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When you lose a player like Percy Harvin for basically the whole season, it hurts. It doesn't hurt Seattle nearly as much as it did Minnesota last year — the Seahawks, after all, nearly made the NFC title game without him — but that's a big talent sidelined.

Of course, we don't care about that here.  We're only worried about our fantasy teams, and Harvin is a huge loss on that front. Like with the Seahawks, however, the impact might not be as big as you think.

Fantasy football players were drastically over-drafting Harvin early this summer, taking him mid-to-late Round 3 among the top 10 fantasy wide receivers. He's certainly good enough to finish in that range, but Seattle boasted the league's run-heaviest offense in 2012. No team attempted fewer than the Seahawks' 405 passes. No team ran it more than their 536 carries.

Conventional wisdom would say that Seattle expected to throw it more after trading for the league's best slot receiver. Head coach Pete Carroll said otherwise.

"We really expect to have a very balanced attack again," he told the Everett Herald in April. "The numbers will come out pretty equal with run and pass. We don't expect to change that ratio much."

Maybe they'd get closer to 50-50, but Seattle never planned to go pass-heavy. That obviously would have lowered the ceiling on Harvin, who inflated his numbers the past 2 years by being the only dependable receiving option in Minnesota. Our projections over at DraftSharks.com had him falling short of 80 catches before the injury.

Only two of the top 15 fantasy receivers in non-PPR scoring last year caught fewer than 83 balls. Vincent Jackson landed inside the top 10 with 72 receptions by adding 1,384 yards and 8 touchdowns. Julio Jones joined him by racking up 1,198 yards and 10 TDs to go with 79 catches. Harvin would have had a lot of trouble generating such big yardage or approaching 10 TDs. Thus, cracking the top 15 would have been tough. It would have been even tougher in PPR.

Beyond the run-heavy scheme, Seattle already had Golden Tate and Sidney Rice catching passes.  Rice led the team with 50 catches last season, and Tate followed with 45. No other Seahawk caught more than 38 balls.

Those small numbers might suggest Harvin could come in and dominate the receiving categories, but the team still planned to spread it around.

"We're not counting on tilting the field toward one guy or the other," Carroll told the Seattle Times early in the offseason.  "I'm not thinking that way. We're just going to go play football."

OK, so we've established that Harvin began the fantasy season overrated. But his absence still significantly impacts the rest of the offense. How much? Let's break down the noteworthy players.

WR Golden Tate

Back in the spring, Tate looked like a talented wideout bound to have trouble finding consistent targets as Seattle's likely No. 3 option. Suddenly, however, he looks like a potential fantasy football breakout player.

In addition to Harvin's surgery, Rice traveled to Switzerland late in July to get a special knee treatment. He has since returned to practice, but that kind of pursuit suggests at least nagging pain that could develop into something more at any time. Rice has missed three games or more in four of his six seasons, so it's easy to anticipate missed time.

Tate saw just 67 targets to Rice's team-leading 82 last year. (Tate missed one game.) But his terrific 67.2 percent catch rate easily topped Rice's 61.0 percent, and Tate also beat his teammate by 0.3 yards per catch.  That helped him tie Rice for the team lead with seven TD receptions.

Russell Wilson will have trouble repeating his 26 touchdowns amid just 393 pass attempts. That 6.6 percent TD rate ranked second only to Aaron Rodgers in 2012. But Wilson proved adept as a deep-ball passer, and Tate led the team with 22 deep targets (20 yards or more downfield), according to Pro Football Focus. Nine of those balls proved catchable, and Tate snagged all nine for 343 yards and three touchdowns.

Now he's heading into a contract year, and Carroll has had nothing but praise for the fourth-year wideout. Tate has climbed way up fantasy football draft boards since Harvin's surgery, but he remains an intriguing value with a 10.03 average draft position at Fantasy Football Calculator. That makes him the 42nd wideout off the board, on average, which is still reserve territory. Tate's quite capable of delivering starter numbers.

WR Sidney Rice

If he's healthy, Rice should certainly battle Tate for the team target lead once again. The whole "if healthy" thing pushes him behind his teammate, though.

Last season marked just the second time in his six-year career that Rice made it through a full 16 games. His 15.0 yards per catch sat lower than his rates from any of the three previous seasons.

But that's not enough reason to dislike Rice. He's sure to continue benefitting from Wilson's stellar — and still developing — play at quarterback. Rice will simply be held back by the target ceiling in Seattle. Harvin's absence undoubtedly leaves more passes on the field, but can Rice get to 100 looks even in a fully healthy season in 2013? I doubt it. And that's why he sits near the bottom of WR4 territory in fantasy drafts, now about half a round behind Tate in ADP.

QB Russell Wilson

Harvin's absence probably hurts Wilson more than anyone else, but he'll be OK.

From Week 8 on last year, Wilson ranked third among fantasy quarterbacks. But he did so thanks to an 8.3 percent touchdown rate over that span. That's not nearly sustainable. Since 2000, only four quarterbacks have produced a rate of 7.5 percent or better over a full season: Peyton Manning in 2004, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in 2007, and Aaron Rodgers in 2011. Even Wilson's 6.6 percent rate for the whole season will be tough to duplicate.

He'd have had an easier time generating top-level efficiency with Harvin inside to counterbalance the deep threats of Tate and Rice on the edges. That setup made top 5 upside seem possible — though not probable — for Wilson. Instead he sits near the bottom of QB1 territory with a lower ceiling.

Anyone else?

Tight end Zach Miller could be in line for more work ... if he could get healthy. Miller sits on the physically unable to perform list and has already dealt with knee trouble and plantar fasciitis (foot) this year. It's tough to expect a big jump from him after two disappointing seasons in Seattle.

The team changed its mind on Early Doucet after just one practice. Rookie Chris Harper carries long-term upside but likely won't prove much of a factor in 2013. Doug Baldwin remains on hand but probably won't come close to his rookie-year production again because the team has better options now.

The running backs could find a few more targets, but Marshawn Lynch hasn't caught more than 28 passes in a season since 2008, his second year in Buffalo. He has only reached 200 receiving yards twice in six seasons. I'm not ready to boost my passing-game expectations for him — or call Christine Michael or Robert Turbin a sleeper for your flex position.

Conclusion

Harvin's surgery only makes it easier to expect Seattle to continue its run-heavy ways. An emerging Tate figures to find a few more targets lying around, thanks to the absence of his team's new top receiving talent. Rice should as well but still doesn't look like a safe bet to start for your fantasy squad. Wilson continues to look good, just not as good as he did before.

Most unfortunate, though, you can no longer count on some misguided league mate to over-draft the former Vikings star.

This article was written by Matt Schauf and provided to Athlon Sports courtesy of DraftSharks.com. Online since 1999, Draft Sharks won the 2010 and 2012 FSTA awards for the most accurate fantasy football projections in the industry.

Related: Fantasy Football 2013: Where Should You Draft Montee Ball?

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Fantasy Football 2013: Percy Harvin’s Injury Impact on Seattle Seahawks’ Offense
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: videos, Overtime, News
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Jason Dufner was all smiles after winning this year's PGA Championship. And why wouldn't he be? He just took home a boatload of cash ($1.4 million) and he has a super hot wife. In fact, he celebrated his win on the 18th by hugging and smacking her butt.   

Jason Dufner pats his wife's butt after PGA Championship win

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Jason Dufner pats his wife's butt after PGA Championship win.
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 11:09
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2013-nfl-team-preview
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Jaguars owner Shad Khan began the housecleaning 15 hours after the worst season in franchise history concluded with a thud at Tennessee. And fans still think he waited too long to act.

Starting Dec. 31, Khan changed the course of the team he bought from Wayne Weaver less than a year earlier. General manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey were fired less than two weeks apart, replaced by David Caldwell and Gus Bradley, respectively.

It will be up to Caldwell, the new general manager who was previously Thomas Dimitroff’s chief assistant in Atlanta, and Bradley, who was previously Pete Carroll’s defensive coordinator in Seattle, to spark a franchise that has struggled not only to win, but also to be interesting.

Out of the playoffs since 2007 and possessing only three winning seasons since 1999, the Jaguars are Team New this year — the longest shot on the preseason board to win the Super Bowl. New management. New head coach. New coordinators. New uniforms. New players. And a new vibe.

But it might not translate into a winning record right away.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 16th

Related: 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis

Offense
If he so chooses, quarterback Blaine Gabbert has excuses around every corner for his 5–19 career record. No stability on the coaching staff. Offensive line under-performance. A bad running game. Playing before he was ready. But nobody says the NFL is fair, which means this is Gabbert’s last chance to become the Jaguars’ present and future triggerman.

With an unimpressive free agent and draft class, the Jaguars chose to build around Gabbert entering this year instead of tossing him to the sideline. Some of the moves could resuscitate an offense that scored more than 24 points just once last year.

Reasons for optimism: The return to health of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who missed the last nine games of 2012 with a broken foot, and the expected next step in production for receivers Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon.

The Jaguars have switched to a zone-blocking scheme in the running game, partly to take advantage of Jones-Drew’s decisive cutback style. It’s the same system he ran in at UCLA. If he regains the form that made him the 2011 NFL rushing champion, it should result in a play-action game that will make defenses play honest instead of pressuring the edges and making Gabbert step up into traffic.

Shorts and Blackmon are a formidable duo at receiver — when they’re on the field together, which they won’t be for the first four games. Shorts is the downfield threat and Blackmon the third down possession weapon. But Blackmon is suspended for the first four weeks for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In his place, newcomer Mohamed Massaquoi likely becomes a starter. A potential X-factor was acquired in the draft — former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who will get work at running back and slot receiver.

A key will be the Jaguars’ offensive line. Last year, the team rolled through five left guards and two right tackles and allowed 50 sacks. Drafted No. 2 overall, Luke Joeckel will move to right tackle, and the Jaguars will get Will Rackley (ankle) back at left guard. If the group can stay healthy, it will give offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch options to keep defenses off balance.

Defense
The primary goal for Bradley and new defensive coordinator Bob Babich is to create more pressure on the quarterback and be more stout against the run. The Jaguars’ 20 sacks last year were the NFL’s fewest, and they were 30th in stopping the rush.

Hallmarks of Bradley’s system in Seattle that he hopes to bring to Jacksonville are getting pressure without blitzing, relying on cornerbacks to play press-man coverage, using only one safety in center field and allowing the “Leo” player — a defensive end who lines up on the non-tight end side — to create havoc on the quarterback.

The Jaguars believe they have some of the talent required. Up front, they overhauled the interior, signing Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks to team with Tyson Alualu. At end, Jason Babin and Andre Branch will play the Leo spot in a two-point stance to take advantage of their speed.

Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and outside backer Russell Allen return and need to be better in coverage. A way to mask that deficiency would be to use Posluszny as a pass-rusher; he showed a knack for creating pressure on delayed blitzes last year. Up for grabs in training camp will be the weak-side linebacker, a three-down player who must be able to play the run and cover. Geno Hayes will enter the summer as the favorite, but there are doubts about his speed.

The secondary has been revamped. Free safety Dwight Lowery is the only returning starter, and rookies Johnathan Cyprien (strong safety) and Dwayne Gratz (cornerback) are expected to be first-teamers. Cyprien, who will often play close to the line to take advantage of his tackling, could be the enforcer the Jaguars have lacked for years. Seahawks veteran Marcus Trufant signed in May and will play one corner. The common trait among the cornerbacks — Trufant, newcomer Alan Ball, Gratz  and projected nickel back Mike Harris — is that they all bring a physical element to coverage.

Specialists
The Jaguars were horrid in the return game last year, and Caldwell has taken steps to improve it. In free agency, he signed Justin Forsett to be a backup running back but also a kickoff returner. And in the draft, the Jaguars used a fourth-round pick on South Carolina’s tiny terror Ace Sanders, who is 5'7" but has the speed and instincts to make things happen on punt returns. He represents an immediate upgrade and potential field-position-flipping player. Robinson will get a shot on kickoff returns even though he didn’t perform that role at Michigan.

Placekicker Josh Scobee and punter Bryan Anger both return. Scobee enters his 10th season with the team and is the franchise’s all-time leader in points and field goals. Anger was the controversial third-round pick in 2012 of former general manager Gene Smith. But he can produce — he has a strong ability for a young punter to get off kicks that have equal parts hang time and placement to negate the league’s top return men.

Final Analysis: 4th in AFC South
Until they get consistent play from the quarterback position, the Jaguars will be running uphill in the competitive AFC South. If Gabbert can take a huge step forward in his development in his third year, it’s conceivable the Jaguars could improve to the six-win level, which would give them momentum entering the offseason. Things could be ugly early, which will test the always-upbeat Bradley. The Jaguars play four of their first six on the road, and one of their first-half “home” games is against San Francisco in London.

Order your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
Buffalo (8/14)Baltimore (8/26)Houston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
Miami (8/16)Cincinnati (8/27)Indianapolis (8/23)Kansas City (8/21)
New England (8/30)Cleveland (8/19)JacksonvilleOakland (8/13)
NY Jets (8/15)Pittsburgh (8/28)Tennessee (8/22)San Diego (8/20)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (8/22)Chicago (8/20)Atlanta (8/27)Arizona
NY Giants (8/30)Detroit (8/13)Carolina (8/14)St. Louis (8/23)
Philadelphia (8/19)Green Bay (8/29)New Orleans (8/26)San Francisco (9/3)
Washington (8/16)Minnesota (8/21)Tampa Bay (8/15)Seattle (8/28)

 

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Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 11:00
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If you're a fan of the show "Breaking Bad" like we are, you probably enjoy all of the intense twists, turns and amazing moments. If we had to pick our favorite, however, we'd point to Season 4, Episode 3 ("Open House") when a bedridden Hank Schrader was surprised by wife Marie with his favorite fantasy football magazine, namely Athlon Sports. Obviously Hank has great taste. 
 
The AMC show finishes its final eight episodes, beginning this Sunday, Aug. 11. We're really hoping they do a fantasy football draft scene with Hank and Walter. 
Athlon Sports magazine featured on "Breaking Bad"
 
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"Breaking Bad" Loves Athlon Sports
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 17:30
Path: /2013-athlon-sports-high-school-football-preseason-top-25
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The Athlon Sports High School Football Preseason Top 25, just in time for the Friday night lights across the country. As usual, Florida, Texas and California are well-represented, but there's plenty of talent from coast-to-coast and more teams playing national schedules than ever before.

1. Miami Central (Fla.) Rockets
Miami Central is Athlon Sports’ preseason No. 1 high school football team in the country primarily for two reasons — Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby.

The Rockets’ rising seniors comprise a backfield that many major college programs would be proud to have. And who knows? Maybe Cook (who originally committed to Clemson before changing his allegiance to Florida) and Yearby (originally a Florida State commit who has since flipped to Miami) will remain teammates at the next level.  

“That’s something we always talk about,” Cook told the Orlando Sentinel. “We’re working together every day, side-by-side, so we talk about that every day.”

But first, the dynamic duo will look to maintain the success they enjoyed last season: Cook rushed for 1,451 yards and scored 22 total TDs while Yearby posted a nearly identical 1,448 rush yards and 21 total TDs en route to earning a Class 6A state championship for Willis McGahee’s alma mater.

Miami Central returns all five offensive linemen, including 6'5", 330-pound senior Trevor Darling. But all eyes will be on Cook, the No. 1 tailback, and Yearby, who doubles as the quarterback in the Rockets’ run-based option offense that averaged 39 points per game during a 12–2 season. Central’s only losses were to Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee (ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time) and Loganville (Ga.) Grayson.

This season, Miami Central plays a schedule that could produce a campaign worthy of a mythical national title. The Rockets face local South Florida powers in reigning Class 4A champions Miami Booker T. Washington and defending Class 3A winners Fort Lauderdale University School, and they take a road trip to battle New Jersey juggernaut Don Bosco Prep.

And if Cook and Yearby have it their way, the Rockets’ explosive playmakers will go out with a bang.

2. Allen (Texas) Eagles
Quarterback Kyler Murray topped 2,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards while accounting for 42 total TDs for last year’s Class 5A Division I state champions.

3. Karr (La.) Cougars
New coach Nathaniel Jones inherits the top team in New Orleans, led by Devante “Speedy” Noil, who accounted for 44 TDs for last year’s Class 4A state champs.

4. Booker T. Washington (Fla.) Tornadoes
Coach Tim “Ice” Harris’ son, Treon, quarterbacks a loaded team that will play a national schedule that includes road trips to Norcross (Ga.) and Bishop Gorman (Nev.).

5. Katy (Texas) Tigers
The lone unbeaten team in Class 5A a year ago, Katy has some holes to fill, but that’s nothing new for one of the state’s most tradition-rich programs.

6. John Curtis (La.) Patriots
Abby Touzet quarterbacked the Patriots to a Class 2A state title in 2011 as a freshman and served as the backup last fall. He’s back to run the show in ’13.

7. De La Salle (Calif.) Spartans
Justin Alumbaugh takes over for legendary coach Bob Ladouceur, who steps down after posting a 399–25–3 record.

8. Hamilton (Ariz.) Huskies
Sam Sasso will be the eighth senior starting quarterback in coach Steve Belles’ eight years of guiding the Huskies.

9. Junipero Serra (Calif.) Cavaliers
The reigning Division II champions return a core group led by two-way gamebreaker Adoree’ Jackson.

10. St. John Bosco (Calif.) Braves
Defense will be the calling card for the Braves, who return run-stuffers Damien Mama, Malik Dorton, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Chandler Leniu.

11. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) Raiders
Michael Irvin's alma mater has been good since the Playmaker was in high school. A trip to John Curtis (La.) is one of the games of the year.

12. Norcross (Ga.) Blue Devils
Defensive end Lorenzo Carter is one of the top prospects in the country, tallying 18 sacks and 79 tackles as a junior.

13. Bishop Gorman (Nev.) Gaels
Randall Cunningham Jr. leads a loaded squad that plays a national schedule that includes Mountain Ridge (Ariz.), Bergen Catholic (N.J.) and Booker T. Washington (Fla.).

14. Sandy Creek (Ga.) Patriots
The defending Class AAAA champions are ready to roll once again with offensive triplets Cole Garvin at QB, Eric Swinney at RB and DeMarre Kitt at WR.

15. St. Edward (Ohio) Eagles
A traditional Ohio powerhouse, St. Edward opens the year with a showdown against Cleveland Glenville in a game that will set the tone for the season.

16. Hoover (Ala.) Buccaneers
Marlon Humphrey leads the Bucs, who will face their former coach and "Two-A-Days" MTV reality show star Rush Propst — now the coach at Colquitt County (Ga.) — in the season opener.

17. Trinity (Texas) Trojans
Trinity's Polynesian pipeline continues to boast studs like offensive lineman Lemaefe Galea'i and linebacker Inoke Ngalo, both of whom are rising seniors.

18. Ensworth (Tenn.) Tigers
Nashville's top team doesn't rebuild, it reloads — with power back D'Andre Ferby taking over at running back for Miami (Fla.) signee Corn Elder.

19. Good Counsel (Md.) Falcons
An Aug. 30 road trip down to Immokalee (Fla.) will be a challenge for the Falcons, but it is the Sept. 27 game at in-state rival DeMatha that is circled on the calendar.

20. Gateway (Pa.) Gators
The Gators had a rough transition from former coach Terry Smith to Donnie Militzer, who could feel some heat if Gateway doesn't win big this season.

21. DeMatha (Md.) Stags
Penn State commit running back Mark Allen will run behind 6'8", 320-pound behemoth lineman Brock Ruble in the Stags run-heavy offense.

22. Cass Tech (Mich.) Technicians
Junior quarterback Jayru Campbell has led the program to consecutive state championships and has offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan State.

23. St. Joseph (N.J.) Green Knights
With nearly every key player returning for the Green Knights, anything less than another state title will be a disappointment in Montvale.

24. Gainesville (Ga.) Red Elephants
Quarterback Deshaun Watson already owns state records for passing yards (9,360), combined rushing and passing TDs (155) and TD passes (108).

25. DeSoto (Texas) Eagles
What Desmon White lacks in size (5'5", 150), he makes up for in big-play ability for DeSoto — the alma mater of Broncos pass rusher Von Miller.

Order your copy of Athlon Sports High School Football Preview today!


Teaser:
Led by Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby, Miami Central is ranked No. 1 in Athlon Sports' High School Football Top 25.
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/top-10-high-school-football-coaches-america
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One of the great things about high school football is that many coaches stay at their schools for decades, rather than job-hopping across the land, as their college counterparts do. When they experience success, they don’t look for a higher-paying gig. Rather, they remain in place and build regional dynasties that sometimes make national news.

These 10 men have led schools to state — and in some cases national — titles, stocked collegiate rosters with talent and established winning cultures that sometimes span generations. Each comes from different circumstances, but it’s no surprise that they share some similarities, too.

Bob Beatty, Trinity (Louisville, Ky.)
Coach, Not Friend

In late May, a Trinity (Ky.) High School player approached head coach Bob Beatty and said, “I can’t wait for practice to start.” Beatty was a little surprised by the remark.

“You’re ready for me to scream and yell and cuss and spit?” he asked. “Sure,” the player said. “You’re not my friend. You’re my coach.”

Beatty had to smile, because that’s the way he approaches his players. “I don’t have 17-year-old friends,” he says. But he has 17-year-old champions. During his 13 years at Trinity, he has compiled a 165–21 record and captured 10 state titles. His 2011 team finished 14–0, ranked first in the nation and outscored opponents 697–116. The Shamrocks train, practice and play 11 months of the year, and little if any of it is fun.

Except the winning, of course.

“If you’re going to be in this program, you’re going to punch the clock,” Beatty says.

Beatty spent 13 years (10 as a coordinator, three as head coach) at Blue Springs High School in Missouri. While there, he envied the success and atmosphere at Rockhurst High in Kansas City. In 1999, a friend of his asked what job he would like. Beatty answered, “Rockhurst.” That wasn’t available, but the friend knew of one that was and that was similar to the Rockhurst experience. That was Trinity.

Beatty turned it down.

“At the time, my daughter was going to be a senior at Blue Springs, and I wasn’t sure where my wife would work,” Beatty says.

A year later, the job came open again, and Beatty took it. Since then, the Shamrocks have been nearly invincible. It’s no secret why. At one point, Beatty visited then-University of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, and Petrino told his staff, “Let me introduce you to the only guy whose team works harder than ours.”

That is true. When workouts start in late May, Beatty tells his team: “You had better pray hard, because you belong to me now.” The Shamrocks aren’t on the field forever, but the time they spend is intense and productive. “We try to get more done in two hours than other teams do in two weeks,” Beatty says. There are no superfluous meetings. It’s all about efficiency and winning.

“If I have one more (point) than the opposition, then I’m going to have a better weekend than they will,” Beatty says.

And he has had a lot of good weekends.

Al Fracassa, Brother Rice (Birmingham, Mich.)
What A Run

When Al Fracassa was playing quarterback at Michigan State back in the 1950s, his position coach encouraged him to sit in the front row for every meeting, the better to learn as much as possible. Decades later, those lessons still resonate with Fracassa, who enters his 45th and final season as head coach of Brother Rice High School in Birmingham, Mich. “I learned about every position while in college,” Fracassa says.

At State, Fracassa was part of the 1952 national title team and the ’54 outfit that reached the Rose Bowl. At Brother Rice, he has won eight state titles and compiled 372 career wins. (He won 44 at Shrine High in nearby Royal Oak.) The Warriors have captured two straight state titles and are a perennial power in the suburban Detroit Catholic League. Fracassa, 80, continues to enjoy the job and the players.

“It’s like anything else — if you love something, you’re probably going to stay with it,” Fracassa says. “Ever since I was a little kid, I had dreams of playing high school and college football. I got a lot out of it.”

