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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 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.”

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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
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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
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-tennessee-football-fan
Body:

Maybe it’s because Tennessee fans sing it so many times during the course of one game, but it’s easy to forget Rocky Top wasn’t first played at Neyland Stadium until 1972.

Now, just imagine how many times the coach Gen. Robert Neyland would have inspired the band to kick into Rocky Top during his time as the Volunteers’ coach.

His tenure included Tennessee’s rise to prominence, a national championship season, an entire regular season full of shutouts. Certainly, Neyland’s eras were among the best in Tennessee history. Like many teams of their era, they were powered by grinding running backs and linemen who played on both sides of the ball.

Tennessee had pockets of success after Neyland, but reclaimed national power status under Philip Fulmer. By then, Tennessee had one of the greatest passing quarterbacks in the history of the game in Peyton Manning. A decade after the national championship, though, Tennessee would reach new lows.

BEST TIMES TO BE A TENNESSEE FAN

 

1995-98
Record:
45-5
National championships: 1
Coach: Philip Fulmer
Notable players: Peyton Manning, Tee Martin, Travis Henry, Peerless Price, Shaun Ellis, Al Wilson, Jamal Lewis, Deon Grant
Alum Philp Fulmer returned Tennessee to the national spotlight with a little help from Peyton Manning. Manning started all four seasons, passing for 11,201 career yards, but the Volunteers also churned out NFL running backs in Travis Henry and Jamal Lewis, plus receiver Peerless Price. The Vols could have made a case to be the SEC’s team of the ‘90s if not for their Achilles’ heel Florida, who defeated Manning in all four meetings. Tennessee got over that hump in 1998, defeating the Gators 20-17 and then got a fortunate fumble from Arkansas’ Clint Stoerner to win the SEC. The Vols then defeated Florida State 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl for the first BCS championship and the first title in school history since 1951.

1938-40
Record: 31-2
National championships: 0
Coach: Gen. Robert Neyland
Notable players: Bowden Wyatt, Eddie Molinski, George Cafego, Bob Suffridge
Sure, teams scored at a lower rate in this era, but Tennessee managed to shut out 15 consecutive opponents from Nov. 5, 1938 until a 14-0 loss to USC in the 1941 Rose Bowl. Linemen Bob Suffridge and Eddie Molinski earned All-America honors five times between them, with Molinski anchoring the 1939 defense and Suffridge becoming one of the best pulling single-wing guards. This era included Tennessee’s first three bowl game with the Orange, Rose and Sugar.

1926-32
Record: 61-2-5
National championships: 0
Coach: Gen. Robert Neyland (right)
Notable players: Gene McEver, Beattie Feathers, Bobby Dodd, Herman Hickman
The Volunteers put their program on the map with an upset of Alabama in 1928 in which Tide coach Wallace Wade was so confident he told UT he’d end the game early if it got out of hand. Tennessee became a national power in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s with a pair of halfbacks (McEver and Feathers), a quarterback (Dodd, who became a College Football Hall of Fame coach) and a guard (Hickman). This, of course, began the reign of Tennessee’s top coach in school history in Gen. Robert Neyland, hired in 1926. Tennessee had five undefeated seasons in a seven-season span.

1950-52
Record:
29-4-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Gen. Robert Neyland
Notable players: Hank Lauricella, John Michels, Doug Atkins
Neyland’s return from World War II didn’t get off to a great start (25-13-3), but he proved he still had it at the start of the 50s. Though Tennessee only won a share of the SEC title once during this era, it coincided with the Volunteers’ first national championship in 1951, which would stand as their only title until 1998.

WORST TIMES TO BE A TENNESSEE FAN


2008-12
Record: 28-34
Coaches: Philip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley
The dysfunction in Knoxville goes beyond losses on the football field, though there was plenty of that. Fulmer was unceremoniously forced out of his job after 15 years, replaced by the young and brash Lane Kiffin. Tennessee fans loved his bravado at first, believing Fulmer had made the program stale in the increasingly competitive SEC. Kiffin bolted after one season, and his one standout recruiting class crumbled with player transfers, academic casualties and legal issues. Dooley’s watch included a 4-19 SEC record and the end of UT’s 26-game win streak over Kentucky. The basketball program also saw one of its most successful coaches, Bruce Pearl, fired amid NCAA violations. As if the bumblings in football and men’s basketball weren’t enough, Tennessee’s beacon of stability, women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, retired after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.

1958-64
Record:
34-32-4
Coaches: Bowden Wyatt, Jim McDonald, Doug Dickey
Tennessee slipped into a period of mediocrity, going seven seasons without a bowl game. These lean years still produced middle guard Steve DeLong, who won the Outland Trophy in 1964.

Teaser:
The Vols' greatest eras from Neyland to Manning
Post date: Monday, July 22, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/its-playoffs-or-bust-dallas-cowboys-2013
Body:

The owner isn’t happy.
The coach is on the hot seat.
The quarterback needs to produce.
So what else is new in Dallas?

It was a long, long time ago. The Cowboys’ last Super Bowl-winning season was so long ago that Bill Clinton was president, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder and the World Wide Web still was in its infancy. It was so long ago that Cowboys third-year left tackle Tyron Smith was five years old.

Yes, indeed, those were the good ol’ days in Dallas, when Lombardi Trophies seemed to grow on trees.
The Cowboys are now in the midst of their longest championship drought in team history. It’s been 17 years, and counting, since their last title.

The Cowboys’ Lombardi Trophies are dusty, their rings tarnished. They are 140–141, including a 2–7 postseason record, since their last championship season of 1995. They are what they are — a mediocre franchise. They have not been to the playoffs since 2009, going 22–26 the past three seasons combined. The Cowboys lost win-or-go-home games in Week 17 each of the past two seasons.

“We are in a rut that is akin to lying dead in a coffin,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says.

Jason GarrettYet, that hasn’t stopped Jones from hoping to party like it’s 1995. Jones believes. He believes in Tony Romo. He believes in Jason Garrett. He believes in Monte Kiffin. He believes another championship is awaiting the Cowboys this season.

Then again, Jones, an eternal optimist, also believed in Quincy Carter and Dave Campo and Brian Stewart and every other quarterback, head coach and defensive coordinator to call Valley Ranch home for even a season. Every year begins with Super Bowl expectations for the Cowboys, and lately, every season has ended in the blame game. They are a broken record.

The Cowboys have had 16 starting quarterbacks — including Garrett and current quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson — as well as six head coaches, eight offensive coordinators and seven defensive coordinators in the past 17 years, but only one general manager. That’s why Jones, as owner/general manager, has received much of the criticism for the team’s failures.

The Cowboys’ drafts from 2006-11 have produced only eight current or projected starters. Not one pick remains from the 2009 draft, and nickel back Orlando Scandrick is the sole representative from the Class of 2008.

Despite his failures as general manager, Jones isn’t going anywhere.

“I pretty much go with what I did the night I bought the team,” Jones says. “I said I was going to be the GM. … It would be a facade if someone else was sitting in my shoes and someone thought they were spending the money. It would be deception. I would grant you the decisions that have been made over the years have not produced a Super Bowl, two Super Bowls or three Super Bowls that I would like to have been a part of. The only thing I am going to do is keep trying, and then make sure I get the credit when we do get that one. Y’all are going to give it to me, aren’t you?”

Jones had promised to make this an uncomfortable offseason at the team’s Valley Ranch headquarters. But it was something of an offseason of discontent for Cowboys fans as Jones retained Garrett, who became head coach when Wade Phillips was fired midway through the 2010 season.

Tony RomoThe Cowboys gave Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million extension, making him the sixth-highest-paid player in the NFL despite his 1–6 record in win-or-go-home games. They franchised Anthony Spencer, who will make the move from outside linebacker to defensive end. They made no big moves in free agency.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was the scapegoat, fired by the Cowboys after they decided on a shift to the 4-3 scheme. Kiffin, 73, is one of the fathers of the Tampa-2 defense, along with Tony Dungy. Five other new assistants have joined him on the Garrett’s staff.

But Kiffin was not greeted by Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch as he was when he arrived in Tampa Bay as defensive coordinator in 1996. DeMarcus Ware, Spencer, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are building blocks, good enough that Kiffin believes the Cowboys can make a quick, successful transition from the 3-4.

“We are not the 1996 Buccaneers by any sense,” Kiffin says. “…We have a good nucleus here for a 4-3 defense, but we still need to get better, no doubt about it.”

Since the Cowboys aren’t the second coming of Doomsday, having allowed the most yards in team history last season, Kiffin might be given the benefit of the doubt. But the honeymoon is over for Garrett and Romo.

Romo, 33, ranks first in team history in completion percentage (64.7) and touchdown passes (177). He is second in career attempts (3,240) and completions (2,097). He is 55–38 as a starter since taking over for Drew Bledsoe in the middle of the 2006 season.

But Romo compares more to Danny White with a 1–3 playoff record than he does to Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman. He could not even get the Cowboys to the playoffs the past three seasons, going 17–21 as the starter. Still, the Cowboys compensated Romo like the franchise quarterback they believe he is, giving him the second-most guaranteed money in NFL history at $55 million.

“We have great belief of Tony Romo as our quarterback,” Garrett says. “Tony has won a lot of big games for us to get us to the point where we can play for the division in Week 17 in consecutive years. We all know that we want to take the next step, and Tony is going to be a big part of that going forward. I think you have to understand the whole body of work. I think you have to understand that winning is where we get evaluated. He’s done a lot of great things for this franchise. We’re excited about him being our quarterback.”

Garrett has spent the offseason considering relinquishing the play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator, Bill Callahan. Garrett has been the play-caller for Romo since 2007, when he was hired as offensive coordinator, and there is speculation that Jones is forcing the move. But Garrett and Jones repeatedly have insisted that it is Garrett’s decision.

Garrett, 21–19 as a head coach, might be down to his last chance in Dallas.

“This thing has been a big disappointment the last couple of years,” Jones says. “I’m not satisfied. We’ve got to start knocking on the door. So there’s a lot of resolve and not a lot of patience. That’s where we are, and Jason knows that.

“…I don’t want to go 8–8 (in 2013).”

Written by Charean Williams for Athlon Sports. Visit our online store to order your 2013 Pro Football preview magazine to get in-depth team previews and more analysis on the 2013 NFL season.

Teaser:
It's Playoffs or Bust for the Dallas Cowboys in 2013
Post date: Monday, July 22, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/christian-hackenberg-penn-states-next-superstar
Body:

Christian HackenbergIt all seems so obvious now, as if everyone could see the hand of destiny at work. But the truth is, when Christian Hackenberg showed up as a sophomore at Fork Union Military Academy, a private boarding school in Fork Union, Va., no one really knew what he could do, and no one expected him to claim the starting quarterback position in his first season.

Fork Union didn’t exactly need a savior. It already had a fine quarterback in Richard Quittenton, who had lifted the Blue Devils into the state playoffs the year before. All the coaching staff asked of Hackenberg was that he learn the offense while Quittenton — a Canadian native who is now at the University of Toronto — ran the show. They taught him to operate the hurry-up offense in the hope that he might be able to earn some playing time by focusing on a specific niche.

“It was a sped-up spread,” Fork Union coach Micky Sullivan says. “You just throw it — boom, boom, boom.”

As the season went on, those booms got bigger and more frequent. “Christian took that as his piece of the offense and got really good at it,” Sullivan says. “We realized as we progressed that maybe he gives us a better chance to win. And he grew as a leader going into the huddle as a sophomore. He accepted that mantle and grew with it.”

Fork Union went on to win the Virginia Independent Schools Division I title that year, and Hackenberg ended up growing into one of the top high school quarterbacks in the country. After throwing for 5,509 yards and 56 touchdowns, he became a consensus 5-star prospect and was ESPN.com’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013.

