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Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-best-and-worst-logos-2014
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Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes
 

North Division

 

California


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oregon


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Oregon State


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanford


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Washington


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Washington State


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

South Division

 

Arizona


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Arizona State


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Colorado


“Very well-coached.”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

UCLA


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

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

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

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

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

 

USC


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The defensive linemen are really talented.”…

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

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

 

Utah


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Coaches Anonymously Scout Notre Dame for 2014

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Related: Coaches Talk Anonymously on Notre Dame

 

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

 

ACC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

Atlantic Division

 

Boston College

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clemson

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Florida State

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Louisville

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NC State

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Syracuse

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wake Forest

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Coastal Division

 

Duke

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Georgia Tech

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Miami

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

North Carolina

 

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

“The jury is still out on Williams.”…

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pittsburgh

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Virginia

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Virginia Tech

 

“Logan Thomas was erratic.”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

SEC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

East Division

 

Florida

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kurt Roper is a sharp guy.”…

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

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

 

Georgia


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kentucky


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Missouri


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


South Carolina


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

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

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

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

“The safeties were OK.”…

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

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


Tennessee


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

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

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

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

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

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


Vanderbilt
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

West Division


Alabama


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Arkansas


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

“The secondary was not really impressive.”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Auburn


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LSU


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mississippi State


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ole Miss


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Losing Donte Moncrief hurts.”…

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

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

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


Texas A&M


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Big Ten Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

East Division

 

Indiana


Opposing coaches size up the Hoosiers:
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maryland

 

Opposing coaches size up the Terrapins:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan

 

Opposing coaches size up the Wolverines:

 

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

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

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

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

Michigan State

 

Opposing coaches size up the Spartans:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ohio State

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

Opposing coaches size up the Buckeyes:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penn State

 

Opposing coaches size up the Nittany Lions:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rutgers

 

Opposing coaches size up the Scarlet Knights:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


West Division

 

Illinois

 

Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Illini:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iowa

 

Opposing coaches size up the Hawkeyes:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minnesota

 

Opposing coaches size up the Golden Gophers:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska

 

Opposing coaches size up the Cornhuskers:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northwestern

 

Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purdue


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wisconsin

 

Opposing coaches size up the Badgers:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Finding Star Power

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Can the Hogs Go Vertical?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Reason for Hope

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Written by Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) of CBSSports.com for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 SEC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Bret Bielema Faces Tough Rebuilding Project; Hogs Looking for Progress in 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/jimbo-fisher-improved-facilities-florida-state-nation-elite
Body:

Jimbo Fisher was only kidding, but the image he conjured during a press conference before Florida State’s spring practices commenced was colorful and plenty accurate.

 

When asked about the challenges of moving forward with a program that has aspirations of national contention every year, Fisher likened himself to his children, who seem to spend the majority of their time around him looking for something other than fatherly advice.

 

“They go to mom a lot, but they come to me for money,” Fisher said to big laughs.

 

Fisher plays that role when he speaks with FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox. It takes more than fine athletes to satisfy the appetite of big winners. There have to be facilities fit for the most exclusive country club — Oregon has a barbershop in its football building — donors willing to wield platinum checkbooks, and a support system capable of helping players with their classwork and the normal rigors of college life. The list doesn’t end. And neither do Fisher’s requests.

 

“I always have something for them, I promise you,” Fisher says.

 

It’s hard to believe Fisher would have to draw up a wish list at Florida State, but the Seminole program is not yet on a par with some of college football’s aristocracy, despite last year’s national championship and the Bowden heyday, which included 14 straight years of double-digit wins and top-five finishes, and two national titles. FSU is just now reaching parity with the best of the best in terms of facilities and has finally begun to mobilize its donor base to fund the program on a level that’s in line with its competitors.

 

Despite its huge success during the late ’80s and ’90s, Florida State is not found on the rolls of college football’s most tradition-bound programs. It didn’t start playing ball until 1947 and wasn’t even thought about beyond the state lines until Bowden took over in ’76. Without generations of alumni and donors to draw upon, and with a location that makes it hard for fans to come for games and stay, FSU has had to move quickly to create an infrastructure congruent with that of its competition. Doing that leads to wins, but it also convinces Fisher that Tallahassee is the place to stay long-term and end annual rumors that he is a candidate for whatever top job (say, Texas) happens to open.

 

“I think we have been behind,” says senior associate AD Monk Bonasorte, who was a standout defensive player for Bowden from 1977-80. “The facilities we’ve added have helped us.”

 

Last year, the Noles opened an indoor practice facility. By the start of this season, they will have new locker, meeting and office space. It all matters, even the ability to practice inside, which doesn’t seem to mean much in Florida. Snow and cold aren’t the issues in Tallahassee, but freak late summer and fall rainstorms are. So are hours of lightning that can prevent outdoor work. The new team amenities need no explanation, other than to say that premium high school recruits are savvy enough to know whether lockers are made of cherry or mahogany. There’s no barbershop planned, but it isn’t 78 degrees in mid-March in Eugene, Ore., either.

 

“Every day, other institutions are continually improving their facilities,” Wilcox says. “That’s what we have to work at on an annual basis.”

 

When Fisher approaches Wilcox or any other administrator with his wish list, he does so knowing that everything he wants is necessary. Remember that he fell out of the Nick Saban coaching tree, so his requests are made to create a climate that will allow him to compete with the Alabama sideline cyclone, and not just for esoteric reasons. Saban has set the template, and Fisher is following it. “If you’re sitting still, someone is going past you,” Fisher says.

 

One of the keys to the fundraising efforts that have supported the facility growth is the re-engagement of Bowden, who remains a living legend in the state, despite the program’s struggles during his final four seasons. Bowden’s decision to step out of the limelight during Fisher’s first few years was generous, but Bowden has moved back into the public consciousness and has been helpful in the school’s identifying some previously untapped resources and enticing them to endow the program.

 

The one thing that even Bowden can’t overcome is Tallahassee. Nestled in Northwest Florida, about 20 miles from the Georgia border, the state capital isn’t easily reached by most of the state. Further, because it isn’t home to much industry or many business headquarters, there isn’t a hospitality infrastructure that can accommodate thousands of fans who want to stay for home football weekends. It may sound ridiculous, but this is the first year in several that the Noles sold out their season ticket allotment. And that’s as much due to the arrivals of Clemson, Florida and Notre Dame as it is to the residual excitement of last year’s national title or to the growing affection for the program.

 

It is a testament to Bowden’s charisma that the Seminoles were able to sustain such overwhelming success for so long without the same tradition or facilities as the schools against which they competed for recruits. Personality went a long way at the end of last century. These days, brick and mortar — not to mention funky uniforms — are what draw top talent, and Florida State has taken the necessary steps to make sure that big-time recruits have no reason to look elsewhere. That also goes for Fisher, whose new contract, announced right before the title game win over Auburn, is worth $4.015 million annually and makes him one of the top 10-15 highest-paid coaches in the country. As long as he has the ability to mine the fertile Florida talent vein with the same facilities as do his rivals — and gets paid like a CEO — he will stick around. And Florida State will continue to win big.

 

“Different people take different jobs for different reasons, and you would hope the success Jimbo has here and the opportunities he has to win are enough,” Bonasorte says. “Coaches want to win. At Florida State, with the availability of recruiting and the kids you can bring in, you should be able to win.”

 

Even with all of that, Fisher’s going to keep asking for more. And Wilcox had better have his wallet at the ready.

 

This is going to get pretty expensive.

 

Written by Michael Bradley (@DailyHombre) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 ACC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Jimbo Fisher's Drive and Improved Facilities Push FSU Among Nation's Elite
Post date: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-most-pathetic-nfl-teams-expansion
Body:

The Seattle Seahawks own the 16-game NFL record for fewest points scored with 140 in 1992. Seattle also owns the all-time mark for fewest yards in a game when it totaled minus-7 yards against the L.A. Rams in 1979.

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the modern NFL mark for worst point differential by being outscored by 287 points in 1976. The Baltimore Colts allowed an NFL-record 533 points back in 1981. The Houston Oilers claim the NFL mark for most interceptions thrown in a single season with 48 picks tossed in 1962. And the Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s single-season sacks allowed mark with 104 back in 1986.
 

Needless to say, there are many ways to measure NFL ineptitude. So while offensive and defensive statistical production (or lack thereof) is a huge factor in measuring pathetic-ness, wins and losses are still the most important way to evaluate any team.
 

Who are the worst NFL teams since expansion in 2002?
 

1. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)

Point Differential: -249 (268 PF, 517 PA)

Offense: 30th (268.3 ypg), 27th (16.8 ppg)

Defense: 32nd (404.4 ypg), 32nd (32.3 ppg)


No other team has ever gone winless in the modern NFL era (16-game regular season), which means the Detroit Lions must be considered the worst team due in large part to the massive "0" in the win column. Winning is all that really matters in sports and the Lions failed in truly epic fashion. Top it off with the worst defense of the expansion era, as this team fell just 16 points shy of setting an NFL record for points allowed (533). This team posted an NFL-worst four interceptions on defense, was next to last in sacks allowed (52.0) and finished 14th in the NFC in turnover differential. Dan Orlovsky led a five-man QB platoon that featured 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a combined 71.3 QB rating.


2. 2009 St. Louis Rams (1-15)

Pt Differential: -261 (175 PF, 436 PA)

Offense: 29th (279.4 ypg), 32nd (10.9 ppg)

Defense: 29th (372.8 ypg), 31st (27.3 ppg)


This team redefined the term offensive struggles as its 175 points were only 35 away from the NFL mark set by Seattle (140) in 1992. It is the all-time low for a Rams team that played 16 games while the 261-point differential is the worst in franchise history as well. Marc Bulger was the leading passer with 1,469 yards, 5 TDs and 6 INTs. The team itself finished with 12 total TD passes and 21 INTs and a collective passer rating of 64.0. The Rams were shutout twice and scored 10 or fewer points in nine games. St. Louis also finished 31st in the NFL in turnover margin (-13). The Rams were one of only three teams since 2002 to win one or fewer games.


3. 2009 Detroit Lions (2-14)

Pt Differential: -232 (262 PF, 494 PA)

Offense: 26th (299.0 ypg), 27th (16.4 ppg)

Defense: 32nd (392.1 ypg), 32nd (30.9 ppg)


While the '09 Rams set offensive football back two decades, the '09 Lions continued to show its lack of defensive prowess. The Rams did defeat the Lions (17-10) that year, but for the season, Detroit scored nearly 100 more points and won twice as many games. This Lions team also finished dead last in turnover margin (-18) and No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford missed the final six games of the season. The Lions went 0-6 after Stafford was lost.


4. 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15)

Pt Differential: -170 (267 PF, 437 PA)

Offense: 28th (287.5 ypg), 26th (16.7 ppg)

Defense: 23rd (342.2 ypg), 30th (27.3 ppg)


This version of the Fish lost the first 13 games of the season before winning their only game of the year over Baltimore. Cleo Lemon was 1-6 as the starter, John Beck went 0-4 and Trent Green was 0-5. The trio combined to throw 12 touchdown passes — 16 fewer than the opposition. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing after playing only seven games (602 yards) while Jesse Chatman actually got the most carries (128). The only shot Cam Cameron has had to be a head coach in the NFL was his one-win season at the helm of the Dolphins.


