Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-2014-spring-football-preview
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Gus Malzahn had quite a first year at Auburn.

Not only did he become just the third first-year coach to win the SEC championship, he also produced the greatest turnaround in SEC history. From winless to within seconds of a BCS national championship doesn't happen every day.

Essentially, Malzahn is now a victim of his own success as anything less than a repeat will appear lackluster to a rabid fan base like Auburn. Nick Marshall returns with a talented set of receivers around him as he enters spring as a seasoned veteran under center. And the defensive depth chart is stacked with rising stars, in particular, all over the front seven.

But this team almost has to take a step back in 2014. Offensive superstars Tre Mason and Greg Robinson have moved on to the NFL while cult heroes Dee Ford and Chris Davis are gone from the defense. Other holes at defensive line, in the secondary and fullback are concerning as well.

Auburn could be the top challenger to Alabama in the SEC West this fall but before Malzahn leads his team into what appears to be a brutal schedule, the Tigers must address some needs in spring camp.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30
Sept. 6
Sept. 13Bye Week
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18Bye Week
Oct. 25
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8
Nov. 15at 
Nov. 22Samford
Nov. 29at 

Auburn Tigers 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 18

Spring Game: April 19

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 6

Three Things to Watch in Auburn's 2014 Spring Practice

Establish balance on offense
Running backs Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne were excellent backups to Tre Mason a year ago and should be able to carry the offensive load this fall. And no, Malzahn will never throw the ball 50 times per game. But developing quarterback Nick Marshall as a passer in an effort to find some balance could make this team virtually unstoppable on offense. There are a lot of names in the receiving corps but no elite playmakers other than possibly Sammie Coates — which is why newcomers like D'haquille Williams and Stanton Truitt are already drawing first-team reps. Williams has the ability to stretch the field with his big frame while Truitt provides speed and elusiveness from the slot. Of course, replacing uber-athlete Greg Robinson at left tackle to protect Marshall's blindside would go a long way in helping to create this desired offensive balance.

Develop the youth up front on defense
Dee Ford, Nosa Eguae, Kenneth Carter and Craig Sanders are all gone from the defensive line. While losing four contributors, including a first-team All-SEC playmaker, would hurt any defense, Malzahn and coordinator Ellis Johnson shouldn't be too worried about the front seven. Gabe Wright anchors the line but also will be asked to provide an example for his younger peers this spring. Rising true sophomores Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel have elite ability and upside but need to be groomed as starters in their first full offseason. Filling a hole left by the steady Jake Holland at linebacker will also be critical but most of the last season's depth chart returns — including Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. This unit may take some lumps this spring and into the fall as some of these players develop, but there's no disputing their talent and potential. Should they become all-league players this fall, Auburn could actually be improved on defense by season's end.

Organize the secondary
Two safeties, Ryan White (54 tackles) and Ryan Smith (68 tackles), have moved on and star cornerback Chris Davis graduated as well. The Tigers' secondary is arguably the biggest area of concern for Auburn this spring and after injuries moved the depth chart around last fall, Malzahn is likely looking to settle on a rotation. Jonathon Mincy returns to one corner spot but depth needs to be developed around him. Robenson Therezie and Jermaine Whitehead got plenty of experience a year ago and ideally will become one of the SEC's better safety tandems. Elsewhere, look for former running back Johnathan Ford and early enrollee Derrick Moncrief to get looks while both Joshua Holsey and Jonathan Jones recover from injuries. There were a lot of moving parts in this department for Auburn last year and organizing the depth chart is key this spring.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
The Tigers literally went from worst to first and won't sneak up on anyone in 2014. Teams will be more focused on stopping Marshall and the Auburn defensive front is going to be very young. This roster's talent is much closer to the 12-2 record of last year than the 0-8 team from two years ago so optimism should fill Jordan-Hare Stadium. This team is an SEC contender without a doubt, but the Tigers face a nasty schedule this fall befitting a former conference champion. Road games at Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are brutal, as is a trip to The Little Apple to face Kansas State in non-conference action. Toss in home games with LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M and Auburn will be hard-pressed to win the West once again. However, as we all learned last season, strange things can happen down on The Plains.

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Post date: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Florida Gators, College Football, SEC, News
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There is no secret what is wrong with the Florida Gators. The offense has been horrendous.

Florida scored 14 rushing touchdowns and 11 passing touchdowns a year ago en route to what is arguably the worst season in school history on the football field. During the 2008 national title season, the Gators scored 75 offensive touchdowns — 42 of which came from Tim Tebow alone. In fact, Florida scored 204 offensive touchdowns from 2007-09.

Certainly, injuries ravaged this unit along both the offensive line and among the skill players. It began before the season and continued for six painful months of ineptitude. But a change had to made and Will Muschamp hired his third offensive coordinator in four years.

Enter Kurt Roper.

The former Duke coordinator has plenty of SEC experience but no one on this current Gators roster resembles anyone named Manning. The new-look coaching staff's first order of business is to energize the offense and create a more balanced team overall.

The Gators have plenty of talent — the No. 2-ranked roster in the nation — and will be nasty on defense once again. But if this offense doesn't take major strides in 2014, not only will Florida not compete for an SEC title but Muschamp could find himself out of work.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30
Sept. 6
Sept. 13
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27Bye Week
Oct. 4at 
Oct. 11
Oct. 18
Oct. 25Bye Week
Nov. 1 (Jacksonville)
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15
Nov. 22Eastern Kentucky
Nov. 29at 

Florida Gators 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 4-8 (3-5 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 19

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 6

Three Things to Watch in Florida's 2014 Spring Practice

Complete a forward pass
It helps when all of your quarterbacks are healthy, of course, but Roper has his work cut out for him in terms of developing a quarterback. A big reason why Roper was hired as the Gators' new coordinator is because he honed his knowledge of signal-callers and the passing game under QB-guru David Cutcliffe for many years. Jeff Driskel is back and appears to be healthy but will have to take it easy while young gun true freshman Will Grier has been drawing a lot of ink from those who follow the team closely. Driskel is the odds-on favorite to start out of the gate but fans can bet that Roper won't have any loyalty to the incumbent. At wide receiver, the return of Andre Debose, the maturation of Demarcus Robinson and the continued development of players like Quinton Dunbar also will help as Roper installs his up-tempo shotgun passing attack. The new coordinator has brought a renewed energy to the Florida offense but there is still a lot of work left to be done before this team can brag about any sort of offensive prowess.

Rebuild the offensive line
Injuries tend to be relatively fluky and no position on this team was more impacted by that in 2013 than the O-line. Two of the only stable names along the line last year, Jonotthan Harrison and Jon Halapio, have both moved on as well as other contributors Ian Silberman and Kyle Koehne. There is a lot returning in terms of overall talent but this unit needs to stabilize and, more importantly, stay healthy. Star left tackle D.J. Humphries played six games, fellow tackle Chaz Green missed the entire season, Tyler Moore played in just six games, and Trenton Brown made just five starts. Max Garcia played both guard and tackle last year and is the only returning player with more than six starts from a year ago. If Roper wants to develop a passing game and keep his quarterbacks healthy, this unit must grow together quickly this spring.

Reload at the back end of the defense

Jaylen Watkins (52 tackles) and Cody Riggs (51) were veteran players who had a lot of SEC snaps under their belts. Both are gone and that leaves a void at the back end of what should still be a very talented secondary. The cornerback unit on this team is among the best in the nation despite the loss of Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, but someone needs to develop in center field. Brian Poole got plenty of playing time last year (32 tackles) and Keanu Neal, Jabari Gorman and Marcus Maye will step into bigger roles as well. There really isn't any glaring weakness on the Gators' defense but replacing two veteran leaders on the back end might be the top order of business for a unit that is loaded with elite prospects on every level.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 6-8

More so than most teams in the nation, Florida fans can't wait to forget about 2013 and are welcoming the Playoff Era with open arms. Ideally, Kurt Roper will be the saving grace for embattled head coach Will Muschamp. The current Gators regime has proven it can recruit in a big way and has proven it can get to a BCS bowl but it also lost to an FCS team that didn't complete a pass. And Muschamp doesn't get any favors with Alabama and LSU on the crossover slate this fall. But this team is entirely too talented not to return to the postseason and the rest of the SEC East — Mizzou, Georgia, South Carolina — could be taking small steps back in '14. This team will be in games and have lots of chances to win but will need to stay healthy, find balance on offense and finish games with a killer instinct if it wants to compete in the East.

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Post date: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 07:15
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The SEC is the king of the college football world. In particular, it dominated the BCS Era.

The Southeastern Conference won nine of the 16 BCS national titles and four of the last six Heisman Trophies. Additionally, the SEC also claims five Thorpe Award winners, five Maxwell Awards, four Outland Trophies, four Rimington Trophies, three Doak Walker Awards, three Bednarik Awards, three Butkus Awards, three Lombardi Awards, two Nagurski Awards, two Walter Camp Awards and one Biletnikoff Award during the BCS Era.

Needless to say, there is no shortage of elite NCAA Hall of Fame-caliber players to roll through the SEC during the last 16 seasons. As you can imagine, trying to narrow this list down to 25 names was nearly impossible but here are Athlon Sports' Top 25 SEC players of the BCS Era. The only stipulation is that you must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

Editorial note: I've made the decision to exclude the SEC's first John Mackey Award winner Aaron Hernandez for obvious reasons.

1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (2006-09)
Stats: 9,285 yds, 88 TDs, 16 INTs, 66.4%, 2,947 yds, 57 TDs

Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns (145), rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Awards when he set an NCAA record with 55 total touchdowns and 4,181 yards of total offense (since broken). He won the SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year in which he led Florida to its second national championship in three years. Tebow is one of only five players in SEC history to rush for 20 TDs in a season and his 57 career rushing touchdowns are an SEC record. He fell one game shy in 2009 of playing in — and likely winning — three national titles in four years. His speech following the loss to Ole Miss in '08 has been immortalized in Gator football lore and his cult following has only grown since leaving Gainesville.

2. Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss (2003-06)

The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior. He was taken with the 11th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft by San Francisco.

3. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (2005-07)
Stats: 785 att., 4,590 yds, 41 TDs, 46 rec., 365 yds, 2 TDs

When it comes to pure breakaway speed and big-play ability, few can match Run-DMC’s talent. The North Little Rock prospect finished second in Heisman balloting in back-to-back seasons, coming up just short to Troy Smith and Tim Tebow in 2006 and '07 respectively. McFadden won the Doak Walker and SEC Offensive Player of the Year awards in both consensus All-American seasons. His 4,590 yards is No. 2 all-time in SEC history to only the great Herschel Walker. He helped lead Arkansas to the SEC Championship Game in 2006 but came up short against the eventual national champion Florida Gators.

4. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (2012-13)
Stats: 7,820 yds, 63 TDs, 22 INTs, 68.9%, 2,169 yds, 30 TDs

Manziel was one of the most unstoppable forces with the ball in his hands. He set the SEC single-season total offense record (5,116) by a large margin during his Heisman Trophy redshirt freshman campaign. His encore performance of 4,873 yards in his second season gives him the two most productive seasons in SEC history. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won the Manning and Davey O’Brien Awards and earned two bowl MVP trophies in the Cotton and Chick-fil-A Bowls. In just two seasons, his 9,989 yards tied Eli Manning exactly for eighth all-time in league history for total offense and his 93 total touchdowns rank fifth all-time. He is the all-time SEC leader in completion percentage (68.9 percent) and is one of only two players in league history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season (Tim Couch). Six conference losses and some injuries slowed the end of his short career, but Manziel’s excitement, improvisational skills, production and big-play ability are second to none in the storied history of SEC football. Few players ever burst onto the SEC scene quite like Johnny Manziel — despite the horrendous nickname — and few enjoyed the spotlight more.

5. Eric Berry, DB, Tennessee (2007-09)

It didn’t take long for Berry to make his name known as an SEC defender. In 2007, he posted a school record with 222 INT return yards on five picks, led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He then returned seven interceptions for 265 yards as a sophomore en route to his first of two unanimous All-American seasons. He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year that year. As a junior, Berry returned to win the Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards and ended his collegiate career with the the most interception return yards in SEC history. Used on offense and special teams as well, Berry’s superior athletic ability made him the fifth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. For his career, Berry finished with 245 tackles, 17.5 for loss and 14 interceptions.

6. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (2010-13)
Stats: 9,019 yds, 77 TDs, 15 INTs, 66.9%, 3 rush TDs

He gets knocked for his vanilla offensive system, extraordinary head coach and talented supporting cast but McCarron is Alabama’s greatest quarterback and is arguably the most successful player in SEC history this side of Tebow (who also had a great coach and elite supporting cast). He earned three BCS National Championships rings — two as the starting quarterback — and is the most prolific passer in school history. He earned BCS title game MVP honors as a sophomore before leading the nation in passing efficiency and winning another title as a junior (175.3). His 77-to-15 TD-to-INT ratio is one of the best in NCAA history as he finished as the No. 4-most efficient passer in SEC history (162.5). McCarron was a Heisman Trophy runner-up, the Maxwell and Unitas Award winner and finished 36-4 as a starter in his career — never missing a game in his four-year, 53-game career. Having Katherine Webb on the resume doesn’t hurt either.

7. Cam Newton, QB, Florida/Auburn (2008, '10)
Stats: 2,908 yds, 30 TDs, 7 INTs, 65.4%, 1,586 yds, 24 TDs

Newton's career is an intriguing one that could have been one of the greatest of all-time had he played more than just one season at Auburn. He was essentially kicked out of school, intertwined with a recruiting scandal and left early for the NFL. Yet, his one season in 2010 was one of the best in history. He single-handedly carried Auburn to a BCS title, won the Heisman Trophy as well as Davey O'Brien, Archie Manning, Maxwell, Walter Camp and AP Player of the Year honors. He set (since broken) the SEC’s single-season record for total offense with 4,327 yards and is one of just five players ever to rush for 20 TDs in an SEC season. Had he played more than one season, Newton could have challenged Tebow as arguably the best player to play in the SEC during the BCS Era.

8. David Pollack, DL, Georgia (2001-04)

The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him arguably the greatest defensive lineman of the BCS Era.

9. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (2004-07)

The local kid from Baton Rouge won everything there is to win in the college ranks. He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks. He started 31 of his 52 career games and was drafted fifth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

10. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (2009-12)

No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA. Jones might not be the most physically gifted player to ever play in the SEC but he pretty much dominated college.

11. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida (2006-08)
Stats: 133 rec., 1,929 yds, 13 TDs, 1,852 rush, 19 TDs

If Peter Warrick invented the all-purpose position in the late '90s, Harvin glorified it in the mid-2000s. A true dual-threat offensive talent, Harvin burst onto the scene as the SEC Freshman of the Year. He played a key role in the Gators' 2006 BCS National Championship run, totaling 82 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against Ohio State. He capped his college career with 14 touches for 171 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma. Few have combined speed, strength, production and winning like Harvin did. He nearly topped 2,000 yards both rushing and receiving, and, if not for nagging injuries his entire career, the Virginia Beach prospect might have been more decorated nationally.

12. Chris Samuels, OT, Alabama (1996-99)

The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999 as a senior. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American. He entered the starting lineup during his freshman season and proceeded to start 42 straight games — without allowing a sack. Samuels was picked third overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft and went to six Pro Bowls.

13. Al Wilson, LB, Tennessee (1995-98)

Wilson isn’t as decorated as some of his BCS brethren but few players had as big an impact on their team as the Vols middle linebacker. He helped lead Tennessee to two SEC championships and the historic and unblemished 1998 national title. He was a consensus All-American, a consummate teammate on and off the field and was the 31st overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

14. John Henderson, DT, Tennessee (1998-01)

As a freshman, Henderson helped the Vols capture the 1998 BCS National Championship. By the time he had reached the end of his senior season, Henderson had posted 165 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks — a huge number for an interior defensive lineman — in two first-team All-American seasons. The monstrosity of a man is one of just five defensive players during the BCS Era to claim the historic Outland Trophy and was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

15. Patrick Peterson, DB, LSU (2008-10)

The supremely gifted Peterson played in every game as a true freshman for the defending BCS champs. One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

16. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (2009-11)
Stats: 540 att., 3,130 yds, 35 TDs 68 rec., 730 yds, 7 TDs, 720 ret. yds, TD

T-Rich is one of the most physically imposing running backs to ever play the game. The Pensacola product only started for one season but became the only SEC running back to rush for 20 touchdowns in a season until Tre Mason scored 23 times in 2013. Richardson won two national titles and is one of the rarest combinations of size, speed and agility. His 1,679 yards in the 2011 national title season are second to only McFadden (1,830) among all SEC backs during the BCS Era and is an Alabama single-season record. He was the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and finished his collegiate career by earning consensus All-American recognition, winning the Doak Walker Award and SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting in '11.

17. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (2009-11)

One of the best pure covermen in the history of the SEC, Claiborne was a lock-down corner for LSU in his two full seasons as the starter. He developed a reputation as a sophomore with five picks and 37 tackles en route to All-SEC honors. After that, no one threw at him. Despite teams staying away from him and a teammate getting more Heisman hype, Claiborne was named the nation’s top defensive back in 2011 as the recipient of the Thorpe Award and was a unanimous All-American. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 regular-season mark, an SEC title, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year as his Tigers earned a berth in the BCS national title game. He was taken sixth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

18. Champ Bailey, CB, Georgia (1996-98)

From a versatility standpoint, few have ever been as explosive and dynamic as Champ Bailey. He was a lockdown cornerback, an elite return man and a dangerous wide receiver. His senior season — the only year he played during the BCS Era — Bailey posted 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 47 passes for 744 yards and five scores on offense. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and won the Nagurski Trophy in 1998 as the nation’s top defensive player. The consensus All-American finished seventh in the Heisman voting in '98 and he was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

19. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (2010-2013)
Stats: 262 rec., 3,759 yards, 24 TDs

No player in the history of the SEC has had a more productive career or single season than Matthews. Matthews has caught more passes (262) for more yards (3,759) than anyone in SEC history and it’s not really even close. Earl Bennett is No. 2 in receptions (236) and Terrence Edwards is No. 2 in yards (3,093). No player in the SEC has ever caught 100 passes and Matthews posted 112 receptions as a senior with mediocre quarterback play. His 1,477-yard season is third in league history trailing only Josh Reed (1,740) and Alshon Jeffery (1,517). He helped the Dores to three straight bowl games and was the singular focus of every defense he faced yet still managed to destroy every major SEC receiving record.

20. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia (2008-10)
Stats: 166 rec., 2,619 yds, 23 TDs, 105 rush

Based on raw talent alone, Green is the one of the greatest receivers to play the game. In a league not known for big passing numbers, Green led the SEC in yards and touchdowns as a true freshman. His rare blend of size, speed, vertical ability and red zone ball skills makes him one of the game’s most uncoverable targets. One of the best three-year starts to an NFL career (260 rec., 3,833 yards, 29 TD) justifies his No. 4 overall draft status in 2011, his lofty recruiting ranking in 2008 and his place among the SEC’s best.

21. Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama (2007-09)

His fall from grace aside, McClain was one of the BCS’s great defensive leaders. He started eight games and posted 75 tackles as a freshman before earning some All-American honors as a sophomore (95 tackles). As the unquestioned heartbeat of the Alabama defense, McClain led the Crimson Tide back to the BCS promised land with a perfect senior season. He posted 105 tackles, 14.5 for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, was a unanimous All-American and won both the Butkus and Lambert Awards. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

22. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (2010-13)
Stats: 13,166 yds, 121 TDs, 41 INTs, 62.3%, 396 yds, 16 TDs

When it comes to statistics, no SEC player in history was more productive than Murray. He owns the SEC record for passing yards and touchdown passes. His 137 total touchdowns trail only Tebow and his 13,562 yards of total offense bested Tebow’s record by a large margin (12,232). He is one of only three Georgia quarterbacks to beat Florida in three straight seasons and he posted at least 3,000 yards passing in four consecutive seasons. He is No. 1 all-time in SEC history with 921 completions and is No. 2 all-time with 1,478 attempts. He started 52 consecutive games, missing only the final two games of his senior season. His final record was 35-17 with two SEC East titles and the lack of a conference championship is the only missing piece to Murray’s otherwise sterling resume.

23. Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss (2000-03)
Stats: 10,119 yds, 81 TDs, 35 INTs, 60.8%, 5 rush TDs

The third and final Manning to play quarterback in the SEC elevated Ole Miss to its highest levels of success during the BCS Era. He claimed the Unitas and Maxwell Awards, along with SEC Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003. He owns the Ole Miss single-season records for yards (3,600) and touchdowns (31) and is eighth all-time in SEC history with over 10,000 yards passing. He is clearly one of this generation's greatest talents and of all the other greats to play in the SEC, Manning might have had the least talented supporting cast. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

24. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (2008-10)
Stats: 572 att., 3,261 yds, 42 TDs, 60 rec., 670 yds, 4 TDs

Ingram is the only Heisman Trophy winner in Alabama’s storied history and he might not have been the best back on his own team. From Flint, Michigan, originally, Ingram led Bama to the national championship in 2009 with 1,658 yards and 17 scores. It was his only 1,000-yard season while in Tuscaloosa. No Bama player has scored more rushing touchdowns than Ingram and his 2009 Heisman Trophy campaign was the third-best among all SEC backs during the BCS Era (McFadden, Richardson). The SEC Offensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American was a first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints when he left school early in 2010.

25. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (2011-12)

The supremely talented Joeckel helped lead the Aggies from the Big 12 to the SEC seamlessly due in large part to his blocking. In three full seasons, Joeckel started all 39 possible career games at left tackle for Texas A&M. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman and earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top blocker. He was an all-conference pick in two different conferences and a consensus All-American. The TAMU star was the No. 2 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft.

26. Mark Barron, S, Alabama (2008-11)

The superstar safety was a three-time All-SEC pick, two-time All-American and helped the Crimson Tide win two BCS National Championships. (2009, '11). After three straight seasons with at least 68 tackles, Barron finished his career with 235 tackles, 13.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks, 12 interceptions and 34 passes defended. Many coaches called him the best player in the SEC in 2011 on what many consider the best defense of the BCS Era. The hard-hitting Alabama safety was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

27. Shawn Andrews, OT, Arkansas (2001-03)

A two-time consensus All-American, Andrews was an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist in 2003. He earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking Awards as the SEC’s top lineman in 2002-03 — the only SEC player to win the award twice during the BCS Era and the first since Florida’s Jason Odom in 1994-95. Andrews was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles and was invited to three Pro Bowls during his seven years in the NFL.

28. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (2010-13)

Few players can boast both a Butkus Award and a national championship — let alone two national championships and freshman All-American honors. Mosley posted a career-high 108 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss and came up one play shy of winning back-to-back SEC titles and possibly a third BCS title. He collected 318 career tackles and 23.0 tackles for loss in his decorated and illustrious career in Tuscaloosa. Alabama went 46-7 during Mosley’s time on campus and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in all four seasons.

29. Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn (2001-04)

The Tigers coverman started 10 games as a freshman, earning Freshman All-American honors. He was a mainstay on the outside of Auburn’s defense for four years and it culminated in a historic 2004 campaign. Rogers started 44 games, registered 182 tackles and picked-off seven passes in his career. Rogers was named the Thorpe Award winner, an All-American and helped Auburn to a perfect 13-0 record, SEC and Sugar Bowl championship. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

30. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama (2006-08)

Smith was a five-star prospect from Birmingham before dominating the SEC for three seasons at Alabama. As a junior, Smith won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and was a consensus All-American. He left school early or else would have been a part of the 2009 BCS championship team. Still, Smith gets credit for helping to rebuild Alabama and was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection. The Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft.

31. David Greene, QB, Georgia (2001-04)
Stats: 11,528 yds, 72 TDs, 32 INTs, 59.0%, 5 rush TDs

Greene helped restore the winning ways in Athens and it started in his first season as the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2001. He led the Dawgs to their first SEC title in two decades as a sophomore and was named an All-SEC passer in each of his upperclass seasons. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time winningest quarterback with 42 wins in his career. He was the SEC’s all-time leading passer until Murray broke his record in 2013.

32. DeMeco Ryans, LB, Alabama (2002-05)

The former three-star recruit outperformed all expectations for the Crimson Tide. In 2005 as a senior, he was a unanimous All-American, won the Lott Trophy and was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Ryans finished with 76 tackles and five sacks in his final season and just missed winning the Nagurski, Butkus and Draddy Awards as well. The Crimson Tide tackler was a second-round pick in 2006 by the Texans.

33. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2011-12)

Jones was a Lambert Award winner, a two-time All-American, led the nation in sacks as a sophomore (14.5), forced more fumbles in 2012 (7) than any player in his conference during the BCS Era and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He also led Georgia to consecutive SEC East titles and was the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He finished his career with 168 total tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss and 28.0 sacks in two years as a starter in Athens.

34. Alex Brown, DE, Florida (1998-01)

The two-time, first-team All-American set the Gators' school record for sacks when he left school in 2001. Brown won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and helped lead Florida to the 2000 SEC title. He was a three-time, first-team All-SEC player and finished his career with 161 tackles, 47.0 for a loss and a school-record 33.0 sacks before getting taken in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

35. Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas (2005-08)

The Razorbacks’ pivot for Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones was a three-time, first-team All-SEC performer. Luigs was a two-time Rimington finalist, winning the award given to the nation’s top center in 2007. He also was a consensus All-American in '07 and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with 49 consecutive starts and was a major part of one of the only two Arkansas teams to be ranked in the top five of the AP poll during the BCS Era (2006, '11).

36. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss (2005-08)

One of the most high-profile linemen during the BCS Era, Oher was a consensus All-American, a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection and the SEC’s top offensive lineman in 2008 (Jacobs Trophy). The Outland finalist was a freshman All-American in 2005 and helped take a team with three straight losing seasons to a nine-win campaign and a Cotton Bowl berth as a senior. Oher was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.

37. Marcus McNeil, OT, Auburn (2002-05)

The All-American started 28 games in his four-year career, helping lead the Tigers to an unbeaten SEC championship season in 2004 (13-0). He was again an All-American as a senior in 2005, paving the way for one of the most talented backfields in SEC history. McNeil was taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Chargers.

38. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011-13)

Certainly his final season left much to be desired with this freakish athlete, but no player has had a two-year start to a career like Clowney. He started his career as the SEC Freshman of the Year and also earned Freshman All-American honors after 36 total tackles, 12.0 for a loss, 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles. He refined his craft and exploded as a sophomore with 54 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and 13.0 sacks to go with three more forced fumbles, as he finished sixth in the Heisman voting a year ago. He was a unanimous All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award winner. His final season wasn’t as inspiring as anticipated but he helped South Carolina to three consecutive 11-win seasons and a 33-6 overall record during his time. He finished his career with 130 tackles, 47.0 tackles for a loss, 24.0 sacks and nine forced fumbles for a team that had never won 11 games in a season before he showed up.

39. Shaun Alexander, RB, Alabama (1996-99)
Stats: 727 att., 3,565 yds, 41 TDs, 62 rec., 798 yds, 8 TDs

Alexander was a steady performer for four years at Alabama. The Florence, Ky., talent is the all-time leading rusher in Alabama history and he capped his career with an SEC Offensive Player of the Year season when he scored 23 total touchdowns and a career-high 1,383 yards rushing in 1999. Alexander is 12th all-time in rushing in SEC history and his 41 career rushing touchdowns trails Ingram by only one for seventh all-time in SEC history and tops at Alabama.

40. LaRon Landry, S, LSU (2003-05)

The LSU safety might be the most physically imposing defensive back of the BCS Era. He started 10 games as a true freshman for Nick Saban and the 2003 BCS National Championship squad. He made 80, 92 and 70 total tackles respectively during his three-year career and was a two-time All-SEC pick. Landry earned consensus All-American honors in 2006 before leaving early for the NFL. The thumper was the sixth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

The Next 10:

41. Kevin Faulk, RB, LSU (1995-98)
Stats: 856 att., 4,557 yds, 46 TDs, 53 rec., 600 yds, 4 TDs, 1,676 ret. yds, 3 TDs

From an all-purpose standpoint, few can match the production of Faulk. He posted the No. 4- and No. 5-best all-purpose seasons in SEC history when he totaled 2,109 yards in 1998 and 2,104 in '96. Those are still the best two seasons per game in SEC history (191.7 ypg and 191.3 ypg). His 46 rushing touchdowns are third all-time to Tebow and Walker and Faulk is third all-time in SEC history in rushing. He is fifth in rushing attempts and scored a total of 53 times while at LSU. 

42. Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky (1996-98)
Stats: 8,435 yds, 74 TDs, 35 INTs, 4 rush TDs

The consensus All-American and No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft brags two of the top four passing seasons in SEC history. He and Manziel are the only two players to top 4,000 yards passing in any season and his 4,275 yards in his junior season in the first year of the BCS system are still an SEC single-season record. His 37 touchdown passes in 1997 are tied for third all-time and his 36 scoring strikes the following year are tied for fifth.

43. Josh Reed, WR, LSU (1999-2001)
Stats: 167 rec., 3,001 yds, 17 TDs, 63 rush, TD

The numbers weren’t huge for Reed, but he was the nation’s best in 2001. He was a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner after catching 94 passes — seven for touchdowns, good for third all-time — for an SEC single-season record 1,740 yards. He is one of the SEC’s greatest wide receivers and is the conference’s only Biletnikoff winner. His 1,860 all-purpose yards in ’01 is one of just five in the top 20 all-time in SEC history posted by a wide receiver (the other 15 were posted by running backs). His 3,001 career yards are fourth all-time in the SEC record books and his 293 yards against Bama on 19 catches were both single-game SEC benchmarks (Cobi Hamilton broke the yards mark in 2012).

44. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama (2008-10)
Stats: 179 rec., 2,653 yds, 15 TDs, 139 rush, 2 TDs

From a talent standpoint, there may not be a more gifted name on this list than the superstar from Alabama. The school’s most talented pass-catcher helped lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 2009 and played on three teams that went 36-5 overall. Despite playing in a run-heavy offense, he is 16th all-time in yards and 20th all-time in receptions in league history — a tribute to his big-play ability. His 78 receptions and 1,133 yards as a junior are both Alabama single-season records and it led to the Falcons mortgaging their entire 2011 draft to select him with the sixth overall pick.

45. Ben Wilkerson, C, LSU (2001-04)

Starting for Nick Saban up front, Wilkerson helped lead LSU to two SEC championships and its first national title (2003) in over 50 years. After winning the BCS title as a junior, he was a consensus All-American in 2004 and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He was a two-time Rimington finalist and went undrafted in 2005.

46. Cadillac Williams, RB, Auburn (2001-04)
Stats: 741 att., 3,831 yds, 45 TDs, 45 rec., 342 yds, TDs, 911 ret. yds

He never got the ball all to himself and that likely keeps him from being in the top five. He topped out in 2003 with 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns before his second 1,000-yard season during the unbeaten 2004 campaign. He has scored more rushing touchdowns than anyone in school history and is No. 2 to only Bo Jackson in rushing yards. Williams is 11th all-time in rushing in SEC history and is fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns before becoming the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He’s 10th all-time in all-purpose yards in SEC history (5,084).

47. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida (2007-09)

There are no holes in Pouncey’s resume. He won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2008 as the starting center as just a sophomore. He was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2009. Pouncey was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2010 and already has been to three Pro Bowls in his NFL career.

48. Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama (2008-09)

A two-time consensus All-American, Cody helped lead Alabama back to the national championship promised land in 2009 (just ask Lane Kiffin). Mount Cody finished his two-year SEC career with 51 total tackles, 10.5 for a loss and two key blocked kicks. Alabama’s defense ranked No. 3 in the nation during his first season and No. 2 in the nation during his second. He was a second-round pick by the Ravens in 2010.

49. Joe Haden, CB, Florida (2007-09)

Haden was the first true freshman cornerback to ever start opening day for the Gators. He helped lead Florida to the BCS National Championship in 2008 and was named National Defensive Player of the Year in '09. He also was a unanimous All-American that year and went seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

50. Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida (2006-09)

Spikes' resume is virtually complete. He was a two-time, consensus All-American, a three-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won two BCS National Championships, was a second-round pick and dated Doc Rivers' daughter. He posted 307 total tackles and started 39 of his 47 career games as a Gator before a slow 40-time caused him to fall into the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

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The SEC's Top 40 Players of the BCS Era
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Bill O’Brien was exactly what Penn State needed.

He was an outsider who kept the program together and, more importantly, competitive during the worst scandal in NCAA history. In the face of horrific sanctions, not only did O’Brien win games but he also recruited extremely well. So when James Franklin, a Pennsylvania native, returned home to assume control of the historic program, the cupboard wasn’t even close to being bare.

Franklin arrives in Happy Valley off of the most successful run of football in Vanderbilt school history. He beat his rivals, he recruited at an unprecedented level and inspired a once dormant community of fans in Nashville. At Penn State, Franklin won’t have to work nearly as hard to recruit and certainly won’t have to beg fans to come to games any longer.

Franklin now has all of the natural advantages at his disposal in order to compete for national championships — something that could not be said on West End. O’Brien was a perfect bridge from one State College lifer to what could turn out to be another.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30 (Dublin)
Sept. 6
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20
Sept. 27
Oct. 4Bye Week
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18Bye Week
Oct. 25
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at
Nov. 15
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

Penn State Nittany Lions 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 7-5 (4-4 Big Ten)

Spring Practice Opens: March 17

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 6

Three Things to Watch in Penn State's 2014 Spring Practice

Replace Allen Robinson
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg returns for his second full season as the starting quarterback with massive expectations. But who will catch his passes? Allen Robinson was a Biltenikoff candidate for much of the year because he made huge plays in critical situations — in particular, vertically down the field. Robinson is arguably the best wideout ever to play in Happy Valley and replacing his 97 receptions and 1,432 yards won’t be easy. Eugene Lewis, Richy Anderson, Alex Kenney and Matt Zanellato caught 38 passes combined last year with Lewis’ 18 catches leading the way among all returning wideouts. One of these names needs to step into a bigger role and offer Hackenberg a trusty go-to target on the outside. The development of tight ends Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman, all of whom are very talented, will help the situation. Franklin boasted the SEC’s all-time leading receiver last year at Vanderbilt in Jordan Matthews so he clearly knows how to get his playmakers the ball. But unless he can find a top target, it won’t matter how talented his signal-caller may be, defenses won’t respect the downfield passing game.

Plug holes along the O-line
Two All-Big Ten blockers in guard John Urschel and center Ty Howle have moved on as well as tackle Adam Gress (nine starts). With an elite quarterback and a trio of excellent running backs — Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak, Akeel Lynch — protecting his offensive assets becomes a huge focus this spring for Franklin and the Lions. Offensive line coach Herb Hand is one of the most dynamic personalities the SEC had a year ago and now his first job is to rebuild the Lions' front five. Left tackle Donovan Smith is a great place to start and Miles Dieffenbach has begun to live up to the recruiting hype. Still, other names need to step into bigger roles. Stabilizing the line is imperative if Penn State wants to move the ball on the ground and keep its star signal-caller upright.

Find leadership and depth at linebacker
Two years ago, O’Brien had to step into a horrendous situation few would be willing to attack. But he did so with the help and leadership of Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti at linebacker. Those two seniors helped galvanize the Penn State locker room and family in 2012. Last year, senior Glenn Carson played that role for a team that won seven games. Mike Hull returns after 78 tackles a year ago but Franklin and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop need to find playmakers and depth around him at linebacker. This is Penn State, Linebacker U, and not having star power at this position is borderline unacceptable. Nyeem Wartman (32 tackles), Brandon Bell (23 tackles) and Ben Kline (18) have some experience and upside but need to take on more ownership of the defense. Shoop has a talented defensive line returning and lots of options in the secondary, so finding playmakers and depth at linebacker is key this spring.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10

There is a lot to like about this team. The new regime was a proven commodity in the big bad SEC and now it’s facing a much less daunting Big Ten schedule. There is plenty of talent left on the roster after O’Brien surprised with his high level of recruiting during his two-year tenure. Having Hackenberg in place for the next two seasons is a luxury most new coaches rarely get and Franklin will maximize his quarterback’s enormous upside. And with a defense that returns a lot of weapons, filling in holes around the star quarterback will be critical this offseason. Getting both Ohio State and Michigan State at home are huge and the conference road slate is extremely manageable — at Michigan is the toughest task. This is a very talented team working under a very talented coaching staff with a schedule that sets up nicely for a postseason run — should the NCAA lift the bowl ban in the next few months.

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Penn State Nittany Lions 2014 Spring Football Preview
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Pat Haden really didn’t want Lane Kiffin around any longer. So the USC athletic director made a decisive move just a few weeks into the season when he fired Kiffin on the tarmac at LAX.

