 miles northwest of Virginia Beach and produces serious star power.

 

There are several reasons for the large pool of talent. The 757 is considered a growing area for families, including military transplants. Football is year-round between fall Fridays and 7-on-7 travel teams. Teenagers grow up wanting to play football, because they look up to the Tidewater stars that came before them.

 

“They are dedicated to their football,” Virginia coach Mike London says. “The demographics, the student population of that particular area — there are schools that are still being built. The population continues to grow.”

 

Tidewater players are a passionate bunch, coaches say, so you can’t fake your way into players’ good graces.

 

They will catch on quickly.  The families value loyalty.

 

“You have to be active recruiters there. You have to build relationships. You can’t just come in and look at one player and leave,” says Virginia Tech tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring, “I’ll go in there three weeks at a time. I might as well have a locker room in those schools. A 757 game on a Friday is standard procedure.”

 

Several top programs hit the 757 hard, but not everyone has success. Here are four schools that generally do.

 

Virginia

 

The Cavs try to sign several 757 players every year, and they use the background of their coaches to get it done. London went to Tabb High School in nearby Yorktown. Four of his staffers have deep Tidewater ties.

 

This year, London scored his biggest recruiting coup with Chesapeake defensive tackle Andrew Brown and Virginia Beach safety Quin Blanding. Both are five-star, top-12 national players. And both played for the Thoroughbreds, the area’s traveling 7-on-7 team with which London’s staff has a good relationship.

 

Some critics have wondered aloud how UVa pulled a top-30 national recruiting class despite going 0–8 in ACC play last year. With hard work, London says. NCAA rules permit 7-on-7 camps as a recruiting tool. London says the teams travel to different campuses, and evaluations are allowed.

 

“Quin Blanding and his mother — they chose UVa because it fit what (he) wanted, not because somebody else was saying where he needed to go,” London says.

 

The Cavs’ impressive 757 haul also includes top-150 receiver Jamil Kamara and quarterback Corwin Cutler.

 

Virginia Tech

 

Virginia Tech will always be a presence in the 757 because of Frank Beamer’s clout and the Hokies’ sustained success. From Smith to Vick to Chancellor, Virginia Tech’s résumé with Tidewater talent is extensive.

 

But Tech’s relationship with the Thoroughbreds, who produce several high-profile players, is considered shaky. According to a source, a Thoroughbred coach has held a grudge because the Hokies didn’t take one of his quarterbacks a few classes ago due to the player’s sub-par grades.

 

But Tech still has the trust of high school coaches around the state.

 

Shane Beamer says each year that the Hokies try to sign four-to-six Tidewater players, four-to-six from the Richmond area and four-to-six from Northern Virginia. “We don’t try to do anything differently — we hit the Tidewater area hard, and we always have,” Beamer says.

 

Tech did not sign 2014’s top 757 stars but did get two potential impact players in defensive tackle Ricky Walker and running back Marshawn Williams. The Hokies are also in on several Tidewater players for 2015.

 

Tennessee

 

The Tidewater region has been a sneaky good recruiting spot for the Vols, dating back to the signing of eventual first-round draft pick Todd Kelly in the late ’80s. Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo chose Tennessee over NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech. NFL receiver Justin Hunter eschewed offers from several major schools in favor of the Vols.

 

Second-year coach Butch Jones didn’t sign any Tidewater high school players in 2014, but he did get junior college star Von Pearson, a Newport News native with loads of potential.

 

“Our new staff, we’ve made a commitment to make Virginia Beach a priority in recruiting,” Jones says. “We’ve been there pretty hard this past year.”

 

Tennessee recruited at least 12 different states last year — including 10 in-state players — but Jones considers the Tidewater a “no-brainer. It’s based on the proximity to us and the success we’ve had,” he says.

 

Florida State

 

Florida State could stay in its home state and produce top-10 classes every year, but the Seminoles have had modest success in the 757.

 

Top-100 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi was the third-ranked Tidewater player in 2014. FSU is considered to be one of the favorites for 2015 defensive end Josh Sweat out of Chesapeake. The Noles will also have two other Virginia natives on their 2014 roster — center Alec Eberle from Mechanicsville (near Richmond) and inside linebacker E.J. Levenberry from Woodbridge (near the D.C. area).

 

Florida State recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster says that two assistants have Tidewater responsibilities.

 

“Great area for Noles,” Brewster says.

 

In-state talent will always dominate FSU’s classes, and with good reason. Fifteen of FSU’s 29 signees are from the Sunshine State. But Brewster plans to focus on at least one or two top Tidewater prospects annually.

 

Other 757 Interlopers —

 

UNC, Ohio State, Penn State

 

The Tar Heels didn’t score big in Virginia Beach last year, but they always hit Virginia hard, which means they’ll have more chances at a home-run 757 player.