5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (2-14)

Pt Differential: -233 (232 PF, 465 PA)

Offense: 27th (287.3 ypg), 31st (14.5 ppg)

Defense: 28th (371.9 ypg), 31st (29.1 ppg)


The 233-point scoring differential was a franchise record at the time and would still be the Rams' worst-ever scoring season had it not been for the 2009 team that came along the next year. This team lost the final 10 games of the year and scored only 19 offensive touchdowns all season. In fact, this offense was the most scored upon OFFENSE in the NFL. That is right, the Rams offense had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns, a number that tied for the league lead.


6. 2011 St. Louis Rams (2-14)

Pt Differential: -214 (193, 407)

Offense: 31st, (283.6 ypg), 32nd (12.1 ppg)

Defense: 22nd (358.4 ypg), 26th (25.4 ppg)


If not for the 2008 and '09 teams, this team would have been the most outscored Rams team in history. The 193 total points scored are the second-worst in team history for one that played 16 games. Losing Sam Bradford to an injury after 10 games certainly didn't help the offense as the team finished with nine touchdown passes and a paltry 53.2 percent completion rate. St. Louis also led the league in sacks allowed with 55.0 while the rushing attack contributed only seven scores of its own.


7. 2010 Carolina Panthers (2-14)

Pt Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)

Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)

Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)


The offense did little to contribute to this football team whatsoever. Not only were the 196 total points scored the worst in the 18-year history of the franchise, but this season also was the only time the Panthers failed to reach 250 points. Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1) combined for a nasty 9:21 TD:INT ratio while finishing 30th in 3rd downs (30.4 percent) and 25th in turnover margin. To top it off, the 408 points allowed were third worst in franchise history on the defensive side of the ball.


8. 2011 Indianapolis Colts (2-14)

Pt Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)

Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)

Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)


Obviously, without Peyton Manning, the Colts experienced its worst season since 1998, No. 18's rookie year. If not for a "torrid" 2-1 finish to the year, the Colts were in danger of challenging the winless Lions of 2008. In the first 13 losses, Indy allowed less than 23 points only one time. The total points scored, which included only 14 total touchdown passes (or 12 less than Manning's career low), and point differential were the worst numbers for the Colts since the 1993 season. The top ball carrier, Donald Brown, led the team in rushing despite making just two starts all year (645 yards).


9. 2004 San Francisco 49ers (2-14)

Pt Differential: -193 (259, 452)

Offense: 26th (286.6 ypg), 30th (16.2 ppg)

Defense: 24th (342.6 ypg), 32nd (28.3 ppg)


San Francisco was two games worse than every other team in the NFL that year, and, technically, the 49ers were winless in regulation as both wins came in overtime. The Niners were 30th in the NFL in points scored and dead last in points allowed while finishing 31st in turnover margin (-19). Tim Rattay (1-8) and Ken Dorsey (1-6) were equally ineffective, throwing 16 TDs against 21 INTs and completing only 57.9 percent of their passes. The ground game finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at just over 90 yards per game. The 452 points allowed were one point shy of the franchise record set in 1999 and the 193-point differential was an organizational record.


10. 2005 Houston Texans (2-14)

Pt Differential: -171 (260, 431)

Offense: 30th (253.3 ypg), 26th (16.3 ppg)

Defense: 31st (364.0 ypg), 32nd (26.9 ppg)
 

There were some bad Texans team and David Carr paid a big price. After getting sacked a league-worst 76 times as a rookie, Houston once again led the league in sacks allowed in 2005 with 68. This franchise will be playing in just its 13th season this fall, but the '05 team set the benchmark for fewest wins (tied with last year's team), points allowed and point differential, all of which led to the firing of Dom Capers. Carr started every game and averaged a pathetic 155.5 yards passing per game, threw only 14 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions and fumbled 17 times.
 

The...Worst of the Rest?
 

2012 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

This team was outscored by nearly 200 points (minus-189), yet beat the Tennessee Titans as well as a shocking early season upset of the Colts. This team ranked 29th in total offense and 30th in total defense in 2012.


2004 Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Began 3-3 before losing nine straight in which they scored more than 15 points only one time. Trailed only the Niners for worst record. The offense was led by Jeff Garcia for 10 games, Luke McCown for four and Kelly Holcombe for two.
 

2002 Houston Texans (4-12)

The lowest scoring team in franchise history (213 pts) finished last in total offense as well as sacks allowed with 76. The first year of the Texans was salvaged by two strange wins over playoff teams (NYG, PIT) and is the only thing keeping this team out of the top ten.


2011 Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12)

The Bucs led the league in turnovers (40) and posted the worst turnover margin (-16) in 2011. After starting 4-2, Tampa Bay crumbled down the stretch with 10 straight losses and set a franchise mark with 494 points allowed (keep in mind, that is a BUCCANEERS franchise record).
 

2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)

This team couldn't get off the field in 2008 as it was the worst 3rd down team in the league (47.4 percent) and dead last in sacks (10). It finished 31st in total defense and the 440 points allowed and -149-point differential are Chiefs single-season records.


2006 Oakland Raiders (2-14)

The Silver and Black defense was good enough to keep them out of the top ten, but the offense was nearly historic in its struggles. The 168 points scored were 28 away from the all-time NFL mark, these Raiders finished dead last in sacks allowed (72), turnover margin (-20) and both scoring and total offense. Oakland was also 31st in the league with 23 interceptions thrown.

Teaser:
10 Most Pathetic NFL Teams Since Expansion
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/will-muschamps-future-florida-hinges-revamped-offense
Body:

The days of Steve Spurrier’s Fun ’n’ Gun are long past — relegated to record books, YouTube clips and faded memories among longtime Florida Gators fans.

 

Tim Tebow is doing TV, Percy Harvin is preparing for his sixth NFL season and Urban Meyer is coaching at Ohio State.

 

The Gators’ offense followed them out the door, apparently never to return.

 

Left now are question marks, coaching transition and waning patience from even the most loyal Florida fans.

 

Head coach Will Muschamp enters his fourth year on the hot seat following the program’s first losing season since 1979. While Muschamp’s defenses have finished each year ranked in the top 10 nationally, his offenses have not once cracked the top 100. The Gators averaged 14.4 points during a seven-game losing streak to cap 2013’s 4–8 season, leaving Muschamp with time for one more Hail Mary to save his coaching career in Gainesville.

 

Enter Kurt Roper, the longtime protégé of Duke head coach and quarterback whiz David Cutcliffe, one-time mentor of Eli Manning at Ole Miss and the man handed one of the toughest jobs in college football.

 

Roper’s up-tempo scheme carried the Blue Devils to new heights and helped Duke’s offense go toe-to-toe with Johnny Football and Texas A&M during a shootout loss in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Now, Roper has one offseason at Florida to teach his system to a collection of unprovens, unknowns and underachievers.

 

Or else he and the Gators’ coaching staff might not be back for another offseason.

 

“We have to produce,” Muschamp says. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. I’d feel a little bit more uncomfortable if we didn’t have some of the talented players we have on our football team.


Florida's Offense Over the Last Three Years
 2013
(SEC rank)
2012
(SEC rank)
2011
(SEC rank)
Total offense316.7 ypg
(14th)     
334.0 ypg
(12th)
328.7 ypg
(10th)
Yards per play4.79 ypp
(14th)
5.25 ypp
(12th)
5.42 ypp
(6th)
Rushing145.8 ypg
(13th)
187.7 ypg
(3rd)
143.0 ypg
(8th)
Passing170.9 ypg
(12th)
146.3 ypg
(14th)
185.7 ypg
(5th)
Scoring18.8 ppg
(14th) 
26.5 ppg
(10th)
25.5 ppg
(8th)

“I feel confident in the players we have and the changes we’ve made in our staff moving forward.”

 

The Gators finished 2013 ranked last in the SEC in points and yards. Even in 2012, when Florida went 11–2 and earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl, the Gators were last in the league in passing.

 

The day after Florida’s season ended with a 37–7 loss to Florida State and without a bowl bid for the first time in 23 years, Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis after two seasons.

 

Muschamp is banking on Roper and veteran offensive line coach Mike Summers to tap into the potential of a host of high-level recruits who have failed to produce as planned.

 

Chief among them is junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who will be the key if the Gators’  offense is to turn things around in 2014. Driskel is 11–3 as a starter at Florida, but he rode the coattails of the nation’s best defense as a sophomore in 2012, finishing with 12 touchdown passes and 35 sacks, many because he held onto the ball too long. Last season, Driskel had five turnovers, including three critical miscues during a 21–16 loss at Miami, before he broke his leg in the season’s third game, against Tennessee.

Related: College Football's Top Players Returning From Injury for 2014

 

But one thing Driskel has shown he can do is run; he totaled 716 rushing yards, not including sacks, in 2012.

 

Roper will place Driskel in the shotgun and use the spread formation to highlight the dual-threat abilities that made him the nation’s No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2011. Too often, Driskel appeared paralyzed by the decision-making required of Pease’s pro-style system.

 

“He’s talented, folks,” Roper said in March during spring practices. “I mean we’re sitting here talking about a guy that’s really, really gifted. And his experience shows whenever we have conversations. He understands football. It’s not his first rodeo.”

 

Upbeat evaluations are as common that time of year as springtime allergies. Optimism also does not hide the facts. No returning Gator wide receiver caught more than one touchdown in 2013, while the tight ends (not including Virginia transfer Jake McGee) combined for four receptions. Tailback Kelvin Taylor, son of former NFL star Fred Taylor, displayed a hard-running style as a first-year player, but the Gators lack a home-run threat anywhere on offense to change a game in one play.

 

Meanwhile, Summers, a 34-year coaching veteran, faces one of his toughest assignments yet when it comes to the Gators’ offensive line. Florida allowed 66 sacks the past two seasons and lost two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries in 2013. UF’s run game averaged 3.6 yard per carry. Worse, the Gators lost their two best linemen, three-year starters Jon Harrison and Jon Halapio.

 

“They don’t have a receiver on their football team that would start at another SEC school right now,” Scout.com national recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg says. “Think about that. This is the University of Florida.”

 

Under Spurrier, the Gators revolutionized SEC football. The Fun ’n’ Gun era produced four straight SEC championships, a national title and 59 40-point games.

 

The Gators won two more national titles using Meyer’s spread offense, with Tebow at the controls and thoroughbreds like Harvin lined up beside him.

 

Offensive talent flocked to Gainesville during those days. Lately, top recruits are jumping ship.

 

When five-star running back Dalvin Cook of Miami changed his commitment in January from Florida to Florida State, the Gators lost the kind of big-play threat they have lacked since Harvin. Cook also left Florida fans with a bad taste in their mouths when he explained his decision.

 

“Coach Roper is a great coach, but I don’t think Florida has the athletes like Duke got,” Cook said. “That’s all I can say.”

 

Recruiting misses, injuries and coaching turnover have plagued the Gators dating to Meyer’s final season in 2010.

 

To see the big picture, look no further than sixth-year senior wide receiver Andre Debose.

 

Debose was tabbed “the next Percy Harvin” when he signed with the Gators in 2009. Since then, he has worked with five wide receivers coaches, four offensive coordinators and endured two season-ending injuries.