When he signed with Penn State this past February after a whirlwind recruitment — the school hadn’t started seriously pursuing him until after Bill O’Brien and his staff took over in January 2012 — it was seen as a huge coup for the Nittany Lions. This is a program, after all, that is looking to remain competitive in the face of severe NCAA sanctions. Hackenberg’s signing sent a signal to other elite recruits that under O’Brien’s leadership, Penn State remains an attractive place to play football.

“I liked a lot of other schools,” Hackenberg says, “but I loved Penn State. It’s where I felt most comfortable and where I felt I could maximize my potential athletically and academically.”

Bill O'BrienBut Hackenberg’s signing was more than just a symbolic victory for the Lions. With Matt McGloin gone after leading the Big Ten in passing yardage last season, Penn State needs one of its quarterback prospects to step forward in practice. Steven Bench, the only quarterback on the roster who had taken a snap, left the program after spring practice. Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson, who enrolled last January, doesn’t have much experience running what O’Brien has described as “not the simplest system in the world.” So with no established favorite to overcome and O’Brien harboring few if any preconceptions about what he can or can’t do, Hackenberg will have an opportunity to compete for the starting spot in preseason camp.   

“Certainly he’ll be in the mix,” O’Brien says. “At every single position, we are going to play the best players. … Christian will come in and we’ll teach him the offense and give him some reps and see how he does.”

After watching him seize the starting position at Fork Union, Sullivan expects Hackenberg to do just fine. “Knowing Christian,” he says, “I can’t imagine that he’s thinking in his head, ‘I’m gonna go to Penn State and redshirt.’ He’s thinking in his head, ‘What do I have to do? How quick can I get in there to learn as much as I can learn so that I can be ready to compete for the starting job?’”

Hackenberg, who is originally from Tamaqua, Pa., and whose father played quarterback at Division III Susquehanna about 60 miles east of University Park, committed to Penn State five months before the NCAA took action last July. He stayed committed even though the sanctions ensure that he will play in, at most, two bowl games during his career. And he continued to sit tight in January when O’Brien’s name came up in connection with NFL coaching vacancies in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

The drama surrounding Penn State made for an interesting recruitment, as Alabama, Miami and Florida, among others, were interested in seeing just how firm his verbal commitment really was. “It was a chore,” recruiting coordinator Charles London concedes. “There were some other schools coming after him. (His decision) is a testament to the relationship he built with our staff here.”

It’s also a testament to how quickly perceptions change. Under Joe Paterno, Penn State wasn’t known for developing quarterbacks. The only Nittany Lion quarterback to succeed in the NFL in the past decade has been Michael Robinson, and that’s been because Robinson was capable of playing running back when he entered the league in 2006. In seven pro seasons, he’s attempted only two passes.

The last Penn State quarterback to make it big in the NFL as a passer was Kerry Collins, who led the Lions to an undefeated season in 1994 and parlayed his success into a 17-year pro career. But after he left, the offense slipped, yielding a series of quarterbacks who never made any impact at the pro level.

Hurt by its inability to develop pro prospects at the position, Penn State struck out with coveted in-state quarterbacks like Chad Henne and Terrelle Pryor. And when it did land a blue-chipper — Anthony Morelli, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones all had either four or five stars from the recruiting services — things never seemed to work out.

Enter O’Brien. The Lions’ new coach came in with a résumé full of NFL experience and a relationship with Tom Brady that gave him instant credibility with recruits.

Once the new staff was in place, the pursuit of Hackenberg began. And now that it’s over, the Lions believe they may have found their quarterback of the future.

Is he the quarterback of the immediate future? O’Brien is leaving his options open. “When you play quarterback at Penn State, you have to really learn how to balance the classroom with being the best-prepared quarterback you can be, working in the weight room, studying the playbook, studying the game plan, your opponent, then obviously going to class, which is No. 1 and will always be No. 1 at Penn State,” he says.

“We think Christian is a guy who is going to come in here and do all those things.”

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

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Teaser:
Christian Hackenberg Could be a Program-Changer for Penn State
Post date: Monday, July 22, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /best-and-worst-times-be-clemson-fan
Body:

About the best and worst of Clemson fandom can be described just by recent events.

First, the Tigers are in a good spot on the football field. Dabo Swinney led the Tigers to its first ACC title in 20 years in 2011, and 2012 wrapped up the program’s first back-to-back 10-win seasons in more than two decades. The offense is one of the best in the country, leading the Tigers to a top-10 rank in the preseason.

But this is Clemson, and the Tigers can’t get out of their own way.

When Howard’s Rock was revealed to be vandalized earlier this summer, fans were aghast to find one of the nation’s most beloved college football artifacts broken. Could it have been a rival? Had Clemson found its own Harvey Updyke?

Nope, it was an 18-year-old Clemson fan who snuck into the stadium for kicks and chipped off a piece of the college football landmark.

Beyond recent years, we looked at the best and worst times to be a Clemson fan, and because Clemson football has unique ability to tantalize its own fanbase, we picked the most frustrating time to root for the Tigers.

BEST TIMES TO BE A CLEMSON FAN

1981-90
Record:
91-22-4
National championships: 1
Coach: Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield
Notable players: Terry Kinard, William Perry, Terrence Flagler, Donnell Woolford
The casual college football may forget how good the ‘80s were to Clemson. Tigers fans won’t. From 1981-90, only Nebraska, Miami and BYU won more games than Clemson. The run under Danny Ford included the improbable 1981 national championship coming off a 6-5 season a year earlier. The ’81 team defeated four top-10 teams, including a win over a Herschel Walker-led Georgia team. The Tigers capped the season by defeating No. 4 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl in a de facto national championship game. The era also feature two-time All-American defensive back Terry Kinard and fan favorite “Refrigerator” Perry. Clemson finished the era with three consecutive ACC titles from 1986-88 and four consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987-90.

1948-50
Record:
24-4-3
National championships: 0
Coach: Frank Howard
Notable players: Bobby Gage, Jackie Calvert
Clemson wouldn’t achieve national prominence until the ‘80s, leaving these three (but really two) seasons as the top mark before the 11-1 season in 1978. Clemson went 11-0 with a win over Missouri in the Gator Bowl in 1948 and 9-0-1 with a win over Miami in the Orange Bowl in 1950. Clemson fans had plenty to cheer about, but too many games against regional teams like Presbyterian, Furman and The Citadel made it tough for the nation to take Clemson’s record too seriously.

 

MOST PAINFUL TIME TO BE A CLEMSON FAN

2000-08
Record:
70-42
Coach: Tommy Bowden (right)
It’s tough to classify to the Bowden era at Clemson. The Tigers had eight consecutive winning seasons from 2000-08. They went 7-2 against South Carolina, and at one point took three of four from Florida State. Clemson recruited well and kept talent on the field. Given the program’s history — especially apart from the Danny Ford years — this was all pretty good. But Clemson always kept fans wanting more. This is when “to Clemson” became a verb, meaning raising expectations only to see them crash in spectacular fashion. The Tigers started 8-0 in 2000 only to lose three of the last four. They started 7-1 in 2006 to lose four of the last five, including a bowl game to Kentucky. The 2007 team started the season unranked but excited the Clemson faithful by beating Florida State in the opener. The 4-0 start was spoiled by back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Fittingly, the Bowden era ended when Clemson opened the season ranked ninth in the polls before starting 3-4.

WORST TIME TO BE A CLEMSON FAN

1968-76
Record:
37-57-3
Coaches: Frank Howard, Hootie Ingram, Red Parker
Clemson won five ACC titles under Howard, but his latter years were no reason to brag. The successors to Clemson’s all-time wins leader didn’t fare much better. The Tigers endured eight losing seasons in nine years. Charley Pell was hired in 1977 to fix the program, which he did. But it came at a price.

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Teaser:
From the glory years of the '80s to the agonizing Bowden era
Post date: Friday, July 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/kliff-kingsbury-returns-home-lead-texas-tech
Body:

Kliff KingsburyFor all the talk about Kliff Kingsbury’s youth, wardrobe and ability to relate to players, there is one other major factor that should contribute to his success: He’s home.

Kingsbury’s birth certificate says he was born in San Antonio, but the five years he spent as a quarterback in Lubbock have made him as West Texas as the dusty wind that whips across the South Plains or the grassroots Flatlanders, who have helped bring the area to life with their songs for 40 years. His return to Texas Tech has created the kind of excitement that used to prevail when he was tossing it around 50 times per game (at least), and the Red Raiders were starting their journey to prominence under Mike Leach.

Lubbock is a different kind of place. It sits hundreds of miles away from its Big 12 Texas brethren, who are clustered — if it’s possible to be clustered in Lone Star country — on the state’s eastern half. If you’re going to win at Tech, you have to understand the culture. You have to embrace the land and the wind, especially the wind. The school doesn’t have the same pedigree as its in-state rivals, and as late as the 1960s there was a proposal to include it in the Texas A&M system. But Tech maintained its independence and moved on. By hiring five assistant coaches with direct ties to the school, Kingsbury has assured that there will be no learning curve for his staff when it comes to selling the school’s identity.

“Texas Tech fans and students have always had a chip on their shoulder, and they take pride in that,” Kingsbury says. “I hired five coaches who played here, and they bring great energy for the school.”

Tech needs that fire. Under former coach Tommy Tuberville, who surprisingly bolted in December to take the Cincinnati job, the program had drifted away from its personality.

“We have to find our identity again,” Kingsbury says. “I don’t know where it went, but it got lost. We have to establish our identity.”

Kingsbury aims to get that back — in every way possible. That he is doing it as a 33-year old head coach has brought him considerable attention. But the bigger story is that he is the absolute right man for the job, no matter what his age, or how many boosters send secret memos to school administrators suggesting marketing strategies that capitalize on his youth. A lot of people have played football at Tech. Only Kingsbury blends a true comprehension of the Tech essence with a sparkling football résumé and a rare ability to connect with college players.

“Age does not equate to experience,” says Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, for whom Kingsbury worked as offensive coordinator in 2011 at Houston and last year in College Station. “It’s the quality of experience that matters.”

Kingsbury’s 11 years after leaving Lubbock have provided a rock-solid football foundation. Although he threw a total of two passes during parts of four NFL seasons, he had the opportunity to learn from people like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in New England and Mike ­McCarthy in New Orleans. His apprenticeship under Air Raid savant Dana Holgorsen at Houston was akin to graduate work after three years with Leach in Lubbock. And all he did last year was run an offense that helped Johnny Manziel win the Heisman Trophy for the Aggies. But Kingsbury isn’t just a quarterback guy. Sumlin says he understands how to coach offense and how to direct players successfully.

“He’s got a big-picture view,” Sumlin says. “People talk about growth curves and how quickly everything happened for him, but I can tell you this, once you get to the coordinator level in the SEC, there is a lot of pressure involved. You are the head coach of the offense, and you have to be able to talk to your team in that role.”

Although Kingsbury was in College Station for just one season, he made an impact — well beyond Manziel. When he took the job at Tech, Kingsbury asked Sumlin if he could speak to the team. Kingsbury was honest and emotional, and after he finished speaking, one Aggie stood and applauded. Wide receiver Ryan Swope, who struggled to acclimate to Kingsbury’s attack — after authoring the finest pass-catching year in A&M history in 2011  — was moved. “(Swope) stood up and clapped,” Sumlin says. “Everybody did, and there were some tears shed.”

Including by Kingsbury. He isn’t just a fast-climbing coaching jet, although his trajectory is quite steep. His magic is found in his energy and ability to sell not only Lubbock but also his vision for success, in terms college kids can understand. Players are less inclined to listen to an old-schooler spout platitudes and time-tested recipes for success, even if they work. They want a modern touch — for better or worse — and Kingsbury provides that. He’s demanding and exacting in his approach, but one of the reasons Manziel was so successful last year was that Kingsbury let the quarterback freelance often within the confines of the attack. “He’s a quarterback’s quarterbacks coach,” says Case Keenum, who spent four of his six years at UH (2006-11) with Kingsbury. “He’s more inclined to check to a pass than to a run.”