Fracassa also wanted to play in the NFL, but that didn’t happen. So, he went into coaching. He started at Brother Rice in 1969 and still fondly recalls the top teams during his run. The ’74 outfit had 10 players receive Division I scholarships. The last two haven’t been too bad, either, as the Warriors have taken the Class 2 titles.

Unlike some older coaches, who defer to their assistants, Fracassa remains closely involved in everything regarding the program. He’s the one who opens the gym at 6 a.m. for four weeks during the winter to run agility drills for his players. Those who participate in each of the 12 sessions receive a two-ounce chocolate bunny, which Fracassa wraps carefully in black-and-orange ribbons (the school’s colors). Thirty Warriors earned their rewards this season from a man who remains engaged in their worlds.

“If a kid loves sports, it’s easy to communicate with him,” says Fracassa, who until recently taught world history and physical education at Brother Rice. “I’ve been fortunate that the kids here love this as much as I do. It makes it easy to coach and teach when kids love it.”

No one loves it more than Al Fracassa. Fifty-seven years on the sideline proves that.


Mat Taylor, Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.)
The Smart Wife

When Steve Gervais announced that he would be stepping down as head football coach at Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., Mat Taylor didn’t want to take over. Let’s face it: No one wants to be the man who follows The Man. And after 31 years as head coach at Skyline and other schools throughout Washington, Gervais was The Man.

The players wanted Taylor to do it. The community wanted him. Gervais wanted him. But Taylor turned down the job. “I didn’t set out to be head coach,” he says. The entreaties continued, as did Taylor’s refusals. Until he received a request he couldn’t resist.

“My wife said, ‘You have to do this,’” Taylor says. “So, I applied for the job and got it.”

Since taking over in 2008, Taylor has led Skyline to four state titles and a runner-up finish. The school, which sits 15 miles east of Seattle, opened in 1997, and Taylor joined the staff two years later. “I would have gone to Skyline, if it had been open when I was in high school,” Taylor says. The school has played in the large-school (Skyline has an enrollment of about 2,000) state final every year since 2004, except for the ’06 season. Taylor’s contribution to the run has been a 63–7 record in five years and a pair of back-to-back title campaigns, 2008-09 and 2011-12.

“The biggest thing for the program is that it’s all about Skyline and us,” Taylor says. “Within that simple statement are discipline, unity and protecting the school’s tradition.”

The last two Skyline teams have been piloted by quarterback Max Browne, who graduated early to enroll at USC and take part in the Trojans’ 2013 spring practice. Because of Browne’s pocket prowess, Skyline was a passing team the past couple seasons. But Taylor is not wedded to one system and will adapt his schemes to Skyline personnel. “You cannot be so proud as to say, ‘This is how we do it,’” he says.

Taylor is a full-time special education teacher at Skyline, which requires substantial energy. But he always has enough steam left for the practice field, and that’s a good thing. When you win four state titles in five years, people tend to expect excellence.

“When the bar has been set so high, and the expectations of winning big are there, that gets the juices flowing,” he says. “This is what I do, and it’s the only thing I know.”

Steve Specht, St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio)
The Three Responsibilities

By the time St. Xavier (Ohio) players reach their senior year, they could probably recite Steve Specht’s pregame speech if awakened from the soundest of slumbers. He may vary the approach a little, based on opponent or the importance of the game, but his overriding message is the same.

“During my pregame speech, I talk about the players’ three responsibilities,” Specht says. “No. 1, love one another. No. 2, be the best you can be. No. 3, lean on each other when times get tough.”

The refrain is the same, and so are the results. St. X has compiled an 80–24 record and a pair of state titles under Specht, who became head coach in 2003.

In 2012, Specht was named the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year and received $25,000, $15,000 of which went back into the football program.

Playing in the highly competitive Greater Catholic League, the Cincinnati school draws players from all over the area, thanks to its independent status. But each member of the program understands the mandate to keep improving and that winning big is the only answer on the field.

“I tell the kids the trouble with success is that people want more,” Specht says.
Specht is one of those people. He tells of standing on the podium after one of St. Xavier’s state championships and thinking, “What’s next?” The achievement was great. The joy it brought the school was substantial. But…

“I was excited for the kids and the staff and the community, but I felt there was more,” Specht says.

While that approach fuels Specht’s daily commitment to the game, he is not necessarily looking for anything all that dramatically different when it comes to his team's style of play. St. Xavier will play good defense, run the football and be sound in special teams. “It’s not the most attractive approach, but it works for us,” Specht says.

Specht is a 1986 St. Xavier graduate, so coaching and administrating (he was an English teacher for 13 years before moving up) at his alma mater mean a lot to him. He tries to impart that importance to his players every day.

“It means the world to me to be at this institution, which had a tremendous impact on my life as a young man,” Specht says. “The opportunity to come back and do what my coaches and teachers did for me is all I ever wanted to do.”

Joe Kinnan, Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.)
Tough Guy

When Joe Kinnan tells his Manatee (Fla.) High School players that they had better do right, show up for practice and be on time, he isn’t bluffing. And anybody who wants to challenge someone who beat three different types of cancer is probably looking at a big loss.

Kinnan has won five state titles during his tenure at Manatee, which began in 1981 and has included a three-year detour after his first bout with cancer. His three rules for players haven’t changed during that time — Do right, be on time, don’t miss practice — but he has been certain to show flexibility on both sides of the ball.

“My coaching philosophy hasn’t changed, but nobody’s football philosophy can be stagnant,” Kinnan says. “At first, we were a trap option team with two wide receivers. Now, we’re pretty much in the gun, with a lot of option concepts. We started on defense in a 4-3 base. Then, we went to a 3-4. Now, we’re a 4-2-5.”

When Kinnan was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, he spent three years fighting that and running a series of charter schools for kids who had been incarcerated. But he missed the camaraderie with players and coaches and came back, only to be waylaid again in 2010, this time by renal cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Kinnan beat those and has continued to direct Manatee, using concepts he learned as a player at Florida State and an assistant at Arkansas, Southern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky.

He coordinates the offense but doesn’t coach a position, choosing instead to be a “big-picture guy.” To him, it’s vital for players to be at practice and be prepared, a lesson he learned from talking to coaches all over the country throughout his career.

“I don’t want to hear excuses,” he says.

After all Kinnan’s been through, he’s still standing. So, it would be kind of silly for a player to beg out of a workout because of a cold.

J.T. Curtis, John Curtis (River Ridge, La.)
Family Affair

If you’re looking to sit in on a staff meeting of the John Curtis (La.) team, you might want to try Sunday dinner. That’s where you might find J.T. Curtis, his brother, Leon, two sons, a son-in-law and three nephews enjoying a meal and perhaps discussing next week’s opponent.

“We have a cohesive staff, and that’s a huge key to success on any level,” Curtis says.

It makes perfect sense that at a school started by and named for his father, Curtis would stock his staff with family members. And though some who may want to gain a spot as a coach might balk at the staff makeup, no one could ever argue with Curtis’ success. During his 45 years at the school, Curtis has compiled a 520–54–6 record, with 25 state titles. The 520 victories are the second-most all-time for a high school coach.

His first team went 0–10, but there hasn’t been much trouble after that. Between 1979-82, the Patriots won 43 straight games. From 2004-08 they compiled a record-tying five consecutive state titles, and the 2012 squad was 14–0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today. Guess there’s something to that family stuff.

“The core of our staff understands what we’re trying to accomplish and has the same objectives and goals,” Curtis says.

Curtis’ father started the school in 1962, when his son was a high school sophomore. When the elder Curtis stepped down as principal, his son took over the position. You can just imagine the comments he gets when people hear his name and the school for which he works.

“They’ll say, ‘Coach, you must have done an unbelievable job there, because they named the school after you,’” Curtis says, laughing. “I’ve heard just about all of them.”

Not much has changed during Curtis’ time at the school. The Patriots still operate out of the split-back veer option, although the staff has made a few small adjustments. The defense is primarily a five-man front, but over the years, some four-man principles have crept into the equation. One thing that hasn’t changed is the discipline and work ethic demanded of the team.

Those basics are big reasons the 2012 edition was so successful. The talent was there, of course, but so were the tenets that have served Curtis and his staff for decades.

“The intangible ingredients are so important with any team,” he says. “We had good chemistry and a commitment level. The team was very skilled and had great team speed offensively and defensively. We did not give up many big plays defensively, and we had the capability offensively of making big plays. But the attitude and work ethic were important. We took care of the basics.”

Steve Lineweaver, Trinity (Texas)
Foreign Influence

If you’re looking for a reason why Trinity (Texas) High School is so successful, you’re going to have to look west of the school’s Dallas-area home. We’re not talking El Paso here. And even California isn’t far enough.

The secret comes from Tonga, the South Pacific archipelago, which is known for producing some seriously talented football players. Trinity assistant coach John Thompson estimates that “about 4,000” Polynesians can be found in the Hearst-Euless-Bedford school district, and a bunch of them play for the Tigers. Their presence helps Trinity play an “old-school type of football,” according to Thompson, and also brings notoriety to the team, thanks to the pre and post-game Haka dance the team does.

Head coach Steve Lineweaver came to Trinity in 2000 and has won three Class 5A (largest in Texas) state titles (2005, ’07, ‘09) while helping lift the Tigers to national prominence. For as much success as Lineweaver has experienced, he is almost aggressively anti-publicity, as his unwillingness to speak for this article demonstrates. But there is no denying his team’s accomplishments or its impact within the school and its surrounding areas.

“The Polynesian influence has led to a family atmosphere, and we try to take that into the community,” Thompson says. “(Steve) is big on interaction, and he tells the players not to be the kids who are problems in the classroom or the community.”

The Tigers are an I-formation offensive team and try to overpower opponents with their ground game. Thanks to its Tongan players, Trinity is often bigger than its rivals. The team’s 4-3 defense also aims to dominate at the point of attack.

“We try to run it down your throat,” Thompson says. “We take pride in trying to be the most physical team on the field. Our spring practices are bloodlettings.”

Trinity’s success has made it a favorite destination for Division I recruiters. One year, 10 seniors received Division I scholarships. But it’s not always that way. Thompson says an average of “five or six” players are offered each year but that the 2009 state title team didn’t have any players with Division I pedigrees. Though some measure programs by those metrics and by titles, Lineweaver and Trinity are happy to work one day and one game at a time.

That means the focus is entirely on national power Jenks (Okla.) High, the Tigers’ first 2013 opponent. Perennially strong Texas program DeSoto is next, and Bentonville, an annual bully in Arkansas, rounds out the formidable non-conference schedule. It’s the perfect way to start a season for a team with talent and tradition.

And some pretty impressive pregame and postgame performances.

Matt Logan, Centennial (Corona, Calif.)
High-Speed Action

If you are a Centennial (Calif.) High School football player, you had better be ready to move. Fast. Any team that tries to pile up more than 500 yards a game, like the Huskies do — and have done — can’t be standing around waiting for stuff to happen. It needs to be committed to speed.

“It all comes down to practice,” head coach Matt Logan says. “We do everything at a high tempo, even lifting. We try to get the players to understand the speed we play at.”

Last year, en route to a 14–2 record and the 2012 Southern Regional title, Centennial set a California state record with 8,573 yards in 16 games, breaking its own mark, set in 2010. During his 16 years at the school, Logan has a 173–39 record and won the ’08 state title. The Huskies have also won seven California Interscholastic Federation titles. And they have done it with a spread, no-huddle attack designed to put maximum pressure on opponents and pile up the yards. Think of a SoCal version of Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams, without the funky uniforms — although their all-black unis are pretty sharp.

Twenty-five years ago, there was one high school in Corona; now, there are four. Centennial was the first of the newcomers, and it has swelled to nearly 3,000 students. Logan estimates that about 250 players are part of the program and expects some pretty big things this season, since the Huskies return “quite a few players who have been offered Division I scholarships.”

The key to Centennial’s success, according to Logan, is the consistent level at which all players are expected to perform, in everything they do. Logan praises the commitment the school has made to football and athletics in general but adds that the Huskies reciprocate with plenty of effort and results.

“I think it’s just setting an expectation level,” he says. “It’s what’s expected of kids in the offseason and how we practice, spring, summer and fall.”

At maximum speed.

Bob Milloy, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
Changing Times

For 2013, Good Counsel (Md.) High School will have a quarterback who is not as well suited for the drop-back passing life as his predecessor was. Some coaches might ask the player to change. Bob Milloy looks at things the other way.

“Our new quarterback is a play-action guy and a runner, which is different than what we had the last two years,” Milloy says. “If a quarterback isn’t good at what you want to do, you have to adjust to him.”

One would expect a novice coach to have that kind of approach, but what about someone who has been a head coach for 42 years? No way. Those guys are supposed to be so set in their ways that they couldn’t possibly change. But you don’t win four straight conference titles and succeed at four different high schools by being stubborn.

Now, Milloy isn’t going to reinvent his offense every season. The basic tenets still apply. Good Counsel is going to run the Wing-T and make liberal use of its backs. That’s why his teams have boasted at least one 1,000-yard rusher every season since 1983.

“We play 13 games, so that’s not hard to do,” Milloy says, modestly. Right, coach. In the NFL, it’s still a big deal, and they play 16 times over there.

Good Counsel loves to run it off tackle, and everybody knows that. So, teams load up to stop that, and what does Milloy do? He adjusts.

“We have six core plays, and we try to run them out of motion and shifts and one-back sets and two-back sets,” he says. “We stick to our core as much as we can.”

Milloy will turn 70 in September, and many would consider that a good time to hang up the whistle. But that’s not what he wants. When he picked up the phone in May, he was in the middle of looking at what red-zone defense his team should be playing during the upcoming seven-on-seven league season.

“If I were to give up coaching, I don’t know what I’d do,” he says.

So, Milloy sticks around Good Counsel, a private, Catholic school with 1,250 students that doesn’t compete in the state playoffs. But the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference isn’t easy. In fact, Good Counsel met DeMatha for the league title five consecutive seasons and lost all five. But the Falcons survived that stretch to take the next four championships.

Why would Milloy ever want to leave that, especially when he isn’t ready to stop adapting?

Greg Toal, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.)
The Iron Man

Greg Toal has always been a fighter, from his days as an amateur boxer, when he was never afraid to climb into the ring with guys bigger, stronger and more experienced than he was, to his time as coach at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J.

Toal had never intended to coach a game at Don Bosco, a team that had struggled mightily when he got the call to consider the job in 1999. He had committed to direct the team at Clifton High School, after leading Saddle Brook and Hackensack to state titles. Don Bosco? The Ironmen were playing on a field that appeared more like a sandlot than a gridiron and had lost 17 straight games to their main rival, St. Joseph of Metuchen.

Somehow, then-president Rev. John Talamo convinced Toal to accept the challenge. That’s really all he had to do — challenge Toal. From there, the coach’s natural competitiveness and unbreakable will took over. Don Bosco wouldn’t just beat St. Joseph — it would become a national power, finishing No. 1 in America in 2009 and winning eight New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 titles from 2002-11, including six straight from ’06-11.

“At that point, Don Bosco was at the bottom of the list,” Toal says. “There were a lot of challenges, because they hadn’t been very successful. But you only live once. You go for it. What’s the worst thing that happens? You lose.”

The Ironmen didn’t lose, because they replicated the intensity of their coach. No matter what he has done or coached throughout his nearly four decades on the sidelines, Toal has done it with a single-minded fervor. His pregame speeches are so filled with emotion and passion that former players often crowd the locker room to experience the moment, and on one occasion, a player hyperventilated after becoming so excited by Toal’s oratory.

“I remind them that they are representing their parents and their families and not to forget those things,” Toal says. “Passion is still part of the game.”

A private school that culls its student body from several different towns and socioeconomic classifications in North Jersey, Don Bosco is the perfect spot for Toal and his everyman approach to football and life. The Salesian fathers preach academic rigor and work to create an atmosphere that “empowers young men for life.” Toal does the same thing with his unflinching approach to physical football that has produced winners and compelled players to flock to his orbit, despite the hard-nosed climate of the program.

Toal understands that discipline is necessary for young men to grow as people and athletes. When he was at Hackensack High, he molded a roster of oft-troubled youths into a unit that won state titles from 1992-96. Many of the students at Don Bosco are not at risk — although some come from difficult backgrounds — but they require a similar firm hand. Toal may not need to employ the same straight rights he used in the ring, but his straightforward approach to football and life have served him and his players well.

“Toughness is a learned skill,” Toal says. “It’s not something you’re born with. It’s something that can be developed. It’s a mentality.

“Practice has to be harder than the games. When we’re in tough spots, like Alabama, when it’s 100 degrees, or Manatee, Florida, when it’s hot in the fourth quarter, you better be in good shape. Hopefully, you can break them before they break you.”

By Michael Bradley

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Teaser:
The high school football landscape is littered with legendary coaches.
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 14:09
Path: /college-football/opposing-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-byu-2013
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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 2013, Athlon asked coaches 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.

Coaches Anonymously Scout BYU for 2013

BYU
Opposing coaches size up the Cougars:
“The first thing that comes to mind is they have a great receiver (Cody Hoffman)." …

"But now, with (new coordinator) Robert Anae running the offense, you look at what he's done in the past as a coordinator — his running backs have set records. To me, the identity of the coordinator is the main thing. I think they're going to go back to what they're good at, and that's running the ball." …

"They have a quarterback that’s a threat in the run game as well as the pass game. I think Taysom Hill does some great things." …

"There's a reason they had one of the top defenses in the country last year. Their structure and scheme is as good as anybody you'll play. They don’t allow a ton of big plays and it’s hard to get the ball over the top of them." …

"You try to use your speed and get an isolation down the field on the perimeter, because it’s tough to pound the ball on them. They just have a really solid scheme.”

Related College Football Content

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College Football's Top 10 Independent Heisman Contenders
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
College Football's Top 15 Winners From Conference Realignment
The Heisman's Top 25 Defensive Candidates for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013
College Football 2013: Comparing Preseason Rankings and Picks

Teaser:
Opposing Coaches Talk Anonymously About BYU for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/opposing-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-notre-dame-2013
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 2013, Athlon asked coaches around the nation to talk anonymously about Notre Dame.

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 2013

Notre Dame
Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Irish:
 

“Brian (Kelly) utilizes his personnel well. He plays well to the strengths of the team, and he adapted.” …

“The quarterback’s ability (Everett Golson) to make plays was why they went with him over the (older) quarterbacks. The other guys didn’t have that same ability or creativity.” …

“The tight end (Tyler Eifert) was the hardest matchup on the field. Linebackers couldn’t control him, defensive backs weren’t big enough to handle him. They’ll miss him. The way they used him in wideout sets, flexing him, they did a good job formation-ing you and trying to get a matchup. That’s why I think (Kelly) stayed with so many big formations, because the wide receivers weren’t ready for an offense that threw it 40 times a game. They’ll throw it 25 times per game unless they really develop those skill players.” …

“They are really big up front defensively. Really good there. They make it difficult.”

Related College Football Content

Notre Dame Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
College Football Bowl Projections for 2013
College Football's All-Name Team for 2013
College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Battles to Watch in Fall Practice
College Football's Top 10 Darkhorse National Title Contenders

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Opposing Coaches Talk Anonymously About Notre Dame for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 07:20
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In a perfect world, the Broncos would name Montee Ball their starting RB tomorrow, give him all the starter’s reps in training camp and preseason and then feed him 300+ touches this year.

But that’s not how it works in the NFL. Ball is an unproven rookie. The coaching staff is going to make him earn his role. He ran behind Ronnie Hillman all spring and has stayed there through the first week of training camp.

Still, Ball remains the best bet to lead this Broncos backfield in carries this season. He’s a well-built 5-10, 217-pounder. Ball proved capable of a workhorse role at Wisconsin, carrying 307 and 356 times, respectively, in his final 2 seasons. He led the nation with 1,923 rushing yards in 2011 and went for 1,830 this past year. Ball set NCAA records with 77 career rushing TDs and 83 total TDs. He also totaled 59 catches across four seasons.

This is a well-rounded player with all the makings of an NFL feature back. Hillman, meanwhile, looks more like a change of pace. He’s packed on 15 pounds this offseason but still goes just 5-10 and 195 — 22 pounds lighter than Ball. He mustered just 3.9 yards per carry in his 2012 rookie campaign, struggling to run between the tackles.

We can’t completely count Hillman out in the race for Denver’s starting RB job. He’s obviously doing something right to have hung on to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart all offseason. He’s reportedly improved in pass protection, his biggest shortcoming last year.

Fantasy football is a forward-thinking, projection-based business, though. Just because Hillman is running with the 1s doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all season. And it certainly doesn’t mean he should be the first Broncos RB drafted.

Ball will “eventually” be the Broncos lead back, says the Denver Post. Fantasy owners should be — and are — drafting that way.

Of course, the question is how soon Ball takes over as the feature runner. If it happens by Week 1, the rookie will boast top-15 fantasy upside. Peyton Manning-led offenses have regularly produced fantasy stars at RB. In Manning’s 12 seasons in Indy, the Colts had 9 top-11 RBs. Willis McGahee was sitting 14th in fantasy points through 10 weeks last year before a leg injury ended his season.

But what if Ball opens the season in a timeshare? Maybe he splits early-down work with Hillman, with Knowshon Moreno also seeing action in passing situations. That’d leave Ball as just a RB3 or flex option. If he’s unable to capture a feature role all year, he’d have trouble cracking the top 30 among RBs. And he could finish anywhere between RB30 and RB10 if he takes over lead duties at some point during the season.

At this point, Ball’s potential 2013 fantasy output spans a wide range. That makes him a risk/reward pick in drafts, especially early-August drafts.

Ball’s current 12-team ADP of 4.05 seems fair. He’s the 24th RB off the board in average drafts. If he wins the Week 1 starting job, he’ll prove a bargain at that price. If he’s stuck in a timeshare all year, Ball will end up overvalued. Whether you roll the dice on him in the 4th round should depend on the makeup of your roster. If you’ve already locked up a couple of reliable RBs, you can afford to gamble on Ball. If you’re still looking for your first RB in the 4th, it makes more sense to target a safer option.

This article was written by Jared Smola and provided to Athlon Sports courtesy of DraftSharks.com. Online since 1999, Draft Sharks won the 2010 and 2012 FSTA awards for the most accurate fantasy football projections in the industry.

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Fantasy Football 2013: Where Should You Draft Monte Ball?
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 12:00
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American Football Coaches Association Executive Director Grant Teaff has been tackling the early signing period issue for years.

“Tired is not a good descriptive word,” Teaff says of his on-again, off-again dialogue with coaches and commissioners. “Anxious is better. My goal has always been to try to make everything connected to football better, so it gets frustrating.”

Like many people, Teaff sees a need for an early signing period. As it stands, a player can’t sign with a school until National Signing Day — which is the first Wednesday in February. Until then, a prospective recruit is fair game, whether or not he has made a verbal commitment. Still, 70 percent of the top-rated football recruits do sign with a school they committed to before their senior season, sometimes up to 12 months early.

That means coaching staffs must babysit commitments. That translates into more money spent to keep those players close and greater intrusion into a player’s life even if he wants to end the recruiting process early.

Opponents of an early signing date raise concerns, such as a greater advantage for the big-money programs; college coaches juggling visits with games; recruits who could feel rushed into making a decision with no way out if a college coach leaves; and colleges that would sign players before seeing their first-semester, senior-year grades. If, as Teaff says, there’s a need for an early signing date, when should it be? How will those concerns be addressed?

And most important, can a consensus be found?

“That’s a really good question,” Teaff says. “Practically, there will probably be something done in the next couple of years. Don’t misunderstand me. It may not be an early signing date. There’s also talk of moving college football (Signing Day) further back from the second week of February. There are concerns by some of our coaches they don’t have enough time to really get to know players. It’s just going to be looked at.”

The early signing period talk is intertwined with examination of the football recruiting calendar, which is currently being studied by an NCAA recruiting subcommittee. Deregulation is the hot word these days for the NCAA, which is trying to shrink its rulebook.