 

These days, Debose is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last August, hoping finally to make his mark during the extra season gained by the NCAA’s medical hardship waiver. A five-star recruit with four touchdown catches in three seasons, Debose will turn 24 the day before the Gators’ SEC opener on Sept. 13 at home against Kentucky. He believes he stuck around long enough to see Florida finally turn things around on offense.

 

“I expect this offense to definitely put up some numbers,” Debose says. “I feel like the whole SEC is changing to the spread from the smashmouth. It’s going to be a challenge this season for other teams to stop us.”

 

Roper says that the offense that Florida will put on the field will be far easier to execute than it will be for opposing teams to stop.

 

“The Gators want to have an offense that is simple to learn, but complicated to defend,” he says.

 

The mandate for Debose, Roper and the entire Florida offense this season is not complicated in the least: It’s time to produce.

 

Written by Edgar Thompson (@osgators) of the Orlando Sentinel for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 SEC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Will Muschamp's Future at Florida Hinges on an Offensive Overhaul
Post date: Monday, July 21, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/recruiting-757-key-talent-area-virginia-tennessee-and-florida-state
Body:

There are at least six good reasons why top college football programs recruit the Tidewater area of Virginia. Let’s try Bruce Smith, Michael Vick, Percy Harvin, Lawrence Taylor, DeAngelo Hall and Plaxico Burress. Should we keep counting? OK, let’s try Tajh Boyd, Ronald Curry, Jerod Mayo, Kam Chancellor, Dré Bly and E.J. Manuel.

 

Those are just a handful of the galaxy of stars who learned to play football in the Tidewater area — also known as ‘the 757’ for the region’s area code — which is one of the country’s most fertile recruiting grounds.

 

If you like athletes, grab a map and head this way. Most assistant coaches can tell you where to start.

 

“You name a top-25 program, they are there,” Virginia Tech running backs and associate head coach Shane Beamer says. “Everyone comes to Virginia to recruit now. It used to be probably Virginia, Virginia Tech, Penn State, North Carolina. Now you have Michigan and Ohio State hitting it hard, Florida, FSU.”

 

The 2014 recruiting class included three Tidewater players in the 247Sports Top 100, impressive for an eastern sliver of Commonwealth land with a population of about 1.7 million in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Hampton.

 

That’s not counting Richmond, which is about 100 miles northwest of Virginia Beach and produces serious star power.

 

There are several reasons for the large pool of talent. The 757 is considered a growing area for families, including military transplants. Football is year-round between fall Fridays and 7-on-7 travel teams. Teenagers grow up wanting to play football, because they look up to the Tidewater stars that came before them.

 

“They are dedicated to their football,” Virginia coach Mike London says. “The demographics, the student population of that particular area — there are schools that are still being built. The population continues to grow.”

 

Tidewater players are a passionate bunch, coaches say, so you can’t fake your way into players’ good graces.

 

They will catch on quickly.  The families value loyalty.

 

“You have to be active recruiters there. You have to build relationships. You can’t just come in and look at one player and leave,” says Virginia Tech tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring, “I’ll go in there three weeks at a time. I might as well have a locker room in those schools. A 757 game on a Friday is standard procedure.”

 

Several top programs hit the 757 hard, but not everyone has success. Here are four schools that generally do.

 

Virginia

 

The Cavs try to sign several 757 players every year, and they use the background of their coaches to get it done. London went to Tabb High School in nearby Yorktown. Four of his staffers have deep Tidewater ties.

 

This year, London scored his biggest recruiting coup with Chesapeake defensive tackle Andrew Brown and Virginia Beach safety Quin Blanding. Both are five-star, top-12 national players. And both played for the Thoroughbreds, the area’s traveling 7-on-7 team with which London’s staff has a good relationship.

 

Some critics have wondered aloud how UVa pulled a top-30 national recruiting class despite going 0–8 in ACC play last year. With hard work, London says. NCAA rules permit 7-on-7 camps as a recruiting tool. London says the teams travel to different campuses, and evaluations are allowed.

 

“Quin Blanding and his mother — they chose UVa because it fit what (he) wanted, not because somebody else was saying where he needed to go,” London says.

 

The Cavs’ impressive 757 haul also includes top-150 receiver Jamil Kamara and quarterback Corwin Cutler.

 

Virginia Tech

 

Virginia Tech will always be a presence in the 757 because of Frank Beamer’s clout and the Hokies’ sustained success. From Smith to Vick to Chancellor, Virginia Tech’s résumé with Tidewater talent is extensive.

 

But Tech’s relationship with the Thoroughbreds, who produce several high-profile players, is considered shaky. According to a source, a Thoroughbred coach has held a grudge because the Hokies didn’t take one of his quarterbacks a few classes ago due to the player’s sub-par grades.

 

But Tech still has the trust of high school coaches around the state.

 

Shane Beamer says each year that the Hokies try to sign four-to-six Tidewater players, four-to-six from the Richmond area and four-to-six from Northern Virginia. “We don’t try to do anything differently — we hit the Tidewater area hard, and we always have,” Beamer says.

 

Tech did not sign 2014’s top 757 stars but did get two potential impact players in defensive tackle Ricky Walker and running back Marshawn Williams. The Hokies are also in on several Tidewater players for 2015.

 

Tennessee

 

The Tidewater region has been a sneaky good recruiting spot for the Vols, dating back to the signing of eventual first-round draft pick Todd Kelly in the late ’80s. Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo chose Tennessee over NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech. NFL receiver Justin Hunter eschewed offers from several major schools in favor of the Vols.

 

Second-year coach Butch Jones didn’t sign any Tidewater high school players in 2014, but he did get junior college star Von Pearson, a Newport News native with loads of potential.

 

“Our new staff, we’ve made a commitment to make Virginia Beach a priority in recruiting,” Jones says. “We’ve been there pretty hard this past year.”

 

Tennessee recruited at least 12 different states last year — including 10 in-state players — but Jones considers the Tidewater a “no-brainer. It’s based on the proximity to us and the success we’ve had,” he says.

 

Florida State

 

Florida State could stay in its home state and produce top-10 classes every year, but the Seminoles have had modest success in the 757.

 

Top-100 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi was the third-ranked Tidewater player in 2014. FSU is considered to be one of the favorites for 2015 defensive end Josh Sweat out of Chesapeake. The Noles will also have two other Virginia natives on their 2014 roster — center Alec Eberle from Mechanicsville (near Richmond) and inside linebacker E.J. Levenberry from Woodbridge (near the D.C. area).

 

Florida State recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster says that two assistants have Tidewater responsibilities.

 

“Great area for Noles,” Brewster says.

 

In-state talent will always dominate FSU’s classes, and with good reason. Fifteen of FSU’s 29 signees are from the Sunshine State. But Brewster plans to focus on at least one or two top Tidewater prospects annually.

 

Other 757 Interlopers —

 

UNC, Ohio State, Penn State

 

The Tar Heels didn’t score big in Virginia Beach last year, but they always hit Virginia hard, which means they’ll have more chances at a home-run 757 player.

 

UNC signed five of Virginia’s top-50 players last year. “We include Virginia as an in-state area for us,” says UNC coach Larry Fedora, who assigns assistant Keith Gilmore to the state. “We don’t just cherry-pick it.”

 

Ohio State won’t spend considerable time in Virginia, but it has the clout to pluck a few stars — like it did with weak-side defensive end Jalyn Holmes out of Norfolk. This Urban Meyer stealth special was similar to the Buckeyes descending on Atlanta to get linebacker Raekwon McMillan.

 

Penn State doesn’t have any 757 home runs of late (quarterback Christian Hackenberg is from the middle of the state), but word is that James Franklin has been pushing the area while he attacks the entire Northeast region. 

 

Written by Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) of CBSSports.com for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 ACC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Recruiting the 757: A Key Talent Area for Virginia, Tennessee and Florida State
Post date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Johnny Manziel, NFL, News
Path: /johnny-manziel-brings-new-hope-cleveland-browns
Body:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had barely finished announcing the name of the 22nd overall draft pick when all hell broke loose in Cleveland. Browns fans wasted no time in changing Johnny Manziel’s nickname from “Johnny Football,” interrupting his post-draft press conference at Radio City Music Hall with chants of “John-ny Cleve-land!”

 

Manziel has become the city’s newest savior.

 

In the 16 hours after drafting Manziel, the Browns sold 2,000 new season tickets. It took only slightly longer for Manziel’s No. 2 jersey to become the best-selling in the NFL since April 1. The league’s official website store sold almost as many Manziel jerseys during draft weekend as it did Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow and Andrew Luck jerseys during their draft weekends combined.

 

Related: Does Johnny Manziel Have Any Fantasy Value in 2014?

 

Manziel’s popularity extends far and wide. He counts Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, recording artists Drake, Wale and the Jonas Brothers, NBA star LeBron James and the “Duck Dynasty” crew among his admirers. He’s been photographed with model Kyndal Kyaire’s arm around his neck.

 

If Manziel can carry the success he had at Texas A&M into the NFL, he stands to become the biggest star in the most popular professional sports league in the U.S. Thus, the NFL finds itself rooting for “Johnny Cash” almost as much as Browns fans.

 

“Johnny Football!” Goodell says. “I think he represents so much passion for the game, so much excitement. If he brings that to the NFL, that would be a great thing for us, and I think a great thing for the fans. He’s a wonderful young man. … He’s obviously focused and determined to be successful. I wouldn’t count him out, that’s for sure.”

 

Joe Namath ranks as the closest any NFL player has come to Manziel’s stardom, which transcends football, but the Hall of Fame quarterback played in an era that lacked social media and 24-hour sports stations.

 

During the first round of the draft, which went three-and-a-half hours, 5.2 percent of all Twitter messages mentioned Manziel. TV ratings soared as NFL teams kept passing on Manziel. ESPN drew 9.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched draft in the 35 years the network has carried it. Another 2.4 million viewers tuned into The NFL Network for first-round draft coverage.

 

“He’s a celebrity. He’s Elvis Presley,” says Jones, whose Cowboys passed on Manziel with the 16th overall pick. “And, by the way, he just happens to be a football (player), too. That is what this is all about and the kind of visibility and the kind of interest (he brings), and he is that, so that’s a plus.”

 

Spurned by LeBron James (Editor's note: This story was written shortly after the NFL Draft in May before James decided to return to play for his hometown Cavaliers.) and disappointed by their NFL and MLB franchises many times over, Cleveland fans finally have something to celebrate. After twice passing on Manziel — first at No. 4 by trading with the Bills and then at No. 8 when they selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert — the Browns traded up later in the first round to nab Manziel.

 

It prompted some Browns fans to greet Manziel with chants of “Super Bowl!” when he arrived for the first time at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio.

 

The Browns last won an NFL title in 1964, the pre-Super Bowl era. That also marks the last time Cleveland won a title in any major sport.

Manziel knows the team’s sad history. As soon as he declared for the draft in January, he used the Internet to research all the quarterback-needy teams with top picks. In the only interview he granted before the scouting combine, Manziel mentioned the Browns’ inability to find a franchise quarterback, the biggest reason they are 77–163 since returning to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.

 

Manziel’s quote sounded a bit like a Namath-esque guarantee. 