 

UNC signed five of Virginia’s top-50 players last year. “We include Virginia as an in-state area for us,” says UNC coach Larry Fedora, who assigns assistant Keith Gilmore to the state. “We don’t just cherry-pick it.”

 

Ohio State won’t spend considerable time in Virginia, but it has the clout to pluck a few stars — like it did with weak-side defensive end Jalyn Holmes out of Norfolk. This Urban Meyer stealth special was similar to the Buckeyes descending on Atlanta to get linebacker Raekwon McMillan.

 

Penn State doesn’t have any 757 home runs of late (quarterback Christian Hackenberg is from the middle of the state), but word is that James Franklin has been pushing the area while he attacks the entire Northeast region. 

 

Written by Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) of CBSSports.com for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 ACC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Recruiting the 757: A Key Talent Area for Virginia, Tennessee and Florida State
Post date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Johnny Manziel, NFL, News
Path: /johnny-manziel-brings-new-hope-cleveland-browns
Body:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had barely finished announcing the name of the 22nd overall draft pick when all hell broke loose in Cleveland. Browns fans wasted no time in changing Johnny Manziel’s nickname from “Johnny Football,” interrupting his post-draft press conference at Radio City Music Hall with chants of “John-ny Cleve-land!”

 

Manziel has become the city’s newest savior.

 

In the 16 hours after drafting Manziel, the Browns sold 2,000 new season tickets. It took only slightly longer for Manziel’s No. 2 jersey to become the best-selling in the NFL since April 1. The league’s official website store sold almost as many Manziel jerseys during draft weekend as it did Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow and Andrew Luck jerseys during their draft weekends combined.

 

Related: Does Johnny Manziel Have Any Fantasy Value in 2014?

 

Manziel’s popularity extends far and wide. He counts Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, recording artists Drake, Wale and the Jonas Brothers, NBA star LeBron James and the “Duck Dynasty” crew among his admirers. He’s been photographed with model Kyndal Kyaire’s arm around his neck.

 

If Manziel can carry the success he had at Texas A&M into the NFL, he stands to become the biggest star in the most popular professional sports league in the U.S. Thus, the NFL finds itself rooting for “Johnny Cash” almost as much as Browns fans.

 

“Johnny Football!” Goodell says. “I think he represents so much passion for the game, so much excitement. If he brings that to the NFL, that would be a great thing for us, and I think a great thing for the fans. He’s a wonderful young man. … He’s obviously focused and determined to be successful. I wouldn’t count him out, that’s for sure.”

 

Joe Namath ranks as the closest any NFL player has come to Manziel’s stardom, which transcends football, but the Hall of Fame quarterback played in an era that lacked social media and 24-hour sports stations.

 

During the first round of the draft, which went three-and-a-half hours, 5.2 percent of all Twitter messages mentioned Manziel. TV ratings soared as NFL teams kept passing on Manziel. ESPN drew 9.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched draft in the 35 years the network has carried it. Another 2.4 million viewers tuned into The NFL Network for first-round draft coverage.

 

“He’s a celebrity. He’s Elvis Presley,” says Jones, whose Cowboys passed on Manziel with the 16th overall pick. “And, by the way, he just happens to be a football (player), too. That is what this is all about and the kind of visibility and the kind of interest (he brings), and he is that, so that’s a plus.”

 

Spurned by LeBron James (Editor's note: This story was written shortly after the NFL Draft in May before James decided to return to play for his hometown Cavaliers.) and disappointed by their NFL and MLB franchises many times over, Cleveland fans finally have something to celebrate. After twice passing on Manziel — first at No. 4 by trading with the Bills and then at No. 8 when they selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert — the Browns traded up later in the first round to nab Manziel.

 

It prompted some Browns fans to greet Manziel with chants of “Super Bowl!” when he arrived for the first time at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio.

 

The Browns last won an NFL title in 1964, the pre-Super Bowl era. That also marks the last time Cleveland won a title in any major sport.

Manziel knows the team’s sad history. As soon as he declared for the draft in January, he used the Internet to research all the quarterback-needy teams with top picks. In the only interview he granted before the scouting combine, Manziel mentioned the Browns’ inability to find a franchise quarterback, the biggest reason they are 77–163 since returning to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.

 

Manziel’s quote sounded a bit like a Namath-esque guarantee. 

 

“If … it’s the Cleveland Browns that draft me, I’m going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland,” Manziel said. “I don’t care if they’ve had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I’m going to be the 21st, and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl.”

 

Of their 18 first-round draft selections since 1999, the Browns now have used four on quarterbacks. Cleveland made Tim Couch the No. 1 overall pick in 1999. Brady Quinn (2007) and Brandon Weeden (2012), like Manziel, were selected No. 22 overall, a fact Manziel called coincidence rather than foreshadowing.

 

None offered the excitement and the promise the Browns hope Manziel does.

