Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the 's football logos:


1.North Carolina

The Tar Heels’ logo is a staple. The font used fits the NC perfectly together creating a timeless look.

2.MiamiThe uniqueness of the Canes’ logo is unlike any others. I am a big fan of the symmetry and the color scheme works perfectly together.
3.ClemsonThere are so many different animal logos, but the tiger paw print is synonymous with Clemson. Also, the roughness of the lines gives the logo a nice edgy feel, which goes perfectly with the bright orange.

The Syracuse S is simple, stylish and sophisticated. This logo screams “sports” and I enjoy the clean edges of the S paired with the color scheme.

5.Virginia TechThe combination of the V and T goes together flawlessly and makes it one of the most recognizable initial-based logos.
6.Florida StateLast year FSU modernized its very historic Seminoles logo. Thank you. There is nothing wrong with a little upgrading and bringing it up to pace with the rest of the world. Props.
7.PittPittsburgh is the only logo that uses its shortened name and it works. Arching the block font and adding a drop cap gives the logo a funky (in a good way) look.
8.DukeI think this logo had good intentions, but didn’t follow through. The definite points on a more rounded letter makes this logo different, but by connecting the two objects in the center, making the D, the logo would make more of a statement.
9.VirginiaI really enjoy the two sabres crossed beneath the serif V. It’s both creative and symmetrical… I just wish the V was filled in.
10.Wake ForestProps to the Demon Deacons for finally changing their primary logo. This logo is more modern than the old cartoon-looking one they use as their secondary.
11.NC StateI would do one of two things. Change the placement and keep the same colors or change the colors of NC and keep the placement. There is just too much going on.
12.Georgia TechThe arrangement of the GT makes the Yellow Jackets ‘logo. Also, changing the color to a more brown-based gold instead of the old yellow gold gives this logo a more up-to-date look.
13.LouisvilleI love this particular logo, but when text is added to it, like for the Cardinals’ secondary logo, I really dislike it. The cardinal stands out on its own well. It’s creative and fierce… you don’t need anything else.
14.Boston CollegeThe color scheme in this logo doesn’t do it for me. I almost wish the eagle was gold so that it broke up the letters a little more. Just a thought.
Ranking the ACC's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-west-teams-2015

The NFC West is poised for another great year, as the Seahawks will once again begin as the presumed favorites. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and the Rams appear to be capable of contending, while there are plenty of unknowns when it comes to the 49ers. The Cardinals might have the best chance to take down the Seahawks, especially if Carson Palmer can play a full season. However, the Rams seem to be headed towards a great season with such a strong defense. The 49ers disappointed last season and had a tumultuous offseason, but they're only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The biggest question seems to be, can the Seahawks make it back to a third straight Super Bowl?


In order to get an accurate assessment of the four NFC West teams heading into 2015, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks.


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



“The Cardinals opened 9-1 a year ago, but lost QB Carson Palmer after six games, could not compensate at the position, and lost five of their last seven including a wild card exit against Carolina."…


"Bruce Arians has an ability to tap into the mentality of pro players and they have responded to his approach in a big way."…

"If Palmer can come back healthy, their passing game should pick up where it left off before his injury."…

"Larry Fitzgerald is on the back-nine of his career, but between him, Michael Floyd and John Brown, the rookie sensation from Pitt State (Kan.), they have an excellent combination of styles and ability."…


"TE John Carlson chipped in 33 receptions a year ago, but because of their past RT problems, the tight ends are often kept in to help with pass protection."…


"With that said, they drafted Florida OT D.J. Humphries in the first round and plan to insert him into the lineup right away."…


"Arians is very high on RB Andre Ellington, but there were lots of doubts he could be the lead pony and it proved to be true when he ran for only 660 yards (3.3 ypc) and only three touchdowns. He did catch 46 passes, but Northern Iowa RB David Johnson (6-1, 224), the team's third-round pick, has been added to the mix."…


"LT Jared Veldheer was a solid addition in free agency last year and the Cardinals hope LG Mike Iupati (49ers) can do the same this year. Iupati is a power player all the way and can help them improve their run game, which ranked 31st in the league (81.8 ypg)."…

"Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles parlayed their defensive success into the head coaching job with the Jets, so James Bettcher takes over the role."…


"Arizona is based in a 3-4, but they love to play their ‘big’ nickel/three-safety package. Deone Bucannon was a surprise first-round selection in 2014, but he found a contributing role and registered 86 total tackles."…


"Rashad Johnson led the team with 101 total stops and four interceptions."…

"CB Patrick Peterson is an elite player and Jerraud Powers is expected to take over the other side with the departure of Antonio Cromartie back to the Jets."…

"The front seven is going through some changes with the loss of Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams, Larry Foote and Tommy Kelly, however, they still have Calais Campbell with Cory Redding and Corey Peters both being signed as free agents."…

"Other than Alex Okafor who had eight sacks in 2014, this linebacker group needed a boost, so Missouri's Markus Golden was their choice in the second round. He is extremely tough and was discounted by the media because of all the attention on Shane Ray."…

"The window for winning is closing with an aging and vulnerable Palmer, so there is palpable urgency inside the Cardinals' building to make a huge push in 2015.”



“Not sure how a possible move to LA affects the players and coaches in 2014, but the Rams certainly look like an organization on the move based upon owner Stan Kroenke’s activities in Southern California."…


"Head Coach Jeff Fisher goes into his fourth season with a record of 20-27-1, so this is a huge year for his future."…


"Having grown weary of all the injuries to QB Sam Bradford and his unwillingness to re-structure the contract, they dealt him and a fifth-round pick to the Eagles for Nick Foles and a pair of draft choices (including a 2016 second-round choice). They are hoping Foles’ availability will win the day as compared to the oft-injured Bradford."…


"Brian Schottenheimer left for Georgia as offensive coordinator, so Frank Cignetti takes over and he will need better play from a substandard offensive line."…

"Last year’s first-round selection Greg Robinson will likely go back to LT after starting 12 games at guard."…

"At pick No. 10, they opted for talent over need as Georgia RB Todd Gurley was the choice. He is coming off a November ACL, but they saw him as the best player in the entire 2015 class."…


"This is a defensive-centric team, but after a slow start in 2014, they only finished tied for 16th in scoring and 17th in total yards."…


"Their front line has phenomenal talent in DEs Robert Quinn and Chris Long, plus DTs Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and new addition Nick Fairley."…


"Akeem Ayers was signed in free agency from New England as a Sam linebacker, while James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree are very active defenders."…

"In the back end, the Rams traded for Bucs’ safety Mark Barron in October and they are hoping that he, T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod can give them the ability to put three safeties on the field together to contend with the taller wide receivers and bigger tight ends of the league."…

"The corners are good enough with pressure up front as Janoris Jenkins has always been athletic and E.J. Gaines was an impressive sixth-round find in last year’s draft."…


"With San Francisco losing so many starting caliber players in the offseason, maybe the door is open for the Rams to get out of the NFC West cellar."…


"How Foles plays behind a shaky OL will determine much of what happens both on and off the field in 2015.”



“As many in the league anticipated, the 49ers’ brass got what they wanted at the end of 2014, head coach Jim Harbaugh departing for another job. In what was discussed and speculated on for almost two years, the divorce finally happened when the parties mutually agreed to part ways and Harbaugh left for Michigan."…


"DL coach Jim Tomsula takes over and he was rumored to be the internal favorite all along."…

"He will have his hands full trying to make QB Colin Kaepernick into a bona fide starter and figuring out how to replace five notable players that retired or left in free agency on the defensive side of the football."…

"Kaepernick spent the offseason in Arizona re-tooling his mechanics and it will be interesting to see if that training can translate to the real season."…

"RB Frank Gore hit free agency and ended up with Indianapolis, so Carlos Hyde, who only had 333 yards rushing last year, will become the feature back."…

"The offensive line is still in the top third, if everyone is healthy, and should bounce back from a subpar showing in 2014."…


"Mike Iupati opted for the Cardinals, which opens his LG spot for Brandon Thomas who essentially ‘redshirted’ last season with an ACL tear."…


"WR Anquan Boldin had his seventh 1,000-yard plus season despite the 49ers ranking 30th in passing at 191.4 yards per game…


"Torrey Smith was brought in from the Ravens to replace Michael Crabtree, who went across the Bay to Oakland."…


"Maybe the biggest key for Kaepernick will be getting TE Vernon Davis back into the offense, he only caught 26 balls for a 9.4 average and two touchdowns last season."…


"On defense, DE Darnell Dockett decided to stay within the division and he will bolster the front in the absence of Ray McDonald and the retired Justin Smith."…

"They also drafted Oregon DE Arik Armstead to help put the unit back together again."…


"The linebacker position was jolted when  All-Pro Patrick Willis, their spiritual leader, retired from the game at age 30, only to have rookie Chris Borland walk away from the sport less than a week later."…


"NaVorro Bowman missed the entire season, but is expected to be 100 percent healthy for the 2015 campaign."…


"With Aldon Smith only playing seven games, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch combined for 12 sacks, so this might be their deepest position."… [Editor's note: Aldon Smith was released by the 49ers on Aug. 7 shortly after he was arrested on DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism charges.]

"Former Chargers’ CB Shareece Wright was signed as a starter with Tramaine Brock, Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson battling at the other post."…

"It appeared San Francisco was set at safety with Antoine Bethea and maybe the best young centerfielder in the game in Eric Reid, but they made a surprise pick in the second round by choosing Samford FS Jaquiski Tartt."…

"Expect Jimmie Ward, who was plagued by a foot problem all year, to play a more prominent role in 2015."…

"On paper, the 49ers have definitely taken a step back from a personnel perspective, now we will see if the same is true in coaching as well.”



“Don’t expect a case of the Super Bowl ‘blues’ with this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider really operate from the same sheet of music in terms of communicating their philosophy of competition and high energy for the entire organization."…


"Russell Wilson is exceptionally instinctive as a player and with the trade for TE Jimmy Graham, he will have another option down the seam and on scrambles."…


"Because of Graham’s capacity to detach and play from the slot, his presence should create even more air inside the box for RB Marshawn Lynch. ‘Beast Mode’ re-upped after his feelings were hurt and he left the country for a few weeks post-Super Bowl, but he should be able to play out the deal for the next three seasons."…

"Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn departed for the Falcons’ head coaching position, but Seattle still has talent at every level of the D."…


"They have more of a ‘rotational’ front four now, but the linebackers complement each other well and play outstanding football. Bobby Wagner still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, yet people around the league know exactly what he represents as a player."…

"Three-quarters of the secondary starters return with Cary Williams replacing Byron Maxwell opposite of Richard Sherman and he should be an adequate fit in this scheme."…

"Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form the best safety tandem in the entire NFL, they are spectacular together, but of course, Thomas is coming off shoulder surgery and may not be available until October."…

"The Seahawks have mastered the art of bringing in players that ‘have something to prove’ and built a roster of hungry individuals that should keep them right at the top of the NFC.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC West Teams
Post date: Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the's football logos:


1.Penn StateA very underrated logo, Penn State’s Nittany Lion looks like it is ready to hunt someone down. The oval makes this animal-based logo different from the others and gives it an all-around aggressive feel. I love it.
2.Michigan State

The Spartans’ logo is spot on; I particularly enjoy the curves of the helmet.

3.IndianaThe placement of the Hoosiers logo is what makes it distinctive, and the simplicity of it makes it stand out among the rest.
4.IowaThe Hawkeye is fierce, without being too intense. Keeping a one-color scheme makes the logo pop.
5.Ohio StateI actually like the Buckeyes logo a lot, but it is a little busy. The color scheme is on point though. Also, does anyone else think the spacing of the words is a little off?
6.NebraskaThe Huskers’ logo is straightforward and clean. I am a fan of this block letter N.
7.MichiganEvery thing but the "Michigan" banner is great.
8.MinnesotaThe treatment and color scheme of this logo works, but I am not a fan of how large the seraphs are.
9.PurdueThe slant of this logo is really harsh and combined with the lightness of the gold it makes this logo hard to read.
10.MarylandI know there is an attachment to the state flag, but this added detail is unneeded. It’s too tiny and detailed to be in a logo. 
11.IllinoisI prefer the old power “I” to this one (without the text), but this logo is a little more modern and looks a lot sleeker than the old logo with Illinois written over the top of it.
12.RutgersIllinois and Rutgers seem to be thinking the same things. While modernizing their logo they have taken all creativity and washed it away. However, I am a fan of some of their secondary logos.
13.NorthwesternNorthwestern hasn’t updated their logo in a while and it’s noticeable. The shape of then N just doesn’t work by itself.
14.WisconsinThis logo wouldn’t be that bad if the W didn’t look like it is dancing. This gives it a cartoonish look and the drop shadow doesn’t help its case.
Ranking the Big Ten's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-south-teams-2015

Since the NFC South's inception in 2002, only one team has won back-to-back division titles — the Carolina Panthers from 2013-14. However, they finished with a sub-.500 record last year. With no true dominant team, this division is really a toss-up. Any of these teams could win this division, but will any of them clearly stand out from the others?


In order to get an accurate assessment of the NFC South heading into 2015, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Falcons, Panthers, Saints and Buccaneers.


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


Atlanta Falcons


“The lack of difference-making talent on this Falcons roster cost head coach Mike Smith his job, so now the organization has shuffled the deck in the player personnel department and hired Dan Quinn from the Seahawks to fix the worst defense in the league."…


"Scott Pioli will have more say in the draft, but GM Thomas Dimitroff will inevitably lean on Quinn to shape their philosophy."…


"The heat is on because Matt Ryan does have franchise QB ability, but will be entering his 10th season when Atlanta moves into a new stadium for the 2017 season."...


"When healthy, Julio Jones is at the top of the league’s wide receivers, however, the offensive line has been a total failure and they still haven’t found a top-shelf replacement for Tony Gonzalez at tight end."…


"Third-round draft pick Indiana RB Tevin Coleman brings big speed to the table and he should pair off well with Devonta Freeman."…


"Amazingly, the defense is in worse shape. The Falcons were 32nd in rush, total and third down defense because they simply could not rush the passer and no one in the secondary has shut-down capability."…


"To upgrade the pressure issue, they drafted Clemson DE Vic Beasley at sixth overall and he should fit their coveted ‘hybrid’ DE/OB spot."…


"Paul Worrilow has emerged as a steady linebacker after injuries decimated the position each of the past two seasons."…


"CBs Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are OK, but neither has the height/weight/speed to contend with the giant-sized receivers in this division, so the club took a shot in the second round on LSU CB Jalen Collins (6-1, 203)."…


"At safety, maybe William Moore will finally reach his potential in Quinn’s scheme and the club is counting on second-year prospect Dezmen Southward to become a capable starter."…


"While things have not gone well for two straight seasons, none of their NFC South brethren have run off and dominated the division, so the Falcons have real hope that Quinn can engineer a quick turnaround.”


Carolina Panthers


“As expected, Carolina took a step back in 2014 after the retirement of LT Jordan Gross and the free agent departure of WR Steve Smith, however, the entire division literally went ‘south,’ so the Panthers got into the playoffs and actually won a game over a QB-depraved Arizona Cardinals squad."…


"QB Cam Newton was harassed and hit all year behind a porous offensive line and then capped off the season with a near-tragic car accident."…


"In the draft, LSU’s La'el Collins was off the board due to a bizarre set of circumstances surrounding the death of a female acquaintance and Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings was not a consideration at No. 25 due to a stress fracture, so they opted for Washington LB Shaq Thompson."…


"2014 first-round pick WR Kelvin Benjamin showed that he was far more advanced than people expected and looks like a future star in the league."...


"TE Greg Olsen has quietly enjoyed a very productive NFL career after being traded from Chicago in July 2011."…


"The Greg Hardy legal situation drained the entire organization on and off the field, and while he spent almost the entire season on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, the Panthers still managed to finish 10th in total defense."…


"Their front seven is strong with legit interior defensive linemen and all-star LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis."…


"The secondary survived due to the emergence of two rookies: CB Bene Benwikere and SS Tre Boston, but surprisingly, the entire unit was not addressed in the draft."…


"With Newton and Kuechly as their cornerstones, Carolina will always contend for division honors, the question is can they improve enough everywhere else to challenge for a Super Bowl?."...


"The guess here is probably not due to their weaknesses at OT and in the secondary.”


New Orleans Saints


“On paper, the Saints made a financial commitment for the 2014 season that was going to put them in position to challenge for a Super Bowl championship. Instead, they finished 7-9 and found themselves $30 million over the salary cap heading into the 2015 league year."…

"After all the contract angst about TE Jimmy Graham last year, they traded him to Seattle on the eve of free agency for a first-round pick (No. 31) and center Max Unger. The offensive line still has OG Jahri Evans and they drafted Stanford OT Andrus Peat with the 13th overall selection."…

"RB Mark Ingram was extended, while C.J. Spiller was added to the backfield in March."…

"Drew Brees is a tactical QB and needs precision around him in the form of timing and disciplined routes. WR Kenny Stills was shipped to Miami and, from afar, it appears that he and Graham were not on the same page with the face of the franchise."…

"The defense hit rock bottom in nearly every statistical category and it all began with the knee injury to Jairus Byrd after four games."…

"The Rob Ryan scheme never generated the chaos needed to create fumbles and interceptions and the Saints finished the year minus-13 in turnover margin."…

"With Seattle's first-round pick, New Orleans drafted Clemson LB Stephone Anthony who will bring leadership and production to the position.”


"If DE Cameron Jordan can return to form and Byrd and fellow safety Kenny Vaccaro bounce back from their injuries, with the addition of CB Brandon Browner to counter the big receivers in this division, New Orleans could bounce back in a big way in 2015."…


Tampa Bay Buccaneers


“In the first year of the Lovie Smith/Jason Licht era, the Buccaneers were very aggressive in free agency and praised for all their additions last March. After a disastrous 2-14 campaign, veterans Josh McCown, Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson were released and Tampa Bay appears ready to start over with No. 1 pick QB Jameis Winston as the central figure in their rebuilding efforts."…


"He will have the ability to play 'above-the-rim' with over-sized WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the perimeter, but someone needs to emerge as a slot receiver and the offensive line has to be better than last year’s horrid group that contributed to the Bucs being 29th in rushing offense and tied for 29th in sacks allowed."…


"Penn State OT Donovan Smith and Hobart College OG Ali Marpet were both selected in the second round, so that’s a start to constructing a pocket for Winston who needs room to operate because of his leggy build and one-speed athleticism."…


"Dirk Koetter is the new offensive coordinator and he will be tasked to maximize the abilities of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins who flashed as a rookie."…


"Defensively, DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David are Pro Bowl-caliber players, but no one else must be game-planned for by opponent offenses."…


"The pass rush was not addressed in the draft, so George Johnson (trade with Lions) and Jacquies Smith will enter camp as the opening day starters."…


"The back end has been turned over completely since 2013 with only CBs Johnthan Banks and Alterruan Verner returning from last year’s unit."…


"Safeties Mark Barron (in-season trade to Rams) and Dashon Goldson (March trade to Redskins) were both jettisoned, so while the offense has received all of the media attention, the defense has been completely re-worked from front to back, but this is a group that is a work in progress.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC South Teams
Post date: Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-north-teams-2015

The Green Bay Packers have won four straight NFC North titles, and that grasp atop the standings doesn't seem to be fading away anytime soon. However, this certainly remains a very interesting division, and each team's success could revolve around just a few key players. The Vikings will have Adrian Peterson back, so that should have a strong impact on the team. Will it be enough to make the playoffs though? How will these teams compete with the dominant Packers?


In order to get an accurate assessment of how the four NFC North teams are shaping up heading into the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings.


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



“With high hopes for 2014, the Bears’ season quickly dissolved into a 5-11 campaign due to a dysfunctional locker room, no apparent leadership from the head coach or QB positions and a defense that made zero strides as a unit."…


"Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery were shown the door and veteran coach John Fox and first-time GM Ryan Pace were hired in the offseason."…


"New offensive coordinator Adam Gase followed Fox from Denver and he has the unenviable task of ‘fixing’ Jay Cutler."…


"WR Brandon Marshall was traded to the Jets, but Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett all return, and West Virginia WR Kevin White was chosen at pick No. 7, so there is ‘talent’ in the building."… [Editor's note: Kevin White will start the season on the Physically Unable to Play (PUP) list because of a stress fracture in his shin that will require surgery. He will miss the first six games, at minimum.]


"OG Kyle Long has proven to be a Pro Bowl-level player, but the rest of the offensive line is a work in progress."…


"Vic Fangio comes to the Windy City from the 49ers as the defensive coordinator and he has one of the toughest jobs in football as Chicago tries to transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4."…


"They signed a notable free agent at every level of the defense in OLB/DE Pernell McPhee (Ravens), LB Mason Foster (Buccaneers) and safety Antrel Rolle (Giants). McPhee has never been a full-time player, Foster missed most of 2014 with an Achilles injury and Rolle is on the backside of his career, however, they can provide a new voice and serve as a conduit for Fangio to the other defensive players."…


"PK Robbie Gould struggled with a nagging quad injury all season and only made 9-of-12 field goals in 12 games."…


"Fox and Co. will try to push the reset button with a roster of mixed pieces and parts, but this looks like the weakest team in the division.”



“Give Jim Caldwell and his staff credit, they cleaned up the turnover margin (minus-12 to plus-seven) and put themselves in position to win 11 games last year."…


"They dialed back QB Matthew Stafford and relied on a defense that finished top two in run, total and scoring defense."…


"DT Ndamukong Suh and his contract situation dominated the headlines for months on end before they opted not to franchise tag him and he signed with the Dolphins. Now, the trick will be to see if Haloti Ngata and a host of others can replace Suh in the middle."…


"Calvin Johnson continues to be a preeminent talent in the league, but he did miss three games in 2014."…


"The Lions are looking for much more from last year’s first-round pick, TE Eric Ebron, to give Stafford another safe option in the passing game."…


"Joique Bell is a dependable RB and Theo Riddick will assume the Reggie Bush role…The offensive line was uneven last year, but first-round pick, Duke OG Laken Tomlinson should help right away."…


"DE Ziggy Ansah is developing nicely as a complete player and their linebackers are underrated as a group."…


"Overall, this secondary was OK with Suh and that front, but they did add a pair of rookie corners in Stanford’s CB Alex Carter and Texas’ Quandre Diggs."…


"After shuffling through three placekickers, Matt Prater came onboard and was adequate enough to hold the job."…


"GM Martin Mayhew made the right call on Caldwell as coach in 2014. With more organizational leadership stability and financial flexibility post-Suh, it will be interesting to see if the Lions can chase down the Packers in the division.”