 

“If … it’s the Cleveland Browns that draft me, I’m going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland,” Manziel said. “I don’t care if they’ve had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I’m going to be the 21st, and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl.”

 

Of their 18 first-round draft selections since 1999, the Browns now have used four on quarterbacks. Cleveland made Tim Couch the No. 1 overall pick in 1999. Brady Quinn (2007) and Brandon Weeden (2012), like Manziel, were selected No. 22 overall, a fact Manziel called coincidence rather than foreshadowing.

 

None offered the excitement and the promise the Browns hope Manziel does.

 

“He’s always must-see,” says George Whitfield Jr., Manziel’s personal quarterbacks coach. “He’s always exciting. You don’t know what you’re going to see. It’s like watching Michael Jordan. You watch him, and there’s a good chance you’re going to see something you’re still talking about next week. That’s how Johnny is. He honestly feels if he has something to do with the circumstances, his team is going to win. ‘These couple of sticks? I can make a fire.’”

 

Manziel, 21, casts himself as a small-town kid who made good. He was born in Tyler, Texas, a town of 99,000, and played high school football in Kerrville, Texas, with a population of 22,000. Because of his small stature, Manziel received only a handful of scholarship offers despite a decorated schoolboy career that earned him the famous nickname that has followed him since.

 

He chose A&M over Oregon, and after a redshirt season, Johnny Football hit the big stage. In the school’s first season in the SEC, Manziel led the Aggies to an 11–2 record, including a victory over eventual national champion Alabama. He set the conference record for most total yards (5,116), accounted for 47 total touchdowns and became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Manziel posted a 20–6 record in his two seasons as the Aggies’ starter, with his final game a 52–48 victory over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in the biggest comeback in school history. In his two seasons with the Aggies, Manziel passed for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns, ran for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns and became the most entertaining, and arguably the most productive, quarterback in college football history.

 

Now, Manziel takes his show to Cleveland, a city of nearly 400,000 in need of good luck, good times and good news.

 

“We definitely liked his ability to perform and make plays,” Browns general manager Ray Farmer says. “We liked a guy who brought all the things when we talk about ‘Play Like a Brown.’ He was passionate. He was relentless. He played fearless. He was competitive. We added a guy to our roster we thought could help us win.”

 

But questions remain about Manziel’s transition to the NFL: He stands under 6'0", a big reason he lasted until late in the first round; he took only one snap from under center at A&M; Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, a former NFL defensive back, tweeted that Manziel played “backyard ball,” which won’t work at the next level; and a scouting report, reputedly from the Patriots, appeared on the website BroBible.com that included criticism of Manziel’s work ethic.

 

While his critics continue to talk the talk, Manziel vows to continue to prove them wrong.

 

“Criticism never gets to me all that much,” says Manziel, who admits he lives with a chip on his shoulder.

 

Manziel had insisted he would measure “exactly 72 inches” at the scouting combine. Instead, he stood 5'11 ¾", making him only the third modern-era quarterback shorter than 6'1" drafted in the first round. Michael Vick and Rex Grossman are the others.

 

It was Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who opened the door for Manziel. Wilson measured 5'10 5⁄8"at the 2012 combine and wasn’t drafted until the third round but became the Super Bowl XLVIII-winning quarterback. Now, Manziel gets his chance to show that size really doesn’t matter.

 

“It’s hard to relate to LeBron because he’s 6'8", or Cam Newton because he’s 6'6",” Whitfield says. “They’re almost mythical. But when Johnny comes in wearing an extra-large shirt like you do, or gets in the car and doesn’t have to push back the seat, or he’s in a crowd seeing eye to eye with just about everybody else, he really is an everyman. But he’s out there playing among these giants. It sets him apart. It’s like he becomes Superman. But he’s the same size as us. I can’t believe it. There’s a level of disbelief.”

 

Manziel insists his heart allows him to play taller than he is, and he repeatedly refers to himself as “a winner.” But Manziel first has to win the job. Incumbent Brian Hoyer goes into training camp as the starter, with Manziel having a lot to learn.

 

Hoyer, a Cleveland native, posted a 3–0 record as a starter last season before tearing the ACL in his right knee. After Farmer informed Hoyer the team was taking Manziel, Hoyer responded: Bring him on. Manziel began readying for the competition three days after the draft when he arrived in Cleveland. He’s put his head into the playbook and his heart into trying to live up to expectations of Browns fans. It’s Super Bowl or bust.

 

“I want to come in and compete,” Manziel says. “I’m a highly competitive person. That’s absolutely a goal to come in and compete and try to make our team better.

 

“He’s obviously had a head start on getting to learn some of these things and he knows these guys better than I do, so there’s a lot I can take away from him.”

 

Manziel already has an ending in mind for a story he expects to be a bestseller.

 

“It’s a great story,” Manziel says. “It’s perfect for me to end up with a team that has fans that are as passionate as I am on the field. Those guys have heart. They’re passionate about a team that hasn’t had an incredible amount of success, and they’re still very loyal, very diehard. That means a lot. … I’m going to come in and pour my heart out for this organization and for this team and for these fans and try to bring some excitement. More than anything, we want to win. That’s how I am. I am a winner, and I want to continue that trend.”

 

— Written by Charean Williams for Athlon Sports. This article is featured in Athlon Sports' 2014 NFL Preview magazine, which is available on newsstands or can be purchased online.

Teaser:
Johnny Manziel Brings New Hope to the Cleveland Browns
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, Johnny Manziel, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /does-johnny-manziel-have-any-fantasy-value-2014
Body:

Even though Johnny Manziel wasn't the first player selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, let alone the first quarterback, no one drew more attention this May than Johnny Football. After passing on him with their first pick, the Cleveland Browns traded up to select the Heisman Trophy-winning dual-threat quarterback from Texas A&M at No. 22 overall.

 

Related: Johnny Manziel Brings New Hope to the Cleveland Browns

 

Now that Manziel will call the Dawg Pound home, the question becomes, does he have any fantasy value this season? Athlon editors and fantasy contributors chime in with their thoughts on Manziel's fantasy outlook as a rookie.

 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports

Without a doubt, the most productive fantasy quarterback in the history of the SEC has fantasy value for the Cleveland Browns. Will Johnny Manziel start every game — or stay healthy for the entire season? The answer is likely no, but his playmaking ability and overall competitiveness mean he won’t sit behind Brian Hoyer for very long. As soon as Manziel is in the starting lineup, he becomes a top-20 quarterback.

 

He proved he could make all of the throws from the pocket a year ago — he is the all-time most accurate passer in SEC history (68.9 percent) — while scoring 93 total touchdowns and churning out nearly 10,000 total yards of offense in just two seasons in America’s toughest league. He is a perfect late-round keeper option and should provide value the moment he enters the starting lineup.

 

David Gonos (@davidgonos), SI.com/FantasySports.About.com

Manziel absolutely does have fantasy value for this season, but he is more of an in-season player to consider than one to draft in July or August. I expect him to start the season on the bench for a couple games, maybe seeing spotty action, before eventually being installed as the starter. With just 12 quarterbacks (on average) starting in fantasy leagues, it’s tough to make an argument that Manziel is a top-12 player once he becomes the starter. But his fleet feet and ability to improvise and make plays, a la Tim Tebow, make him someone to consider as a bye-week replacement once he is playing. If he’s starting, and Josh Gordon isn’t suspended all season, Manziel could make a nice fantasy starter in Week 9, when the Browns play Baltimore and six other teams are on a bye. He has fantasy value, but only on a per-game basis, not necessarily all season.

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports

The only way I see Manziel having any fantasy value in 2014 is through a keeper format. Without Josh Gordon (assuming he will be suspended some length of time) and with an NFL learning curve after playing in a spread offense at Texas A&M, Manziel is going to take his lumps as a rookie. Also, Cleveland shouldn’t be in a rush to get Manziel in the lineup, as this team is still a few seasons away from contending in the AFC North. Brian Hoyer showed last year he could be a capable bridge to the rookie.

 

Additionally, the Browns’ schedule doesn’t give Manziel any breaks. Cleveland has to play Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore — three of the AFC’s top defenses — two times each during the regular season. Also, improving defenses like New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston and Carolina will give the Browns trouble. If you are desperate for a backup in a redraft league, Manziel is a late-round possibility, but I don’t see him having much value in 2014.

 

Eric Mack (@ErickMackFantasy), Bleacher Report

The easy answer is yes. The more difficult questions are at what point and just how much value he’ll have on draft day. The Cleveland Browns are going to have some shred of value in fantasy leagues, and the quarterback figures to be a part of that. Coming out of OTAs, it looked as if Brian Hoyer might start initially. Once Hoyer proves to be the career backup he has been, Manziel should step forward and be a contributor in fantasy, mostly in two-quarterback formats.

 

You should not consider drafting the Manziel wild card until the late rounds — even if hype might force you to do so before that point. Sure, he could be a factor like Cam Newton was in blowout games and by scoring rushing touchdowns, but until he proves something on the field, he is probably not worth his draft-day cost.

 

Matt Schauf (@SchaufDS), DraftSharks

Since 1969, just four rookie quarterbacks have rushed for at least 400 yards. All four finished among the top-12 fantasy passers.

 

Johnny Manziel doesn’t approach Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III in overall talent. He’s not nearly as polished a passer as Russell Wilson. But Vince Young finished 2006 as fantasy’s No. 12 quarterback despite starting just 13 games. He did so despite just 2,199 passing yards and 12 touchdown passes, because he ran for 553 yards and seven scores.

 

Fantasy folks perennially underrate a quarterback’s rushing value. Manziel racked up 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground in college. He joins a Browns team missing Josh Gordon and coached by Kyle Shanahan, who helped design the run-heavy offense that made Griffin a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2012.

 

Manziel will have starter-level fantasy weeks this year and belongs on a roster in your league.

 

(Top photo courtesy of the Cleveland Browns' Web site, www.clevelandbrowns.com.)

 

Athlon Sports' 2014 Fantasy Football magazine is now available for purchase at newsstands everyone or online. The ultimate draft-day resource, this year's edition features 419 in-depth player reports, informative features, a 20-round mock draft, team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers and much more. Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, roto, PPR or IDP, this magazine has all the stats and insight you need to help you get ready for the upcoming season. Click here to purchase you copy today!

Teaser:
Does Johnny Manziel Have Any Fantasy Value in 2014?
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/it-time-panic-michigan-football
Body:

It’s easy. Or at least that’s what Devin Gardner says. The fifth-year Michigan quarterback and his teammates found little difficulty ignoring the criticisms and outrage directed at them during — and following — last year’s dreary 7–6 performance.

 

“We know what goes on in our building and on the field, and the outside noise is something we ignore,” Gardner says. “(Critics) know nothing. It’s not hard to ignore people who know nothing.”

 

Fans and media are indeed unaware of the inner machinations of a football program. They only know what they see, and last year the optical evidence against Michigan was pretty damning. The Wolverines lost to both Michigan State — the Spartans punched them in the mouth — and Ohio State. They finished 102nd nationally running the football and 105th in sacks allowed, slaps to the face of a program that has boasted about its toughness since Bo Schembechler first growled on an Ann Arbor sideline in 1969. Their bowl meltdown against Kansas State was partially due to the foot injury Gardner suffered against OSU (although freshman Shane Morris acquitted himself well) but mostly the responsibility of a munificent defense that allowed the Wildcats to pile up 420 total yards. And the first month of 2014 featured a groggy end to the recruiting season that dawned with so much promise in the summer of ’13.