A few months later, Haden announced that Steve Sarkisian was returning to Heritage Hall to become USC’s next head football coach. Coach Sark had rebuilt Washington into a winner but could never get the Huskies over the proverbial hump in Seattle. Yet, the timing was right for both parties and Sark made his triumphant homecoming to Los Angeles.

Sarkisian immediately began building one of the more impressive coaching staffs in the nation using both incumbents (Clay Helton, Tee Martin) and familiar faces from UW (Justin Wilcox).

And so, with an elite roster chock-full of five-star talent, Sark embarks on a journey USC fans are hoping returns the Men of Troy to the top of the college football mountain.

Finding replacements for names like wide receiver Marqise Lee, center Marcus Martin, end George Uko, linebacker Devon Kennard and safety Dion Bailey will be Sarkisian's first task this spring.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30
Sept. 6at
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20Bye Week
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 13
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

USC Trojans 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 10-4 (6-3 Pac-12)

Spring Practice Opens: March 11

Spring Game: April 19

Returning Starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 8

Three Things to Watch in USC's 2014 Spring Practice

Adapt to the new tempo
Even in his introductory press conference, Sarkisian intimated at how fast USC’s offense will run under the new regime. He wants his team to play fast. Getting his players accustomed to running the offense at breakneck speed will be critical for returning quarterback Cody Kessler and backup Max Browne, as well as a host of talented but fairly young skill players. The players have reportedly taken to the tempo quickly and are enjoying the new M.O. Sark has said that every position will be up for grabs, including quarterback, and that has fueled competition and intrigue throughout spring camp. It appears that USC practices are fun to be a part of once again.

Rebuild the offensive line
Martin was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick last year and he must be replaced at center. Gone also are Kevin Graf and John Martinez. New offensive line coach Tim Drevno is looking to totally recast this front and has some really nice pieces to work with in left tackle Chad Wheeler and the versatile Max Tuerk. Tuerk, who has played both tackle and guard, appears to be earmarked as Martin’s replacement at center as Drevno builds from the inside out along the line. Khaliel Rodgers and Aundrey Walker were both big-time recruits who the staff has high expectations for as well. Toss in names like Giovanni Di Poalo and Nathan Guertler and the Trojans could have the makings of an elite offensive line. If they can all stay healthy.

Find some edge rushers
Three of the top four sack masters for USC last year are gone. Outside linebacker Devon Kennard (9.0), defensive end George Uko (5.0) and Morgan Breslin (4.5, six games) have all moved on from the Trojans' defense. J.R. Tavai filled in admirably for Breslin a year ago and he should lock down one outside spot while Scott Starr, Quinton Powell, Michael Hutchings and Anthony Sarao are in the mix for serious playing time as well. There is no shortage of talented bodies, so defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox should be excited about his future front seven. Finding an elite pass rusher off the edge, be it with a hand in the dirt or not, has to be an area of focus for the new coaching staff this spring — especially, considering the quarterback play and offensive coaching prowess that the Pac-12 boasts.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10
Steve Sarkisian was an underwhelming hire at USC but coaches shouldn’t be selected based on their ability to win the press conference (just ask UCLA). Coach Sark knows the landscape at USC and has assembled an all-star coaching staff to both recruit and motivate. This team returns a ton of weapons on offense and has loads of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. Recruiting was never Kiffin’s problem and he left the cupboard totally stocked for Sark. So even with a brutal schedule in 2014, fans in USC should expect to compete for South Division and Pac-12 titles right away under the new regime. In fact, a berth in the Pac-12 title game in Sark’s first year is well within reach.

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The ACC has experienced some peaks and valleys during the BCS Era. It began with three consecutive BCS title game appearances followed by massive expansion with the additions of marquee programs Miami, Virginia Tech (2004) and Boston College (’05).

However, the league continued to fall behind its big league brethren on the field with a horrendous record in BCS bowls (5-13) and off the field with instability among the ranks. Rumors about Florida State and Clemson's future in the league persisted, and Maryland decided to bolt the league for greener pastures.

But as the BCS Era came to a close, John Swofford’s conference finished with a bang. A Grant of Rights agreement, the addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville and a return to glory on the field with Florida State’s national title capped the BCS Era in style for the once-unsettled conference.

So even though the conference went through some rough years on the field, there is still a long list of elite NCAA Hall of Famers who graced an ACC field during the BCS Era.

Trying to narrow this list down to 25 names was nearly impossible but here are Athlon Sports' Top 25 ACC players of the BCS Era. The only stipulation is that you must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina (1999-01)

From a talent standpoint, few players have ever been able to match Peppers' freakish quickness and size. As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American and by winning Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks, good for sixth all-time in ACC history and second during the BCS Era. His 53.0 tackles for a loss are 13th all-time in league history as well. Peppers was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Stats: 178 rec., 2,927 yds, 28 TDs, 40 rush, TD

Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006. He is one of 13 wide receivers to finish in the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy voting during the BCS Era (10th). He is simply a freak of nature.

3. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 9,839 yds, 79 TDs, 32 INTs, 58.7%, 2 rush TDs

There was little left unaccomplished in Weinke's college career. He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman Trophy as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost two games over that span and one was the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9) and was the conference’s all-time most efficient passer with a 151.15 rating until Tajh Boyd (and possibly Jameis Winston) came along.

4. Peter Warrick, WR, Florida State (1995-99)
Stats: 207 rec., 3,517 yds, 32 TDs, 188 rush, 4 TDs, 937 ret. yds, 6 TDs

The phrase all-purpose wasn’t en vogue when Warrick broke onto the scene so the Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast superstar might deserve credit for the invention. And if not for an incident at Dillard’s Department Store that resulted in a two-game suspension, Warrick likely would have won the Heisman Trophy. The two-time consensus All-American could do it all. His joystick, open-field moves made him dynamic in the passing game, on special teams and he was one of the first wideouts used in the running game. His Sugar Bowl MVP performance — and touchdown catch — in the 1999 national championship game (six rec., 163 yds, three total TDs) will go down as one of the greatest national title performances in NCAA history.

5. Philip Rivers, QB, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 13,484 yds, 95 TDs, 34 INTs, 63.5%, 98 yds, 17 TDs

The most productive passer in ACC history, Rivers owns the ACC record for completions (1,087), attempts (1,711), passing yards, total yards and set the record for passing touchdowns and total touchdowns (since broken). He won ACC Player of the Year honors in 2003 and finished seventh in the Heisman balloting. That year he led the nation in completion percent (72.0, an ACC record at the time) and set the ACC single-season passing yards record (since broken). His 18 career 300-yard games were an ACC record (broken). Rivers also is a member of the historic 2004 NFL Draft class that includes fellow quarterbacks Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

6. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (2013-present)
Stats: 4,057 yds, 40 TDs, 10 INTs, 66.9%, 219 yds, 4 TDs

No player, especially no freshman, has ever posted a season like Winston in college football history much less in the ACC. His 184.8 passer rating was an ACC record (and would be No. 1 for a career as well), he set an NCAA freshman and all-time ACC single-season record with 40 touchdown passes and his 4,057 yards are fourth all-time in ACC history. Winston won the Heisman Trophy, the BCS national championship, the ACC Player of the Year, the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards as well. He has yet to lose a game on the gridiron and is poised to make another run at all of the above accolades as a sophomore.

7. E.J. Henderson, LB, Maryland (1999-02)

Henderson left Maryland with multiple NCAA records and numerous awards and honors. He owns the career tackles per game record (12.5), career solo tackles per game (8.8) and the single-season unassisted tackle record with 135 in 2002. That year, Henderson won his second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award as well as the Butkus, Lambert and Bednarik Awards nationally. He was a two-time All-American, Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP, is second all-time in ACC history with 62.5 career tackles for loss and 11th all-time with 473 tackles. Henderson was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2003.

8. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (2009-11)

Tackling. Machine. That is really all that needs to be said about the Boston College star defender. He was second nationally with 158 tackles as just a freshman, led the nation in tackles with 183 as a sophomore and led the world again in stops with 191 as a junior. So in just three seasons, Kuechly set the BC and ACC career tackle records en route to numerous awards. He was a two-time All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-round NFL Draft pick by Carolina in 2012 and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott and Lambert national trophies.

9. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, OL, Virginia (2002-05)

Ferguson started 49 games in his Virginia career — all at left tackle —  helping the Cavaliers to four straight bowl games. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and earned All-American honors in his final season in Charlottesville. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has gone to three Pro Bowls.

10. C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson (2006-09)
Stats: 606 att., 3,547 yds, 32 TDs, 123 rec., 1,420 yds, 11 TDs, 2,621 ret. yds, 8 TDs

Versatility and explosiveness are the words that come to mind when describing Spiller. With elite burst and big-play ability, Clemson used Spiller in every aspect of the game to great success. He is No. 2 in ACC history in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns and is the NCAA’s all-time leader with seven kickoff return touchdowns. His 2,680 all-purpose yards in 2009 are a single-season ACC record and his 7,588 all-purpose yards are the all-time career record in the ACC by almost 2,000 yards (Leon Johnson, 5,828). No ACC player has scored in more games (34) than Spiller did while at Clemson.

11. Chris Long, DE, Virginia (2004-07)

The son of NFL great Howie Long entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, totaling 46 tackles, 10.0 for a loss and two sacks. As a junior, Long posted 57 tackles, 12.0 for a loss and 4.0 sacks. As a senior, he claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as the Dudley and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American after 79 total tackles, an ACC-best 19.0 tackles for a loss and ACC-best 14.0 sacks in his final season in which he finished 10th in the Heisman voting. He finished his career with 182 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 20.0 sacks before being selected No. 2 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

12. Russell Wilson, QB, NC State/Wisconsin (2008-11)
Stats: 11,720 yds, 109 TDs, 30 INTs, 60.9%, 1,421 yds, 23 TDs

Not many players own school records for two different programs but Wilson excelled in both the ACC and Big Ten and his overall career must be taken into account when measuring his greatness. The Super Bowl champion posted the single greatest season by a Wisconsin quarterback in history en route to a league crown and near national title berth. He owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38) and the single-season mark for passing efficiency at 191.8. In just three years in the ACC, Wilson finished eighth all-time in total offense (9,628), third in total offense per game (267.5 ypg), third in ACC history with 93 total touchdowns and set the ACC record with 379 consecutive passes without an interception. Imagine if he had stayed his final season in Raleigh.

13. Aaron Donald, DL, Pitt (2010-13)

Donald only played one season in the ACC but it was one of the, if not the, best by an ACC defensive lineman in league history. He swept the national awards by claiming the Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik as essentially the most decorated defensive player of the BCS Era not named Manti Te’o. He won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after posting 59 tackles, 28.5 for a loss and 11.0 sacks from his defensive tackle position. His 28.5 TFLs were second only to Keith Adams’ ACC record 33 in 1999. His career 29.5 sacks would be eighth in ACC history and his 66.0 tackles for a loss would be a new career ACC record had he played his entire career in the league. 

14. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011-13)
Stats: 240 rec., 3,391 yards, 27 TDs, 339 rush, TD, 1,399 ret. yards, TD

Watkins did it all at Clemson. A freakish athlete with the ability to score on any play from anywhere on the field, Watkins helped lead Clemson to a 32-8 record during his three seasons. He finished No. 2 all-time in ACC history with 240 receptions, No. 3 all-time with 3,391 yards receiving and tied for eighth all-time with 27 receiving touchdowns. And he did all of this in just three seasons, while bringing an ACC title back to Clemson for the first time in decades. His 5,129 all-purpose yards are ninth all-time in league history. His 101 receptions in 2013 would have been a single-season ACC record if not for Duke’s Jamison Crowder and his 108 catches this fall. His 1,464 yards in his final season is second all-time to Torry Holt (1,604) and his 82 catches and 12 TDs in 2011 were both ACC records for freshmen.

15. Torry Holt, WR, NC State (1995-98)
Stats: 191 rec., 3,379 yds, 31 TDs, 119 rush

One of the greatest receivers to ever play the game on any level, Holt capped his outstanding Wolfpack career with an ACC Player of the Year award in the first year of the BCS. Over his final two seasons in Raleigh, the Gibsonville (N.C.) Eastern Guilford receiver caught 150 passes for 2,703 yards and 27 touchdowns (he also threw a 45-yard TD pass), finishing eighth in the Heisman voting in 1998. Holt set all types of NC State and ACC records during his college career and he went on to become one of the NFL’s greatest wide receivers. No one ever had a better game during the BCS Era than Holt when he posted 255 yards against Baylor in 1998.

16. Dre Bly, CB, North Carolina (1996-98)

Not only one of the coolest names in college football but one of the coolest customers on an island all by himself. Bly set the ACC single-season record with 11 interceptions in 1996 and left school with an ACC record 20 INTs in his career (both since broken). He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and sophomore (one of few in NCAA history to accomplish the feat) and was a second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

17. D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Maryland (2002-05)

The undersized tackler played in all 14 games as a freshman, started all 11 games as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior and senior. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 after 137 tackles and four sacks. Jackson finished with 447 tackles, good for fourth in school history and 19th in ACC history — seventh among all players during the BCS Era. Jackson was a second-round pick of the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft.

18. Anthony Poindexter, S, Virginia (1995-98)

He was a leader and one of the hardest-hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American. He was the only defensive back in the ACC to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors during the BCS Era. The three-time, first-team All-ACC pick finished his career with 12 interceptions.

19. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (2009-13)
Stats: 11,904 yds, 107 TDs, 39 INTs, 64.3%, 1,165 yds, 26 TDs

In just three full seasons as the starter, Boyd set every major Clemson passing record and is the ACC’s all-time leader in total touchdowns (133) and touchdown passes (107). He is No. 2 all-time in yards, won 2012 ACC Player of the Year honors, led Clemson back to an ACC championship in '11 and finished as the league’s most efficient passer in history with a QB rating of 155.2 (topping Weinke). Clemson went 32-8 over his final three years — all three of which he topped 3,800 yards and 33 TD passes. Boyd produced three of the top seven seasons in regards to total offense in league history. His 20 career 300-yard games broke Rivers’ previous ACC record of 18.

20. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College (2004-07)
Stats: 9,313 yds, 56 TDs, 37 INTs, 60.0%, 39 yds, 11 TDs

Ryan did more for Boston College than any player since Doug Flutie. He won the ACC Player of the Year and led the Eagles to the ACC title game. He was seventh in the Heisman ballot and won the Johnny Unitas and Archie Manning Awards before beginning his elite career in the NFL. Ryan owns the ACC single-season record for passing yards (4,507), completions (388) and attempts (654), all of which were set in 2007, and is second all-time with his 4,509 yards of total offense that year as well. From a raw talent standpoint, few players on this list are better quarterbacks than Matty-Ice.

21. Joe Hamilton, QB, Georgia Tech (1996-99)
Stats: 8,882 yds, 65 TDs, 39 INTs, 61.7%, 1,758 yds, 18 TDs

One of the most dynamic players in league history, Hamilton led the Jackets to three straight winning seasons, three straight bowl games and only Tech’s third 10-win season since 1956. Hamilton won ACC Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American, finished second in the Heisman voting and won the Davey O’Brien Award in 1999. He threw for 3,060 yards and 29 scores while running for 734 and eight touchdowns in his final season. The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick is third all-time in total offense and he currently stands as the ACC’s No. 5 most efficient passer with a rating of 148.19.

22. Alex Barron, OL, Florida State (2001-04)

The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder was Florida State’s top lineman of the BCS Era. He was a consensus All-American in 2003 and a unanimous All-American in 2004. Barron was an Outland Trophy finalist in his final season as well. His teams never won fewer than eight games, won two ACC titles and went 26-6 in conference play over that span. Barron was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Rams.

23. Heath Miller, Virginia (2002-04)
Stats: 144 rec., 1,703 yds, 20 TDs

Perhaps the greatest tight end in ACC history, Miller became the first player in league history to win the John Mackey Award in 2004. He wrote his name into the school and conference record books for receiving by a tight end, setting a new benchmark in all three major receiving categories despite only playing three seasons. However, it wasn’t just his elite receiving ability that made the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder one of the game’s best. Miller relished the blocking side of the game and his physicality and dependability is what has made the consensus All-American one of the NFL’s best tight ends for the last decade.

24. Thomas Jones, RB, Virginia (1996-99)
Stats: 823 att., 4,065 yds, 37 TDs, 72 rec., 578 yds, 3 TDs

Until 2013, Jones boasted a long list of illustrious ACC rushing records. His 334 carries and 1,798 yards in 1999 were both single-season ACC records until Andre Williams broke both this past season. His six 200-yard games are an ACC record still (Williams has five) and he is seventh all-time with 18 100-yard games. Jones is sixth all-time in the ACC in rushing, leading the league twice in 1998-99, and is tied for 12th all-time with 40 total touchdowns. Jones finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 1999 and was one of two consensus All-American running backs during the BCS Era (Spiller).

25. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (2008-10)

The No. 1 prospect in the nation battled a knee injury during his sophomore year but still posted 58 tackles — including 11 in the ACC Championship Game win over Georgia Tech — 10.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. However, Bowers exploded as a senior by leading the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5) to go with his 67 total tackles. Those 15.5 sacks were sixth all-time in ACC history. Bowers was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous first-team All-American and claimed both the Nagurski Trophy and the Hendricks Award. More knee issues cost him on draft day as he slipped to the end of the second round where Tampa Bay selected him with the 51st overall pick.

The Next 10:

26. Mario Williams, DE, NC State (2003-05)

In just three seasons, the physical freak from NC State posted 25.5 career sacks — good for 18th all-time in ACC history — and 55.5 tackles for a  loss — good for 10th all-time. In his final season, he led the ACC with 24.0 tackles for a loss and 14.5 sacks. As one of the most gifted athletes to ever play in any league, Williams was one of just two defensive players selected as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft during the BCS Era (Courtney Brown, 2000).

27. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College (2011-13)
Stats: 704 att., 3,739 yds, 28 TDs, 10 rec., 60 yds

From a single-season perspective, no player in ACC history can match what Williams accomplished in 2013. Williams set the ACC single-season rushing record for carries (355) and yards (2,177) when he rolled up five 200-yard games and 18 touchdowns en route to a fourth-place Heisman Trophy finish. He is the only ACC player to win the Doak Walker Award during the BCS Era and he was named an All-American in the process. He is 11th all-time in the conference in rushing yards.

28. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest (2005-08)

Curry was a freshman All-American after starting 10 games in his first season. He posted 83 tackles as a sophomore and tied an NCAA record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns as a junior. As a senior, he won the Butkus Award, was an All-American and registered 105 tackles. Curry finished with 331 tackles, 44.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, six interceptions and five forced fumbles in his career. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and in '06 helped lead Wake to its only BCS bowl berth and ACC title of the BCS Era.

