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Doug Marrone, the former Syracuse head coach, is off to a banner start with the Buffalo Bills. Channeling some of that college spirit, Marrone ordered up two 20-feet-tall banners picturing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to hang behind the goal posts of the team’s field house.

For a team stuck in a perpetual rebuilding phase (13 seasons missing the playoffs) and working on its sixth coach since 2000, that’s probably as close as the Bills are going to come to the Super Bowl for awhile. But players appreciate Marrone’s attempt at an attitude adjustment.

“If you are not shooting for the Super Bowl, what are you shooting for?” center Eric Wood says. “That is a good message to have around.”

No doubt. Several regulars have been jettisoned from Chan Gailey’s roster that eked out six wins in the rugged AFC East, and a full-blown overhaul is underway. The offense must identify a starting quarterback, and the defense is starting from square one. The Bills simply remain years away from being relevant.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 14th

Related: 2013 Buffalo Bills Schedule Analysis

Offense
After turning the page on Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills made Florida State’s EJ Manuel the only quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Taking Manuel at No. 16 — many critics said it was too high — anoints him as the team’s starting quarterback of the future. The only question is: When will that future be?

Marrone intended to hold an open competition in training camp between Manuel and veteran Kevin Kolb, who signed as a free agent after his release by Arizona. At 6'4", 237 with 4.55 speed, Manuel has eye-popping physical gifts that new coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, known for his creativity out of a West Coast philosophy, can’t wait to incorporate. Unfortunately, the rookie injured his knee in the second preseason game and had to undergo a surgical procedure on it. While the team considers this just a minor setback, Manuel will miss the remainder of the preseason, which all but guarantees that Kolb will at least begin the season as the starting quarterback.

Whether it's Kolb or Manuel under center, they will have at their disposal a supporting cast that features several game-breaking players. But there are also major holes to fill at left guard and tight end.

Fourth-year running back C.J. Spiller is coming off a breakout season in which he gained 1,244 yards on just 207 carries (6.0 average). Veteran Fred Jackson, 32, can punish defenses with his hard, downhill style, but injuries have taken a toll.

Wide receiver Stevie Johnson topped 1,000 yards receiving for a team-record third consecutive season. After ranking 25th in passing, Buffalo made upgrading speed and depth at receiver a major goal. Second-round pick Robert Woods (USC) and third-round pick Marquise Goodwin (Texas), an Olympic long jumper, join second-year deep threat T. J. Graham as players with a golden opportunity to make an impact.

Buffalo boasts a strong offensive line led by Wood at center, guard Kraig Urbik and tackles Cordy Glenn and Erik Pears. But the team must find a replacement for left guard Andy Levitre, who signed a lucrative deal with Tennessee as a free agent. The tight end position is in a state of flux with Scott Chandler coming off ACL surgery.

Defense
After fielding three of the franchise’s five worst defenses in terms of yards and points allowed (what else really matters?) under Gailey, the Bills had no choice but to turn the page on a long list of veteran players. Departing via retirement or outright release were Nick Barnett, Shawne Merriman, Terrence McGee, George Wilson and Chris Kelsay.

Newcomers include linebacker Manny Lawson (free agent, Cincinnati), defensive tackle Alan Branch (free agent, Seattle) and three rookie draft picks — linebacker Kiko Alonso and safeties Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks.

The Bills allowed 362.9 total yards per game (22nd in the league) and were especially bad against the run (145.8 ypg, 31st). Taking control is coordinator Mike Pettine, the architect of several strong defenses for the rival New York Jets. While Pettine uses a base 3-4, his schemes are varied — he’ll use up to seven defensive backs, and he’s not afraid to blitz frequently.

Buffalo’s front seven shouldn’t be the pushover it was a year ago. Defensive end Mario Williams, last year’s prized free agent who signed the richest NFL deal ever for a defensive player, finished with 10.5 very quiet sacks. He figures to be turned loose by Pettine, who will look to Pro Bowl tackle Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Branch to stop the run. Dareus had a down year dealing with the death of his brother but should be more mentally focused.

The Bills need more production from their linebackers, who accounted for just five of the team’s 36 sacks. Outside backers Lawson, Nigel Bradham, Arthur Moats and Jerry Hughes, a former first-round pick acquired in a trade with the Colts, will be counted on to create havoc. Alonso could start in the middle as a rookie.

The secondary is led by Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd and cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, who is coming off a strong rookie season, and Leodis McKelvin. Byrd, who tied for the AFC lead with five interceptions, was designated the club’s franchise player, and the team is hoping to get a long-term deal done. The strong safety spot is wide open with converted corner Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy and Duke Williams in the mix.

Specialists
Placekicker Rian Lindell had his sights set this season on becoming the Bills’ all-time career scoring leader, as he needed just 32 points to pass Stevie Christie (1,011). Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will happen, as the Bills cut the 13-year veteran during training camp. Lindell's release means the kicking job belongs to sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins, who became the NCAA’s career points leader during his career at Florida State. Last year, Shawn Powell replaced all-time Bills punter Brian Moorman and established a team record for punting average by a rookie at 44.0 per attempt. McKelvin and Brad Smith are the top return specialists. McKelvin, who was retained for a four-year, $20-million deal, led the NFL in punt return average at 18.7 yards with two returns for scores.