 

Last year at this time, many — this magazine included — were heralding a return to the old days of the Big Ten, in which ancestral rivals Michigan and Ohio State would rise above the rabble and stage yet another Ten Year War. Now, some are wondering whether the Wolverines will catch up to the Buckeyes and the Spartans, both of whom played in BCS bowls last year. And now there is reason to fear Penn State. The Nittany Lions have remained competitive despite crippling NCAA sanctions and are beginning to recruit at an elite level under new head coach James Franklin. Michigan, meanwhile, dropped the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 31–14. “Whatever happened last year has nothing to do with this year,” U-M head coach Brady Hoke says. “(Michigan State’s and Ohio State’s bowl games) are achievements you want, and expectations you have. Is it incentive? I think so. It always is.”

 

By the end of last season, his third in Ann Arbor, Hoke was hearing dissatisfaction among Wolverine fans, a first since he arrived promising Big Ten titles and a definitive move away from Rich Rodriguez’s disastrous tenure. Perhaps most galling was the team’s inability to match up when rivals used roughneck tactics against it. It’s one thing to lose six games, and another to get pushed around doing it.

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 Big Ten Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Hoke counters that four of Michigan’s losses came by a combined 11 points, and that the team wasn’t far from a double-figure win season. That’s true, but he also refers to “the toughness you need to have from a mental perspective” as a prerequisite for reversing that trend of close defeats. That’s not a poke at the 2013 team’s ability to handle the tough times, but it does illuminate one of the program’s missions for this campaign — specifically, to prohibit rivals from bullying it.

 

“As much as anything else, that’s the identity we’re striving for,” Hoke says. The most apt barometer for that personality is the running game. Michigan averaged a feeble 3.3 yards per carry last year, an embarrassment for a program that has sold itself — except for the forgettable Rodriguez interregnum — as a rugged Rust Belt offense. Then-offensive coordinator Al Borges used five different starting combinations on the line, to no avail, and the backs lacked the necessary horsepower to burst through whatever holes did materialize.

 

Borges is out. And whether his removal was the doing of hands-on AD Dave Brandon or Hoke, who insists it was his decision, a new era has dawned under former Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier, who has simplified some of the team’s schemes and promises that the Wolverines will run the ball better this year. “The offensive line is nastier,” senior middle linebacker Jake Ryan says. “You can definitely tell that.”

 

Whether U-M can replicate Bama’s success without Bama’s personnel is another question. Gardner, however, is convinced. “We’re going to be able to run the football. I promise you that,” he says.

 

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, whose salary will approach $1 million per year by 2016, has some work to do also. Though the 2013 numbers on his side of the ball aren’t as gloomy as the offense’s, Michigan did surrender 97 points in its final three games and must get stouter along the front seven. That has been a priority in the spring.

 

“I think we’ll be more physical,” says Ryan, a playmaker who moved to the inside this year. “We’ll be a tough-nosed, downhill team.”

 

Michigan will also be a more veteran squad. Hoke won’t say it, but Rodriguez’s recruiting efforts have hurt the program. Rich Rod pursued smaller, faster players, the better to fit his system. He succeeded in making U-M a less robust team, and that has hurt Hoke’s efforts to play a more physical brand of football. There are only 12 scholarship seniors and 18 juniors on the roster, so underclassmen comprise the vast majority of the Michigan personnel. In a way, last year could have been predicted, since 25 members of the 44-man offensive and defensive depth chart for the KSU game had either freshman or sophomore eligibility.

 

“We’re still a young program in a lot of ways,” Hoke says. “We’re really backloaded. That’s a positive thing. A lot of them played last year, too. Are they going to be like someone who started 35 games? No. But they are getting a lot of reps in spring ball.”

 

Filling the pipeline with more talent is vital to the Wolverines, especially since the Buckeyes continue to dazzle recruiting experts with their classes. Michigan could sign only 16 newcomers in February, because of its crowded roster. And though 11 of them were rated four stars or higher (five-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers leads the pack) by ESPN, there were some setbacks, like when defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand startled many by choosing Alabama over U-M, and in-state five-star defensive tackle Malik McDowell chose MSU. Two commitments for the 2015 class backed out of their pledges as well, although both continue to list Michigan among their finalists. The Wolverines still had a great class, but the defections created a sense of lost momentum.

 

Hoke pledges to get it back. The 2014 schedule is tough and features road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. But Gardner is a fifth-year senior with plenty of experience, the depth chart is dotted with talent and growing experience, and the young depth is of a Michigan quality. Nussmeier is expected to make the offense more productive, and Mattison vows an angrier defense.

 

“Everybody sees how close we were to a 10-win season last year,” Gardner says. “Losing (four games) by 11 points combined is pretty good and also bad. We had the opportunity and didn’t take advantage of it. That makes it worse. You feel horrible. Eleven points more. We have to give that effort.”

 

And produce results that anybody can see.

Written by Michael Bradley (@DailyHombre) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 Big Ten Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Is it Time to Panic at Michigan?
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/steve-spurriers-top-quotes-2014-sec-media-day
Body:

HOOVER, Ala. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is generally the high point of SEC media day, always good for a quip, some perspective and maybe a little smack.

Here are his greatest hits from the 2014 edition, touching on former quarterback Stephen Garcia, rivalries and boosters.

“He got his long hair back. I said it looked like he had joined Duck Dynasty instead of the media. They assured me he's with the media now.”
-On former quarterback Stephen Garcia

“If you ask our fans at South Carolina, I can assure you a majority would say, We would rather beat Clemson than win the SEC. That is how big it is to them, that one game. Personally I'd rather win the SEC. I don't mind saying that. Personally that's the bigger trophy.”

“Gus Malzahn is one of the best coaches in the country, not just the SEC. I think everybody knows that. They didn't win that national championship (in 2010) unless he was there. I think everybody knows that, too.”


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“It's a shame that Texas and Texas A&M don't play each other, though. I don't mind saying that. Two schools that have been playing for over a hundred years, just because one of them joins another conference, get mad at each other, We're not playing you anymore, we're not playing you anymore. So I don't know. I think it is sad.”

“All of you know I'm an advocate for giving some expense money to college football and basketball players. Those two sports bring in billions. They deserve a little bit more. I know the commissioner has addressed that. I wish something would happen sooner than we hope it's going to happen.  But that should happen real soon down the road.”

“The big donors in college are similar to like an owner in the NFL because they put the money up. The best part of it, they don't tell us what to do, though. They're sort of the owners from a distance. They don't tell you who to play, what plays to call, so forth.”

“We found some boosters, some big‑time donors that give over a million bucks. When I got there we had one person to give over a million bucks in the history of the school. Now we have 12 or 13, something like that.”

Teaser:
Steve Spurrier's top quotes from 2014 SEC Media Day
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 12:12
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-defensive-backs
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

When it comes to the current NFL, bigger is better in the secondary. Just ask Seattle, as the defending Super Bowl champions claim not only the best cornerback in the league (Richard Sherman), but the best safety (Earl Thomas) too. Combined with Ourlads’ No. 10 safety Kam Chancellor and No. 13 cornerback Byron Maxwell, and it’s pretty clear to see why the Seahawks’ defensive backfield is considered the best in the league.

 

With three of the four defenders taller than six foot and all but one weighing in at more than 200 pounds, this foursome has earned their “Legion of Boom” moniker for the heavy hits they deliver on the field. It also certainly doesn’t hurt to have a mouthpiece like Sherman to represent them off of it either.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Cornerbacks

 

1. Richard Sherman, Seattle

No one has more than the 20 interceptions he has collected since 2011. A smart and aggressive playmaker who is highly competitive. Good hands and hip flexibility. Uses height (6'3") and length to his advantage.

 

Related: Q&A with Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman

 

2. Darrelle Revis, New England

Was the Patriots’ target after Aqib Talib defected to Denver. New England is gambling that the league’s most dominant corner before his knee injury will return to his elite form.

 

3. Patrick Peterson, Arizona

Making a run as the NFL’s top corner. Big, fast, athletic, flexible, strong, intelligent, confident and competitive. Outstanding eye-hand coordination.

 

4. Vontae Davis, Indianapolis

Has had his ups and downs over his career, but was up in 2013. As the mainstay corner, he shows outstanding athletic ability. Reacts quickly on run support and forces the action quickly.

 

5. Aqib Talib, Denver

Staying on the field has been a bit of an issue in recent seasons, but when he’s out there, Taiib is one of the best cover corners in the league. There’s a reason the Broncos gave Talib $26 million in guaranteed money in his six-year contract and it just wasn’t to sign him away from rival New England.

 

6. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona

Is listed at corner, but played free safety and lined up in the nickel packages as a corner. His athleticism gives the Cardinals’ secondary flexibility.

 

7. Desmond Trufant, Atlanta

Had a solid rookie season and demonstrated good short-area quickness, competitiveness and the ability to mirror receivers’ cuts. Confident and focused in his play.

 

8. Chris Harris, Denver

A playmaker who has few mental and physical errors. Good open-field wrap-up tackler. Rarely gives up run-after-catch yards.

 

9. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, NY Giants

Signed during free agency. After six years in the league, the Giants are hoping that the best is yet to come. A fluid and smooth athlete with good hands and quick feet.

 

10. Brent Grimes, Miami

Played big in 2013 despite coming off a torn Achilles tendon. He was rewarded with a long term deal. A consistent competitor who makes plays on the ball. Aggressive and smart in his play.

 

11. Alterraun Verner, Tampa Bay

12. Jason McCourty, Tennessee

13. Byron Maxwell, Seattle

14. Captain Munnerlyn, Minnesota

15. Brandon Boykin, Philadelphia

16. Tramaine Brock, San Francisco

17. Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo

18. Joe Haden, Cleveland

19. Keenan Lewis, New Orleans

20. Alan Ball, Jacksonville

21. William Gay, Pittsburgh

22. Lardarius Webb, Baltimore

23. Johnathan Joseph, Houston

24. Prince Amukamara, NY Giants

25. Drayton Florence, Free agent

26. Rashean Mathis, Detroit

27. Nickell Robey, Buffalo

28. Corey Graham, Buffalo

29. Walter Thurmond, NY Giants

30. Orlando Scandrick, Dallas

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Safeties

 

1. Earl Thomas, Seattle

The best free safety in the league and a defensive leader. A safety with corner skills. Has an inside feel for secondary play. Competitive and aggressive. Can force the run coming downhill or play the ball deep down the field.

 

2. Eric Weddle, San Diego

An instinctive safety with range and good ball skills. An intense and aggressive playmaker who makes plays when tight on a receiver. Has been highly productive over his career.

 

3. Devin McCourty, New England

Continues his renaissance at safety since moving from corner a few years ago. A good athlete with range and finishing speed. Drives quickly on the ball and can make a big hit or slap the ball away.

 

4. Jairus Byrd, New Orleans

A Pro Bowl-caliber safety with corner skills. Athletic and productive. May be the most instinctive safety in the league. Sudden to read and react. Will make all the calls in Rob Ryan’s defense.