“The Packers major in evaluating college prospects and their own team, then they sit back and use this knowledge to selectively sign pro free agents and fill specific needs in the draft."…


"GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy are the longest-tenured duo in the entire NFL and that continuity pays dividends when it comes to scouting and developing players."…


"Offensively, Green Bay is set at all of the skill positions with Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb all at the top of their respective games."…


"The offensive line is more functional than spectacular, but they found a fifth-round gem in OC Corey Linsley last year."…


"This is a middle-of-the-league defense and they will rely on a wave of linemen and the flexibility of Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers to bolster their front, while they drafted Arizona State DB Damarious Randall in the first round and Miami-OH CB Quentin Rollins in the second."…


"Much will be expected of Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde, so the competition for playing time will be intense in training camp."…


"McCarthy announced over the winter that he would no longer call plays in order to focus on the entire team, this coming after the Packers gave up seven blocked kicks during the season and melted down in the final minutes of the NFC title game on special teams. Still, as long as Rodgers is healthy, they are the clear front-runners in the NFC North.”



“Mike Zimmer put his imprint on this team with a no-nonsense, tough guy approach that resulted in a very competitive 7-9 record despite not having RB Adrian Peterson for the final 15 games."…


"There are three major coaching chores for the Vikings on offense in 2015: the continued development of QB Teddy Bridgewater, getting OT Matt Kalil back to Pro Bowl form and tapping into the raw talent of underachieving WR Cordarrelle Patterson."…

"Bridgewater looks like the future at the position after starting 12 games and hitting 64.6 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while leading the team to four come-from-behind victories."…


"The Peterson suspension/reinstatement, ‘I Don’t Want To Play in Minnesota Anymore Game,’ grabbed all the headlines during the spring, but at the end of the day, he was not traded, so the anticipation is that he will be in a purple uniform by September."…


"They traded for Mike Wallace from the Dolphins to give them a vertical threat, while figuring out what happens with Patterson."…


"TE Kyle Rudolph is solid and the rest of the offensive line is intact, so there is a degree of continuity around Bridgewater."…

"DE Everson Griffen and rookie OLB Anthony Barr are both playmakers, and the Vikings added an immediate starter in Round 2 with the selection of UCLA LB Eric Kendricks."…


"The secondary has more ‘ability’ than results, but still added the draft’s consensus No. 1 corner, Trae Waynes from Michigan State."… 


"The reality is that there is a blue-chip talent in virtually every position group on this roster. If DT Sharrif Floyd, safety Harrison Smith and CB Xavier Rhodes continue to improve, this defense has the makings of becoming a top-third unit in the league.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC North Teams
Post date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the 's football logos:


 TeamLogo Analysis
1.Texas Talk about classic. The Longhorns’ logo is simply unique and is arguably one of the best  in college football.
2.West Virginia Perfect placement. The placement of the WV is what makes this logo. It’s different and the sharp edges really bring a strong, tough look to the logo.
3.Oklahoma Again, like the West Virginia logo, this logo stands out because of the placement of the letters. It’s clean, bold and gets right to the point.
4.Kansas State Kansas State’s logo is an aggressive take on a silhouette, and I love it. The simplicity in the details is what makes this logo shine. 
5.TCU The block-style font is classic in the world of sports logos. A three-letter logo can sometimes be tricky to keep balanced, but curving the letters was the right way to go.
6.Baylor The placement of this logo is similar to the Sooners one, but in my book, the thickness of the gold stroke weakens this logo.
7.Iowa State  I am a fan of block letters and arched text, but this logo has too much going on. Backing off on something — beveling, stoke or color would strengthen the logo.
8.Oklahoma State This is not a monogram, but a logo. If the words did not vary so drastically in size I think the logo would have a stronger presence. I do enjoy the use of the black and orange, but the thin grey stroke is unnecessary.
9.Texas Tech Great placement; too much beveling. The two-toned colors along with both a white and black stroke makes this logo look overdone.
10.Kansas The Jayhawk has design potential, but this cartoon look isn’t it. Someone needs to jump into the 21st century and modernize this bad boy.
Ranking the Big 12's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-east-teams-2015

The NFC East is tough. From an external look, the Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants all have legitimate chances to win this division. The Redskins need to improve a lot, but they're headed in that direction. There's a reason that this division has some of the most intense rivalries, and that should play out over the course of the season. Each team has won the division once in the past four seasons. Is it time again for a new team to take the title?


In order to get an accurate assessment of how the NFC East looks entering the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Redskins.


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



“The pick of OG Zack Martin in last year’s firstround over QB Johnny Manziel showed a discipline and direction uncommon to the Cowboys since the Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells tenures."…


"Jerry and Stephen Jones wisely added to their offensive line, which helped the run game, protected QB Tony Romo better and gave some cover to their suspect defense."…


"Romo enjoyed a Pro Bowl-level season by hitting nearly 70 percent of his passes with 34 touchdowns and only nine picks."…


"DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing with 1,845 yards, but he hit free agency, and again, the Jones’ demonstrated their new-found restraint and did not chase him beyond the predetermined budget. To their surprise, he ended up in Philadelphia, and it seemed obvious that a RB would be taken in the first three rounds of the draft."…


"That did not happen, so at present, free agent Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar will shoulder the load behind this OL."…


"TE Jason Witten is one of the most competitive, consistent performers in the league, all he does is block, catch passes and lead by example."…


"Dez Bryant is a dominant force on the outside because of his physical stature and desire to go after the football."…


"WR Terrence Williams flies under the radar, but he had 37 catches last year, eight of which went for scores and Cole Beasley re-upped as their slot receiver (37 grabs in 2015), too, so they are set out wide."…


"Head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan must stay balanced and lean on their run game to set up for success on third downs (47.1 percent conversions/2nd in NFL), rather than wanting to throw the football all over the lot."…


"Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli made enough lemonade out of this group to keep the Cowboys competitive all year and into the playoffs."…


"They signed DE Greg Hardy to help with the pass rush (28 total sacks/28th in league), and was was a 10-game suspension was reduced upon appeal to just four."…


"Nebraska pass rusher Randy Gregory fell into the second round after his well-chronicled marijuana issues and the Cowboys were more than willing to take him at pick No. 60."…


"DT Henry Melton took his five sacks to Tampa Bay as a free agent, so DE Jeremy Mincey is their top returning producer with six from last season."…


"LB Sean Lee returns from a knee injury and should, if healthy, bolster a group that includes Rolando McClain (87 total tackles) and Anthony Hitchens (84 total tackles), a nice find for them from the 2014 draft."… [Editor's note: McClain is suspended for the first four games due to a violation of the leagues' substance-abuse policy.]


"The secondary needed a boost at cornerback because Brandon Carr has not produced big plays and Orlando Scandrick is better as a nickel back than full-time starter, so they added UConn CB Byron Jones as their first-round pick."…


"Barry Church led the team in tackles from one safety post, while J.J. Wilcox has developed into a dependable starter."…


"The Cowboys must stick with their formula in order to win the NFC East again, and that is to run the football, set up manageable third downs, score touchdowns in the red zone (64.7 percent TD rate/2nd in NFL) and continue to mask their sub-standard defense.”



“The Giants stuck with head coach Tom Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese, while making sweeping changes to their offense with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo last year."…


"After some growing pains for the entire offense, Eli Manning took off and finished with 30 touchdowns and cut his interceptions in half from 27 to 14. He enters the final season of his seven-year/$107 million deal, but if he plays like he did in 2014, another extension at $20 million-plus per year will be on the table."…


"In only 12 games, WR Odell Beckham earned a Pro Bowl trip with 91 receptions for 1,305 yards (14.3avg) and 12 touchdowns. He is a terrific, hand-eye coordination athlete with change-of-direction skills and big speed."…


"Victor Cruz went down after six games with a patellar injury and his 100 percent return is in question for September/October."…


"Rueben Randle doesn’t get much recognition, but he chipped in 71 catches and three touchdowns, and has developed into a solid No. 3 WR."…


"The biggest surprise may have been the performance of TE Larry Donnell, who ended 2014 with 63 grabs and six touchdowns. Everyone knew the McAdoo offense was TE-friendly, but very few felt he could be a legitimate answer."…


"The offensive line was upgraded when Miami OT Ereck Flowers was picked at No. 9 in the first round, so with OC Weston Richburg and OT Justin Pugh, they now have three young prospects that can be secure long-time starters."…


"While the offense showed progress, the defense struggled all year, so defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was shown the door and Steve Spagnuolo was hired as his replacement."…


"Spags will find some pieces to work with in DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who returned to form with 12.5 sacks and DT Johnathan Hankins (7 sacks), plus OLB Devon Kennard."… [Editor's note: Pierre-Paul has yet to sign his franchise tender and his return to the Giants is up in the air after he seriously injured his hands in a July 4 fireworks accident. His injuries were so bad he had to have his right index finger amputated.]


"Kennard played well as a rookie when he registered 43 total tackles and 4.5 sacks."…


"Jameel McClain stepped up in Jon Beason’s absence and totaled 116 tackles, but this is probably the weakest position on their roster."…


"After Antrel Rolle signed in Chicago, the safety position was the most vacant spot on a depth chart in the NFL until the Giants traded up in the second round to select Alabama’s Landon Collins."…


"Veteran cornerbacks Prince Amukamara (missed eight games with torn bicep) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie give them a start in their base defense, but depth is a concern in the nickel package."…


"No one in the NFC East is invincible, so if the Giants can stay healthy and improve their turnover margin again, they can be in the mix with Dallas and Philadelphia.”



“This will be the most-watched team in the NFL in 2015. After an offseason of upheaval in the organization and numerous high-profile roster moves during free agency, Chip Kelly has assumed control of all player personnel moves and is pushing to advance the Eagles past the 10-6 threshold."…


"They saw QBs Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez in virtually the same light and felt that the only way to get a better passer would be to take a chance on another signal-caller on the 'rebound.' Sam Bradford was the option and they traded Foles to the St. Louis Rams to get him."…


"Bradford has a pure release and can spin the football, but has not been able to stay healthy and every time he drops back beginning in OTAs, the Eagles’ organization will be holding their collective breath."…


"Even before the QB surprise, there was the trade of RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for LB Kiko Alonso, who missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL. Word has it that they felt he was over-priced and spent too much time going East-West, especially in short-yardage and goal-line situations."…


"In a later-than-expected development, the Cowboys would not go beyond their budget for RB DeMarco Murray and he ended up signing in Philly. Prior to last season, he battled his own injury concerns before breaking out to lead the NFL in rushing (1,845 yards). The expectation is that he will give Kelly a more dependable North-South option as a runner, and don’t forget Ryan Mathews was inked as well (from San Diego)."…


"The tight ends are very competent in Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, while USC’s Nelson Agholor was added to a deficient mix of wide receivers as their first-round pick."…


"The offensive line was signed as a five-man unit through 2016, but there are rumblings about OG Evan Mathis being traded and longtime OG Todd Herremans was released and signed by Indianapolis."… [Editor's note: Mathis was released by the Eagles in June and has yet to sign with another team as of Aug. 17.]


"Kelly’s unique offense has put up terrific numbers in his first two seasons, but it certainly is a scheme that leaves the defense on the field."…


"Philadelphia finished 28th in total defense (375.6 yards per game) and 31st in passing yards allowed (264.9 yards per game), despite finishing tied for second with 49 sacks."…


"DE Fletcher Cox is the real deal and scheme-versatile."…


"Alonso will help DeMeco Ryans serve as a signal-caller on the defense, and both can help get LB Mychal Kendricks pointed in the right direction."…


"OLB Connor Barwin broke out with 14.5 sacks last season."…


"The cornerbacks have been re-made with the additions of Byron Maxwell (Seahawks) and Walter Thurmond (Giants) in free agency."…


"FS Malcolm Jenkins will be paired with either Earl Wolff or potentially second-round DB Eric Rowe from Utah."…


"Philly struck gold when they traded for PK Cody Parkey. All he did was hit 32-of-36 field goals and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie."…


"However, if the two-point play rule is changed so the football is placed at the 1-yard line, new addition Tim Tebow could represent 2-4 points per game because of his abilities as a run/pass threat in that particular situation.”




“Other than President Barack Obama, no one has more focus on them within the Beltway than Robert Griffin III."…


"Washington has been on a roller-coaster ride since giving up a king’s ransom to obtain him back in 2011."…


"He and head coach Jay Gruden got off to a rough start in 2014, but the hope this year is that everything has been smoothed over, he is 100 percent healthy and will have a better team around him."…


"The set of skill players in DC is not an issue with WRs DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts, plus TEs Jordan Reed and Niles Paul and RB Alfred Morris. Jackson fit in well and produced 56 receptions for a 20.9 yard average and six touchdowns, while Garcon and Roberts are more than capable complimentary pieces."… [Editor's note: Paul is out for the season after breaking his left ankle in the Redskins' first preseason game on Aug. 13]


"Reed is super-talented, but has to find a way to stay healthy (missed five games in 2014)."…


"Morris, behind an inept offensive line and without the threat of the zone-read QB keeper, struggled to reach 1,000 yards."…


"The line is simply awful other than LT Trent Williams and he is no consensus Pro Bowler."…


"They gave up 58 sacks (third highest in the league), and combined with a minus-12 turnover ratio, equaled a difficult year on offense, hence, their selection of Iowa OT/OG Brandon Scherff as a day one starter at fifth overall."…


"Defensively, Jim Haslett survived one season under Gruden, but now Joe Barry is in charge."…


"They tried to rebuild the defensive line by signing Stephen Paea (Bears), Terrance Knighton (Broncos) and Ricky Jean-Francois (Colts) during free agency."…


"OLB Ryan Kerrigan continues to be one of the more under-appreciated players in the NFL, all he does is play hard and produce each year."…


"Brian Orakpo is off to the Titans after being derailed by injuries here."…


"The hope is that Trent Murphy and second-rounder Preston Smith (from Miss State) can become part of a three-man, pass-rushing rotation."…


"The secondary has a lot of names, but not sure how good they will be."…


"Dashon Goldson was acquired from Tampa Bay via trade and they signed Chris Culliver, too."…


"If this sounds like the 49ers from a few years ago, it is, because GM Bruce Allen was bumped up to president and Scot McCloughan was brought in to run their personnel department."…


"David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland have shown flashes of decent play, but will likely be in backup roles to Culliver and DeAngelo Hall."…


"RGIII has been his own soap opera, but the truth is, that the OL and defense have been in disrepair, and until those things are fixed, it may not matter if he ‘talks small and plays big’ in 2015.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC East Teams
Post date: Monday, August 17, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: food, Life
Path: /nfl/eat-fan-blt-nachos-recipe

We are gathered here to join the ultimate game day nachos with the classic BLT. No objections, right? It’s that moment when bacon, lettuce and tomato meet layers of chips and melted cheese, drizzled with ranch dressing. This combo of all-time favorites will upgrade your game-watching grub.


BLT NachosStarting Lineup

8 oz. tortilla chips
12 oz. shredded cheese (Monterey Jack)
8 slices pre-cooked bacon, crumbled
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 romaine heart, finely shredded
1/3 cup bottled ranch dressing



Rimmed baking sheet or oven-safe platter


Prep Rally

Preheat oven to 350 F


Round 1 | Build Foundation

Place half the chips on platter or baking sheet
Sprinkle with half bacon and half cheese


Round 2 | Another Layer

Top the first layer with leftover chips and cheese


Round 3 | Heat Check

Bake nachos about 5 minutes, until cheese melts


Round 4 | Top It Off

Scatter tomatoes, lettuce and remaining bacon over the top
Drizzle with ranch dressing


—Recipe by Laraine Perri

Post date: Friday, August 14, 2015 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: food, Life
Path: /college-football/eat-fan-schmitter-recipe

The Schmitter isn’t named after the greatest Philadelphia Phillie, Mike Schmidt, but it may be the all-time best variation of a Philly cheesesteak. Served at both Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies games, The Schmitter is a McNally’s Tavern original that the City of Brotherly Love adores. We talked to McNally’s Joe Pié about recreating the signature sandwich at home.



1 large Kaiser roll
3 slices white American cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 oz. sliced white onion
4-6 oz. sliced choice bottom round
2-3 oz. sliced cooked salami
3 slices red tomato



¼ cup mayonnaise
1½ tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


1. Prep

Slice Kaiser roll; place 1 slice cheese on each half. Broil Kaiser roll to melt cheese, toasting the edges.


2. Cook

Melt butter. Cook onions until caramelized. Place beef on onions, cook 3-4 minutes. Flip beef and onions, cook 1 minute and flip again. Place beef and onions on bottom of Kaiser roll. Place salami, 1 slice cheese and tomatoes in pan. Cook 2 minutes, until cheese melts.


3. Assemble

Flip salami, cheese and tomatoes on top of beef and onions on sandwich (with salami on top). Slather with sauce. Add 1 slice cheese and top of Kaiser roll, cut in half and enjoy.


The Schmitter Recipe


Post date: Friday, August 14, 2015 - 09:49
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/48-things-never-happened-nfl-until-2014

History is made during the course of every NFL season, and while some of the milestones will be etched on a Hall of Fame bust (Tom Brady’s six Super Bowl starts), some are a little more obscure (LaGarrette Blount’s seven career playoff touchdowns against the Colts).


Certainly, the 2015 season will add to this list of monumental and not-so-monumental firsts.


As the NFL season nears, let’s take a look back at 2014’s weird firsts.


2014 was the first time…




Won a game by 17 points after being shut out by at least that many points in the first half (Eagles over Jaguars).


•  Shoveled itself out of 14-point second-half deficits to win each of its first two games of the year (Eagles).


•  Opened a season 3–0 despite trailing in each game by at least 10 points (Eagles).


•  Won a game on the road that it once trailed by 25 points (Browns).


•  Fielded a running back who rushed for four touchdowns (Marshawn Lynch) and a quarterback who rushed for 100 yards (Russell Wilson) in the same game (Seahawks).


•  Lost at least nine of its first 10 games for a third consecutive season (Jaguars).


•  Scored 28 or more first-half points in four consecutive home games (Packers).


•  Won three games in a row by 20 or more points against teams who were at least three games over .500 (Patriots).


•  Fielded a rookie rusher (Andre Williams) and a rookie receiver (Odell Beckham Jr.) who each piled up at least 130 yards in the same game (Giants).


•  Went 14 consecutive seasons without being swept in a multiple-game series by a team in its own division (Patriots).


•  Allowed an opposing QB to complete 80 percent of its passes and throw for three TDs in three games of a season (Bears).


•  Rushed for as many as 355 yards and lost (49ers).


•  Had two different backs who broke runs of 85 yards or longer in the same season (Bengals: Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill).


•  From the NFC South won its division for a second straight year (Panthers).


•  Got a non-offensive TD from 10 different players (Eagles).


•  Limited another team to as few as 78 yards in a postseason game (Panthers vs. Cardinals).


•  Dropped a fourth consecutive opening-round playoff game (Bengals).


•  Fell to 0–7 in postseason road contests (Bengals).


•  Overcame a deficit as large as 16 points to win a conference title game  (Seahawks).


•  Blew a fourth-quarter lead as large as 10 points to lose a Super Bowl (Seahawks).




•  Passed for 400 yards for the 14th time in a career (Peyton Manning).


•  Compiled a TD-to-INT ratio as high as 18-to-1 the first seven games of a season (Aaron Rodgers).


•  Threw a fifth TD pass less than 20 minutes into a game (Joe Flacco).


•  Passed for 300 yards and rushed for 100 in the same game (Russell Wilson).


•  Completed more than 85 percent of his passes (min. 20 atts.) in a game against a defending Super Bowl champion (Austin Davis).


•  Completed seven game-winning TD passes inside the two-minute warning in his first six seasons (Matthew Stafford).


•  Passed for 350-plus yards in five consecutive road games (Andrew Luck).


•  Completed at least five TD passes in a game nine times in a career (Manning and Drew Brees).


•  Threw 418 consecutive passes without an interception in home games (Rodgers; still active).


•  Threw for at least three TDs without being picked off in four straight road games (Tony Romo).


•  Lost his first 20 road starts against teams that finished with a winning record (Ryan Fitzpatrick).


•  Attained a 100.0 passer rating in a sixth consecutive season (Rodgers).


•  Lost nine one-and-done starts in the postseason (Manning).


•  Started two Super Bowls in his first three seasons (Wilson).


•  Started six Super Bowls (Tom Brady).




•  Rushed for more than 525 yards in his first three games facing a specific team (DeMarco Murray vs. St. Louis).


•  Began a season with eight consecutive 100-yard games (Murray).


•  Caught 102 passes in a season (Matt Forte).


•  Rushed for seven career TDs against one particular team in postseason play (LeGarrette Blount vs. Colts).




•  Made at least five catches for 50 or more yards in 32 consecutive games (Antonio Brown).


•  Age 35 or older caught 400 yards worth of passes in his first four games (Steve Smith).


•  Went more than nine years between 80-yard touchdown catches (Brandon Lloyd).


•  Caught a dozen or more TD passes from the tight end position in successive seasons (Julius Thomas).


•  Collected more than 100 yards in a season debut that was as late as Week 12 (Josh Gordon).


•  Got to 10,000 yards in as few as 115 games (Calvin Johnson).


•  Age 36 or older caught a pass of at least 80 yards (Reggie Wayne).


•  Threw a TD pass of longer than 50 yards in a postseason game (Julian Edelman).


•  Scored an overtime TD on the only pass he caught in a playoff contest (Jermaine Kearse).


This story and more appears in the , available online now and on newsstands everywhere.

48 Things That Never Happened in the NFL Until 2014
Post date: Friday, August 14, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-afc-west-teams-2015

The Denver Broncos continue to lead this division, with Peyton Manning leading the way. However, Manning's not getting any younger, and the Chiefs and Chargers both made some personnel upgrades after each just missed out on a wild card spot last season. They are certainly not far behind, and the Raiders finally appear to have some pieces to build around too. The Broncos remain the team to be beat, but the gap is narrowing.