Final Analysis: 4th in AFC East
After 13 seasons without playing in the postseason, it’s hard for even the most fervent fan to be optimistic that another coaching change will mean anything. Marrone does represent a fresh face and the promise of young ideas. The addition of Manuel as a potential franchise quarterback does make the team more interesting to follow. Pettine, a well-respected coordinator, will make the defense better. But in a rugged AFC East dominated by New England and with a schedule much more difficult than in 2012, it will take more than one offseason to undo all the mistakes of the last decade in Buffalo.

Order your 2013 Buffalo Bills Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

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

 

Teaser:
Buffalo Bills 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-2013-nfl-team-preview
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Ron Rivera’s third season as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach may be his last if the team can’t make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. Team owner Jerry Richardson made Rivera wait six agonizing days after the 2012 season before deciding that the former NFL linebacker for the Chicago Bears deserved another shot at leading the team in 2013. Rivera had been put on notice that he was on the hot seat following the Panthers’ disappointing 1–5 start that cost longtime general manger Marty Hurney his job. The new decision-maker is Dave Gettleman, who had been with the N.Y. Giants organization since 1998.

The Panthers dug themselves too deep of a hole to make the playoffs last year but did finish 5–1 over the final six games to end up with a 7–9 record. They managed top-12 rankings in both total offense and total defense and will build this year’s team around quarterback Cam Newton on offense and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly on defense. With Rivera’s fate likely hanging in the balance, this could be the year the team makes a leap. For the popular coach’s sake, it better be.

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 14th

Related: 2013 Carolina Panthers Schedule Analysis

Offense
It starts with Newton, who will have a new offensive coordinator this year since Rob Chudzinski was the surprise choice for the Cleveland Browns’ head job. Mike Shula was promoted from quarterbacks coach to replace “Chud,” who was running the zone-read in 2011 with Newton well before it became such a hot NFL trend.

Newton became a slightly more conventional quarterback in 2012, as his rushing TDs went down and his time in the pocket went slightly up. He remains very effective as a dual-threat quarterback — he led the team in rushing with 741 yards — but the Panthers would like to cut down on the number of hits he takes. He is already protecting the ball better, having thrown a team-record 176 straight passes in 2012 without an interception.

Ageless wide receiver Steve Smith had his seventh 1,000-yard season in 2012 and, at 34, will remain the Panthers’ biggest receiving threat in 2013. He has found new life with Newton, but the question is how much longer he can stay effective. The Panthers badly need Brandon LaFell — their clear No. 2 receiver now — to emerge more frequently in 2013. Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn, two veteran free agents, will likely compete for the No. 3 job. Tight end Greg Olsen is Newton’s favorite target other than Smith and possesses some of the best hands on the team.

Newton can hand the ball off to three solid backs in DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. The Panthers have so much money invested in that trio that there has been speculation one of them must go given the club’s constant salary-cap problems, but the team has managed to keep them so far. Williams is the game-breaker, Stewart the between-the-tackles bull and Tolbert the short-yardage specialist who hopes to take that burden off of Newton. As of the beginning of training camp, Williams was the only one of the three not dealing with an injury with Stewart still recovering from offseason surgery on both ankles and Tolbert dealing with a hamstring issue. This also presented an opportunity for sixth-round pick Kenjon Barner to get some meaningful reps in practice and show the coaching staff what he brings to the table.

The offensive line is the biggest question on this unit. Left tackle Jordan Gross still has good feet but doesn’t have many years left. Center Ryan Kalil is one of the league’s best, but the other three spots all have question marks. Every team’s defensive game plan involves going after Newton, and whether this group is up to the task of protecting him will have much to do with how the season goes. If Newton were to go down, veteran backup Derek Anderson would direct the team. He’s a good thrower, but the team would then be forced to use a much more conventional offense.

Defense
Kuechly’s outstanding rookie year was the biggest revelation in 2012, a year in which the Panthers improved to 10th in total defense — 18 spots better than they had been a year before. Kuechly took over for injured middle linebacker Jon Beason early in the season and played so well he ended up as the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is a tackling machine and led the NFL in tackles, becoming the first rookie to do so since San Francisco’s Patrick Willis in 2007.

After that year, Kuechly isn’t going anywhere even though Beason is trying to return after major injuries short-circuited each of his last two seasons. Like Kuechly, Beason is a very fast, side-to-side linebacker who can play in all situations when healthy. Strong-side linebacker Thomas Davis made a tremendous comeback in 2012 after three ACL surgeries on the same knee and will man that position once again. Free agent signee Chase Blackburn will provide depth and a steady locker-room presence.

The Panthers’ defensive front should be one of the team’s strengths. In 2012, defensive ends Charles Johnson (12.5 sacks) and Greg Hardy (11) gave Carolina its first pair of double-digit sackers since 2002. Hardy has faced some maturity issues but seems to have picked up some of Johnson’s quiet resolve. At defensive tackle, veteran Dwan Edwards will be joined by a pair of top-50 draft picks — Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Both will help by keeping blockers off Kuechly, who does his best work when he’s free to roam.

The secondary is where the most questions lie. Gettleman restructured a lot of it with some under-the-radar free agent signings in 2013. Cornerback Drayton Florence and strong safety Mike Mitchell are low-profile veterans who will both have a chance to start. Cornerback Josh Norman started for 12 games as a rookie in 2012 and then got benched, but Gettleman likes his potential. Charles Godfrey is the leader in the back at free safety. Captain Munnerlyn is an undersized but tough nickel cornerback. Whether this group can survive repeated attacks by the franchise quarterbacks of the NFC South is key.