 

5. Donte Whitner, Cleveland

One of the NFL’s most impactful hitters and instinctive players. Productive and active. Good anticipation. An intense competitor who can reroute receivers.

 

6. Eric Berry, Kansas City

Is a leader in the secondary and a Pro Bowl player at strong safety. An intelligent and instinctive player who has the awareness to recognize and quickly analyze offensive set tendencies.

 

7. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh

Plays at an elite level when he’s on the field. He is fighting off age and time to continue to be one of the NFL’s dynamic playmakers. Intense and explosive.

 

8. T.J. Ward, Denver

Is a consistent tackler who is a hard hitter and has improved his overall pass-coverage skills. A competitor with good body control. Takes good support and pursuit angles.

 

9. Will Hill, NY Giants

When on the field he has all the tools and play of a Pro Bowl safety, but he is now facing his third suspension in three years.

 

10. Kam Chancellor, Seattle

One of the largest safeties in the league and has had several splash-type collisions over his career. His coverage skills have gotten better each year he has been in the league.

 

11. Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans

12. Antrel Rolle, NY Giants

13. Eric Reid, San Francisco

14. Michael Griffin, Tennessee

15. Chris Clemons, Houston

16. Glover Quin, Detroit

17. James Ihedigbo, Detroit

18. Reggie Nelson, Cincinnati

19. Bernard Pollard, Tennessee

20. Rafael Bush, New Orleans

21. Marcus Gilchrist, San Diego

22. Aaron Williams, Buffalo

23. George Iloka, Cincinnati

24. Jamarca Sanford, Minnesota

25. Michael Mitchell, Pittsburgh

26. Robert Lester, Carolina

27. Reshad Jones, Miami

28. George Wilson, Tennessee

29. Rashad Johnson, Arizona

30. Charles Woodson, Oakland

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Backs
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Richard Sherman, NFL, News
Path: /sherman
Body:

One of the big developments of the 2013 NFL season was the emergence of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He was not only a superior football player, but also a fixture in the headlines, making big plays and big noise. We caught up with the league's No. 1 cornerback shortly after he signed a new four-year, $57 million contract extension in early May.

 

Related: 2014 NFL Player Rankings - Defensive Backs

 

Athlon Sports: You might be one of the most recognizable people in the world now, going to the White House Correspondents Dinner, getting saluted by Time Magazine and turning up everywhere. Has this new-found fame surprised you, and do you worry that it might change you?

Richard Sherman: I guess it’s unusual. I never expected to be thrown into the spotlight like this. I take it for what it is. I try to stay the same person. I know who I am. I don’t worry about it changing me too much. I’m pretty set in my ways. I just want to get better and be different.

 

After you were taken to task for speaking your mind, people now want your opinion on just about everything. Do you feel like you are the voice of the NFL?

I don’t mind it. It’s an honor that people think that way. I don’t know if I speak for the entire NFL. Everybody has their voice. But I like giving my opinion. I don’t mind being criticized either.

 

Is the NFC title game play referred to as “the Immaculate Deflection” the biggest play of your career?

Athletically, I’ve made better plays. As far as a big one, I don’t think I’ve made a bigger play. It got us into the Super Bowl. I had a feeling I’d get a chance. It was the final drive, cover 3, the strong safety leaned over. It was something we practice. We practice the tip drill all the time.

 

Who is the toughest wide receiver in the NFL to cover?

Doug Baldwin. I go against him every day. He’s super quick. He’s hard to stop. He runs different routes every time. On other teams? Megatron (Detroit’s Calvin Johnson) is a pretty tough cover. He’s real fast, real big and real strong.

 

What is your favorite opposing stadium to play in?

Dallas. They always have a party going on during the game. You go to a game in Dallas, and you know what I mean.

 

What other coach in the NFL, besides your own, would you like to play for?

Gus Bradley. I played for him before. His message is always the same: Think positive. It’s very similar to what we do in Seattle.

 

Some former Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls during their careers. With talk of a mini-Seattle dynasty, would four satisfy you? If not, how many?

I don’t know. It would have to be a lot. I’m a guy who tries not to limit himself. I wouldn’t limit myself to that. If we got five, then we’d want six.

 

You were a wide receiver at Stanford before switching to corner. Could you have been an elite NFL pass-catcher?

I think I’d be pretty good. You never know. I think I’d be able to at least hold my own. Elite? I couldn’t tell you unless I got out there. But with a good quarterback, a good system, I think I’d be OK.

 

Who is the best cornerback in NFL history and can that be you some day?

It’s somewhere between Mel Blount and Deion (Sanders). I’d need a lot more interceptions. I’ll figure it out soon enough. Anything is possible.

 

With three Pro Bowlers in the mix, and you and Earl Thomas considered the league’s best at your respective positions, who’s the Seahawks’ best defensive back?

Each one of us thinks he’s the best defensive back on the team. It’s a battle. Do we say anything to each other about it? Not really. It’s a known deal on the team that everybody really believes it’s him.

 

You were mad that you were a fifth-round draft pick. Does that mean you were mad at the Seahawks? And did you ever ask them why they waited so long to take you?

I was mad. I wasn’t as mad at them because they gave me opportunity. You can’t be too mad at them. I did ask them about it and they said they had me in the third round. But they said nobody took me and they had to address other needs.

 

When you were a kid, did you envision yourself playing in the NFL and for what team?

I always pictured it once I figured out they were paying people for a game I was playing for free. It was, oh man, I want to do that. The Raiders were the team. We saw them the most in L.A. I wore their stuff. My whole family did.

 

It’s hard for anyone to play for just one NFL team. Do you think you will spend your entire career in Seattle?

The city surprised me. I was incredibly happy with it. It’s unique from any place I’ve ever been, with its greenery and outdoor stuff, all that boating. It’s been a great opportunity. One team? I get a couple more years with this, so we’ll see.

 

When your pro football career is done, what comes next for you? Will you be mayor of Los Angeles? Or Seattle?

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. I want to stay around the world of sports, but I want to be a philanthropist and be a positive influence around kids. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do, but philanthropy will be part of it.

Teaser:
Q&A with Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/great-coaches-improved-facilities-and-new-tv-deal-have-fueled-pac-12s-rise
Body:

It’s understandable that David Shaw would be somewhat conflicted when it comes to the Pac-12’s nine-game conference schedule. On the one hand, the fourth-year Stanford coach is a competitor, and there is something appealing about being the ruling party two seasons running in a league that tests manhood like no other.

 

He is also a pragmatist, and when he sees the annual parade of late-season scrimmages favored by SEC schools — hello, Furman, Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Florida Atlantic — he gets a little jealous, although he may have chuckled when he saw Georgia Southern knock off Florida last year.

 

“We would have loved to have put a game (like that) between UCLA and Oregon State last year,” Shaw says.

 

Stanford survived that test against back-to-back ranked opponents. It even knocked off Oregon 12 days later. But the Cardinal eventually succumbed to the grind and dropped a 20–17 decision at USC. Shaw can’t complain too much, because even though the loss was in mid-November, Stanford still won the Pac-12 North and then whipped Arizona State for the conference crown. By the time the game against ASU was over, the Cardinal had played six league games against ranked opponents. “And that doesn’t include a ranked Notre Dame team and a ranked Michigan State team in the Rose Bowl,” Shaw says.

 

Shaw would be wise to avoid seeking sympathy for his team’s tough schedule. Not too many people would commiserate, given Stanford’s recent run of success under him and predecessor Jim Harbaugh. His point is less a woe-is-me complaint than a celebration of the Pac-12’s growth and increased success. Once known for its wacky explosions of points and a rather cavalier approach to defense, the conference has become deeper, stronger and more able to make a national impression. Thanks to improved commitments to on-field success throughout the conference and a more focused branding effort from the conference office, the Pac-12 is escaping its previous image as a league on the fringes, whose Saturday night games served as lullabies for half the country.

 

“Right now, the conference is the best it has ever been,” says Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who grew up in Pac-12 country and has spent more than a decade coaching in the conference. “The depth and talent of teams and coaching staffs are so much better than they were. The facilities and the commitment to the facilities are off the charts.”

 

Last year, Pac-12 schools went 6–3 in bowl competition, an impressive performance that included 75 percent of the conference’s members. (California, Utah and Colorado were the lone exclusions.) Thanks to new deals with ESPN and Fox and the league’s bold step to create its own TV network, media revenues are soaring, and thanks to a new program that divides the spoils equally, there is an opportunity for everyone to benefit. Commissioner Larry Scott, who this fall enters his fifth school year atop the conference, has employed his promotional savvy to help bolster the Pac-12 brand throughout the nation.

 

The Pac-12 still must fight the time-difference issue, but its national image is on the rise, and as one of the lucky Big Five conferences that will get preferred treatment with this year’s debut of the College Football Playoff, it is positioned well for future prosperity.

 

Although the league crows about its success in all sports and has won more aggregate national championships than any other confederation, the true measure of the Pac-12’s — or any other conference’s — health is football. In that regard, things are looking good.

 

“We are heading in the right direction from a football standpoint and from the standpoint of a lot of sports,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne says. “We’ve always been strong historically across the board, but we have seen that schools have done a good job investing in their infrastructures, and some of that has been done through increased conference revenue and donations.”

 

When Scott took over the league in the summer of 2009, the Pac-12 was fifth among BCS conferences — ahead of only the Big East — in terms of TV money and national football perception. While USC was playing great ball, and those Oregon uniforms sure attracted the teenage crowd, depth was lacking. There was some discontent among the ranks, because larger-market schools were getting more of the conference pot than were those in outposts such as Corvallis and Pullman.

 

Within a year, the league had announced the additions of Utah and Colorado, negotiated new TV deals with ESPN and Fox that more than tripled revenues from the Pac-12’s previous contracts and decided to split any income evenly among its members. (Utah and Colorado went through a three-year probationary period upon entering the conference, during which they received less than other members.) With the improvement of several programs — Washington State went to a bowl last year! — the Pac-12 is now healthy financially and on the rise on the football field. Throw in a concerted effort to bring the conference brand to a wider audience, the better to boost Pac-12 Networks revenue and also enrollment, and you have an impressive package.

 

“Day to day, as coaches, we don’t think about marketing the conference,” Shaw says. “We have a great combination of an unbelievable group of coaches who are pushing players to be national contenders and a commissioner that is pushing the league to be the best in everything. You have to recognize that.”

 

UCLA coach Jim Mora was nowhere near Westwood when USC and Pete Carroll were winning back-to-back national title in 2003-04. But Mora, who spent part of his youth in L.A. before moving to Seattle and graduating from the University of Washington, understands fully the value for a conference of having the best team in the country carrying the standard. Over the past several years, there have been some with the temerity to suggest that the SEC isn’t the best conference around. They were shouted down by those who reminded them that no matter how bad some of its members may be, the past seven national champs have been SEC schools. That streak ended in 2013, but not without a conference member (Auburn) staging a pretty good run at the crown.

 

So, Pac-12 fans will have to excuse Mora when he doesn’t jump for joy over last year’s 6–3 bowl record. He’s proud to be part of a league with good depth and plenty of talent, but Mora understands that real recognition doesn’t come until someone from the conference can jab an index finger skyward and shout, “We’re number one!”