It’s obvious that Kingsbury remembers well what it was like when he was a Red Raider. The whole staff, which includes only one coach older than 40, isn’t far removed from its playing days.

“Being young, we can relate to the kids, because only eight-to-10 years ago, we were doing the same things they are,” says co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who played at Tech from 2001-04. “We relate to their struggles as student-athletes. They’re missing their moms and dads, and we can tell them how we dealt with that.”

Kingsbury is somewhat evasive about what kind of attack he’ll employ, but fans of Leach’s system will recognize plenty of similarities. The twists will come from Kingsbury’s time with the Patriots and with McCarthy, as well as his experiences with Holgorsen, a spread mad scientist in his own right. “(Kingsbury) does a pretty good job putting his own twist and slant on the offense,” Keenum says.

Mostly, Kingsbury wants to rediscover the mentality that helped Tech succeed under Leach, who wasn’t a West Texas native, but his “swing your sword” attitude played well with fans. Tuberville didn’t run from the South Plains mindset, but he didn’t embrace it, either.

Kingsbury holds tight to that personality. It doesn’t matter how old he is or what kind of clothes he wears.

“He’s up-to-date enough to wear cool brands of jeans and shoes,” co-offensive coordinator Eric Morris says.

It’s not about that, even if the alums want to market him that way. Kingsbury has returned to Lubbock, eager to rejuvenate the Texas Tech he knows and loves.

Right where he belongs.

Written by Michael Bradley for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big 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:
Kliff Kingsbury Returns Home to Lead Texas Tech
Post date: Friday, July 19, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-turns-mark-helfrich-keep-ducks-among-nations-best
Body:

Mark HelfrichWhen Mark Helfrich was promoted to replace Chip Kelly as Oregon's head coach in January, the native Oregonian called it "the opportunity of a lifetime."

The Ducks' athletic director, Rob Mullens, was similarly effusive about the move, which makes Helfrich the third straight UO head coach to be promoted from offensive coordinator. "We gathered a lot of input," Mullens said. "And fortunately for us it all pointed to one person, and he happened to live right here in this zip code."

For as much as Helfrich's credentials — born and raised in the state, former graduate assistant with the Ducks, ready and willing ambassador for the program — differ from Kelly's, he was hired for the sake of continuity. Helfrich needs to continue Oregon's run of four straight BCS appearances to truly be deemed an instant success. It would help to get the Ducks back into the Pac-12 Championship after they failed to qualify in 2012, and there's more than enough returning talent to think Oregon should be able to reach its second BCS championship game in four years.

Lofty expectations for a first-year coach? Most certainly. But with Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota back to run one of the nation's most explosive offenses, and all but four members of the defensive two-deep returning as well, the coaching change has done nothing to temper expectations in Eugene.

Kelly was seen as something of a revolutionary in the college game during his time in Eugene. His offense played at a frenetic pace, his practices were conducted at a fever pitch, and the system of play calling he developed to accommodate that tempo was adopted by no less than the New England Patriots. But Helfrich was a trusted advisor, orchestrating details behind the scenes that made Oregon's system fit for a race track, rather than a traffic jam.

Among the biggest questions after the change was whether Helfrich, and his new offensive coordinator Scott Frost, would prove as daring as Kelly in their play calling. In the last four years, Oregon has led the nation in two-point conversions, and has been among college football's most aggressive teams on fourth down. Oregon tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Tom Osborne was on the UO staff when Helfrich was a graduate assistant in 1997, and coached with him again at Arizona State before they were reunited in Eugene in 2009. Osborne foresees little change in the Ducks' philosophy. "Aggressive play-calling?" he said. "I don't see it changing at all."

Marcus MariotaOne element that seems certain to change, if only slightly, is Oregon's run-pass balance. In 2012 the Ducks ran the ball more often, and for a higher percentage of their total offense, than they had in 30 years. With Mariota throwing to a veteran group of receivers and tight ends in 2013, that figures to change. But Helfrich's pedigree could be a factor, too. He's a former dropback passer at Southern Oregon University who was a quarterbacks coach in his four previous jobs prior to being named Oregon's head coach. The stadium record for passing yardage at the Ducks' Autzen Stadium is 536 yards by Andrew Walter of Arizona State in 2002 — with Helfrich as his position coach.

There was one noticeable change for the Ducks during Helfrich's first spring — Kelly was a yeller, while Helfrich is not. Following the first practice in April, Mariota was noticeably hoarse. "Now you don't have that extra voice," Mariota said. "I was trying to be that, and it kind of caught up with me."

Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti chose his words carefully in describing Helfrich's "softer touch," perhaps owing to the fact he's a married father of two, where as Kelly was the rare bachelor among the head coaching ranks nationally. Aliotti's called differences between the two "the one million dollar question."

"Everything's been the same," Aliotti said. "They're just two difference personalities out there. As far as how they conduct practice, as far as what we want to get done, you wouldn't even notice a change."

One area in which Mullens would probably prefer a change is in his head coach's public persona. Kelly could be outwardly antagonistic of media, and cut back dramatically on his interactions with boosters. “That’s part of the job,” Helfrich said. “We’re going to do our best to make everybody feel involved.”

And he hopes to be doing so for a long time. “Coaching at Oregon is the pinnacle for me,” Helfrich said. "This is a special place to me. We talked about a lifetime contract; was not able to get that done, but maybe we’ll earn that here down the road.”

Written by Rob Moseley for Athlon Sports. Visit our online store to order your 2013 Pac-12 preview to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Pac-12 season.

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Teaser:
A New Era Begins at Oregon with Coach Mark Helfrich
Post date: Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-and-michigan-new-ten-year-war
Body:

Don’t wear anything red into the Michigan football building. Just don’t do it. Somebody will ask you to take it off. It doesn’t matter who you are, be it celebrity or head of state, or who they are, whether freshman or Brady Hoke himself, you will not be welcome.

They’re not too fond of blue in Columbus. In fact, in the days leading up to the game with Michigan, Ohio State hosts an event that allows people to turn in any clothing of that color in return for a free T-shirt and a discount on Buckeye apparel. They give the blue stuff to charities — as quickly as they can.

“It’s called ‘Lose the Blue,’” OSU athletic director Gene Smith says.

No one should be surprised about either of those revelations. The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State is one of the most intense in college football — in all of American sports, for that matter. For decades, the schools have thirsted to defeat the other and have met on the last Saturday of every regular season except three since 1935. The games have decided the Big Ten championship dozens of times and from 1969-78 were dominated by the outsized personalities of OSU coach Woody Hayes and U-M boss Bo Schembechler. During that stretch — actually from 1969-81 — either the Buckeyes or Wolverines represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl every season.

Fans may be witnessing the beginning of a reprise of Bo and Woody’s “10-Year War,” thanks to Hoke and Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer. The schools may not be ushering in another decade of dominance, a la the “Big Two and Little Eight,” but it’s clear Michigan and Ohio State are setting the tone for the conference, even as it expands in today’s unpredictable climate. Their recruiting stands above that of the league’s other schools, and their performance on the field appears to be moving toward a different level. In a 12-team (soon to be 14-team) conference, it’s nearly impossible for two to dominate, ’70s style, but the Buckeyes and Wolverines could come close.

“We could be very easily at the start of another ‘10-Year War,’” says Michigan athletic director David Brandon, who played for the Wolverines from 1971-73. “There are some similarities with where we are today versus when I was part of (the rivalry).”

Yes, there are. Like Schembechler, Hoke is an Ohio native who spent some time coaching a school in the state (Toledo, 1987-89). Meyer was born in Ohio, as was Hayes. The two men went to college at schools in the state — Meyer at Cincinnati; Hayes at Denison — and both coached colleges in Ohio. Although the gregarious Hoke isn’t the same firebrand Schembechler was, he understands the high expectations at his school and realizes the importance of the rivalry. Being an Ohioan makes it easier for Meyer to appreciate the intensity of the teams’ enmity.

Related: Ranking the Big Ten Uniforms for 2013
 

“Obviously, (you see it) when you walk through the (Ohio State football) facility, and there’s all kinds of tributes to this game, but this is all I knew growing up,” Meyer said last November before the Buckeyes’ win over Michigan. “It’s all anybody knew. In the era when I grew up, there really wasn’t much other than three channels on your television, and this game.”

Hayes left Ohio State after the ’78 season, and Schembechler lasted until 1989. The ensuing two-plus decades have featured some great games, upset victories and outstanding performances, but the teams weren’t always on the same footing. When one would thrive, the other might sag a little. Now, the two schools seem to be ascending concurrently.

The primary reason is their approach to recruiting, which is more aggressive and persistent than much of the Big Ten. When Meyer took over in 2012, he did not apologize for contacting committed — but unsigned — prospects at other conference schools and hired assistants who were dedicated to pursuing recruits almost constantly. Hoke and his staff had already been recruiting with an extremely aggressive approach, but they are quite aware of the OSU style and have become even more earnest.

“On most staffs you see four good recruiters and five average ones,” says Tom Lemming, of CBS Sports Network. “At Ohio State, there are nine great recruiters. It’s the same with (Alabama’s) Nick Saban and (LSU’s) Les Miles. If you’re an assistant, your hobby has to be recruiting, not golf.

“Brady Hoke is a blue-collar, aggressive, non-stop recruiter. He realizes that if he ­doesn’t do it that way, he’s going to get steamrolled by Ohio State.”

It helps that both head coaches have personalities that can draw the attention of top recruits and convince them to attend their schools. Meyer’s track record — two national championships at Florida — and year spent as an analyst at ESPN have established him as a star in the coaching ranks. But it’s not just Meyer’s Q score. His assistants are relentless, and he is, too. Within a few hours of his taking the OSU job in late 2011, he was on the phone to Rich Hansen of St. Peter’s (N.J.) Prep to tell him he was back in business. Whereas former OSU coach Jim Tressel was able to lock down Ohio, Meyer is willing to sacrifice a few prospects in-state to attract better, faster players from all over.

Related: Best and Worst Times to be a Michigan Fan
 

“I’ll bet (Meyer) called 100 coaches the day he was hired,” Lemming says. “He goes the extra mile. Other coaches may have been partying if they got that job. He went to work immediately.”

Hoke was a member of Lloyd Carr’s staff in the late ’90s, when Michigan began to extend its recruiting reach, so he understands the need to be more than just the king of the Rust Belt. He has made strong inroads into Ohio, but he has the Wolverines looking nationally, too. And where Meyer is perpetually intense and unfailingly direct, Hoke has a more laid-back approach that works well with 18-year-olds.

“Brady really connects with people,” Brandon says. “He’s a very genuine guy, and what you see is what you get. There’s no phoniness, no fake polish and no P.R. spinning. He’s not trying to be someone he isn’t.

“He’s honest and straightforward, and he’s a likeable guy with very little ego. Michigan football isn’t about him. The players like that.”

A lot of coaches work hard on the recruiting trails, but few have the ability to sell what Michigan and Ohio State do. Each program has decades of tradition, multiple national titles, gigantic, jam-packed stadiums and facilities that are unsurpassed in the Big Ten — and surpassed by few, if any, other programs in the nation. The schools are committed to athletic success and have the ability to reach out beyond the conference’s Midwestern (and soon to be Eastern) footprint in search of elite players capable of competing against the nation’s best.

This past February, in addition to mining Michigan (eight signees) and Ohio (nine), the Wolverines brought in players from Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Maryland. OSU culled 11 from within the Buckeye State but also attracted talent from Texas (three players), Georgia (two), Florida, California, Missouri and North and South Carolina.