In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC West is shaping up heading into the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders.


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



“No one will ever know what would have happened if Peyton Manning didn’t agree to take a ‘haircut’ on his contract and go from $19M to $15M for 2015."…


"Nevertheless, he returns for what might be his last season, although at 39, he feels that a high level of play is still attainable."…


"If it is, it will likely be because Gary Kubiak’s emphasis on the run game and play-action will take some of the load off the future Hall of Famer."…


"Kubiak takes over for John Fox, who flamed out in the postseason for the third year in a row."…


"TE Julius Thomas left in free agency for Jacksonville, but WR Demaryius Thomas was first tagged and then signed to a long-term deal. He is a supremely talented player that has prospered under Manning’s guidance."…


"Emmanuel Sanders filled the slot role well in 2014, but how much will that change under Kubiak?"...


"2014 second-round pick Cody Latimer must take a big step forward after catching only two passes as a rookie."…


"The offensive line is sort of ordinary, but they get by because the QB simply doesn’t hold the football."…


"LT Ryan Clady is clearly their best lineman, but the rest are just guys."… [Editor's note: Clady will miss the 2015 season because of a torn ACL.]


"On defense, they are set up front with Sylvester Williams, Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson in their base 3-4."…


"Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and first-round pick Shane Ray will form one of the best pass-rushing trios in all of football."…


"At safety, T.J. Ward always brings the right kind of demeanor, and former Raven Darian Stewart was signed during free agency."…


"With Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby at the corner spots, the Broncos have enough variety at the position to match up with most everyone."…


"Despite Peyton’s protests, the theme of the season will be can the Broncos make a final run with No. 18 at the helm? And, if not, what is the plan going forward at QB and for the entire organization?”



“Despite no wide receivers catching a single touchdown pass and a defense that was 28th in the league vs. the run (127.3 yards per game), Andy Reid and Co. still finished with a 9-7 record."…


"With zero explosiveness in the passing game, KC allowed Dwayne Bowe to walk and probably overpaid for the Eagles’ Jeremy Maclin."…


"They are very high on second-year wide receiver Albert Wilson who had 12 of his 16 catches in the final five games and look for De'Anthony Thomas to get an increased role in 2015 as a ‘satellite’ player."…


"Their two best offensive producers are RB Jamaal Charles and TE Travis Kelce."…


"Charles had his third straight 1,000-yard season and caught 40 passes, while Kelce came back from a ‘redshirt’ season and latched on to 67 throws."…


"The offensive line allowed 49 sacks (26th in NFL) and Rodney Hudson left for the Raiders in free agency."…


"They are banking on Eric Fisher getting healthy and playing well at LT, while they traded for the Saints’ Ben Grubbs to fill the LG spot and drafted Missouri OL Mitch Morse to compete at center with Eric Kush. This unit may be the most worrisome on the entire roster."…


"Internally, the organization believes in Alex Smith as a starting QB, but his impending contract situation will tell the world what they really think long-term."…


"Defensively, KC gave up 17.6 points per game (2nd in league), where they were particularly stingy down in the red zone."…


"NT Dontari Poe is a Pro Bowl-caliber player and upped his sack total to six in 2014…Their biggest losses were sustained in Week 1 when both LB Derrick Johnson DE Mike DeVito went down with torn Achilles and their absence left a crater in the middle of the D."…


"Justin Houston was franchised and then signed to a massive deal after a 22-sack season and he has really developed into a complete outside linebacker."…


"His counterpart, Tamba Hali, continues to plug along and will always chip in 6-10 sacks per year."…


"The Chiefs took CB Marcus Peters from Washington with their first-round pick and they are gambling that his character and personality can be managed."…


"He will line up opposite of Sean Smith with the thinking that the Chiefs now have the athleticism and length to compete with the receivers of the AFC West."…


"This division has bunched up some during the offseason, so with Reid at the helm, they should again be competitive and in the hunt for a playoff berth.”



“Everything that was said about the Raiders going into the 2014 season, came true: no firepower on offense and too many aged players on defense."…


"The good news is that GM Reggie McKenzie hit on OLB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr and OG Gabe Jackson with his first three picks of the 2014 draft and they are all good, young players to build around in the future."…


"Dennis Allen did not survive the season, so Tony Sparano finished up as the interim coach and now Jack Del Rio gets his second chance as a head coach in the league."…


"Carr is their greatest asset, so they chose Alabama WR Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick and Miami-FL TE Clive Walford in the third round to give him more options."…


"Cooper is a pro-ready talent that can line up anywhere and help Carr immediately, while Walford is a gifted pass catcher that can threaten the seam."…


"The offensive line should be bolstered in the middle with former Chiefs’ center Rodney Hudson, but still not sure they are good enough on the edges with Donald Penn and Austin Howard."…


"Defensively, Mack was sensational as a rookie and looks to be a star-in-the-making."…


"LB Sio Moore has had two solid years of production and really plays hard…The back end is a work-in-progress and this part of their roster could derail everything."…


"With only Charles Woodson established as a starter, they signed FS Nate Allen from Philadelphia."…


"If they played a game tomorrow, D.J. Hayden and Travis Carrie would be the opening corners, but Keith McGill (’14 fourth round) is expected to challenge for play time."…


"The Raiders were deplorable in total offense and then scoring offense and defense, but their bigger issue was not taking care of the football. They were minus-15 in the turnover margin category (32nd in league) and that is the area Del Rio must clean up first and foremost for them to escape the basement of the AFC West.”



“Word got out this spring that QB Philip Rivers would play out his contract and was not interested in going to LA, if in fact, the Chargers were on the move."…


"Rumors swirled before the draft that San Diego would trade him to the Titans in exchange for the chance to pick Marcus Mariota at No. 2."…


"None of that happened, so now it’s back to trying to work through an extension for the 33-year-old QB."…


"RB Ryan Mathews signed with the Eagles, so SD moved up two spots in the draft for Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon who should help their 30th-ranked rushing attack (85.4 yards per game)."…


"The offensive line has been surprisingly effective over the past two years, especially LT King Dunlap. He has far surpassed most scouts’ expectations as a full-time starter."…


"D.J. Fluker is huge on the right side and has become a staple figure along their front wall."…


"TE Antonio Gates just keeps going, but has indicated that 2015 will be his last season."… [Editor's note: Gates is suspended the first four games of the season for a violation of the NFL's policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs.]


"Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd give them a set of legitimate WRs and they helped them finish fourth in the league in third down conversions (45.1 percent)."…


"Most of the success of the 3-4 defense stems from the pass rush and the Chargers were 29th in sacks with just 26 last year."…


"They are banking on Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu to stay healthy and produce better results in 2015 (6.5 sacks between them)."…


"Safety Marcus Gilchrist left for the Jets and Eric Weddle is sitting out the spring, except for the mandatory minicamp, due to a contract dispute."…


"The Chargers are smallish in the back end, but Jason Verrett is a nifty cover man who has to demonstrate that he can survive the rigors of the NFL."...


"San Diego has won between seven and nine games for five straight seasons and nothing seems to indicate that 2015 will be any different.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC West Teams
Post date: Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/weirdest-things-happened-nfl-2014

Thanks to the New York Jets, the first item in the 2015 NFL Calendar of the Year is in the Athlon Sports notebook.


As far as strange and bizarre happenings, IK Enemkpali’s sucker punch of starting quarterback Geno Smith — knocking the QB out for 6-19 weeks with a broken jaw — over a matter of $600 qualifies for the calendar of the weird.


On that note, let’s look back at all the strange developments from the 2014 season:


Aug. 30: The Vikings waive linebacker Mike Zimmer, depriving him of the opportunity to play for unrelated head coach Mike Zimmer.


Sept. 7: The Rams open the season with three undrafted quarterbacks on their active roster.


Sept. 7: Vontaze Burfict, attempting a sack, must leave with a concussion after spearing Joe Flacco in the cup.


Sept. 14: Every quarterback who throws an interception sees his team lose the game.


Sept. 14: Jacksonville’s first snap in Washington territory comes with 8:45 left in the contest.


Sept. 21: There are 25 points scored in the Patriots victory over the Raiders — 10 by Stephen Gostkowski, nine by Sebastian Janikowski and six by Rob Gronkowski.


Sept. 21: The Cardinals have only nine guys on the field when they block a 49ers field goal.


Sept. 21: Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch tears his ACL celebrating a sack, then claims afterwards, “I’d do it again, brother.”


Sept. 28: The Packers top the Bears, 38–17, as for just the second time in NFL history, neither team punts.


Oct. 6: Percy Harvin has three touchdowns against Washington called back, including two on successive plays, because of penalties.


Oct. 12: For a few minutes of real time, all four games currently underway are tied during the second quarter.


Oct. 12: The Bucs run a dozen consecutive plays that fail to gain a yard against the Ravens.


Oct. 19: Both Drew Brees and Brian Hoyer throw 10 consecutive passes without completing one — their teams’ longest droughts in 12 and 20 years, respectively.


Oct. 26: The Cardinals and Eagles combine for 104 passing attempts, yet no quarterbacks are sacked.


Oct. 26: For the second time in three seasons, the Patriots score three touchdowns in less than a minute.


Oct. 26: Jets quarterback Geno Smith completes more passes to the Bills (three) than to his own team (two).


Nov. 2: Carson Palmer wins for a fifth straight time when he is intercepted in his first drive.


Nov. 8: Justin Bieber attends the Steelers’ weekly Bible study.


Nov. 9: After winning their previous two games with scores at 0:00 and 1:48, Detroit does it again at 0:29.


Nov. 9: Anquan Boldin drops as many passes (four) in the first half as he did in all of 2013.


Nov. 9: After recording only one takeaway in their first nine games, the Jets come up with four in an upset of Pittsburgh.


Nov. 9: Jay Cutler falls to 1–10 with 22 interceptions against his team’s archrival, the Packers.


Nov. 13: The Bills have not scored a TD on their last 21 “drives.”


Nov. 16: The Chiefs dump the Seahawks, 24–20, despite completing only two passes (for nine yards apiece) to wide receivers.


Nov. 16: Mark Sanchez tops 300 yards and throws for multiple TDs in his first start for the Eagles — something he never did in 62 starts as a Jet.


Nov. 16: J.J. Watt is flagged for roughing the punter twice in the first half.


Nov. 17: Ben Roethlisberger moves to 18–0 when opposing a rookie quarterback.


Nov. 18: After his Wikipedia entry lists him as deceased, Emmanuel Sanders tweets a photo of himself surrounded by comely females, which he captions, “I must be in heaven.”


Nov. 20: When the Raiders upset the Chiefs, teams with QB Matt Schaub on their roster end their 24-game losing streak.


Nov. 27: Although there never before had been two games ending in a 19–3 score in any NFL season, the Seahawks prevail 19–3 for the second straight week.


Nov. 30: Washington ends its drought of nine entire games and 38 futile attempts by converting a play of 3rd-and-10 or longer into a first down.


Nov. 30: Home teams outscore the visitors 72–16 in the early-kickoff portion of the slate.


Nov. 30: The Steelers tie an NFL record for first downs in a loss by recording 36.


Dec. 3: Peter King calculates that Colin Kaepernick uses 87 words to respond to the 32 questions asked of him at San Francisco’s weekly presser.


Dec. 3: Thirteen years after being released by the Cowboys, Ryan Leaf is released from prison.


Dec. 4: Arian Foster conducts his entire post-practice interview speaking with a British accent.


Dec. 4: For just the second time ever, a quarterback (Tony Romo) completes 80 percent of his passes and a teammate (DeMarco Murray) rushes for more than 175 yards.


Dec. 7: The Panthers, who had scored a total of 30 first-quarter points in their first 12 games, hang 17 on the Saints in the first nine minutes.


Dec. 7: After never having allowed a single player to record more than 3.0 sacks in a game against them in their history, the Dolphins do so for a third time in 2014.


Dec. 7: St. Louis’ captains for the pregame toss in Washington are the six players who were taken with the draft picks dealt for Robert Griffin III.


Dec. 7: The Seahawks limit a third straight foe to its season low in points and yards.


Dec. 14: Seven different Packers receivers drop one pass apiece in a loss to Buffalo.


Dec. 15: Of Jay Cutler’s five “completions” that travel more than 10 yards, three are caught by the Saints.


Dec. 15: Jets owner Woody Johnson, who employs John Idzik as his GM, accidentally “favorites” a tweet from a fan that says: “@woodyjohnson4 You really need to #FireIdzik at this point. The roster is garbagio.”


Dec. 18: The Titans reach the end zone on an opening drive for the first time in 18 games but lose to the Jaguars anyway.


Dec. 21: The Bucs, Bills and Colts combine for 30 rushing yards on 37 carries in their losses.


Dec. 28: On the 229th pass of his career, Ryan Lindley throws his first touchdown.


Dec. 28: Antonio Brown takes a punt to the house for the third time in his career — all against Cincinnati.


Dec. 28: Kansas City is the third team (and first in 54 years) to go through a season with no TD catches by a wide receiver.


Dec. 28: Russell Wilson fumbles for the 12th and 13th (and final) times of 2014 — all of them recovered by his own team.


Dec. 28: Seattle ends its regular season with a 29th victory by 10 or more points since suffering its last loss by that margin.


Jan. 3: Ryan Lindley averages 1.3 yards on his 32 dropbacks in Arizona’s wild card loss to Carolina, failing to gain yardage on 21 of them.


Jan. 4: Matthew Stafford falls to 0–18 in his career (playoffs included) in road games against teams that finished the season over .500.


Jan. 4: Andy Dalton starts and finishes his fourth playoff game without ever having thrown a pass with the lead.


Jan. 18: Russell Wilson targets Jermaine Kearse six times in the NFC Championship Game, the first four of which are intercepted, the fifth falling incomplete and the last resulting in a TD to win the game in OT.


Jan. 18: For the eighth consecutive time (including the last four in which the winning team trailed in the fourth quarter), the NFC title contest is decided by seven or fewer points.


Jan. 29: The LOWEST price of a Super Bowl ticket on the NFL ticket exchange website, three days before the game, is $10,375.


Jan. 30: New Buffalo coach Rex Ryan, whose arm is tattooed with his wife wearing a Jets jersey, has her shirt re-inked from green to blue.


Feb. 1: Russell Wilson’s late interception to hand New England the Super Bowl title is the first thrown by a quarterback from the opponent’s 1-yard line all season.


This story and more is available in the , available online and on newsstands everywhere.

The Weirdest Things that Happened in the NFL in 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-afc-south-teams-2015

The AFC South was very unbalanced last season, with the Colts and Texans well ahead of the Jaguars and Titans. Indianapolis has dominated the past two seasons, and they don't seem to be in any type of regression this year. They have the only truly established quarterback in the division. With the Colts as the favorite, can any of the other teams compete with them? Will the Jaguars and Titans get better, or will they finish near the bottom of the NFL again?


In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC South breaks down entering the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Texans, Colts, Jaguars and Titans.


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



“In his first season, Bill O’Brien managed a difficult QB situation and rode the Texans’ opportunistic defense to nine wins last year. Ryan Fitzpatrick moved on to the NY Jets, so they signed Brian Hoyer from Cleveland and will now have two quarterbacks with New England ties battling for the position."…


"Maybe the greatest Texan in club history, WR Andre Johnson departed in free agency and will face his old club twice a year as a member of the Colts."…


"DeAndre Hopkins took over as the No. 1 receiver last fall and he will get support from newly acquired Cecil Shorts (from the Jaguars)."…


"RB Arian Foster ran for 1,246 yards and eight touchdowns, but missed three games, and that allowed Alfred Blue to sub in and gain 528 yards of his own. Foster’s injury history is always a concern, but Blue showed the ability to be a competent stand-in, if something happens long term."…


"The offensive line did enough to help Houston rank fifth in rushing (135.1 yards per game) and tied for fourth in fewest sacks allowed. LT Duane Brown has proven himself to be a quality NFL player, while second-round pick Xavier Sua’Filo is expected to become a starter at LG this year."…


"Despite not getting anything from No. 1 overall choice Jadeveon Clowney, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel maximized the use of all-world DE J.J. Watt and he dominated with 20.5 sacks, five fumble recoveries and a pick-six. He is truly a special player and arguably the top player in the league."…


"Clowney had microfracture surgery, so his effectiveness and long-term impact will be questioned until he can get on the field and prove himself."…


"The Texans signed Vince Wilfork to be part of their rotation and train up last year’s third-round pick, Louis Nix."…


"LB Brian Cushing continues to play at a high level, but Whitney Mercilus has been just OK in his first three years."…


"CB Kareem Jackson was re-signed before he hit the market and Jonathan Joseph has been a solid addition for GM Rick Smith."…


"They drafted Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson in the first round as the future at the position."…


"’QB and Clowney sum up the major questions for the Texans to surpass nine wins in 2015. O’Brien can figure out the first part in time, but many have serious concerns about Clowney living up to his draft status as an available, big-time player.”



“Chuck Pagano has a 33-15 record through three seasons with the Colts, yet he will go into 2014 on the last year of his deal."…


"You get the sense that everyone here feels the pressure of advancing one more step to the Super Bowl and anything short of that goal will result in major coaching staff changes."…


"With that said, they used Pagano’s University of Miami background to sell RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson on the idea that this is a team ready to win a ring. Gore continues to defy the odds at his age and with significant knee issues earlier in his career, while Johnson should have enough left to take some of the onus off T.Y. Hilton, one of the most exciting and productive players in the NFL."…


"Watch out for WR Donte Moncrief, the third-rounder from Ole Miss, who flashed as a rookie with 32 receptions and three touchdowns."…


"And yet, they had a curious first-round selection in Miami speedster, Phillip Dorsett."…


"The tight end group is very solid with Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Jack Doyle."…


"The offensive line is adequate at best with no dominant player in the starting five."…


"The central figure for the entire organization is Andrew Luck. He is a transcendent talent that makes every responsibility of being a QB look easy, on and off the field."…


"Every level of the defense could use a boost."…


"Upfront, they will use a ‘wave’ of defensive linemen."…


"They are hoping DE Robert Mathis can return to form after missing 2014 with a suspension and Achilles tear."…


"Former 2013 first-round choice Bjoern Werner had four sacks last year, but must continue to improve as a rusher."…


"Trent Cole was signed during free agency, but he’s on the back nine of his career."…


"Jonathan Newsome quietly came around as the 2014 season unfolded with 5.5 sacks in the final eight games."…


"The corners are better than average with a pass rush and when healthy. The trade for Vontae Davis has worked out well and people inside the building really like Greg Toler."…


"Safety is a huge hole on their depth chart and they passed on Alabama’s Landon Collins in the draft."…


"The hope is that between the veteran and rookie additions this offseason, it will be enough to advance the Colts another rung up the ladder and Pagano will continue as their coach.”



“Owner Shad Khan appears to be in lockstep with head coach Gus Bradley and GM David Caldwell, but after a 3-13 season in 2014, the urgency to take a big step forward is there for this next season."…


"Bradley has done an impressive job of keeping the team’s focus and energy high, but the truth is, the results must improve and almost the entire operation is riding on QB Blake Bortles."…


"Originally, they planned to let him sit behind Chad Henne, but that lasted all of three weeks and the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 was inserted into the lineup. With rookie receivers, no legitimate running game and a porous line, Bortles did well to survive with 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions."…


"The Jags found three rookie receivers in Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns that should develop on the same track as Bortles."…


"At TE, they spent a boatload on free agent and former Bronco Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis re-upped, so they should be set there."…


"OT Luke Joeckel bounced back from appearing in only five games as a rookie and opened all 16 in 2014. A capable line is in the works with LG Zane Beadles and RG Brandon Linder."…


"Second-round pick RB T.J. Yeldon should be an instant starter and will pair off with Denard Robinson."…


"Greg Olsen is the new offensive coordinator and he is charged with pulling this group out of the bottom of the barrel (31st in yards and 32nd in points)."…


"Defensively, they spent the third pick in the draft on Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. and he will be a star player in the league."… [Editor's note: Fowler is out for the season after tearing his ACL during rookie minicamp.]


"This unit has made incremental strides under Bradley and Bob Babich, but they have been woefully short in terms of having difference-making talent."…


"DT Sen’Derrick Marks tore an ACL in the last game of the season, but he is an underrated player and along with Tyson Alualu and newly signed FA Jared Odrick, this group should be better."…


"LB Paul Posluszny is a steady-Eddie, while Telvin Smith proved to be a nice late-round pick in 2014."…


"CB Aaron Colvin returned from a pre-draft knee injury to play in the final six games and should line up opposite of Dwayne Gratz or Davon House, who was signed from Green Bay."…


"Jonathan Cyprien and Sergio Brown will man the safety spots."…


"It’s obvious things intensified with ownership after the season, because it felt like Bradley was forced to rebuild his offensive staff."…


"The bottom-line here is that the Jags had a minus-26 sack differential, despite the defense having 45, which tied for sixth in the league.”



“After the Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston as the No. 1 overall choice in this year’s draft, the entire league focused on what the Titans would do at No. 2."…


"Now, we know the answer, they opted to stay put and pick Marcus Mariota and will attempt to get him up to speed as fast as possible in terms of transitioning from the spread he ran at Oregon to a more traditional NFL offense."…


"Jake Locker was a free agent, but retired unexpectedly, and Zach Mettenberger went 0-6, before going down with a shoulder last season, so the Mariota pick really makes sense."…


"RB Bishop Sankey was disappointing as a rookie (569 yards/3.7 ypc/2 TD), but part of his struggles were tied to an underachieving offensive line that should be improved in 2014 with Taylor Lewan firmly entrenched at left tackle, a healthy rebound from Andy Levitre at LG and Chance Warmack rounding back into shape at RG."…


"They signed Byron Bell from Carolina in the second wave of free agency as a stop-gap fix at RT."…


"TE Delanie Walker has more to give with better QB play, he caught 63 passes and four touchdowns despite the passing game issues last year."…


"The Titans do not have a legit No. 1 wide receiver, however, they do have hope for the continued development of Kendall Wright (57 rec./6 TD) and Justin Hunter (28 rec./17.8 ypc/3 TD) and drafted former Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham (6-5, 237), who hasn’t played since 2013 due to off-field issues."…


"Ken Whisenhunt has to fix an offense that finished 30th in points (15.9 per game) and 31st in third down conversions (30.1 percent)."…


"Dick LeBeau arrives from Pittsburgh and will orchestrate the defense even though Ray Horton has the coordinator title."…


"Tennessee added three free agents of note in former Redskins pass rusher Brian Orakpo, Bills safety Da’Norris Searcy and 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox."…


"In addition, they re-signed OLB Derrick Morgan, so if all of these veterans can stay healthy, LeBeau may have enough to work with here."…


"The Titans ranked 31st against the run (137.2 yards per game) and gave up 27.4 points per game (tied for 29th in NFL), so there is a ton of work to get done in Nashville."…


"DT Jurrell Casey can play and GM Ruston Webster found a keeper at LB in Avery Williamson last year."…


"In the secondary, they should be set with Cox and Jason McCourty at the corners and Searcy and veteran Michael Griffin at the two safety spots."…


"There is talk of an impending ownership change in league circles, so after a 2-14 campaign in 2014, it’s imperative for the Titans to show progress for the Whisenhunt/Webster administration to continue beyond this season.”