Specialists
This is a middle-of-the-pack group at best. Placekicker Graham Gano came on in 2012 after the Panthers cut ties with Olindo Mare, who was one of Hurney’s real miscalculations. Brad Nortman had an uneven rookie year as the team’s punter and needs to improve. Ginn, who returns kickoffs and punts, should add a splash of excitement for the first time since Smith handled those jobs early in his career and perhaps spell the end of the Armanti Edwards experiment.

Final Analysis: 4th in NFC South
In their first two years under Rivera, the Panthers have gotten off to horrible starts that doomed the season. They can’t afford to do that again. Newton and Kuechly are fine cornerstones on which to build, and there are fewer holes on this team than you would likely expect from a squad that hasn’t had a winning season since 2008.

Order your 2013 Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

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

 

Teaser:
Carolina Panthers 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /40-weirdest-team-nicknames-sports
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We're all for tradition, and honoring your region with your team nickname, but some of these are just plain weird. Here they are in no particular order of weirdness.

 

1. Jordan (Utah) Beetdiggers

This nickname inspires fear. If you're a beet. 

 

2. Conway (Ark.) Wampus Cats

A Wampus cat is a fearsome creature from folklore. Doesn't stop it from sounding stupid.

 

3. Camas (Wash.) Papermakers

4. Kimberly (Wis.) Papermakers

Maybe they can get Dunder-Mifflin to sponsor their uniforms.

 

5. Badger (Wis.) Badgers

The Badger Badgers? Too bad Duany Duany, Longar Longar and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje didn't play there.

 

6. Newburgh Free Academy (NY) Goldbacks

Anything with "backs" attached to the end seems like a slur.

 

7. Butte (Idaho) Pirates

No comment.

 

8. Grafton/St. Thomas (ND) Spoilers

Isn't the nickname "Spoilers" a concession that you suck and can only hope to spoil a good team's season?

 

9. Mt. Pleasant (RI) Kilties

They've managed to take the word "kilt" and make it even more effeminate.

 

10. Bellows Free Academy (Vt.) Bobwhites

A bobwhite is a quail that is commonly killed and consumed. Doesn't even have much meat on it.

 

11. Cairo (Ga.) Syrupmakers

Sweet and sticky are not adjectives I want applied to my football team.

 

12. Red Bank Catholic (NJ) Caseys

The school took its nickname from a former Monsignor. It makes me think of Casey Anthony. Or Kasey Kasem.

 

13. Glenville (Ohio) Tarblooders

A tarblooder was apparently a railroad worker who laid ties and cemented them with tar. When you have to explain it, it loses some impact.

 

14. Austin Westlake (Texas) Chaparrals

They're called the "Chaps" for short. Wonder if they're assless.

 

15. Dunbar (Md.) Poets

It's a nod to the school's namesake, but Poets? Aren't they the guys the football players should be pummeling?

 

16. Mt. Clemens (Mich.) Battling Bathers

Not sure you want to combine football and bath time in your nickname.

 

17. St. Mary's Prep (Mich.) Eaglets

18. Rockhurst (Mo.) Hawklets

Baby birds, even eagles and hawks, don't exactly inspire fear. Hell, they can't even fly.

 

19. North Little Rock Charging Wildcats

Adding "Charging" seems like overkill. And is a Wildcat really known for charging?

 

20. Salesianum School (Del.) Sallies

This simply can't be real, can it? Was Nancies already taken?

 

21. Punahou (Hawaii) Buffanblu

It's not some native Hawaiian bird of prey or anything. Believe it or not, this nickname comes from the school's colors: buff and blue.

 

22. Shelley (Idaho) Russets

Yes, Idaho is known for potatoes. Doesn't mean you have to incorporate it into your nickname. Would be like calling a Chicago team "the Gang-Related Murders."

 

23. Watersmeet (Mich.) Nimrods

In the Bible, Nimrod was a mighty hunter. Nobody knows their Bible anymore. Today, a nimrod is merely a moron.

 

24. Orofino (Idaho) Maniacs

Many think that the team was named for the local mental hospital. Unfortunately, that's not true. It was merely the frenetic style of play the hoops team used to be known for.

 

25. Teutopolis (Ill.) Wooden Shoes

They're particularly loud on the basketball court. But slow.

 

26. Chattanooga (Tenn.) Central Purple Pounders

Sounds like a prison team.

 

27. Mars Area (Pa.) Fighting Planets

Sort of a "War of the Worlds" theme.

 

28. Beaver (Okla.) Dusters

A Beaver Duster sounds like something you'd order online. On a secure site.

 

29. Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals

I hope this isn't truth in advertising.

 

30. Freeburg (Ill.) Midgets

Surprised that the little people lobby hasn’t gotten hold of this one.

 

 

 

 

31. Webster University Gorloks

The students at Webster came up with this one. Sounds like a Lord of the Rings character.

 

32. UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs

Big, slimy and disgusting. Kind of like a pregnant Kardashian sister.

 

33. Columbia College Fighting Koalas

Putting "fighting" in front of an adorable, cuddly creature like a koala doesn't make it any scarier.

 

34. Presbyterian Blue Hose

I guess it's better than the Presbyterian Depressed Prostitutes.

 

35. Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes

Ridiculous. Everyone knows artichokes are peaceful vegetables.

 

36. Rhode Island School of Design Nads

Yes, it's a joke, right down to the anatomically correct mascot and the "Go, Nads!" cheer.