Michigan has already received commitments from players hailing from Utah, Virginia and Florida for 2014. While OSU’s class includes players from Ohio and Michigan, don’t expect Meyer and his staff to spend all of their time in the two states.

Related: Will Michigan Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?
 

And look out for the head-to-head battle that is surely coming for Grand Rapids Christian (Mich.) High School standout Drake Harris. The 6'4", 185-pound 4-star wideout committed to Michigan in April, the day after he visited Ohio State. Don’t expect Meyer to give up on Harris until the young man signs a letter-of-intent next February. It would be great for Meyer to steal one from Michigan; more important, it would add another speedy player to the OSU roster.

“There aren’t enough fast athletes to go around in the Midwest,” says Bobby Burton, co-CEO of 247Sports.com. “You can’t exist solely on Midwest players, not at an elite level.

Urban Meyer“Meyer was a coach at Florida and an assistant at Notre Dame, so he’s been part of that. When Brady Hoke was an assistant at Michigan (from 1995-2002), they went national. These guys understand.”

The Wolverines and Buckeyes received some unexpected assistance in their move to the top of the league when the NCAA slammed Penn State with four years of probation in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Although Bill O’Brien did a fine job last year, leading the Nittany Lions to an 8–4 record, the severe recruiting restrictions placed on PSU and its four-year bowl ban won’t allow it to be an influential player on the national recruiting scene. If O’Brien takes an NFL head coaching job, as it was rumored over the winter he might, that would hurt Penn State further.

Nebraska, which was expected to be a strong counterbalance to the traditional Big Ten bullies, has yet to reach that level, although it has quite a tradition of winning. When we last saw the Cornhuskers, they were surrendering 115 points in their final two games of the 2012 season.

The arrivals of Hoke and Meyer signal a new chapter in the Michigan-Ohio State hostilities, at least on the field. As for the other parts of the rivalry, the continued reconfiguring of conferences could lead to some interesting decisions. Right now, the schools are committed to playing the game on the regular season’s last week, and in the afternoon.

“There will be a time when someone will ask about playing it in primetime, which I won’t do,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith says. “We will do everything we can to protect it.”

Smith’s stance is admirable, but schools don’t control their scheduling destinies, even those with annual nine-figure athletic revenues, like Ohio State. If the networks demand a primetime kickoff, it will be hard to refuse, especially when all of this realignment business has been fueled by TV money.

Then there is the divisional situation. Right now, the teams are separated, leading some to wonder what the response would be if the Buckeyes and Wolverines met one week on the regular-season slate and seven days later in the Big Ten title tilt.

“I’m okay with that,” Brandon says.

But when Rutgers and Maryland join up in 2014, the league will go with a more conventional, East and West configuration, rather than the current — and absurd — Legends and Leaders setup. This will put Michigan and Ohio State in the same division and end any talk of a doubleheader. Under the league’s new alignment, the contest could become a de facto conference semifinal, with the winners advancing to the Big Ten Championship Game.

The rivalry seems set for another period of high-profile, high-level play. Urban and Brady might not top Woody and Bo, but it sure looks like fun is on the horizon. And everybody seems ready for it.

“There’s a different feeling when you walk into (Ohio Stadium), especially when you’re wearing a Michigan jersey,” Michigan senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan says. “Our coaches are big on the Navy SEALS idea of a small group going in against big numbers and getting the job done and leaving. I love it. I love feeling the hate.

“Every single game, I want the guy who lines up across from me to be hurting at the end of the game. When it comes to Michigan-Ohio State, it’s different. I want to hit the guy a little harder.”

That’s what you get for wearing red around a Wolverine.

 

Written by Michael Bradley for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big Ten 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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5 First-Year Starting QBs Who Could Win College Football's National Title

Teaser:
Ohio State and Michigan: The New Ten-Year War
Post date: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-michigan-football-fan
Body:

The first college football program to 900 wins is bound to have its share of high moments. Or an entire decade on top.

A Michigan Man, therefore, knows good football when he sees it. Any Michigan Man — or Michigan Woman — in Ann Arbor through the 1970s would have seen the best of modern Michigan. If Ohio State weren’t there to spoil otherwise undefeated seasons, Michigan would have been unstoppable.

The first generation of Michigan fans, though, knows a few things about unstoppable. As in, beating a team 128-0 unstoppable. Those were the kinds of results Michigan saw from coach Fielding Yost at the start of his 55-1-1 run at the turn of the century.

But Michigan fans, after being able to buy bowl tickets every year from 1975-2007, finally learned what it’s like to be on the other spectrum of college football when Rich Rodriguez led the Wolverines to an unthinkable 3-9 season in 2008. It got better, but not by much until recent seasons.

Picking the best times to be a Michigan fan, despite all their success, was actually pretty easy. Nearly the entire Bo Schembechler era fits, bookended by Yost’s “Point a Minute” teams and Lloyd Carr’s title-winning team in 1997.

The worst times, unfortunately for Michigan fans, are just as easy to identify.

Here are the best and worst time to root for the Maize and Blue.

BEST TIMES TO BE A MICHIGAN FAN

1969-80
Record: 114-21-3
National championships: 0
Coach: Bo Schembechler
Notable players: Dan Dierdorf, Jim Mandich, Dave Brown, Rick Leach, Reggie McKenzie, Tom Curtis, Anthony Carter, Mark Donahue
The Wolverines had been treading water before hiring the coach who would become the quintessential Michigan Man in Bo Schembechler. In 1969, Schembechler led Michigan to the Rose Bowl in his first season, setting up a string of 10 consecutive top-10 finishes in the AP poll. With a physical brand of football built up front thanks to linemen like Dierdorf, Michigan won at least a share of the Big Ten title eight times in Schembechler’s first 10 seasons, including a 41-3-1 run from 1971-74. Unfortunately for Michigan, that 0-3-1 came at the the hands of Ohio State. Despite the heartbreakers against Ohio State, By the end of the decade, Michigan finished with the fourth-most wins during the ‘70s.

1997-99
Record:
32-5
National championships: 1
Coach: Lloyd Carr
Notable players: Jon Jansen, Charles Woodson, Jarrett Irons, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Anthony Thomas
Michigan fans soured on Carr by the end of his tenure, but Carr revived the Wolverines after the lackluster late years of Gary Moeller. The high point was the 1997 season when Michigan won its first national title since 1948. Woodson won the Heisman in ’97, but he wouldn’t become the best pro out of this group — that would be two-year starter Tom Brady in ’98-99.

1901-05
Record: 55-1-1
National championships: 4
Coach: Fielding Yost
Notable players: Willie Heston, Neil Snow
Before the turn of the century, the Ivy League ruled college football. That changed with Fielding Yost’s five-year run starting in 1901. Michigan won four consecutive pre-AP national championships from ’01-04. The “Point a Minute” Michigan teams outscored opponents 2,821-42, but no team was more impressive than the 1901 squad that defeated opponents by a combined score of 550-0.

WORST TIMES TO BE A MICHIGAN FAN

2007-10
Record: 24-26
Coach: Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez
On paper, Lloyd Carr’s final season in 2007 wasn’t bad — 9-4 and a win over Heisman winner Tim Tebow in the Capital One Bowl for a top-20 finish. But the season started with one of the most embarrassing losses in school history against Appalachian State. After Carr, Michigan attempted to shake up its approach by hiring a non-Michigan Man in Rodriguez from West Virginia. The experiment was a disaster. Rodriguez led Michigan to a 3-9 year in his first season for Michigan’s first losing season since 1967. Rodriguez modernized the offense to the spread with Denard Robinson, but by then, the defense was a sieve. Rodriguez was fired with a 15-22 mark to become the only Michigan coach with a career losing record.

1934-37
Record: 10-22
Coach: Harry Kipke
Michigan went 15-0-1 in 1932-33, but the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion. Credit Kipke with consistency, though: He went 1-7, 4-4, 1-7 and 4-4 in his final four seasons. The Ohio State rivalry was in its pre-Woody and Bo stages, but the Buckeyes defeated Michigan by a combined score of 114-0 during these four years.

1958-67
Record:
45-46-3
Coach: Bennie Oosterbaan, Bump Elliott
Michigan went 9-1 with a Rose Bowl win in 1964, but that was the outlier in this lost decade for Wolverines football. Otherwise, Michigan finished fifth or lower in the Big Ten every other season during this span, including a last-place finish in 1962.

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Teaser:
Which era would a true Michigan Man pick?
Post date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/12-steps-fix-acc-football
Body:

The good news for ACC fans is that the conference survived the most recent round of realignment shenanigans and has found its way into the big five conference alignment for the upcoming college football playoff. The bad news is that there can be little argument the league is fifth among the quintet and still susceptible to the expansion yearnings of its more prosperous brethren.

So, what is the ACC to do? Glad you asked. Here is a modest, 12-step program to security.
 

1. Conference-Wide: Be Happy With What You Have

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe laughs when asked about Louisville’s inclusion in the ACC.

“The hits just keep on coming,” he says.

Grobe isn’t thrilled at the prospect of playing the Cardinals, who will join the ACC in 2014. Not exactly delighted that Notre Dame will show up on the schedule every two or three years, either. But like the rest of the coaches in the conference, he understands that strength connotes security. There may be other leagues out there shopping, but a sturdy lineup ought to make members think a little bit before leaving town.

“If you’re a good league, you’ve got teams that are attractive to other leagues,” Grobe says. “(The ACC) may be attractive to other teams, too.”

The best thing that could have happened to football in the conference was Louisville’s resounding win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals looked fast, nasty and athletic. In many ways, they resembled an SEC team. Although ND won’t be playing a full slate of games — the Irish are in for five a year starting in 2014 — its arrival adds gridiron cachet, especially now that Notre Dame is winning again.

Add those two teams to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Miami, name brands all, and you have a solid top tier. If Pittsburgh and Syracuse play at levels with which we are accustomed, the ACC has all it needs — on paper at least.



2. Florida State: Develop Jameis Winston Into A Star

The last time the Seminoles had an All-ACC quarterback was in 2000, when Chris Weinke earned the honor. That’s unacceptable at a place where primo passers abounded during the ’80s and ’90s.

Winston might just change that. The 6'4", 206-pound redshirt freshman has a huge arm — YouTube him throwing the ball over a frat house — and all of the requisite athletic ability to be a star. He split time during the spring as part of the FSU baseball team, but his true home is the gridiron. Sure, Winston

will have to beat out Jacob Coker, but Noles’ fans should be rooting hard for him to prevail.

As a prep senior, Winston completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,424 yards and 28 TDs while also running for 1,065 yards and 15 scores. Sounds exactly like what FSU needs. At last.

 

3. Miami: Build An On-Campus Stadium

Tune in to watch the Hurricanes play anybody but FSU or a big-name non-conference opponent, and you will see tens of thousands of empty seats in Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dolphins. The place is 21 miles from campus and offers a stale gameday experience. It was one thing when the Canes played in the old Orange Bowl. At least that place had character. Broadway Joe kicked butt there.

Miami needs an on-campus stadium. It doesn’t have to be a palace, but it should hold about 45,000 people and create a real home-field advantage for the Hurricanes. Hit up some of those wealthy former players for seed money and then start a real fundraising campaign.

Who knows — maybe Uncle Luke might start showing up again. On second thought, better not let him know.



4. Louisville: Keep Tom Jurich

 Fewer than 10 years ago, Louisville was in Conference USA, possessed a limited football profile and was known more for playing in a stadium named for a pizza parlor than winning meaningful games. Thanks in big part to AD Jurich, the Cardinals are now fully made members of the ACC and are coming off that big win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, their second BCS appearance in seven years. That isn’t all due to Jurich, but he has played a huge leadership role in the transformation.