“The NCAA has to reconcile maybe what basketball wants does not fit for football,” Teaff says. “Football coaches do not want to be on anybody else’s recruiting calendar.”

Back in 2009, the AFCA proposed an early signing period that was supported by 73 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision coaches. The date would have been the third week of December when junior college players can sign. But the conference commissioners, who control the National Letter of Intent process, rejected the idea.

“I wish they would start listening to coaches more,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez says. “Coaches seem to be in favor of it so it doesn’t pass, but you’ve got these other rules that coaches didn’t have any input and they threw those out there. I really thought we would get (an early signing period) in December.”

Some people have pushed for an early signing date in August. Teaff says the AFCA won’t support August, because the association also represents high school coaches.

The fear is that players who are signed prior to a high school season could tank their senior year. Yet college basketball has survived for years with an early signing period.

“You have to take high school coaches into consideration,” Teaff says. “They feel pretty strongly that’s somewhat detrimental. With the whole process, high schools are the ones that get the collateral damage. I’m a little skeptical about a real early signing date because the last time we ran that thing up the flag pole, the upper echelon didn’t salute it.”

Or as Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads describes the blowback from schools with money: “They want those kids available in January. They don’t want them signed, sealed or delivered.”

Rhoads supports an early signing period to end what a lot of coaches frustratingly describe as “babysitting” their commitments in January. When describing players who commit early, Rhoads doesn’t use the word “commitments,” but rather “reservations,” much like a hotel.

“It’s not a very clean or pretty month at times,” Rhoads says. “You’ve got kids that in large part are committed to a number of schools. Other schools are coming in and trying to raid those kids, and generally it’s the kid that leaves the recruitment open.”

How all over the map has the early signing date discussion been? Look no further than the SEC, winner of the past seven BCS national titles. Back in 2007, SEC coaches voted 9-to-3 against an early signing date. The next year they voted 9-to-3 in support of a November date as long as early signees did not take official visits. That idea was quickly shot down by SEC presidents and athletics directors, who questioned how a recruit could choose a school without an official visit.

More recently, the majority of SEC coaches have supported the December junior college date for early signees. There’s not a consensus, though.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier doesn’t want any early signing period. “A lot of players want to do it, but I like how we do it now,” Spurrier says. “To me, there’s football season and then there’s the recruiting season, and the high school kids get their time on Signing Day. If we start doing it during the season, I think it takes away from your team and the players on your team. Then everybody is talking about a bunch of high school players who are future players.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt would be fine with an early signing period in December if those signees didn’t take official visits during the season.

“If a kid grows up knowing he wants to be a Bulldog, let him sign early and let him have an official visit afterward,” Richt says.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze favors an early signing date in December. But that comes with a caveat: He’s concerned that it would only mean that an already expedited recruiting process would start even earlier.

“We all feel we have to be on the 2015 class and the ’16 class right now,” Freeze says. “Whether that’s real or not, it’s your perception, and our perception is reality a lot. You feel like if you’re not somehow connected with these kids that far along, you’re behind. I don’t know if that’s healthy for us as coaches and certainly the young men and families. I’d like to just recruit one class at a time. To me, that early signing period is for a kid who knows he’s going to Ole Miss.”

One concern with an early signing period is coaching turmoil. What happens if, between an early August or December date and the regular February date, a coach is fired or takes another job? Would the schools allow the early signees to open up their recruiting? “That is a valid point,” Freeze says. “I’d say no. I don’t think there will be a large number of kids that do that. But if they do, they have a great understanding this is the university they want to attend. We did go back and forth on that and I have some mixed emotions on it. Maybe there is some merit having it in January and maybe some coaching changes are made.”

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t buy the argument that an early signing date would be intrusive on coaches because of in-season official visits.
“You already do that now,” he says. “The official visit is more of an afterthought than I think a key decision-making piece (as it was) when I was going through this 20 years ago (as a player). A lot has changed.”

At Northwestern last year, 17 of the Wildcats’ 19 signees were verbally committed before their senior year. That kind of trend has Fitzgerald wanting an early signing date in December to avoid January babysitting.

“That would give kids an opportunity for normalcy to the second semester of their senior year academically and really just some normalcy in their lives,” Fitzgerald says. “This recruiting process is so intrusive on these families. I think it allows us to save some money and then move forward and really look at the kids that are not signed in January.”

Boise State coach Chris Petersen also favors an early signing period.

“It’s usually when coaches get out in December when the mayhem starts and the kids get confused,” Petersen says. “My contention is if a kid is truly committed, then OK, let’s go ahead and sign. If not, don’t commit until you know. Right now, I don’t think it’s a good thing for anyone. Sometimes these kids are committed for eight months and know that’s where they want to go.”

Petersen wouldn’t mind a December signing date to end what he calls a waste of money and time on babysitting recruits.

“Commitment doesn’t mean a lot to some of these other coaches,” he says. “If they think there’s a chance, they’ll keep stopping by a kid, calling a kid, so everybody has to go and make sure everything is OK. We do it too. We used to not do it as much.”

This much Petersen knows: There won’t be a perfect answer.

“The bottom line is, what’s the best compromise?” he says. “I don’t want to see them visiting during the season either. But we do that because kids want to come to see games and it’s what we need to do. So what’s the best thing for the big process?”

Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill says there has never been a recruiting calendar presented that makes sense for an early signing period. Contact periods and evaluation dates would have to be changed, he says.

In recent years, Middle Tennessee lost two committed players “at midnight before Signing Day” to SEC schools — an offensive lineman who is now a starter at Vanderbilt and a defensive end who signed with Kentucky, Stockstill says.

“I think for the schools with unlimited recruiting budgets, (an early signing period) probably plays to their advantage over schools that don’t have unlimited recruiting budgets,” Stockstill says. “The Florida States of the world can fly all over the country to see people. Sometimes I like the early signing period, and then other times I’m not really fired up about it. Until I see how a calendar works, I’m just not sure if we need an early signing period.”

Nonetheless, Stockstill believes an early period is inevitable. “Everybody talked about having a playoff, went back and forth, how can it work, we don’t need it, we need it,” he says. “The discussion went on for seven, eight, 10 years. Now we have one. This early signing period has been talked about for a while. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If you keep talking about it, it’s going to happen.”


Keeping the Door Open
As Bo Scarbrough speaks by phone in May, eight months have passed since he committed to the University of Alabama, and nine months remain until he can actually sign with a school.

He’s in the waiting period stage for a recruit. Scarbrough is an elite running back from Northridge High School in Alabama. In one breath, he says he’s committed to Alabama; less than a minute later, he says he doesn’t know if he can see himself signing with Florida until he visits.

In a perfect world, Scarbrough wishes there was an early signing period. But that’s not reality, so he continues to get visits from Florida assistant coach Brian White. And he gets letters from Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee and others — probably 30 letters a day, Scarbrough estimates.

“I wish there was an early signing period, because it gives you more time with school stuff that you actually have to work on,” he says. “School always comes first, not sports.”

Scarbrough says he committed to Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class in September 2012 because there wouldn’t be a better offer than the Crimson Tide, winners of three of the past four national championships.

“That’s a running team and I want to play running back, and they’ve got the best and I want to compete,” he says. “They have the major that I want to major in, and it’s right here at home. It’s a lot that comes with it that people don’t realize.

At the end of the day, I made my choice, and there wasn’t no sense holding it, so I just did what was best for me. It was a great school, so I thought it didn’t get better than that.”

Scarbrough says he also wanted to get recruiting out of the way before his junior season of high school.

“I didn’t want my team to be like, he’s putting us down for his recruitment,” he says. “I think if a player makes an early commitment, they did it for a reason. I hope not for the publicity of it all over the world. I don’t want people to think of me like that. I did it because it’s best for me. I don’t care about the publicity.”

A commitment doesn’t end recruiting. White visited Scarbrough’s high school and “told me he’s still going to recruit me and he wanted me to do good and wants the best for me,” Scarbrough says.

Scarbrough says he will visit Florida and Georgia over the summer and then Florida State in the fall.

“It probably would have stopped the recruitment if you sign,” he says.
That’s not how the recruiting game works. So Scarbrough is committed to Alabama. But he’s not exactly closing the door on other options, either.
by Jon Solomon

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Teaser:
The pros and cons of the hotly contested idea of an early signing period in college football.
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /high-school/alex-bars-family-tradition
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As debate rages over the merits of providing college football players a full “cost of attendance” scholarship to cover all of life’s needs, consider the plight of one Sally Bars.

She’s now the mother of three FBS college football players, as her youngest son Alex has committed to play offensive line for Notre Dame. He’ll join brother Blake, currently an offensive lineman at Michigan, and eldest brother Brad, a defensive end for Penn State.

“We’ve always joked that when each one has gone off to school, we get a raise, but the times they’re all at home, it’s just crazy. I go to the store twice a day. You would think three gallons of milk would get you through a weekend,” she says with a laugh.

“And they’re always hungry. We’ll finish a huge dinner and then two hours later I’ll see one of them in the kitchen saying ‘I’m starving, mom!’”

You know those “House Divided” vanity license plates? The Bars family would need one the size of a windshield. When Alex, the 6'6", 287-pound offensive lineman, committed to the Irish in May, it meant that Sally and Joe Bars would be traveling between multiple college campuses for the near future.

“It’s definitely going to be a competitive house for the next couple years,” Alex admits.


Bars committed to the Irish over a slew of other offers, including Florida, LSU, Tennessee and Ohio State, as well as both of his brothers’ schools. Unlike other famous football siblings, the Bars family has gone in three distinct directions, and while it’s havoc on the parents, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“For us as parents it would’ve been great, certainly. They could’ve all gone to the same school, maybe one hour away, but I don’t know if they would’ve been happy with that.

We’ve always given our kids an opportunity to think for themselves,” says Joe Bars, who played at Notre Dame for Gerry Faust in the 1980s.

Indeed, Alex credits his father for helping him learn about Notre Dame, but says his decision to commit to the Irish had more to do with the fact that he loved the coaching staff and wanted to attend a top academic university.

“He is really happy, though,” Alex admits.

The youngest football Bars will get to skip the nonstop pressure that normally dogs an undecided top high school prospect in his senior season, but he’s adamant that he didn’t rush into his decision to go Irish just to alleviate pressure.

“For me, the decision was easy. I was going to take as much time as I needed, but I felt like it was the right time when I announced it.”

Having already guided his two oldest sons through the college football recruitment process, Joe admits that by the time Alex began to be courted by schools across the country, there was a comfort and familiarity in navigating a process that most parents don’t enjoy.

“We certainly knew how the process worked, and there’s a different way they go after highly ranked kids. We knew coaches at all different levels and where they had moved to over the years, so you could say that it helped,” Joe says.

“The difference with Notre Dame (now and the 1980s) isn’t that great in terms of recruiting. They’ve always recruited nationally. I would say that campus is about double its size since I was there, that’s about the biggest difference I noticed.”

In addition to an overflow of football talent, the Bars family is somewhat notable for sending three players north despite residing in the heart of SEC country. The family moved to Nashville in 2003, and Sally says her boys consider themselves country — “They wear camo, listen to country music, go to the CMA Festival every year, they love it,” she says — but there’s no shortage of local heat for eschewing the mighty Southeastern Conference.

“We’ve always heard it and still do. Vanderbilt’s maybe two miles from us, and Tennessee has a huge following here. Butch Jones has done a great job recruiting, so yes, you can say it’s definitely felt,” Joe admits.

“Yeah, we’ve been getting grief ever since my first brother went to Penn State. It’s SEC country here, no doubt,” Alex says. According to 247Sports, the youngest Bars was offered by 11 SEC teams.

With every son’s loyalties now locked, it’s just a matter of getting to the games.

Keeping three football players fed is hard enough, but this fall, Sally and Joe will manage two Big Ten football schedules, Alex’s senior season at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville and sister Lauren’s volleyball and basketball schedules.

“You’re making me nervous just talking about it,” Sally says. “There are some games I’m starting to panic over, especially getting to Penn State on a Saturday if there’s a Friday night game.”

The strategy will be to divide and conquer, with at least one parent attempting to make Penn State or Michigan games in addition to one or both watching Alex’s and Lauren’s high school games.

One game they’re very likely to make — Oct. 12, when Blake’s Wolverines travel to Happy Valley to face Brad’s Nittany Lions. That means that Blake, a 6'5", 284-pound guard who redshirted last season, could go head-to-head with Brad, a 6'3", 242-pound defensive end famous among Penn State fans for his blocked punt against Illinois in 2012.

“I’ll be very neutral,” Sally promises. “I’ll cheer for Penn State on defense and Michigan on offense, even though they’re on the field at the same time.”

“We’d prefer that they not go against each other, but if it happens they’re both going to compete hard and probably have a chuckle after the play. But they’ll definitely compete hard if it happens,” Joe says.

“They went up against each other in high school and would come home and talk about it, so I think it would be neat,” Sally says. “Honestly, they still go up against each other in the backyard, so it’s definitely not the first time.”

It won’t be the only time there’s a truly divided house. If Alex plays as a true freshman for the Irish, he could go up against brother Blake and the Wolverines when the two schools play for the final time (for now) in 2014.

For Alex, there’s a benefit to being the “baby” player in such a family, and that’s an abundance of built-in coaching.

“They’ve been great for me. They’ll come back from school and Brad will show me moves at defensive end and Blake will teach me offensive line moves he’s learned at the college level.

“It’s not so much technique, but it’s helpful to know what to expect for each game and how to handle yourself at that level, too.”

There’s certainly a personality difference between the defensive and offensive mindsets in his children, but former linebacker Joe isn’t quick to divulge exactly what makes his sons suited for one side of the ball or the other.

“Absolutely, there’s a mindset for each position, but I’m not going to talk about it,” he says laughing. “They’re all my kids, and I don’t want to single any one of them out. Certainly I could talk to Brad about certain things, and then it was an adjustment for Blake and Alex, but we’ve had great coaches here who have helped along the way.”

Alex is slightly more succinct in the difference: “Defense plays into the type of person that’s a little more crazy. You can’t go wild on the offensive line or you’ll miss your blocks.”

Both Joe and Sally emphasize letting their children find their own way. They encouraged the kids to play multiple sports throughout the year while growing up, both for the physical training and to break up mental fatigue.

“My advice for parents … shop online,” deadpans Sally. “But seriously, it’s to encourage your kids to become well-rounded. Whatever they’re interested in, encourage them to pursue their dreams and to find a passion.”

All four Bars kids play musical instruments, so if the thought of a menacing group of brothers playing on the line is too intimidating, Sally would have you know that both Blake and Brad played tenor saxophone in the band (Alex lucked out and got to play guitar, which was “cooler”).

Alex was away at a summer basketball camp while speaking for this story — despite the fact that, according to Joe, he’s up to around 300 pounds.

“No point guard for me,” Alex laughs. “A lot of center and forward.”

As any proud father would, Joe makes sure to tell the story about how Alex’s basketball coach stopped practice because the coaches and players were curious if Notre Dame’s next stud lineman could dunk the ball.

“And he did. One-handed, too,” Joe says.

by Steven Godfrey

Fathers, Sons and Signing Day

Alex Bars isn't the only legacy player heading into his senior year of high school. Here are a several other gridiron stars following in their famous NFL fathers' footsteps.


Randall Cunningham Jr.
Quarterback, Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman)
Schools Interested: Baylor, LSU, UNLV, Mississippi State
Dear Old Dad: Cunningham’s father, Randall Sr., was a Pro Bowl QB with the Eagles and Vikings in the 1990s and helped to define the concept of the “dual-threat” run/pass quarterback at the professional level.
All In The Family: Jr. and Sr. share more than a name — the son has the same escapability and speed behind center as his old man. He could be a perfect fit for Art Briles’ high-octane Baylor offense.

Christian McCaffrey
Running back, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Valor Christian)
Schools Interested: Committed to Stanford
Dear Old Dad: Christian’s father Ed ­McCaffrey is a Denver Broncos legend, serving as one of John Elway’s favorite targets through two Super Bowl wins in a 13-year career. Before that, McCaffery was an All-American at Stanford in 1991.
All In The Family: Already approaching 200 pounds as an all-purpose running back, McCaffrey packs a bit more punch than his lanky wideout dad. The 2012 All-Colorado Offensive Player of the Year looks to follow in the footsteps of Cardinal backs like Toby Gerhart in David Shaw’s power offense.

Orlando Brown Jr.
Offensive lineman,  Duluth, Ga. (Peachtree Ridge)
Schools Interested: Committed to Tennessee
Dear Old Dad: At 6'7", 360 lbs., Orlando Sr. was a monstrous tackle for the Browns and Ravens for 11 seasons. Brown was nicknamed “Zeus” for his imposing physicality. A bizarre incident in which he was struck in the eye with a ref’s flag interrupted his career in 1999. But Zeus returned to the league before retiring in 2005. Tragically, he passed away in 2011.
All In The Family: Brown is more than a chip off the old block at 6'7", 340 lbs., and after a fierce nationwide recruitment, he’s giving the Volunteers an elite offensive lineman who should be able to contribute early in his career.

Marlon Humphrey
Cornerback, Birmingham, Ala. (Hoover)
Schools Interested: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina
Dear Old Dad: Bobby Humphrey rushed for a then-school-record 3,420 yards at Alabama before being a first-round pick of the Broncos in 1989. Humphrey finished behind Barry Sanders in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting in 1989, was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1990 and retired after five seasons in 1993.
All In The Family: Marlon Humphrey is one of the top prospects in the nation, regardless of position. The 5-star stud headlines a nationally ranked Hoover club, as a lockdown cornerback who hits hard and runs like a track star — which he is. As expected, Alabama is the early favorite to land Humphrey, but South Carolina is making a big push.

Troy Vincent Jr.
Cornerback, Rockville, Md. (Gilman)
Schools Interested: Committed to Penn State
Dear Old Dad: Vincent Sr. was a standout at Wisconsin before his 15-year NFL run, earning five Pro Bowl trips playing for four different teams. He was also president of the NFLPA and named Walter Payton Man of the Year.
All In The Family: At the same position, the younger Vincent is three inches shorter than his dad, but just as physical a tackler and ball-hawking cover corner. He also sees a significant amount of time at running back for his high school team thanks to his natural speed.

 

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Teaser:
Notre Dame commit Alex Bars is the latest member of his family in line to play major college football.
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 08:05
Path: /college-football/big-ten-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013
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 2013, 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 Their Conference Foes for 2013

Illinois
Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Illini: 

“I don’t think Ron Zook left the cupboard bare there. Tim Beckman had some players to work with. They just need some time to understand what it takes to win." …

"It’s obviously a big year for Tim. Look for them to try to establish a toughness all the way around, because they didn’t really have anything to hang their hat on offensively or defensively. They struggled in a lot of areas." …

"These kids are going through another offense. Football is still football, but they have four quarterbacks, and those guys have had to learn several different offenses over the last few years. There’s only so much you can install during the spring when you have a new offense like that." …

"They have some talent. To sit here and say (4-star quarterback recruit Aaron) Bailey can come in and start, there’s no book written on that. There are so many variables." …

"At the running back position, they are focused on being a more downhill, north-south running team — get yourself a 4-yard gain, don’t worry so much about an 8-yard gain.”
 

Indiana
Opposing coaches size up the Hoosiers:

“Although they showed flashes, they didn’t have the running game to help the quarterback all the time. The head coach (Kevin Wilson) is an offensive line guy and tough guy. I think they started to show that they were like their coaches. That’s probably a compliment to Kevin." 

"I know they threw the ball fairly well at times and tried to make the run game as simple as they could because of the young offensive linemen." …

"They played well against Ohio State and hung with those guys through four quarters. Then they lost to Navy the next week. That shows they have a long way to go to be consistent. It’s hard to play Division I football with young, inexperienced players." …

"Defensively up front they tried to be more firm, more attacking, get linemen to hold the point of attack. They got a few junior college linebackers with some guys that played last year." …

On special teams, they had a good kicker and good punter. And those guys got down and tackled you. You could at least see the effort on the film.”
 

Iowa
Opposing coaches size up the Hawkeyes:

“My take on them, they surprised me in that they were pretty physical defensively. I thought those guys did a nice job against us defensively. They were good tacklers." …

"Offensively, they are similar to Wisconsin and Michigan State — run the football and play-action pass. They don’t have a tremendous amount of scheme throwing the football. But they are big and well-coached up front. They need a big back who can pound it up in there. They aren’t going to do zone reads and option at quarterback. That’s kind of who they are. When those quarterbacks play well, these sort of teams play well." …

"Iowa is always consistent running the ball. When they can throw it, which isn’t every year, it’s hard to defend them. Over the last five years or so, they’ve had some off-field issues that might have hurt them in recruiting." …

"They still played hard. They are not an easy game. You never go in saying, ‘Thank goodness we’ve got Iowa.’ They are a good team. They can beat you.”
 

Michigan
Opposing coaches size up the Wolverines: 

“They are a physical group. I don’t know that they are as athletic as Ohio State is, but they are close." …

"They have a great package defensively. Their third down package — (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison gives the illusion of pressure every time. You never know when they are really coming or not coming. It’s the different stuff that he does." …

"Their offensive line is very good, much like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Very physical up front, great defensive scheme. For two years, they were confusing us a little bit." …

"They have good skill players at the wide receiver positions — guys that can get downfield in a hurry." …

"They became a more balanced offense with Devin Gardner, but I don’t know if they have the same threat that they had with Denard (Robinson). Gardner runs well, but he wasn’t as big of a threat. They threw the ball well with him. So maybe he’ll provide more stability." 

"You can tell this is a Brady Hoke team by the way they play up front offensively. They’ll move a pile.”
 

Michigan State
Opposing coaches size up the Spartans:

“Defensively, they are one of the most physical teams. (Coordinator) Pat Narduzzi does a good job with them. They are physical and big." 

"Those two corners were really good. Those guys can cover. They’ll get Darqueze Dennard back, and he will be one of the best corners in the league, but they lost the other guy (Johnny Adams) and will need a young player to step up there. They’ve had a good run of safeties. They are a good team defensively, just really well coached and they play hard." …

"Offensively, as the nation saw, they struggled at times. They are kind of a Wisconsin offense. They want to run the football. They were probably not as good as Wisconsin up front, so that played into the struggles a bit." …

"They have good tight ends usually." …

"There were some games where (quarterback) Andrew Maxwell would make some mistakes and it really hurt them. They struggled because of it. When he was on, he was pretty good because Le’Veon Bell could run it. But they will really miss Bell. He was so consistent for them.”
 

Minnesota

Opposing coaches size up the Golden Gophers: 

“They are an athletic team — quick and fast, especially on defense. I thought they had a good secondary and a good pass rush, with at least two guys who were pretty good up front." …

"I think they will be a good football team this year, I really do. Jerry Kill does a good job with them. They are recruiting well, maybe not getting the 5-star guys, but getting the right kind of kids up there that can fit the system. They play hard. Kill is well-respected in the league. He does a really good job." …

"I think talent can be a problem there. But they’ve done a nice job of identifying those guys and getting the right pieces — a good mixture of tough-minded kids with some skill players sprinkled in from Texas and Florida. They’ve had some success with those kinds of players." …

"These guys can rush the passer and cover and do some good things." …

"They’ve got to find a way to move the ball more consistently, but that should come with another year in the system. They aren’t going to top the league, but they have a chance.”
 

Nebraska
Opposing coaches size up the Cornhuskers:

“Bo Pelini likes a rough-and-tough style of football. He’s always been himself, a very gritty football player and a damn gritty coach." …

"I forgot all about Taylor Martinez being a senior. He’s been around forever." …

"They are run first and run second, and will think about running third. The play-action pass is the big hit for them. You have to stop the run and be aware of the play-action pass. Martinez has made some big plays in the passing game." …

"They had those difficult losses, but they came back and had a nice road win against Northwestern and at Michigan State. They beat Michigan at home. Smoked Michigan, actually. The losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin, both were hard-fought games." …

"Nebraska is Nebraska — with people wearing those stupid hats. It will be fun and exciting. It’s a gritty football team." …

"They got smoked in a few of those games trying to stop the run. Like any good defense, it starts with the guys up front. And they have a lot of young guys there." …

"A lot of jobs will be up for grabs on that defense.”
 