 

37. Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

I'd avoid the hot dogs at the ballpark.

 

38. Savannah Sand Gnats

Annoying sand-based insects are an overlooked genre for mascots.

 

39. Montgomery Biscuits

Hot, buttery and delicious. Paula Deen's favorite team.

 

40. Hillhouse (Conn.) Academics

I guess it's one way to flip the saying, "They're known for academics."

 
Teaser:
40 Weirdest Team Nicknames in Sports
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/should-i-sign-autograph-flowchart-college-football-players
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It's not easy being a college football athlete. Just ask Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel who's garnered a lot of unwanted attention from the NCAA for allegedly signing autographs for money. That's exactly why the fine folks at Fox Sports decided to step in and help out athletes with this handy-dandy flowchart. We think it should be mandatory reading for every high-profile college football player.
 
Source: Fox Sports
Teaser:
It's not easy being a college football athlete. Just ask Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel who's garnered a lot of unwanted attention from the NCAA for allegedly signing autographs for money. That's exactly why the fine folks at Fox Sports decided to step in and help out athletes with this handy-dandy flowchart. We think it should be mandatory reading for every high-profile college football player.
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 16:31
Path: /nfl/oakland-raiders-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was just warming up last year when he overhauled the scouting department and made a few changes to his roster. The heavy lifting on what is clearly a complete reconstruction project in Oakland began after the Raiders capped a disheartening 4–12 season in Year 1 under McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen.

When he was hired by Raiders owner Mark Davis, McKenzie said he inherited some “out of whack” contracts that he’d have to deal with in order to bring fiscal sanity and flexibility to the Raiders. So after last season, he whacked wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, free safety Michael Huff and linebacker Rolando McClain, three players drafted in the top 10 by the late Al Davis.

McKenzie traded quarterback Carson Palmer to Arizona after the veteran declined to take a big pay cut and replaced him with the more affordable Matt Flynn, acquired in a deal with Seattle. He also cut highly paid defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and made no effort to re-sign defensive tackle Richard Seymour or punter Shane Lechler.

By next season, most of the Raiders’ massive amount of “dead money” should disappear, and they’ll have plenty of salary cap room to pursue free agents or lock up their own players. This season, they’ll try to survive with a Moneyball-like roster packed with affordable players, many of them on one-year contracts.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 15th

Related: 2013 Oakland Raiders Schedule Analysis

Offense
The Palmer era in Oakland ended after less than two full seasons, and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s second stint with the Raiders lasted only one year. Knapp’s zone blocking scheme never fit running back Darren McFadden’s downhill running style. Shortly after the season ended, Allen fired Knapp, acknowledging his own mistake of promoting a system that didn’t fit his personnel. New Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson and assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano will rely on a power running scheme that’s suited to McFadden and a less complex offense that shouldn’t take the Raiders so long to pick up.

But the question remains: Can McFadden stay healthy? He missed the final nine games in 2011 with a Lisfranc foot injury. Last year he missed four games with a high ankle sprain. He’s missed 23 games over five seasons because of injuries, and now he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Palmer passed for 4,018 yards last season but was traded to the Cardinals in a move to save money and get younger. It’s highly debatable, however, whether the Raiders passing attack will be better with the unproven Flynn. That’s assuming Flynn can win the job, something he couldn’t do last year in Seattle when third-round draft pick Russell Wilson was named the starter after a stellar preseason. The Raiders will likely have a package of plays for quarterback Terrelle Pryor designed to take advantage of his running ability, but he has one career start and has yet to prove he has enough passing accuracy or arm strength to be an NFL starter.

The Raiders haven’t had a clear-cut No. 1 receiver who puts fear into opposing defenses since Tim Brown was in his prime. That will likely be the case again this season with the wildly inconsistent Denarius Moore the top returning receiver. Tight end Brandon Myers, who led the team with 79 catches, signed with the Giants as a free agent, and returning tight ends Richard Gordon and David Ausberry have combined for 12 career catches in two seasons.

Four starters on the offensive line were set to return, but left tackle Jared Veldheer, the anchor of this group, sustained a partially torn triceps on Aug. 3 and opted for surgery. He is expected to be out at least three months, which does leave open the possibility of a late-season return. While the loss of Veldheer obviously hurts, the hope is that the line as a unit will fare better blocking in a power running scheme. The Raiders kept right guard Mike Brisiel, a former Texan who had a disastrous, injury-plagued 2012 season after signing a big free agent contract. They re-signed right tackle Khalif Barnes.

Defense
It wasn’t until late last season that the Raiders started catching on to the aggressive, multiple defense that Allen and rookie defensive coordinator Jason Tarver installed. Only three starters from that defense — strong safety Tyvon Branch, left end Lamarr Houston and weak-side linebacker Miles Burris — are still on the roster, and Burris could lose his job to former Miami Dolphin Kevin Burnett. So Allen and Tarver had better hope the newcomers are quick studies, or they could be in for another rough start.

McKenzie did most of his work in free agency on the defensive side, adding eight potential new starters: linebackers Nick Roach, Kaluka Maiava and Burnett, cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, defensive tackles Vance Walker and Pat Sims and defensive end Jason Hunter. McKenzie also brought long-time Raider and the team's first-round pick in 1998, free safety Charles Woodson, back into the fold. Of those, only Roach, Maiava and Burnett received multi-year contracts. That trio of linebackers should help make up for the loss of talented strong-side backer Philip Wheeler to Miami as a free agent.