Post date: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-afc-north-teams-2015

In 2014, the AFC North sent three teams to the playoffs. The division is once again poised to be a battle and continues to rank among the most competitive in the NFL. The Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all have very legitimate chances to make the playoffs again. But what about Cleveland, which hasn’t made the postseason since 2002 and has had a revolving door at both head coach and starting quarterback since rejoining the NFL in 1999?


In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC North looks heading into the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Ravens, Bengals, Browns and Steelers.


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



“In a year dominated by the Ray Rice episode, Baltimore used a familiar formula to maintain their focus on the field and made the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons under John Harbaugh."


"They led the league in sack differential at plus-30 when they allowed only 19 sacks and racked up 49 of their own."


"Under former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, they ran the ball well and found the needed balance to protect and help QB Joe Flacco."


"Kubiak departed for another head coaching opportunity with long-time friend John Elway in Denver, so Marc Trestman takes over as the OC and he must stay away from taking the Ravens down a pass-happy road again."


"They let Torrey Smith walk as a free agent, but got great mileage out of Steve Smith and drafted UCF WR Breshad Perriman and TE Maxx Williams in the first two rounds of the draft."


"The offensive line rebounded in 2015 and stabilized with Eugene Monroe and Ricky Wagner playing the tackle spots, while Kelechi Osemele and Marshall Yanda were solid on the interior."


"It took a year, but the Baltimore defense returned to the top 10 statistically in 2015 after some growing pains the previous season without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed."


"With Haloti Ngata on the verge of being cut due to his high cap number, GM Ozzie Newsome was able to swing a trade with Detroit for two mid-round draft picks."


"He had that luxury because of the play of young DTs Brandon Williams and Tim Jernigan."


"The Ravens pressured the QB with the formidable duo of Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs."


"Pernell McPhee was lost to the Bears in free agency, but he is another in a long line of defenders that have left the organization for bigger riches after being quality support players here."


"C.J. Mosley was a gift at pick No. 17 (fell due to concerns about his shoulder) and emerged as an elite linebacker as a rookie."


"This will be a huge year for LB Arthur Brown and FS Matt Elam, who have both been major disappointments in their early careers."


"Jimmy Smith finally put it all together in terms of his consistency and availability on the field, and they will cross their fingers that Lardarius Webb will stay healthy in 2015."


"PK Justin Tucker and P Sam Koch may very well be the best combination of placekicker/punter in the entire league."



“Marvin Lewis received a one-year contract extension through 2016, so that will lessen some, but not all the pressure on the Bengals as they try to get a breakthrough win in the playoffs. Along with QB Andy Dalton, the focus is squarely on a team that has been a consistent winner during the regular season, but a failure in the postseason."


"Cincinnati has a very solid group of offensive players with a true superstar in WR A.J. Green."


"They could definitely use another wide receiver right now, but opted for two tackles in early part of the draft, Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi and Oregon’s Jake Fisher, for future use."


"TE Tyler Eifert will have an expanded role in 2015 with the departure of Jermaine Gresham in free agency."


"RB Jeremy Hill had a big rookie year and with a healthy Giovanni Bernard, they should be even more dynamic this season."


"Defensively, the Bengals were dead last in sacks with 20 for the entire campaign. DE Michael Johnson inked a huge deal with Tampa Bay, only to be released a year later and re-signed here. They have to get more production from Wallace Gilberry and Margus Hunt in order to get their defensive line rotation back in order."


"The Vontaze Burfict micro-fracture surgery is a major concern, so A.J. Hawk was brought in to provide some insurance at the position."


"The secondary is going through a transition with the emergence of CB Dre Kirkpatrick who should take over a starting full-time role, while Darqueze Dennard will be assessed as the heir apparent to Leon Hall."


"It’s hard to imagine Lewis and Dalton getting a sixth year together if they don’t win a playoff win in 2015, but the Brown family likes them both and the stability they have brought to the organization.”



“2014 was almost a repeat of what has gone on in Cleveland since the organization returned in 1999. High hopes during the draft weekend, signs of progress at different times throughout the season and then a full meltdown in December."


"The Ray Farmer/Mike Pettine combo will return this year, but the GM faces a four-game suspension over texting staff members during games about personnel use and play-calling. In the fallout of Textgate, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan worked his way out the door and QB coach Dowell Loggains went, too."


"The Johnny Manziel era was put on hold initially because Brian Hoyer led the team to a 7-5 record before he hit the wall. Manziel started two games, looked out of place, got hurt and ended up in rehab for 10 weeks during the offseason. He was released mid-April and is back in the building, but the Browns signed Josh McCown as the 'new bridge to a yet-to-be-determined QB."


"Statistically, the Browns have lost because offensively they cannot convert on third downs (32nd in NFL/29.5 percent) and defensively they have not been able to stop the run (32nd in NFL/141.6 yards allowed per game). With that said, after missing 11 games in 2014, Josh Gordon is out for the entire season this time around after being suspended again, while TE Jordan Cameron opted for Miami in free agency."


"Dwayne Bowe was signed from Kansas City and Andrew Hawkins is a quality No. 3/4 receiver, but neither will require special game-planning from a defensive coordinator... Amazingly, LT Joe Thomas has not missed a snap since he was drafted in 2007. Cleveland’s run game went down after center Alex Mack suffered a season-ending knee injury, so they picked Florida State OL Cam Erving to play RG/RT in preparation for another injury or Mack’s contract expiring."


"LG Joel Bitonio was their best rookie and should be a fixture in the lineup for the next several seasons."


"Both RBs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell flashed ability, but the question remains if one or the other can be a major difference-maker, or if third-round pick Miami’s Duke Johnson can become a factor."


"As for the defense, Washington DT Danny Shelton was the choice at No. 12 overall to shore up the porous run defense."


"OLB Paul Kruger bounced back from a sub-par 2013 with 11 sacks, but Jabaal Sheard left for New England in free agency."


"Barkevious Mingo has been marginal in his first two seasons, so they selected Utah’s Nate Orchard in the second round."


"Karlos Dansby was adequate in the middle and Donte Whitner provided some leadership in the back end with CB Joe Haden continuing to perform at a high level."


"Buster Skrine departed for the Jets and Justin Gilbert’s rookie season was one to forget, so corner is still a concern.”


“There is good news and bad news in the Steel City."


"The offense clicked to the tune of 411.1 yards per game, but the defense has aged out and is under construction with a coordinator not named Dick LeBeau."


"QB Ben Roethlisberger got an extension after he performed at a very high level in 2014. He played superb football all year and finished with 32 touchdowns against only nine interceptions."


"WR Antonio Brown might spend the offseason squawking about his current deal that has two years left, but he has become one of the most exciting players in the entire league. He had a remarkable 129 receptions and 13 touchdowns as the Steelers averaged over 300 yards per game through the air. Markus Wheaton responded with 53 catches, while rookie Martavis Bryant surprised with 26 grabs, including eight touchdowns."


"TE Heath Miller has been underappreciated his entire career and has now accumulated over 500 catches."


"The offensive line held up last year, because Pittsburgh actually ran the ball some in 2014."


"RB Le’Veon Bell had a breakout campaign with 1,361 yards rushing and 83 receptions. He is a superstar in the making, but will miss the first two games after he and [former Steeler, now Patriot] LeGarrette Blount were cited with marijuana last summer."


"Defensively, Pittsburgh finished 18th in total yards allowed and scoring defense, mainly because of their struggles to pressure the QB and create turnovers."


"OLB Jason Worilds actually retired at age 27 and former first-round pick Jarvis Jones has three career sacks in two seasons."


"James Harrison is back, but the need was so substantial that they took Kentucky LB Bud Dupree with the 22nd pick overall."


"LB Lawrence Timmons is a quality player and they are hoping Ryan Shazier can return to form after missing seven games with separate knee and ankle injuries."


"The secondary will be completely remade in 2015 with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor both retiring."


"Major help is needed at corner and safety."


"Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas will open at the safety spots, but the two corner positions are wide open."


"Big Ben will be expected to carry the team while the defense is reconfigured. This team can have a winning record and even make the playoffs, but they are not good enough to make a deep run.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC North Teams
Post date: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-afc-east-teams-2015

Winners of 11 of the last 12 division titles, the AFC East has been dominated by New England ever since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady joined forces in 2001. However, with Brady's four-game suspension, along with the departure of several key defensive players, this prolific run could be in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets have new coaching staffs and has added some key pieces, while the Miami Dolphins reeled in the biggest fish on the free agent market this offseason. This division seems more up in the air than in the past several seasons. Can a new team claim supremacy, or will the Patriots find a way to hold on to their crown for a seventh straight season?


In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC East shapes up entering the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Bills, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.


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



“In one of the strangest coaching developments in recent memory, Doug Marrone opted out of his contract three days after a 9-7 season and landed in Jacksonville as an assistant. The Bills went with an opposite personality and hired Rex Ryan who had been released by the Jets and he will bring his open-book, player-friendly approach to western New York."

"Since trading their 2015 No. 1 pick last year for WR Sammy Watkins, GM Doug Whaley and the organization have continued with their aggressive tactics to try and add more talent to this roster. They traded for RB LeSean McCoy and QB Matt Cassel, signed TE Charles Clay to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent, inked OG Richie Incognito and also brought WR Percy Harvin into the fold."

"And yet, the question still remains, is EJ Manuel the long-term answer at QB? If he’s not, Cassel will serve as a stop-gap insurance policy, since Kyle Orton decided to retire... The OL is really ordinary to below average without a single big-time starter, although offseason reports indicate that LT Cordy Glenn is in the best shape of his career."

"Their defense is outstanding with quality players across the front, including DTs Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, plus edge rushers Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes... Buffalo gave up LB Kiko Alonso in the McCoy trade, but he missed the entire 2014 season with an ACL and the D still finished fourth overall and first in third downs (33.2 percent)."


"The corners, Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin should give Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman the freedom to use their pressure packages, while they added Florida State CB Ronald Darby in the second round as a potential nickel... With Rex’s energy and ability to motivate, don’t be surprised to see the Bills pull the new pieces together and break their 15-year playoff drought.” 



“Cut it any way you like, but owner Stephen Ross brought in former NY Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum to evaluate and determine the fates of head coach Joe Philbin and GM Dennis Hickey following the 2015 season."


"It’s a one-year trial for them and a huge season for QB Ryan Tannehill."


"The Dolphins wanted to make a splash and they did so in free agency by signing DT Ndamukong Suh to the richest defensive player deal in league history. He is a major league talent and the expectation is that he will help control the run game and pressure the interior of the pocket, especially against New England."


"While the front is solid, DEs Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon are maybe the most underrated pair of pass rushers in the league, the linebackers are second-rate and someone has to step up at corner opposite of Brent Grimes."


"Offensively, Miami has rebuilt the offensive line in two short years, but lost TE Charles Clay as an unrestricted free agent to Buffalo. He is a significant loss for Tannehill because the Dolphins also shipped WR Mike Wallace to Minnesota and traded for the Saints’ Kenny Stills."


"WR Jarvis Landry was a nice second-round find last year out of LSU and caught 84 passes as a rookie, but the hope is that first-round pick DeVante Parker can become the complete receiver Tannehill has lacked in his early career."


"TE Jordan Cameron was added from the Browns, but he’s had documented concussion issues despite being a quality receiving target... None of their RBs scare anybody, so Boise State product Jay Ajayi could get on the field right away despite a knee issue that deflated his draft stock.”



“After ten years of tantalizing frustration, the Patriots finally pushed through for their fourth Belichick-Brady Super Bowl title and you get the sense that they are enjoying this one unlike any before. With those two at the helm, everyone else seems to respond and play above themselves."


"Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell complement each other well and became reliable targets in conjunction with TE Rob Gronkowski. It remains to be seen if Aaron Dobson can become a player, but with their offensive line in need of interior help, they added Florida State OG Tre' Jackson and Georgia Tech OG Shaq Mason in the fourth round of the draft."


"The Pats face three formidable fronts within the division as all of their opponents want to attack the base of the pocket and make Tom Brady move off his spot."


"LeGarrette Blount will miss the opener with a personal conduct policy suspension and they let Shane Vereen depart in free agency, but Travaris Cadet was signed from the Saints and there is great hope for James White to become a factor in 2015."


"NE has gotten amazing mileage out of their linebacker corps in the absence of Jerod Mayo over the past two years."


"Jamie Collins is the most versatile piece of their defensive strategy and has become a top player at his position."


"Dont'a Hightower is finally playing to his potential and reminds you of a 1980s New York Giants’ linebacker."


"Rob Ninkovich has thrived in New England because of his motor, technique and scheme fit."


"They did not exercise the Darrelle Revis option and Brandon Browner signed with the Saints, but they didn’t address the position during the offseason, so Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain are the current top four cornerbacks."


"Devin McCourty was retained as was Patrick Chung, so they are set at safety."


"One of their iconic figures in DT Vince Wilfork was allowed to walk (he went to Houston), but rarely have older players found the same kind of success elsewhere and the Pats are well-equipped to handle his loss with Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga providing some girth up front along with their past two first-round choices, Florida DT Dominique Easley and Texas DT Malcom Brown."



“After sweeping out GM John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan, the Jets embarked on a cumbersome search for new leadership. Longtime NFL executive Charley Casserly was instrumental in the selection of his former understudy Mike Maccagnan as GM and Todd Bowles as the new coach."


"In an odd twist, both should send thank you notes to Idzik for leaving plenty of cap space, because the Jets have been as active as any team in this offseason."


"Defensively, they brought back the cornerback tandem of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, plus signed Buster Skrine from Cleveland and safety Marcus Gilchrist from San Diego. Those moves speak volumes about their faith in former first-round pick Dee Milliner as he now sits as the fourth cornerback and appears to be on the outside of their secondary plans."


"The front seven should be very good again with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and emerging LB Demario Davis as the primary playmakers up front." Editor's note: Sheldon Richardson will miss the first four games due to a suspension.


"And despite the defensive line being the strongest unit on their team, give Maccagnan credit for taking the ‘best available’ player in USC DE Leonard Williams who fell in their laps at pick No. 6."


"The fact remains that Geno Smith is the biggest unknown on this football team, and the new regime drafted an excellent developmental candidate in Baylor’s Bryce Petty... They traded for WR Brandon Marshall who will play for his fourth team in ten years. In spite of his career production, it’s hard to predict how this chapter will play out."


"The OL should be steady with James Carpenter being brought in from Seattle, but D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold have played their best football in the past."


"The Jets need Jace Amaro to step up as a second-year pro, because Jeff Cumberland is really just average."


"Stevan Ridley arrives from New England with a surgically repaired knee, but if healthy, he should bolster their backfield-by-committee, which also included a draft-weekend trade for the Rams’ Zac Stacy."


"Everything truly hinges on the QB play and what new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey can create with a bottom half of the league group of skill players.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC East Teams
Post date: Monday, August 10, 2015 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-teams-wed-see-hard-knocks-season

The fan of 2015 has unprecedented access to their favorite programs. Three major conferences operate their own television networks. Most athletic programs have in-house video content on their web sites.

There’s one area, though, where we’d like to see college teams take a cue from HBO and NFL Films. Every season, HBO provides an inside look at training camp for one NFL team. On Tuesday, the 10th season of Hard Knocks premieres with a behind-the-scenes look at the Houston Texans. The series has shown a rarely seen side of the pro game, from the personalities of players to the gut-wrenching process of cutting a player or being cut.

College football, too, should provide plenty of content for a Hard Knocks-style program. Certainly, TV networks and the schools themselves have shown glimpses, but all feel a little sanitized. Here are the schools we’d like to see get the full-on Hard Knocks treatment.


A behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the quarterbacks — the competition and the chemistry — would be compelling on its own, but Ohio State’s preseason preparation will be so much more. Whether he’s the starting quarterback or not, Cardale Jones is one of the more interesting players — — in the sport. Braxton Miller is a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year moving from quarterback to H-back. Sophomore linebacker Darron Lee is a character. Defensive end Joey Bosa might be the best player in the country at any position. And . Plus there’s all the defending national champion/preseason No. 1 drama. No team’s preseason camp will be more interesting.


For the second consecutive season, coach Nick Saban has as the Crimson Tide fell short of a national championship. Oh, the horror, of simply winning the SEC and entering the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed. The standards are different at Alabama, and it will be curious how the Tide respond to Saban’s concerns in the ultra-competitive SEC West. Any insight into the quarterback situation would be worth monitoring as Jacob Coker makes a second bid for the starting job, this time against redshirt freshman David Cornwell. Lane Kiffin worked wonders with this offense last season, but Amari Cooper may have had something to do with the unit’s newfound explosiveness.


No SEC coach is having more fun than Bret Bielema. With Steve Spurrier getting all defensive this week, Bielema seems like the only SEC coach having any fun. He’s self-deprecating. He has colorful ways to describe gratifying . His goal is to make . And . In a league where most coaches take themselves too seriously, Bielema’s freewheeling attitude is refreshing. Have we mentioned this is a team that’s on the cusp of big things after winning four of the last six last season? This is a great time to join the ride.


A trip inside the world of Les Miles would be compelling TV in any season, no question. This season at LSU is particularly interesting. The Tigers slipped a spot down the SEC standings for the fourth consecutive season, and there’s an idea that LSU is out of excuses. The defense should be back to its normal depth and talent levels, particularly with Ed Orgeron whipping the defensive line into shape. Running back Leonard Fournette is a budding star. The question, as always, is quarterback. The SEC West isn’t getting easier, and LSU will be under pressure to turn the momentum.


With the way Jim Harbaugh has , perhaps a look at preseason practice in Ann Arbor will be a let down. Harbaugh is a challenging figure with the media, but he’s at home coaching football. And at Michigan, he has a lot of work to do on the offensive side of the ball, starting with a crowded quarterback position. No coach wants to deal with off-field issues, but if a player has to , we wouldn’t complain.


The Seminoles have lost one game during the last two seasons, but the offseason narrative seems to be what’s gone wrong in Tallahassee. Only months after the Jameis Winston era (Saga? Drama?) ended, Jimbo Fisher dismissed a freshman quarterback for hitting a woman in a bar, and is watching for his star running back face his own . Major actions are already being taken internally. Fisher says his team decided as a group to ban themselves from bars and clubs. And while FSU tries to improve its off-field image, the Seminoles still fashion themselves a playoff contender — and one with a transfer quarterback (Everett Golson) trying to pick up a complicated offense in short order.


Art Briles is in an interesting place. His program is on top of the Big 12. Baylor has become something of an “it” program with an exciting offense, new stadium and eye-catching uniforms. Briles can also claim underdog status, all of it in his own Texas-spun way. And that’s just the coach. Shawn Oakman is an outspoken personality even if he doesn’t know the name any of his competitors for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. And he already . LaQuan McGowan is a 400-pound touchdown machine. And Seth Russell is stepping into a quarterback position where Robert Griffin III and Bryce Petty have thrived.


The Nittany Lions are going in the right direction in the second season under James Franklin. The question is how much improvement Penn State can make in one season. The two big questions are the offensive line, which happens to be coached by a man who was making his  this time last season. The other question is Christian Hackenberg’s headspace. The frustrations boiled over at times last season. Some of that had to do with the offensive line, a new coaching staff and untested receivers. But he is a high-level NFL prospect who needs a bounce-back year.


The Bruins have 10 returning starters on offense. The 11th starter could be the top freshman quarterback prospect or the 22-year-old son of the previous coach. And have we mentioned that this is a school where a ?


The Volunteers are on the cusp of returning to relevance in the SEC, and there’s nothing quite like watching a program making a long-awaited leap. Just ask Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas last season. The Josh Dobbs-is-an-aerospace-engineering major is dangerously close to being the SEC cliché of the year, but it’s still a compelling storyline. Linebacker Derek Barnett may be the best defensive player in the conference, and coach Butch Jones is already a rock star in Knoxville.


Hugh Freeze probably isn’t in as a great a mood as he should be even though his program is in the middle of a steady ascent. For one, his program is still smarting from a 42-3 bowl loss to TCU. His projected starting quarterback is looking to “” after a short, but troubled tenure at Clemson. His most explosive wide receiver is recovering from a devastating broken leg. And his top offensive tackle is embroiled in NCAA questions after an altercation with his stepfather. That's a formula for some preseason intrigue in Oxford.

College Football Teams We'd Like to See on Hard Knocks this Season
Post date: Monday, August 10, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2015

It's not easy getting  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 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the  to talk anonymously about their opponents.



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


Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes



“Their skill guys on offense are as talented as anybody in the country.”


“They always seem to have not one, but three receivers. They always have a good running back. And their trigger man has been a guy who can run that offense.”


“Their issue has been defense. I don’t know if they’ll be much better this year. That always seems to be the thing that holds them back.”


“Art Briles has transformed the whole perception of that program. They were once great under Grant Teaff, then they hit a bump and lost sort of their tradition and the shine on the program. Art has brought them back with really good recruiting and great relationships with high school coaches and a system that works at a place like that.”


“You look traditionally at defenses that pair up with that style of offense, they don’t match up well at times. Then when you get to a power team, you haven’t seen it in the spring or the summer and it can get you. There’s some disadvantages in that. You’ve got to build yourself in this league to play, basically, five corners. Then you come up against somebody who wants to run the ball and you’ve got to change your mindset. It’s not easy to do it.”