Northwestern
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

“They have some good receivers. They know what they want to do on offense. Their line functions well together. The combination of (Kain) Colter and (Trevor) Siemian at quarterback is unique. They are both good. And I like how they use them. It makes you prepare for both guys, which is hard to do. It’s two different gameplans. I know they have used them both in the game at the same time. Colter can be a weapon as a slot receiver who can make some plays."  …

"I don’t know if you can underestimate how good and how fast Venric Marc is. He was great last year." …

"I don’t think there’s any area that sticks out that makes you say, ‘Wow!’ one way or the other, good or bad, but they are becoming better athletically with their recruiting. They were always well-coached but didn’t always have the talent. They know how to get the best out of their talent." …

"They do a great job up front. They are very smart guys that pick things up well. … They don’t have an imposing offensive line, but they play to the scheme well.”
 

Ohio State
Opposing coaches size up the Buckeyes:

“Just a really athletic team, another well-coached team on both sides of the ball. Keeping Luke Fickell in there as the defensive coordinator was a good move. This helped them in Year 1 under Urban Meyer." …

"They’ve gotten more athletic and faster than from a few years ago. Just a really good team across the board." …

"They grew into a powerful offense. There was a learning curve for those guys, but Braxton Miller has developed into one of the best players in the country. He did everything for them. His decision-making has really improved." …

"I thought the secondary was okay. They pretty much played the chains on third down. They sat on some routes. That’s where you could get some things off them offensively. You probably could go after them a little bit more with the deep ball because of the way they played. I’m not sure if they’ll tweak that this year, but they gave up some yards by playing that way. But overall, they were a very sound defensive football team.”
 

Penn State
Opposing coaches size up the Nittany Lions:

“Penn State, to me, was the surprise team. Not so much because of the record, but they just played really hard. Defensively, I thought they were as good as anybody we played." …

"They were very physical, and bigger than I thought they would be. Obviously their strength was their front seven. They were a team where when we played them, they did a lot of things defensively. You could see a lot of NFL schemes that were in there. Maybe that’s because of (Bill) O’Brien, an NFL guy." …

"They were running a new offense, but that quarterback did a great job running it. They got a lot out of what guys they had. Their tailback (Zach Zwinak) wasn’t all-conference talent, but they got everything out of him. He was big, and he ran so hard." …

"The loss of scholarships will wear on them down the road. It’s not the (quality) of the guys that they are signing, but it’s the wear and tear, lack of depth — five scholarships here, five there. Next thing you know, you’re missing 15 guys. Injuries, things like that happen.”
 

Purdue
Opposing coaches size up the Boilermakers:

“I look at Darrell Hazell and that staff — they’ve hired some damn good coaches. They have two really good coordinators in Greg Hudson on defense and John Shoop on offense. I respect both of those guys." …

"I don’t think this team is that far away. The games that were close, they just didn’t make that many plays. They played lousy against Minnesota. They went to Minnesota like they didn’t care. That might be the reason why Danny Hope got fired. But give the kids credit, after a disappointing loss, they responded with some victories." …

"They aren’t really scary in any area. They had a really good defensive line returning but didn’t play as well as they could have. A few of those players are gone. They probably underachieved there. That kind of explains the season they had." …

"I don’t know who their quarterback will be. That can solve a lot of problems if they can get the right guy there. Running back Akeem Hunt is a player and should help the young guy, whoever it is.”
 

Wisconsin

Opposing coaches size up the Badgers:

“It will be interesting to see what happens with the new staff. I haven’t heard much. I’ve heard maybe a 3-4 defense. I know Gary (Andersen) did some spread zone-read option stuff at Utah State, which is definitely different than what (Wisconsin) has been." …

"Their linebackers are still great. Chris Borland is one of most underrated players in the country. He runs around. He’s fast. He’s smart. He’s instinctual. He’s got everything you want. I think they lose some depth there, but they’ll still be good." …

"I thought defensive end David Gilbert really came on. He’s a guy they’ll miss." …

"They’ve always been good up front." …

"The quarterback (Joel Stave) is very solid, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, not any more than anybody else. I don’t know if they have a great passing attack with play-action. If you can slow down the running game, force them to throw, they can struggle. Regardless of which offense they run, they’ll need the quarterback to make timely throws in key third down situations.”

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Teaser:
Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013
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 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Baylor
Opposing coaches size up the Bears:

“The biggest secret is the offensive line. It’s just flat-out really good —  tenacious, good run-blockers, pass-blockers. But it goes unnoticed because of the skill guys who get good numbers and have publicity. Tevin Reese at receiver is an unbelievable weapon. Big home run guy. Lache Seastrunk is great, but they had other guys who could run the ball, too." …

"The quarterback, Bryce Petty, is a big kid who runs well, throws well. He’s a strong weight room guy who runs decently and has an above-average arm." … 

"They are really talented on offense, top to bottom." …

"The defense gave up a bunch of yards but played really well at the end of the season. They got better as the year went on." …

"No question they made a big statement beating Kansas State and UCLA. They just punished them. That offensive lineman, seems like he’s been there forever, Cyril Richardson, he’s a great player. The tight end, they don’t use him much, Jordan Najvar, but he’s solid. They have a stable of running backs. Seastrunk might be one of the most talented in the country. I know he proclaimed himself a Heisman guy, and we’ll see about that, but he’s one of the best we have in the league." …

"You have to stop a team like that on third down. Absolutely need three-and-outs, because otherwise they will wear on you because they are home run hitters. Really fast at receiver.”
 

Iowa State
Opposing coaches size up the Cyclones:

“It will be interesting to see how the quarterback situation plays out. They had three of them, one transferred — the younger kid (Jared Barnett). They lost some production at receiver. They have three starting offensive linemen that return." …

"They are a good, pretty much average offensive line. But they can move the ball, and they have experience running the ball." …

"(Running back) Jeff Woody didn’t play for them much. We thought he was a load. Not sure why he didn’t play more. I’m not sure if he’s in the doghouse or injured. Not really sure there. Good running back, though." …

"Their talent level is middle of the pack, to be honest about it. One of the things last year is they had very athletic quarterbacks, Steele Jantz and Barnett — they were real athletic. But halfway through the season, they went with the other guy, Sam Richardson, for more consistency. I guess he’s the guy. Might be more of a consistent thrower than the others." …

"On defense, they will take a little bit of a hit after losing their best linebackers (A.J. Klein and Jake Knott). They were tough at linebacker." …

"A defensive tackle that was a huge guy, Jake McDonough, they’ll miss him. He was a good player. But the linebackers carried them. They knew how to play and were tough." … 

"The wide receiver position can be a question mark for them. They don’t have a lot of talented experience there. The strength is in the running backs.”
 

Kansas State
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

“They are losing a lot — almost everyone from the front seven, I believe — but they’ll be insane again, don’t worry. They’ll reload somehow. No team garners more respect within the conference by the way they prepare than K-State." …

"Funny enough, I actually thought their backup quarterback (Daniel Sams) was better than Collin Klein. At least I thought he was a better athlete, which is what they need with that run-heavy offense." …

"Just from what I saw, listening to (our) defensive coaches, that backup (Sams) will surprise next year. I think they have a juco quarterback, Jake Waters, who will compete. But it seems like it’s Sams’ job to lose." …

"Certainly they will miss Klein’s leadership and toughness. Those will be wild cards with the new guy. They’ll create a good atmosphere for quarterback competition in practices." …

"In typical Bill Snyder fashion, Kansas State will be disciplined, they’ll line up correctly, play their asses off, be in the right spots, and be coached really well." …

"Snyder does nothing fancy. Everything about the team is old school. … They’ll still be a team that competes. They are all the same guy, basically. They are robots.”
 

Kansas
Opposing coaches size up the Jayhawks:

“This is probably the worst team in the conference. They just don’t have the talent." …

"I thought the running back, James Sims, was pretty good. He’ll be back. He’s pretty versatile, can go inside and out a little bit." …

"Kansas came out with a new mentality every single week. They’d come out with a new formation and just be in that formation the entire game. We showed our kids every single look, formations and stuff, and Kansas just came out and ran the triple-option all game. We called it the flavor of the week. We told our guys to just be sound and play hard and you shouldn’t have much of a problem." …

"That’s just a tough job right now. Charlie (Weis) is in a tough spot. They do have money there, and of course the basketball presence, which helps. I just don’t see them being very successful long term. The talent is different. Maybe that’s smart to go heavy on jucos, which Charlie seemed to do in recruiting this year, because that might be the only way to find the right players. But then you’re competing with Kansas State for recruits, and Kansas State has had a lot of success with that same formula." …

"The quarterback situation should be interesting, though, because I think Weis is pretty high on Jake Heaps. Dayne Crist just wasn’t what they had hoped for at all. They couldn’t get anything going with him. Heaps gives them a chance, but who does he throw to? They don’t have the receiver talent.”
 

Oklahoma
Opposing coaches size up the Sooners:

“I don’t think they are as talented up front on defense as Texas is, but I thought their back end was better. I thought they had good cover guys. The Aaron Colvin kid, he’s a good cover guy." …

"I thought they would give us a lot more problems than they did. Up front, I didn’t think they had the Oklahoma guys of the past — guys like Gerald McCoy and Tommie Harris and all of that. They just don’t have those guys anymore. They used to have some animals up front." …

"Honestly, I know (quarterback) Landry Jones took some heat at times, but I think they’ll miss him. It’s tough to replace a guy who started that many years. It helped that he could adjust to personnel. And he had some big moments." …

"(Quarterback) Blake Bell is an effective goal line guy but not sure how he’ll do as the primary option. He might do great, but the jury’s still out." …

"They’ll rebound somehow. They kicked all those receivers out (of school), but they go out and still get good players. I know as far as receivers, they have decent players, but no one really stood out." …

"What makes Oklahoma go is quick lining up on that offensive line. They’ve had some injuries there but should be able to do what they want." …

"A switch to (multiple defensive fronts) will help. It’s all spread teams you’re facing. You’re going to have to get into situations where you can drop eight guys, rush a lot of guys at the same time. It’s easier to rush three and drop eight. ”
 

Oklahoma State
Opposing coaches size up the Cowboys: 

“I don’t know anything about the new offensive coordinator, the guy from D-2 (Mike Yurcich). He’s replacing Todd Monken, who’s a sharp guy, (but head coach) Mike Gundy knows what he’s looking for with that offense. They’ve perfected what they are doing over there, so they should be fine." …

"They always have a lot of talent on the offensive side. It’s the same M.O. with them — pretty good offensively, average defensively. The kids will play hard and try to create a lot of turnovers, which helps them." …

"They will still be a 4-3 defense, a cover-4." …

"I think if they can find what they want to do offensively and go ahead and establish the quarterback situation, they’ll be better off."…

"That O-line is solid. If they have five offensive linemen, and you’re blitzing six, you better pick up all six — that’s their coaching mentality. No excuses." …

"I think they’ll be one of the better teams in the Big 12. I just don’t know much about their offense as a whole. They could rely on the passing game more than ever after losing Joseph Randle. He was easily one of the best running backs in the league.”
 

TCU
Opposing coaches size up the Horned Frogs:

“How good is (quarterback) Casey Pachall? Very talented. Good athlete. Good thrower. Helluva competitor. The competitor part, he’s kind of like Collin Klein, who’s not fastest in the world, not a great thrower, but a helluva competitor. Loves to play. Pachall is similar. I think TCU is welcoming him back with open arms. With the stuff he’s been through, you will find out a lot about him. If football is as important to him as he says, they are getting a heckuva player, and he’ll last. If that’s not true, then they’ll know pretty soon. If he’s truly out of the doghouse, he’s as good as anybody in our conference." …

"They played with some young offensive linemen a year ago — some true freshmen, I think — so they will be even better." …

"Josh Boyce was one of the most underrated receivers in the Big 12.  I really thought he was talented and versatile. They will miss him." …

"They are deep on defense. They are good at every position. They have corners who play man coverage. They can get a pass rush on a quarterback with a four-man rush. They’ll miss (end) Stansly Maponga, but overall they should be fine. The linebackers are solid. Very solid football team all the way around." …

"That youth on offense hurt them at times. …  They did a great job recruiting defensive linemen, so they can run them in and out.”
 

Texas
Opposing coaches size up the Longhorns:

“I don’t think they play up to the level of players that they’ve got. It’s as simple as that. They had a couple of really good players we thought would give us a lot of problems, but we moved the ball really well on them. They just aren’t the Texas Longhorns they were in the past." …

"No doubt, Texas and Oklahoma still are the top-two most talented teams in the conference. They just are." …

"Last year, teams could have their best offensive game of the year against Texas or Oklahoma. It shouldn’t be that way." …

"I think (quarterback) David Ash is average. He’s a true under-center type guy. I actually thought Case McCoy threw the ball better. But the coaching staff is around him more, so they must be confident in Ash that he can be the guy long term." …

"(Former offensive coordinator) Bryan Harsin is a smart guy. He’ll be missed now that he’s at Arkansas State." …

"They are very talented up front (on defense). Their two defensive ends are very, very good. The nose guard was really good as well. Their backers are big, pretty looking guys, but I didn’t think they could move in space as much. That was part of the problem. Because of that, the tackling was suspect because nobody was in the right position. In the Big 12, you need to have backers that can move in space because offenses are all spread out. The safety, Kenny Vaccaro, was the best guy we faced, hands down.”

Texas Tech

Opposing coaches size up the Red Raiders:

“Obviously they lose the quarterback, Seth Doege, which is big. He wasn’t an NFL player, but he knew the offense very well, knew where to go with the ball." …

"They have a lot of excitement with the new coaching staff coming in. They have good receivers, a big offensive line, and they are really improved on defense from a few years ago. Not sure which guys are returning, but they improved a year ago as much as anyone. It will be interesting to see if they can build on that." …

"Offensively, they’ll always put up great numbers. With Kliff Kingsbury, it will be up-tempo, wide open and as fast as you can go. They’ll go up and down the field on people. They still have the guys to do that, but the quarterback is the question mark. Not sure who it will be." …

"Maybe that transition will be easy. The (quarterback) they had last year was a very heady player. I think you can win there consistently. They do a good job recruiting in the state. When Mike Leach was there, they won a lot." …

"The big tight end was hurt for them for about half of last season, Jace Amaro. He’s a big guy, and they flexed him out. His numbers don’t look that good, but we thought the world of him." …

"Running backs are middle of the pack, probably. Nothing like (Oklahoma State’s) Joseph Randle, who I thought was one of the best backs in the league. … They were very improved in pass rush and on the defensive line.”

West Virginia

Opposing coaches size up the Mountaineers:

“They’ll be down." …

"Junior college receiver Kevin White, I think he can be a star for them. They also have a few good freshman receivers who are talented and will probably play a lot and help out. But just think about the production they lose with Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Geno Smith, J.D. Woods — they lost about 95 percent of their production. Only real production coming back is (running back) Andrew Buie. Dreamius Smith, a running back from junior college, he’ll probably start for them." …

"They are going to be really good up front. The tackles are experienced. They look the part." …

"Safety Karl Joseph is their best player on defense, where they are still trying to find enough bodies. They’ll try to get more talent and stay in the 3-4. They didn’t have everyone on the same page. I would expect them to get better. They can’t get much worse. They weren’t mentally ready to be in shootouts every week. It was like, ‘Oh God, here we go again.’ They kind of folded at times." …

"The quarterbacks can spin it. They won’t run the ball. Paul Millard has the gunslinger mentality. He’ll probably be the guy because of experience. He’s got the locker room. They won’t announce that until the fall. They are very equal right now between Millard and (Ford) Childress. They’ll go for easy completions to get the young players going. One may step up, but I don’t see the same playmakers they had.”

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Teaser:
Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/sec-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013
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 2013, 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 Their Conference Foes for 2013

Alabama
Opposing coaches size up the Crimson Tide:

“They’ll be really good again, don’t worry. They lost a lot of guys on the defensive line — Damion Square and Jesse Williams were very productive, strong guys for them. Last year wasn’t their best defensive line, and they might not have been quick enough to handle fast quarterbacks who could turn broken plays into big gains like Johnny Manziel, but it was solid and they need to develop the right depth there." …

"Even losing D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, they’ll still be really good up front. Those offensive linemen spend two years behind the scenes to get physically bulked up to compete." …

"On offense, they can be better than last year. One of their really good receivers, DeAndrew White, will be back from injury. He’s playing really good. Running back, I think they’ll still be solid. T.J. Yeldon is looking strong." …

"Obviously a lot depends on how well the defense develops. Linebackers and secondary, they’ll be fine. C.J. Mosley is probably the best linebacker in the country. They have depth there. It comes down to that defensive line and whether they can improve against quarterbacks that can beat you with their feet. They really didn’t have an answer for Manziel last season. They could stand to get quicker up front."  …

"AJ McCarron keeps improving every year. His footwork has really developed. He can have another great year.”
 

Arkansas
Opposing coaches size up the Razorbacks: 

“They are going to be terrible. What they are doing now, it’s the product of bad recruiting. They have a long way to go. That’s nothing against the new coach (Bret Bielema). But they are going to be terrible in Year 1." ... 

"They are really going to struggle. What happened was they had eight starters who got injured, and they were fighting an uphill battle all of last year. I think they’ll struggle up front, they’ll struggle in the secondary, the linebackers should be average." …

"They are going to be slim in a lot of spots. It’s going to take them three years to get a good foundation. It’s a product of bad recruiting — which is typical of a Bobby Petrino school. It’s the same thing that happened at Louisville that got Steve Kragthorpe fired. Petrino didn’t leave him any players. It’s the same thing at Arkansas. They have no players on defense. Petrino would load up on offense and leave the cupboard bare. That’s why he can’t ever get over the hump." …

"If you want to be competitive in the SEC, you better have big, strong defensive linemen, physical guys, and lockdown corners. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a chance. And right now they don’t have that." …

"I don’t know really how good they are up front offensively, but I’m kind of skeptical based on what I know."

"I think the young running back, Jonathan Williams, is going to be good for them. We liked him out of high school.”
 

Auburn
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

“Auburn’s biggest problem was trying to be a pro-style offense with spread-type personnel. They didn’t have many guys who you had to worry about. They had the one good receiver, Emory Blake. He was okay. The tight end (Philip Lutzenkirchen) was a unique weapon for them; he made some plays for them, but then he got hurt." …

"Both Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb were good. McCalebb tore it up at the combine, and Mason was a 1,000-yard back." …

"It came down to the quarterback. They never really decided on a quarterback and never figured that out. (Clint) Moseley and (Kiehl) Frazier didn’t end up being what they anticipated. I’m not sure what is going to happen at that position with (Gus) Malzahn taking over." …

"Malzahn has an outstanding reputation. It is a little different when you are the head coach than just the offensive coordinator, but he knows what he is doing. Him and Hugh Freeze have similar backgrounds — they both have taken high school offenses and made them big-time college offenses. They try to out-tempo you and out-formation you." …

"The tackling is suspect. The defense wasn’t overly physical. It’s a really athletic team. They had some ballplayers. They were really young, so there wasn’t much consistency there." …

"They’ve had a mess of distractions this offseason and probably just want to get back to football.”
 

Florida

Opposing coaches size up the Gators:

“Oddly enough, and I don’t think they were the best offense, but Florida was the most difficult (offensive) team to prepare for last year. They have so many different personnel groupings, and they can do so many different things, and their identity changed on a weekly basis." … 

" They are kind of like South Carolina — they want to win games on defense and not turn the ball over. But it did surprise me that they finished 12th in the league in total offense. They had good speed at wide receiver. They had some real unique weapons in Jordan Reed and Trey Burton, guys who could do different things. They had arguably the top back in the league in Mike Gillislee, and they had a very athletic quarterback." ...

"They are trying to find their identity. They probably thought they had their identity at one point, but then some of the bigger, stronger teams in our league kind of challenged that identity. And they had some injuries on the offensive line." …

"I like Will Muschamp. I respect him a lot. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. His mentor is Nick Saban, and he put his stamp on the team in Year 2 in regard to toughness and winning games in the kicking game and on defense. They lost their defensive coordinator to the NFL, but D.J. Durkin is one of the bright young coaches in the country, and their special teams have been outstanding the past two years. I respect them a lot.”
 

Georgia
Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs

“Aaron Murray is really good. I am a big fan. If you commit people to stop the run and put one-on-one on the perimeter, he has such a nice feel with his wide receivers. If you play two deep or quarters, then they kill you with the run. It’s the combination of (Todd) Gurley and Murray that kills you." …

"They don’t wow you with X’s and O’s because they don’t have to. They remind you of the Miami teams in the early 2000s. They lined up in pro sets and twins and you got a chuckle out of it, then 450 yards and 42 points later they got the last laugh." …

"I watched the quarterbacks at the combine, and Murray doesn’t need to take a back seat to any of those guys. I think he is enjoying college and feels like he has some unfinished business. I’m not so sure that if it was Georgia playing Notre Dame for the national championship and won that he would have gone on to the NFL." …

"Gurley and (Keith) Marshall complement each other so well, and (the staff) is smart in that they have plays designed specifically for Gurley and touches for Marshall. Gurley runs tackle to tackle as well as anyone. He bullies you and he is a big boy, but don’t underestimate how fast he is. And then Marshall runs the perimeter run plays, the outside plays very well. He does a nice job hitting the creases in the defenses. Then don’t underestimate how strong he is. They are both clearly upper-level SEC backs.”
 

Kentucky
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats: 

“Kentucky, for the past few years, hasn’t had anybody that’s scared you on offense, on the perimeter or at running back. When your best player is your right guard (Larry Warford), that’s probably a little bit of a problem." …

"They have some good young running backs, and obviously Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow, the two (sophomore) quarterbacks, are pretty talented. I’m sure those guys will improve." …

"Towles is a talented kid. He was pretty highly recruited. He did a great job in his first game against Mississippi State, driving them down the field, but then got hurt. He’s a hometown kid and a fan favorite. I think he can be a pretty good player. My gut is that he is the guy who gets the job, but don’t forget about Max Smith. He was playing well before getting hurt last year." …

"I’m sure (Mark) Stoops will come in and attract some talent. The fact of where Lexington is and his ties to Ohio, you will see an outside-the-box thinking as far as recruiting. They will get some players from Ohio. He already has done a good job in that state." …

"Stoops is well regarded as a defensive coordinator. He did a great job at Florida State. People forget, that defense had been struggling before he got there." …

"(Offensive coordinator) Neal Brown is very confident. He has a little bit of a swagger to him. He did a good job at Troy and Texas Tech.”
 

LSU
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

“(Defensive coordinator) John Chavis, he’s done the same stuff schematically for what feels like forever. It’s not very difficult. They do a lot of two-man, a lot of Tampa 2. That’s one thing that he’s just not going to change." …

"I don’t think they will be the same up front at all. They lost a lot of players. I just don’t think they are going to be the same." ...

"In my opinion, there’s a slow, steady decline of that program. They are going to get the best of the best in Louisiana, but even back when Nick (Saban) was there, they just don’t have the same type of players as some other places." ...

"Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been really good for awhile. But they are losing a lot on defense. Athletically, they can reload up front. But developing fundamentally sound players, that takes time, time they might not have this year. So I’m not sure they recover that quickly." …

"If you’re not sound, you’ll get knocked down." …

"(Quarterback) Zach Mettenberger, to me, is very average. It’s going to be really interesting because their offensive coordinator was the offensive line coach, so they had single receiver play-action and just loaded up on the ball. With Cam Cameron coming in as the offensive coordinator, it will be a different offense. It’s probably going to open up things a lot more, and Mettenberger will probably be a better fit with doing that. I can’t answer whether he can handle that.”
 