 

“It’s great when the whole league is good, because it shines a brighter light on teams excelling in any given year and gives teams the respect they deserve,” he says. “But we need to win some national championships.

 

“The only way we will get national respect is by winning a national championship in football.”

 

Mora understands that the recent success by Stanford and Oregon atop the Pac-12 has attracted more eyes to the league. He also understands that real legitimacy comes from having a team on top. That’s why you’ll probably read a bunch of articles leading up to the start of this season about how ACC football is making great strides, thanks to Florida State’s 2013 national title. It’s nice to have teams that can win the Sun and Hawaii Bowls, but that kind of second-tier success only looks good when a league can also wave the biggest banner of them all.

 

Pac-12 coaches believe there is sufficient talent to make it happen. The state of California alone has enough talent to stock three or four national contenders. Throw in major population centers like Seattle, Phoenix and Denver, and there are a lot of top FBS players from which to choose. Thanks to the improved television coverage, it’s possible to expand that area eastward, the better to offset the recruiting efforts of schools from other parts of the country that pillage the Pac-12’s recruiting stocks.

 

“We’re getting farther east,” Helfrich says. “TV makes this a smaller country and allows us to get players from Florida, New Jersey and Michigan. We can get in a living room and tell parents that they will be able to watch their son on TV every weekend. They’ll be able to look at his face and see if he needs a phone call.”

 

Shaw, who insists that Stanford is “the one true national recruiter in college football,” loves the fact that the Pac-12 Networks, while hardly able to boast universal clearance, still reaches parts of the Northeast and Deep South. For a highly selective private school, that’s a big deal. But it’s not just the Pac-12 Networks. The deals with ESPN and Fox have brought the conference’s product to a much wider audience. When Scott took over, only 39 percent of the league’s football and men’s hoops games were broadcast nationally, and 10 percent of the football games didn’t have any TV exposure, according to a November 2013 New York Times report.

 

“We tell kids to find the Pac-12 Networks and watch us,” Shaw says. “They can see the player profiles and learn about the rest of the conference. They can say, ‘I may be from Virginia, but I can see the stadium and see the school.’ It’s more than just a coach telling them about it.

 

“It makes it real.”

 

What the prospects see is a conference with a lot going on. Many people think of Pac-12 football as just Oregon’s funky uniforms and that crazy duck on the back of a motorcycle. That show has certainly helped the conference’s identity. Stanford’s success has done a lot, too. But now that coaches like Mike Leach, Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham have brought their spread attacks to the league, there may be more potent offenses in the league than ever before.

 

“You have so many different styles,” Shaw says. “You have to tweak what you do every week. You have to be unique with what you do but also be ready to face different kinds of teams every week. There are lots of spread teams, but they are different spread teams. You have to be able to adjust.”

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 Pac-12 Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 12 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

The rise of Mora’s UCLA team has made things interesting, too. Granted, it has helped the Bruins that cross-town rival USC has been struggling with probation, but the Bruins’ success has given the Pac-12 another school capable of attracting national attention.

 

Given UCLA’s recent basketball travails — and the short memories of today’s high school students — the “basketball school” label that has haunted the Bruin football program may not apply in a few years, especially if it can establish itself as the place to go for the Golden State’s talented high school recruits.

 

“California is bursting with talent,” Mora says. “Everybody is in California trying to pluck guys. Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas are all crossing our borders. But there is also a tremendous amount of talent and good football played in the Northwest and throughout the West Coast. There’s a lot of talent here.”

 

Those standouts who choose to stay home and play for Pac-12 schools are doing so as much for the facilities as they are for the cool offensive schemes. And that’s something new. All across the conference, schools are adding new stadiums, offices and workout centers or beefing up existing sites. The new contracts and more equitable distribution program are allowing schools like Washington State to be more competitive with the rest of the league, from a facilities standpoint.

 

Even though Utah didn’t receive a full revenue share during its first three years in the league, that didn’t stop it from transforming the $10 million football center it had planned while still a Mountain West Conference member into a $32 million project once it joined the Pac-12. The school raised half the money through fundraising and the other half through a bond issue, which it had never done before.

 

“We had to decide, ‘Do we want to be in the Pac-12 to have a nice time or to compete?’” Utah AD Chris Hill says. “We want to compete.”

 

While schools boost their facilities’ profiles, and coaches work to make their teams more competitive, Scott sells the Pac-12 brand, bringing football and men’s basketball bosses east before every season to meet with media who don’t cross the Rocky Mountains (or the Mississippi, for that matter) very often. He fights to get the Pac-12 Networks greater carriage on cable and satellite providers across the country. The goal is to create a brand that rivals those of the Big Ten and SEC, which had far better profiles than their western counterpart just a few years ago.

 

It hasn’t all been perfect. Money from the Pac-12 Networks is not exactly pouring in. Rather than partner with an established TV presence like ESPN (SEC) or Fox (Big Ten), Scott decided to go it alone. “No one else has been able to do what we were able to do,” he says. “We can control programming and control branding and the messaging on it. That’s important to our universities.”

 

Some are not happy that the pioneer spirit has resulted in a smaller revenue stream, but Scott points to the opportunity to have flexibility and control down the road.

 

“It’s very much a long-term strategic initiative,” he says. “We are off to a great start.”
 

That can’t be denied. Pac-12 schools are making money, winning on the football field and gaining notice nationwide. There is work to be done, but a lot of problems could be overcome with a national title.

 

“The one thing that will define us as the conference is national championships,” Mora says. “Not one, but multiple.

 

“That will take time.”

 

Not as much as once was thought.

 

Written by Michael Bradley (@DailyHombre) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 Pac-12 Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Great Coaches, Improved Facilities and New TV Deal Have Fueled Pac-12's Rise
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-auburn-florida-and-vanderbilt-media-day
Body:

SEC Media Day is here, and Athlon Sports is live from Hoover, Ala., to talk every team around the league. Day 1 started with comments from commissioner Mike Slive plus Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt.

 

On the docket for the first day was Mike Slive's push for autonomy, the absence of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, Florida's hot seat coach and new offense and higher expectations for Derek Mason at Vanderbilt.

 

Joining us today were Brandon Marcello from AL.com and Edgar Thompson from the Orlando Sentinel.

 

Have a question or comment? Contact us at podcast@athlonsports.com or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt from Media Day
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 18:58
All taxonomy terms: linebackers, player rankings, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-linebackers
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

Carolina’s Luke Kuechly may be the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but according to Ourlads, he’s not even the best at his position. The top two inside linebackers — NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis — play for the same team in the NFC West. In fact, when you pair Bowman and Willis with Aldon Smith, San Francisco boasts three of the top eight linebackers overall.

 

Unfortunately for the 49ers, the likelihood of this trio being intact at the start of the season doesn’t appear to be too high. Bowman sustained a serious knee injury in the NFC Championship Game loss to Seattle and is a fairly safe bet to start the season on the PUP list, while Smith is facing a possible suspension of some length from the league for his various off-the-field incidents. It may be more of a one-man show in the middle of the 49ers’ defense this fall.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Inside Linebackers

 

1. NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco

Joins teammate Patrick Willis as a Pro Bowl-caliber productive athlete. Instinctive with rare change of direction. Aggressive and competitive. Coming off a knee injury.

 

2. Patrick Willis, San Francisco

Had another Pro Bowl season with his excellent tackling ability versus the run and the speed to excel in coverage.

 

3. Luke Kuechly, Carolina

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Tackling machine is the heart and soul of the Panthers’ defense. A sideline-to-sideline player who is only entering his third year.

 

4. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City

Was voted to the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season. A downhill sideline-to-sideline player with speed and a closing burst.

 

5. Karlos Dansby, Cleveland

Signed with the Browns in the offseason. A productive and athletic run-and-hit linebacker with good speed and range. A good blitzer who makes plays.

 

6. Sean Lee, Dallas

Has been the leader of the Cowboys’ defense since stepping on the field in 2010. Injuries have set him back at times, but he’s productive when on the field. (Editor's note: Lee tore the ACL in his left knee during OTAs on May 27 and will miss the entire 2014 season.)

 

7. Stephen Tulloch, Detroit

An undersized but instinctive linebacker who makes plays all over the field. Elevated his game in 2013 after coming off a 2012 knee injury.

 

8. Kiko Alonso, Buffalo

Played beyond expectations as a rookie in the middle last fall and will be moved to the weak side in 2014. A focused and intense competitor versus the run and pass. (Editor's note: Alonso tore the ACL in his left knee while working out earlier this summer and will miss the entire 2014 season.)

 

9. Brian Cushing, Houston

Was lost for two years in a row with injury. When on the field, this big-time hitter is instinctive and active in defending the run and pass.

 

10. Bobby Wagner, Seattle

Battled an injury in 2013 after an outstanding rookie campaign. A quick and explosive reactor who attacks blockers. Has good range and takes good downfield angles in pursuit.

 

11. Daryl Smith, Baltimore

12. Daryl Washington, Arizona (Editor's note: Washington has been suspended for the entire 2014 season for another violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.)

13. Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh

14. James Laurinaitis, St. Louis

15. Brandon Spikes, Buffalo

16. Josh Bynes, Baltimore

17. Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee

18. Jerrell Freeman, Indianapolis

19. Akeem Jordan, Washington

20. David Harris, NY Jets

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Outside Linebackers

 

1. Von Miller, Denver

Became a more complete linebacker, excelling in coverage before an ACL injury late in the season. His impact is immense — pressuring and sacking the quarterback.

 

2. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay

Is one of the more unheralded and well-rounded linebackers in football. His skills are tailor-made for the new Tampa-2 scheme.

 

3. Robert Mathis, Indianapolis

Versatile enough over his career to play as a down end or a standup rusher for the Colts. Undersized athlete with rare initial quickness and speed. Can turn speed to power. Plays low to the ground with good knee and hip flexibility. (Editor's note: Mathis will miss the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.)

 

4. Aldon Smith, San Francisco

Has been a productive player on the field, especially when Justin Smith helps clear a free running lane. Has outstanding athletic ability and long arms to rush the passer. Productive with 42 sacks in three years.

 

5. Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati

Led the Bengals in tackles his first two years in the league. Has come a long way from his undisciplined college career, where the talent was evident, but production was uneven.

 

6. Thomas Davis, Carolina

Came back from a third ACL tear to play at a high level in 2013. An aggressive and explosive hitter who is a consistent wrap-up tackler.

 

7. Akeem Ayers, Tennessee

Will be making a move from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme linebacker, which may get him to the quarterback more in 2014. Drives quickly on check-downs and ball-carriers in front of him.

 

8. Danny Trevathan, Denver

Had a breakout year in 2013 and racked up 129 tackles from the weak side. Physical and tough in his play. Quick to key and diagnose a play.

 

9. Dont’a Hightower, New England

Stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie and hasn’t looked back since. A physical run-stuffer who sheds quickly at the point of attack.

 

10. DeAndre Levy, Detroit

Elevated his playmaking ability in 2013. An athletic linebacker who can run and hit. Plays square with good hand and arm use to shed and tackle.