“For seven or eight years now, I keep saying, ‘Oh good,  they’re going to lose so-and-so at quarterback.’ Then all of a sudden the next guy comes in and breaks all the records. (Robert) Griffin, (Nick) Florence after him, and then Bryce Petty. The new quarterback isn’t bad, either.”


“They have a tremendous supporting cast. Scheme-wise, they spread the field and their athleticism at wideout and running back is where they’ve gotten better over the years.”





“They’re so well coached. And they play hard, every play and every game.”


“They never seem to give up, no matter what their record is. They’re tough and disciplined. They always seem to have a playmaker, good linebackers. They’re solid in the kicking game.”


“Recruiting is difficult for them. They go all over to find kids and they don’t get the first pick, obviously. They have to go get some kids from Florida and obviously get into Texas. Not a lot of players in their backyard. It’s tough.”


“I thought schematically, what Mark Mangino does, he’s so good at studying the opponent and tweaking what he does week to week to move the ball.”


“The quarterback, Sam Richardson, is a guy who’s proven he can move the ball.”


“They’ve had a missing piece as far as a big-time playmaker. With Quenton Bundrage and Allen Lazard, they’ve got a chance to be better in that area. Those guys are talented.”


“If they lose (Luke) Knott, who’s been injured, that’ll be tough. To lose an experienced linebacker like that would be a blow. Depth is always a concern for them anyway, so a couple of injuries can really affect their team.”


“Not very often are they just blown out on the field.”


“The tough thing about them is when you play them in Ames, they’ve got an attitude about them and there’s a mystique. The crowd gets into it and they really support them. They’re different up there.”





“I definitely think there will be excitement in the program. I think David Beaty brings excitement with his approach. He’s hired a bunch of young coaches who coach enthusiastically and with excitement.”


“They have a junior college resource right there in state that is probably as good as any junior college situation in the country. Maybe they can lean on that.”


“They’ve just got to create more consistency. They’ll have a skill guy here and there, but they never have a lot of them. Still, they’re not that far removed from going to the Orange Bowl, so it can be done.”


“They have to get rid of that basketball stigma and approach football with a different attitude, which I believe David will bring.”


“David knows Kansas. I don’t think he’ll complain about what they don’t have. I think he’ll buy into just making it work with what they have.”


“They’ve gone heavily into the junior college recruiting route recently, and sometimes those kids pan out better their second year. They might have some guys sitting in the wings that not many people know about, who could make a big improvement from their first year to their second.”


“They have some interesting guys at quarterback, guys with some skills, but I’m not sure either of the two are premium guys. And it takes a premium player at that position in this league.”


“Keeping Clint Bowen as defensive coordinator was smart. They’ve been pretty good on that side of the ball, and he’s a big part of that.”





“Two words: Bill Snyder. They’re the most well-prepared, well-disciplined team we play all year. We say the same thing every year, but he’s amazing. It’s incredible what he’s done since he came back (out of retirement).”


“They always seem to find a skill guy who can hurt you. And they always seem to find a quarterback who can run his system. Now, they have to do that again this year, losing Tyler Lockett and Jake Waters, but I always expect them to plug their holes.”


“Offense, defense, special teams, they don’t hurt themselves. When they play ‘perfect football,’ you’ve got to match them, or else every mistake is going to cost you in the game. I think they sort of grind you out until you make a mistake.”


“Kansas State was probably the most physical game we played last year. That’s sort of who they are every year. And you better be ready to get after it against them.”


“Thank goodness their quarterback is gone, because he was dynamic. I thought he was really underrated as far as a guy who could make things happen, throwing and scrambling.”


“They’ll be solid. They’ll be sound. And then they’ll be a very tough team. And they’ve got enough back on defense that they should be in every game.”


“Some teams are more aggressive in their schemes — Kansas State isn’t a big blitz team. They don’t bring a lot of pressure. So they might give up some yards. I don’t see them giving up a whole lot of explosive plays, though. So you have to really earn what you get on offense.”





“I think what Bob Stoops has done with the staff is try to create a new identity. It comes down to this offense being successful, not only in this league but across the country. Going that route, I think he’s going to restore excitement.”


“They were thin at receiver and they’ll have to be better there.”


“I don’t know who’s going to be the quarterback. And that’s a question mark. But they obviously have great running backs.”


“It’s hard to fathom them not having a great quarterback, but everybody misses in recruiting at times. And then if you miss on a guy like the quarterback, that can set you back. They’ve always been good at recruiting skill guys.”


“Lincoln Riley will bring an offensive philosophy similar to what Oklahoma State does, West Virginia does, Baylor, TCU. He’s a young coach with a great opportunity to be at a special program. I think he can breathe new excitement into it.”


“I’ve seen East Carolina play and I know the family tree — (Riley’s) not necessarily pigeon-holed into doing exactly what’s been done by Mike Leach and that family. He’s moved the ball against some great defenses. That’s what scares you. Watch what East Carolina did without maybe the talent and the recruits that everybody would say he’s playing against. He’s beaten a lot of those ACC teams that supposedly can recruit better than them. I haven’t looked at the stats, but I doubt there’s been a year where he’s been average on offense. That’s why he’s at OU now.”


“They have to find a quarterback, but they can probably win more games than they lose without throwing it one down, and just handing off to that No. 32 (Samaje Perine).”





“Wow, things really turned for the better for them in a hurry. And that all comes down to the quarterback. The (Mason Rudolph) kid was impressive, getting thrown into the fire late and handling the situation so well. Showed great maturity and calm. He looks like a really good one.”


“They were forced to play a lot of kids last year, and it really showed in some games. They got exposed in spots. But now those guys should benefit from the experience and turn depth into a strength, especially on defense.”


“(Emmanuel) Ogbah is a man. He’s so disruptive on the edge, with great speed and power and athleticism. And I think he’s going to be better after a full year as a starter.”


“They lost two really solid and underrated inside guys on the defensive line (James Castleman and Ofa Hautau). That’s not easy to replace, and it’ll be a big question mark going into the season.”


“(Brandon) Sheperd is a hoss when he’s really locked in. But he can drift, too. He was a man in the Oklahoma game and in the bowl. He could be their next stud at wideout, if he figures it all out.”


“They’ve always prided themselves on balance, but the running game was pretty ordinary last year. O-line improvements should help, but is there a game-breaker back there? They’ll be counting on the junior college kid (Chris Carson) to provide some juice.”


“They really miss Tyreek Hill, as much on special teams and for what he did to defenses as his production. You had to be aware of him at all times.”





“They have everybody back on offense, which is the scary part.”


“They’re very skilled. Very well-coached. You can’t say enough about their skill guys. And with everybody coming back, the coaching staff coming back, there’s continuity there on the staff and on offense.”


“Anytime Gary Patterson is involved on defense, they’re going to be good. They’ve lost a lot on defense, but I see them not losing a step.”


“(Trevone) Boykin can be even better. The second year in the system, I’m sure (Doug) Meacham has learned what he can and can’t do and will tailor the game plan to what he does best. He was a completely different quarterback a year ago.”


“Right now, if you go down the schedule, you’d say they’re favored in every game. Now, that doesn’t mean anything now, other than they’re really talented and figure to be the solid favorite in the league. They still have to go out and do it. But they’re capable.”


“In the second year of Meacham’s offense, you don’t see them doing anything but getting better. And that’s scary.”


“They’ll have some tricky road games, at some tough places to play. But they’ve got the program to where that shouldn’t bother them.”


“Their biggest issue will be how they handle success. And how hungry they’re going to stay. That’s the thing you never know about. They rose up last year and had a great year and look like they’ve turned a corner. But you never know.”





“They’re only going to get better in the system. Once that new staff realizes who they have and the pieces they have and where to fit them, I think they make a move.”


“They’ve got the greatest recruiting hotbed in the country. They’ve got tireless workers in recruiting. I just think they’re going to take another step forward.”


“What’s held them back the past couple of years, they’ve gotten commitments early in a kid’s high school career and some of those kids didn’t pan out. And they’ve had some injuries. And some discipline problems where they had to remove some guys from the team. I think it’s a combination of all of that.”


“They could probably contend, because they can fill a few holes and be a lot better.”


“I see a normal progression. Just like Year 2 with players, that next year they’re more mature and they know the expectations, a lot of that same stuff is true for coaches in Year 2. They’re very proud down there. They’re very talented. I don’t think that staff’s going to let them accept mediocrity.”


“They need the quarterback position to develop. Tyrone Swoopes was good at times last year, really good sometimes. But there needs to be consistency. With another year of teaching and watching film and reps, he should get better. And to win a lot of games down there, I don’t think you have to be phenomenal at quarterback. You just have to be reliable.”





“They’ve got skill. Their skill players know how to get you out in space.”


“They’ve got some inside receivers who are really good and cause some matchup problems. And the running back is back, and he’s a good one, so they’ve got some talent on offense.”


“This will be what, Kliff Kingsbury’s third year now? I’m sure he’s more comfortable with what he’s doing. And their staff as well. Sometimes it takes some time in transitioning to a new coach and a new system. Kliff has to have time to do that.”


“Defense is the question. They weren’t very good last year. I see that as a weakness.”


“I think the quarterback, Pat Mahomes, he’s a competitor. Last year, I think people saw him as a guy who could do what Kliff wants. I bet this year, he’s really going to give people fits, because he’s seen how people have attacked him, he’ll know where to throw the ball quicker. He can make a play when it’s not there. I was impressed with him last year. Their whole team will be a lot more sound, but he’s going to be the key for them.”


“They’re getting more recruits who fit to their scheme.”


“The defensive coordinator they got from Houston, David Gibbs, he’s highly respected. He does a lot of great things to bother quarterbacks, putting defenders in their eyes.”


“The overall maturity of their team is a question. There’s still youth in some areas.”


“How many dynamic playmakers they have? I’m not so sure. They don’t have as many as other people do, that when a game’s on the line, a guy makes a tremendous play.”





“They lost their quarterback (Clint Trickett) but could really be better there. The (Skyler) Howard kid was good when he got his chance last year. And they’ve got some competition there, too. And Dana Holgorsen knows what to do with good quarterbacks.”


“They’ll need some new receivers, losing two to the NFL. And Kevin White was a monster. He was so good last year, probably the best receiver in the nation. So that’s something to watch, to see if they can find the guys needed to keep that offense humming. They’ve been in this spot before and plugged in replacements. But it’s never automatic.”


“They’re much different and much better in Morgantown. They still have to prove they can go on the road and win big games.”


“They’ll go as far as their defense allows them to go. Speed on that side of the ball has been an issue, although they’ve had a few years now to recruit and build a defense better suited to handle the spread offenses of the league. You would think they will be better.”


“If it’s a close game and they need a kick to win, they’ve got one of the best field-goal guys around in (Josh) Lambert. That kid’s got a big leg. And he’s accurate, too. I don’t want to see him lining up with the game on the line. That is such a luxury to have — a kid who can step up and make a big kick.”


“They’ve got some experience and stability in the secondary, which they haven’t had since they’ve been in the Big 12. (Karl) Joseph is a playmaker back there.”

Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015
Post date: Friday, August 7, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2015

It's not easy getting  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 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the  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



“Losing the quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, just killed them. It was huge.”


“We broke down games with Sudfeld and without him, and they looked like two different teams. Teams just loaded the box and made it tough for (Tevin) Coleman to run the ball.”


“They also lost Tre Roberson before the season, who went on to take Illinois State to the (FCS) championship game.”


“The true freshman (Zander Diamont) has some ability, I guess, but they didn’t trust him to do much. Became very one-dimensional. They wanted to redshirt him.”


“I think their offensive scheme is really good. I think Kevin Wilson is a very good coach.”


“Their offensive line was one of the better lines we played against last year.”


“Coleman was a legit back. I was nervous every time he touched the ball. You were just thrilled every time you held him under 10 yards. He had so many big plays.”


“Defensively, they still have issues. They just haven’t been able to get the type of players on defense that they have had on offense. Maybe that’s because Kevin Wilson is an offensive guy, but they just don’t have the talent on that side of the ball.”





“They got blown out by Ohio State and Michigan State, but most of their other games were about the same. They are like so many teams in our league: They won close games and lost close games.”


“They are just okay. They aren’t bad.”


“They had a sixth-year quarterback. You would like to think they could have done better with so much experience at that position.”


“They weren’t very good up front on offense, and they weren’t very good defensively. They just changed coordinators, so we will see how that plays out.”


“Offensively, they were a week-to-week operation. They were very opponent-specific in their game plan. One week you might see a lot of one thing and not see it much the next week. You weren’t 100 percent sure what they were going to do, so they were hard to prepare for.”


“I thought (wide receiver) Stefon Diggs was pretty good. Maybe a little overrated. He will be a loss. We didn’t have a specific gameplan for him, though. He struggled to stay healthy. I think their other wide receivers were pretty good.”


“Their skill guys were pretty good. Strongest part of that program.”





“I think it’s pretty cool that Jim Harbaugh is in the league. I think it’s good for the league, and it’s obviously good for Michigan. He’s helped the perception of our league.”


“Their talent level was down a bit, but they still had some good players.”


“Their offensive line was a big problem. They kind of had the same problems that Penn State had.”


“I think Devin Gardner was better than people gave him credit for. He is a unique athlete who was capable of throwing the ball. He could have been a great college football player in the right system.”


“They had one of the most dangerous receivers in the league in Devin Funchess. They had two or three five-star running backs. They had a slot receiver (Dennis Norfleet) who could make some plays. So I don’t think it was a lack of skill.”


“They lacked confidence. That was a big problem.”


“They lost some tough games. They lost to Minnesota and looked bad, and then they changed quarterbacks because everybody was busting their chops.”


“It’s not like they were horrible. By no means did I think they lacked talent.”





“Connor Cook is really good. He and (Penn State’s) Christian Hackenberg are the two drop-back quarterbacks in our league. All the other guys who scare you are dual-threat guys.”


“(Cook) is very clutch. Just knows how to make the big plays. He was huge in the bowl game.”


“Everybody talked about Pat Narduzzi and the Michigan State defense, but they averaged over 500 yards of offense last year. That was the story with that team.”


“The offensive line is a machine. They have a good stable of receivers. Losing Jeremy Langford will hurt. He was a really good running back.”


“They have a lot of talent. It’s better than they make it out to be. Their schtick is that they don’t have as much talent as other teams, but they have a bunch of really good players.”


“They have a great quarterback and a ton of great skill players. But Mark (Dantonio) is a great coach. I have a ton of respect for him and his staff. They do a great job.”


“Losing Narduzzi will be interesting. He was there for so long and did such a good job. Will be interesting to see how big of a loss he turns out to be.”





“I thought the best player I saw in the Big Ten two years ago was Braxton Miller.”


“I didn’t think J.T. Barrett was that great until we played him. He was very impressive in person.”


“We saw Cardale Jones on film in some mop-up duty on film, but he never threw any passes. And I’m embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t think he was very good. But we hadn’t seen him do much. Then you watch him in a game, and he was great. He has a big arm, and he’s big and strong.”


“Urban Meyer does a great job tailoring his offense to what the quarterback can do.”


“Ezekiel Elliott was fantastic down the stretch. Hottest running back in the country. He will be on a lot of Heisman lists heading into next year.”


“I wasn’t surprised they won (the national title). I thought they would win it. I told everybody who would listen that I thought they would beat Alabama and Oregon. They were one of the best looking teams I have ever seen in person. And they are well coached.”


“That offense was so good late in the year. A lot of it was confidence.”





“I’m not big on how you play in a bowl game carrying over into the next season, but they may be the exception because it showed their guys they can figure some things out until they get on the other side of the sanctions. I think it was a big buy-in win for their staff that will pay dividends down the road.”


“They were a trainwreck on offense. I know the quarterback (Christian Hackenberg) is a good player, but my gosh, he got hit more times than I can count.”


“They’re still a year away from solidifying that offensive line, but it’s going to be better. With the group they bring back and a couple guys coming off redshirts, they’ll have a little bit of depth. They’re still not out of the woods.”


“I’ve got a lot of respect for Hackenberg because he wasn’t dealt a great hand, but he showed some toughness and hung in there. He’s got a big arm, but it makes the game really hard when you don’t have time step up in the pocket and throw the way he was taught to throw. Most of his mistakes start right there, but the reality is it would be really ugly if he wasn’t back there.”


“They’re really good on defense, really well-coached, great scheme.”


“Their main guys up front and in the secondary are probably going to be as good or better than they were last year, but linebacker could be an issue for them because the guy they lost (Mike Hull) was really the heart and soul of their whole defense.”


“Anthony Zettel is a guy who can cause problems on the interior because of his quickness; they’ve got a good combination there.”





“Ralph (Friedgen) did a good job for them. He kept it pretty simple. They had a plan.”


“The quarterback (Gary Nova) had his best year under Coach Friedgen. They scored a lot of points, especially at the end of the year. Losing him will be a significant loss.”


“They lose Nova, but they have a good quarterback coming in, the transfer from LSU, Chase Rettig. He is supposed to be a pretty good player.”


“Their talent level is in the middle of the league. I thought they were good enough to compete with most teams in the league. I thought the offensive line was very good. The running back (Paul James) was good, but he got hurt.”


“You could confuse Gary Nova into throwing some interceptions. That hurt that team all season and really, all throughout Nova’s career.”


“Leonte Carroo is a really good player, one of the better receivers we saw. We were very aware of him. He made a lot of big plays. They ran a lot of play-action and then hit him deep. He was a perfect ‘X’ receiver for what they were trying to do.”


“I’m interested to see what they do this year. They were probably better than everyone thought last year.”


West Division



“They were fortunate to win some of the games they did late in the season. Penn State probably should have beaten them, and they got lucky and didn’t have to face Trevor Simien in the Northwestern game. But give them credit. They won.”


“Their defense was terrible. Almost everybody scored a ton of points on them and gained over 400 yards.”


“I can’t think of anybody on their defense that jumped out at you, where you thought, ‘Hey, that guy can really play.’”


“Offensively, Wes Lunt is okay. His injury obviously hurt him and the offense.”


“That slot receiver, Mike Dudek, is a really good player. Losing him is a really tough blow. Such bad luck. He is in the mold of a Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. He did it all for them last year. He runs routes, returns punts. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”


“Other than Dudek, they didn’t have any weapons on offense. Everything seemed to be a struggle for them.”


“That’s an interesting job. You would think that it’s a great job because it’s in Illinois and you have Chicago to recruit to, but they’ve never been able to win consistently there. Very strange.”





“You want to talk about a team on defense that you know what they’re going to do, they know what they’re going to do, and they just line up and play their 4-3. They know all the weaknesses of it and how to combat the weaknesses, so I’ve got a lot of respect for them defensively because they don’t try to do it with smoke and mirrors. They line up and try to out-fundamental you and out-leverage you and out-tackle you.”


“I still think Jake Rudock is a quality player, but they got sideways on offense too many times and it was definitely weighing on them to figure out why it wasn’t working. They might miss him.”


“The other kid (C.J. Beathard) probably gives them more of what they need because he can sling it around a little bit and run if he needs to, which is what you want from your quarterback when you don’t have a bunch of guys who can separate from the defense.”


“I think the key to their whole team is what happens at offensive tackle. For the way they play, they’ve got to be able to run the ball, and you’re losing two excellent tackles who played almost every snap the last couple years. I don’t know how you replace that.”



“They’re a very workmanlike, very efficient team.”


“They’re going to beat you with defense and ball control, and they can. They have just enough talent now to beat you.”


“They won eight games last year and they didn’t have a wideout with more than 18 catches. Except for maybe the service academies, that’s unheard of in this day and age.”


“You’d think they’d throw it more just by accident looking for some screens, open it up a little bit when they’re behind. But they’re going to do what they do and they’re very committed to how they play.”


“The tight end (Maxx Williams), I don’t know how they’ll replace him.”


“They may have to adjust their passing game a bit and get the ball out to the perimeter a little bit more, maybe add some tempo to just to give people a different look. I don’t think they’re going to change what they do dramatically, but they have some guys who are capable of catching it if the quarterback can get it there.”


“That tailback (David Cobb) was a hell of a player, but I know they like a couple of the guys they brought in.”


“The quarterback is kind of a reflection of their team. He’s a big, tough dude, but they need him to be more accurate.”


“They’ve been a great team defensively, probably one of the top two or three in the conference the last couple years. It’s a tough group.”





“It’s a new staff, so I don’t know exactly what to expect.”


“They bring back a lot of starters on both sides of the ball, but they lose the monster defensive end (Randy Gregory) and Ameer Abdullah, so those are two big pieces they’ll have to replace right off the bat. They’ll have a different look.”


“Tommy Armstrong is just a guy. He’s probably better than Taylor Martinez, but I don’t think he’s great. His skill set doesn’t really fit the system they want to run because he’s so limited throwing the ball. They may have to get creative and mix in some zone-read stuff to keep him comfortable unless they want to just start over at quarterback, but I don’t see that happening to a guy who’s started two years there. It’s going to be a square peg in a round hole until they can bring in the guys who fit their offense.”


“Do they have another 1,500-yard (rusher) waiting in the wings? They’ll probably have to do it by committee. I think they’ll still be able to run the ball, but I don’t know if they have that one guy who really scares you.”


“They’ve got some speed on offense. (De’Mornay) Pierson-El was a weapon in the return game and looked like he could be a pretty darn good slot receiver.”


“I don’t think you replace a guy as good as Randy Gregory, but the defensive line might still be the strength of their team.”


“That’s a pretty powerful combination inside. Maliek Collins is really athletic and has great hands, quick hands.” 



“I thought they were one of the weirdest teams last year. I think they would have gone to a bowl game if the quarterback (Trevor Simien) hadn’t gotten hurt. They would have beaten Illinois in that last game. They only won five games, but they beat Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Penn State. That’s pretty good.”


“Their running back, Justin Jackson, is very good.”


“I think their scheme is very good. They are well coached.”


“They have a good receiving corps, but they dropped an incredible amount of passes. They had guys wide open, and they would drop the ball. They could have beaten Cal and Northern Illinois if they would have caught one or two more passes. They could have beaten Michigan too.”