Ole Miss
Opposing coaches size up the Rebels: 

“They have a lot of tricks up their sleeve. They always get guys open. They put you in tough situations. Within the framework of one play, it can be an inside run, an outside run; it can be a dump pass or a deep ball. They do so many different things. They have a good plan." …

"They have to be a little concerned about (quarterback Bo) Wallace’s shoulder surgery. James Franklin at Missouri had the same thing, and he wasn’t at full strength at the beginning of last season. Their offense requires a lot of coordination with 11 men working together on every play. It will hurt not having Wallace in the spring, and he will miss a significant portion of the summer. I think he is a good kid. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He wasn’t highly recruited, going to Arkansas State and then a junior college. He was playing as well as anyone in the league toward the end of the year. He needs to eliminate his turnovers." …

"Jeff Scott is pretty good. They’ve got some good young players coming in, but Scott will still be productive. He can do a lot of different things. He is versatile and that is what they look for. He is also a good return guy." …

"You shouldn’t have a freshman offensive lineman come in and play early unless he’s a complete freak. The Laremy Tunsil kid, he’s a complete freak. He will find a way to get on the field this season.”


Mississippi State
Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs:

“They’ve got a new play-caller on defense. They lost Chris Wilson to Georgia, and Geoff Collins is taking over that duty. He’s a good coach. I’m kind of thinking they are going to be pretty good, or at least a lot better." …

"On defense, they just aren’t as athletic as the top teams. Our defensive big guys were bigger than some of their offensive big guys. They can get pounded up front. Linebackers are average athletically. In the secondary, they are always pretty good. That’s how they can get you. They have some athleticism and speed there." …

"Offensively, it’s going to be a little bit of the same. I think schematically they are always going to put up some points. It all depends on whether they can put up a defense that can stop people. They can play against those spread teams that throw it around a lot because they can cover, but in physical matchups, it’s just tough for them. It’s not effort, they just don’t have the guns." …

"The quarterback, Tyler Russell, I think most people like him — he can be a little erratic but has some natural ability. We’ll see if he can take that next step. He didn’t play very well against some of the better teams in the league. But he’s a good player." …

"They had the Johnthan Banks kid who was pretty solid at corner, but otherwise no one really scares you on the field.”
 

Missouri
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

“I respected their scheme tremendously. You watch the tape of their games against Big 12 competition from the previous year and you watched James Franklin operate, they were very impressive. They beat the hell out of a good North Carolina team in the Independence Bowl to finish that season." …

"They got off to a decent start last year. They beat a pretty good Arizona State team, and they played very well against Georgia up until the end of the game." …

"Between Franklin and some of the other guys getting hurt, especially on the offensive line, they really had trouble moving the ball." …

"I don’t think they have the skill at the wide receiver position or at the running back position that some of the other teams in the league did. And I think the overall SEC took its toll on them as the year went on." …

"(Wide receiver) Dorial Green-Beckham didn’t do much at all, and he was the No. 1 recruit in the nation. To be fair, they never really got the passing game going. He showed signs at times; he had a long reception against Central Florida. But he never got on track. I get the impression that he needs to mature a little bit. He got himself in trouble (suspended for the Vanderbilt game). But he was the No. 1 player in the 2012 recruiting class, so he’s got plenty of talent." …

"The running back coming back from injury, Henry Josey, he’ll be dangerous if he returns healthy. Really talented back.”
 

South Carolina
Opposing coaches size up the Gamecocks:

“I like quarterback Connor Shaw. He’s underrated. All he does is win. And he is fiercely tough." …

"Dylan Thompson struggled early but played well down the stretch. Had some big games. Won at Clemson. They both played well in the bowl game. Connor probably makes more plays with his feet and has that grittiness to him that made them really good early in the year. Thompson may be the more talented of the two, and clearly South Carolina knows that their defense is legit, and if they don’t turn the ball over and make mistakes, they will win a lot of games. The person who doesn’t make mistakes and puts them in the best positions will be the guy." …

"They should be able to absorb the loss of Marcus Lattimore. Early in the 2011, he was a workhorse for them, but as he got hurt they became more reliant on Connor Shaw and the perimeter runs. Mike Davis is a very good back. They have some good young players that will do a good job for them." …

"Ace Sanders was a great return guy and a good slot receiver. I always thought he was dangerous, but I didn’t look at him and say he was an elite wide receiver in the league. You thought about him more in reverses and things like that, not necessarily as a big-league receiver. The biggest catch of his career came on the last play, against Michigan. He’s a loss, but they have established some really solid depth at receiver.”
 

Tennessee

Opposing coaches size up the Volunteers:

“They will be an up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense that will play with a lot of enthusiasm." …

"Their problems certainly weren’t on offense last year. They were on defense. Butch Jones has hired some coaches with some experience in the SEC, like John Jancek and Willie Martinez, who know the league and know the type of player it takes to be successful in this league." …

"They have to replace so many key players on offense. That will take some time." …

"The offensive line was very good. Losing (offensive line coach) Sam Pittman may hurt more than losing any of the players. He is a really good coach." …

"I always respected what Cincinnati did under Jones. They seemed to be a well-coached team." …

"They have won two SEC games in two years. That is bizarre. It just shows you how fiercely competitive the SEC is — for a school with those resources to have only two wins in two years." …

"Butch Jones is a hit ‘em in the face kind of guy who will try to win back the state of Tennessee in recruiting. You sense he has the right energy for the job." …

"I’m not sure Derek Dooley was the right guy for the job. That defense last year was record-setting bad. They had a top-five offense nationally, but the defense was so bad it carried the team down. That offense was as good as any team we played.”
 

Texas A&M
Opposing coaches size up the Aggies:

“They lost one of their key offensive linemen, one of the first guys drafted this year, Luke Joeckel, and that’s obviously going to be a loss for them. I think offensively, they are still going to be really, really good. I actually think they are going to be the team to beat in the West, just because of who they have coming back overall, what they do schematically, how fast their offense goes." …

"Mark Snyder is a good defensive coordinator. You look at it, the only games they lost were Florida and LSU, and one of them was their first game of the year. Still, they almost beat Florida. I don’t really know why LSU was so hard for them. It was maybe LSU being able to neutralize A&M up front with its physical, quick defensive linemen." …

"You’re really limited what you can do against A&M’s offensive line." …

"They only run about eight plays or so. It’s just so fast. If you don’t have a system or terminology that allows you to play that tempo, there’s no chance. A&M has already snapped the ball." …

"Where Johnny Manziel is really good — and how he got us — he gets you is same way Cam Newton did. Once you’ve got everyone covered, if you don’t account for the quarterback, he’s going to run for a first down." …

"On defense, they lost a couple of guys. It will be interesting to see what they can do there. … They are so big and quick up front, but they are also lean. They can really move on that offensive line.”
 

Vanderbilt
Opposing coaches size up the Commodores:

“Their wideout, Jordan Matthews, is pretty good. He’s really good, actually. He’s pretty athletic, and he will make guys miss. Keeping him is pretty big. He had a chance to go to the NFL." …

"The tight ends are undersized, basically position blockers that can kind of get in the way but aren’t really point-of-attack guys. Vanderbilt will mix and match plays in the running game and try to create matchups that way." …

"The quarterback that transferred from Wyoming (Austyn Carta-Samuels), they feel he’s as talented as the guy they had, Jordan Rodgers. I’d have to see that. He approached spring ball like he’s going to be the guy, like he can win the job. That’s the right way to do it." …

"(Tailback) Zac Stacy was a solid kid who ran well. Not sure if they will go to a running back-by-committee, but Stacy did a lot of things for them. They gave it to him 200-plus times, and he played really hard." …

"Overall, they have a couple of skill guys who can make some plays down field, and the offensive line works well together." …

"You know, they won nine games and play you really tough, but I think they’ll be in the middle of the road — the middle of the pack in the SEC. That’s not a knock on them. James Franklin has done a great job. They’ll win some games. But the next step is to become an elite SEC team, and I’m just not sure they have the personnel yet.”

Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
Pivotal Players to Determining a SEC Championship
South Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Florida Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

 

Teaser:
SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 07:16
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/athlon-sports-high-school-football-preview-magazine-out-now
Body:

The Athlon Sports 2013 High School Football Preview arrives just in time for the Friday night lights.

Our premiere edition provides comprehensive coverage of all 50 states — including top 10 rankings for every state, preseason players of the year, all-state teams and a sneak peek at this year's can't miss games. There is also a national top 25 ranking and more than 1,000 recruits ranked by 247Sports.

We go one-on-one with top-ranked defensive end Da'Shawn Hand in "Wow Factor;" explore the "Family Tradition" that has produced football players at Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State; look at 10 of the nation's top coaches in "Sideline Stars;" and debate the merits of an early signing period in "Decision Time."

On the lighter side off the field, we show off the "Gear You Gotta Have" to be harder, better, faster, stronger as well as name our all-fictional high school team, which includes Tom Cruise from "All the Right Moves," A.C. Slater from "Saved by the Bell" and plenty of other gridiron stars from TV and silver screen.

Athlon Sports High School Football Preview has it all. Order your copy now!

,

The Athlon Sports 2013 High School Football Preview arrives just in time for the Friday night lights.

Teaser:
The Athlon Sports 2013 High School Football Preview arrives just in time for the Friday night lights.
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013
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 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Arizona
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

“(Running back) Ka’Deem Carey’s a tough guy. I don’t see him as a finesse guy. He’s just a hard-nosed football player, a real determined runner. They give it to him a lot, which will help ease the transition with the new quarterback and Matt Scott leaving. He’s going to make some yards out of nothing. I really like the kid. I like him a lot." …

"I have no idea who they have at quarterback. That will be interesting to watch." …

"I think they had a good linebacker crew — probably not great, but good. …

"The good thing about those guys is they have a lot of good players that play hard. They don’t have a bunch of star players. They’ve got good balance with guys buying into the system. That’s how some teams do it, and they are very similar." …

"Certainly the defense needs some work. They gave up a whole lot of points last year. They need to toughen up, but I think they had a lot of young guys they were developing. They should have more depth with this lineup.”
 

Arizona State
Opposing coaches size up the Sun Devils:

“They could really make a push in the league. They have a lot of starters back and getting (defensive tackle) Will Sutton back was big. They weren’t great against the run, but Sutton was downright dominant in some games." …

"Todd Graham is a pretty good coach. He just has to stick around there for awhile. Obviously he jumped around for a few years, from Tulsa to Pitt to ASU. If he stays, the state of Arizona could get interesting between him and Rich Rodriguez." …

"Quarterback Taylor Kelly is a natural fit for them. Apparently he’s becoming a leader for that team. He has that little ‘it’ factor to him. He probably needs to tuck it more and take more sacks instead of trying to extend a play. He’s got a nice future." …

"After a hot start, that Oregon game kind of brought them down to earth last year. Oregon ran all over them, and they couldn’t stop it. The game wasn’t as close as the score." …

"Arizona State should have more depth this year. They are working on establishing more toughness this spring.”
 

California
Opposing coaches size up the Golden Bears:

“Cal will be very interesting. That was a mystery to me last year when they went 3–9. Subpar quarterback play attributed to it, but the wheels just fell off. I didn’t expect that." …

"We’re going to see what the new guy, Sonny Dykes, can do there. They’ve got a chance. They’ve always had talent." …

"Don’t know a whole lot about that staff. I don’t know if they have a quarterback. That will be key for them." …

"They’ve got a pretty good defense coming back. They’ve always given us problems because they play good, sound defense. I know when we played them last year — man, it was a physical, physical football game." …

"I don’t know how they don’t have a quarterback at a place like Cal. But I don’t know whether they have one. A quarterback will be crucial in a pass-happy offense like the one Dykes will bring in." …

"The skill positions are never really a problem there. Losing (receiver) Keenan Allen will be big. He could not only stretch the field, but he was reliable on third down. There’s a young guy, Bryce Treggs, that can really fly.”
 

Colorado
Opposing coaches size up the Buffaloes:

“They have a lot of needs that they have to fix. They hired a good football coach in Mike MacIntyre. I really believe that. He can really coach. He’s a good offensive mind and will put players in the best position to succeed. But they have a long ways to go, that’s for sure. Let’s not sugarcoat it. Unless the young players they had grow up in a hurry, this could be a project. They haven’t been significant there in awhile." …

"Defensively, nothing really scares you there. They are big and strong at a few positions, but overall they will need more team speed to keep up with the offenses in the Pac-12." …

"When we played them, it was pretty ugly all around. That’s how it was for them a lot of games last year. … When Colorado was great, they were winning in the California recruiting scene. That’s just hard to do now with so many competitive teams around there, but it can be done." …

"The recruiting just hasn’t panned out for them in recent years. They aren’t winning the best players in Colorado, either. They need players.”
 

Oregon
Opposing coaches size up the Ducks:

“You look back at the last three years, they always have that tough loss in November. It’s that time of the year where maybe other teams are peaking at the right time against them or figure something out scheme-wise. They are looking to remedy that." …

"I wouldn’t worry too much about losing Chip (Kelly) and relying on the new coach (Mark Helfrich). From what I hear, he was very involved in the offense last year. Chip was calling plays, but the offensive coordinator was very productive there. You might not see much of a drop-off." …

"With that offense, everyone knows what they’re going to do. It’s a matter of when they do it and when they don’t." …

"Those running backs are special and the quarterback is special. I don’t think there’s really a spot where they are overrated. Maybe with the wideouts, since you can’t really tell how good they are because they don’t throw that much." …

"The thing about the quarterback (Marcus Mariota) is he’s always so poised and he’s really fast. Miss your gap or overplay, and he’s gone.”
 

Oregon State
Opposing coaches size up Beavers:

“I think they surprised a lot of people last season. Not many saw that kind of start coming. They can get better this year, too, if they can find more consistency at quarterback." …

"Mike Riley does a great job with those guys. He doesn’t always get the best players talent-wise, but he gets the best out of them. He’s very well-respected in the league." …

"They’ve got to get the quarterback play going. Both those guys that split time (Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz) are just OK. They have to find a running back that can consistently play for them. They’ve always had a great one in the past. Right now I think they might need a great one. One hasn’t shown up yet." …

"They’ve always played good defense. I don’t think that’s going to change. They covered well. They’ve always been pretty solid against the pass on the back end." …

"They need to get that offense rolling. I don’t know which quarterback is going to start, but they’ll probably be better off sticking with one and letting him get his confidence up.”
 

Stanford
Opposing coaches size up the Cardinal:

“They are going to be good. They are loaded. They’ve got some good running backs down there, even after losing Stepfan Taylor, who basically did everything for them. They’ve got the little Sanders kid, Barry’s kid, that I like." …

"The quarterback, Kevin Hogan, I think he’s going to be good. He came into a tough situation, and he made some crucial throws for them. He doesn’t have a huge arm, but he’s really accurate." …

"They’ve got those offensive linemen that are always stout and really disciplined." …

"They are losing a few guys on defense, but they are always solid. They’ve got a tough defensive line." …

"Their kids play hard. They are just a really good football team. It’s hard to say enough about the job David Shaw has done. They are going to be up there again this year. I see no reason why they shouldn’t. They will be one of the best in the league. …

"They could use more out of the receiver position. They relied a lot on the tight ends and running backs to make plays.”
 

UCLA
Opposing coaches size up the Bruins:

“It had felt like a while since we said UCLA was right there toward the top of the league. But now you could argue they are better than USC. I think you can say that. They are coming off a really good year." …

"They lost a few corners and a few defensive linemen, so I’m curious to see how they respond from those losses." …

"They run a good defensive scheme. Overall, the talent on the defensive line has been some of the best in the country." …

"They have really good depth and have recruited well. They lost a few curious games last year toward the end, which makes me think — although they are very good — they might not be championship caliber." …

"(Quarterback) Brett Hundley is a big old joker. He throws a nice ball and is really hard to get down. It’s not that you can't get to him, it's just that when you do, the defensive backs can have trouble with him. He’s got big receivers to throw to. That’s what really can elevate UCLA, the size of the players in their passing game.”


USC
Opposing coaches size up the Trojans:

“They always have a bunch of talent. I don’t think their offensive line is a good as it’s been. The quarterback (Max Wittek) is going to have to prove himself. He does a few good things. He’s not a (Matt) Barkley. Obviously he’s going to be a good player because they always have talent at that spot, but how good he ends up, I don’t know." …

"They’ve got to get the running back (Silas Redd) back healthy. He had a little surgery, I don’t think it was anything really serious." …

"Marqise Lee is the best receiver in the league — he’s really, really good." …

"I think everybody thinks it’s a huge year for Lane (Kiffin). He needs to win or those people down there — they are already grumbling. The key will be, do they look respectable and do they get fannies in the seats? As long as they are getting people coming to games, if they look like they’ve got a decent product on the field, he’ll be OK. If they start looking sloppy and people stop showing up, he’s going to have problems.”
 

Utah
Opposing coaches size up Utes:

“They are very well coached for what they have. I think they had a down year offensively. I just don’t think they found their identity with the scheme they run. I have a ton of respect for their head coach, Kyle Whittingham." …

"I don’t think the quarterback (Travis Wilson) moves the way guys in the past did. He’s kind of a sitting target there. I don’t know if they’ll have an open competition or not. When they were winning a lot of games, their quarterbacks could really move around. He’s big and has a strong arm though." …

"They are a tremendous special teams unit. They do an unbelievable job there." …

"Any time you lose a player like (defensive tackle) Star Lotulelei, you’re going to miss a guy like that. He didn’t dominate every game, but he’s obviously solid. He was extremely athletic, but you could get him out of his game early." …

"Bringing in (co-offensive coordinator) Dennis Erickson will be interesting. They obviously needed a spark after last season, and apparently Erickson wants to push the tempo.”
 

Washington
Opposing coaches size up the Huskies:

“The Huskies certainly have some talent. I like the kid that pulls the trigger up there, Keith Price. You can win some games with him. I just don’t think he’s the guy who can really take them to where they want to go." …

"They’ve got some pretty good running backs. Their receiving core is good. They’ve really got a good offensive line. The defensive line is adequate, not great. But overall, they’ve got some talent there to get it done." …

"Their defense is going to be pretty good. Obviously their secondary is going to be hurting a little bit. They are losing a lot there." …

"They’ve got some holes to fill there, but they have a few good receivers if they can get the ball to them. That tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) is really good, too." …

"They are going to be a competitive team. They recruit well. They’ve got some pretty good players coming in. If they can find a way to get the ball to those receivers, they’ll be good." …

"They’ve got to refine a few things on the offensive line. They had a few games where they simply couldn’t protect.”
 

Washington State
Opposing coaches size up the Cougars:

“I don’t know how they are looking right now, but there is a little mystique about them — a lot of grumblings around that team with the way things are being handled. That’s not good. They’ve got some talent, but they are going to have to get on the same page and buy in. I don’t know if there’s some dissatisfaction among the players about how the coach is handling them. I don’t really know for sure what goes on up there. But from what I’ve heard there is some dissatisfaction with how the players are being treated and how it’s run." …

"They’ve got to get a quarterback, particularly to do what they want to do. I don’t know much about their receiving corps. Their best guy (Marquess Wilson) left and didn’t finish out the season. They are going to need some receivers. They also need chemistry and a quarterback." …

"They are going have to get some more players. What they want to do is throw the ball all the time, and in order to do that, you need somebody to throw it and you need somebody to catch it. I’m not sure they have either.”

Related College Football Content

Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2013
Pac-12 2013 All-Conference Team
Bowl Projections for 2013
Pac-12's Pivotal Players to a Conference Championship
The Pac-12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team

Teaser:
Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /high-school/dashawn-hand-next-jadeveon-clowney
Body:

He has a dream, and in that dream he’s sure of only one thing.

“A baby blue suit. Always a baby blue suit. No idea, but that’s what it is.”

Da’Shawn Hand has had this dream for years, and while he doesn’t know where he’s headed, he knows in the dream that he’s in his high school, in the baby blue suit, announcing that he’ll go play big-time college football.

“I first had the dream when I was little. I put the hat on and people cheer, and people ask ‘How do you feel?’ and I tell them that the coaches are cool and that I want to play in the NFL one day.”

To make sure the dream becomes a reality, Hand promises he’ll be sporting a baby blue suit on National Signing Day in 2014, a fashion creation he’ll have tailored for the event. But while his outfit might feel lucky, it’s Hand’s ascension as the next great defensive end prospect and the popularity of his chosen position that are responsible for making his dream a reality.

At 6'4", 248 pounds and boasting a 40 time that’s been marked in the 4.8 range, Hand is the consensus No. 1 overall defensive end prospect for the 2014 college football recruiting class. At any other position, he’d be considered a coveted get for any major program, but at the position of defensive end, he and signees like Robert Nkemdiche and Jadeveon Clowney before him are now considered quarterback-crushing program saviors.

“I just think right now it’s about how the game has come around, the era we’re in. You have a lot of 7-on-7 guys now, and quarterbacks and receivers are better than ever. You need to make plays to stop them, and you need athletes to do it,” Hand says.

Hand’s assessment is a consensus among college coaches and scouts. Even as innovations in play-calling have trended upward from high school to the professional levels in recent years, the old NFL adage that stopping a quarterback is the surest path to victory has been embraced as the best way to stop high-scoring spread offenses. Hence the rise of the monster defensive end.

Barton Simmons, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, admits that the valuation of defensive ends has increased noticeably in recent seasons because of the premium placed on the pass rush, from the pro level on down.

“It’s been intentional on our part in grading prospects, because you see that the guys being valued highly right now in the NFL in addition to quarterbacks are defensive ends and offensive tackles,” Simmons says.

“It’s an easy position to evaluate because often it’s the position where you see the most athleticism on the entire field.”

In this instance, “athleticism” is defined by raw power plus size moving very, very quickly. Scouts and coaches aren’t just looking for big bodies at the position, but big bodies with exceptional footwork, straight-line speed and enough power to shed — or attack — blockers.

“That’s the one thing I’ve worked on the most this summer is my explosiveness,” Hand says. “Just that ‘Wow’ factor when you make a big play that shows off your ability. This year I’m about to make more of those plays that make you go, ‘Wow!’”

The inevitable comparison for Hand or Nkemdiche before him is, of course, Clowney, a rising junior at South Carolina. Clowney’s rise as a true game-changer — remember the Michigan game? — has been so sharp that he likely would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft had he been eligible.

The hysteria reached such levels that many in the national media speculated that Clowney should simply sit out South Carolina’s 2013 season to avoid injury. That kind of hype has trickled down, as Hand and players like him are targeted as the “next Clowney.”

“It’s become a position where you can take a great piece of clay and mold him into a great player under the right conditions. It’s not like quarterback where you have to have a certain kind of mentality or maturity. Defensive ends can pin their ears back and go,” Simmons says.

But that doesn’t mean that the right stat line will automatically deliver another Clowney, a player most analysts and coaches consider the peak of the defensive position, a “freak.”

“These guys (Clowney, Nkemdiche, Hand) are all pretty unique,” Simmons says. “Clowney to me is the only one of the group that’s just no doubt a freak athlete. Nkemdiche is close to that, but he’s a little different body type. He’s not a long, rangy pass-rusher like Clowney, but he’s so physically gifted that he could move inside if need be and you wouldn’t lose anything.

“I don’t think we see (Hand) as quite the no-brainer, no-doubt prospect. He might not have that high of an athletic ceiling, but we’re very bullish on him because of his high character mentality off the field. He’s a ‘talent maximizer,’ a guy who will work, a guy who isn’t afraid to do what it takes to get better.”

“Da’Shawn doesn’t carry himself like a blue-chipper. He doesn’t really act like he’s got this attention on him right now,” says John Harris, Hand’s defensive line coach at Woodbridge (Va.) High School.