29. Steve Justice, C, Wake Forest (2004-07)

Few players have meant more to their school than Justice did to Wake Forest. After enduring two losing seasons as an underclassman, Justice was the first-team All-ACC pivot for arguably the greatest team in school history. He led the way on the 11-win, ACC championship squad of 2006. He came back for his senior year and earned his second first-team All-ACC nod and was a consensus All-American as well. Justice was a Rimington finalist and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC in ’07.

30. Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State (1997-00)

Reynolds helped lead the Seminoles to three consecutive BCS National Championship Games, including the 1999 title. He was named the Lombardi and Willis Trophy winner after a 58-tackle, 12-sack season in 2000 as a senior and was a finalist for the national Defensive Player of the Year award. He was named a unanimous All-American and taken with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. His 23.5 career sacks are 24th all-time in ACC history and are the most by any Seminole during the BCS Era.

31. Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech (2002-05)

Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior while leading Tech to an ACC championship with a league-leading five interceptions and 19 passes defensed. In 2005, Williams was a unanimous All-American and Jack Tatum Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

32. Rodney Hudson, OL, Florida State (2007-10)

The mauler from Mobile was a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, a two-time, first-team All-American and a two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC. He is one of only two guards to ever win the award twice (Elton Brown). He helped return Florida State to the ACC championship game as a senior in 2010 for the first time since '05. Hudson was a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

33. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson (2003-06)

The 2006 ACC Defensive Player of the Year finished with 157 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for a loss and 28.0 sacks in 46 career games. His 28.0 QB takedowns are 10th all-time in ACC history and are fourth by any player during the BCS Era. His 15.5 sacks in 2010 led the nation and are sixth-best in ACC history. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior and was taken fourth overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Sadly, Adams passed away at age 26 due to cardiac arrest in January 2010 but he will be forever remembered as one of the ACC’s greatest defensive linemen.

34. Jerricho Cotchery, WR, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 200 rec., 3,119 yards, 21 TDs, 102 rush, TD, 300 ret. yards, TD

Following in Holt’s footsteps in Raleigh, Cotchery nearly duplicated his predecessor’s production. The Wolfpack playmaker is tied for second in ACC history with 15 100-yard receiving games, posted the fourth-best single-season yardage total in 2003 (1,369) and, at the time, was No. 2 all-time with 86 receptions that same year. Cotchery is ninth all-time in league history with 200 receptions and sixth all-time with 3,119 yards, the first of which is still an NC State record.

35t. Antrel Rolle, DB, Miami 2001-04)

He only played one season in the ACC but it was a good one. Along with Sean Taylor, Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004 as a senior. He played safety in the NFL after being selected eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was an elite college cornerback, shutting down names like Larry Fitzgerald (3 rec., 26 yds) and Calvin Johnson (2 rec., 10 yds) during his career.

35t. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest (2005-08)

The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick led the ACC in interceptions and passes defended in both 2007 and '08. He totaled 15 picks and 38 passes broken up over that span. He was a consensus All-American as a senior and his 21 career interceptions is an ACC all-time record. Additionally, he scored on four INT returns, tying Randy Neal of Virginia for the all-time ACC record. 

Teaser:
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Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:15
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Arkansas had the worst football season in its existence in 2013.

And that was after firing an extremely popular and successful coach for getting caught illegally hiring his young mistress into the athletic department and finishing 4-8 under John L. Smith.

Needless to say, it’s been a rough few years for Razorbacks fans. In the toughest division in football, the uphill climb back to SEC respectability - much less the Sugar Bowl - appears to be extremely treacherous.

Arkansas was outgained by its opponents last season by an average of 138.3 yards per game — trailing only Kentucky in the SEC. It means Bret Bielema has his work cut out for him on both sides of the ball. The entire two-deep returns one player who got any All-SEC mention a year ago (Hunter Henry), and the running back position is in good hands with rising star sophomore Alex Collins.

However, other than that, the Razorbacks have major question marks all over the depth chart heading into spring camp.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30at 
Sept. 6Nicholls State
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20
Sept. 27 (Arlington)
Oct. 4Bye Week
Oct. 11
Oct. 18
Oct. 25
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 

Arkansas Razorbacks 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 16

Spring Game: April 26

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 4

Three Things to Watch in Arkansas' 2014 Spring Practice

Find balance on offense
Bielema made his living in the Big Ten pounding the football (unless Russell Wilson was under center) and that won’t change too dramatically at Arkansas. But after finishing 114th in passing offense and 21st in rushing offense, finding balance will be imperative for the Hogs moving forward. Does this mean that Brandon Allen is the final answer under center? He has the experience edge but after completing just 49.6-percent of his passes and dealing with a shoulder injury, Bielema has decided to open up the QB competition this spring. Redshirt freshmen Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell will both get tons of reps, and early enrollee Rafe Peavey enters campus with loads of recruiting hype and expectations. This team must find balance on offense if the Bielema regime expects to reach the postseason in its second year in town. This also includes finding a playmaking wide receiver as well as the top three returning receivers combined for 34 catches last fall.

Get to know the new defensive staff
After allowing 475.3 yards per game in SEC play (105th nationally), Bielema overhauled the defensive coaching staff. Robb Smith is now the defensive coordinator, Rory Segrest is the new defensive line coach and Clay Jennings in the new defensive backs coach. This group needs to get to know their roster and organize the depth chart as they show up from Rutgers, Samford and TCU, respectively. Arkansas ranked 104th nationally in pass efficiency defense and was 102nd nationally yards per play allowed at 6.1, which can’t continue if the Hogs expect to reach a bowl game in 2014. Specifically, filling the gaps left by end Chris Smith, linebacker Jarrett Lake and safety Eric Bennett will be critical this spring. Names like Trey Flowers, Braylon Mitchell and Alan Turner may be prepared to take starring roles but getting the nomenclature, signage and general rapport with the new coaching staff will be essential if this unit is going to improve.

Replace Travis Swanson...
And to a lesser extent, tackle David Hurd. The running game will always be the foundation of Bielema’s offensive attack and there is some nice talent for line coach Sam Pittman to work with in ’14. However, Swanson was arguably the best player on the team and was the only first-team All-SEC selection last fall. Finding a new pivot to manage the offense line, developing young talent like Denver Kirkland and stabilizing the pecking order at the tackle position is huge for a team that did only one thing well in 2013 — run the ball and protect the quarterback. Luke Charpentier is a senior and possibly the top candidate to replace Swanson but sophomore Cordale Boyd will press him for time this spring. Additionally, keep Frank Ragnow on the back burner as he will arrive on campus this summer and could be the long-term solution to replace Swanson.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 3-5
Arkansas should be able to run the football on offense again in 2014 with seven starters returning, including one of the best backfields in the SEC. But this coaching staff doesn’t really know what it has at either quarterback or wide receiver and is replacing its top offensive lineman. Finding balance on offense will be crucial because it doesn’t appear that the defense will be all that improved. Only four starters are back and the star power is gone (Smith, Bennett). Even the schedule is nasty for Bielema, as things get started with road trips to Auburn and Texas Tech in the first three weeks. Three wins in the non-conference would be a great step and an upset (or two) at home against an SEC power — Alabama, Georgia, LSU or Ole Miss — will be mandatory if the Razorbacks are going to be bowling at season’s end.

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Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 07:15
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The Pac-12 has long been considered an offensive football conference.

With a rich history of elite quarterbacks, offensive playmakers and innovative coaching staffs, it’s not too difficult to back that claim up with facts. Bill Walsh, Don James, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll set the bar for offensive advancement over the years while new faces like Rich Rodriguez, Mike Leach and Todd Graham continue to elevate this league’s standing nationally.

During the BCS Era, the Pac-12 boasts three Heisman Trophy winners, four Biletnikoff winners, three Doak Walker winners, four Johnny Unitas Golden Arm winners, three Walter Camp winners and three John Mackey winners. And that’s just the offensive skill players in this league.

The Pac-12 has developed into one of the nation’s best leagues, and, with excellent new leadership at the conference and school level, should be around for decades to come as one of the preeminent leagues in college football.

Trying to narrow this list down to 25 names was nearly impossible but here are Athlon Sports' Top 25 Pac-12 players of the BCS Era. The only stipulation is that you must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 10,693 yds, 99 TDs, 23 INTs, 64.8%, 9 rush TDs


Leinart won two national titles and played for a third in three years starting at powerhouse USC under Pete Carroll. He finished in the top six of Heisman voting in all three seasons, winning the award in 2004, finishing sixth in '03 and third in '05. He also earned AP Player of the Year, Manning, Walter Camp, Unitas and consensus All-American honors during his remarkable Heisman campaign. He capped the season with arguably the second-best performance by a quarterback in a national title game by dissecting Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. He threw for 332 yards and a championship game-record five touchdowns in the most lopsided win in series history. Leinart owns the career conference record with 36 consecutive games with a touchdown pass and his 99 TD passes were a league record until Matt Barkley came along. He also is just one of three players in league history to throw for 3,000 yards in three seasons (Derek Anderson, Andrew Walter).


2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (2009-11)
Stats: 9,430 yds, 82 TDs, 22 INTs, 67.0%, 957 yds, 7 TDs


The best quarterback prospect in over two decades broke all kinds of rookie NFL records in his first trip through the professional ranks. This merely lends credence to his remarkable college career. Few players have meant more to their school in history than Luck at Stanford. He led his program to its first BCS bowl win and set every school passing record en route. The two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year finished second in the Heisman twice (2010, '11) and won the Unitas, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards in 2011. He is the Pac-12's all-time leader in completion percentage, yards per play (8.5) and passing efficiency (162.8). He was 27-4 in his last 31 starts, earned a degree in architecture from Stanford, and is one of just nine players in league history to throw for at least 2,500 yards in three different seasons.


3. Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State (2000-02)


The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. That year, Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies as well. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time in league history) and 14 forced fumbles. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.]


4. Troy Polamalu, S, USC (1999-2002)


The big-play machine was a three-year starter for the West Coast powerhouse. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a consensus All-American and stuffed the stat sheet his entire career. The big hitter finished with 278 tackles, 29.0 for loss, six interceptions and four blocked punts in 36 career starts for the Men of Troy. Polamalu led USC back to prominence with a league title and trip to the Orange Bowl before being taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.


5. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon (2003-05)


Arguably the best NFL defensive tackle of his generation, Ngata had to overcome a torn ACL in college. Once he recovered, the big interior stuffer posted 107 tackles, 17.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks over his final two seasons in Eugene. He was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the Morris Trophy winner before being selected 12th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He blocked seven kicks and led Oregon to a 10-win season in 2005 — just the school’s third such campaign in school history at the time.

6. Reggie Bush, RB, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 433 att., 3,169 yds, 25 TDs, 95 rec., 1,301 yds, 13 TDs, 2,081 ret. yds, 3 TDs

The superstar recruit from La Mesa (Calif.) Helix brought a unique skill set to the evolving running back position. Sort of a first of his kind, the all-purpose talent was unstoppable with the ball in his hands. He played a prominent role on the 2003 national championship team before providing 908 yards rushing, 509 yards receiving, nearly 1,000 return yards and 15 total touchdowns during USC’s 2004 romp to a second national title. He exploded as a junior, rushing for 1,740 yards on a ridiculous 8.7 yards per carry and scoring 19 total touchdowns, coming up just short of his third national title. He earned his second consecutive Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award as well as the Doak Walker, Walter Camp and Heisman Trophy. His career 7.3 per carry average is fourth all-time and his legacy is only somewhat tarnished by the scandal that put USC on probation and caused him to "return" his Heisman.

7. Sam Baker, OT, USC (2004-07)

The stud left tackle charged with protecting Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was a three-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. Baker helped lead the way on teams that played in back-to-back national championship games and won four straight Pac-10 titles. USC was 47-5 during his time and he went on to be a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.

8. Carson Palmer, QB, USC (1998-02)
Stats: 11,668 yds, 72 TDs, 49 INTs, 9 rush TDs

Pete Carroll has always said that if he could design a quarterback from scratch that it would have the physical tools of Palmer. After two middle-of-the-pack seasons as the starter in L.A., Palmer won the Heisman Trophy, Unitas Award and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2002. That year, Palmer threw for 3,942 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading USC to a conference championship and Orange Bowl win over Iowa. He is No. 2 all-time in league history in total offense (11,621) and yards passing (11,818). His 72 touchdown passes rank 10th all-time in Pac-12 history and he is one of nine players to throw for at least 2,500 yards in three seasons. Palmer was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

9. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Cal (2003-04)
Stats: 5,469 yds, 43 TDs, 13 INTs, 63.8%, 336 yds, 8 TDs

Clearly one of the greatest players to ever come through the league, Rodgers led Cal back to relevance, finishing 18-8 in two years as the starter and posting 10 wins in a season for the first time since 1991. He scored 51 times in just 25 games with only 13 interceptions, finished ninth in the Heisman voting in 2004, led the NCAA in completion percentage (66.1) and yards-per-attempt in his final season (8.1). Rodgers was a first-round pick of the Packers in the 2005 NFL Draft and is widely considered the best active quarterback on the planet today.

10. Rey Maualuga, LB, USC (2005-08)

The hard-hitting tackler was a freshman All-American on the 2005 USC team that barely lost to Texas in the national title game. He then started the next three seasons for the Trojans, earning consensus All-American honors, the Chuck Bednarik Award and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008. The Men of Troy went 46-6 during his time on campus and few players were as feared nationally as Maualuga. He posted 272 career tackles, 22.5 for loss, 9.0 sacks and five interceptions before being taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

11. LaMichael James, Oregon (2009-11)
Stats: 771 att., 5,082 yds, 53 TDs, 51 rec., 586 yds, 4 TDs


Few players accomplished more in three seasons than James. Three straight 1,500-yard campaigns, a Doak Walker Award, consensus All-American honors and a trip to the BCS title game make the speedy and allusive back one of the BCS Era’s greatest tailbacks. His 53 touchdowns and 5,082 yards on the ground are both second all-time in Pac-12 history. The Texarkana, Texas, native finished third in the Heisman voting in 2010 and 10th in '11 and led an Oregon team that went 34-6 and won three straight Pac-12 titles.


12. Steven Jackson, Oregon State (2000-03)
Stats: 743 att., 3,625 yds, 39 TDs, 66 rec., 680 yds, 6 TDs


From a pure talent standpoint, Jackson is the best Oregon State player of all-time and is one of the most talented runners of the BCS Era. The Las Vegas native led the nation in rushing two straight seasons and set the OSU single-season rushing record with his 1,690-yard 2002 season. In just three years, Jackson ranks 17th in Pac-12 history in yards and 15th in touchdowns. He was a first-round draft pick and posted eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL for a team that rarely pressed for the postseason.


13. Mike Williams, WR, USC (2002-03)
Stats: 176 rec., 2,579 yds, 30 TDs


Fans in Los Angeles may always wonder what could have been had Williams not pressed NFL Draft eligibility rules. In his two underclass seasons for USC, Williams was extraordinary. As a true freshman, the massive 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 TDs. He returned to top those numbers as a sophomore with 95 receptions (third in league history at the time), 1,314 yards and 16 scores in 2003 (still third in league history). He was a consensus All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. Williams declared for the draft following his sophomore season, but was ultimately ruled ineligible and couldn't return to USC either. Although he was taken 10th overall in the 2005 draft, he ended up being of the biggest draft busts in recent history, especially given the talent and potential he showed in college.


14. Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona (2004-07)


The California native was a four-year contributor for Arizona, playing in 46 career games in Tucson. He burst onto the scene in his first collegiate game by winning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week. He went on to win Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He was named first-team all-league twice as an upperclassman and is the only player form the Pac-12 to win the Thorpe Award during the BCS Era (2007). He scored four times (two INTs, two punt returns), intercepted five passes and made 71 tackles as a senior. He finished with 253 tackles, 14.0 for loss, 15 interceptions and five total touchdowns. Cason was the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.


15. Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA (2002-05)
Stats: 126 rec., 1,571 yds, 21 TDs


The red-zone touchdown machine improved his production each of his four seasons at UCLA, culminating with All-American and John Mackey honors as a senior in 2005. He set school records in all three major categories for a tight end that year and helped UCLA to its best record (10-2) since 1998. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound consensus All-American was a matchup nightmare for defenses and was the Pac-10’s best player at his position during the BCS era in a league known for its great tight ends.

16. Alex Mack, C, Cal (2005-08)


The star center started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears. He won the “Academic Heisman” when was named the recipient of the Draddy Trophy in 2008 and was a two-time Rimington Finalist. Mack was the only Pac-12 player to win the Morris Trophy (Offensive) as the league’s top lineman twice during the BCS Era and was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He also was a rare first-round pick as a center by the Browns in 2009 and has been sent to three Pro Bowls in his career.


17. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford (2006-09)
Stats: 671 att., 3,522 yds, 44 TDs, 39 rec., 395 yds


The Norco (Calif.) High prospect had just 515 yards and one touchdown entering his junior year. In two years as the starter, Gerhart posted 43 rushing touchdowns and over 3,000 yards in his final two seasons. He won the Doak Walker and Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year accolades and earned consensus All-American honors by leading the nation in rushing touchdowns (28), attempts (343) and yards (1,871). He finished second in the Heisman balloting that year and his 28 touchdowns are a single-season Pac-12 record.


18. Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State (2009-13)


There are only two players in the history of the Pac-12 to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and Sutton is one of them (Washington’s Steve Emtman is the other) as he claimed both the 2012 and '13 honor. Sutton was an All-American after a huge junior season in 2012 before returning to help lead Arizona State to the best record in the Pac-12 and a South Division title. He won back-to-back Morris Trophies as well as the league’s best D-liner in both seasons. From his tackle spot, he finished with 19.5 career sacks and 45.5 tackles for a loss.


19. Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon (1998-01)
Stats: 6,911 yds, 59 TDs, 23 INTs, 55.2%, 210 yds, 18 TDs


He will always be remembered as the guy on the Times Square billboard and as the third overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. However, during his three-year run at Oregon, few players were ever as productive and successful as Harrington. He went 25-3 as a starter, including an 11-win Pac-10 championship and the program's first-ever BCS bowl appearance and win. He was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in the Heisman voting. He accounted for 63 total touchdowns in his final two seasons in Eugene.


20. Ryan Kalil, C, USC (2003-06)


The Rimington Finalist was one of the stars of the USC offensive line during its national championship run in the early 2000s. He played a big role on both the 2004 and '05 BCS title game teams and was voted the Morris Trophy winner in 2006. He also earned All-American honors and was drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler.