Last year, McKenzie signed cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, a pair of veteran free agents coming off injuries. Both were injured early in the season and barely saw the field. This year he signed Porter and Jenkins, two younger corners trying to get their careers back on track, and used his top draft pick on Houston corner D.J. Hayden, who should start as a rookie. Porter started just four games last year for Denver during a season marred by a concussion and a seizure. Jenkins has 48 career starts but started just twice last year for Dallas. Porter and Young should adapt quickly to the Raiders’ defense.

McKenzie did little to help the Raiders’ low-voltage pass rush, which is still in desperate need of a force off the edge.

Specialists
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, one of the NFL’s most accurate long-range weapons, returns for his 14th season, but Lechler left as a free agent and signed with Houston after 13 years with the Raiders. Lechler was a seven-time Pro Bowl punter and was named first-team All-Pro six times, but he had an off year in 2012 after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Marquette King, who spent last season on injured reserve as a rookie free agent, is a more affordable option. He has a big leg but lacks consistency and NFL experience.

Explosive return man Jacoby Ford missed the entire 2012 season with a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery. He has a franchise-record four kickoff returns for touchdowns. If he recovers fully, Ford will likely take over the punt return duties, too.

Final Analysis: 4th in AFC West
After winning only four games in 2012, the Raiders appear headed for another painful season. They’ve missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons and will need a miracle to stop that streak this year. The defense should be a little better. How could it be worse? On offense, the Raiders will need McFadden to stay healthy and Flynn to exceed expectations to have any chance of surpassing last year’s win total.

Order your 2013 Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

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

 

Teaser:
Oakland Raiders 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-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 Mountain West to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Mountain West Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Air Force

“May be in store for a down year. But when he’s had those kind of predictions, Troy (Calhoun’s) done pretty well.” …

“The new quarterback, Kale Pearson, is not real good right now.” …

“They are graduating a bunch of guys. May be a year when they take a step back.”…

“Matchup wise, I felt for them last year. Athletically they weren’t close. But they’re still capable of winning six to eight games each year.”…

“Calhoun outcoaches guys. He does a really good job.”…

Boise State

“Best offensive line in the league.”…

“They’ve done a good job in recruiting. They might have the best looking team in the league. It wasn’t always that way there. They can go up against BCS teams now and they don’t look much different.”…

“On the lines, they have guys that can play anywhere.”…

“The quarterback was not a great one. It’s tough to replace Kellen Moore.”…

“They are really good on defense. Losing a lot of good defensive tackles, a safety and a corner that will hurt. But they play well as a unit.”…

Colorado State

“Wasn’t real impressed with their personnel. Dave Baldwin does a good job schematically and he’ll get his guys going. I like Jim McElwain, but offensively, I didn’t think they had anybody that you felt you had to double team.”…

“You could basically run whatever you wanted to run.”…

“Probably not in the top half of the league personnel wise.”…

“Didn’t really seem to be settled on the quarterback position. They played two young guys, so maybe if they choose one and see what he can do, they can have more success.”…

Fresno State

“Derek Carr is driven to be really good. Could be the best quarterback in the league. Doesn’t play particularly well when pressured. Sometimes instead of feeling the pressure and stepping into it and keeping his eyes on the field, he’ll get whacked and kind of start to look at the rush But he can read coverage and put the ball spots.”…

“Davante Adams is a legit 4.5 kid, really smooth in and out of breaks. He’s an NFL guy.”…

“They’ve got four receivers who can play.”…

“They are solid on the D line and in the secondary. Will have linebackers to replace, and losing Phillip Thomas will hurt.”…

Hawaii

“That’s kind of an enigma. I really like Norm Chow. Their kids didn’t always play real hard.”…

“It’s a tough trip coming from Hawaii to the mainland.”…

“Defensively they had injuries. They didn’t look like the Hawaii teams from 2005-06 that had those big Polynesian kids.”…

“From the change in schemes from run-and-shoot to West Coast, it appeared kids hadn’t totally bought in to what they were trying to do.”…

“The QB is average at best. Couple of good skill kids. O-line’s not bad. Just looked disjointed.”…

Nevada

“The skill is still good.”…

“It surprised me Stefphon Johnson decided to leave early. I thought he was one of best running backs in the league but I didn’t think he was an NFL guy.”…

“Offensive line was a pretty physical group. They coach that pistol scheme pretty well.”…

“Will be interesting to see what Brian (Polian’s) going to do there. Chris Ault kind of ran the offense. Say they’ll keep running pistol stuff, but I don’t know how committed to it they really are.”…

“Their defensive line wasn’t upper echelon but overall, they are probably top three or four in the league personnel wise.”…

New Mexico

“Bob Davie did a tremendous job getting them to where they could compete again.”…

“They didn’t have a quarterback that could throw. They were running triple option stuff. It was like playing Air Force twice.”…

“They are as bad as anybody in our league personnel wise on defense.”…

“Tailback Kasey Carrier is a really good player, and the offensive line got better.”…

“Eventually they’ll get a quarterback who can throw and pass and they’ll be dangerous. Bob can coach. They are well-prepared.”…

San Diego State

“Receivers might be one of best groups in the conference. Offensive line one of the best, too.”…

“With Bob Toledo coming in, it will be interesting to see how they change.”…

“Defensively, Rocky Long does his stuff. They are going to blitz and play man coverage. Throw it all day and they won’t change.”…