 

“He’s always must-see,” says George Whitfield Jr., Manziel’s personal quarterbacks coach. “He’s always exciting. You don’t know what you’re going to see. It’s like watching Michael Jordan. You watch him, and there’s a good chance you’re going to see something you’re still talking about next week. That’s how Johnny is. He honestly feels if he has something to do with the circumstances, his team is going to win. ‘These couple of sticks? I can make a fire.’”

 

Manziel, 21, casts himself as a small-town kid who made good. He was born in Tyler, Texas, a town of 99,000, and played high school football in Kerrville, Texas, with a population of 22,000. Because of his small stature, Manziel received only a handful of scholarship offers despite a decorated schoolboy career that earned him the famous nickname that has followed him since.

 

He chose A&M over Oregon, and after a redshirt season, Johnny Football hit the big stage. In the school’s first season in the SEC, Manziel led the Aggies to an 11–2 record, including a victory over eventual national champion Alabama. He set the conference record for most total yards (5,116), accounted for 47 total touchdowns and became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Manziel posted a 20–6 record in his two seasons as the Aggies’ starter, with his final game a 52–48 victory over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in the biggest comeback in school history. In his two seasons with the Aggies, Manziel passed for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns, ran for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns and became the most entertaining, and arguably the most productive, quarterback in college football history.

 

Now, Manziel takes his show to Cleveland, a city of nearly 400,000 in need of good luck, good times and good news.

 

“We definitely liked his ability to perform and make plays,” Browns general manager Ray Farmer says. “We liked a guy who brought all the things when we talk about ‘Play Like a Brown.’ He was passionate. He was relentless. He played fearless. He was competitive. We added a guy to our roster we thought could help us win.”

 

But questions remain about Manziel’s transition to the NFL: He stands under 6'0", a big reason he lasted until late in the first round; he took only one snap from under center at A&M; Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, a former NFL defensive back, tweeted that Manziel played “backyard ball,” which won’t work at the next level; and a scouting report, reputedly from the Patriots, appeared on the website BroBible.com that included criticism of Manziel’s work ethic.

 

While his critics continue to talk the talk, Manziel vows to continue to prove them wrong.

 

“Criticism never gets to me all that much,” says Manziel, who admits he lives with a chip on his shoulder.

 

Manziel had insisted he would measure “exactly 72 inches” at the scouting combine. Instead, he stood 5'11 ¾", making him only the third modern-era quarterback shorter than 6'1" drafted in the first round. Michael Vick and Rex Grossman are the others.

 

It was Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who opened the door for Manziel. Wilson measured 5'10 5⁄8"at the 2012 combine and wasn’t drafted until the third round but became the Super Bowl XLVIII-winning quarterback. Now, Manziel gets his chance to show that size really doesn’t matter.

 

“It’s hard to relate to LeBron because he’s 6'8", or Cam Newton because he’s 6'6",” Whitfield says. “They’re almost mythical. But when Johnny comes in wearing an extra-large shirt like you do, or gets in the car and doesn’t have to push back the seat, or he’s in a crowd seeing eye to eye with just about everybody else, he really is an everyman. But he’s out there playing among these giants. It sets him apart. It’s like he becomes Superman. But he’s the same size as us. I can’t believe it. There’s a level of disbelief.”

 

Manziel insists his heart allows him to play taller than he is, and he repeatedly refers to himself as “a winner.” But Manziel first has to win the job. Incumbent Brian Hoyer goes into training camp as the starter, with Manziel having a lot to learn.

 

Hoyer, a Cleveland native, posted a 3–0 record as a starter last season before tearing the ACL in his right knee. After Farmer informed Hoyer the team was taking Manziel, Hoyer responded: Bring him on. Manziel began readying for the competition three days after the draft when he arrived in Cleveland. He’s put his head into the playbook and his heart into trying to live up to expectations of Browns fans. It’s Super Bowl or bust.

 

“I want to come in and compete,” Manziel says. “I’m a highly competitive person. That’s absolutely a goal to come in and compete and try to make our team better.

 

“He’s obviously had a head start on getting to learn some of these things and he knows these guys better than I do, so there’s a lot I can take away from him.”

 

Manziel already has an ending in mind for a story he expects to be a bestseller.

 

“It’s a great story,” Manziel says. “It’s perfect for me to end up with a team that has fans that are as passionate as I am on the field. Those guys have heart. They’re passionate about a team that hasn’t had an incredible amount of success, and they’re still very loyal, very diehard. That means a lot. … I’m going to come in and pour my heart out for this organization and for this team and for these fans and try to bring some excitement. More than anything, we want to win. That’s how I am. I am a winner, and I want to continue that trend.”

 

— Written by Charean Williams for Athlon Sports. This article is featured in Athlon Sports' 2014 NFL Preview magazine, which is available on newsstands or can be purchased online.