Because of that, it is imperative that the Cards hang on to Jurich as if he were the last canister of oxygen on the moon. Few NCAA ADs have the ability to get things done like Jurich. His charisma was the main ingredient in U of L’s ability to hire Rick Pitino as its basketball coach, and his vision helped lift Louisville from the margins of I-A football to a seat at the main table. He also has some swing on the national level.

The U of L doesn’t have the same gridiron pedigree of other ACC members, so it can’t rely on tradition and historical success when things get tough. Jurich is the key to future prosperity for Louisville football, so any combination of cash and prizes necessary to keep him on board is appropriate.

 

5. Clemson: Find The Next Chad Morris

One wouldn’t imagine it would be too hard to find a quality offensive mind willing to direct the Tiger attack, since current offensive coordinator Chad Morris makes $1.3 million a year. But big money doesn’t always guarantee the best hires, so Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney better have a good short list of candidates to replace Morris, because unless the gifted coordinator screws up completely this year, he’ll be a head coach in 2014.

Morris interviewed for the vacant NC State and Texas Tech spots last year, and teams all over the country want gifted offensive minds to direct their teams, if only to create excitement that spurs ticket sales. Kliff Kingsbury may be a Red Raider alum, but his work with the Houston and Texas A&M attacks is what made him an attractive candidate in Lubbock.

Morris sure has a lot to work with at Clemson this year. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and wideout Sammy Watkins are both All-America candidates, and it will be shocking if the Tigers don’t pile up the points and yards. Clemson won the ACC in 2011 and had a big comeback triumph over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year. Momentum is building, but if Morris bolts from the fold, Swinney must be ready to reload with a similarly proficient offensive mind.
 

6. Virginia, North Carolina, NC State: Protect The Home Turf

Lately, it doesn’t matter where a school might be located; it can go shopping for talent in North Carolina and Virginia. Oh, the Tar Heels and Wahoos may get a couple of prospects to remain at home, but they haven’t been able to prevent interlopers from grabbing the top talent. A trend that has been growing hit particularly hard this past Signing Day.

Virginia running back Derrick Green is going to Michigan. Defensive end Jonathan Allen will play for Alabama. Linebacker E.J. Levenberry is headed for Florida State, and quarterback Ryan Burns signed with Stanford. Yes, running back Taquan Mizzell and linebacker Donta Wilkins are headed for Charlottesville, but the Wahoos didn’t do a very good job with the locals. Of the top 15 players on Rivals’ Virginia list, only four chose the Cavs.

The story isn’t any better next door. Only four of the 15 best prospects (according to the Charlotte Observer) will be Tar Heels — and none signed with NC State (or Wake Forest or Duke, the other two in-state ACC schools). Some of the big names that got away include wideout Marquez North (Tennessee), linebacker Peter Kalambayi (Stanford), running back Larenz Bryant (South Carolina) and defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (LSU). Sure, back T.J. Logan and corner Brian Walker are going to Chapel Hill, but they aren’t enough.

North Carolina, NC State and Virginia have plenty to sell. It’s time to start closing some deals.


7. Virginia Tech: Pay Attention To The Offense

There are three new offensive coaches at Virginia Tech this season and one old idea about how to win football games.

“I still think there is something good to be said about playing good defense and being good in the kicking game,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer says. “That affects field position. You have to take care of the ball and be efficient on offense. That starts with running the football. Think about it: Alabama has been the best team in the country the last four years, and that’s how they do it. That’s how Stanford has been successful.”

So, don’t expect air-raid sirens to be sounding around Blacksburg once new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler starts calling plays. What Virginia Tech fans do want is a return to 2011 form by quarterback Logan Thomas, who completed a mere 51.3 percent of his throws last season, threw 16 picks against only 18 TDs and was dreadful in the Hokies’ bowl win over Rutgers, completing only 38.5 percent of his passes. In 2011, Thomas completed 59.8 percent and tossed only 10 interceptions.

Although some criticized the hiring of Loeffler, who presided over Auburn’s wretched attack last year, the coach was extremely effective directing quarterbacks within a pro-style offense at Michigan for several years and could be just what the Hokies need. Being one-dimensional is no way to get back into the top five.

“Logan will be fine,” Beamer says. “We’ve got to get people around him who are fine, too. We need good running backs, and we have to be more consistent at the wide receiver position. If people around Logan are more consistent, he’ll be fine. That’s what he had two years ago.”
 

8. Pittsburgh: Get Your Act Together

Since Paul Chryst is entering his second year at the Panthers’ helm, he qualifies as an elder statesman among recent Pitt coaches. Before Chryst took over in 2012, the school had employed three coaches — Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood, Todd Graham — in a span of two seasons. (Haywood was only there a month.)

“Stability is a good thing,” Chryst says.

If the Panthers are going to establish themselves as contenders in the ACC, they must be more than just talented. Pitt has to deliver, and we’re not just talking about a fourth straight postseason trip to Birmingham, Ala. Chryst hopes to develop a team that will win at a high level consistently. He was part of that as an assistant at Wisconsin, and though he admits he hasn’t directed a breakthrough as a boss man, Chryst understands what it will take.

“You have to have enough talent, but you have to have guys who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he says. “The teams that I have been a part of that have won big maybe weren’t the most talented in the league, but they had enough talent and plenty of hard work and commitment.”

It’s going to take a while for the Panthers to deliver big results every season, since Chryst is trying to re-cast the team after Graham’s one-and-done “tenure.” But if he stays around — “You understand why your name comes up, and it’s not a big deal, but it’s interesting when you know what you’re doing and hear things,” he says — Chryst has a chance.

 

9. Boston College and Syracuse: Be Eastern Powers Again

When the ACC added Boston College, there were big plans by other member schools to pillage New England for talent. Granted, there are more ice hockey standouts in that part of the country than football stars, but a new market opened up. The same sentiment was echoed when Syracuse and Pitt bolted the Big East. Imagine how Georgia Tech would be able to tell New York recruits about periodic trips north, or Miami could assuage the fears of shaky parents by promising to bring Junior home twice during his four years on campus.

That’s all nice, but even better than just supplying the rest of the league with talent is the idea that BC and Syracuse can become the kind of powerful Eastern programs they once were. Multiple bowl games, big non-conference triumphs and future NFL performers were once parts of the teams’ personalities. That must happen again.

Start with recruiting. There is no way either team should lose a player from the Northeast to any neighborhood school besides Pitt or Penn State. UConn and Temple are members of a mid-major conference, and even though Rutgers will soon be a Big Ten school, the Knights have been searching for an identity on the gridiron for decades. It won’t be easy, since there isn’t an abundance of talent in the region, but it happened before, and both teams would help the league greatly by returning to glory.
 

 

10. North Carolina: Behave!

When did the Tar Heels decide it was a good idea to act like an old Southwest Conference school? Instead of behaving like a proud institution with strong academic standards and a desire to do things the right way, UNC has become a bandit school that traffics in cash and prizes for players and no-show class grades. Come on, Carolina, you’re better than that.

Second-year head coach Larry Fedora had a solid debut, leading the Heels to an 8–4 record (North Carolina was ineligible for a bowl game), but he and the program could endure another round of punishments if the academic fraud scandal based in the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department is deemed sanction-worthy by the NCAA. It may be a while before UNC is clear of trouble, but Fedora and the rest of the school would benefit greatly from playing by the rules from here on out.



11. Duke and Wake Forest: Hold That Line

Okay, we get it. Wake has about 200 students. (Editor’s Note: He’s kidding; the school’s enrollment is 4,800.) And amidst those brick buildings and tree-lined quadrangles, real work gets done. The same thing happens at Duke, where Wallace Wade Stadium is still pretty much like the place that hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl.

But that doesn’t mean the programs have to be walkovers, especially in non-conference contests against like schools. To their credit, Wake and Duke have represented the league fairly well lately. The Blue Devils played in the Belk Bowl last year, their first postseason appearance since January 1995. And though the outcome was crushing (a late collapse led to a 14-point loss), there is no question that coach David Cutcliffe has the program going in the right direction.

Jim Grobe is doing a fine job in Winston-Salem, even though the Deacons have been to only one bowl in four seasons. Wake has a refurbished stadium and made three straight postseason appearances from 2006-08.

“It’s important for the (ACC’s) academic schools to have success,” Grobe says, referring to Wake and Duke. “But that’s tough, when you have to start with a guy who can get a degree from Wake Forest and still bump into the Noles and Canes and Hokies.”

 

12. League-Wide: Knock Off Some Quality Opponents

The ACC can crow all it wants about last year’s 4–2 bowl record, but other than the Clemson win over LSU, none was particularly impressive. Beating Rutgers, Northern Illinois and a disinterested USC team that was without quarterback Matt Barkley hardly gives the league reason to thump its chest.

If the ACC wants to be considered on a par with the other four major conferences, it has to knock off some Teams That Matter. Last year, Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16. Clemson lost to South Carolina at home. Florida State fell to Florida in Tallahassee. Virginia Tech lost at Pitt. Louisville knocked off North Carolina, and Stanford throttled Duke. In other words, nobody hung an impressive non-con scalp on the wall.

That must change. The Hokies get a chance Aug. 31, when they play Alabama in Atlanta. That same weekend, Georgia visits Clemson, and UNC heads to Columbia to play the Gamecocks. A week later, Florida is at Miami, and Virginia hosts Oregon. There you have it; five chances to make a mark.

“Us starting out against Alabama is certainly a challenge,” Beamer says. “The odds are against us, because they’re a good team. But we’ve got a good team, too.”

Get it done, Coach.
 

BONUS: Get Notre Dame To Join As A Full Member

Come on, people. You hold all the cards in this one. Sure, it’s great to have ND around for five conference football games, but by giving the Irish a pass on full football membership, you’re allowing the school to protect its other sports at a discount. Imagine what would happen if Notre Dame had to go out and find another home. Maybe the American Athletic Conference would take it, but ND already ditched those schools back when the league was known as the Big East. And scheduling 12 football games every year when many BCS members won’t play them won’t be easy. Play some hardball with the Irish. Tell them the free lunch is over. That would sure help the conference. 

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


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Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-oklahoma-state-football-fan
Body:

There’s no better time than the present in Stillwater.

That’s our contention in our ongoing series highlighting the best and worst times to be a fan. Relative to Oklahoma State’s history, there’s no better time to root for the Pokes right now.

Our “era” we highlighted as the best spans from 2008-11, but we’d easily extend those parameters to 2013 if Oklahoma State delivers on our preseason prediction to win the Big 12.

Other eras may have produced bigger stars (Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas) or across the board athletic success (basketball, football and wrestling in the 1940s), but in terms of being in the thick of the Big 12 race and the national conversation, the Oklahoma State program from 2008-11 has given fans in Stillwater the most reasons to cheer.

BEST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA STATE FAN

2008-11
Record:
41-11
National championships: 0
Coach: Mike Gundy
Notable players: Brandon Weeden, Zac Robinson, Justin Blackmon, Russell Okung, Brandon Pettigrew, Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter
Oklahoma State is in the midst of its greatest era of sustained success with seven consecutive winning seasons. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are one of the most exciting teams to watch, at least with the no-huddle spread offense. The school’s top two career passers (Weeden and Robinson) and top career receiver (Blackmon) have played during this era as well. The best season in school history in 2011 resulted in a top-three finish and the program’s first outright conference title since 1926. Only a loss to Iowa State prevented Oklahoma State from playing for national title that season.