“They need to replace corner Leon McFadden, who is really good.”…

“They don’t have a bunch of draftable guys but play better as a team.”…

“Adam Dingwell went to Boise and Nevada and won.”…

San Jose State

“They proved they can play. They were in a really good scheme offensively. Their first halves were really fun to watch from how well they schemed up easy touchdowns, and as a result they were a better first half team than second half team.”…

“The quarterback, David Fales, is really good. Big arm. Was accurate. Was just a good overall football player.”…

“Defensively, they did a good job but didn’t play really many good offenses. That always helps to be a good defense.”…

“Mike Macintyre is a big loss. He’s a talented coach. They played hard and physical for him.”…

UNLV

“The tailback, Tim Cornett, is a decent player. I assume they’ll be giving him the ball a lot, because I just don’t know if they have a quarterback. Maybe Nick Sherry, given another year, can get the job done. But he committed far too many turnovers (17 interceptions to 16 touchdowns).”…

“I don’t know if they have the personnel to turn it around there.”…

“It’s an uphill climb, especially in a league that’s getting better and should be solid overall next year.”…


Utah State

“They do a really good job. Matt Wells, the new coach, made a really big difference. Offense went from good to great under him. They’ll be a little bit more open than they’d been in the past.”…

“Their talent wasn’t lacking. Had lots of guys who could be successful in the NFL.”…

“It’s basically a three-man front defensively, not sure what they’ll be now. Pretty creative bunch.”…

“Biggest thing people would be surprised about is they can play with anybody. Should have beaten Wisconsin.”…

“Their corners were really good. Their whole deal on defense is being really physical. There’s an artform to holding. You can be a really good DB if you can learn to do it without getting flagged. They don’t get flagged.”…

“Was hard to find a weakness with this team.”…

Wyoming

“Interesting team. Thought a year ago they might be top three or four in the conference. Won eight games the year before. But the QB, Brett Smith, got hurt and wasn’t quite physically where he needed to be. He couldn’t move real well when pressured -- either got rid of it or took a sack. The year before he was making guys miss.”…

“At skill spots they’re about average, up front average and defensively below average.”…

“If Smith is healthy, they can be upper division team.”…

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12 Things You Should Know From College Football's Offseason

Teaser:
Mountain West Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 10:09
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

So maybe the Detroit Lions haven’t arrived, after all. A year after making the playoffs for the first time since 1999, they found themselves back in the NFC North cellar again, wondering what happened to all the momentum they’d built in the three years since that infamous 0–16 season. Injuries and off-field distractions, including several player arrests, helped derail a team that overestimated its talent level and underestimated the effects of complacency. That, coupled with a salary-cap crunch, prompted major changes heading into 2013, with general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz — a year after signing a contract extension — both on the hot seat. The team brought in a new front office voice in former Denver Broncos GM Brian Xanders, revamped the coaching staff with a half-dozen new assistants, and made a big splash early in free agency, adding three new starters, including running back Reggie Bush. “Anytime you only win four games, you better have a sense of urgency that you better get it turned around,” Mayhew says. “You better get it going in the right direction quickly.”

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 15th

Related: 2013 Detroit Lions Schedule Analysis

Offense
Matthew Stafford signed a three-year, $53 million contract extension in July, locking up the 2009 No. 1 overall pick through 2017. With this big payday now secure, the team hopes that a bounce-back year on the field will follow. Stafford followed a record-breaking 2011 with some more eye-popping statistics in 2012. But a new NFL record for pass attempts in a season (727, surpassing Drew Bledsoe’s 1994 total of 691) only highlighted the Lions’ offensive struggles, as injuries — and insubordination, in Titus Young’s case — decimated the receiving corps, and the running game lacked any explosiveness behind an aging offensive line.

Mayhew says counting on Jahvid Best to return from his concussions was “probably my biggest mistake,” a sentiment that was cemented with the oft-injured running back's release in July. Before that, however, the GM moved quickly to address his backfield by making the Bush signing the top priority in March. The dynamic back provides a big-play threat out of the backfield, and someone who’ll have defensive coordinators “sitting there scratching their heads and wondering where he’s going to be, where he’s going to line up,” says Stafford. At the very least, he’ll give offensive coordinator Scott Linehan more flexibility in his play-calling as he tries to free up Calvin Johnson, who still somehow managed to break Jerry Rice’s receiving yardage record last season despite being double- and triple-teamed.

There should be opportunities for Mikel Leshoure, a bigger back two years removed from a torn Achilles, and Joique Bell, a pleasant surprise in his first significant NFL action last year.

Finding another wideout to replace Young, whose erratic behavior finally got him released in February, remained on Mayhew’s to-do list, particularly with Nate Burleson coming off a broken leg and Ryan Broyles rehabbing another torn ACL this offseason. And the Lions need better production and fewer drops from tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.

The biggest question mark, though, is on the offensive line. After three years with a static starting five, the Lions must replace both tackles and the right guard. Riley Reiff, last year’s first-round choice who was used mostly in jumbo packages as a rookie, should get the nod at left tackle. Unproven backups Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox get first crack on the right side. Rookie Larry Warford could start immediately at right guard ahead of Rodney Austin and Bill Nagy. Nagy, claimed off injury waivers from Dallas last summer, also could push undersized veteran center Dominic Raiola, one of the few remaining holdovers from the Matt Millen era.