Teaser:
Johnny Manziel Brings New Hope to the Cleveland Browns
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, Johnny Manziel, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /does-johnny-manziel-have-any-fantasy-value-2014
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Even though Johnny Manziel wasn't the first player selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, let alone the first quarterback, no one drew more attention this May than Johnny Football. After passing on him with their first pick, the Cleveland Browns traded up to select the Heisman Trophy-winning dual-threat quarterback from Texas A&M at No. 22 overall.

 

Related: Johnny Manziel Brings New Hope to the Cleveland Browns

 

Now that Manziel will call the Dawg Pound home, the question becomes, does he have any fantasy value this season? Athlon editors and fantasy contributors chime in with their thoughts on Manziel's fantasy outlook as a rookie.

 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports

Without a doubt, the most productive fantasy quarterback in the history of the SEC has fantasy value for the Cleveland Browns. Will Johnny Manziel start every game — or stay healthy for the entire season? The answer is likely no, but his playmaking ability and overall competitiveness mean he won’t sit behind Brian Hoyer for very long. As soon as Manziel is in the starting lineup, he becomes a top-20 quarterback.

 

He proved he could make all of the throws from the pocket a year ago — he is the all-time most accurate passer in SEC history (68.9 percent) — while scoring 93 total touchdowns and churning out nearly 10,000 total yards of offense in just two seasons in America’s toughest league. He is a perfect late-round keeper option and should provide value the moment he enters the starting lineup.

 

David Gonos (@davidgonos), SI.com/FantasySports.About.com

Manziel absolutely does have fantasy value for this season, but he is more of an in-season player to consider than one to draft in July or August. I expect him to start the season on the bench for a couple games, maybe seeing spotty action, before eventually being installed as the starter. With just 12 quarterbacks (on average) starting in fantasy leagues, it’s tough to make an argument that Manziel is a top-12 player once he becomes the starter. But his fleet feet and ability to improvise and make plays, a la Tim Tebow, make him someone to consider as a bye-week replacement once he is playing. If he’s starting, and Josh Gordon isn’t suspended all season, Manziel could make a nice fantasy starter in Week 9, when the Browns play Baltimore and six other teams are on a bye. He has fantasy value, but only on a per-game basis, not necessarily all season.

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports

The only way I see Manziel having any fantasy value in 2014 is through a keeper format. Without Josh Gordon (assuming he will be suspended some length of time) and with an NFL learning curve after playing in a spread offense at Texas A&M, Manziel is going to take his lumps as a rookie. Also, Cleveland shouldn’t be in a rush to get Manziel in the lineup, as this team is still a few seasons away from contending in the AFC North. Brian Hoyer showed last year he could be a capable bridge to the rookie.

 

Additionally, the Browns’ schedule doesn’t give Manziel any breaks. Cleveland has to play Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore — three of the AFC’s top defenses — two times each during the regular season. Also, improving defenses like New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston and Carolina will give the Browns trouble. If you are desperate for a backup in a redraft league, Manziel is a late-round possibility, but I don’t see him having much value in 2014.

 

Eric Mack (@ErickMackFantasy), Bleacher Report

The easy answer is yes. The more difficult questions are at what point and just how much value he’ll have on draft day. The Cleveland Browns are going to have some shred of value in fantasy leagues, and the quarterback figures to be a part of that. Coming out of OTAs, it looked as if Brian Hoyer might start initially. Once Hoyer proves to be the career backup he has been, Manziel should step forward and be a contributor in fantasy, mostly in two-quarterback formats.

 

You should not consider drafting the Manziel wild card until the late rounds — even if hype might force you to do so before that point. Sure, he could be a factor like Cam Newton was in blowout games and by scoring rushing touchdowns, but until he proves something on the field, he is probably not worth his draft-day cost.

 

Matt Schauf (@SchaufDS), DraftSharks

Since 1969, just four rookie quarterbacks have rushed for at least 400 yards. All four finished among the top-12 fantasy passers.

 

Johnny Manziel doesn’t approach Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III in overall talent. He’s not nearly as polished a passer as Russell Wilson. But Vince Young finished 2006 as fantasy’s No. 12 quarterback despite starting just 13 games. He did so despite just 2,199 passing yards and 12 touchdown passes, because he ran for 553 yards and seven scores.

 

Fantasy folks perennially underrate a quarterback’s rushing value. Manziel racked up 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground in college. He joins a Browns team missing Josh Gordon and coached by Kyle Shanahan, who helped design the run-heavy offense that made Griffin a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2012.

 

Manziel will have starter-level fantasy weeks this year and belongs on a roster in your league.

 

(Top photo courtesy of the Cleveland Browns' Web site, www.clevelandbrowns.com.)

 

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Does Johnny Manziel Have Any Fantasy Value in 2014?
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 14:00

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