Harris knew Hand was destined for greatness three years ago when he saw Hand’s unnatural size for a freshman, but his endorsement is stronger than ever after working with what he calls one of the fastest-learning players he’s ever seen.

“Maybe the best part of his game is actually how fast he is mentally. When he gets to that next level he’s going to take in coaching so fast that it’s going to blow the college players away,” Harris says.

“The thing that’s exciting to me is to see him leading. I saw the fact that he was leading without even trying to. He practices and works out so hard that he’ll stop other players from goofing off around him.”

Endorsements like Harris’ have countless programs clamoring for Hand’s services. The combination of size, power and speed is unique in its own right, but adding work ethic and “coachability” could eventually make Hand stand above even the best blue-chip defensive ends in the college game.

Not that he’s lost in the hype.

“Oh, I know how to control it,” Hand says, laughing. “It’s hectic for sure, but I’m lucky to have the right people around me, people that influence me positively. It’s about not making this process your whole entire life. I know it’s a serious decision, but I’m still a kid. I still go out and have fun.

“Well, hang on,” he says, interrupting himself. “You have to cut out things when the time comes, having fun with friends and things like that. When there’s serious training to be done, you do it.”

Hand is “just” a kid, except that unlike the garden-variety pressure facing a high school senior, Hand also contends with phone calls, texts, emails and virtually every other form of digital communication from the best (and most diligent) college coaches in the nation.

In June, Hand narrowed a long list of schools down to Michigan, Florida and Alabama (though don’t be surprised if Virginia Tech remains in the hunt).

“I love the campus visits I’ve been on. It’s great — the people you meet, the food, seeing new places. … When you meet current players, the natural conversation is about the pressure and the decision you have to make. (Current college players) are great to talk with. They’ve already been in my shoes, been through the process and understand the pressure. They always wish me well.”

Hand is in the midst of visiting a variety of campuses nationwide, a vacation that always comes with a hard and sometimes uncomfortable sell at the end of each trip.
“The worst part is the next morning, when you wake up. Before you leave you have to go in and talk to the coaches about stuff. Sometimes chilling with the coaches is boring and I’m just like ‘Ughh.’ You have to, though; it’s part of the job.”

Certainly every coaching staff is a little different, and Hand already has his favorites.

“The Michigan coaching staff. That is the staff,” he enthuses. “They’re great. That staff is so cool, so easy to talk to. Also I’d say the one coach is (Virginia Tech defensive coordinator) Bud Foster.”

Hand shies away from questions about leans or leaders, but his comments about staff personalities reflect what’s considered to be the real race, according to Simmons.

“It opened up as a very national recruitment,” Simmons says. “He got 50-something offers and he was open to all of them at first. His is a different scenario because he’s a high academic kid, and schools that wouldn’t normally have a shot because of admissions do.”

About that baby blue suit and his childhood dream, Hand is repeatedly clear about one thing: His dream isn’t a “hat ceremony.” He doesn’t want a national press conference, despite the fact that it seems unavoidable. He wants to make the announcement at his high school, with his friends and family.

“I’m going to have one hat, that’s all. The hat of the school I’m attending. That’s me, and I just want to be myself,” Hand says.

Despite the fact that he has yet to enter the truly crazy months of recruitment as the nation’s top defensive end prospect, Hand already seems a little exhausted by the weirder and more deceptive aspects that come with the territory. He famously told CBS’ Bruce Feldman about a coach promising him that he’d meet Michael Jackson, despite the fact that the pop star has been dead for years.

“Honestly, I don’t know who I really would want to meet,” he says, laughing.

“If it was a girl, I’d say the goalie from the U.S. Soccer team… what’s her name? Hope Solo. If it was a guy, I would have to say … Justin Tuck.”

It’s no small coincidence that despite being born near Philadelphia, and living in the suburbs of Washington D.C., that Hand goes against local NFC East loyalties as a diehard New York Giants fan. He doesn’t mention Clowney or Nkemdiche when talking about players he models himself after, but rather the Big Blue trio of Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Lawrence Taylor.

“That’s the main reason I grew up a Giants fan, because of all those great defensive players. That’s the kind of player I want to be.”

But what about that three- or four-year stint before the NFL?

“Ah … wait and see, man,” he says, laughing. “Wait and see.”

 

Getting Defensive
Here's a look at the top-rated defensive ends from previous signing classes, and how they've fared.

2013
Robert Nkemdiche, Loganville, Ga. (Grayson)
Rating: No. 1 overall
Signed With: Ole Miss
A game-changing pass-rusher who has been compared to former North Carolina All-American Julius Peppers. He’ll join his older brother, linebacker Denzel, on the Rebels’ defense this fall.

2012
Jonathan Bullard, Shelby, N.C. (Crest)
Rating: No. 6 overall
Signed With: Florida
Saw increased action in his freshman season due to an injury to Ronald Powell (see below) and made the most of it. Bullard played in all 13 games, racking up 27 tackles (five for a loss) and earning SEC All-Freshman honors.

2011
Jadeveon Clowney, Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe)
Rating: No. 1 overall
Signed With: South Carolina
With 21 sacks and counting, he’s considered the best player in college football entering the 2013 season. He’s also already regarded as the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

2010
Ronald Powell, Moreno Valley, Calif. (Rancho Verde)
Rating: No. 1 overall
Signed With: Florida
As a hybrid LB/DE, he led the Gators in sacks in 2011, but attitude issues and two ACL tears in his left knee sidelined him before the start of the 2012 season. Currently rehabbing for a full return in 2013.

2009
Devon Kennard, Phoenix, Ariz. (Desert Vista)
Rating: No. 8 overall
Signed With: USC
Played three seasons for the Trojans, bouncing between end and linebacker (135 tackles, 13 sacks and 1 INT) before a chest injury forced him to redshirt in 2012. He’ll return this season as a starting hybrid LB/DE in Clancy Pendergast’s 3-4 scheme.

2008
Da’Quan Bowers, Bamberg, S.C. (Bamberg-Erhardt)
Rating: No. 2 overall
Signed With: Clemson
A unanimous All-American in 2010 for the Tigers, Bowers led the nation in sacks (15.5) his junior year before concerns about his knees caused him to drop to the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, where Tampa Bay took him with the 51st overall pick. Through two NFL seasons, he’s recorded 38 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

2007
Carlos Dunlap, North Charleston, S.C. (Fort Dorchester)
Rating: No. 5 overall
Signed With: Florida
In three seasons with the Gators, he recorded 84 tackles, 19.5 sacks and three blocked kicks, as well as being named Defensive MVP of the Gators’ national title win over Oklahoma in 2009. Drafted 54th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, he has 87 tackles and 20 sacks in three seasons.

 

by Steven Godfrey

Order your copy of Athlon Sports High School Football Annual today!

 

Teaser:
High school football's next great pass-rushing defensive end, Da'Shawn Hand brings the "Wow Factor."
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/acc-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013
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 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

ACC Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Boston College
Opposing coaches size up the Eagles:

“Whether it’s Tom O’Brien or Frank Spaziani, they were going to be tough. They were going to be physical. They weren’t going to beat themselves, and they make you earn it every game. That’s always Boston College’s M.O. That hasn’t produced results lately, in part because they don’t have very good talent, but they never gave up their toughness." … 

"I’ve heard Steve Addazio wants to be more like they were at Florida and spread you out. To me, you’ll have a hard time doing that at Boston College because you don’t have the speed. It will be interesting to see what they can do from a scheme standpoint." …

"They are always big on the offensive line, but nobody at the receiver position really scares you. Where they hurt is at the skill positions. But on the offensive line, it’s hard to move guys in there. You would expect that to be the same." …

"There was nobody I can remember that really sticks out on the roster as a force to be reckoned with. They’ve had some good running backs in the past, but nobody really scares you there.”

Clemson

Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

“Tajh Boyd, for as good a year as he had, is still inconsistent. Our defensive staff feels like he’s got a chance to play as much for the opponent as he does his own team. He did a lot of good things last year and got better, lost weight, and is a lot better because of it. But sometimes he does things that make you wonder what’s he thinking." …

"The loss of (tailback) Andre Ellington is big. I don’t think he got enough credit nationally. He was a really good player." …

"The skill positions make Clemson go. They get three or four great players on offense, and they’ve got a pretty good chance to be good every year. The talent at receiver is as good as anywhere. You see their backup receivers and say, ‘My god, they are better than our receivers.’ …

"Defensively, I thought they were very average. Nobody on the D-line scares you. Nobody at the linebacker position scares you." …

"Stephone Anthony was a highly rated linebacker coming in, and he has hardly done anything. It’s time for highly recruited guys to be developed and step up.”
 

Duke

Opposing coaches size up the Blue Devils:

“David Cutcliffe has done a great job getting the players to believe they can win. Cutcliffe is very well respected. The biggest difference you see in Duke is they’ve developed depth. They had a bunch of injuries on defense but didn’t miss a beat. There’s still a drop-off personnel-wise in certain areas." …

"FSU about killed Duke’s quarterback. They still need to get a little stout up front. The FSU and Stanford games embarrassed them a little bit." …

"The cornerback, Ross Cockrell, the kid was terrible in 2011 but got a lot better last year. He’s a good player now." …

"Their linebackers are slow. They really can’t keep up.  It’s an area we felt we could expose." …

"They are losing their quarterback, Sean Renfree, and Cutcliffe made it work with him. I’m sure he’ll do the same with the new guy (Anthony Boone), who’s more of a dual-threat, option player. I think they’ll implement the option more, which is a little bit of a different look than some of Cutcliffe’s past quarterbacks, so it will be interesting to see how they make it work.”
 

Florida State
Opposing coaches size up the Seminoles:

“From a defensive standpoint and what they had last year, the one thing that jumps out is their back seven. People talked about (defensive end) Bjoern Werner, but those three linebackers and the four guys in the secondary stood out to me. The speed the linebackers had, the physicality, it’s impressive. Even our defensive staff, the week before we played them we saw them on video, and that’s all they could talk about. That’s the thing that jumps out to me about them. It’s hard to say that guy’s a linebacker and that guy’s a defensive back — they are all the same. It allows them to be very multiple. Wasn’t like they presented scheme problems; the biggest problem is just personnel." …

"They are really good, no doubt. I don’t think the loss of Werner will be a big deal. I was more impressed with Cornellius Carradine, who’s gone too. We thought Werner took plays off, but we were impressed with Carradine." …

"Offensively, the loss of EJ Manuel will be a big loss. We were impressed with him last year.”
 

Georgia Tech

Opposing coaches size up the Yellow Jackets:

“Obviously they will be in every game because of the offense. It’s a challenge. It’s hard to defend, unless you have extra time to prepare, which you usually don’t. When you don’t, it’s hard, hard, hard to defend. You have to be extremely disciplined."

"It’s kind of their M.O., but over years, it’s been harder for them. When you walked in, you had Stephen Hill to line up out there and stretch the D. We use it against them. Playing that offense, hard to recruit receivers. All they will do is block." …

"It’s hard being a defensive coordinator there because of the system you’re going into, the offense you’re going against in practice. You never get to defend against the pass." …

"Ted Roof is a good hire. Great for Tech go get a guy like that. You look at those guys on D and they play hard. I thought they had some talent on D. The secondary has its problems." … 

"You look at Tech, they struggled all year, but they still found a way to get bowl-eligible and enter the ACC title game, even if it was a fluke. They are not going to be irrelevant.”
 

Maryland
Opposing coaches size up the Terrapins

“Really curious to see what they do this year. Even though they weren’t very good, you can’t lose a bunch of quarterbacks to injury and expect to compete. You just can’t. Putting a linebacker under center won’t work. That’s what they had to do. It’s crazy." …

"It was just a year to forget for them, though that defense was really good." …

"They lost a bunch of seniors off that defense, though. Replacing them won’t be easy." …

"Sounds like they might go with a transfer at quarterback (Ricardo Young), so we’ll see what he can do. I know they like (C.J.) Brown, too. But overall you have to classify quarterback as a weakness for them until proven otherwise." …

"The stud young receiver, Stefon Diggs, is a big-time player. Whoever the quarterback is, Diggs will help the situation. And there’s a running back (Brandon Ross) who finished the year pretty well. He can play. He’s pretty athletic." …

"I think Randy (Edsall) can coach. He has a hard edge to him that worked at UConn, but it’s uncertain whether that will kind of take shape at Maryland.”
 

Miami

Opposing coaches size up the Hurricanes:

“Great looking offensive line — that’s the thing that stands out about them. Looks like an NFL offensive line. How are we going to be able to hold up to these guys? "…

"I thought the quarterback, Stephen Morris, played well for them." …

"Defensively, you would think they would be better than they were. I know they were young in some spots. Miami, you always think about defensive linemen, but nobody really scared you on that unit." …

"It was a young team that played like it at times. They found a way to win some games. Al Golden did a good job changing the culture. He’s good. I like him. I know a majority of our guys feel the same way. I think he tries to do it the right way. We like the coaches on that staff a lot." …

"They are in a tough situation. The atmosphere at their games is a joke, being as far off campus as the stadium is. It’s a pro stadium that’s pretty much empty. It’s a shame. They had a great home field advantage at the Orange Bowl, but now they have no home field advantage.”
 

NC State
Opposing coaches size up the Wolfpack:

“They didn’t play another quarterback the whole year, so I’m not sure what they have behind that. I didn’t think they were very good on the offensive line. Wide receiver-wise, they had quite a few drops in our game, but that was indicative of their season. Mike Glennon could put the ball on them, but they dropped a lot of balls." …

"It’s a really strong secondary. David Amerson came out. I thought he was really talented,  but he had an up-and-down year." …

"The defensive line is not bad. They should have solid linebackers. I think they had lost all three of their linebackers from the year before, so they were young there last year and will be better." …

"Now, I don’t know what Dave Doeren’s plans are. I do think he’ll have enough to work with. It all depends on the quarterback. The offense he ran at Northern Illinois was very quarterback-oriented. It was about running and throwing." …

"I thought the O-line was one of the weaker parts of the team. Running backs were solid, but nothing special. Tom O’Brien was solid there.”
 

North Carolina
Opposing coaches size up the Tar Heels:

“Larry Fedora, I thought he did a good job in his first year. The biggest thing was the tempo they played with. They are really fast and presented problems for a lot of teams. The tempo can wear you out." …

"The running back, Gio Bernard, was a really, really, really good player — yes, three ‘reallys.’ …

"The receivers are impressive looking. The tight end, Eric Ebron, is impressive looking. He’ll be a big part of what they do next year, I would think." …

"Butch Davis didn’t have a problem recruiting at North Carolina. That guard, Jonathan Cooper, he’s as good as we saw in the country last year. He’s gone to the NFL now, and he’ll be missed. They had great talent on offense, and combined it with the tempo they played." …

"They were just OK in the secondary. I thought it was a liability, to be honest. North Carolina State exposed their secondary last year." …

"If they aren’t good on offense, it can be all over for them on a bad day. … The quarterback played well for them.”


Pittsburgh
Opposing coaches size up the Panthers:

“The quarterback, Tino Sunseri, who’s gone now, was hot and cold." …

"I think Paul Chryst will do a good job getting guys to run his system. He’s perfect for Pitt. They will recruit fits. If they get in Eastern Pennsylvania, they’ll be fine. They always turn out good offensive linemen." …

"It’s a transitional year for them. From what they were under Dave Wannstedt to Todd Graham to Paul, that roster was in flux for awhile." 

"That defense was better than given credit for, though. Physical, strong up front, good against most run teams." …

"I think Paul will do a good job, but they’re probably a little bit behind where they want to be at quarterback." …

"As the season progressed, they got better. They lost to Youngstown but beat Virginia Tech, so that explains it for you." …

"Talent’s probably middle of the road. Paul will maximize what they have." …

"The biggest thing in the ACC is overall team speed week-in and week-out. Getting that consistently for eight weeks will be a big deal, especially while breaking in a new quarterback.”


Syracuse
Opposing coaches size up the Orange: 

“That was a really physical group. We had a bunch of kids banged up after playing them. They have good linebackers and safeties. They have no one like Chandler Jones anymore, but it’s a good group of guys that run and hit." …

"I think they’ll have a dip there because they’ve lost some players. I think they’ve done some junior college things there because of that." …

"I think they’ll probably be a little inconsistent. They’ve struggled in the red zone in the past. They were a good passing team but not efficient. Protection could have caused (quarterback) Ryan Nassib problems." …

"The running backs will still be strong there. Good receivers, not dominant." …

"They may take a little dip. I could be wrong. The Big East was a better league than people think. There were some good ball coaches down there.”

Virginia
Opposing coaches size up the Cavaliers:

“They’ve recruited well, but now you have to develop talent. They’ve taken quite a few guys who can’t play at this level in order to get a pipeline at the same schools." …

"They totally mangled the quarterback situation last year. Michael Rocco is a good player. Phillip Sims, to me, is very average. Alabama can say what they want, but they don’t let him walk out of there if they think he’s the answer at quarterback. It’s a little bit of politics with Sims being from the Tidewater area. That’s an area they recruit. Rocco, the year before, won eight games." …

"It will be interesting to see the change in coordinators. Steve Fairchild was predominantly an NFL guy, and he has no ties to the area. The offensive line will always be impressive looking." …

"Defensive end Eli Harold is going to be a big-time player. He can rush the passer." …

"A lot was made of Mike London’s in-game management. To me, they had some issues with the clock that were head-scratchers. That’s the main reason they brought in Tom O’Brien.”
 

Virginia Tech
Opposing coaches size up the Hokies:

“They really had a subpar year for their standards, but the talent is there. They have guys that can run at every position on defense. They run, they have length. They are really a good-looking football team. And they still recruit well. They just did not play very tough for whatever reason." …

"Something was wrong with that team last year. You could see the talent on film and everything. They didn’t play like it." …

"The quarterback, Logan Thomas, was supposed to be special and he was very below average. He’s a big, good-looking sucker. He has an accuracy problem. Turned the ball over way too much." …

"They built that team on running the ball. They’ve always had great running backs. I don’t know if it was an offensive line problem or they didn’t have a special running back, but they couldn’t run it consistently. I say all this and they may kill us next year."  …

"Frank (Beamer) made a lot of changes. A lot of coaching changes, and it sounds like they are pushing for more toughness this offseason.”

Wake Forest
Opposing coaches size up the Demon Deacons:

“They are going to be very well coached, really solid all the way around, but as far as talent, nothing stood out. Just the one kid, the receiver Michael Campanaro. He really is special. I think he broke some sort of ACC record. He was pretty good. He needs help on the outside. I don’t recall anybody that really stood out beyond him." …

"Wake’s not an easy place to recruit because you’ve got three in-conference programs just down the road, but they could use some upgrades." …

"I think they were dealing with some injuries. They used to have the quarterback (Riley Skinner) who kind of held it all together. I’ve heard they could look to be more multiple in the offense with the quarterback they have now (Tanner Price), who has a lot of experience." …

"They must improve their secondary play. I think they have a lot of young guys there that they want to develop, but late in the season a lack of depth really hurt them. Notre Dame, which wasn’t exactly a polished passing attack, threw it all over Wake.”

 

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Teaser:
ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-texas-football-fan
Body:

Texas is something of football royalty and the fans know it. Just ask the Longhorns. Or better yet, ask fans of Texas A&M.

Being the top historical football program in the top football state certainly has its perks, starting with your own television network (if even no one’s able to watch it).

Tease Texas at your own risk. With the Longhorns’ resources, tradition and access to the deep pool of Lone Star State high school talent, the Longhorns can dominate the college football landscape for decades at a time.

In our series of the greatest time to be a fan of a school, rarely have our snapshots covered so much ground. Darrell Royal owned most of the ‘60s thanks to a pair of linebackers at first and the wishbone offense later. Then came Mack Brown in the 2000s to revive the Longhorns from their ‘80s-’90s malaise.

Here are the best and worst times to flash the Hook ‘em Horns.

BEST TIMES TO BE A TEXAS FAN

1961-73
Record: 115-24-2
National championships: 3
Coach: Darrell Royal
Notable players: Tommy Nobis, Scott Appleton, Jimmy Saxton, Johnny Treadwell, Jerry Sisemore, Bob McKay, Bobby Wuensch, Bill Atessis, Bill Wyman, Roosevelt Leaks, James Street.
This was the era that made Darrell Royal a legend. He and offensive coordinator Emory Bellard would change the offensive game, but the early part of his reign was marked my defense. The 1963 national championship team featured Outland winner Scott Appleton. A year later, one of the greatest players in Texas history, Tommy Nobis, stuffed Joe Namath to beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl to cap a 10-1 season. Nobis won the Outland in 1965. Royal and his staff became offensive innovators by 1968 by unveiling the wishbone offense. After going 0-1-1 in their first two games in the new offense, Texas reeled off 30 consecutive wins from ‘68-’70. In a thrilling Cotton Bowl, James Street led Texas to a 21-17 win over Notre Dame to win Royal’s third national title in 1969. Texas won seven outright Southwest Conference titles from 1961-73 and shared two others with Arkansas.

2001-09
Record: 101-16
National championships: 1
Coach: Mack Brown
Notable players: Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Derrick Johnson, Justin Blalock, Quentin Jammer, Derrick Dockery, Rodrique Wright, Jonathan Scott, Michael Huff, Brian Orakpo, Jordan Shipley, Earl Thomas, Jamaal Charles, Cedric Benson, Aaron Ross
Texas was one of the dominant programs of the decade, even if Longhorns fans were left wanting more. Texas was one of two teams to win more than 100 games during this span (Boise State was the other) as the Longhorns won 10 or more games in nine consecutive seasons. The 2005 team was the high point as Vince Young capped perhaps the finest quarterback career of the BCS era with a performance for ages to defeat No. 1 USC for his second Rose Bowl MVP. Texas also played for a title in 2009 but was never seriously able to compete with Alabama in the BCS Championship Game when Colt McCoy was knocked out with a game-ending injury in the first quarter. This was a successful era that would be the envy of any program, save perhaps, Texas. A bid for a third national title game was dashed by a Michael Crabtree catch for Texas’ only loss in 2008. The Longhorns won the Big 12 only twice, aided by a 4-5 record against Oklahoma. And even though Texas claimed a Doak Walker Award (Benson) and two Jim Thorpe awards (Huff and Ross), the Longhorns never brought home a Heisman.

WORST TIMES TO BE A TEXAS FAN

1986-93
Record: 47-47-1
Coaches: Fred Akers, David McWilliams, John Mackovic
The demise of the Southwest Conference wasn’t kind to many teams in that league. Texas was no exception. The Longhorns endured three losing seasons in five years under the hapless David McWilliams. Hopes were high for John Mackovic, but he was not a great fit. A 66-3 loss to UCLA in 1997 all but sealed his fate.

1935-37
Record: 9-26-2
Coaches: Jack Chevigny, Dana Bible
Remember when it was unthinkable for Texas to go 5-7? The Longhorns went through a three-year period in the ‘30s where they won a grand total of five games from 1936-38. The streak of four consecutive losing seasons remains the longest in school history.

Teaser:
Darrell Royal, Mack Brown lead dominant eras
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/south-carolinas-rise-power-sec
Body:

Steve SpurrierSteve Spurrier was worried. He had just returned from the Outback Bowl after the 2008 season. Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks had lost 31–10 to Iowa, their third straight loss, following defeats of 56–6 at Florida, Spurrier’s former team, and 31–14 at Clemson, the Gamecocks’ heated rival. It was a sour way to end a season that the Gamecocks started 7–3.

Four years into his tenure at South Carolina, Spurrier was 28–22 and 15–17 in the Southeastern Conference, never finishing better than 8–5 overall and 5–3 in the league. But Spurrier’s staff had begun to make in-state recruiting progress for the Class of 2009, which included cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was scheduled to enroll early, in January 2009.

But after a bowl game in which South Carolina “stunk it up,” as Spurrier recalled, he said he had a sinking thought on his mind when he returned to Columbia: “Man, I’m hoping somebody didn’t get to Gilmore and change his mind because of what we had done in that game.”