Defense
For the Lions’ defense, it’s time to bring the noise. And that’ll start up front, where rookie end Ziggy Ansah now gives the Lions three top-15 picks on the defensive line from the last four draft classes. Alongside tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Ansah will be asked to make an immediate impact this fall, and he won’t be asked kindly. Veteran line coach Jim Washburn, one of the NFL’s more vocal and intense characters, was brought in by Schwartz to help get more out of the wide-nine technique both men swear by. Jason Jones arrives from Seattle as a free agent to help replace the departed Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. With Jones, Ansah, fourth-round pick Devin Taylor, fourth-year pro Willie Young and 10-year veteran Israel Idonije, the Lions will have five pass rushers who stand 6'5" or taller.

Inside is where the Lions boast a pair of potential Pro Bowlers. Suh bounced back in a big way last season, and Fairley, after a pair of offseason arrests, showed more of the talent he’d flashed in an injury-plagued rookie season.

The defense as a whole simply didn’t make many big plays. Some of the blame falls on the linebackers, who had one interception all season. Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy are back, with Ashlee Palmer and Tahir Whitehead likely fighting for the other starting job outside.

But most of the breakdowns came from a secondary that again got stuck in an injury-generated revolving door. Safety Louis Delmas, plagued by knee tendinitis, played in only eight games, but he remains one of the team’s emotional leaders. For the first time in his five-year career, he’ll also have a first-rate partner, as the Lions made Houston’s Glover Quin — a versatile and durable former cornerback the Texans wanted to keep — their other top priority in free agency. Chris Houston returns to man one corner spot, while rookie second-round pick Darius Slay, the fastest cornerback in this year’s draft, should challenge Bill Bentley for the other starting job.

Specialists
There’s a new special teams coordinator (John Bonamego) and a completely new look. For the first time since 1992, the Lions will have a new kicker. Jason Hanson opted for retirement rather than a new contract for the veteran minimum, and the Lions signed a relative youngster in 38-year-old David Akers to replace him. Akers, a six-time Pro Bowler, has something prove after lingering issues from hernia surgery contributed to inconsistent results last season in San Francisco. Hanson’s longtime holder, punter Nick Harris, is gone, too, after the Lions ranked last in the NFL in net punting average in 2012. His replacement looks to be rookie Sam Martin. The return game will be in new hands, too, with several options on the roster — Mike Thomas, Bell and Bush, among others — and a likely free agent fix to come.

Final Analysis: 4th in NFC North
No more excuses. That’s the bottom line in Detroit, where the decision-makers have had plenty of time to retrofit their roster, and the premium talent has had enough time to develop. But after last year’s pratfall, and the veteran departures that followed, the big question might be whether the young stars are ready to lead, and not just perform.

Order your 2013 Detroit Lions Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

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

 

Teaser:
Detroit Lions 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: High School, Overtime
Path: /best-fictional-high-school-football-players
Body:

It’s no surprise that high school football has made multiple appearances on both the big and small screens. The sport produces enough drama, humor, heartbreak and glory to fill a thousand multiplexes. Here are some of the fictional high school gridiron stars who made a lasting impression on us.  

Stef Djordjevic, CB, All the Right Moves

Matt Saracen, QB, Friday Night Lights

Ricky Baker, RB, Boyz n the Hood

Vince Howard, QB, Friday Night Lights

Rifleman, QB, All the Right Moves

Charles Jefferson, DL, Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Jonathan Moxon, QB, Varsity Blues

Billy Bob, OL, Varsity Blues

Wendell Brown, RB, Varsity Blues

Charlie Tweeder, WR, Varsity Blues

Smash Williams, RB, Friday Night Lights

Hastings Ruckle, WR, Friday Night Lights

Dallas Tinker, OL, Friday Night Lights

Tim Riggins, FB, Friday Night Lights

A.C. Slater, ATH, Saved by the Bell

Vinnie Salvucci, RB, All the Right Moves

Ray “Voodoo” Tatum, QB, Friday Night Lights

David Green, QB, School Ties

Randall “Pink” Floyd, QB, Dazed and Confused

Landry Clarke, K, Friday Night Lights
 

Teaser:
Friday Night Lights, Varsity Blues and All the Right Moves dominate the all-time high school football team.
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 15:01
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-percy-harvins-injury-impact-seattle-seahawks-offense
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WR Golden Tate

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

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

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

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

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

WR Sidney Rice

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

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

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

QB Russell Wilson

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

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

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

Anyone else?

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Percy Harvin’s Injury Impact on Seattle Seahawks’ Offense
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/jason-dufner-celebrates-pga-win-best-way-possible%E2%80%A6
Body:

Jason Dufner was all smiles after winning this year's PGA Championship. And why wouldn't he be? He just took home a boatload of cash ($1.4 million) and he has a super hot wife. In fact, he celebrated his win on the 18th by hugging and smacking her butt.   

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

Teaser:
Jason Dufner pats his wife's butt after PGA Championship win.
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 11:09
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Jaguars owner Shad Khan began the housecleaning 15 hours after the worst season in franchise history concluded with a thud at Tennessee. And fans still think he waited too long to act.

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

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

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

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

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 16th

Related: 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Order your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

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

 

Teaser:
Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/breaking-bad-loves-athlon-sports
Body:
If you're a fan of the show "Breaking Bad" like we are, you probably enjoy all of the intense twists, turns and amazing moments. If we had to pick our favorite, however, we'd point to Season 4, Episode 3 ("Open House") when a bedridden Hank Schrader was surprised by wife Marie with his favorite fantasy football magazine, namely Athlon Sports. Obviously Hank has great taste. 
 