21. David Yankey, G, Stanford (2011-13)


In three short years, Yankey is likely the school’s most decorated offensive lineman. He earned consensus All-American honors as a sophomore for the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champs while also claiming the Morris Trophy as the league’s top OL. He returned as a junior and earned unanimous All-American honors en route to a second consecutive Pac-12 championship. He led Stanford to three straight BCS bowls and a 34-7 overall record over that span. He declared early for the NFL Draft after his 2013 junior season.


22. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (2011- 13)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,655 yds, 29 TDs, 146 rush, 1,351 ret. yds, 2 TDs


As just a sophomore, Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, was a consensus All-American, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and broke multiple USC and Pac-12 receiving records. He is one of just two wideouts in BCS history to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting. Lee owns the single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards against Arizona in 2012 and is third all-time with 16 catches in that game. His 118 catches and 1,721 yards were both Pac-12 records that stood for one year until Brandin Cooks showed up in 2013. He is fourth all-time in career receptions and yards in league history and ninth in TD catches.

23. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (2011-13)
Stats: 743 att., 4,239 yds, 48 TDs, 77 rec., 679 yds, 4 TDs, 565 ret. yds


There aren't too many records Carey doesn't own and had he stuck around for his final season, he would have rewritten the career rushing record book out West. He owns the single-game Pac-12 rushing record with 366 against Colorado as a sophomore. He led the nation in rushing as a sophomore and was second as a junior, finishing his career with 16 consecutive 100-yard games, and two of the top seven single-season rushing marks in league history. He is seventh all-time in rushing yards and fifth all-time in rushing touchdowns and could have broken both (59 and 6,245) with an equally impressive senior season. Carey was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year for his 1,885 yards and 19 TDs in 12 games this past fall.


24. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (2011-13)
Stats: 226 rec., 3,272 yds, 24 TDs, 340 rush, 2 TDs


Cooks set the Pac-12 single-season records for receptions and yards when he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and finished third all-time with 16 touchdown receptions in 2013. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver before leaving early for the NFL Draft. Cooks is arguably the best of a long list of elite do-everything Beaver wide receivers, finishing 10th in league history in receptions and eighth all-time in yards.


25. Chris Claiborne, LB, USC (1995-98)

The three-year star for the Trojans was the first and only Butkus Award winner in USC history when he was named the nation’s top linebacker in 1998 — the same year both Al Wilson and Andy Katzenmoyer were seniors. He also is the only Pac-12 player to win the Butkus in the three-decade history of the award. He was a consensus All-American and the No. 9 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.


The Next 10:


26. Deltha O’Neal, CB, Cal (1996-99)


The Golden Bear great is one of the most decorated defensive backs from the Pac-12 during the BCS Era. He is one of just two players to win conference Defensive Player of the Year when he set an NCAA record by returning four interceptions for touchdowns in his senior year. He also won the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teamer and the Pop Warner Award as the most valuable player on the West Coast —  one of only six Pac-12 players to do so and one of only two Pac-12 defensive players. He was a consensus All-American and first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.


27. Ken Simonton, RB, Oregon State (1998-01)
Stats: 1,041 att., 5,044 yds, 59 TDs, 58 rec., 472 yds, TD


Simonton was a four-year starter who rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each season prior to his senior year. He set the school's single-season rushing record in 2000 with 1,546 yards (since broken) and is the all-time leading rusher at a program known for its running backs. Simonton is one of just three players in league history to top 5,000 yards rushing (James, Charles White) and he still owns the conference's career rushing touchdown mark with 59.


28. Adam Archuleta, Arizona State (1997-00)

The West Coast’s favorite walk-on became a three-year starter for the Sun Devils. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors twice and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and finished with 330 tackles, 54.0 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks. The star tackler was a first-round pick of the Rams in the 2001 NFL Draft.


29. Sedrick Ellis, DL, USC (2004-07)

Ellis was one of the big fellas up the middle who helped the Trojans to four straight conference titles and two BCS championship appearances (2004-05). He was one of three players to ever win the Morris Trophy twice during the BCS Era, earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and was a unanimous All-American in '07. Ellis finished with 144 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in 48 career games for the Men of Troy. USC was 47-5 during his four years and Ellis was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.


30. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State (2008-10)


This strong bull in the middle is one of the greatest players in OSU history. He was a two-time Morris Trophy winner in the Pac-10, one of only five players to ever accomplish the feat in league history (three during BCS Era). Paea earned conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and was named a consensus All-American. He finished with 129 tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss and 14.0 sacks in his Beavers career. One of the strongest players in NFL Combine history, Paea was a second-round pick of the Bears in the 2011 draft.


31. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford (2009-13)


The heart and soul of two Pac-12 championship teams and three teams that played in BCS bowls, few players have meant more to their team than Skov. He finished his career with 355 career tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss, 16.0 sacks and played his biggest games against the best competition (See: Oregon). During his last four years, Stanford was one of the best defensive units in the nation and his teams went a combined 46-8 during that span. He earned all-conference honors in 2010, '12 and '13.


32. Nick Barnett, LB, Oregon State (1999-02)


One of the most consistent and dependable playmakers in league history, Barnett started three full seasons for the Beavers. He was a multi-year all-conference selection and led the league as a senior with 121 tackles in 2001. He was an integral part of the rebuilding of Oregon State football that included an 11-1 Fiesta Bowl championship season in 2001. Barnett was a first-round pick of the Packers in 2003.


33. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal (2004-06)
Stats: 490 att., 3,230 yds, 29 TDs, 68 rec., 600 yds, 6 TDs, 744 ret yds 


Beast mode started back in Berkeley where Lynch averaged 6.6 yards per carry over a three-year college career. He never had one elite season but his 1,684 yards from scrimmage, 15-total touchdown season led to a Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award in 2006. His power and speed was obvious ever since he signed with Cal out of Oakland (Calif.) Technical and he went on to be a first-round draft pick (12th overall) for Buffalo. Now leading the way in Seattle, Lynch has already earned four Pro Bowl invites and a Super Bowl ring in his NFL career.


34. Kris Farris, OL, UCLA (1995-98)


The 1998 Outland Trophy winner was a consensus All-American for the Bruins in 1998. In fact, Farris was one of only two players from the Pac-12 to win the Outland (Rien Long) and was the only offensive lineman to do so during the BCS Era. He helped lead UCLA to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and a Rose Bowl berth in his final season before being selected in the third round by the Bills in 1999.


35. Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC (2004-06)
Stats: 216 rec., 3,138 yds, 41 TDs


A two-time consensus All-American, Jarrett was a touchdown machine. He scored 13, 16 and 12 receiving touchdowns respectively while helping USC earn trips to back-to-back BCS National Championship Games. His 2005 campaign was his best — 91 rec., 1,274 yds, 16 TDs — and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting as a junior in 2006 before turning pro. In the red zone, few players have ever been as dominant as his 41 career touchdown receptions are nine more than any other Pac-12 player. He’s 15th in league history in receptions and 14th all-time in yards.

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Texas A&M was supposed to be the team that could step into the SEC and compete right away. And after a Heisman Trophy for the Aggies and seven losses for Missouri in their first trip through the league, it appeared that basic sentiment was correct.

That all changed last season, however, as Mizzou won the SEC East and 12 games in impressive fashion in just their second year in the SEC. Many will point to a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that permeated Tigers camp last spring as the foundation for the run at an SEC championship.

Now, Gary Pinkel, Missouri's all-time winningest coach, must rebuild without his star quarterback, his cult hero tailback, a host of veteran leaders on defense and a load of lofty new expectations. There is a ton of talent left on this roster and Pinkel has proven his ability to quickly reload, so Missouri won't take too big of a step back this fall and should be right in the thick of the SEC East race again. But it all starts in spring camp.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30South Dakota State
Sept. 6at 
Sept. 13
Sept. 20
Sept. 27at 
Oct. 4Bye Week
Oct. 11
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25
Nov. 1
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15at 
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

Missouri Tigers 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 11

Spring Game: April 19

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 4

Three Things to Watch in Missouri's 2014 Spring Practice

Find leadership on defense
Andrew Wilson, Michael Sam, Kony Ealy and E.J. Gaines will go down in Mizzou history as one of the great defensive classes to ever come through Columbia. Replacing their statistical production, especially in the front seven, will be nearly impossible but so too will be replacing their veteran leadership. Guys like nose guard Lucas Vincent and end Markus Golden will need to step up their play this spring to replace the massive voids left by SEC Defensive Player of the Year Sam and potential first round pick Ealy. Others like rising juniors Kentrell Brothers (70 tackles) and Shane Ray have a chance to step into playmaking roles at linebacker and defensive end, respectively. How Pinkel and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel fill these leadership gaps on defense will be a huge focus this spring for the Tigers.

Plug holes on the left side of the offensive line
First-team All-SEC left tackle Justin Britt and left guard Max Copeland have expired their eligibility, and Pinkel is left with a large void on the left side of his offensive line. Evan Boehm and Conner McGovern are talented players who have experience and will have to be leaders for this group because replacing Britt at the most important offensive line position won't be easy. That said, Mizzou has plenty of options and this unit shouldn't take a huge step back. Mitch Morse figures to be one of the better blockers at left tackle while others like Anthony Gatti, Ole Miss transfer Mitch Hall and a host of quality newcomers will compete for starting time up front for the Tigers. The running backs have talent despite the loss of Henry Josey, and the quarterback position is in good hands despite the loss of James Franklin, so if the offensive line comes together quickly this spring like many expect, then this offense could be as good if not better in 2014.

Get Maty Mauk ready to shine
In a league where Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, James Franklin and Connor Shaw departed, there are some (me included) who think Mauk has a chance to be the best signal caller in the SEC in 2014. And with his collection of elite wide receivers and his track record of elite success — both in the prep ranks and last year in spot duty for Mizzou — there is no reason to think Mauk won't press for All-SEC honors in just his first season. But getting comfortable as the leader of the program and face of the franchise isn't something that just happens. Big-time college football is loaded with tales of elite recruits and heir apparents falling well short of expectations — See John Brantley or Garrett Gilbert — so making sure Mauk is grounded, focused and maybe not speeding through campus on a scooter is just as important as getting him comfortable with his route progressions and new-look running game.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10
Despite losing a ton on both sides of the ball, Pinkel has Mizzou pointed in the right direction. This program won't win 12 games again but will be back in the thick of the SEC East title race. The crossover schedule is excellent as Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss (the likely top four picks in the West) are absent from the schedule. The key will be surviving critical road tests within the division against South Carolina in the other Columbia, Tennessee in Knoxville and Florida in The Swamp. Should the Tigers navigate an interesting non-conference slate that includes the reigning Fiesta Bowl champs and improving Indiana squad, Missouri should be in position to compete at a high level once again.

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Missouri Tigers 2014 Spring Football Preview
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For the Big Ten, the BCS Era was marred with lackluster BCS national championship game performances. The league as a whole won just one national title during the 16-year BCS Era and that title came all the way back in 2002.

But from a national awards standpoint, the Big Ten matches up with the best college football has to offer. During the BCS Era alone, the Big Ten's trophy case looks like this: Two Heisman Trophies, six Rimington Trophies, five Doak Walker Awards, five Outland Trophies, five Thorpe Awards, four Bednarik Awards, four Butkus Awards, three John Mackey Awards, three Maxwell Awards, three Ray Guy Awards, three Walter Camp Awards, two Biletnikoff Awards, two Davey O’Brien Awards, two Lombardi Awards, two Lott IMPACT Trophies, two Lou Groza Awards, two Ted Hendrick Awards, and one Nagurski Award.

Trying to narrow this list down to 25 names was nearly impossible but here are Athlon Sports' Top 25 Big Ten players of the BCS Era. The only stipulation is that you must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Drew Brees, QB, Purdue (1997-2000)
Stats: 11,792 yds, 90 TDs, 45 INTs, 61.2%, 925 yds, 14 TDs

The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year led Purdue back to the Rose Bowl and finished among the top four in Heisman voting twice (1999, 2000). He set the NCAA record for passes attempted in a game with 83 against Wisconsin in 1998 (broken in 2013) and is the Big Ten's all-time leader in completions (1,026), passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offense (12,692) and total touchdowns (104). His 39 touchdown passes in 1998 are still a single-season Big Ten record by a wide margin. He was a second-round pick of the Chargers in 2001, has posted four of the eight 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history and is a Super Bowl champion.

2. LaVar Arrington, LB, Penn State (1997-99)

Few college players were as intimidating as the rabid Nittany Lions linebacker. Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was named as the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American and is credited with arguably the signature defensive play of the BCS Era when he leapt over the Illinois offensive line on 4th-and-1 to secure the win. Arrington consistently delivered crushing blows and wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Redskins.

3. Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin (1996-99)
Stats: 1,220 att., 7,125 yds, 71 TDs, 31 rec., 304 yds

Ricky Williams’ NCAA rushing record didn’t last for very long as the New Jersey native came along the very next year and put everyone in the history of the sport in his rearview mirror. Dayne is the only player in history with 7,000 yards rushing and is one of four players to score at least 70 rushing touchdowns. He carried the ball more than any player in NCAA history (1,220) and he owns multiple BCS bowl rushing records with his two Rose Bowl MVP performances. He capped his illustrious career with a magical 2,000-yard Heisman Trophy and Big Ten championship season. The consensus All-American won Big Ten Player of the Year, Maxwell, Walter Camp and Doak Walker recognition in his final season in Madison. His 2,109 yards in 1996 are still a Big Ten single-season record. His career 7,429 yards from scrimmage may never be broken.

4. Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin (2004-06)

One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons. He was taken No. 3 overall in 2007 by the Cleveland Browns and is the best Big Ten offensive lineman of the BCS Era.

5. James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State (2005-08)

Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game. The Buckeyes' tackler was taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

6. Antoine Winfield, CB, Ohio State (1995-98)

Winfield might be the most underrated defensive back in the history of all levels of football. The consensus All-American helped Ohio State win 43 games in four years and nearly (or should have) played in the first BCS National Championship Game in 1998. He was given the Thorpe and Tatum honors as a senior as the nation’s top defensive back before being selected 23rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.

7. Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State (2003-06)

As a junior, the Nittany Lions tackler was recognized as the nation’s top LB when he posted 116 tackles (11.0 TFL) en route to a Big Ten championship, consensus All-American honors and both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. He followed that up as a senior with a second Bednarik Award and second consensus All-American nod. The in-state Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell product was a second-round pick by the Bills in 2007. He left school as Penn State's all-time leading tackler with 372 total stops.

8. Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan (2001-04)
Stats: 252 rec., 3,541 yds, 39 TDs

Not many players have three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns but that is what the Detroit native did at Michigan. He was uncoverable during his time at Ann Arbor, setting school records in every major receiving category. His 39 career touchdowns remain a Big Ten record. Edwards claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and the Biletnikoff Award as a senior in 2004. The consensus All-American finished 10th in the Heisman voting that season as well.

9. Greg Eslinger, C, Minnesota (2002-05)

Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger has one when he was named the best lineman in America in 2005. He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05 as well. The best stat for Eslinger, however, is that Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career and he helped lead the Gophers to their first 10-win campaign since 1905.

10. Andy Katzenmoyer, LB, Ohio State (1996-98)

His pro career notwithstanding, this Buckeye was one of college football’s greatest tacklers during his time in Columbus. He was the first true freshman to ever start at linebacker for the Buckeyes, won the Butkus and Lambert Awards as just a sophomore and nearly led OSU to the inaugural BCS title game in 1998. He started all 37 games of his college career and finished with 18 sacks and 50.0 tackles for a loss. He was a first-round pick by the Patriots in 1999.

11. Russell Wilson, QB, NC State/Wisconsin (2008-11)
Stats: 11,720 yds, 109 TDs, 30 INTs, 60.9%, 1,421 yds, 23 TDs

Not many players own school records for two different programs but Wilson excelled in both the ACC and Big Ten. He posted the single greatest season by a Wisconsin quarterback in history en route to a league crown and near national title berth. He owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38) and the single-season mark for passing efficiency at 191.8. His 33 touchdown passes in 2011 are second all-time in B1G history to only Brees' 39. He was elite at NC State, elite at Wisconsin and has already led Seattle to its first Super Bowl championship. Needless to say, he is one of the greatest college quarterbacks in history.

12. Jamar Fletcher, CB, Wisconsin (1998-2000)

The Badgers’ coverman has as complete a resume as any during the BCS Era. He was a two-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection. He helped Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships and was the only Big Ten defensive back of the BCS Era to be named the outright Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He holds UW’s all-time record with 21 interceptions and was named the nation’s top defensive back with the Thorpe and Tatum Trophies as a senior in 2000. He was a first-round pick in 2001.

13. Jake Long, OT, Michigan (2004-07)

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy finalist. He was a Freshman All-American in his first year and was named Big Ten Lineman of the Year twice (junior and senior seasons) — one of just two players to accomplish this feat during the BCS Era. The 6-foot-7, 320-pounder won a Big Ten championship as a freshman and has been to four Pro Bowls in his six-year NFL career.

14. Steve Hutchinson, OG, Michigan (1997-2000)

Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Maize and Blue win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan. He was a first-round pick by the Seahawks in 2001 and earned seven Pro Bowl invites during his 12-year NFL career.

15. Charles Rogers, WR, Michigan State (2001-02)
Stats: 135 rec., 2,821 yds, 27 TDs, 110 rush, TD, 177 ret. yds, TD

The in-state product from Saginaw played just two seasons for the Spartans but was an All-Big Ten performer both years. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American and Biletnikoff honors in 2002. He set an NCAA record with 13 straight games with a TD catch (since broken) and owns just about every Michigan State receiving record. His 1,470 yards in 2001 trail only one player in Big Ten history…

16. Mike Doss, S, Ohio State (1999-2002)

The Buckeyes safety was a rare three-time All-American, three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick and was named co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 for the BCS National Champions. Doss started 40 of 50 possible career games and was named the 2002 Fiesta Bowl MVP. He finished his career with 331 career tackles, eight interceptions, eight fumbles recovered and 6.0 sacks. He was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

17. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (2009-12)
Stats: 924 att., 5,140 yds, 77 TDs, 59 rec., 598 yds, 6 TDs

Ball won’t ever be confused with the most talented running backs of the BCS Era but few have been as successful and productive. No one player in the history of the sport has scored as many touchdowns (77 rushing, 83 total) as the Missouri native. He also finished fourth in the Heisman balloting as a junior and won the Doak Walker Award as a senior while leading the Badgers to three straight Big Ten championships. His 39 touchdowns in 2011 tied Barry Sanders for the all-time single-season record and Ball earned consensus All-American honors in both seasons. He is fourth all-time in Big Ten history in rushing and is one of just five players in league history to top 5,000 yards in a career.