1984-88
Record: 44-15
National championships: 0
Coach: Pat Jones
Notable players: Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Mike Gundy, Hart Lee Dykes, Leslie O’Neal
Oklahoma State fans thought they had it good with Thurman Thomas, who rushed for 4,595 yards in four seasons from 1984-87. For sure, they did. But Barry Sanders in 1988 had a season for the ages with 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns in 12 games on the way to to a lopsided victory in the Heisman race. Before 2010-11, this was the first time an Oklahoma State team won as many as 20 games in back-to-back seasons. Alas, the Cowboys remained under the thumb of rival Oklahoma. Amid a 10-2 season in 1984, then-No. 3 Oklahoma State lost 24-14 to a second-ranked Oklahoma. The future of the program, though, was under center during this era as the quarterback Gundy became the team’s career leading passer — at least until he became coach.

1944-45
Record: 17-1
National championships: 0
Coach: Jim Lookabaugh
Notable players: Bob Fenimore, Neill Armstrong, Jake Colhouer
For a stretch of three seasons, Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M) was the Florida or Ohio State of its day in terms of multi-sport success. The basketball team won back-to-back national titles under Hank Iba in 1945-46. The wrestling team won its 14th championship (to this day, Oklahoma State remains one of the few major powers where wrestling is a big deal). The football team went 8-1 in 1944, defeating TCU in the Cotton Bowl, before going 9-0 and finishing fifth in the AP poll in 1945. A sign of the times: Oklahoma State went to the Sugar Bowl that year to defeat Saint Mary’s of California.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA STATE FAN

1989-94
Record: 18-45-3
Coach: Pat Jones
The excitement from the Thurman Thomas/Barry Sanders era was short-lived. Without their two star running backs, the Cowboys endured eight consecutive losing seasons, including an 0-10-1 mark in 1991.

1960-71
Record:
101-127-6
Coaches: Cliff Speegle, Phil Cutchin, Floyd Gass
Oklahoma State’s tenure in the Big Eight didn’t get off to a great start as the Cowboys finished sixth or lower seven times in the first 11 seasons. This run included 12 consecutive losing seasons, including 1-8 in 1963.

MOST UNDERRATED

2002-04
Record:
24-14
Coach: Les Miles
Les Miles’ achievements at Oklahoma State would be overshadowed by his achievements at LSU and Mike Gundy’s achievements as a successor. Oklahoma State didn’t have a great national breakout under Miles, but the Cowboys came relevant after 12 losing seasons in 13 years.

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Teaser:
Gundy's top passers or the running backs of the 80s?
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-lsu-football-fan
Body:

If we’re all being honest, the best time to be an LSU fan is a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

But we’re going to look beyond the three or four hours of a night game in Death Valley and all the “preparation” involved to take a bigger view.

After all, for most of LSU’s history, night games at Tiger Stadium haven’t always been those of national importance. Before the 2000s, LSU football had its ups and downs, with the late ‘50s as the high water mark before Nick Saban returned the Bayou Bengals to national prominence. Les Miles continued the run with a second BCS title and six 10-win seasons in eight years.

These days are be the best times to root for LSU, but not the only time it’s been a worthy cause. Here are the highlights and lowlights for LSU fandom.

BEST TIMES TO BE AN LSU FAN

2001-07
Record: 74-18
National championships: 2
Coaches: Nick Saban/Les Miles
Notable players: Glenn Dorsey, LaRon Landry, Josh Reed, Chad Lavalais, Ben Wilkerson, Marcus Spears, Matt Mauck, Michael Clayton, Corey Webster, Matt Flynn
The two seasons before Nick Saban arrived in Baton Rouge, LSU had gone a combined 3-13 in the SEC, but LSU’s mediocrity went deeper. Before the 21st century, LSU had pockets of success, including a national championship, but few other banner seasons. All the while the Tigers had been something of a sleeping giant with an in-state talent base and rabid fan support. The underachiever label was shed by the turn of the century. In 2001, LSU won eight of its last nine games, including an upset of Tennessee in the SEC championship game followed by a win in the Sugar Bowl to announce its return to the national scene. The 2003 squad became the first LSU team since 1958 to win a national title, defeating Oklahoma for the BCS championship (USC won the AP title, to the ire of LSU fans). Saban left for the Miami Dolphins after 2004, but the Tigers kept the program momentum they have lacked throughout their history. A wild, upset-filled 2007 season ended with LSU making the title game with two losses — yet undefeated in regulation, the observation first noted by Miles’ wife. Through Saban and Miles, LSU had the fourth-most wins in the country during this span.

1958-59
Record:
20-2
National championships: 1
Coach: Paul Dietzel
Notable players: Billy Cannon (right), Bo Strange
Unorthodox thinking at LSU didn’t start with Les Miles. After a 5-5 season, Paul Dietzel utilized a three-platoon system that included two-way players (the White Team, led by Billy Cannon) and offense-only group (the Go Team) and a defense-only group (the Chinese Bandits, named after characters in a comic strip Dietzel had read).  During an 18-game win streak that extended into the 1959 season, LSU outscored opponents by a combined score of 392-62, including eight shutouts. Cannon claimed LSU’s only Heisman trophy at the end of the 1959 season.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN LSU FAN

1947-56
Record:
46-49-9
Coaches: Bernie Moore, Gus Tinsley, Paul Dietzel
LSU managed to go 8-3 and reach the Sugar Bowl in 1949, presumably raising hopes for the Gus Tinsley era. LSU won two or fewer SEC games eight times in 10 years. That includes a 9-21-4 stretch in the conference from 1952-56.

1989-94
Record:
25-41
Coaches: Mike Archer, Curley Hallman
LSU was just starting to get used to winning going from 8-3-1 in 1984 to 10-1-1 in 1987. The trend came crashing down in 1989 when the Tigers endured six consecutive losing seasons and a 14-31 stretch in SEC play.

Teaser:
Saban and Miles brought life to Death Valley
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/getting-know-secs-new-coaches-2013
Body:

So, you want to coach in the SEC, do you? Eager to test yourself in the nation’s best league? Well, first consider that the four most recently deposed coaches lasted a combined 11 years and posted an aggregate record of 65–72. Take away Auburn’s 2010 national title season, and it’s 51–72.

It’s not easy in college football’s toughest neighborhood. Four coaches were fired after last year, leaving their replacements to rebuild against the best competition around. Mark Stoops at Kentucky (replacing Joker Phillips), Gus Malzahn at Auburn (Gene Chizik), Butch Jones at Tennessee (Derek Dooley) and Bret Bielema at Arkansas (John L. Smith) are optimistic and ready to go. How far they can go remains to be seen.
 

Butch Jones, Tennessee

Someone suggested to Butch Jones that a good person to include in the Tennessee football history lesson he is providing for his players would be Herman Hickman. The big guard was named an All-American in 1931 for the Vols, and legendary coach Robert Neyland once called him “the greatest guard football has ever known.”

“I’m going to Google him right away,” Jones said, enthusiastically.

If you’re going to play for UT this season, you had better know about the people who went before you. Better have memorized the history of your number, too. That means quarterback Justin Worley better know that his number 14 was worn by the school’s most recent unanimous All-American, Eric Berry. And both Drae Bowles and Michael F. Williams have to realize that Condredge Holloway made lucky 7 a magical number for Vols fans.

Jones’ look back means more than just building team unity. He wants to make sure every player who pulls on the “power T” helmet understands that he is part of a program that belongs among the best in college football history. Tennessee isn’t some school that needs orange turf to gain attention (although those checkerboard end zones are cool) or has to play its games on Wednesday afternoons in order to get some TV time. Since 1927, UT is the winningest D-I program in America. The Vols have won or tied for 13 SEC titles. Their list of prominent football alumni is long and distinguished.

“When we go on the recruiting trail, we don’t have to sell that we are building a tradition,” Jones says. “We have tradition.”

Jones took over in December for Derek Dooley, who was fired after three straight losing seasons — his only three at the helm — leaving many wondering why the Vols had dipped down to Louisiana Tech to get Dooley in the first place. Some fans were livid that a reported four candidates to replace Dooley (Mike Gundy, Charlie Strong, Jon Gruden, Larry Fedora) turned down the position before Jones came aboard. While Jones’ head coaching pedigree — 50–27 in three seasons each at Central Michigan and Cincinnati — has no SEC hue, there can be no arguing with his results. When it comes to running a program, he knows what to do. He won two division titles at CMU and tied for two Big East titles at Cincinnati.

“It’s about having a plan and not wavering from that plan,” Jones says. “This is not the first time we’re doing this. It’s the third.”

Jones brings an infectious enthusiasm. Watch tape of him at a practice, and you see constant energy. His idea of having the UT players learn about the program plays well with his vision for them. He wants to recreate the Tennessee glory days, when double-digit win totals were de rigueur, and All-Americans dashed across the pristine Neyland Stadium turf. To do that, he has had to eliminate the torpor that characterized Dooley’s tenure, eradicate the brief (one year) memory of Lane Kiffin’s time in Knoxville and give amnesia to those who recall the last days of Phillip Fulmer, which included two losing seasons in four years.

“There is definitely a change in the culture,” senior offensive lineman Ju’wuan James says. “These (coaches) are connected to us. There are a lot of young guys who can relate to us. It’s a family-oriented atmosphere, and everything here is about tempo, especially at practice.”

Jones wants to move quickly into the future with an eye on Tennessee’s past. His offense will play fast. His defense will run swiftly. And everybody — including the head coach — will soon know who Herman Hickman was.
 

Bret Bielema, Arkansas

When Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, he wasn’t too shy about his reasons. Sure he was making more money himself — $3.2 million per, up from $2.6 mil — but more important, he wouldn’t have to worry about losing assistants to other schools because of salary concerns.

But would that really be the case in Fayetteville? In February, Bielema found out. Another SEC school — reported to be Alabama — was after offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who had joined the Razorbacks staff after working at Tennessee. The Tide were certainly offering more than the $275,000 Pittman was scheduled to earn in 2013 and ’14.

So what would the Hogs do? As it turns out, plenty. Arkansas gave Pittman a big raise, up to $500K, making him the third-highest compensated assistant on the staff. Bielema had his answer.

“They stepped up beyond my expectations to retain (Pittman),” Bielema says.

Now that he has his people — and a commitment from the school to keep them — Bielema can focus on erasing the horrible memories of the last year-plus of Arkansas football. What was supposed to be a glorious 2012 season turned into a nightmare, thanks to Bobby Petrino’s wild ride and the team’s inability to keep it together under interim coach John L. Smith. Last season’s 4–8 record was a disaster, especially when many were pointing at 2012 as the Hogs’ best chance to win the SEC West since ’06, thanks to a load of returning talent and home games against Alabama and LSU.

“We’ve been through a lot, this team and this state,” senior center Travis Swanson says. “To get a clean slate and a fresh start is good.”

Bielema must now stabilize the program and move it forward in the toughest environment that exists in college football. He has steadfastly refused to comment “on what happened before.” Instead, he is focused on bringing his physical style of play to the conference where that is a necessary condition. He’s happy to find a group of tight ends “that can have success” and some running backs with talent. “The offensive line has to come along,” he says.

Perhaps the biggest thing that must develop is a renewed sense that Arkansas can play winning football. Although Bielema isn’t looking back, the program has been wounded. It must rediscover the ability to be consistent and formidable. Bielema and his staff have focused on that since being hired last December.

“He wants us to be 1–0 every day,” says senior defensive end Chris Smith, who had 9.5 sacks last year. “We’re taking it one day at a time, and we want to keep moving forward. The team has been through a lot. We’re ready to move on.”

While encouraging his players to win the day, Bielema has also appealed to them with a straightforward approach to conduct. Like a man who believes in a direct running game, he has one overriding maxim: “He’s got the ‘do-right rule,’” Smith says. “That’s one of the things I like about him. He treats us like men.”

And Bielema wants them to play like men. His offense may not be a perfect replica of what he did at Wisconsin, but fans can expect the Hogs to be physical. In the SEC, that’s just fine. So is the new football building opening in July. And the 20 seniors ready to put the stench of the recent past behind them. Bielema is happy to be where he feels supported, and where he believes winning can happen again.