The AMC show finishes its final eight episodes, beginning this Sunday, Aug. 11. We're really hoping they do a fantasy football draft scene with Hank and Walter. 
Athlon Sports magazine featured on "Breaking Bad"
 
Teaser:
"Breaking Bad" Loves Athlon Sports
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 17:30
Path: /2013-athlon-sports-high-school-football-preseason-top-25
Body:

The Athlon Sports High School Football Preseason Top 25, just in time for the Friday night lights across the country. As usual, Florida, Texas and California are well-represented, but there's plenty of talent from coast-to-coast and more teams playing national schedules than ever before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Except the winning, of course.

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

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

Beatty turned it down.

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

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

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

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

And he has had a lot of good weekends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Lineweaver, Trinity (Texas)
Foreign Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And some pretty impressive pregame and postgame performances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At maximum speed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Michael Bradley

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


 

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

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches around the nation to talk anonymously about BYU.

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

Coaches Anonymously Scout BYU for 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Related College Football Content

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

Teaser:
Opposing Coaches Talk Anonymously About BYU for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/opposing-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-notre-dame-2013
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches around the nation to talk anonymously about Notre Dame.

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

Coaches Anonymously Scout Notre Dame for 2013

Notre Dame
Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Irish:
 

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

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

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

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

Related College Football Content

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

Teaser:
Opposing Coaches Talk Anonymously About Notre Dame for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-where-should-you-draft-montee-ball
Body:

In a perfect world, the Broncos would name Montee Ball their starting RB tomorrow, give him all the starter’s reps in training camp and preseason and then feed him 300+ touches this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Where Should You Draft Monte Ball?
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, High School
Path: /high-school/should-college-football-have-early-signing-period
Body:

American Football Coaches Association Executive Director Grant Teaff has been tackling the early signing period issue for years.

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

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

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

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

And most important, can a consensus be found?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teaser:
The pros and cons of the hotly contested idea of an early signing period in college football.
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /high-school/alex-bars-family-tradition
Body:

As debate rages over the merits of providing college football players a full “cost of attendance” scholarship to cover all of life’s needs, consider the plight of one Sally Bars.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Steven Godfrey

Fathers, Sons and Signing Day

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Big Ten to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Big Ten Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Illinois
Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Illini: 

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

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

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

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

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

Indiana
Opposing coaches size up the Hoosiers:

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

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

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

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

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

Iowa
Opposing coaches size up the Hawkeyes:

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

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

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

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

Michigan
Opposing coaches size up the Wolverines: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan State
Opposing coaches size up the Spartans:

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

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

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

"They have good tight ends usually." …

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

Minnesota

Opposing coaches size up the Golden Gophers: 

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska
Opposing coaches size up the Cornhuskers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northwestern
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

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

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

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

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

Ohio State
Opposing coaches size up the Buckeyes:

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

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

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

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

Penn State
Opposing coaches size up the Nittany Lions:

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

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

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

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

Purdue
Opposing coaches size up the Boilermakers:

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin

Opposing coaches size up the Badgers:

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

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

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

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

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

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Teaser:
Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Baylor
Opposing coaches size up the Bears:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iowa State
Opposing coaches size up the Cyclones:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas State
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas
Opposing coaches size up the Jayhawks:

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma
Opposing coaches size up the Sooners:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma State
Opposing coaches size up the Cowboys: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCU
Opposing coaches size up the Horned Frogs:

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

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

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

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

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

Texas
Opposing coaches size up the Longhorns:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Tech

Opposing coaches size up the Red Raiders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Virginia

Opposing coaches size up the Mountaineers:

“They’ll be down." …

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

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

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

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

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

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the SEC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

SEC Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Alabama
Opposing coaches size up the Crimson Tide:

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

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

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

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

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

Arkansas
Opposing coaches size up the Razorbacks: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auburn
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida

Opposing coaches size up the Gators:

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

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

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

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

Georgia
Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs

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

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

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

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

Kentucky
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

LSU
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ole Miss
Opposing coaches size up the Rebels: 

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

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

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

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


Mississippi State
Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs:

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

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

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

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

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

Missouri
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Carolina
Opposing coaches size up the Gamecocks:

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

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

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

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

Tennessee

Opposing coaches size up the Volunteers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas A&M
Opposing coaches size up the Aggies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanderbilt
Opposing coaches size up the Commodores:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related College Football Content

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

,

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

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

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Arizona
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona State
Opposing coaches size up the Sun Devils:

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

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

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

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

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

California
Opposing coaches size up the Golden Bears:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado
Opposing coaches size up the Buffaloes:

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

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

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

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

Oregon
Opposing coaches size up the Ducks:

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

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

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

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

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

Oregon State
Opposing coaches size up Beavers:

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

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

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

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

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

Stanford
Opposing coaches size up the Cardinal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

UCLA
Opposing coaches size up the Bruins:

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

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

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

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

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


USC
Opposing coaches size up the Trojans:

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

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

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

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

Utah
Opposing coaches size up Utes:

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

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

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

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

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

Washington
Opposing coaches size up the Huskies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington State
Opposing coaches size up the Cougars:

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

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

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

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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
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that he’s lost in the hype.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

by Steven Godfrey

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

 

Teaser:
High school football's next great pass-rushing defensive end, Da'Shawn Hand brings the "Wow Factor."
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 06:00

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