 

11. Malcolm Smith, Seattle

12. Sio Moore, Oakland

13. Jerod Mayo, New England

14. Bruce Irvin, Seattle

15. Alec Ogletree, St. Louis

16. Chad Greenway, Minnesota

17. James Anderson, Chicago

18. Philip Wheeler, Miami

19. Kevin Burnett, Oakland

20. K.J. Wright, Seattle

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Linebackers
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Boise State Broncos, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/bobby-petrino-ready-succeed-louisville-once-again
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Social media crackled with disbelief on the day word leaked that former University of Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino was in line to become the replacement for Charlie Strong at U of L last January.

 

Talk-radio hyperventilated. Opinions flew from every direction. Louisville can’t be hiring that two-timer, can it? National columnists powered up their keyboards and took their most vicious shots.

 

Considering the way Petrino had walked out on Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 and then driven his career (and motorcycle) off the road at Arkansas in 2012, outsiders howled that athletic director Tom Jurich had finally fumbled a big decision.

 

Actually, the decision to bring Petrino back from Western Kentucky was every bit a calculated Jurich move. People who know Jurich know that Petrino was the first option from the moment Strong’s name was linked to Texas.

 

The reaction in Louisville to Petrino’s return for a job that he didn’t want seven years earlier? That he was getting a deal worth $3.5 million per season with a $10 million buyout?

 

Primarily long and sustained applause.

 

“The offense isn’t going to be boring around here any more,” former Louisville running back Michael Bush said on a live microphone in front of 27,500 fans at the Cardinals’ spring game.

 

In the aftermath of Petrino’s arrival, the demand for U of L football season tickets increased. The waiting list grew. Any complaints within the ambitious fan base disappeared after a few days.

 

Why?

 

Because Petrino wins football games, and Louisville has become accustomed to winning after ringing up victories in the Sugar and Russell Athletic bowls the last two seasons.

 

“I don’t think anybody will quarrel with his knowledge,” Jurich says.

 

Louisville is making its move into the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and the program needed a head coach who could scheme with Jimbo Fisher and the other big dogs in a more demanding league. “He’s as good as anybody I’ve seen or been around,” says Jurich.

 

What about it, coach?

 

Says Petrino, “It’s been great. Every day has been great, for me and my family. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back.”

 

The Cardinal fan base adored Petrino when he was the head coach from 2003-06, when his teams would routinely score 40, 50, 60 points — and never trailed Kentucky for one second in four games.

 

Louisville started 2013 with a victory in the Sugar Bowl, won the men’s basketball NCAA title, finished second in the women’s basketball tournament and sent its baseball team to the College World Series. If any athletic director had the muscle to sell Petrino, it was Jurich.

 

But there was another reason insiders were not surprised: They knew that Jurich played a critical role in helping Petrino land his initial comeback job at Western Kentucky.

 

Without a strong endorsement from Jurich, WKU athletic director Todd Stewart would have never hired Petrino only eight months after Arkansas fired him for hiring his mistress on the Razorbacks’ staff and then lying about it.

 

Petrino was toxic then. Jurich did as much as anybody to help Petrino repair his reputation and career.

 

Stewart called Jurich to discuss Petrino before WKU hired him as Willie Taggart’s replacement in December 2012. Jurich had every reason to bury Petrino, and why not? Petrino had misled him several times while interviewing for other jobs early in his Louisville career. He flirted with jobs at LSU, Notre Dame, Florida and elsewhere, even though Jurich was the first guy to give Petrino a head coaching opportunity.

 

Then Petrino bolted for the Falcons less than a week after coaching the Cardinals to an Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest.

 

Jurich is first-team all-loyalty. He’s been at Louisville since October 1997, even though several prime-time programs, including Texas, inquired about his interest. Not only was Petrino always in a hurry to get to the next job, but he’d also later walked out on the Falcons in the middle of his first season and then embarrassed Arkansas.

 

But Jurich did not encourage Stewart to scratch Petrino from his list of WKU coaching candidates. He told him that Petrino deserved a chance — and that he would do excellent work in Bowling Green.

 

Huh?

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 ACC Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Petrino and Jurich had repaired their relationship while the coach sat out the 2012 season. He apologized for things that happened at Louisville. He asked Jurich if he would help him mend his career. Jurich told him that the first thing he needed to do was mend his life with his family — his wife, Becky, and their four children.

 

They had several conversations. By the time WKU called to inquire about Petrino, Jurich was convinced that his former coach was ready for another chance. And he endorsed Petrino for that job.

 

The contract and the buyout were structured that if Petrino left during the first two seasons, WKU would make money. If it ­didn’t work out, WKU would only suffer a small PR hit. But it worked — for WKU, for Petrino and for Louisville.

 

How would the Cardinals benefit?

 

Because the stories about everything that Petrino did wrong were written during the buildup to his first season at Western Kentucky. He talked about the mistakes he had made and lessons that he had learned.

 

Becky Petrino came to Bowling Green with him. So did two of their children. Two other Petrino children were already in Louisville, attending U of L. If the family was going to make it again, they were going to make it in Kentucky.

 

Most of the negative stories would be aired out at Western Kentucky. By the end of his first season, there would be a fresh Petrino narrative. He was the coach who beat Kentucky in his season-opener as well as the guy who won eight games, more than WKU had ever won as an FBS program.

 

He was the guy grateful for a second chance, a coach who understood this was his last chance to make it right.

“I think the opportunity to get someone who is very seasoned as we head into the ACC (is critical),” Jurich says. “But somebody who is definitely a changed person.

 

“I think the opportunity to get Bobby Petrino is what sold me. Like I said, if it was the same Bobby Petrino as eight years ago, I wasn’t interested, and I had to be convinced of that.”

 

“The first mistake I made was leaving Louisville,” Petrino says, and he has said it multiple times. “But now I feel like my family and I have come back home.”

 

Written by Rick Bozich (@RickBozich) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 ACC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Bobby Petrino Ready to Succeed at Louisville Once Again
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahomas-bob-stoops-regains-swagger-sooners-poised-playoff-run-2014
Body:

Bob Stoops fired surprising shots at the SEC last offseason, calling out the nation’s power conference and causing his sanity to be called into question in most corners of the country.

 

“They’ve had the best team in college football. They haven’t had the whole best conference,” the Oklahoma coach said in May 2013, just months after Alabama had won another national title, the SEC’s seventh straight national championship.

 

“You’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed to you.”

 

So had Big Game Bob become Big Mouth Bob?

 

Little did we or Stoops know that he’d be staring down the mighty Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl in January. Suddenly, Stoops’ months-old words had become fighting words.

 

Yet the swaggering Stoops and his Sooners hardly backed down.

 

No, they backed it all up, pounding Bama and capping a late-season turnabout that altered everything in Norman, flipping feelings on the season and the program’s recent substandard perceptions, and of course, the future.

 

Big Game Bob was back. And taking a victory lap.

 

Oh, Stoops wasn’t boasting, not in a finger-wagging way. Still, he didn’t waste the opportunity to offer some semi-subtle reminders.

 

“I won’t have to dodge any punches, I guess you could say that,” he said in the aftermath of the Sooners’ 45–31 romp. “I have the utmost respect for Alabama. And I think this shows that obviously we can play with anybody.

 

“So enough of that. And I just watched them go through their entire conference and play pretty well. And, again, I admire the way they play, I really do, and Coach (Nick) Saban and the way they do things. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I think sometimes the comparisons aren’t necessarily very true.”

 

Neither, it seems, are perceptions of Stoops and his program.

 

Not of late, anyway.

 

Stoops reset the high bar at Oklahoma, winning a national championship in his second season and playing for three more in his first 10 years of restoring the Sooners as a college football powerhouse. Entering his 16th season, he’s the winningest coach in OU history, having passed Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bennie Owen. His teams have captured eight Big 12 titles, with a 7–1 record in conference championship games, and gone to a program-record 15 consecutive bowl games.

 

Still, critics have picked at Stoops in recent years. They’ve pointed to his 0–3 record in national title games since the 2000 breakthrough. They’ve suggested that he’s beaten a retreat in the Big 12, where three other teams (Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor) have risen up to claim the past three league trophies.

 

Legitimate critiques, or nitpicking?

 

The Sooners, after all, have posted double-digit win totals each of the past four seasons and in seven of the last eight.

 

Have they reached that high bar Stoops has set? Not quite. So in truth, there are probably some valid arguments on both sides. And even Stoops signaled a need to alter course while acknowledging that things may have grown stagnant, firing a total of five assistants in the two years prior to the 2013 season after not sending a single coach packing his previous 12 years on the job.

 

As recently as last November, there was a degree of panic among the fan base, after the Sooners were thumped 41–12 at Baylor in what had been anticipated as a showdown. That, after they’d been gouged 36–20 by archrival Texas in the Red River Rivalry a month earlier.

 

The Sooners were shuffling quarterbacks, with Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson taking turns behind center, and none thriving.

 

Then, in the span of little more than four quarters, everything turned. For the Sooners. For program pride. For Stoops.

 

It started in Bedlam, with Oklahoma State poised to win for the second time in three years in the series, marching to a 24–20 lead with 1:46 remaining. But Bell, inserted for the injured Knight and an ineffective Thompson, guided the Sooners to their first offensive touchdown of the day, finishing the drive with a 7-yard scoring pass to Jalen Saunders with 19 seconds left to lift OU to the improbable win.

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 Big 12 Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Then came the matchup with Bama in the Sugar Bowl, a game analysts and fans from across the country counted as a Tide throwdown before kickoff, before the 17-point underdog Sooners surged ahead early and kept pouring it on.

 

“I get annoyed when people ask me if I’m afraid,” OU defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said at the time, reflecting his head coach’s brashness. “Just shut up.”

 

Said Stoops: “We weren’t coming in on a load of wood. We’ve won some games around here. That’s how we feel. Everyone else, we weren’t that concerned about.

 

“We played how we expected to play, to be quite honest. And, again … I’ve got the absolute utmost respect for Alabama. But we have a lot of confidence in what we do, too.”

 

Stoops, in good times and bad, is confident. So his remarks about the SEC ­shouldn’t have come as a shock. Asked a question, he simply answered, honestly and boldly. And that confidence flows through his coaching staff and players, who seem to operate with a permanent chip on their shoulder, despite their status among college football’s elite.

 

“What we were able to do against Alabama was no fluke,” says defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, Bob’s younger brother. “That was our team playing on all cylinders as a young team.

 

“That gave us a lot of momentum heading into the last month of recruiting. … We feel like we’re a championship-caliber team. That’s what the kids want to play for.”

 

Don’t expect that confidence to wane anytime soon.

 

The Sooners’ late-season surge fueled a recruiting rally, provided strong answers to critical personnel questions and thrust OU back into national title talk for 2014 as a heavy favorite in the Big 12.

 

Bob Stoops’ stock enjoyed a surge of sorts, too. Trusting his instincts, he again seems to be pulling all the right strings, whether making over his staff or overseeing tweaks to both sides of the ball or returning to the gambling in-game decision-making style that marked his earlier years at the helm.

 

Big Game Bob appears to be back and charging forward, thankful for the Sugar Bowl rush, yet ready to move on.

 

“They’re not sitting back thinking about that and not doing what they need to do moving forward,” Stoops says of his team. “I think, more than anything, it’s made them hungrier to build on it and to keep improving.”


Written by John Helsley (@jjhelsley) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 Big 12 Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops Regains Swagger; Sooners Poised to Push for Playoffs in 2014
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 07:15

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