18. Larry Johnson, RB, Penn State (1999-02)
Stats: 460 att., 2,953 yds, 26 TDs, 65 rec., 681 yds, 7 TDs, 1,181 ret. yds, 3 TDs

The State College local prospect was starter for just one season, but it was special. He rushed for 2,087 yards (second all-time only to Dayne) and 20 touchdowns on 7.7 yards per carry in 2002, earning consensus All-American honors as well as the Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy race and brought elite size and speed to the backfield. His 327 yards against Indiana in '02 is the sixth-best single-game total in Big Ten history and his 2,655 all-purpose yards that year are still a single-season Big Ten record. He was a first-round pick of the Chiefs in 2002.

19. A.J. Hawk, LB, Ohio State (2002-05)

Yet another Buckeyes great, Hawk started 38 of his 51 career college games for Ohio State. He contributed to the 2002 BCS National Championship squad as a freshman before earning two-time consensus All-American honors in 2004-05. As a senior, Hawk earned the Lombardi and Lambert Trophies for his play and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He finished his career with 394 tackles, 41.0 for a loss, 15.5 sacks and seven interceptions. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Packers.

20. Dallas Clark, TE, Iowa (2000-02)
Stats: 77 rec., 1,251 yds, 8 TDs

The walk-on began his career as a linebacker but quickly developed into a star at tight end. He earned All-Big Ten recognition as a sophomore and then became the nation’s top tight end as a junior in 2002. The John Mackey Award winner caught 43 passes for 742 yards and four touchdowns while helping Iowa (11-2) to a Big Ten co-championship and Orange Bowl berth. The dynamic in-state talent was a first-round pick and proved in the NFL that his college career was no fluke.

21. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin (2007-10)

Carimi perpetuated the run of elite Badgers blockers by stepping in for the departed Joe Thomas and starting all 13 games as a freshman. By his senior season, Carimi was the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, the Outland Trophy winner as the best blocker in the nation, and was a consensus All-American. He started 49 games in his career, capping it with a Rose Bowl appearance and Big Ten championship in 2010. Carimi was a first-round pick by the Bears in 2011.

22. LaMarr Woodley, DE, Michigan (2003-06)

The Wolverines' terror off the edge posted 12 sacks as a senior en route to the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards as the nation’s best lineman and defensive end respectively. He was a unanimous All-American before being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Steelers. His 10 career forced fumbles are seventh all-time in Big Ten history and his work on the ’06 Michigan team that started 11-0 before losing to Ohio State in memorable fashion earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Woodley also was a finalist for the Bednarik, Lott, Outland and Nagurski awards as well.

23. Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio State (2005-08)

The Ohio State Buckeyes have a long tradition of great defensive backs and Jenkins is one of the most decorated. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick, including twice as a starter for two unbeaten regular-season teams that made it to the BCS National Championship Game in both 2006 and ’07. He was a two-time All-American, Jim Thorpe winner and was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

24. Bob Sanders, S, Iowa (2000-03)

One of the hardest hitting players to ever suit up, Sanders made big plays all over the field during his time in Iowa City. He helped lead Iowa to the Orange Bowl in 2002 and was an All-American as a senior in '03. He finished his career with 348 tackles, 16.0 for loss, four sacks, seven interceptions and 13 forced fumbles (he led the nation in FF with six as a senior). The Colts took him in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft and he went on to two Pro Bowls and also won a Super Bowl.

25. Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State (2003-06)
Stats: 5,720 yds, 54 TDs, 13 INTs, 62.7%, 1,168 yds, 14 TDs

Smith won the AP Player of the Year, Davey O'Brien, Walter Camp awards and is the only Big Ten quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy since Les Horvath won the award at OSU in 1944. Only Smith and Wisconsin's Ron Dayne won a Heisman for the Big Ten during the BCS Era. Additionally, his Heisman Trophy in 2006 was en route to a perfect season, Big Ten championship and BCS Championship Game berth against Florida. The consensus All-American was the first Buckeyes quarterback to go 3-0 against Michigan since the 1930s and is one of just four players in league history to throw at least 30 touchdowns in a single season. His career QB rating of 157.1 is the best in league history. The 2006 Fiesta Bowl MVP was a part of three BCS bowl teams and was a fifth-round pick in the '07 NFL Draft.

The Next 10:

26. Lee Evans, WR, Wisconsin (1999-2003)
Stats: 175 rec., 3,468 yds, 27 TDs

Despite missing extended time with a torn ACL, Evans is the best wide receiver to play at Wisconsin since Al Toon. His two-year run was as good as any in Big Ten history, posting a league-record 1,545 yards in 2001. He came back after the knee injury and nearly duplicated his numbers with 1,213 yards and 13 TDs in 2003. His 10-catch, 258-yard, 5-TD game against Michigan State might have been the best single performance by any Badger. Evans is one of two B1G players to ever catch five TDs in one game (Omar Douglas) and he is fifth all-time in Big Ten history in receiving yards.

27. Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State (2007-10)

The stabilizing force for four years in East Lansing, Jones was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and a two-time consensus All-American. In both of those seasons, Jones led the Big Ten in tackles and no one since 2005 has made more stops than Jones. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. The star playmaker finished third in school history in tackles (465), second in tackles for a loss (46.5) and sixth in sacks (16.5). He started 46 of 52 career games for the Spartans. 

28. Dan Connor, LB, Penn State (2004-07)

The Nittany Lions know something about playing linebacker and Connor is yet another elite tackler. He was a two-time All-American and won the Bednarik Award in 2007 as the nation's top defensive player. He was a leader and was huge part of the '05 Big Ten/Orange Bowl championship team before posting back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. He broke Posluszny's all-time school record with 419 career stops when he graduated in '07. 

29. Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State (2002-05)

A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Hali pushed Penn State to its last Big Ten championship as well as a win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season. He led the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks and added 65 total tackles for a team that lost just once (in the final second) all season. The undersized end was picked 20th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft and has blossomed into one of the league’s top edge players.

30. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin (2009-13)

Few players have been as productive and as successful as the Original Honey Badger. He finished his career with 420 tackles, second most in the Big Ten since 2005, 17.0 sacks, 50.0 tackles for a loss and an NCAA-record 14 forced fumbles. He helped lead his team to three consecutive Big Ten championships and did just about everything for the Badgers, including fake punts, blocked kicks and returning kicks. He was a consummate hard worker and leader for Wisconsin and it earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten Linebacker of the Year award in 2013.

31. Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana (1998-2001)
Stats: 7,469 yds, 42 TDs, 37 INTs, 49.8%, 3,895 yds, 44 TDs

The electric athlete sparked the glory years of Indiana football. Well ahead of his time as one of the original dual-threat quarterbacks, Randle El had the top three rushing seasons in Big Ten history, including the only 1,000-yard season, by a quarterback until the likes Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller came along and topped his 1,270-yard season of 2000. The Hoosiers star is fifth all-time in Big Ten history with 11,364 total yards of offense and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2001, finishing sixth in the Heisman voting. He was a second-round pick and is the only wide receiver to ever throw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.

32. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin (2009-10)

The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 was dominant in his short stint in Madison. After originally signing with Central Michigan as a tight end, Watt emerged as a hidden gem for the Badgers. He posted an absurd 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a number of big blocked kicks (see Arizona State). He won the Lott Trophy given to the most impactful defensive player in college football in 2010 before being picked with the 11th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is arguably the best defensive end on the planet right now.

33. Tyrone Carter, S, Minnesota (1996-99)

The Florida native was a tackling machine for the Golden Gophers, finishing his career with an NCAA-record 584 total tackles and 414 solo stops He was a two-time, first-team All-American and won the 1999 Thorpe Award and Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back. Carter also was a return specialist, totaling over 1,800 combined punt and kick return yards. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. The Gophers increased their win total every year of his four-year, 46-game career.

34. Jim Leonhard, S, Wisconsin (2001-04)

A cult hero walk-on in Madison, Leonhard was a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick before even earning his first collegiate scholarship before his senior season. He went on to a third first-team All-Big Ten selection and All-American honors in his final season. He led the nation with a Big Ten single-season record 11 interceptions as a sophomore and broke the Big Ten record for punt return yardage with 1,347 yards (since broken). He played every game of his career, starting 39 times and registering 281 tackles and a Wisconsin-record 21 career interceptions (tied with Fletcher) — which is good for fourth all-time in Big Ten history and the most by any B1G player during the BCS Era.

35. David Baas, C, Michigan (2001-04)

The interior blocker was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and capped his career with a Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He also earned consensus All-American honors, was named the Big Ten’s top lineman and was an Outland Trophy finalist. Baas was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Teaser:
The Big Ten's Top 25 Players of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, March 17, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Funny, College Basketball, Overtime, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-coaches-godfather-characters
Body:

The Madness is upon us. March is here and the NCAA tournament is less than a week away from tipping off. And with the Oscar’s recently concluding, I thought I would have a little bit of fun at some basketball coach’s expense.

Elite college basketball coaches often look the part of modern day mobsters. Expensive perfectly tailored suits, demonstrative sideline behavior, rockstar status in the community and, at times, questionable business practices (yes, I said it, basketball recruiting is dirty).

Obviously I am not suggesting that Bo Ryan likes to knock off banks in his spare time or that John Beilein is a drug dealer on the side. No, I am simply taking two of my all-time favorite things — the NCAA Tournament and The Godfather Trilogy — and putting them together (ideally) for your enjoyment.

So this is my editorial disclaimer: This is for fun. It’s entertainment. Not journalism. No coach’s egos were harmed in the making of this piece so please enjoy as such.

ncaa, coaches, godfather, basketballRick Pitino, Louisville: Vito Corleone

Pitino has been to the top of the mountain and felt the warm glow of a championship wash over him like the Tuscan sun. Yet, he didn’t stick around too long in Act I as the game began to pass him by. He disappeared for a while but returned to play a prominent and possibly more successful role in Act II – whether that is beating Michigan in one of the most memorable championship games in history or making Charles Barkley look foolish on CBS’ television set. He is a champion of the highest caliber and doesn't let a little geographical rivalry get the better of him. With seven Final Four showings and two national titles at three different schools, it's hard to argue that Pitino isn't the Godfather of college hoops. Additionally, Vito taught his prized pupil how to operate, recruit, coach, fund-raise and dress – as both a player and coach.


Billy Donovan, Florida: Michael Corleone

After heading off to war to hone his craft (in the MAC), "Mikey" could not help but return to his father’s former arena of business (the SEC). When the son of the legend took over, he exceeded all expectations, but this time in a new zip code. After learning on the job the hard way, Michael grew the empire to levels Vito could not achieve and with eyes on a distinguished and . Even beyond all expectations, Mikey exists now in a dangerous what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of guerilla war-cruiting. He is constantly looking over his shoulder – and possibly losing hair for it – but a fourth trip to the championship game would keep him on top of the family business. Plus, his name is Donovan.

Bill Self, Kansas: Tom Hagen

He walks, talks, acts, dresses and recruits like his Italian brethren, but has had to prove himself doubly due to his status as an “outsider.” After finally earning his chance with many years of loyal hard work - and a Mario Chalmers three-pointer - Hagen is named acting Don instead of Corelenone’s actual brother, Fredo. Yet, no matter how much he does for the family, he will likely never get the full credit - mostly because he does his livestock decapitation routine west of the Mississippi (looking at you Austin, Texas). Through all of the family’s turmoil, however, Hagan perseveres and continues to come out on top… for 10 straight years.

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke: Hyman Roth

Roth is the biggest of the big fish who everyone loves to hate. Yet, you never hear too much about the inner-workings of his business dealings. He has been wildly successful across many generations and is a key player in many of the family’s enterprises – domestic (Durham) and abroad (USA Basketball). Yet, somehow he manages to keep his quiet little home nice and tidy. He is untouchable and the primary antagonist for… everyone in the country that doesn’t love Duke. Originally named Hyman Suchowsky, Don Coreleone pseudo-orders him to simplify his name. So he becomes Hyman Roth – a scene that was originally removed from the theatrical release. It's not called "Krzyzewski Court" is it? And if need be, he can call on thousands of Crazies to come to his back.

Bo Ryan, Wisconsin: Captain McCluskey

The aged and grizzled veteran of the game didn’t get where he got because of lack of brains. He is savvy leader who has accomplished much in his time. McCluskey’s rise to Captain of the police force happened because he isn't scared to club a few knees to win games. He is an elite success in his realm but when faced with the talent and upside of the Corleone family, he generally comes out on the losing end.

John Calapari, Kentucky: Fredo Corleone

Coach Cal has proven that he will do whatever is humanly possible to win. And, until Anthony Davis came along, he had come so very close only to have all he worked for snatched from within his fingertips (in one case, by Tom Hagen's senior point guard). Fredo’s inability to maintain institutional control over his immediate family forced Michael to strip his brother of any trust he may have. So he aligned himself with Johnny Ola, a shady, backroom character with deep roots in the seedy, worldwide underbelly, and one casual slip of the tongue cost him everything. He was given a tradition-laden, historic family name and, unlike Fredo, returned it to the top of the college basketball mountain (as long as he continues to watch his tongue).

Bob Huggins, West Virginia: Sonny Corleone

Talented, charismatic, hard-working and loyal. But, at times, a total buffoon who allows his temper to get the better of him. Sonny has been successful at every stop along the way - partly because his rage translates well on the defensive side of the ball. But he lacks the overall wherewithal to be truly great, so he will likely end up sitting in line at the toll plaza listening to the big game on the radio.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: Sal Tessio 

The smarter, savvier and more ruthless capo works a solid beat and makes himself quite a fortune in the upper mid-major ranks of the family. And after a lifetime of hard work and loyalty, he thought he deserved the big seat when Vito passed away. So in an effort to land his dream job, he makes more than a few clandestine rendezvous with the rival families. After rolling off 34 straight wins, Marshall will most certainly get courted and offered other jobs at other programs. This won't make an already abrasive guy any easier to be friends with and he may have to learn the hard way about swimming in the deep waters of high major basketball.

Frank Martin, South Carolina: Carlo Rizzi

Rizzi has somehow, someway befriended someone somewhere to earn the right to sit at the family table. Apparently, that person is Sonny Coreleone, whose coat-tails he rides all the way into the family business. He doesn’t exactly know what is happening out there on the court, but he has a great view of the action and is making quite a living. Eventually, Rizzi's temper gets the better of him.

Jim Larranaga, Miami: Peter Clemenza

Clemenza is the jollier, well-respected caporegime who sort of skates through his entire career largely untouched and generally unknown to outsiders. But with one drive into the city - or to the Final Four with George Mason - the Don's general made the most of his one shining moment: “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

Rick Barnes, Texas: Moe Greene

He believes he is building the empire out west - and he has plenty of talent and natural resources to do so. He has climbed the ladder and has himself a very cushy job. Yet, he has never really accomplished much of anything and always finds himself with an early ticket home when he messes with the wrong people.

Steve Alford, UCLA: Jack Woltz

The supposed King of Hollywood, Woltz worked his way to the top of his profession. He lives a posh, lavish lifestyle in the city of lights with all of the benefits that come along with one of the best jobs in the world. However, when the brutal East Coast comes calling, the Bruins have generally crumbled in key situation.

Jay Wright, Villanova: Johnny Fontane

This one is a lay-up. The best-dressed man in the business makes ladies swoon with his sweet singing voice and signature slicked back hair style. He never really plays a prominent role in any of the most critical scenes but his appearances are normally extremely memorable and always popular. Because, frankly, everyone seems to love this guy.

Tom Izzo, Michigan State: Philip Tattaglia

Is the head of the one of the top programs in the nation and has built a vast empire of wealth and fame. He is always the first to act and is downright ruthless in crunch time. (A bit of a stretch but Izzo had to make the list.)

 

Teaser:
College Basketball Coaches As Godfather Characters
Post date: Friday, March 14, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-defensive-backs-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

The Big 12 is known for its elite quarterback play, record-setting wide receivers and innovative offenses. This tends to put a lot of pressure on the defensive backs and secondary coaches in the Big 12 to stop these powerhouse offenses. Here are the best the league had to offer during the BCS Era.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001)
One of the biggest hitters in college football history, Williams dominated college football during his time in Norman. He helped lead the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for this spectacular play in the Cotton Bowl.

2. Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002)
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. He returned kicks and punts and even played some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was a two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion in the 100 meters and the league champ in the indoor 60 meters.

3. Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03)
As the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Strait helped lead an undefeated (13-0) Sooners team to the BCS National Championship as a freshman. By his senior season, Strait had led Oklahoma back to the BCS national title game and was recognized nationally with the Thorpe and Nagurski Trophies as the nation’s top defensive player and top defensive back. Strait also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 and finished his career with 14 interceptions returned for a Big 12-record 417 yards and three touchdowns. Strait was selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

4. Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05)
The superstar safety from Texas was a Freshman All-American in 2002 before earning back-to-back first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior. Huff was a unanimous All-American on the 2005 BCS National Championship team and was named the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He posted 87 tackles, 9.0 for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles on the historic ’05 squad. Huff was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

5. Aaron Ross, Texas (2003-06)
Ross was a bit of a late bloomer but played a key role on the 2005 BCS National Championship squad. He capped his career in Austin with a stellar '06 campaign in which he won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top DB. Ross played 51 games during his career but only started 15 times, posting 205 tackles and 10 interceptions. He also was a dynamic punt returner, finishing his Longhorns career with 893 return yards and three touchdowns. Ross was a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

6. Earl Thomas, Texas (2008-09)
Thomas redshirted and played only two seasons in Austin or he could have been the best defensive back in the Big 12 during the BCS Era. He started all 27 games, posting 135 tackles, 10 interceptions, 29 passes defended, five forced fumbles and two return touchdowns. He was a freshman All-American in 2008 and was a consensus All-American in ’09. Thomas skipped his final two seasons in Austin and was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He has blossomed into one of the NFL’s finest safeties.

7. Aqib Talib, Kansas (2005-07)
Along with Todd Reesing and others, Talib is responsible for the “glory” years of Kansas football. The two-time all-conference pick won the Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top DB and was a unanimous All-American in 2007 — the year KU went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Talib is a troubled individual who has dealt with serious off-the-field issues but his 162 tackles, 13 interceptions and seven total touchdowns (two defense, five offense) made him one of the Big 12’s top playmakers. He was a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

8. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska (2007-10)
Quarterbacks stayed away from this flamboyant coverman during his four-year career. After a monster junior season (64 tackles, two sacks, five interceptions), the entire Big 12 avoided The Prince in 2010. His work as a senior earned him consensus All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year recognition. The two-time All-Big 12 pick was a first-round selection by the New York Giants in the 2011 NFL Draft.