“I told the media when I took the job on December 5th that I was excited,” he says. “Multiply that by 1,000 now.”

Related: Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2013
 

Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers

When Gus Malzahn last saw Auburn, before the 2012 debacle, the Tigers had followed up their 2010 national championship with an 8–5 season and a bowl win. It wasn’t quite up to the standards Cam Newton and Malzahn established, but it sure wasn’t 3–9 (0–8 SEC), with a 49–0 loss to Alabama, either. The last time Auburn went winless in the SEC, in 1980, Jimmy Carter hadn’t left the White House yet.

Malzahn spent 2012 helping Arkansas State to a Sun Belt title and a bowl victory. He returns to the Plains to find a program that fell apart last year and didn’t resemble its championship big brother one bit. Auburn is hurting, and Malzahn inherits some players more than ready to put the embarrassment and hurt in a sack and throw it into the Chattahoochee River.

“It was a rocky road,” says senior defensive end Nosa Eguae. “As a guy who was there for the national championship, to go where we were last year, you learn a lot. When you face adversity, that’s when you see the real person you are.

“Things didn’t go our way. We’re going to learn from that and get better.”

Because he spent three seasons coordinating the offense at Auburn, Malzahn doesn’t come to town wondering where he can get a good glass of lemonade. He knows the traditions, the expectations and the somewhat Byzantine alumni structure that characterizes the program. He even knows a lot of the players like Eguae, who came to campus when he was here. That’s all good news. “It’s very helpful to understand the dynamics and history and how things work,” Malzahn says.

That knowledge will help Malzahn understand that 3–9 seasons aren’t tolerated at Auburn. The good news is that he isn’t too fond of them, either. And given his ability to teach offense, it’s a good bet the Tiger program won’t be floundering for long. During his first year running the offense, Auburn jumped from 104th to 16th in the nation in yards per game. During the ’10 campaign, the Tigers led the SEC in just about every offensive category of note.

The beauty of it is that Malzahn’s attack isn’t just a spread-’em and shred-’em scheme. It begins with a power ground attack. Really. Last year at ASU, the Red Wolves ran the ball an average of 41.5 times, nearly 10 more than they threw it. Arkansas State averaged 206.2 yards on the ground and 260.5 through the air. That’s the kind of balance and production that wins championships.

“If you look at the last seven years I coached offense, it’s clear we’re going to run the football,” Malzahn says. “We’re committed to that, and I truly believe it’s part of being successful in this league.”

While Malzahn builds an offense physical enough to compete in the SEC, he must also restore the “edge” Auburn had when it was successful. Malzahn speaks of returning to the school’s blue-collar roots. He’ll do it with his trademark dry wit, incredible attention to detail and mandate that the players forget everything that has happened and concentrate on doing the right things to make sure wins come in the future. The year at ASU helped him learn what a head coach must do to install his plan and lead a team. Now, he must get his players to the point where they can win again.

“We’re working hard every single day,” Eguae says. “Coach Malzahn is not satisfied with a subpar day.”

And especially not a subpar year.

Related: Best and Worst Times to be an Auburn Football Fan

Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats

When Kentucky’s men’s basketball team lost a first-round NIT decision to Robert Morris, there were giggles around the country. The mighty Wildcats had not only failed to defend their national championship, but they had also crapped out in the consolation tournament.

The good news for the UK football team was that the hoops squad’s ugly exit diverted people’s attention from the work that must be done to rebuild a program that was 2–10 without an SEC victory last year and came within 10 points of a conference foe only once. But make no mistake: The work is being done. And, unlike last year, it’s being done willingly and happily. Okay, so running and lifting at 6 a.m. isn’t anybody’s idea of fun, but there is no drama now that Mark Stoops has taken over the program.

“Everyone was on time for weights and training this winter,” says junior defensive end Alvin Dupree, who had 6.5 sacks among his 91 tackles in 2012. “Last year, we had conflicts, and people were doing their own things. The team mindset has changed, and we’re all buying into the new program.”

Stoops comes to Lexington after spending three seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida State, following six years at Arizona running that side of the ball. He is a decidedly no-nonsense type who believes heavily in the value of a proper mentality. In that regard, Dupree’s statements have made the new coach feel good.

But Stoops faces the toughest job of the four new coaches in the SEC. The other three are at programs that have had fairly substantial success over the past 10 years and have largely winning traditions. Although UK won eight games in both 2006 and ’07, it hasn’t been a factor in the SEC East since the conference split into divisions and hasn’t won more than four league games in a season since it went 6–0 in 1977. The program’s sole outright title came in 1950 when Bear Bryant was roaming the sidelines in Lexington. (Kentucky tied with Georgia in ’77.)

Every new coach talks about the opportunity available at the school and what it will mean when the program starts to win again, and Stoops is no different. He understands that Kentucky is a basketball school, but he also knows that the SEC is the nation’s best football conference.

“That’s a big selling point — to play and be a member of this conference,” Stoops says. “That’s definitely helped us in recruiting.”

Stoops has been a big hit with the Kentucky fans, who showed their enthusiasm for the new regime by showing up in full force (an estimated 50,000) to the annual Blue/White Spring Game.

UK fans are hoping they will have something to cheer about on Aug. 31 when the Cats battle Western Kentucky — which beat Kentucky last year in the low point of the Joker Phillips era — at LP Field in Nashville.

First, Stoops must fix a Kentucky defense that struggled in all facets in 2012.

Dupree’s efforts notwithstanding. Kentucky allowed opposing passers to complete 67.3 percent of their throws last year and gave up 25 rushing touchdowns. If UK is to compete, it must do much better than that. Stoops’ scheme will allow Wildcat defenders to play more instinctively, as opposed to last year’s more complicated approach. It’s already a big hit.

“The defense has changed entirely,” Dupree says. “We don’t have as many plays as we had. Last year, the playbook was like a dictionary. This year, it’s a coloring book. It’s easier to understand, and the easier it is, the easier it is to go out and make big plays.

“You’re not trying to learn a dictionary. You can make plays.”

Written by Michael Bradley 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:
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:55
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR News & Notes, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/daytona-presents-moving-day-nascar-drivers-chase-contention
Body:

Jimmie Johnson celebrates in Victory Lane following his win in Daytona. (ASP, Inc.)In golf, there’s a nickname for Saturday competition: Moving Day. It’s a point at which either people put themselves in position to win, shoot an ugly round that takes them off the leaderboard or top the charts to start the final 18 holes on Sunday as the one to beat.

In essence, the Chase race took on the same complexion during a night of survival in Daytona. It was a race won by the points leader with those fighting to overtake him in September split into two categories: feast or famine. There were 11 drivers, eighth through 18th in the standings entering the night, who were separated by just 42 points. Six of those men finished outside the top 30, parked inside the garage due to wrecks. Two more, hanging back in a last-lap melee, wound up 17th and 21st respectively, leaving their nights somewhat of a wash. That left a wide opening for three others, each of whom finished 10th or better to capitalize on a rare wide swing in the points.

Is it a be-all, end-all for Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, who all surged up the ladder after strong runs? Not yet. But looking at the eight races left on the regular season schedule there’s maybe one or two other opportunities, max, to collect this much on their rivals in one shot. The cookie-cutter racetracks just don’t lend themselves to wild finishes, while places like New Hampshire don’t have races long enough for mechanical problems to materialize. That means when Richmond comes and names like Kurt Busch are in contention to grab a coveted Chase spot, we’ll look back on this night as the one in which they “moved” into proper position to make it happen.

In “Through the Gears” we find out what else Daytona dealt us to talk about…


FIRST GEAR: A Sweep … Which Sweeps “Cracks in the Armor” Under the Rug
Last year, Jimmie Johnson had just eight finishes outside the top 15 — an outstanding record. Four of those occurred in plate races, a 100 percent disaster rate that included three DNFs and just one lap completed in the sport’s signature event, the Daytona 500. Rest assured the No. 48 team took that failure to heart, spending the offseason perfecting the plate-race version of the Gen-6 car so lightning wouldn’t strike twice.

Now, we’ve seen Johnson thunder through the field in a different way, leading a dominating 94 laps this Independence Day weekend in completing the first sweep of Cup Series Daytona races since Bobby Allison in 1982. How surprising was Johnson’s feat? He had only led 77 laps in his career at Daytona leading into the night — and that includes two victories at the sport’s Great American Race (2006, 2013).

For Johnson to flex his muscles in such fashion makes him the odds-on favorite to collect title No. 6 in November. But even in victory, just like several times the last six weeks, this five-time champ showcased some vulnerability. There was a perplexing late-race move, leaving teammate Kasey Kahne stranded when he was working as a virtual blocker. Moving to the top line, it eventually created an accident between Marcos Ambrose and Kahne once Johnson went to block on the backstretch. If the No. 9 car doesn’t wreck there and completes the pass, the No. 48 is sliding back through the field. (P.S. It could be the nail in the coffin for Ambrose, still winless on ovals and who has struggled on the Cup level to the point he could wind his way back to Australia in the offseason).

So there’s hope … just not much. Johnson’s four victories tie him with Matt Kenseth for most on tour, but that total could easily be seven were it not for three self-inflicted mistakes. It’s the No. 48 team’s racetrack right now. Everyone else is just playing on it.
 

Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing ... Chase contenders? (ASP, Inc.)SECOND GEAR: Kurt Busch’s Big-Time Comeback
Furniture Row Racing has done everything possible this season to shoot itself in the foot. There have been mechanical failures, poor pit calls, driver-induced penalties for speeding on pit road … and that’s without the assorted bad luck that finds its way into every team’s season. Employing a driver in Kurt Busch legendary for his ugly temper, there were plenty of times where a blowup, while never justified, would at least be understandable given the circumstances.

The catch, though, is that he hasn’t lost his cool — and finds himself on the brink of Chase qualification. If anything, he’s kept the team cool through a series of incidents, driving the car back into the top 5 and top 10 after digging a deep hole throughout the course of the season. Now ninth in points after a third straight top 10, it’s not a lock this team will get into the Chase. But the man behind the wheel is setting himself up for it, which is a miraculous effort considering the organization has never finished in the top 20 in points. Other drivers have received more recognition throughout the season, but Busch may be the big winner in the end, as he’s giving the best chance for a sponsor outside of FRR to take a flyer on him were he to end up in the seat of the No. 29 at Richard Childress Racing next season.


THIRD GEAR: Who’s the Big Loser?
I mentioned at the top that of 11 teams eighth through 18th in points, six finished outside the top 30 in Daytona. Certainly, wrecks were not what the doctor ordered for drivers like Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne (among others). But I’m not so worried about any of those three. Logano has momentum on his side, having posted six straight top-11 finishes before Saturday night while the other two have wins to fall back on. Chances are, Kahne will grab a second and I think Truex has put himself in position to make the postseason no matter what.

Instead, the guy I’m watching wasn’t even in that group of six. For Brad Keselowski, Daytona offered an opportunity to make a move. The team finished in the top 5 there in February with a front end that looked like a giant trash bag. Proving that strength, he was in the front row on Saturday night during a restart with less than 30 laps to go. But a series of bad-luck decisions in the draft left the No. 2 car 21st at the checkered flag, still sitting on the outside of the top 10 looking in. Now, the series heads to Loudon, Indianapolis and Pocono, all tracks where I don’t expect this team to contend for the win. And who knows what NASCAR’s penalties will be for those illegal roof flap spacers that the team — along with 15 others — was busted for in Daytona. If Keselowski hasn’t entered crisis mode behind the scenes at this point, I don’t know what it’s going to take.