“I’ve heard the name Zack Oliver. Don’t know much about him, but I’ve heard he’s a pretty good quarterback.”


“I like Fitz. I can’t speak for anybody else. He is the type of coach I like. Hard-nosed. Bright guy. Perfect guy for the job there.”


“I have no doubt that they will be back in the mix in the Big Ten West in the next few years.”





“I thought they made a lot of strides last year offensively. I know it might not have shown on the scoreboard, but they were moving the ball at times. They put some scares in people. In this profession, that doesn’t mean much, but there was marked improvement offensively.”


“They haven’t been real consistent at quarterback. They got better after they settled on (Austin) Appleby in the middle of the year, but it’s always tough for a coach when your most productive guy isn’t your most talented guy.”


“(Akeem) Hunt was the one guy who could really run away from you, so they’ll have to find a way to replace him as a big-play threat.”


“I don’t think they have any choice but to ride it out and let Darrell (Hazell) try to fix the roster. Once some of their redshirt freshmen and sophomores start playing a little more you’ll have a better idea what direction they’re headed.”


“The linebacker (Ja’Whaun Bentley) is a guy they can build around. He was pretty explosive.”


“Losing their two safeties puts them in a tough spot from a depth standpoint. I think they’re going to have to move some people around or just play a bunch of freshmen to cover all their bases in the secondary.”



“Paul Chryst was who Barry (Alvarez) wanted in there after Bret Bielema. I’m not saying they got away from their identity when Gary (Andersen) was in there, but Paul is going to embrace everything about the program. He’s a natural fit and there are no surprises on either side.”


“I think the change will help Joel Stave a whole bunch. The mental part of the game is obviously big with him, and now he’s back with the guy who recruited him and believed in him from the beginning.”


“It will be interesting to see who they’re going to plug in at tailback. It seems like they’ve had a great tailback there for 10, 12 years straight.”


“I would think Corey Clement is capable of sliding over as the No. 1 guy, but having a second tailback is pretty important in their offense too. That’s probably the biggest question mark, and the other is whether they’re going to be as good up front.”


“The linebacker position is a red flag when you go from having two battle-tested seniors inside to a couple guys who haven’t played that much.”


“They don’t have a bunch of great cover guys in the secondary, but it didn’t matter as much because of how much pressure they put on the quarterback. They need the front seven to help them out.”


"I think their defense is fantastic. I was happy to see Chryst keep Dave Aranda because I think that’s the right thing to do." 

Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015
Post date: Thursday, August 6, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/sec-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2015

It's not easy getting  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 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the  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 Conference Foes

East Division



“In the short term, I think they’re probably going to be about the same as they were last year.”


“Who’s going to be the quarterback will have a lot to say about how their season goes. Treon Harris was effective at times, but I’m not sure that’s the answer long term. The old staff thought Will Grier was their most talented guy, but we’ll see.”


“If you look at what Jim McElwain did at Colorado State, he zeroed in on one guy early and developed the heck out of him. I bet he’ll do the same thing at Florida. He’ll pick the guy who gives him the best chance to win down the road and ride him through the ups and downs. I just don’t know who that guy is.”


“Whether it was injuries or lack of depth, offensive line was a big issue the last two years. With a new system, how will it affect them? If the offensive linemen they recruited are as good as advertised, they’ll have a chance to be good down the road. It’s hard to win playing freshmen in this league.”


“Who are their playmakers? The Demarcus Robinson kid has a chance to be pretty special at wideout, but who else? There’s a reason they struggled to score points.”


“Will Muschamp recruited some talent there so they have players on defense, but they lost three guys up front. It’s not easy to replace a Dante Fowler.”


“I would think their back end should be as good as anyone.”


“Hargreaves may be the best corner in the country”


“Geoff Collins had the No. 1 red-zone defense in the country last year at Mississippi State and one of the better third-down defenses. He’ll bring a lot of energy.”





“They’re the most talented, best team in the East without question.”


“The quarterback situation is a big unknown. Who’s the guy? How will they use him? Will he be a guy who has to make plays or a guy they ask to just not get them beat? I’m sure Brice Ramsey is the guy they’re counting on, but he hasn’t played a lot of meaningful snaps. Is there a Plan B if he can’t get the job done? I’m not sure.”


“I don’t understand why people there gave Mike Bobo a hard time. Look at the numbers. Offense wasn’t their problem.”


“Nick Chubb is phenomenal, and he’s a great young man, by the way. Brian Schottenheimer will come in and build it around him. I don’t expect they’ll change much philosophically.”


“I think Jeremy Pruitt does a great job with their defense. They were a little bit inconsistent, but they were significantly better than the year before. You could see his DNA starting to impact the way they played.”


“Lorenzo Carter has a big-time future. I thought he was a very impactful linebacker as a freshman, and I expect him to have a breakout year. He could be a difference-maker for their entire defense.”


“I was surprised Leonard Floyd came back. He should be an All-SEC guy without question.”


“They lost some solid linebackers, and they finally got Damian Swann to play to his potential at cornerback last year. That’s a lot of experience to lose at key positions, so how they replace them will go a long way in determining how dominant they are.”





“This is Year 3 for Mark Stoops, so I think the system is in place with what they want to do. And being a defensive guy, he’s going to make sure they’re good on that side of the ball.”


“He’s (Stoops) done a really great job recruiting, but it’s still hard at Kentucky to get the same level of player they face week in and week out. I know this, though: He’ll get the most out of the defensive talent he has.”


“The schedule caught up to them last year, but from afar it seemed like they made strides turning the culture around up there. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier in this conference; plus they have to play Louisville. In any other league, they would’ve been a bowl team, but with their schedule they needed to pull an upset or two.”


“It was tough to scheme for them because they change up what they do offensively week to week. They played at a real fast tempo. Neal Brown left (for Troy), so it’ll be interesting to see how they make the adjustment and how they deal with staff changes because they had pretty good continuity early on.”


“I really like Patrick Towles. He’s big and he’s more athletic than you think. He doesn’t get a lot of publicity because he’s at Kentucky, but I think he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league.”


“They have some nice-looking skill guys and do a good job spreading the ball around, but you still have to get it done up front in this league to win big.”



“They’ve never been a team that’s going to wow you with who’s on their depth chart, but they play hard, they play sound, they don’t beat themselves and they just win. There’s something to be said for that.”


“You can say the East has been down, but you don’t think Georgia or Florida would’ve liked to go to Atlanta the last two years? Hell, South Carolina has only gotten there one time ever since they’ve been in the league. It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done there over the last decade.”


“Dave Steckel was the most underrated defensive coordinator in the league. Just look at the guys they’ve developed on the defensive line the last two years.”


“They may not be as good on the edge without Shane Ray, but from a scheme and preparation standpoint they shouldn’t miss a beat with Barry Odom. He was with Steck for a number of years. He knows the style Pinkel wants to play, and he proved himself as a coordinator at Memphis. He’s real good.”


“Maty Mauk is definitely not the most accurate passer in the league, but they know what he is, he knows what he is and he’s won games for them. That counts for a lot.”


“What people overlook is how talented they’ve been at receiver. When they had Dorial Green-Beckham, L’Damian Washington and Bud Sasser two years ago, they were as good as anybody. I’m not sure they’ve replaced those guys with the same level of talent. But they have a veteran at quarterback, and if he can play a little bit better, they can be a real threat.”





“You hear a lot of talk about (Steve) Spurrier’s window closing, but I’m not buying it.”


“I think what happened to them defensively last year was more of a fluke than a trend because they’ve been really good for four or five years before that. I expect them to bounce back and be much better.”


“They were definitely the biggest disappointment in the league, but they had some crazy losses. If they don’t blow big leads against Mizzou, Tennessee and Kentucky, it’s another 10-win season and they go to Atlanta. Shows you how fast things can change in this league.”


“Who’s going to replace Dylan Thompson? He was a tough customer. I really don’t know much about their young guys. This is really the first time in awhile they’ve gone into the fall without a pecking order at quarterback, but Coach Spurrier always does a good job with their offense and you’ve got to think he’ll figure it out.”


“Mike Davis didn’t have the year they expected, but he was a big part of their team. Who knows, they may be just as good running the ball. Brandon Wilds has had some big games for them.”


“They lost some guys, but they have playmakers at receiver. The variety of ways they use Pharoh Cooper will make them hard to gameplan for. They can line him up in the slot, out wide or under center and get first downs when they need to.”


“If they do have a quarterback, you have to like their chances in the East.”





“I think Butch Jones and those guys have done a great job with the young talent, putting them in some positions to succeed but not overloading them. They stayed really, really simple.”


“Even though Mike Bajakian left (for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) right when they were starting to figure things out offensively, I know they feel really good about Josh Dobbs and the direction they’re going to go. Stylistically, I think they’ll probably be a lot like Auburn with Nick Marshall, a guy who can put pressure on the defense with the way he runs it.”


“Their wide receivers are big-time. They can run and they’re long.”


“Jalen Hurd, that dude is going to be a stud. They have a ton of skill coming back.”


“My question is can they run the football well enough outside of the quarterback? They had to overhaul the offensive line last year and they need some more consistency there to take the next step.”


“A.J. Johnson was their best defensive player in my opinion. He was really good and I don’t know if they can replace everything he did.”


“Cam Sutton is an excellent cornerback. He finds ways to make plays on the ball.”


“They’ve upgraded their talent level overall, but I just don’t know if they have a bunch of difference-makers on defense.”


“The next couple years, I think if they can keep some guys healthy and win a close game or two it wouldn’t surprise me to see them at nine wins.”





“Obviously, what happened last year showed what a good job James Franklin did to go to three straight bowl games. They were young, but I expected them to be much more competitive.”


“Defensively, they did some really nice things. They’re sound, they’re fundamental. It was a no-brainer for (Derek) Mason to take a more active role in the defense. It can be tough for a first-time head coach to get a feel for how much involved to be on one side of the ball, but if he thinks their defense will be better if he’s more hands-on, it’s the right move.”


“I know just from talking to people that they do feel like the intensity in spring ball was a lot higher than last year. They said it was a positive, noticeable change and I would expect them to be better.”


“It was a complete trainwreck offensively last year. They couldn’t settle on a quarterback, and I think moving them around so much hurt their whole team. It didn’t seem like they knew what they were offensively or what they wanted to be. Once they establish who their quarterback is going to be, they’ll get better in Year 2. But who is that guy? I have no idea.”


“I still don’t know if they have dynamic playmakers. The Webb kid played pretty well for them as a freshman, but that was about the only bright spot offensively.”


“I’m guessing they may struggle to score again, so they’ll need to be really good on defense.” 


West Division



“They’ve got the best talent top to bottom in our league again.”


“It’s an NFL-style attack on both sides of the ball, and they have big people that understand the system and play really well together.”


“They do a lot of different things with motions and shifts, and they’re very sound fundamentally.”


“Their defensive front will be as good as it’s been the last five years. They’re two-deep — at least — at every position. They eat up a lot of space and don’t let you run the football. That’s what they’re built to do.”


“They don’t have a C.J. Mosley-type at linebacker, but Reuben Foster is unbelievably talented. That’s a good solid part of their defense.”


“Teams hurt them on the back end of their defense last year, but they have guys returning in the secondary who are great athletes. They should be better there. Teams picked on Tony Brown a little bit last year as a freshman, but he’s a really talented corner. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t take the next step.”


“The quarterback question is interesting. With (Jake) Coker, throwing the ball isn’t the issue. They tried like crazy to make him the guy last year, but (Blake) Sims just outplayed him. Does (Coker) have the moxie? That’s the intangible you need to go out and win games in this league.”


“Nobody in the league was real sad when T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper declared for the draft, but the way they’ve recruited you know they’ll have playmakers on the perimeter.”





“The thing that comes to mind with them is just how big they are. They’re freaking huge, and they’re physical. Yeah, they do a lot of shifts and motions offensively, but the big thing is they’re going to establish the run game, pound you and try to wear you down.”


“The defense is sound. They play with great fundamentals, and they’re not going to beat themselves. They’re going to let the offense eat the clock up.”


“Robb Smith did as good a job as anybody in the country last year with that defense. His scheme is very sound, very solid and he doesn’t ask those guys to do too much, but he puts them in position to make plays. He’s really good scheming up his opponent and taking away what they do best. I was really impressed with the way he had those guys playing by the end of the year.”


“Losing the (Darius) Philon kid early will hurt them up front. He and (Trey) Flowers were two difference-makers.”


“Bijhon Jackson is their best inside guy, and Deatrich Wise is a really good long player at defensive end that can maybe be similar to what Flowers was for them.”


“I don’t think they have elite guys on the back end, but they don’t play a lot of man. They’re a zone team and his scheme allows those guys to play well with what they do.”


“Brooks Ellis is a solid player at linebacker. He made great strides last year from the year before. I think he’ll be very good.”





“They’re really, really fast. They had a dynamic quarterback for what they did in Nick Marshall, but the times you saw Jeremy Johnson come in, he’s got legitimate arm talent. He’s proven in games what he can do.”


“Getting Duke Williams back for another year was huge for them. He is bigger than they list him. He’s a big, big man and he can run — great hands, great catch radius.”


“They lost Sammie Coates, but I don’t see a big drop-off at receiver. They have a bunch of guys who can make plays.”


“They’re surprisingly physical. The spread gets a misnomer that it’s not a physical attack, but their base play is power, and their second play is a buck sweep.”


“They weren’t as good at the H-back position without Jay Prosch, but the word is they have some physical young guys who can play that position so their running game may be better.”


“They’re younger in the backfield and don’t have the one big-name guy like Tre Mason or Cameron Artis-Payne, but they may be more talented overall.”


“On defense, a healthy Carl Lawson will be huge. He can impact the game in a big way. Auburn’s defensive line will be about as good as anybody in the league, but will there be the depth there they need?”


“Can they get consistent play on the back end? That’ll be the key. Jonathan Jones made a bunch of plays last year, and he’s pretty good.”


“(Johnathan) Ford is in position to have a monster year at safety. He’s about as fast as anyone in the SEC.”





“I’m mystified why they haven’t been good offensively. They have dynamic receivers. Their offensive line is big, and (Leonard) Fournette is phenomenal. They have talent on the perimeter. Really, they have everything they need. If they can get better quarterback play, they’ll be one of the better offenses in our league.”


“Brandon Harris is as gifted as any player as you can find throwing the football. Can he win the job or can they make him fit into their system? If it works itself out, he’s very talented. If he’s not the guy they’ll be very similar to last year, really conservative.”


“They’ll be great in the secondary. They always are. They have long athletes that can cover and run.”


“It’ll be interesting to see which direction they go schematically with Kevin Steele.”


“Kendell Beckwith has a chance to maybe be the best linebacker in our league. He’s big-time. He’s what you think of when you think of an LSU linebacker, and their other backers are good, too.”


“They struggled a bit at defensive tackle last year, and it may be a lot of the same, but Davon Godchaux is going to be great. He played a lot as a freshman and he’ll be a factor.”


“They don’t have the defensive ends they’ve had in the past. Maybe (Kevin) Steele will have a different scheme that allows the guys they do have to be what they need, but they don’t have those typical LSU guys you’re scared you can’t block.”





“If you have a quarterback you have a chance, and they’ve got one of the best leaders in the country.”


“Dak Prescott isn’t the most talented guy, but I just think he’s a winner. As long as he’s there, they can be really, really good.”


“There are some defensive question marks, but I think with the bulk of the offense coming back, they’ll be fine.”


“De’Runnya Wilson is one of the most underrated receivers in the league. He’s a little bit raw, but if he takes another step forward he’s going to be a big-time player.”


“Defensively, they lost a bunch up front. Chris Jones will still be a big factor, but they were six or seven deep on the defensive line last year. They would roll their second unit in and sometimes they were just as good as the first unit. I can’t see that happening again.”


“Losing Benardrick McKinney will hurt them at linebacker. He was a really good player. He was the key to the style of defense they played, and I’m not sure how they replace that.”


“I think Geoff Collins did a great job there, but Manny Diaz plays a different style completely. Geoff had more of a ‘bend, but don’t break’ type defense. You could get yards, but he didn’t give up many points. Manny’s style is really good at forcing turnovers. He’s probably a little more aggressive and creates a little more havoc.”





“It’ll be interesting how their key guys come back off injuries, but they were really good on defense last year and don’t lose a lot.”


“They’re just as athletic as anybody in our league. They may have the most athletic front, and (Robert) Nkemdiche can really move for a big guy.”


“People don’t really talk enough about Isaac Gross. I thought he was the best nose tackle we played last year.”


“Their ends aren’t big guys, but they can really rush the passer.”


“Losing Senquez Golson hurts them at corner, but they’ll be solid on the back end. Trae Elston was their best safety the last two years. Cody Prewitt got all the accolades, but we thought Trae was the better player all along.”


“Dave Wommack is just so sound and his guys play hard.”


“If you don’t have a quarterback in our league you’re going to struggle. That’s a big question for them, but they’ll be talented at wideout again if (Laquon) Treadwell comes back healthy.”


“They’re different because they don’t really try to run the ball. They just run it because they have to, to keep you as honest as they can.”


“If the (Chad) Kelly kid can become a player they’ll have a chance to contend because their defense is going to be good enough. I just don’t know if their depth on the offensive line is that great.”


“Do they have a big-time SEC running back? If not, your quarterback better be special. As good as Bo Wallace was, everybody knew he’d beat himself a little bit, too.”


“Who knows if Kelly can produce, but they have talent.”





“They’re fast, high-tempo, and they really like to spread it around.”


“You could see Kyle Allen progress as the season went on. I’m not sure why he didn’t start from Day 1. Everyone was talking about Kenny Hill after that first game, but Allen was the more talented player all along. It was only a matter of time before they made the switch.”


“I really like how they used Speedy Noil. He’s a dynamic guy you can move around, do different things with. I’d try to get him as many touches as possible and I’m sure that’s what they’re planning to do, but with smaller guys like that you have to be careful not to wear them down.”


“They’ll be better on defense with John Chavis, no question. You know what you’re going to get with him. He’s been so good for so long. He’s just going to do what he does.”


“Schematically, what you’ve seen from LSU the last decade is what you’re going to start seeing from A&M.”


“They probably have the most talented defensive player in our league in Myles Garrett. He’s the one guy for sure that you know you’re going to have to give your tackles help with. He’s phenomenal. He was hard to block as a freshman, so what he’s going to be in Year 2 is pretty scary. He’s not real physical against the run but as a pass rusher he’s the best in our league — and it’s not even close. He can really change a game by being that kind of player alone.”


“They lost a lot in the secondary and have some guys back in the middle, but I’m not sure how elite they really are.”

SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/coaches-talk-anonymously-about-byu-2015

It's not easy getting  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 throughout the offseason or regular season.




In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2015, 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  for 2015


“Without Taysom (Hill), they were very average. I think he gives them a chance to be an elite team because he’s a difference maker.”


“It will be interesting to see if they can rebuild it around him (Hill) without having him full speed in the spring.”


“They’ve got some dudes that when they walk off the bus, they look like the real deal.”


“Offensively, their skill guys really stand out in some of the finer details. Their blocking out on the perimeter is really key to what they are able to get done with their style of offense.”


“I love their center (Tejan Koroma). He was a freshman last year, and he was just dang good already.”


“It really hurt their running game when Jamaal Williams got hurt. Just like Taysom, if he comes back healthy, they’ve got a chance to be really good. But that’s a big question mark.”


“Their personnel can be tough to scout because they’ve always got guys coming back from (LDS) missions, but you know they’re going to be loaded at linebacker. That’s just who they are.”


“They lose pretty much the entire back end of their defense, so they probably have some question marks there.”


“I think they’re a team that is a little bit up and down emotionally for whatever reason.”

Coaches Talk Anonymously About BYU for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2015

It's not easy getting  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 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the  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 Conference Foes


North Division



“I think those guys made a little more progress in Year 2 than most people expected.”


“They were really a handful of plays away from going 8–5, and most of it was because of their young kids, so that bodes pretty well for the future.”


“With Jared Goff, the numbers weren’t dramatically different from his freshman to sophomore year, but the film was much better. He’s pretty accurate throwing to all three levels, he doesn’t throw interceptions, and he doesn’t get sacked very often. That’s what you need in Sonny Dykes’ system. He had a clear conviction about the guy throwing him out there as a freshman, and it’s probably going to pay off this year.”


“They don’t have receivers that blow you away athletically, but they’ll go four or five wide and try to find a good matchup on the perimeter.”


“When they’re in a rhythm and playing at a high tempo, that’s tough to stop.”


“They had some issues defensively, and I think you’ll see a lot of new personnel on the back end because teams just threw it over the top on them all day long.”


“They brought in some juco guys, so we’ll see if that makes a difference. I know they feel like their depth has improved across the board.” 


“Their pass rush was basically nonexistent last year.”


 I think they’ll be better, but there aren’t a lot of easy wins in this league. They can definitely get to a bowl game, but it’s a thin line when you’re still trying to plug holes and rebuild.” 





“In my mind, they’re still the team to beat until somebody knocks them off.”


“It’s not like this is the first time they’ve lost key guys and had to re-boot a little bit.”


“I read a bunch of stuff after the championship game about how their window was closing without Marcus Mariota, but they’re still going to be really good.”


“I haven’t really studied the quarterback from Eastern Washington (Vernon Adams) yet, but I’m sure they did their homework and feel like he’s got a chance to help them. Without having him in the spring, it’ll be interesting to see how much ground he can make up.”


“Their depth at receiver is sickening, and a lot of those guys can do different things. It’s not just all speed; they’re pretty good blockers too.”


“They’re so talented on the perimeter — I don’t think the next guy has to come in and be Marcus Mariota.”


“I’m not sure it would have made a difference against Ohio State, but I think losing Devon Allen in the Rose Bowl really hurt them.”


“Royce Freeman is already a grown man. He’s everything you want in a running back, and he’s only going to get better and stronger. He was as good as anyone the last half of the season.”


“They won’t be as good up front, but they got experience for some of their younger guys last year when Jake Fisher and Hroniss Grasu got hurt.”


“Switching Charles Nelson over to defense is classic Oregon. They recruit the guy to play receiver, he’s great down the stretch and then he willingly moves to defensive back because they needed more help there. That says it all about the culture they’ve got there.”