9. Jason Verrett, TCU (2011-13)
The star cornerback started 34 of his possible 37 career games at TCU. He posted 160 tackles, 10.0 for loss, 34 passes broken up and nine interceptions during his three-year career after coming to TCU from junior college. Verrett was a first-team All-Big 12 selection in both seasons he played in the league and was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.

10. Ralph Brown, Nebraska (1996-99)
Brown was a member of the All-Decade All-Big 12 team after being named first-team All-Big 12 three times as a Cornhusker. He intercepted 11 passes for 253 return yards and set a school record with 50 passes deflected. He was a consensus All-American in ’99 for the last Nebraska team to win a conference championship.

Just missed the cut:

11. Quentin Jammer, Texas (1998-2001)
The consensus All-American was a two-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection while at Texas. He finished his career with 195 total tackles and seven picks before being selected fifth overall in the 2002 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.

12. Mike Brown, Nebraska (1996-99)
The Huskers' star safety was a two-time, second-team All-Big 12 pick and a first-team selection as a senior on the last Nebraska team to win a league title. He set a school record for tackles by a defensive back with 102 stops as a junior before his stellar final season that featured 96 tackles, six forced fumbles, five interceptions and two sacks. He was a second-round pick by the Bears.

13. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma (2006-10)
He played sparingly in his first three years but was an important contributor for the 2008 Big 12 champs that played in the BCS title game. He posted 88 tackles as a junior and 96 as a senior with four interceptions in each of his final two seasons. Carter was a consensus All-American in 2010 and was a fourth-round draft pick in '11.

14. Michael Griffin, Texas (2003-06)
Griffin played a big role on the 2005 BCS title team, posting 100 tackles on that historic squad. He made 88 tackles and picked off four passes as a junior en route to first-team All-Big 12 honors. He had a knack for making big plays — try nine forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

15. J.T. Thatcher, Oklahoma (1997-2000)
Originally a wide receiver, Thatcher excelled as an All-American defensive back and all-world special teamer. He is one of just three players in Big 12 history to earn the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teams player. He was a first-team All-Big 12 pick and a consensus All-American on the historic 2000 Sooners team that won the BCS National Championship.

Best of the Rest:

16. Terrence Wheatley, Colorado (2003-07)
17. Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State (2010-13)
18. William Moore, Missouri (2005-08)
19. Nathan Vasher, Texas (2000-03)
20. Josh Bullocks, Nebraska (2002-04)
21. Darrent Williams, Oklahoma State (2000-03)
22. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma (2010-13)
23. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (2009-12)
24. Nigel Malone, Kansas State (2009-12)
25. Darcel McBath, Texas Tech (2005-08)

Teaser:
Top 10 Big 12 Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, March 14, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-defensive-backs-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

Defense is king in the Southeast. But it’s not just great defensive ends and tackles that have made the SEC’s defenses so dominant during the BCS Era. The defensive backs have been among the best in the nation as well. In no other league were there so many All-American defensive backs left out of the top 10 than the SEC.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Eric Berry, Tennessee (2007-09)
It didn’t take long for Berry to make his name known as an SEC defender. In 2007, he posted a school record with 222 INT return yards on five picks, led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He then returned seven interceptions for 265 yards as a sophomore en route to his first of two unanimous All-American seasons. He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year that year. As a junior, Berry returned to win the Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards and ended his collegiate career with the the most interception return yards in SEC history. Used on offense and special teams as well, Berry’s superior athletic ability made him the fifth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. For his career, Berry finished with 245 tackles, 17.5 for loss and 14 interceptions.

2. Patrick Peterson, LSU (2008-10)
The supremely gifted Peterson played in every game as a true freshman for the defending BCS champs. One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

3. Morris Claiborne, LSU (2009-11)
One of the best pure covermen in the history of the SEC, Claiborne was a lock-down corner for LSU in his two full seasons as the starter. He developed a reputation as a sophomore with five picks and 37 tackles en route to All-SEC honors. After that, no one threw at him. Despite teams staying away from him and a teammate getting more Heisman hype, Claiborne was named the nation’s top defensive back in 2011 as the recipient of the Thorpe Award and was a unanimous All-American. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 regular-season mark, an SEC title, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year as his Tigers earned a berth in the BCS national title game. He was taken sixth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

4. Champ Bailey, Georgia (1996-98)
From a versatility standpoint, few have ever been as explosive and dynamic as Champ Bailey. He was a lockdown cornerback, an elite return man and a dangerous wide receiver. His senior season — the only year he played during the BCS Era — Bailey posted 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 47 passes for 744 yards and five scores on offense. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and won the Nagurski Trophy in 1998 as the nation’s top defensive player. The consensus All-American finished seventh in the Heisman voting in '98 and he was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

5. Mark Barron, Alabama (2008-11)
The superstar safety was a three-time All-SEC pick, two-time All-American and helped the Crimson Tide win two BCS National Championships. (2009, '11). After three straight seasons with at least 68 tackles, Barron finished his career with 235 tackles, 13.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks, 12 interceptions and 34 passes defended. Many coaches called him the best player in the SEC in 2011 on what many consider the best defense of the BCS Era. The hard-hitting Alabama safety was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

6. Carlos Rogers, Auburn (2001-04)
The Tigers coverman started 10 games as a freshman, earning Freshman All-American honors. He was a mainstay on the outside of Auburn’s defense for four years and it culminated in a historic 2004 campaign. Rogers started 44 games, registered 182 tackles and picked-off seven passes in his career. Rogers was named the Thorpe Award winner, an All-American and helped Auburn to a perfect 13-0 record, SEC and Sugar Bowl championship. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

7. LaRon Landry, LSU (2003-05)
The LSU safety might be the most physically imposing defensive back of the BCS Era. He started 10 games as a true freshman for Nick Saban and the 2003 BCS National Championship squad. He made 80, 92 and 70 total tackles respectively during his three-year career and was a two-time All-SEC pick. Landry earned consensus All-American honors in 2006 before leaving early for the NFL. The thumper was the sixth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

8. Joe Haden, Florida (2007-09)
Haden was the first true freshman cornerback to ever start opening day for the Gators. He helped lead Florida to the BCS National Championship in 2008 and was named National Defensive Player of the Year in '09. He also was a unanimous All-American that year and went seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

9. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State (2009-12)
An excellent all-around football player, Banks was just as good a leader and tackler as he was pure coverman. He was a first-team All-American and Thorpe Award winner for the Bulldogs in his final season when he made 63 tackles and intercepted four passes. He helped lead State to three straight bowl games and finished his career with 221 tackles, 11.5 for loss, four sacks and returned 15 interceptions for 321 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned punts in his final two seasons and was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

10. Reggie Nelson, Florida (2005-06)
After playing at the junior college level, Nelson stepped right into Gainesville and started 25 games in two years. The hard-hitting safety patrolled center field for the BCS National Champions in 2006 with six interceptions and 51 tackles. He was a consensus All-American and Tatum Trophy winner that year as well. Nelson was taken in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Corey Webster, LSU (2001-04)
Coming to LSU as a wide receiver, Webster moved to defense and blossomed as a star as a three-year starter. He earned All-SEC honors three times and All-American honors twice while leading LSU to the BCS National Championship in 2003. He finished with 115 tackles and 16 interceptions in 29 starts and 50 career games. He was a second-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

12. Lito Sheppard, Florida (1999-2001)
Playing for Steve Spurrier in his final three years in Gainesville, Sheppard was a mainstay for the Gators' secondary. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and an All-American in 2001. He started 23 of 36 career games with eight interceptions and helped lead Florida to an SEC championship in 2000. He was a first-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

13. Eric Reid, LSU (2010-12)
As physically gifted as any player in any league at any position during the BCS Era, Reid played in all 13 games as a true freshman. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 record and SEC title as a sophomore and made the signature interception against Bama in the 9-6 overtime throwdown in Tuscaloosa. Reid finished with 199 tackles in his career and the 49ers traded up into the first round to draft Reid in 2013.

14. Deon Grant, Tennessee (1997-99)
One of the most important defensive players on the 1998 BCS National Champs, Grant was as big a name for the Vols as any of the elite defensive linemen. Grant was a consensus All-American after leading the nation in interceptions with nine in ’99. Grant made huge plays (SEE: Florida in 1998) for three seasons in Knoxville and was a second-round pick in 2000.

15. Thomas Davis, Georgia (2002-04)
Sort of a hybrid outside linebacker and safety at Georgia, Davis was one of the most physically imposing defensive backs in SEC history. He posted 272 career tackles, 18.0 for loss, 10.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and three interceptions. He was an All-American and two-time All-SEC pick before starring at OLB for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL.

16. Dee Milliner, Alabama (2010-12)
He played in 38 games at Alabama and got 29 starts in just three years. He helped win two BCS National Championships and was a big part of what many believe was the best defense of the BCS Era in 2011. A unanimous All-American his final season, Milliner posted 133 tackles, 9.0 for loss, six interceptions, 40 passed defended in his Crimson Tide career and was taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Jets.

17. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (2010-11)
The Honey Badger won the Bednarik Award, was an All-American, made impact plays and was a Heisman finalist. However, he also was suspended multiple times, eventually kicked off the team — costing himself two full seasons — and was abused in the 2011 BCS National Championship game by Game MVP AJ McCarron. It makes him one of the most difficult players of the BCS Era to evaluate. He posted 133 tackles, 16.0 for loss, four interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his two-year career.

18. Craig Steltz, LSU (2004-07)
The hard-hitting safety played center field as well as any safety in league history. He started 20 times, played in 40 games and won a BCS national title as a senior All-American. Steltz finished with 184 tackles and 11 interceptions before getting drafted in the fourth round by the Bears.

19. Keiwan Ratliff, Florida (2000-03)
The dynamic playmaker finished his All-American Gators career with school records for interceptions (9) and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by some outlets. The two-time All-SEC pick was a second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft.

20. Jason Allen, Tennessee (2002-05)
Starting at both corner and safety during his career, Allen is one of the more versatile players to come through the SEC. He was an All-American in 2004 when he led the team in tackles with 123 stops during his junior year. Allen would be even higher on this list had his final season not ended early due to his severe hip injury.

Best of the rest:

21. Ko Simpson, South Carolina (2004-06)
22. Fred Smoot, Mississippi State (1997-2000)
23. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (2011-13)
24. D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (2006-08)
25. Johnathan Joseph, South Carolina (2004-05)
26. Javier Arenas, Alabama (2006-09)
27. Greg Blue, Georgia (2002-05)
28. Casey Heyward, Vanderbilt (2008-11)
29. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (2009-11)
30. Captain Munnerlyn, South Carolina (2006-08)

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-defensive-backs-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Dre Bly, North Carolina (1996-98)
Not only one of the coolest names in college football but one of the coolest customers on an island all by himself. Bly set the ACC single-season record with 11 interceptions in 1996 and left school with an ACC record 20 INTs in his career (both since broken). He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and sophomore (one of few in NCAA history to accomplish the feat) and was a second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

2. Anthony Poindexter, Virginia (1995-98)
He was a leader and one of the hardest-hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American. He was the only defensive back in the ACC to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors during the BCS Era. The three-time, first-team All-ACC pick finished his career with 12 interceptions.

3. Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech (2002-05)
Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior while leading Tech to an ACC championship with a league-leading five interceptions and 19 passes defensed. In 2005, Williams was a unanimous All-American and Jack Tatum Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

4. Antrel Rolle, Miami 2001-04)
He only played one season in the ACC but it was a good one. Along with Sean Taylor, Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004 as a senior. He played safety in the NFL after being selected eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was an elite college cornerback, shutting down names like Larry Fitzgerald (3 rec., 26 yds) and Calvin Johnson (2 rec., 10 yds) during his career.

5. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest (2005-08)
The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick led the ACC in interceptions and passes defended in both 2007 and '08. He totaled 15 picks and 38 passes broken up over that span. He was a consensus All-American as a senior and his 21 career interceptions is an ACC all-time record. Additionally, he scored on four INT returns, tying Randy Neal of Virginia for the all-time ACC record. 

6. David Amerson, NC State (2010-12)
When it comes to interceptions, few have been better in the ACC than Amerson. The Wolfpack coverman set an ACC record and led the nation with 13 interceptions in his 2011 sophomore season. His 18 career picks rank third all-time and his 287 return yards are fourth all-time in ACC history. Amerson won the Jack Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back and was a first-team All-American as well. He finished with 177 tackles and three INT touchdown returns for his career. Amerson was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

7. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State (2009-13)
There wasn't much that Joyner didn't accomplish while at Florida State. The five-star recruit played 55 career games, won two ACC titles and a BCS National Championship while earning back-to-back first-team All-ACC honors. Joyner finished with 197 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks, eight interceptions and 1,260 return yards.

8. Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech (2004-07)
One of best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL, Flowers started the final 27 games of his career before leaving early for the NFL Draft in 2008. He played on two ACC championship teams and was an All-American in 2007. He finished his career with 157 tackles, 17.0 for loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and 40 passes defensed in three seasons on the field before Kansas City took him in the second round.

9. Robert Carswell, Clemson (1997-2000)
A leader both on and off the field, Carswell is one of the Tigers' greatest players. He was named to the first-team All-ACC squad twice, started 41 consecutive games and is the all-time tackle leader for any defensive back in Clemson history with over 373 stops.

10. Victor Harris, Virginia Tech (2005-08)
The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick helped lead Tech to back-to-back ACC championships during his junior and senior seasons. His 15 career interceptions are a school record and good for 15th all-time in ACC history. His 278 return yards are tied for fifth all-time in ACC history. Harris posted 128 total tackles and scored on five return touchdowns.

Just missed the cut:

11. Tay Cody, Florida State (1996-2000)
Cody played on three consecutive teams that made it to the BCS national title game and was a consensus All-American on the 2000 squad that lost to Oklahoma. He finished his career with 12 career interceptions and was a third-round NFL Draft pick.

12. Tye Hill, Clemson (2002-05)
After playing running back as a freshman, Hill switched to cornerback and excelled for three seasons on defense. He eventually earned All-ACC honors and was a consensus All-American and Thorpe Finalist in his final season at Clemson. He had 114 total tackles in three full seasons as a starter.

13. Ross Cockrell, Duke (2010-13)
As one of the senior leaders for the Blue Devils, Cockrell helped his program reach unprecedented levels of success on the field. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick on the only back-to-back bowl teams in Duke history. He posted 233 tackles and 12 interceptions during his career, but he will always be remembered for being a key part of the first 10-win in school history.

14. Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
Few players can match the raw talent of the current Packers' starting safety. He was a three-year performer for Tech and posted 235 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 32 passes deflected and 14 interceptions before leaving early for the NFL Draft in 2010.

15. John Talley, Duke (2003-06)
Talley was a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick and is the ACC’s all-time leader with 395 interception return yards. His 18 career interceptions rank third all-time in ACC history and he earned All-American honors following a senior campaign that included an ACC-leading seven INTs along with 42 tackles (5.5 for loss).

16. Chase Minnifield, Virginia (2008-11)
After playing all 36 games in his first three seasons for bad UVa teams, Minnifield helped return the Cavaliers to their only bowl game in the last six seasons. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and finished his career with 151 tackles, 12.0 for loss, 13 interceptions, 30 passes defensed and nearly 1,200 return yards.

17. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (2009-11)
He played in all 39 games of his career, starting for two full seasons and earning first-team All-ACC honors as a sophomore. His nine interceptions that year are a Tech single-season record and are fourth all-time in ACC history. He also sits 15th all-time in the ACC with 815 punt return yards. Hosley posted 109 tackles and 12 INTs in his three-year career.

18. Jamie Silva, Boston College (2004-07)
One of only a handful of consensus All-Americans from the ACC at DB, Silva earned that honor with a league-leading eight interceptions in his final season. He was a three-year starter in ACC play (one year in the Big East) and had 269 tackles, 15.0 for loss and 13 interceptions in three ACC seasons.

19. Terrence Holt, NC State (1999-02)
A three-year starter and special teams force, Holt was a two-time All-ACC first-teamer and had a unique knack for blocking kicks. He posted 12 career blocks — eight field goals and four punts — and collected 307 career tackles.

20. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (2007-10)
The troubled Clemson defensive back was a freshman All-ACC pick in 2007 and a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick as a junior and senior. Despite major off-the-field issues, McDaniel finished with 275 tackles, 20.0 for loss and 15 interceptions.