Sure enough, Gilmore and his mother were in Spurrier’s office, as they promised they would be. Spurrier and his staff were happy, obviously, but even as they look back on the moment, they didn’t know if Gilmore would be a program-changing recruit.

There was no doubting his talent, as the nation’s sixth-ranked “athlete” in his class, according to Rivals, and Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina. Gilmore’s teammate at South Pointe High in Rock Hill, S.C., DeVonte Holloman, arrived in Columbia in the summer of 2009 as Rivals’ 10th-ranked outside linebacker. He and Gilmore provided a tipping point for the Gamecocks.

“If we would have lost them, that would have hurt us,” says Steve Spurrier Jr., who serves as his father’s wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. “They’re the ones who, when we started recruiting, would get guys around.”

The talent — particularly in-state kids — began flowing to South Carolina in the ensuing years, and the wins came with greater frequency than ever before, albeit in a different fashion than Spurrier’s Florida teams. The athletic department committed to facilities improvements, an important recruiting chip. Fans began to believe and expect success, and now Spurrier can sit in his office on a spring day and say, with all the confidence that he flashed in the mid-1990s at Florida, “We’re a top-10 program now.”

After going 7–6 (3–5 SEC) in 2009, with a 1–4 finish, South Carolina was 9–5 (5–3) in 2010 and played in the SEC Championship Game for the first time. Each of the past two seasons, South Carolina went 11–2 and 6–2 — its best overall and league records in school history. It finished in the top 10 for the first time ever in 2011, at No.  9, and bettered that by one spot in 2012. Moreover, South Carolina has four straight wins over Clemson for the second time ever, and first since 1951-54. The Gamecocks have never won five in a row over the Tigers.

Once an SEC doormat — see 1–10 and 0–11 seasons in 1998 and 1999, with no league wins either year — the Gamecocks in 2013 will chase their first conference title, with a defense led by All-America end Jadeveon Clowney, the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and a potential Heisman Trophy finalist this season.

Spurrier reached this point with steady growth. When he arrived at Florida, his alma mater, in 1990, the Gators had enough talent to go 9–2 and 6–1 in the SEC that first year. In Lou Holtz’s final three years at South Carolina, before Spurrier took over in 2005, the Gamecocks went 5–7, 5–7 and 6–5. The program wasn’t ready to thrive.

Spurrier sat out the 2004 season after two frustrating years with the Washington Redskins. He wanted back into coaching in 2005 and closely monitored the situation at North Carolina, where John Bunting was on the hot seat. Spurrier was familiar with the area from his days coaching at Duke in the late 1980s.

But North Carolina decided to retain Bunting after the 2004 season, so Spurrier turned his focus to South Carolina, an area he was less familiar with and a program with a minimal history of success. Spurrier still relishes telling the story about how his friends in Florida asked him why he wanted the South Carolina job — after all, they told him, he could never win there.

“I really wanted this job because I felt like there was nowhere to go but up, and we had a chance to achieve so many firsts,” Spurrier says. “If (North Carolina) had fired (Bunting) that year, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Spurrier and his staff were not familiar with the dynamics of recruiting the state of South Carolina when they arrived in Columbia, and it took some time to adjust. The 2009 class was particularly valuable, as Alshon Jeffery (Rivals’ No. 13 receiver) came from nearby St. Matthews to join Holloman and Gilmore, who was the first of four consecutive South Carolina Mr. Footballs to choose the Gamecocks. Clowney, the No. 1 overall recruit in 2011, attended the same high school as Holloman and Gilmore.

“I think there was a little bit of a disconnect between the high school coaches in the state of South Carolina and the coaches at the University of South Carolina,” says Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer, who worked at South Carolina from 2007-10 and was recruiting coordinator in his final two seasons in Columbia. “So we just went out of our way to try and reach out to those guys and be very welcoming, go out of our way to get them on our campus. I think the biggest thing was just getting to know people.”

Though Clowney’s decision was huge, perhaps South Carolina’s most important recruit ever, and another South Carolina Mr. Football, arrived in 2010 — Marcus Lattimore, the nation’s No. 1 running back and No. 10 overall recruit.

“When Clowney came down on a (recruiting) visit, Marcus sat with him at a basketball game,” Spurrier says. “Marcus was one of our best recruiters, definitely. Marcus, I think as a player, he’s the most important. His influence around here was just terrific. He was always on time. He was one of the hardest workers in the weight room and in the offseason conditioning.”

Lattimore put up impressive numbers, including a school-record 38 career rushing touchdowns, but South Carolina has won the past two years with defense. The Gamecocks ranked No. 3 nationally in yards allowed per game in 2011 and No. 11 in 2012 — improvements from No. 46 in 2010.

Spurrier has embraced the notion that the foundation to winning the modern SEC is a power running game and stout defense. While he would still love for South Carolina to throw the ball more, like his Florida teams did, it is the winning, above all else, that keeps him coaching at age 68.

He isn’t setting any timetables for retirement, and he believes South Carolina’s progress is sustainable, because of things like a $13 million academic center for athletes that opened in 2010 and a $6.5 million video board at Williams-Brice Stadium that debuted last season. Those are major factors in recruiting.

“You’ve got to do that, but it was the first time we clearly made it an absolute issue: This is what we have to do to compete at the highest level,” Spurrier Jr. says. “And we started doing it. That made a clear difference.”

As Spurrier Jr. searches for the next Gilmore, Holloman, Jeffery, Lattimore or even Clowney, he can be more selective.

“Three years ago, we offered 200 guys,” he says. “Now we’re offering 30, 40, 50. We know we can offer a smaller pool of people. We can offer that top group and know we’re going to get a decent number of them.”

South Carolina offered scholarships to two rising in-state sophomores when they were ninth graders — another sign of how South Carolina’s staff has begun to master in-state recruiting. “We’ve watched them for two years,” Spurrier Jr. says of the sophomores. “We know who our schools are, who the players are. That certainly makes a difference.”

Written by Darryl Slater for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 SEC Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 SEC season.

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Teaser:
South Carolina's Rise to Power
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Monthly, Overtime
Path: /monthly/ufc-champ-ronda-rousey-knockout
Body:

UFC Champ Ronda RouseyGo just about anywhere in Las Vegas this time of year and you are likely to spot at least one beautiful blond Southern California girl in sunglasses talking on a cell phone.

Most of them have arrived on a quick flight or taken the short drive through the desert hoping to hit the trendiest pools and clubs in the world.

Ronda Rousey is here to work, having blazed her own path and left in her wake a trail of broken bones and torn tendons. The 5'6" stunner doesn’t look very intimidating in the shadows of The Palms as she finishes up a phone call in an office park that houses the set of “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” a reality TV show that pits two teams of fighters and coaches against each other. The show has helped transform the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) into the top mixed martial arts (MMA) organization in the world and one of the hottest properties in all of sports. 

Rousey, a self-described surfer chick from Venice Beach, is coaching one of the teams. Along with her opposing coach and bitter rival Miesha Tate, the women add a striking degree of femininity (half the 16 sequestered contestants are also female) to one of the most testosterone-driven programs in all of television.

A womanly touch was obvious upon arriving at the gym as the UFC women’s champion decoratively cut a series of holes into a pattern on her “Team Rousey” tank top.

Not that the 26-year-old is some delicate flower.

Despite the starlet looks and disarming personality, Rousey possesses the quick wit and salty vocabulary to more than hold her own at even the most vulgar poker table in Sin City.

“She’s real,” says UFC fighter Chael Sonnen of the most successful and popular female fighter in the world. “She has a great set of skills and lots of personality. She isn’t afraid to let them both shine through.”

Rousey, the first American woman to medal in judo when she took bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics, has won all 10 fights in her MMA career (seven professional and three amateur) by armbar in the first round. Everyone knows it’s coming, but there is nothing anyone can do about it.

“The armbar I do is very common in judo. You put your legs over the opponent’s torso and neck while you’re perpendicular to them and pull their arm between your legs and hug it to your chest,” she deadpans. “Then you arch your back to the point where their arm can’t straighten anymore and the opponent has the choice to quit or let you keep arching your back.

“The back goes back farther than an elbow can, so the elbow is forced to follow the curvature of the back. So ...”

Tap or snap. Either “tap out,” the MMA term for giving up and conceding the fight, or allow Rousey to do considerable damage to your arm.

If Rousey sounds cavalier about potentially ruining the limbs of women who dare step in the cage with her, perhaps it’s because martial arts has always been an integral part of her life. She was bred to be a star judo competitor by her mother, Dr. Ann Maria Rousey DeMars, who would awaken her daughter with morning armbar drills. DeMars herself was a great judoka, becoming the first American to win a world title in 1984.

DeMars felt that judo could play a positive role for young Ronda, who been through a lifetime of struggles before she was even 8 years old.

Rousey endured her father’s suicide and birth complications that significantly slowed her development as a child.

In spite of all that, or perhaps more accurately, because of it, Rousey was driven to succeed. She was the youngest judo competitor at the 2004 Olympics at just 17. Four years later, she won the bronze medal that she thought would make all the hard work worthwhile.

“The 2008 Olympic run, the whole process of preparing and training for it, I ­didn’t really enjoy it. I just realized the bronze medal didn’t make me happy for very long,” Rousey says.

She knew she would be in prime position to improve on the bronze at the 2012 Games, but Rousey decided it just wasn’t meant to be.

“To be miserable for four years so I can possibly be happy for a few weeks, I just knew I had to find something else to do with myself,” she says.

Rousey took a year off from the sport in search of a more normal existence. She drove a Honda with three broken windows and no air conditioning to her various bartending jobs. Her apartment had no water pressure or gas, but plenty of cockroaches. She ate a lot of Top Ramen noodles, a staple for any college student, but hardly the typical diet for a world-class athlete.

“All I worried about was keeping gas in my car, keeping the rent paid and feeding my dog (Mochi, a 90-pound Mastiff).”

As drab as life was, Rousey decided it was preferable to returning to judo.

“I was happy enough that I couldn’t return to that old lifestyle, but I was discontented enough to not stick with what I was doing,” Rousey says.

She considered becoming a rescue swimmer with the Coast Guard. Her mom wanted her to go back to school. Instead, she turned a hobby she started as a way to stay in shape into a new career. Combining her natural abilities and an overwhelming desire to succeed, Rousey threw herself into becoming a mixed martial artist. “I started getting into it, and once I devote myself to something, that’s it. I obsessed over it,” she says. “I was (expletive) shadow boxing in the shower all the time. It’s all I would think about.”

She would eventually get carried away. Shortly after her fourth pro win, Rousey literally drove herself to exhaustion. After a full day of training, she was returning home from the gym in the early-morning hours on Thanksgiving weekend, knowing her next training session was only a few hours away.

“I got in my car and it was just so warm and quiet. Even at that time, it was stop-and-go traffic because of the holiday,” she recalls. “I just dozed off in traffic and crashed. I smashed my face on the steering wheel and broke my nose. I just ended up crying on the freeway. I was so tired and I just wanted to go home.”

She didn’t skip a beat, though.

“I wasn’t going to stop,” Rousey says. “It wasn’t going to change anything at all because I’m a stubborn (expletive). That’s my biggest problem and my biggest asset.”

From the beginning, Rousey knew her pursuit of success was going to have to be about more than just training hard. If most women in society face a glass ceiling, female fighters were toiling under a concrete roof. At the time, there was no women’s division in the UFC, and the organization’s famously outspoken president Dana White was adamantly against the idea.

Rousey didn’t care. “I had it in my mind I was going to change everything. I felt like I had all the skills and all the attributes to make this successful. These people don’t believe it’s possible because they haven’t seen me yet and they haven’t noticed me yet. I just had to make myself impossible to miss,” she says. “Then began my own campaign to become un-ignorable. I started saying some crazy (expletive) and putting on some good fights. I just felt like combining the two together was the only way to do it. First, I’ve got to get people to look. Then, I’ve got to give them a reason to stay.”

So Rousey started winning. Actually dominating. Three straight amateur wins — all by armbar, all under a minute — led to a pro contract.

And the wins came just as easily there, as she won her first four pro fights by armbar, all in less than a minute. The ruthless finishes were accompanied by outrageous comments, ranging from trash talk about her opponents to her now-famous thoughts on having plenty of sex before fights to ripping fellow Olympian Michael Phelps.

By Rousey’s fifth pro fight — for the Strikeforce title in March 2012 against her nemesis Tate — she had indeed become impossible to ignore. White points to that fight as the one that convinced him to reverse course. He decided later that year to merge Strikeforce, including the women’s division, into the UFC and freely admitted Rousey was the lone reason for the change of heart.

“She has the whole package,” he said on “The Jim Rome Show.” “She’s a real fighter and real talented. She has the credentials and the pedigree. And she has the ‘it’ factor. I think she’s going to be a big superstar.”

He was right. Rousey’s first UFC fight in February, a first-round armbar victory over Liz Carmouche, headlined a pay-per-view event that far out-performed company estimates with between 400,000 and 500,000 buys. Bloomberg recently reported she is the sport’s first female millionaire.

Rousey had officially arrived. Now she wants to help build the rest of the UFC 135-pound women’s division, which currently consists of 13 fighters, to a more sustainable place — one of the things she hopes to accomplish with her starring role on Season 18 of the reality show, which will air Wednesday nights starting in September on the soon-to-launch Fox Sports 1 network. She also hopes non-MMA fans can connect with her story.

“I feel like I manifested and willed a lot of this. I worked really hard for it,” she says. “One thing I hope I can do for other people is to show them no matter what their goals are, they’re doable. Even if nobody else believes they are.”

At the end of the season, Tate and Rousey will renew hostilities when they meet in a much-anticipated rematch. Rousey hopes to leave her rival with the same two options she has given each of her opponents.

Tap or snap?

 

Story by Adam Hill

Teaser:
UFC Champ Ronda Rousey is a Knockout
Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 16:01
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/officiating-college-football-under-microscope-2013
Body:

College football has a blown officiating call to thank for South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney blowing up a ball-carrier in the hit seen around the Internet.

Before Clowney’s devastatingly legal Outback Bowl hit last season, Big East referee Jeff Maconaghy allowed Michigan to retain possession by awarding a first down. One problem: The nose of the football clearly didn’t reach the first-down marker.

“It’s just a mistake, and I know that’s tough for people to deal with given social media and technology,” says Terry McAulay, the officiating coordinator of the American Athletic Conference (former Big East). “They say, ‘How can I get it right on the couch and they can’t?’ They don’t understand the pressure these guys are under and the fact they’re very, very good with 99 percent accuracy. But one percent can sometimes hurt us.”

College football officials have never been under so much scrutiny. On the flip side, their bosses have never communicated and leaned on each other as much as they do now.

Officiating needs all the help it can get this season. With player safety now a heavy focus, consistency will be called into question in a new way by a rule that automatically ejects a player who delivers a hit to the head of a defenseless player.

The state of college football officiating is evolving. To understand where it’s at, Athlon Sports talked individually with the six officiating coordinators at BCS conferences — Steve Shaw of the SEC, Doug Rhoads of the ACC, Bill Carollo of the Big Ten, Walt Anderson of the Big 12, Tony Corrente of the Pac-12 and McAulay of the American — plus former NFL officiating supervisor and current Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira. Here are excerpts from those candid conversations about the men fans love to hate.

What do you think of the ejection rule for targeting a defenseless player?

Carollo, Big Ten: “We want officials to know if they get a little too anxious and they’re wrong and throw the starting linebacker out of the game, we’ll support them and we have replay to confirm. If we really do care about these players 10 to 15 years from now, we have to change the rule. That’s a big price to pay, but we’re willing to take that risk.”
Corrente, Pac-12: “What happens when it’s a deliberate action vs. an accidental action? That’s what we want clarity on. … I’ve heard some coaches say, ‘You guys are changing the game and this isn’t football.’ I say, ‘You’re right. This isn’t football.’ The player safety issues we’re seeing today were not part of the game 20 years ago. I tell coaches five percent of their players will be pro players, meaning 90 to 95 percent will need to be functioning adults down the road. Don’t you want them to be functioning adults and not vegetables? I think it’s going to take a while for the culture to change, and we’ll start to see high hits diminish.”

Shaw, SEC: “I think making the ejection immediate in a game will change the mindset of the players. I can show you video last year of a player making a high hit on a receiver, he sees three flags thrown, and he’s back there chest-bumping his fellow players. That mindset now has to go to, ‘Oh no, I’m out of the game.’ We’re going to be very vigilant to make those calls.”

McAulay, American: “I think our struggle is going to be 13 minutes to go in the first quarter, this situation pops up, and you lose your free safety for the rest of the game because he did lower his target, but there’s still helmet-to-helmet contact that has to be called. There’s no leeway for the official. I’m struggling with that aspect of it. I understand the argument that there’s such a serious consequence and we can live with an ejection here and there that may not be warranted. They may be right. I don’t dismiss that argument. I’m not there yet.”

Pereira, ex-NFL: “When the penalty is so severe that it includes automatic ejection, boy, you better have a consistent philosophy. Although they’re backing it up with replay to make sure the ejection is warranted, I still think consistency is going to be an issue. Replay is going to have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that he shouldn’t be ejected.”

How challenging will it be for replay officials to decide whether to uphold the ejection?

Corrente, Pac-12: “I’m advocating we bring replay down on the field like the NFL does. The referee is the ultimate rules decision-maker on the field.”

McAulay, American: “We take the biggest plays out of the referee’s hands. I think the referees’ eyes give us a better chance of reaching near 100 percent accuracy. This is going to be a very, very tough process to get through for officials, replay and coordinators.”

Last year, College Football Officiating, LLC, used a committee of officiating coordinators to review hits to the head and recommend player disciplinary action to conferences. How often did conferences go along with those non-binding recommendations?

Corrente, Pac-12: “We read the committee’s recommendations but we kept everything in house. We believed we had a due process program in place that was understood. … Like any committee, you always have a degree of skepticism of whether anybody who is associated with a conference could have underlying reasons for removing someone else’s players. But I believe everybody in that room was above that approach.”

Carollo, Big Ten: “I brought the Aaron Murray hit (by Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial in the SEC Championship Game) and a dozen other plays to the rules committee about hitting a defenseless player and launching. The Murray play would be an automatic ejection and suspension now because we will define a defenseless player more in line with NFL rules. The CFO committee recommended a suspension (which didn’t happen). I know the SEC handles some things internally and there were a couple other plays in that game. I don’t second-guess these guys. If you really want consistency, that’s why we created that panel. We’re not very consistent in calling it and disciplining it around the country. Everyone kind of interpreted it their own way. Some sent letters of reprimand and didn’t start the game. Some had a half-game suspension. Some had an entire game suspension.” (Shaw, whose conference handed out three one-game suspensions in 2012, declined to discuss the Murray hit.)

The Pac-12 threw more flags by far than any conference last season. Why was that?

Corrente, Pac-12: “We had a tremendous increase last year of false starts. I had coaches tell me, ‘Tony, I don’t have the players to run our offense yet.’ If that happens, you’re making a lot of basic mistakes. So we saw an awful lot of penalties that I think this year will diminish dramatically. We also took a very aggressive stance with regard to player safety fouls, and in doing so, those numbers went up.”

Pereira, ex-NFL: “Of the games I saw, the Pac-12 probably had a little overemphasis on some of the post-play fouls, the pushing and shoving that they might be better getting in between of without resulting in a flag. I think it happens when you get a new coordinator like Corrente, who made a multitude of training tapes and put out a lot of information to officials.”

Could you envision College Football Officiating, headed by national coordinator Rogers Redding, ever receiving more authority to make binding decisions so there is greater uniformity between conferences?

McAulay, American: “Basketball got way ahead of us on uniformity. Conferences have their own little world that they get to do what they want to do without some absolute controlling authority to get everybody on the same page. We’re doing the best we can in that culture. But without that one commissioner overseeing everything like the NFL, it makes it more difficult to herd the cats. … You see what’s going on with (conference) realignment. If you can’t control that aspect for the good of the game, how can you control the lower parts of it? We’re all working together better than we ever have. Rogers does a good job of managing the strong-willed personalities of the coordinators.”

Anderson, Big 12: “I don’t think you’ll ever see one person trying to oversee (10 FBS) conferences. But what we are experimenting with is doing it on more of a regional basis, such as our partnership with the Mountain West and Southland Conference.”

Carollo, Big Ten: “One of our goals is you should turn the game on and don’t know which conference is officiating. We should have one set of mechanics and one rulebook and one philosophy on how we interpret calls. Is that aspirational? Maybe slightly today. Can we get everybody in the country doing it the same way? It’s pretty hard, but doable. I have seen in my four years in college where individual conferences have said this is how we do it, and those walls have been knocked down.”

Rhoads, ACC: “We need to continue to keep the pressure on us to make sure the uniformity/consistency piece is there. The NFL has 32 teams and they own the rules. College football is much broader with more than 120 teams alone in the FBS level. To get consistency in the application of a rule is a Herculean task for anybody. … Here’s the truth: The percentage of mistakes is very, very low. When you look at calls under the microscope with the media and social media, you’re going to find about a third of the time the official was wrong, a third of the time the official was right, and a third of it is judgment and you can talk about judgment until you die. The equal cry should be these guys are right a bunch of the time.”

What needs to be changed in officiating?

Carollo, Big Ten: “The coaches and players improve at a 45-degree angle. We (as officials) sometimes don’t stay in that 45-degree angle that keeps improving, and I see the gap widening a little more. … In college, we’ll make 5.5 to 6 mistakes every game. Our goal is maybe average four mistakes. The NFL target is 3.5 mistakes per game. We’re trying, but we’re kind of chasing the game. If you look at video 10 years ago of the SEC Championship Game, you go, ‘Whoa.’ You can see the change in the type of athletes out there. We need to be able to change.”

McAulay, American: “We started looking at team tendencies a couple years ago. There was always a sense if you look at the teams, you’ll make prejudgments and make an error, so we started slowly by looking at formations and pre-snap movements. We found, ‘Oh, this team runs the bubble screen a lot, so what does that mean in terms of how we look?’ We found it doesn’t make us prejudge on what fouls they might commit. We were able to judge it without surprise.”

Shaw, SEC: “We have to continue to modify our mechanics. If you’re in the proper place at the right time and trained where you should be, you’ll be a better official. We have some really good new mechanics we’re going to look at.”

What’s your philosophy on whether more experienced and qualified officials should work the highest-profile games?

Anderson, Big 12: “Just like players, officials are rookies at some point in their career. Even though you have confidence in them or they wouldn’t be there, it’s not like a guy who’s a veteran official and everybody knows him and is comfortable with him. I’m a very big proponent there will be some assignments you’ll put your very best officials in those environments because of the environments they’re working.”

Shaw, SEC: “Every game is important. But there are certain games that it’s easier to work a young official in, so that’s what we try to do.”

Rhoads, ACC: “I don’t look at it as that’s my No. 1 crew and that’s my No. 6 crew and this is a big game so we should put No. 1 there. There may be a fan perspective or a coach perspective to that. But if you have that much disparity from one crew to another, then you’re not training them correctly.”
The Big 12 plans to experiment with eight officials instead of seven, putting an extra one in the offensive backfield with the referee. What’s the thinking behind that concept?

Anderson, Big 12: “We have to keep pace with the game because it’s constantly evolving. With offenses going much more spread, (officiating) coverages that were for decades defined by seven officials are really appearing to be inadequate. There are a lot of passing plays that create blanket areas that aren’t covered by anybody, such as the tackle area opposite the referee. It also gives another set of eyes for hits on a quarterback.”

Pereira, ex-NFL: “I don’t like it. To me, the perfect number is seven. All you get is another opinion and it doesn’t mean it’s another good one.”

Given the scrutiny on officiating these days, how hard is it to find new officials?