“I would think the difference in style of play is going to be pretty dramatic when you look at what they’ve got coming back and what Gary (Andersen) has done in the past.”


“They were one of the most prolific passing teams in the country the last two years, but unless one of their freshman quarterbacks is all-world, they’re going to have to completely change their identity and play more ball control like they did at Wisconsin. I don’t think that’s what they want to be long-term because they brought in Dave Baldwin to run the spread, but they just have a lot of question marks at quarterback.”


“Storm Woods is pretty talented, but he’s never been the focus of their offense. I don’t know exactly how the new staff is going to use him, but I’m sure those guys put in some tape of Melvin Gordon and said, ‘Let’s go,’ to fire him up, which is really half the battle. If he buys in, they’re experienced enough up front that they’ll be decent running the ball.”


“From a personnel standpoint, they’re pretty much starting over on defense, so your guess is as good as mine.”


“We know what Kalani (Sitake) did at Utah, but they’re going to need some time to get the right kind of players in there to run that system.”





“I don’t know why it hasn’t totally clicked with Kevin Hogan. He looks the part and he doesn’t get them beat, but for whatever reason he just hasn’t gotten to that next level everybody envisioned when he played so well as a freshman.”


“You can’t totally judge him (Hogan) on the numbers because of how conservative they play on offense. Still, it was a struggle last year. If they hadn’t turned it around the last three games, I’m not sure he’d have stuck around.”


“If he comes back with a big senior year, they have a chance because their tight ends, receivers and running backs are all good enough to win games in this league. It’s a solid group.”


“Ed McCaffrey’s kid (Christian McCaffrey) is going to be a big-time player for them. They’ve got to figure out a way to get him more touches.”


“Defensively, I think it’ll be hard for them to get back to where they were a couple of years ago.”


“It looked like their young guys got better as the year went on, but I just don’t see another Trent Murphy or Shayne Skov out there.”


“You can talk about system and player development, but you still need some difference-makers. (Blake) Martinez is good, he’s just not at that level. If the defensive end (Solomon Thomas, who redshirted in 2014) is as good as advertised, maybe he could be that guy.”





“From the outside looking in, it seems like Chris Petersen had to clean up some stuff off the field from the previous staff, and that’s never easy. At Boise, he had the best talent in the league and everyone in the organization understood their culture. I think he figured out pretty quick this is a different deal.”


“When you look at some of the big-time guys they lost, I think they may take a few steps back before they move forward.”


“You have to give their staff the benefit of the doubt until some of their guys (they recruited) hit the field, but they’re going to have some personnel problems this year.”


“It’s hard to get a feel for the offense because they’re completely new up front and they’re basically starting over at quarterback. That’s not usually a great formula for success.”


“The backup from last year (Jeff Lindquist) has some experience, but they may have better options with their newcomers. It’s just hard to say until you see them on the field.”


“I don’t see how they’re going to rebuild the front seven on the fly unless all the guys who were backups last year are ready to start. They were pretty good there last season, but they lost a ton.”


“The secondary is probably the most established group on their team. Budda Baker was one of the better freshmen we saw last year. He could be one of those guys people just don’t throw on.”



“People are going to focus on the quarterback situation, but I think that’s the least of their worries.”


“I hate to say this, but it may have been a blessing in disguise that Connor Halliday got hurt last year because they got a look at the other kid (Luke Falk) and probably have a pretty good idea what they’re working with going into the season. I don’t really know how good he is, but he threw the ball seventy-something times against Arizona State (45-of-74) so it’s not like they tried to hide him.”


“They bring back their entire offensive line back, and those guys were solid last year. They’ve got kids in the program now who know the system and what to expect.”

“They’re going to need some newcomers to show up ready to play on defense. They had one of the better linemen in the league last year (Xavier Cooper), but he and the nose tackle who was pretty good (Kalafitoni Pole) are both gone, so I’m not sure who they’ve got in there.”


“With a new defensive coordinator, I think they’ll make some changes schematically and look at some guys who maybe didn’t play a lot last year.”


“When you play like they do offensively, you’ve got to cause some havoc with your defense, and they just didn’t create a lot of turnovers.”


South Division



“If anyone in the country got more out of his roster last year than Rich Rodriguez, I don’t know who it is.”


“You can say they got some breaks, and they did, but to come in with a (redshirt) freshman quarterback (Anu Solomon) and a freshman tailback (Nick Wilson) and win the best division in college football outside of the SEC West is pretty tough to do.”


“It seemed like Rich was playing mind games with the kid (Solomon) all season, and then he ripped him after the bowl game and said he had to win the job again. I laughed at that one. The guy threw for 4,000 yards as a freshman and is probably going to have a great year.”


“Their receivers and running backs are just fast across the board. Austin Hill was their third option in the passing game last year, and he’d probably be a front-line guy just about anywhere in the league. Cayleb Jones did nothing at Texas and instantly becomes a 1,000-yard guy in that system.”


“The tough thing about playing their defense is you can’t really scheme for Scooby Wright. Your guys know where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to do, but his motor is just off the charts, and he’s going to get five or six opportunities to make a game-changing play just off effort. He’s a special dude.”


“They need to find another guy besides Scooby who can pressure the quarterback.”


“People are going to try to throw over the top on them until their DBs prove they can cover. Boise State exposed them a little bit in the bowl game.”





“I can’t speak to their locker room dynamic last year, but I’m not sure they were playing the right quarterback. I know Taylor Kelly was their guy and they couldn’t take his job over an injury, but to me, they were more dynamic when Mike Bercovici was in there. He’s got legitimate arm talent.”


“Jaelen Strong made their passing game look better than it was last year. They had pretty good skill on the perimeter, but he was just so much physically stronger than the DBs in this league, it was almost comical. That’s a big loss for them.”


“The reason they’re moving D.J. Foster to the slot is because Demario Richard is the real deal. Physically, he looks like a grown man and runs like it too.” 


“Todd Graham ran the no-huddle back going back to Tulsa, and his teams have always put up a lot of points, but people forget he’s really a defensive guy. They’re probably more established in what they want to do on that side of the ball than they are offensively with everyone coming back but the safety (Damarious Randall).”


“He likes to blitz and get your offense out of rhythm. They switch up their pressure so much your QB has to really be on his toes and figure out where it’s coming from.”


“They’re one of the tougher teams to prepare for.”  


“When you’ve got two senior cornerbacks and an all-conference guy like Jordan Simone on the back end, you can take some chances with your pressure.” 





“I know ‘almost’ doesn’t mean much in this business, but they lost three or four conference games almost on the final play. They were a little better than their record.”


“I don’t think there’s a tougher rebuilding job in the country when you think about how far down they were coming into the Pac-12 and all the sudden everyone else in the division has it rolling a little bit.”


“They’re doing the right things to get on a level playing field from a facility standpoint, and they’re getting better. It’s just hard to get the momentum going until you start winning games.”


“You’re just not going to win very much giving up as many yards as they did in the running game (204.8 ypg) and not creating turnovers or sacks.”


“I think it’s pretty simple. If they don’t get better up front with the schedule they play, they might struggle to win a game in the league.”


“They’re maturing on offense. Sefo (Liufau) has a lot of snaps under his belt, and if he can be a little more consistent in his decision-making he can be really effective before it’s all said and done.”


“(Nelson) Spruce is just a fantastic route-runner. I was a little surprised he didn’t put his name in the draft after blowing up last year, but I’m not sure if the NFL guys are sold on him because of his (lack of) speed.”


“With what they’ve got coming back in the running game, I think their offense is going to be a net-plus.” 



“I don’t think they’ll mind coming in a little bit more under the radar this year. The media got so fixated on the quarterback (Brett Hundley) last year, it kind of glossed over some of their other issues. This year people are going to talk about the new quarterback and forget that they’re bringing, like, everybody else back.”


“I don’t think they’re as talented player-for-player as SC, but they’re not that far behind.”


“(Jim) Mora is a hell of a recruiter.”


If they’re not a dominant team running the ball this year, I’ll be pretty surprised.”


“They took their medicine up front last year, but they were figuring it out by the end, and they’re going to be deeper with that group coming back.”


“I’m not sure how many people even realize Paul Perkins ended up the leading rusher in the conference. He’s not a guy with electric speed, but he’s a pretty smooth runner. He’s a bigger weapon than people give him credit for.”


“Everyone on the West Coast saw the (Josh) Rosen kid in high school, and he’s going to be really good. He’s a big, fluid, pro-style guy who probably fits what they want to do better than Hundley. It’s just a matter of whether they want to throw him out there right away. Getting him in the spring is huge.”


“If they figure out who’s going to play linebacker for them they’ll be the best defense in the league because they’re loaded up front and on the back end.”


“Kenny Clark is really the key in that three-man front. You can put two guys on him, but he’ll still make plays or free up space for their linebackers. He’s a monster.”





“Their talent is just really strong across the board. Even in places where they lost some guys to the draft, it’s not like they’re taking a huge step back.”


“They may have the best player in the country at a few positions, including quarterback.”


“I’m not sure people nationally caught on because of what Marcus Mariota did, but in any other year Cody Kessler would have been the Pac-12 Player of the Year by a pretty big margin. He’s such an accurate passer and so good in the pocket, it makes the game pretty easy when you surround him with the kind of athletes they’ve got.”


“Unless they just have a bunch of injuries, I don’t see too many people slowing down their offense.”


“They’ve got everything you need. Great quarterback, great at receiver, good enough in the running game, experience on the offensive line and some big-play guys they can throw to down the field.”


“They’ve got some questions on their defensive front, but it’s not about talent. They just need a couple of the younger guys to figure it out.”


“If Su’a Cravens could have entered the draft last year, he would have.”


“You lose to Boston College last year and you can talk about scholarships, but I don’t think they’ve got any excuses this year.”


“I think they’ve got the best center in the country, which helps them play at the tempo Sark wants.”





“They’re just not a fun crew to play against.”


“They don’t do anything unique on defense from a scheme standpoint, but they’re just really physical, they get off blocks and they fly to the ball.”


“They’re not going to give up easy scores, and their ability to disrupt you with a sack or turnover can turn a game around pretty quickly. That’s why you saw them play over their heads a little bit at times. I think they’ll be the same kind of team this year.”


“Nobody really blocked Nate Orchard all year, but a lot of that was because their defensive front was so good across the board. They probably can’t replace his production in terms of sacks and TFLs and things like that, but they’re still going to rush the quarterback because of their scheme and the long, athletic guys they bring off the end.”


“They kept going back and forth at quarterback until the kid from Oklahoma (Kendal Thompson) got hurt, and they’re probably going to be right back in the same boat this year.”


“They’re probably the only team in the league that truly doesn’t mind playing field position.”


“The big left tackle is gone (Jeremiah Poutasi) and that could hurt them. It’s a younger group up front, but they’ve got some guys who played last year that they can move around.”


“I like the tailback a lot (Devontae Booker), but they just don’t have enough firepower on offense overall.” 

Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/acc-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2015

It's not easy getting 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 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the 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 Conference Foes


Atlantic Division



“They’re one of those teams that are real hard to read because on film, it’s like they have a bunch of slow, unathletic guys running around but those guys are smart kids.”


“They don’t do anything to get themselves beat.”


“The coaching staff there has done a real good job, and they’ve gotten better every year, so I imagine they’ll continue to get better.”


“They’re mostly a zone team. Before Steve Addazio they were 100 percent zone, but they’ve started to play a little more man. Their defensive coordinator loves pressure, and from a preparation standpoint they’re probably the funkiest team we play because of how many looks they’ll give you. It takes a lot of time and practice just to get ready for the different blitzes and stuff you see on film that you’ve got to get right.”


“Personnel-wise, nobody really jumps off the page from the front seven and they’re nothing special in the secondary, but they do a real good job against the run and that will keep them in almost every game.”


“They’re starting over on the offensive line. They’re still going to try to run the ball and be physical up front because that’s Addazio’s personality, but they were a pretty mature team last season.” 


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“If Deshaun Watson comes back 100 percent, I think they’ll get back to being an explosive team offensively.”


“They spread you out and based on your numbers in the box, they’ll run it or throw it and try to isolate you in space with their playmakers and get you playing at their pace. They weren’t as successful at it last year because they struggled at quarterback when Watson was hurt and their running game was average, but I think they’ll be improved across the board.”


“It’s really tough to measure up to guys like Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, but No. 7 (Mike Williams) was probably their best player and No. 3 (Artavis Scott) created a lot of big plays on the fly sweep and they’re both back. If (Charone) Peake is healthy, they’ll be as deep at receiver as they were a couple years ago.”


“They’ve never been great on the offensive line, but they’ve recruited some more talented players that should start to pay off for them.”


“They’re going to be talented on defense — I just don’t know how quickly they’re going to figure it out because of how much experience they lost.”


“Defensive line is probably the biggest question mark for them.”





“Obviously they’ve lost some guys across the board, but they’ve got talented kids coming back and the way they recruit they’re still going to be one of the better teams in the country.”


“That’s going to be a heck of a battle for them at quarterback. You know what you’re getting with (Sean) Maguire. I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at (Deondre) Francois coming in as a freshman. He’s a real raw kid, but he’s got the ‘it’ factor. I don’t know if either of those guys is going to be as good as Famous Jameis, but they’re gonna be fine down the road.”


“It may be a little scary for them up front because they lost almost everybody but they’ve got one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. I’ve got a lot of respect for what (Rick Trickett) does with those guys.”


“I know they lose (defensive end) Mario Edwards, but I don’t think they’ll have much of a drop-off; I really don’t. They’ve always got defensive linemen. They may have a bigger drop-off in the secondary.”


“The biggest thing we’ve seen scheme-wise is I don’t think they’re as aggressive with Charles Kelly as they were with Jeremy Pruitt two years ago.”





“They’re probably the best defense we played last year, no question about that, and I think everyone in the league would tell you the same thing. From a personnel standpoint as well as an athleticism standpoint, they were outstanding. They lost a couple guys up front and the safety who had an unbelievable year (Gerod Holliman), and we knew (Lorenzo Mauldin) was a cat daddy, so it’s good to see he’s gone.”


“Will they be as good as they were? That’s tough to tell, but I don’t see a huge drop-off because they recruit pretty well and they’ve got some transfers they can plug in.”


“The safety from Georgia (Josh Harvey-Clemons) is going to help them big time.”


“There’s no question their secondary was probably the most physical we played, and top to bottom they gave us fits protection-wise. They really get after you.”


“The receiver (DeVante Parker) was as good as anyone we saw on film and was even better in person. They’ll miss him a great deal because he was the one guy who really jumped off the screen offensively. I think they’ll be OK at the skill positions.” 


“My question is how good they’ll be up front because they do lose three starters and it’s a different style blocking scheme.”



“Their quarterback (Jacoby Brissett) didn’t play great against us compared to what we saw on film, but he is a really good player. He can make a couple special plays a game just taking off and running with it if things break down, and he’s better than advertised throwing the ball. He wasn’t real consistent at times, but he’s one of the more dynamic players in the league. Now that they’ve seen him, I imagine they’ll do stuff schematically that will help him a little bit more and play more to his strengths.”


“They were probably the most improved team in the league last year, and I think they’re only going to get more talented because that staff is doing a good job recruiting.”


“I don’t know if they’re going to put it all together this year, but they’re definitely a team you have to play well against to beat. Even when they’re bad that’s always a tough place to play.”


“They don’t have anyone on defense that we said, ‘Uh oh, we’ve got to account for that guy,’ but they’ve significantly improved on defense. Their front seven was pretty good, fairly physical, but they did have a lot of seniors so that may be a little bit of a problem. They were decent in the secondary and they’ve got most of those guys back.”





“They’re one of the most unique teams we play because defensively, it’s like they’re always just coming after you.”


“They play a lot of zone and blitz a lot but whatever the book says, they’ll do the opposite. If it says you’re supposed to sit back and play coverage, they’re coming. As a play-caller, you’re trying to get in a rhythm and build one thing into the next, but they’re coming from everywhere.”


“I don’t want to say they’re unsound, but they’re just always turning guys loose and if you can get the ball out you have a chance to hit them in the mouth, and if they have a busted protection you’re going to hit them.”


“They struggled offensively before the quarterback (Terrel Hunt) got hurt and struggled even more after he got hurt.”


“Watching them on film, it seemed like they were trying to do way too much to compensate for the fact that they didn’t have enough playmakers. The probably outsmarted themselves a little bit.”


“What’s their bread and butter? If they can figure that out they may have a chance because their defense will keep them in some games but they’re probably not going to beat you throwing the ball.”



“They’re just OK. We got after them pretty good on defense, but a lot of people did last year as much as they struggled to run the ball.”


“They really had problems all over the place, but they just weren’t very physical up front and everything kind of spiraled from there. They were in 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long almost every drive with a freshman quarterback.”


“Under the circumstances, I don’t think the quarterback (John Wolford) was bad by any means. They’ve got to get better around him but that’s a tall order.”


“Their skill against ours, I’d take ours and I’m not sure we’re that good. I think they recruited pretty well last year and a lot of those guys are probably going to play.”


“The two players that come to my mind that were really good were the two senior corners. Every scout that came to our place asked us about them. There’s probably going to be a drop-off there because they were pretty good on the outside.”


“Under Jim Grobe they were a 3-4 and now they’re a 4-3, more multiple-look-type of defense which probably helps them a little bit, because if you’re playing a three-man front you better have linebackers who can move, and their backers are big, but they can’t really move that well.”


Coastal Division



“I think they do a great job of coaching.”


“They have some pretty good players that always play hard and they make the right plays. They don’t give up a lot of explosive plays and don’t have blown coverages defensively. They’re just very sound in what they do.”


“They’re probably starting over a little bit on offense losing the quarterback (Anthony Boone) and the receiver (Jamison Crowder), who was probably one of the more underrated players out there.”


“Probably the best thing they do defensively is their third-down and red-zone attack. That kept their scoring defense numbers pretty good. You get in the red zone and they’ll mix up their pressure — they’ll all-out blitz and play straight cover-zero at times. There’s good variations in the timing of how they do that. To hurt them, you’ve got to do it early in the count and get some explosive plays on first and second down. When they got to third down or play on a small field, that’s when they were able to create some negatives for offenses.”


“Personnel-wise I don’t recall a lot of standouts, I just know they do a really good job in their third-down packages defensively and that can really have a big impact on the game.”





“The quarterback is their engine and the guy they’ve got now (Justin Thomas) is probably as good in the triple-option as Paul (Johnson) has had since he’s been there. By the end of the year, nobody was stopping him. He doesn’t necessarily scare you throwing the ball, but they can pick their spots with him.”


“They’re not going to do anything defensively that jumps out at you, but they’re opportunistic and their offense helps them out. They played a lot of zone, which is pretty much the same thing they’ve done for awhile.”


“I thought some of their guys in the secondary were decent. The nose tackle (Adam Gotsis) is a guy you have to account for and make sure you know where he is.”


“It’s one of those offenses where if it’s clicking that day and you’re a little bit off, it’s going to be a long day because they’re capable of scoring just about every time.”


“If you’re an offense that makes a living on the fast-paced stuff, playing them can be brutal because your mindset as a play-caller is you want to go, go, go and hit the big play, and if you don’t do it against those guys you’ve got to go to the sideline. And then it’s in your head a little bit because you’re not getting the ball back for 10 or 12 minutes and you can’t get into a rhythm.”





“They’re really, really talented. I’m not exaggerating: Every play they run could be a house call because they’ve got so many explosive skill players.”


“You do look at it sometimes and wonder how that bunch didn’t dominate the Coastal last year.”


“They did lose a lot of big-time players; obviously Duke (Johnson) is one of them, but Clive Walford gave us all kinds of problems and (Phillip) Dorsett was dangerous on the outside. But one thing you know about Miami is they’re going to have athletes all over the place.”


“Schematically, they’re going to do things to protect the quarterback and keep him back there and isolate their skill on yours and hope to get the right matchup.”


“Brad Kaaya is a guy I think they limited what they were doing with him in the passing game, maybe a little too much. He can really spin it. Their approach was pretty much run the ball to set up their play action and take a deep shot every now and then. I think that’s who they want to be: a team that plays with a tight end or two and can run the ball when they want to run it. They had enough skill last year to be a spread-it-out type of team, but that’s just not really who they are.”





“Obviously they were not good defensively, but I thought personnel-wise they had really good athletes; I just think the scholarship losses caught up to them.”


“They had no depth defensively, and I think it really showed up in the front seven with how much they struggled to stop the run.”


“They really should be better because I think they’re close to full strength from a numbers standpoint and obviously they’ve got a new (defensive) coordinator who’s won national championships in Gene Chizik. The unknown is how the kids are going to adapt because they’re going from a defense that was a little more unconventional to the 4-3 he’s going to want to put in there.”


“They’re going to be prolific offensively with everybody coming back. They have great skilled athletes all over the field, and the offensive system they run fits their personnel.


“They go as fast as Clemson, if not faster, and they’ve probably got the deepest group of receivers in the league. They’ve got four or five guys who could go for 100 yards on a given day.”


“The quarterback is a little bit hot and cold, but when he gets hot he’s really, really good. You can’t let him get into a rhythm.”





“I imagine with the new staff it’s going to be similar offensively with a physical style of ball, ball-control offense and try to hit you in the play-action game.”


“James Conner is a load, but they gave him a ton of carries early in the season and he might have worn down a little bit. I don’t blame them because they weren’t real consistent at quarterback, but they weren’t as effective running the ball from mid-October on.”


“Tyler Boyd is a home-run hitter and if you add safeties to the box, it’s tough to double him. He finds a way to get open and he sort of looks effortless in how he can go up and get it, which is how the really good ones do it.”


“I think last year was a learning experience for their quarterback (Chad Voytik). They tried to make it simple and straightforward, and he did a good job staying away from turnovers, made some plays here and there. He played better at the end of the year.”


“We’ll look at what Pat Narduzzi did defensively at Michigan State because I don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to the same team from a scheme standpoint. He’s a guy who likes to aggressively pressure you, and the last staff had a completely different philosophy.”





“We thought they were pretty talented, especially on defense.”


“They’ve recruited extremely well.”