FOURTH GEAR: Pondering the Future of Plate Racing
Saturday marked the third straight plate event where pack racing has returned to Cup competition, courtesy of the sport’s new Gen-6 bodies. But at times, the slow-moving lines made it feel like fans were watching two giant snarls of traffic on the highway. The sensation of “feeling the speed” wasn’t there; neither was the ability to make up three, five, even eight spots in just one lap. (Remember Dale Earnhardt’s epic charge at Talladega 13 years ago?)

That’s because the new Gen-6 car does not produce a closing rate that “pack racing” used to offer. Steve Letarte said on Monday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost 22 spots in one lap during one of the final restarts that pretty much eliminated him from competing for the win. In the past, with 10-20 laps to go, a driver would be able to come back from that and work his or her way back to the front. Not anymore; it’s been replaced by a game of high-speed, traffic-maneuver chess that takes all the mental strength available to get the push by one car.

I’d be shocked if we didn’t see a rule change following the 2013 season where there’s a different spoiler and air package, making it easier for drivers to pass — whether they like it or not.


OVERDRIVE
Clint Bowyer was the latest to admit after the race that he was simply riding around Daytona for the first 130 laps. If the sport has drivers staying in place for the first two-plus hours, how is it going to advertise the product effectively? That’s not going to win over many new fans. … Danica Patrick, who wound up 14th, actually deserved better than her last-lap melee. The car was a top-10 contender for most of the night. And Patrick coincidentally tangled with David Gilliland, the latest in a series of on-track incidents between the two. … J.J. Yeley has an average finish of 11.5 at Daytona this season. Everywhere else? He has yet to post a result better than 24th. Just another way in which the gap between lower- and upper-class teams has never been larger — outside of Daytona and Talladega, of course. … Thirty-one teams in Nationwide and Cup were found with improper roof flap spacer modifications at Daytona. The competitive advantage, though, is so minimal you have to wonder if NASCAR will hit that many teams with a serious point deduction. Teams shouldn’t mess with safety, of course, but when they’re working within thousandths of a second, at what point does it become nitpicking?


by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter:
@NASCARBowles
 

Teaser:
Reaction from Jimmie Johnson's win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 21:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcus-casey-pachall-ready-second-chance
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By all accounts, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall had a great spring. The Horned Frogs’ mystery man earned praise throughout spring drills, and though the status of his competition with Trevone Boykin remains officially unresolved, Pachall’s return to the starting lineup seems inevitable. How well Pachall performs after a trying 2012 season, though, could determine whether TCU is ready to compete for the Big 12 title in only its second season in the league.

The senior, who left the team after four games in 2012 to seek treatment for substance abuse, returned to the school in January after completing a three-month program. The next question — at least from a football standpoint — is whether Pachall is ready to face LSU in Cowboys Stadium on Aug. 31.

Coach Gary Patterson dropped subtle hints during the spring that his mind was made up. “When he left last year, he was rated the No. 1 quarterback in the nation and we were 4–0,” Patterson reminded the media in March. “The other guy (Boykin) learned because he had to by fire. He did a tremendous job for what we threw him into. I’ve got until August (to choose). Casey is the older one, but both of them can do good things. (Boykin) can move around, gets himself out of trouble, (Pachall) gets himself out of trouble with his arm. In some ways, it’s hard to compare those kinds of things.

“So it’s great competition between him and Casey. They’re both taking reps with the ones. Casey is taking most of them.”

Read into that what you will.

With Pachall under center, the offense was more dynamic and dangerous. As a first-year starter in 2011, Pachall set TCU records for yards (2,921), completions (228) and completion percentage (66.5), while passing for 25 touchdowns. When he left in 2012, he was fifth nationally in pass efficiency and had thrown for 10 touchdowns and one interception.

This isn’t a question of production. Rather, the uncertainty around Pachall’s return involves his mental state and his ability to rebuild trust and team chemistry.

In October, Pachall left the team in the wake of an early-morning arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. By then, he had already admitted to police in February 2012 that he had smoked marijuana, tried cocaine and ecstasy, and failed a team drug test. Pachall’s admission came amid a campus investigation that led to the arrest of four TCU players — including Pachall’s roommate, linebacker Tanner Brock — for selling drugs on campus.

It would have been understandable had Patterson cut Pachall loose after his arrest. But that wasn’t going to happen, for a couple of reasons: Banishing Pachall sent the wrong message about second chances and young adults earning redemption, Patterson said. Plus, an outright dismissal could have opened up the school to legal issues.

Instead, Patterson left the door open for the troubled quarterback.

The week before Pachall returned to campus in January, his father Stan Pachall, a former Texas Highway Patrol officer, thanked fans for their support.

“Casey is doing well and we are very proud of the progress he has made,” he wrote in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Some people are just haters and want to see people fail. To the haters, I hope that they never have anyone close to them that suffers from addiction of any substance. And to the people that support and have prayed for Casey’s recovery — THANK YOU.”

Meanwhile, TCU’s first season in the Big 12 went on with Boykin at quarterback. Before he took over, Boykin had 10 career pass attempts to his name. He went 3–6 as a starter, with all nine games coming against bowl teams (in comparison, Pachall faced one bowl team, SMU). TCU also was playing without leading rusher Waymon James, who was out with an injury for the final 11 games. Another top running back, Matthew Tucker, also was out with an injury during Boykin’s first start — an ugly, turnover-plagued loss to Iowa State.

After the game against the Cyclones, the coaching staff adjusted gameplans to fit Boykin’s skill set, which includes more running ability than Pachall possesses. And Boykin, who didn’t envision starting during 2012, grew into his new role.

In his second start, Boykin was outstanding in a 49–21 win at Baylor, passing for 261 yards and four TDs and rushing for 56 yards and a score. In a 20–13 win at Texas on Nov. 22, Boykin rushed for 77 yards and threw for 82 on an economical 7-of-9 passing.

Patterson, understandably, has several reasons for playing it close to the vest with his quarterbacks this season. For one, Boykin earned enough credibility in the final nine games to at least compete for the job.

“Both quarterbacks want to be the starting guy,” Patterson said early in March. “Everybody knows what strengths both of them have. It just makes us better because now there is competition. We’ll see how it goes.”

Meanwhile, Pachall has declined interviews since returning to the team. Patterson also limits practice access and player availability drastically during the spring, so very little about Pachall’s progress on the field is known besides what Patterson reports to the media — and that is guarded.

Before Pachall left, he got along well with his teammates and was a legitimate team leader, according to several former teammates. Patterson says nothing changed in that regard, and the team welcomed him back with open arms in public comments that are not unexpected given the circumstances.

“There hasn’t been anything said,” Patterson says. “He had a great image with those guys as far as his relationships, and I don’t think the relationship is any different.”

Now, it’s up to Pachall to make a difference on the field.

Written by Stefan Stevenson for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big 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:
Casey Pachall's Return is a Huge Boost for TCU
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 07:03
Path: /nascar/can-dale-earnhardt-jr-return-victory-lane-daytona
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Dale Earnhardt Jr.1. Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. win again at Daytona?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has long played the role of favorite in most of the NASCAR races he's run at Daytona International Speedway. His emotional win in the 2001 Pepsi 400, his 2004 Daytona 500 win and his impressive streak of top-10 finishes from 2003-06 helped to cement the status.

But after his second-place run in February's Daytona 500 (his third in four years), Earnhardt has now gone 18 Sprint Cup races at Daytona since pulling into Victory Lane. What's the deal?

"I think we might need to try to be at a better position sooner, where we’re not having to have to do so much right at the end of the race and not have an opportunity to challenge for the win," Earnhardt said Thursday at Daytona.

He's right. A last-lap pass pushed him to Jimmie Johnson's bumper in February's race, and the same thing happened in 2010 when he couldn't overtake Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt is hopeful that the 2.5-mile track looses some grip in the heat and forces car handling to take precedence. To him, that's what makes exciting racing.

"We might have a good opportunity to see a real exciting race and I think when things get more exciting at the plate tracks, I’ve got a better shot at finding my way toward the front for an easier shot at it," Earnhardt said.


2. Restrictor plate results dog Harvick's strong first half
Just twice in 2013 has Kevin Harvick finished worse than 14th. And just twice this season has Harvick finished only 47 laps in a race.

Those stats are pretty remarkable given that 2013 is Harvick's final year at Richard Childress Racing. Then consider how flat the RCR program often was in 2012 and you'll start to understand how it's surprising that both of those DNFs came at the tracks that everyone on the eve of this year's Daytona 500 figured would be most ripe for Harvick's best finishes.

The poor runs came at the series' pair of stops at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, where Harvick was knocked out both times by wrecks caused by Kyle Busch. He was undoubtedly going to be a factor in each — no one was stronger during Daytona's Speedweeks, as Harvick won the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race and one of the two Duel qualifying events — and you've got to think not much will have changed come Saturday night.

Harvick, now fourth in the standings, will be one to watch.


3. TNT abandons "wide open" broadcast concept
A staple of TNT's six-race coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in recent seasons has been its production of the July Daytona race. The "wide open" coverage, as the network called it, covered the screen with commercials just a handful of times for local commercial breaks. Otherwise, the national commercial breaks were run in a unique format that kept the race action on the screen while showing the spots in a side-by-side format.

Advertisers also got heavy play on the screen scoreboard and with pop-up ads.

While imperfect, the coverage style was a drastic improvement of NASCAR on television because viewers rarely missed a beat. Instead of going away, it's a style of NASCAR television that should have been expanded.

Network officials likely decided to abandon the format because advertisers just simply didn't like it and the ratings boost wasn't high enough. Personally, I'd like to see how fans would react if the wide-open coverage was a staple of NASCAR — not just a one-off deal on a summer Saturday night. TNT has promised that the race will not be interrupted by commercials during the final 30 laps.

Saturday night's coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. EST and includes an in-depth feature detailing Carl Edwards both on and off the track.


4. Nationwide drivers go for broke with no changes from February
Just in case Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers didn't want to win bad enough in Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Daytona, each has an extra $100,000 carrot dangling in front of them payable to the driver who finishes first among the four. It's all part of a Nationwide-sponsored incentive program that could see one of the four take home an extra $1 million after Indianapolis in a few weeks.

But those four drivers — plus everyone else entered in the Friday 250-miler — will fight for the win using the same rules package as the series' season-opener in February at the track. That's a bit worrisome if you remember the multi-car, last-lap wreck that sent Larson's car into the catchfence and injured more than 30 fans. Several were hospitalized.

NASCAR has been almost completely mum on the investigation underway from Larson's horrifying incident, and apparently hasn't found anything that needs to change on the competition side to prevent race cars from flying while racing at 200 mph. NASCAR did, however, announce some strengthening of the crossover gates at Daytona and Talladega, a move indicative of no real internal worries about cars getting airborne or in the fence. Officials seem to just want the fence to hold.

Judging by the gut-wrenching, ugly scene that Larson's ripped car left in row after row of Daytona's grandstand just a few months ago, that seems a bit light.


5. Testing brings new Goodyear compounds to Daytona
If you thought February's race at Daytona lacked the expected punch and wildness thanks to a lack of passing in the field, you weren't alone. Drivers were also frustrated with the advantage in that race seemingly coming from merely staying in line.

The race forced NASCAR's tire supplier Goodyear to make amends to the compounds used on the still-new Gen-6 car. To find a new sweet spot of competition and longevity, Goodyear brought nine teams to Daytona in April for a two-day test. Drivers included in the day and night sessions were Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell (driving Denny Hamlin's No. 11), Trevor Bayne, Austin Dillon and Carl Edwards.

The result was new compounds for each side of the car, and a change to the build of the left-side tires that Goodyear said is similar to tires in use at other Sprint Cup tracks. Hopefully, the new tires — both right and left side tires have never been raced — will add some energy to Saturday night's race.


by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:
@GeoffreyMiller
 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 12:06

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