Shaw, SEC: “At the entry level, we’re not getting the former players or people like we have before. That’s where the risk is now. It’s not in the next four to five years for the SEC because we’ve got great talent out there to choose from.”

McAulay, American: “You’re not getting 18-, 19- or 20-year-olds anymore hardly ever getting into officiating. If they do it, it’s later after college at 28, 32, 35, which is really too late. I started at 16 and that experience was invaluable. You lose a lot of snaps getting into it later.”

Pereira, ex-NFL: “There’s so much emphasis on officiating, including myself on TV, that if you’re trying to get into high school football and get yelled at by coaches and parents, maybe you say, ‘Is it worth it?’ The rate of retention of new officials at the high school level and even the Pop Warner level is not very good. You have to be a different person to put up with the abuse that goes along with this job.”
Technology continues to evolve. The SEC uses wireless headsets for officials to talk. The Big Ten has studied goal line cameras. There are even companies proposing chips in footballs to determine first downs and touchdowns. Where is this headed?

Anderson, Big 12: “There’s a strong lobby that if we had the technology to determine where that football is, would it not be worth having it? Those are the decisions as the game evolves that will have to be made. Then the question is which parts of the game just by tradition do you want to preserve? There’s not ever going to be a perfect solution.”

McAulay, American: “If we ever get to the point where we have almost a sterile, perfect environment, I think people are going to turn away from the game. We’re humans in a game played by humans. I think that’s one of the great things about our game. People the next day can talk about the bad pass, the poor call on defense or the missed call by an official.”

Written by Jon Solomon for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Regional Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 college football season.

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Teaser:
Officiating in College Football is Under a Microscope in 2013
Post date: Friday, July 26, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-usc-football-fan
Body:

The 2012 season wasn’t a pleasant one for USC. The thud from preseason No. 1 to 7-6 with a two-touchdown loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl qualifies as one of the most disappointing for any school anywhere.

Painful as it was, that season alone doesn’t qualify as one of the toughest times for a USC fan. At least Trojans fans got to watch their team. The 1982-83 squads, also limited by NCAA sanctions, faced a television ban. And yet USC still managed to go 8-3 in ’82 and recovered to go to the Rose Bowl two years later.

The standards are higher at USC for sure, and the Trojans have rarely had long stretches of poor play. USC has only had 12 losing seasons in its history.

Certainly, the highs are more notable in Los Angeles.

The most prominent college football programs, for the most part, resided West of the Rocky Mountains when John McKay became USC’s head coach in 1960, though the Trojans at the time were a Rose Bowl regular before then. McKay set up USC to become one of college football’s premier programs with a constant stream of Heisman winners, national champions, All-Americans and future Pro Football Hall of Famers.

Here are the times when the Song Girls had a little more pep in their step as well as the times they were the better draw to the Coliseum than the football team.

BEST TIMES TO BE A USC FAN

1967-81
Record:
139-28-8
National championships: 4
Coach: John McKay, John Robinson
Notable players: O.J. Simpson, Ron Yary, Lynn Swann, Richard Wood, Ricky Bell, Dennis Thurman, Charles White, Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, Sam Cunningham
Generations of Americans will remember O.J. Simpson for reasons other than what a superstar Juice was in college. Simpson ushered in the most successful era in USC history by rushing for 3,423 yards in two seasons with 23 touchdowns as a senior. The ledger during this era is astounding: Four national titles (1967, ’72, ’74, ’78), three Heisman winners (Simpson, White and Allen), an Outland winner (Yary) nine Pac-10 titles (plus a 10th in the 7-4 season in 1966). These USC teams also brought social significance, with Sam Cunningham and USC’s 42-21 win over an all-white Alabama team in Birmingham in 1970 doing “more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 60 years,” as Tide assistant Jerry Claiborne put it. The 1972 team was one of the best in USC history, becoming the first team to gain every first-place ballot in the AP and UPI polls.

2002-08
Record: 68-9
National championships: 2
Coach: Pete Carroll
Notable players: Reggie Bush (right), Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Dwayne Jarrett, Sam Baker, Keneche Udezi, Lofa Tatupu
Before Alabama resurfaced, USC was the dominant program of the 21st century, though the fanfare around the two traditional powers couldn’t be more different. Pete Carroll was made for Los Angeles with his big personality and open invitations for celebrities such as Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg to hang around the program. USC won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles under Carroll, a feat no Trojans coach accomplished. On a national scale, USC won back-to-back national titles in 2003-04 during a run of seven consecutive top-five finishes. With three Heisman winners (Palmer, Bush and Leinart), USC had one of the nation’s best offenses, but the Trojans had one of the best defensive performances in school history by holding eight teams to a touchdown or less in 2008. During this era, only a Vince Young-led Texas team was able to beat USC in a bowl game.

1927-33
Record:
57-6-2
National championships: 2
Coach: Howard Jones
Notable players: Mort Kaer, Jesse Hibbs, Morley Drury, Erny Pinckert, Gus Shaver, Ernie Smith, Aaron Rosenberg, Cotton Warburton
USC quickly became the preeminent Western power in the late ‘20s, winning two pre-AP era national championships in 1931 and ’32. The 1932 team that finished 10-0 held opponents to a grand total of 13 points.

WORST TIMES TO BE A USC FAN

1957-61
Record: 21-27-2
Coaches: Don Clark, John McKay
USC had yet to achieve dynasty status as it did in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but the Trojans had come to expect more that what it got in the late ‘50s during the short tenure of Don Clark. He went 1-9 in his first season and finished 8-2, but USC endured a seven-year Rose Bowl drought, the longest for the program since the ‘20s. Clark’s tenure wasn’t all a failure; his staff included McKay and future Raiders icon Al Davis. McKay went 8-11-1 in his first two seasons before an unlikely undefeated national championship season in Year Three.

1996-2000
Record:
31-29
Coaches: John Robinson, Paul Hackett
Robinson’s second tour of duty with USC wasn’t nearly successful as the first, as he went 12-11 in his final two seasons. Hackett didn’t fare much better, going 11-13 in his final two seasons. This was one of the rare times USC was dormant in the Pac-10, reaching only one bowl game in five seasons.
 

Teaser:
The '60s and '70s were a good time to pull for Tailback U
Post date: Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 12:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-top-300-2013
Body:

Johnny ManzielFall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2013. Athlon Sports has teamed with Joe DiSalvo of thecffsite.com to provide the latest rankings for the upcoming year.

Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point
Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point
Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point
FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points
Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point,

Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

2013 College Fantasy Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Team Defenses


Updated: August 22, by Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)

Note: This is not a list of the best players in college football. This is a ranking of the best players in terms of fantasy value (players who will have the best numbers in college football for 2013.)

 

College Fantasy Football: Top 300 for Fall Drafts
 

RankPlayerPositionTeam
1Ka'Deem CareyRBArizona
2Jordan LynchQBNorthern Illinois
3Braxton MillerQBOhio State
4Tajh BoydQBClemson
5Johnny ManzielQBTexas A&M
6Marqise LeeWRUSC
7Sammy WatkinsWRClemson
8Adam MuemaRBSan Diego State
9Todd GurleyRBGeorgia
10David FluellenRBToledo
11Antonio AndrewsRBWestern Kentucky
12T.J. YeldonRBAlabama
13Marcus MariotaQBOregon
14Branden OliverRBBuffalo
15Duke JohnsonRBMiami
16Josh StewartWROklahoma State
17Dri ArcherRBKent State
18Ameer AbdullahRBNebraska
19Brett HundleyQBUCLA
20Zurlon TiptonRBCentral Michigan
21Lache SeastrunkRBBaylor
22Bishop SankeyRBWashington
23Davante AdamsWRFresno State
24Eric WardWRTexas Tech
25Brett SmithQBWyoming
26De'Anthony ThomasRBOregon
27Venric MarkRBNorthwestern
28Tommy ShulerWRMarshall
29Justin HardyWREast Carolina
30Kolton BrowningQBUL-Monroe
31Jordan MatthewsWRVanderbilt
32Branden OliverRBBuffalo
33Bernard ReedyWRToledo
34Darrin ReavesRBUAB
35Carlos HydeRBOhio State
36Rakeem CatoQBMarshall
37Storm WoodsRBOregon St
38Charles SimsRBWest Virginia
39Cody HoffmanWRBYU
40Derek CarrQBFresno State
41Kenneth DixonRBLouisiana Tech
42Shane CardenQBEast Carolina
43Kasey CarrierRBNew Mexico
44Willie SneadWRBall State
45Beau BlankenshipRBOhio
46Bryce PettyQBBaylor
47Taylor MartinezQBNebraska
48Melvin GordonRBWisconsin
49Storm JohnsonRBUCF
50Jeremy SmithRBOklahoma State
51Terrance BroadwayQBUL-Lafayette
52Brandin CooksWROregon State
53Mike DavisRBSouth Carolina
54John HubertRBKansas State
55Noel GrigsbyWRSan Jose State
56Quinshad DavisWRNorth Carolina
57Clint ChelfQBOklahoma State
58Mike EvansWRTexas A&M
59Jay AjayiRBBoise State
60Jamison CrowderWRDuke
61Orleans DarkwaRBTulane
62Cody FajardoQBNevada
63Amari CooperWRAlabama
64Chuckie KeetonQBUtah State
65Carlos HydeRBOhio State
66Jamaal WilliamsRBBYU
67Isaac BennettRBPitt
68Jahwan EdwardsRBBall State
69Austin FranklinWRNew Mexico State
70James SimsRBKansas
71David FalesQBSan Jose State
72Austin Sefarian-JenkinsTEWashington
73Andre WilliamsRBBoston College
74Ben MalenaRBTexas A&M
75Silas ReddRBUSC
76Michael CampanaroWRWake Forest
77Allen RobinsonWRPenn State
78Damien WilliamsRBOklahoma
79Bo WallaceQBOle Miss
80Logan ThomasQBVirginia Tech
81Jalen SaundersWROklahoma
82Rod McDowellRBClemson
83Trey WattsRBTulsa
84Aaron MurrayQBGeorgia
85Michael BrewerQBTexas Tech
86Alex NeutzWRBuffalo
87Stefon DiggsWRMaryland
88David OkuRBArkansas State
89Ryan GrantWRTulane
90LaDarius PerkinsRBMississippi State
91Donnell KirkwoodRBMinnesota
92Teddy BridgewaterQBLouisville
93Stephen HoustonRBHouston
94Donte MoncriefWROle Miss
95Alonzo HarrisRBUL-Lafayette
96Jeremy GallonWRMichigan
97Tim CornettRBUNLV
98Blake BellQBOklahoma
99Marion GriceRBArizona State
100Brendan BigelowRBCalifornia
101Bryn RennerQBNorth Carolina
102Der’rikk ThompsonWRSMU
103Jay LeeWRBaylor
104Gator HoskinsTEMarshall
105Jordan JamesRBUCLA
106George Atkinson IIIRBNotre Dame
107Chris HarperWRCalifornia
108DeVante ParkerWRLouisville
109Devin GardnerQBMichigan
110Vintavious CooperRBEast Carolina
111Jeff ScottRBOle Miss
112Dawan ScottWRMiami (O)
113Alex AmidonWRBoston College
114Jordan ParkerRBMiddle Tennessee
115Je’Ron HammWRUL-Monroe
116Jerome SmithRBSyracuse
117Vad LeeQBGeorgia Tech
118Taylor KellyQBArizona State
119Keyarris GarrettWRTulsa
120David RichardsWRArizona
121Alabama D/ST  
122Eric EbronTENorth Carolina
123Kasen WilliamsWRWashington
124Antwan GoodleyWRBaylor
125Matt MillerWRBoise State
126Taylor McHargueQBRice
127Jordan HopgoodRBBowling Green
128Wesley TateRBVanderbilt
129Jace AmaroTETexas Tech
130Casey PachallQBTCU
131Titus DavisWRCentral Michigan
132Deontay GreenberryWRHouston
133Dominique WilliamsWRWashington State
134Keenan ReynoldsQBNavy
135Tyler TettletonQBOhio
136Chris CoyleTEArizona State
137Jeremy HillRBLSU
138Phillip DorsettWRMiami
139Tre MasonRBAuburn
140Kelvin YorkRBUtah
141Donte FosterWROhio
142Michael DyerRBLouisville
143Christian PowellRBColorado
144Garrett GilbertQBSMU
145David SimsRBGeorgia Tech
146Stanford D/ST  
147Jordan ThompsonWRWest Virginia
148Brandon CarterWRTCU
149Romar MorrisRBNorth Carolina
150Andre DavisWRSouth Florida
151J.D. McKissicWRArkansas State
152Blake BortlesQBUCF
153Lyle McCombsRBConnecticut
154Chris GallonWRBowling Green
155Joe HillRBUtah State
156Connor HallidayQBWashington State
157James WhiteRBWisconsin
158T.J. JonesWRNotre Dame
159C.J. FiedorowiczTEIowa
160Martavis BryantWRClemson
161Matt JonesRBFlorida
162Byron MarshallRBOregon
163Bronson HillRBEastern Michigan
164B.J. DenkerQBArizona
165Notre Dame D/ST  
166Brandon ColemanWRRutgers
167J.J. WortonWRUCF
168Savon HugginsRBRutgers
169Bradley MarquezWRTexas Tech
170Mike DavisWRTexas
171Shaquelle EvansWRUCLA
172Tevin ReeseWRBaylor
173Stephen MorrisQBMiami
174Marlin LaneRBTennessee
175Keith WenningQBBall State
176Robert HerronWRWyoming
177Derrick GreenRBMichigan
178Chris NwokeRBColorado State
179Colt LyerlaTEOregon
180Eric ThomasWRTroy
181Marteze WallerRBFresno State
182Rashad GreeneWRFlorida State
183Daniel SamsQBKansas State
184South Carolina D/ST  
185Max WittekQBUSC
186Jawon ChisholmRBAkron
187Dorial Green-BeckhamWRMissouri
188Willie McNealWRWestern Kentucky
189Tracy MooreWROklahoma State
190Dominique BrownRBLouisville
191Terrance OwensQBToledo
192Trayion DurhamRBKent State
193Nelson AgohlorWRUSC
194Michael BennettWRGeorgia
195Johnathan GrayRBTexas
196Taysom HillQBBYU
197Joe MorrowWRMississippi State
198Kevonte Martin-ManleyWRIowa
199Michigan State D/ST  
200Arthur LynchTEGeorgia
201Paul RichardsonWRColorado
202Cameron StingilyRBNorthern Illinois
203Kenny WilliamsRBTexas Tech
204James FranklinQBMissouri
205Kevin OzierWRArizona State
206Zach KlineQBCalifornia
207Kevin ParksRBVirginia
208Mark WeismanRBIowa
209Louisville D/ST  
210D.J. ColesWRVirginia Tech
211Jamill SmithWRBall State
212Alex CollinsRBArkansas
213Clive WalfordTEMiami
214David PilandQBHouston
215Bruce EllingtonWRSouth Carolina
216L.T. SmithWRAkron
217Kain ColterQBNorthwestern
218Don JacksonRBNevada
219Jyruss EdwardsRBUL-Monroe
220Noah CopelandRBNavy
221Clint TrickettQBWest Virginia
222Ted BolserTEIndiana
223Glasco MartinRBBaylor
224Jamal RobinsonWRUL-Lafayette
225K.J. MyersWRWest Virginia
226Kenny BellWRNebraska
227Alfred BlueRBLSU
228A.J. McCarronQBAlabama
229LSU D/ST  
230J.C. ColemanRBVirginia Tech
231Marcus DavisWRAuburn
232Sterling ShepardWROklahoma
233Dan VitaleTENorthwestern
234Jameis WinstonQBFlorida State
235Jarvis LandryWRLSU
236Marcus ShawRBSouth Florida
237James Wilder, Jr.RBFlorida State
238Jordan LeslieWRUTEP
239Jeremy JohnsonWRSMU
240Jake McGeeTEVirginia
241Sam RichardsonQBIowa State
242Matt SchilzQBBowling Green
243Zach ZwinakRBPenn State
244Andrew BuieRBWest Virginia
245Jake MurphyTEUtah State
246TCU D/ST  
247Alonzo RussellWRToledo
248Anthony BooneQBDuke
249LeKendrick WilliamsWRTexas A&M
250Kyle CarterTEPenn State
251Chandler JonesWRSan Jose State
252Keith PriceQBWashington
253Devin FunchessTEMichigan
254Gabe MarksWRWashington State
255Mark WeismanRBIowa
256Nick HillRBMichigan State
257Raymond MaplesRBArmy
258Florida D/ST  
259Tyler RussellQBMississippi State
260Brandon WimberlyWRNevada
261Kofi HughesWRIndiana
262Henry JoseyRBMissouri
263Nick O’LearyTEFlorida State
264Devin SmithWROhio State
265Austin BoucherQBMiami (O)
266Nathan JefferyRBUTEP
267Ty MontgomeryWRStanford
268Tavarese MayeWRUL-Monroe
269Raymond SandersRBKentucky
270Clemson D/ST  
271Devonta FreemanRBFlorida State
272Devin StreetWRPittsburgh
273Zane FakesTEBall State
274A.J. SchurrQBArmy
275Joe SouthwickQBBoise State
276Brandon HayesRBMemphis
277Josh HuffWROregon
278Texas D/ST  
279Alex BayerTEBowling Green
280Cody GreenQBTulsa
281C.J. BrownQBMaryland
282Senorise PerryRBLouisville
283Tommylee LewisWRNorthern Illinois
284Josh HarrisRBWake Forest
285Malcolm BrownRBTexas
286Florida State  
287Chase RettigQBBoston College
288Jared AbbrederisWRWisconsin
289Jacob PedersenTEWisconsin
290D.J. FosterRBArizona State
291Oregon State D/ST  
292Malcolm MitchellWRGeorgia
293Xavier GrimbleTEUSC
294Kale PearsonQBAir Foirce
295James WhiteRBIowa State
296Kevin HoganQBStanford
297Rob BlanchflowerTEMassachusetts
298Tyler LockettWRKansas State
299Albert WilsonWRGeorgia State
300Isaiah BurseWRFresno State

 

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Top 300 for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/lane-kiffins-last-stand-usc
Body:

Lane KiffinThere are two ways to look at the fallout of Lane Kiffin’s decision to include more contact in USC practices this spring.

On the one hand, the 20 players ruled out for the Spring Game are evidence that even when the coach tries to do something to improve his team — toughening it up by staging more physical practices — it backfires. Dude is just plain unlucky.

On the other hand, putting the Trojans through a more demanding spring with a roster that has been depleted by NCAA sanctions (thank you, Reggie Bush) is the desperate move of a man more interested in preserving his job than caring for his players.

Either way, Kiffin loses. And maybe that’s the whole point here. As he enters his fourth season leading the USC program, Kiffin finds himself in a situation that includes few happy endings. Either he is the man who couldn’t withstand the NCAA’s crippling punishment, or the guy who just didn’t capture the right tone in Troy. Kiffin needs a big 2013 to prove that he is the right man to lead a program that believes it should win at the level of the Pete Carroll era (80–9 from 2002-08), not the 19 years that came before it (133–89–6).

USC athletic director Pat Haden has said: “There’s no reason that Lane Kiffin shouldn’t be our coach.” Haden didn’t hire the former Trojan assistant. These days, that’s a dangerous condition.

“I can’t imagine a better relationship with a guy who didn’t hire you,” Kiffin says.

Kiffin sits in a remarkably perilous position, with critics snapping at him from every corner and UCLA eager to take over control of the L.A. football scene. Yet, he seems strangely calm and determined to remove it all from his world.

“That’s part of this job,” Kiffin says. “You can’t be too high or too low. Some people were telling me 12 months ago, ‘Thanks for saving the program. You’re going to be here forever. You’re our guy.’ Now, I don’t know anything.

“The only thing I can do is stick to our plan and coach the best we can.”

Last season was the perfect confluence of misfortune, bad judgment and just plain absurdity. The Trojans began the year as everybody’s No. 1 team. They had a Heisman candidate under center in Matt Barkley, excellent skill position players, some nasty defenders and plenty to prove after a two-year postseason exile. But after a 6–1 start, the Trojans disintegrated, losing five of their last six, including an embarrassing Sun Bowl defeat against Georgia Tech. Barkley was lost for the season in the loss to UCLA, and Kiffin had some bizarre moments that included barking at reporters, switching a player’s uniform number during one game and using deflated footballs during another.

Lane KiffinIt appeared as if the program was careening toward the surreal, with a stew of poor play and unexplainable sideshows that some said revealed Kiffin’s true nature. There were those who argued that the reason Haden didn’t can Kiffin after the season was that he didn’t want to saddle another coach with the post-probation roster limitations and preferred to let Kiffin ride out the storm before dispatching him. Whatever Haden’s motivation might be, Kiffin is back, and the Trojans are trying to put 2012 as far behind them as possible.
“Last year is dead and gone,” senior defensive end Devon Kennard says. “This is a new team, a new group and new leaders. There are a lot of new coaches. Everything is new. That’s our perspective after the season we had (in 2012). We’re now focused on this team.”

It’s going to be a vastly different outfit than its ’12 predecessor. “We’re creating a new energy,” Kiffin says. Kennard references staff changes, and USC has a new offensive coordinator in the person of former quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Clay Helton. Kiffin removed his father, Monte, from atop the defensive flow chart and brought in Clancy Pendergast, who spent the last three years directing Cal’s D and has six years of NFL coordinator experience. In all, Kiffin’s 2013 staff includes four new coaches, with an emphasis on revitalizing the Trojan offense.

That won’t be easy, since Barkley is gone. Sophomore Max Wittek, who struggled in two starts at the end of last season, is the likely quarterback, and though talented players like explosive wideout Marqise Lee and running back Silas Redd return, there are questions about whether the Trojans can keep up in a conference that features some of the nation’s most potent attacks.

“Things are really different,” Wittek says. “There’s a lot bigger focus on fundamental things, the small, minute details that mean a lot.”

No amount of coaching can change the composition of the Trojans roster, which continues to feel the impact of the sanctions. USC has added only 30 new players over the past two years and has one more year of recruiting limitations.

The impact has been dramatic. Haden told USA Today last November that USC traveled to Stanford with only 56 scholarship players and 14 former or current walk-ons, some of whom had been awarded scholarships. No matter how you slice it, the Trojans have been compromised considerably.

“I think the sanctions do a lot of little things that people don’t realize,” Kiffin says. “They affect our ‘service teams.’ When we go to our 2’s, they are what our 3’s used to be when I was here before (on Carroll’s staff). We’re using more walk-ons. It impacts the way we can practice. But it is what it is.”

Some Kiffin supporters — and Haden counts himself as one — argue that it’s impossible to know whether the coach is actually capable of leading the Trojans to the top of the Pac-12 and into the upper reaches of the college football world, because of the sanctions. Others counter that Kiffin’s 7–6 record at Tennessee, coupled with last year’s collapse, indicate that he is not qualified.

Although there were reports last year that Kiffin had lost some members of the team, this year’s squad seems to have faith in its coach and is approaching 2013 as if 2012 were 30 years ago. To them, the discussion about Kiffin’s future doesn’t matter.

“In the locker room, we’re not worried about that,” Kennard says. “We can’t do anything about that, and we can’t control it. We believe in Coach Kiffin. He has the players’ best interests in mind, and he wants to put us in position to be successful. As a player, I respect that.”

Until Aug. 29, when the Trojans finally “put it on the field,” as Kiffin says, the only thing to do is speculate. This is a huge season for the Trojans — and for Kiffin, who could be fired if the team isn’t highly competitive in the Pac-12. Kiffin isn’t worried, at least outwardly, and insists that he cannot wait for the games to start.

“When you have a season like that, you form a great resolve, and you never look back,” he says.

For Kiffin, that’s a good idea, because he doesn’t want to see who might be coming after him.

Written by Michael Bradley for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Pac-12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big 12 season.

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Teaser:
Lane Kiffin's last stand at USC.
Post date: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 07:15

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