“Instability at quarterback has been their No. 1 issue, no question. Very little continuity from year to year. If you can’t settle on one guy and get him to perform, it’s hard to get over the hump. Both of their young guys got experience last year, but they were nothing special. I think they’re really just hoping one of them improves enough to grab a hold of that thing because they were still very limited offensively.”


“Their pass rush last year was phenomenal, which is what you expect from Jon Tenuta. He’s going to bring guys from everywhere and mix up his blitzes and make it tough for your offensive line to block everybody. It’s tough to prepare for.”


“I know a couple guys turned pro early, but they’ve recruited some long, talented guys on defense. They’re probably one of the most athletic defenses we faced all year.”


“We tried to recruit Quin Blanding a little bit early on, and he’s everything we thought he could be watching him in high school. You can put him in the box or drop him. He takes great angles, he’s a good tackler, very cerebral player.”





“You know, I think they were more talented than their record.”


“They’re just probably looking to put it all together because they haven’t really had an identity offensively and that’s hard to overcome. They’ll have a chance because they know who the quarterback is, they’ve got stability with the coaching staff and the system, and they bring all their skill guys back. But it’s still all about execution.”


“We watched the Ohio State game on tape and (Michael) Brewer was rolling. He can make all the throws, extend plays with his feet. We thought he was good. But obviously in other games he was pretty inconsistent with his decision-making and he took a lot of sacks. It’s one of those deals — you just hope to play him when he’s not playing well.”


“It’s tough to prepare for their defense because where they’ve got guys playing is just a little different. They’re going to play that robber coverage, which is something Bud Foster has been doing for 30 years.”


“They’re deep in the secondary, and they recruit that way to fit their scheme, but they’ve also got elite guys in the secondary. They almost always do, but when (Brandon) Facyson and Kendall Fuller are healthy that’s maybe as good a pair of cornerbacks as they’ve had.”




ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/coaches-talk-anonymously-about-notre-dame-2015

It's not easy getting 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 throughout the offseason or regular season.


In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2015, 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 for 2015


“The big thing is just finding consistency on the offensive side because they’re going to have some weapons. Their receivers and their backs are really good, and I think their O-line and tight end group is one of the best in the country.”…


“They’ll probably get back to being one of the top teams if they can get consistency in quarterback play.”…


“Everett Golson wasn’t a real big guy and he can turn it over. He put the ball in jeopardy quite a bit. They went back and forth in the bowl game (with Golson and Malik Zaire) trying to find some consistency…” …


“They were trying to adjust to a new system last year. I like what Brian VanGorder does. He attacks. He’s blitz-heavy and tries to bring a lot of different pressures and different looks coverage wise.”…


“They struggled a lot against tempo offenses trying to get adjusted to some of the calls and those things, but I think they’ll be pretty good because they’re big up front and they’ve got linebackers that can really run.”…


“I think they were kind of young in the secondary and those guys will get better. Their pressure packages are pretty extensive.”…

Coaches Talk Anonymously About Notre Dame for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/four-step-guide-almost-perfect-college-football-predictions

We think we know. We act like we know. But we do really know what makes a team good?


In 2014, Florida State lost four starters from its defensive front seven and regressed dramatically in run defense. Oklahoma State returned just eight total starters and went from the top 20 to barely bowl eligible.


Ohio State went from very good to great in recruiting and did the same on the field. Texas’ recruiting regressed, and the Longhorns obtained just middling success under a new coach.


Alabama was awesome in 2013 and remained awesome in 2014.


We think we know how to figure out who’s going to be good or bad from year to year, who’s going to surge or collapse — and we’re mostly correct. You start with how good a team was last year, then you look at returning starters (and stars), then you look at recruiting, and voila! We love that you’re an Athlon Sports reader, but virtually any preview of any kind is going to take that approximate approach.


But how much of a difference do these factors make? Are we ignoring other key indicators when we look at whether a team will improve or regress? Are we overvaluing the starters who left or those who return? And are we interpreting recruiting rankings the right way?


To begin to answer these questions, we’re going run some correlations. Remember those from math class? How a correlation of zero means there’s no relationship between variables, but a correlation approaching 1 or negative-1 means the relationship is strong?


Let’s look at the strength of the correlations between a given indicator — returning starters, last year’s output, et cetera — and two numbers: A team’s percentage of points scored in a given year (it’s more detailed and descriptive than simple win-loss record) and a team’s advanced stats.


We’ll look at percentage of points scored instead of win percentage because it is a more accurate descriptor. Florida State finished both 2013 and 2014 with a 13–0 regular-season record, but the Seminoles entered the 2013 postseason having scored 83.2 percent of the points in their games. In 2014, they had scored only 60.2 percent. One FSU team was demonstrably better than the other despite identical records.


Meanwhile, for advanced stats, we’re going to lean on the work of (a site for which I have played a role since 2008), namely the , the official FO rating. F/+ compares a team’s per-play and per-drive output to a baseline expectation (based on the opponent) and tells you how far above or below average that team performed. For instance, Ohio State finished 2014 ranked first in the F/+ ratings at plus-69.6 percent, Eastern Michigan finished 128th at minus-65.9 percent, and 87 of 128 teams finished between plus- and minus-30 percent.


F/+ is a healthy, robust, and (most important) opponent-adjusted number, and it is good for these purposes. But you can use your computer rating of choice, and it is likely to tell you a similar story as the one you find here.


This feature from Bill Connelly of SB Nation can be found in ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC issues of the .


Recent Performance


It is an undying, somewhat boring truth in : How you played last year is the best indicator of how you will play this year. Some teams change, but only so many do, and it is difficult to find a sport as rigid as college football, despite parity measures like the current 85-man scholarship limit.


Correlation between your F/+ rating from last year and your F/+ rating from this year: 0.742. Correlation between last year’s percentage of points scored and this year’s: 0.466.


In a given season, about 54 percent of FBS teams’ F/+ ratings are within 15 percent of what they were the year before. Things change, and things stay the same.


But in some cases, using just last year’s data can give us a blurry picture if a team suffered from injuries, suspensions, drastic turnover or any other maladies that affect teams. If we use a weighted five-year history, in which seasons from two to five years ago are given about eight to 10 percent weight each, we can raise the above F/+ correlation to about 0.747. That’s not much of an improvement, but it’s something.


So what does this mean for 2015? The chart below shows last year’s top 15 teams according to F/+. A good portion of them will be in or near the top 15 again this fall.


Final 2014 F/+ Rankings
1.Ohio State+69.6%
5.Ole Miss+50.1%
8.Georgia Tech+48.6%
11.Michigan State+42.1%
13.Mississippi State+40.6%
15.Florida State+35.2%


A good system of opponent-adjusted ratings can start the conversation in the right place. When thinking about how good a team was or wasn’t the year before — the starting point of any sort of projection or prediction — something like this gives you a clearer picture than “they went 11–2.”


One thing to keep in mind regarding advanced stats: Wins and losses don’t mean a lot. The numbers are designed to look at every non-garbage time play and drive and project how teams may have performed over a much longer period of time, not just 12 games. Yes, Ole Miss finished ahead of TCU; that’s because Ole Miss was much better than TCU for the first two months of the year before fading rather dramatically.


Returning Starters


You work with the tools you’ve got. Most of us understand that boiling an offense’s or defense’s turnover into a number between 0 and 11 is over-simplification. The quality of the backups matters, and besides, if two players start six games each at a given position, and one was a senior, is the other a “returning starter”?


There are flaws, but in a “perfect vs. good” kind of way. In the absence of perfect tools, we use decent, readily available ones. If it were possible to standardize a higher level of data — percentage of rushing yards returning, percentage of career starts on the offensive line, etc. — that would be fantastic, but even that tells us only so much about quality. We can apply extra weight to the quarterback position or to lost starters who were drafted or given All-America or all-conference honors, too, if we want to.


For now, though, we’ll stick to the basics. While the standard returning starter data is flawed, it’s still pretty useful:


Correlation between returning offensive starters and your advanced offensive ratings: 0.290. Correlation between returning offensive starters and your percentage of points scored: 0.254.


Correlation between returning defensive starters and your advanced defensive ratings: 0.271. Correlation between returning defensive starters and your percentage of points scored: 0.215.


These aren’t significant correlations, but they’re solid. And looking at year-to-year averages, you can see a pretty clear trend. If we convert a team’s FO efficiency ratings (offensive and defensive) into a per-game point total, you can start to see the impact starter experience can have on average.


Effect of the number of offensive returning starters on a team's offensive production
Off. returning starters% of all teamsAvg. change in adjustment points per gameAvg change in percentage of points scored


There is some blurriness on the edges — teams with four returning starters regressing more than teams with one to three, teams with 10-11 returning starters improving only a marginal amount — but that’s a sample size issue. There’s a potential range of six to 10 points per game between those returning almost no starters and those returning almost everybody. And if you return six or seven starters, you’re basically breaking even.


The lines are similar on the defensive side of the ball.


Effect of the number of defensive returning starters on a team's defensive production
Def. returning starters% of all teamsAvg. change in adjustment points per gameAvg change in percentage of points scored


There will always be plenty of exceptions. Just last year, Wisconsin returned three defensive starters and still fielded a high-caliber unit, while TCU returned three offensive starters and improved dramatically. Those exceptions are why the correlations exist but aren’t incredibly significant. But these starter figures still tell us quite a bit about where to set the bar. If the above averages held true, the chart to the right shows what kind of shifts we might see from last year’s top-ranked teams.


Red alert, Mississippi State and Clemson fans. You better hope Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson are even better (and healthier) than they were last year.


Returning starters for last year's final AP top 20 teams
Rk.TeamReturning starters (O, D)Last year's scoring margin per gameProjected scoring margin in 2015
1.Ohio State14 (7, 7)+22.8+1.4
2.Oregon12 (7, 5)+21.8-0.6
3.TCU15 (10, 5)+27.5Even
4.Alabama9 (2, 7)+18.5-3.4
5.Michigan State13 (6, 7)+21.5-0.3
6.Florida State10 (3, 7)+8.1-3.4
7.Baylor17 (8, 9)+22.7+4.1
8.Georgia Tech14 (7, 7)+12.1+1.4
9.Georgia12 (6, 6)+20.6-1.6
10.UCLA18 (10, 8)+5.4+1.8
11.Mississippi State7 (4, 3)+15.2-9.8
12.Arizona State13 (6, 7)+9.0-0.3
13.Wisconsin12 (5, 7)+13.8-0.8
14.Missouri12 (6, 6)+6.7-1.6
15.Clemson6 (4, 2)+14.2-9.8
16.Boise State17 (9, 8)+12.9+3.4
17.Ole Miss16 (9, 7)+12.3+3.6
18.Kansas State11 (6, 5)+12.6-2.3
19.Arizona11 (6, 5)+6.3-2.3
20.USC14 (7,7)+10.7+1.4




Recruiting rankings are worthless! Recruiting rankings are everything! Arguing about the potential and usefulness of the work Rivals, 247Sports, ESPN, Scout and others do has become a permanent part of the college football calendar each January and early February. And to be sure, these assessments are tricky.


If you’re a brand-new recruiting service, and you’re looking to use every piece of information available to you to craft the strongest possible prospect ratings, what’s one piece of information you’d be incredibly smart to use? Offer lists. If Alabama (or Ohio State, or USC, or Florida State, or any other national power) offers a player, there are strong odds that this player is pretty good. To say the least, the Tide and others like them have track records.


One problem with this: If you use offer lists to make your ratings more accurate, you’re also introducing a bit of circularity. If an Alabama offer gets a player ranked more highly, then Alabama is always assured of a high team ranking. Successful teams will then always end up with good recruiting rankings, both because they’re landing the best prospects (and they are) and because prospects they land get a boost, or as angry fans have long called it, a Bama Bump.


Recruiting services certainly don’t admit to changing or rethinking ratings based on offers, but if such circularity does exist, it doesn’t change one simple fact: Recruiting rankings are awfully predictive.


Correlation between your five-year recruiting averages and your F/+ rating: 0.666. Correlation between your five-year recruiting averages and your percentage of points scored: 0.428.


If you want to be suspicious about recruiting rankings, know this: Correlations with two-year rankings are even higher.


Correlation between your two-year recruiting averages and your F/+ rating: 0.680. Correlation between your two-year recruiting averages and your percentage of points scored: 0.454.


Since most of your two-deep is going to consist of players who were signed more than two years ago, that suggests that there is a relationship between recruiting rankings and performance that ties mostly to recent performance, not the actual ratings of your players on the field.


Either success leads to better recruiting, which leads to more success, or success leads to more benefit of the doubt in recruiting, which leads to better ratings.


Regardless, here’s a look at Athlon’s preseason top 20 teams and their recent recruiting averages:


Recruiting Rankings for Athlon's 2015 Top 20
Team2-year recruiting rank5-year recruiting rank
1. Ohio State94
2. Alabama11
3. Baylor3239
4. Auburn57
5. TCU4938
6. USC22
7. Michigan State2224
8. Oregon2317
9. Florida State33
10. Georgia106
11. Ole Miss2121
12. Notre Dame1110
13. Arizona State2435
14. Clemson1214
15. LSU75
16. Arkansas2833
17. Oklahoma1612
18. Georgia Tech3742
19. Wisconsin3536
20. Texas A&M818


Luck and randomness


The game of football, played with a pointy ball, brings to the table quite a bit of randomness. There’s no way around it. But we don’t necessarily take that into account when we set expectations for a given team, and we probably should.


In 2013, Oklahoma and Houston were insanely lucky teams. The Sooners recovered all nine fumbles that occurred in late-season wins against Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Alabama, and turnovers played heavy roles, especially in each of the last two wins. Recover only five of those nine, and the Sooners probably don’t beat either Oklahoma State or (if they still made the Sugar Bowl) Alabama. And if they don’t beat those teams, they don’t head into 2014 with what turned out to be unreasonably high expectations.


Houston, meanwhile, nearly broke the turnovers luck scale in 2013. The Cougars seemingly overachieved, improving from 5–7 to 8–5 and threatening for a while to steal the AAC title from UCF and Louisville despite playing a freshman quarterback. Their turnover margin was a nearly incomprehensible plus-25, but according to national averages for fumble recovery rates (which always trend toward 50 percent over time) and the ratio of interceptions to passes broken up (on average, a team intercepts one pass for every three to four breakups), it should have been closer to about plus-4. They recovered more than 60 percent of all fumbles, they intercepted an unsustainably high number of passes, and their opponents dropped an unsustainably high number of potential interceptions.


On paper, Houston improved in 2014, but the Cougars’ luck regressed drastically toward the mean (expected turnover margin: plus-6; actual: plus-8), they lost badly to UTSA, finished 7–5 (before a miraculous bowl win), and saw their head coach fired.


Is there a correlation between your turnovers luck (i.e. the difference between your expected and actual turnover margins) and your year-to-year improvement or regression? A bit.


Correlation between your turnovers luck and next year’s F/+ rating: 0.130. Correlation between your turnovers luck and next year’s percentage of points scored: 0.186.


Since ratings systems like F/+ are normalized to ignore a lot of luck factors, you would assume it would be less affected by luck than actual points scored. Turnovers bite randomly, and the effects will be pretty selective. Still, it’s a factor with correlations only slightly weaker than returning starters. That makes it worth noting.


And as you would expect, the correlations get stronger for those who were particularly lucky or unlucky. Much stronger.


Correlation between your turnovers luck and next year’s percentage of points scored (for only teams in the top and bottom 10 percent of turnovers luck): 0.357.


So if you were particularly lucky or unlucky last season, that luck is probably going to change this fall, and it could make a pretty significant difference in the amount of points you score and allow. Who needs to be on the lookout in this regard?


2014's Most Fortunate Teams According to Turnovers Luck
TeamExpected TO MarginActual TO MarginDifference
Arizona State+1.8+14+12.2
Louisiana Tech+4.2+16+11.8
Michigan State+8.7+19+10.3
Ole Miss-1.8+7+8.8
Ball State+0.6+9+8.4
Miami (Ohio)-4.9+2+6.9
Northern Illinois+5.4+12+6.6


Luck is part of the game of football, so it probably isn’t a surprise that two of last year’s top six teams in the pre-bowl College Football Playoff rankings (No. 2 Oregon and No. 6 TCU) are on this list. No. 5 Baylor (plus-6.4) barely missed inclusion, too. Still, it might be difficult for those teams (not to mention other poll darlings like Michigan State) to repeat last year’s success. The inclusion of Georgia and Ole Miss is also noteworthy.


Meanwhile, some pretty interesting names appear on the unlucky list, too.


After the luck of late-2013, Oklahoma’s karma was pretty awful in 2014, and this doesn’t even include “good kickers missing untimely kicks” luck like what hurt the Sooners against Oklahoma State and, particularly, Kansas State.


2014's Least Fortunate Teams According to Turnovers Luck
TeamExpected TO MarginActual TO MarginDifference
Georgia State-8.1-22-13.9
South Alabama+5.3-7-12.3
Eastern Michigan-7.3-18-10.7
Oklahoma State+2.5-8-10.5
Middle Tennessee+5.1-4-9.1
Texas Tech-4.2-13-8.8
San Jose State-3.5-12-8.5
Washington State-8.6-17-8.4


Some other teams that fared far worse than expectations show up here: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Miami. Colorado and Washington State were also expected to do better than they did, and luck played a role in that disappointment.


But the two most interesting names on this list are two teams that enjoyed plenty of success: Alabama and Marshall. These teams went a combined 25–3 in 2014, with 16 wins coming by a margin of at least 19 points. But they were probably even more dominant than the scores would attest, and in their three losses, these teams had a minus-four turnover margin.


How good will your team be this year? Ask yourself these questions in this order: How good were we last year? And how good have we been for the last five years? How are our recruiting rankings — getting better or worse? Are we returning more or fewer than about 6-7 starters on offense and defense? And how lucky were we last year?


Not everybody actually wants to set realistic expectations for their team, but asking those five questions is the best roadmap for doing just that.

The Four-Step Guide to (Almost) Perfect College Football Predictions
Post date: Friday, July 31, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/why-ohio-state-suspensions-will-or-wont-matter-against-virginia-tech

Ohio State announced today that . While it’s a big enough news story in and of itself, especially since one of the players suspended is All-American defensive end Joey Bosa, what about the impact on the field?


Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are the defending national champions and the overwhelming favorite to defend their title. However, the team will now be without Bosa and wide receivers Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall when Ohio State travels to Blacksburg, Va., to play Virginia Tech, which also happens to be the last team to defeat the Buckeyes.


So will these suspensions matter against the Hokies or do Ohio State fans have nothing to worry about come Labor Day night? contributors Chip Minnich and J.P. Scott offer their two cents.


Why the Ohio State suspensions matter against Virginia Tech

The news that Ohio State would be without four players for the opening game at Virginia Tech arrived on the first day of The B1G Media Day like a ton of bricks. Rumors had been percolating that there would be suspensions of some manner or variety, but when the news was released that the players involved were Joey Bosa, Correy Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, it would be fair to say that the strong confidence Ohio State fans may have had going into the season opener had been dramatically diminished.


Offensively, Ohio State has enough players to compensate for the losses of players such as Marshall, Smith and Wilson. However, I would like to raise the following concerns that Ohio State fans may need to contemplate.


With the suspensions of Marshall, Smith and Wilson, Ohio State is now down to only Michael Thomas from their top receivers of a year ago. Remember that Devin Smith and Evan Spencer have moved on. With the suspensions, Thomas is the lone experienced receiver that either J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones will have played with from last season from the wide receiver corps.


At H-Back, both Wilson and Marshall were experienced at the position. Those individuals citing the move of Braxton Miller need to remember that a) Miller has never played the position before in a game-time situation b) Miller is coming off two labrum surgeries. Ohio State may be looking at a truly inexperienced H-Back, such as Parris Campbell Jr. for the opening game. Not impossible, just inexperienced.


Defensively, Ohio State has plenty of talent returning across the board. Of these returnees, none were or are held in such high esteem as Bosa.


Ohio State was already projecting TyQuan Lewis at the opposite defensive end from Bosa. Sam Hubbard, Darius Slade, and Jalyn Holmes are possible contributors who may rotate at Bosa's position throughout the Virginia Tech game. Similarly to what I have written regarding the offensive positions, these are talented players, but very inexperienced, and not as reputable as Bosa.


Compounding the loss of Bosa is the fact that Ohio State is still trying to adequately replace the departed Michael Bennett along the interior. Without Bosa at one end continually being accounted for, the Virginia Tech offensive game plan may be to attack the interior of the Ohio State defense, as Adolphus Washington is the only established player along the entire Ohio State defensive line.


Can Ohio State win the game at Virginia Tech, even without the four suspended players? Certainly. Needless to say, the road to repeating as national champions was just made that much more difficult with the announcement of these suspensions.

— , diehard Ohio State fan/writer and podcaster for




Why the Ohio State suspensions won’t matter against Virginia Tech

Unlike 2014, the 2015 matchup between Ohio State and Virginia Tech is a high-profile one. The Hokies are not about sneak up on the Buckeyes again, as Urban Meyer is going to have his squad prepared, both mentally and physically, for their trip to Blacksburg.


Although Joey Bosa could very well be the best player in the nation, his suspension is the least of Ohio State’s worries. He’s still just one player on a defense with six legit Bronco Nagurski Award candidates. It’ll be an excellent opportunity for one or more of Ohio State’s talented underclassmen to step into the defensive line rotation in place of Bosa. In short, Ohio State’s defense is going to be good enough to dominate their side of the ball in most games with or without Bosa. He simply raises them to another level.


The offensive side of the ball could be a different story, but again, there is still enough talent on the Ohio State depth chart to get the job done. Whether the quarterback is Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett or both, they’ll still have the luxury of Ezekiel Elliott behind them and one of the best offensive lines in the country in front of them.


In terms of other weapons, Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, Curtis Samuel and Nick Vannett are all more than capable of producing enough big plays and posing consistent threats to keep the Hokie defense on its heels.


As good as Ohio State is and despite being the No. 1 ranked team in the nation by basically everyone, people still continue to doubt or just flat out not understand just how talented this team is. Suspensions or not, I’d be shocked if the Buckeyes didn’t win the game by two touchdowns.

— , editor-in-chief of , a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans



Why the Ohio State Suspensions Will or Won't Matter Against Virginia Tech
Post date: Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 15:30