Best of the rest:

21. Dexter Reid, North Carolina (2000-03)
22. Lloyd Harrison, NC State (1996-99)
23. Kelly Jennings, Miami (2002-05)
24. Josh Gattis, Wake Forest (2003-06)
25. Chris Hope, Florida State (1999-2001)
26. Kenny Phillips, Miami (2005-07)
27. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (2010-12)
28. Brandon Harris Miami (2008-10)
29. Antwan Edwards, Clemson (1995-98)
30. Stanford Samuels, Florida State (2000-03)

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-defensive-backs-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

Maybe it’s the elite coaching or Hall of Fame quarterbacks and the electric offensive skill players, but the Pac-12 (Pac-10 until 2012) hasn’t had a long list of decorated defensive backs. There have been plenty of great players but this league boasts just seven consensus All-Americans, only one Thorpe Award winner during the BCS Era and only two defensive backs were named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Here are the best DBs the West Coast has to offer.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Troy Polamalu, USC (1999-2002)
The big-play machine was a three-year starter for the West Coast powerhouse. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a consensus All-American and stuffed the stat sheet his entire career. The big hitter finished with 278 tackles, 29.0 for loss, six interceptions and four blocked punts in 36 career starts for the Men of Troy. Polamalu led USC back to prominence with a league title and trip to the Orange Bowl before being taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

2. Antoine Cason, Arizona (2004-07)
The California native was a four-year contributor for Arizona, playing in 46 career games in Tucson. He burst onto the scene in his first collegiate game by winning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week. He went on to win Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He was named first-team all-league twice as an upperclassman and is the only player form the Pac-12 to win the Thorpe Award during the BCS Era (2007). He scored four times (two INTs, two punt returns), intercepted five passes and made 71 tackles as a senior. He finished with 253 tackles, 14.0 for loss, 15 interceptions and five total touchdowns. Cason was the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

3. Deltha O’Neal, Cal (1996-99)
The Golden Bear great is one of the most decorated defensive backs from the Pac-12 during the BCS Era. He is one of just two players to win conference Defensive Player of the Year when he set an NCAA record by returning four interceptions for touchdowns in his senior year. He also won the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teamer and the Pop Warner Award as the most valuable player on the West Coast —  one of only six Pac-12 players to do so and one of only two Pac-12 defensive players. He was a consensus All-American and first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

4. Daymeion Hughes, Cal (2003-06)
The shutdown corner started at least one game in each of his four years, capping his Cal tenure with the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which recognizes a college defender for his achievements and success both on and off of the field. He also landed Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors, being just one of only two defensive backs to win this award during the BCS Era. Hughes was a two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 honoree and a consensus All-American in 2006 with 72 tackles, eight interceptions and 19 passes broken up. He was a third-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

5. Chris McAlister, Arizona (1996-98)
He only played three seasons in Tucson after attending Mt. San Antonio College yet still made a major impact at Arizona. He was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection in all three seasons and a consensus All-American in his final season. He became the first player in school history to return a kick, punt and interception for a touchdown and his 18 career interceptions rank third in school history. McAlister won the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teams player. He was the 10th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

6. Taylor Mays, USC (2006-09)
A five-star recruit coming into college, Mays helped lead USC to three consecutive conference championships and a 34-5 record in his first three seasons. He was a rare three-time All-American from 2007-09 and was a freshman All-American in '06. Mays finished his career with 276 tackles, 21 pass breakups and five interceptions. He was a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

7. Marcus Trufant, Washington State (1999-2002)
He started all four seasons for the Cougars and helped lead Washington State back to the Rose Bowl in 2002 as a senior. Trufant is one of the best pure cover corners to ever play the game, as he didn’t allow a single touchdown in his last two seasons. He was a freshman All-American in his first year, twice earned All-Pac-10 honors and was a second team All-American in 2002. Trufant was taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

8. Jordan Poyer, Oregon State (2009-12)
He played in all 13 games as true freshman. He had 34 tackles and 1,109 all-purpose yards on 44 returns as a sophomore. As a junior, Poyer led the Pac-12 in interceptions. In his final season, he earned consensus All-American honors and was arguably the top cover corner in the nation. He finished his career with 153 tackles, 23 pass breakups, 13 interceptions, four return touchdowns and over 2,000 yards in punt (316) and kick returns (1,711).

9. Ricky Manning, UCLA (1999-2002)
The Fresno native was a stalwart in the defensive backfield for the Bruins. He started 45 consecutive games, the second longest streak in UCLA history. He also was a rare three-time, first-team all-conference selection from 2000-02. His finished his career with 13 interceptions and was a third-round pick of the Panthers in the 2003 NFL Draft.

10. Ed Reynolds, Stanford (2011-13)
As just a sophomore, Reynolds made his presence felt on what many considered the best defense in the nation. He posted 47 tackles, six interceptions and scored three touchdowns on defense en route to All-Pac-12 honors and the Jack Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back. He led Stanford to back-to-back Pac-12 championships and was a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 pick and two-time All-American. Had he stayed for his senior season, Reynolds could have become one of the league’s all-time greats.

Just missed the cut:

11. Lamont Thompson, Washington State (1998-2001)
When it comes to making big plays on opposing quarterbacks, Thompson is statistically the best the Pac-12 has ever seen. He tied a Pac-12 record with four interceptions in one game against UCLA in 2001 and is the league’s all-time leader with 24 interceptions during his career.

12. Rahim Moore, UCLA (2008-10)
A heralded big-time recruit, Moore stepped right into the starting lineup and started all 37 games of his career. He led the nation with 10 interceptions as a sophomore and was a two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection before leaving early for the NFL. Moore finished with 186 tackles and 14 interceptions.

13. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (2011-present)
In just three seasons on the field, Ekpre-Olomu has established himself as one of the Ducks' greatest defensive backs. He is already a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 pick and received some All-American consideration. Oregon is 35-5 with IEO on the field and position coach John Neal has stated he is the best player he’s ever coached. In just three years, he already has 181 tackles, 30 PBUs and seven interceptions.

14. Syd’Quan Thompson, Cal (2006-09)
He played in 52 games during his excellent college career, making plays all over the field. Thompson was simply a playmaker. He had 258 tackles, 20.0 for loss, 36 PBUs, seven interceptions and scored on both a fumble and punt return during his career. He was s two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 pick.

15. Patrick Chung, Oregon (2005-08)
Chung started at “rover” as a true freshman and posted 91 total tackles, earning freshman All-American honors in the process. He registered 384 career tackles, 19.0 for loss, nine interceptions and two return touchdowns. Chung was a two-time, first-team all-league pick and was taken in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Best of the rest:

16. Kevin Ellison, USC (2005-08)
17. T.J. Ward, Oregon (2007-09)
18. Tank Williams, Stanford (1998-2001)
19. Darnell Bing, USC (2003-05)
20. Desmond Trufant, Washington (2009-12)
21. Sabby Piscitelli, Oregon State (2003-06)
22. Jairus Byrd, Oregon (2006-08)
23. Alterraun Verner, UCLA (2006-09)
24. Dennis Weathersby, Oregon State (1999-2002)
25. T.J. McDonald, USC (2010-13)
26. Nnamdi Asomugha, Cal (1999-2002)
27. O.J. Atogwe, Stanford (2001-04)
28. Terrell Thomas, USC (2004-07)
29. Matt Giordano, Cal (2001-04)
30. Dashon Goldson, Washington (2003-06)

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/2014-heisman-trophy-position-position-spring-primer
Body:

With all due respect to Johnny Football, Jameis Winston had the best debut season in college football history. Johnny Manziel’s Heisman-winning season in 2013 was special — he obliterated the SEC’s all-time single-season total offense record.

But it wasn’t as special as Winston was a year ago. He set NCAA passing records, never lost a game, won the final BCS National Championship in dramatic fashion and claimed the Heisman Trophy. He proved once again that it is nearly impossible to repeat as the Heisman winner.

Matt Leinart couldn’t do it. Neither could Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram, the great Tim Tebow or the electric Manziel. So even though Florida State returns to a conference apt for the taking loaded with an elite collection of five-star athletes, Winston still shouldn’t be considered the favorite if only because he won the award last season.

Coming out of nowhere has almost become a requirement to win the Heisman. Captivating the nation has to be on the resume (SEE Manziel) and Winston has already done that.

So while he is still obviously a top contender to win the award, someone else is all but certain to take home the coveted bronze statue in 2014. As spring football gets started across the nation here is our position-by-position breakdown of the 2014 Heisman Trophy race.

The Signal-Callers:

A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy four years in a row and 12 of the last 13. Dating back to Andre Ware in 1989, a signal-caller has won the stiff-armed trophy 17 times in 23 years. This award has become a quarterback’s award and with the way offenses have evolved, the super quarterback — Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, for example — has become nearly impossible to stop when it comes to the Heisman. And the first year of the college football playoff shouldn’t be any different as the top handful of Heisman contenders in 2014 should be quarterbacks.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon (Jr.)
'13 Stats: 3,665 yds, 31 TDs, 4 INTs, 63.5%, 715 yds, 9 TDs

A sprained knee kept Mariota from finishing what was turning into one of the greatest single seasons ever by a Pac-12 quarterback. Over the first eight games, Mariota posted 511 of his 715 yards rushing and all nine rushing touchdowns. Poor games against Stanford and Arizona cost Oregon the Pac-12 title and Mariota a trip to New York after his knee injury. When healthy, the Ducks' signal-caller is one of the most naturally gifted players in the nation and he orchestrates one of the most explosive offenses in the country. He is 23-3 overall in two seasons under center and is poised for a run at the Heisman and first College Football Playoff National Championship.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State (Sr.)
’13 Stats: 2,094 yds, 24 TDs, 7 INTs, 63.5%, 1,068 yds, 12 TDs

From an electricity standpoint, few players in the nation can match Miller’s dual-threat talents. His first step is explosive and his ability to pick up big chunks of yards on the ground is unprecedented in Columbus. He posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard season on the ground and second consecutive unbeaten regular season in 2013 while showing marked improvement as a passer. Should Ohio State make a run at one of the playoff spots, as expected, then Miller should find himself in New York at season’s end.

Brett Hundley, UCLA (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 3,071 yds, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, 66.8%, 748 yds, 11 TDs

After two stellar years under center, the Bruins enter 2014 as the potential frontrunner in the Pac-12 South due in large part to Hundley. He has nearly 8,000 yards of total offense and 73 touchdowns in his first two seasons so expectations are through the roof for this fall. The only real question mark surrounding Hundley is the talent around him as his 2012 supporting cast was likely the best he’s had.

Bryce Petty, Baylor (Sr.)
’13 Stats: 4,200 yds, 32 TDs, 3 INTs, 62.0%, 209 yds, 14 TDs

The level of efficiency Petty exhibited in Waco this past season was astounding. He accounted for 46 total touchdowns (32 pass, 14 rush) while only throwing three interceptions and finishing second nationally to only Jameis Winston in passing efficiency (174.29). Petty led his team to its first-ever Big 12 championship, BCS bowl and 11-win season in one fell swoop. His omission from New York last season was laughable and that won’t happen again in 2014 should he return Baylor to the top of the Big 12 mountain.

Jameis Winston, Florida State (So.)
’13 Stats: 4,057 yds, 40 TDs, 10 INTs, 66.9%, 219 yds, 4 TDs

The reigning Heisman winner gets the nod based solely on his accomplishments in 2013. He is one of just four Heisman winners to cap his stiff-armed season with a win in the BCS title game and is one of just six players in college football history to go unbeaten, win the Heisman and claim the national championship. He set an NCAA record for freshmen with 40 touchdown passes and was the nation’s No. 1-rated passer (184.85). The odds of him winning the award for a second straight season are stacked convincingly against him, however, Florida State will likely be the preseason No. 1 team and again faces a weak ACC schedule.

Other QBs to Watch: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State; Nick Marshall, Auburn; Taysom Hill, BYU; Keenan Reynolds, Navy; Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

The Workhorses

From 1950 to 1983, a ball carrier won the Heisman Trophy 26 times. This included a stretch from Johnny Rodgers in 1972 to Mike Rozier in '83 where a running back won the Heisman 12 consecutive times. Since Bo Jackson won the award in 1985, however, only five running backs have won the most prestigious award in sports. Rashaan Salaam, Eddie George, Ricky Williams, Ron Dayne and Mark Ingram — the only non-QBs to win the Heisman since 1999 — are the only backs to be awarded the stiff-armed trophy. The ’14 class of backs isn’t as deep as the group that produced three top-10 vote-getters a year ago (Andre Williams, Tre Mason, Ka’Deem Carey) but there are still plenty of talented Heisman options at this position.

Todd Gurley, Georgia (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 165 att., 989 yds, 10 TDs, 37 rec., 441 yds, 6 TDs

The most talented running back in the nation is back as the focal point of an offense known for churning out great ball carriers. The 230-pounder averaged 6.0 yards per carry on just 165 attempts last year, missing big chunks of time due to injury. When healthy, however, no one in the nation is more physically gifted than the Dawgs' tailback. Despite missing three full games, he finished with 1,430 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns on 202 offensive touches. Imagine what he could do with, say, 375 touches — a number that led the nation last year (Ka’Deem Carey).

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 206 att., 1,609 yds, 12 TDs, 1 rec., 10 yds

Gordon averaged an absurd 7.8 yards per carry on 206 attempts and scored 12 times while sharing the ball with senior James White. With White now out of the picture and quarterback Joel Stave entering his third season as the starter, the explosive and powerful Gordon could be in for a monster season. At a school with names like Dayne, Bennett, Calhoun, Moss, Hill, Clay and Ball, it’s Gordon who might be the most physically gifted of the bunch and, as usual, he will be running behind one of the most talented and experienced offensive lines in the nation.

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 207 att., 1,235 yds, 14 TDs, 20 rec., 183 yds

With AJ McCarron gone, Nick Saban will turn to Yeldon and rising sophomore Derrick Henry to carry the workload in Tuscaloosa this fall. The offensive line will be excellent despite losing a couple starters and Yeldon enters his junior season after back-to-back seasons with at least 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. With just 382 carries in his first two seasons, Yeldon still has plenty of tread left on the tires and should be even more of a featured weapon on offense with McCarron off to the NFL.

Mike Davis, South Carolina (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 203 att., 1,183 yds, 11 TDs, 34 rec., 352 yds

Another SEC super sophomore, Davis was the best back in the league over the first few months of the season. Injuries and scheduling eventually slowed Davis, but the Gamecocks' workhorse finished with an impressive 1,535 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns. With Connor Shaw gone, one has to think that a healthy Davis becomes the focal point of Steve Spurrier’s offense — especially one that returns all five starters along the offensive line.

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (Sr.)
’13 Stats: 281 att., 1,690 yds, 9 TDs, 26 rec., 232 yds, 2 TDs

Quickly, name the Big Ten’s leading rusher? It was Abdullah and he did it with little support from the passing game for most of the year. He posted 11 100-yard efforts in 13 games while also playing a big role as a receiver. The explosive back is one of the hardest workers in college football and will once again be the focal point of the Nebraska offense in 2014. A few more trips to paydirt this fall could get him into Heisman conversations fairly easily.

Other RBs to Watch: Duke Johnson, Miami; Jeremy Langford, Michigan State; Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State; Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, Oregon; D.J. Foster, Arizona State; Alex Collins, Arkansas

The Pass-Catchers

There are a lot of great wide receivers leaving college football. Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, Mike Evans, Jeremy Gallon, Kelvin Benjamin and more departed for the NFL this year. But here is the thing about the Heisman Trophy and wide receivers: They don’t win it. Tim Brown (1987) and Desmond Howard ('91) are the only true wideouts to ever win the award and, during the BCS Era, only four players even finished in the top five of Heisman voting. Larry Fitzgerald (2nd, 2003), Marqise Lee (4th, '12), Michael Crabtree (5th, '008) and Justin Blackmon (5th, '10). Needless to say, it’s a long shot for a wideout to win the stiff-armed trophy.

Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 59 rec., 883 yds, 12 TDs

A physical specimen, DGB will be one of the nation’s best — if he can stay on the field. Off the field issues have gotten him into trouble of late but he is a first-round pick waiting to happen on the field. In a Gary Pinkel offense with Maty Mauk throwing passes, the sky is the limit for what should be Green-Beckham’s final year in college.

Nelson Agholor, USC (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 56 rec., 918 yds, 6 TD, 2 punt return TDs

A do-everything dynamo for USC, Agholor proved a year ago that he could be the go-to target when Marqise Lee was injured. The Florida native has all the moves to produce like Lee and Robert Woods did before him. He is one of the top return men in the nation already and with a developing passing game, Agholor should be one of the nation’s best receivers.

Stefon Diggs, Maryland (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 34 rec., 587 yds, 3 TDs

Cut from the same mold as Agholor, Diggs does a bit of everything for Randy Edsall and Maryland. His breakout sophomore season was cut short to only seven games due to a foot injury but all signs point to his triumphant return this summer. Should he stay healthy, Diggs might be the top playmaker in the nation regardless of position.

Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (So.)
’13 Stats: 72 rec., 608 yds, 5 TDs

As just a true freshman, Treadwell showed the SEC why he was considered as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation. He has a veteran QB returning in Bo Wallace and an offensive system that ran more plays in 2013 than any other offense in the league. With Donte Moncrief gone, Treadwell could easily become the top target in the SEC.

Jaelen Strong, Arizona State (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 75 rec., 1,122 yds, 7 TDs

With Taylor Kelly returning, Strong figures to have another monster season in the desert. In just his first year, Strong proved to be a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. He is more of a prototypical wideout and his overall production could make him an All-American in ’14.

Other WRs to Watch: Rashad Greene, Florida State; Tyler Boyd, Pitt; Antwan Goodley, Baylor; Amari Cooper, Alabama; Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

The Defensive Stars:

Defensive players don’t win the Heisman. It’s a travesty but it’s the truth. Charles Woodson is really the only true defensive player to win the award and he excelled on special teams. But is that trend changing? From 1998 to 2008, not one defensive player finished in the Heisman top five and only nine players even cracked the top 10 and even those were future NFL Hall of Famers like Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney and Champ Bailey. A.J. Hawk (6th, 2005) was the highest vote-getting defensive player until Ndamukong Suh came along and finished fourth in 2009. Since then, three more players have finished in the top six, including a second-place finish for Manti Te’o in ’12 (table below). Three of the last five years has featured a defensive player as a finalist in New York and there is tons of talent left in college for that trend to continue in ’14.

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (So.)
Played both ways as a freshman, possesses rare and unique physical talents.

Landon Collins, S, Alabama (Sr.)
Heavy-hitting safety may have to become the QB of the defense for Nick Saban.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (Sr.)
All-purpose dynamo and a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 honoree.

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State (Jr.)
Monster defensive end on Big Ten champs. Will get a lot of attention from O-lines.

Dante Fowler, DE/LB, Florida (Jr.)
Beast of an edge player who could have a huge season in opposing backfield.

Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State (So.)
Heady true sophomore started every game for BCS champs as a true freshman.

A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee (Sr.)
Used on offense two years ago and will need to go both ways to get into the mix.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington (Jr.)
Five-star safety turned LB has topped 70 tackles in each of first two seasons.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU (So.)
After missing all but three games a year ago, Fields should be back to form in ’14.

A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama (So.)
Led the Tide in sacks a year ago as a true freshman.

Just for fun, here are the 14 defensive players who finished in the top 10 of Heisman balloting during the BCS Era:

NameTeamPos.PlaceYear
Champ BaileyGeorgiaCB8th1998
Roy WilliamsOklahomaS7th2001
Dwight FreeneySyracuseDE9th2001
Julius PeppersNorth CarolinaDE10th2001
AJ HawkOhio StateLB6th2005
Elvis DumervilLouisvilleDE10th2005
Glenn DorseyLSUDT9th2007
Chris LongVirginiaDE10th2007
Rey MaualugaUSCLB9th2008
Ndamukong SuhNebraskaDT4th2009
Tyrann MathieuLSUDB5th2011
Manti Te'oNotre DameLB2nd2012
Jadeveon ClowneySouth CarolinaDE6th2012
Jarvis JonesGeorgiaLB10th2012

 

Teaser:
2014 Heisman Trophy Position-by-Position Spring Primer
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

Gary Andersen stepped into a well-oiled machine in Madison as the Badgers were a three-time defending conference champion when he got to town last year.

There was nowhere to go but down for Andersen in his first season, and, other than one glaringly bad performance against Penn State to end the year, it was an excellent debut from the new coaching staff.

He will have his work cut out for himself in year two, however. Wisconsin loses 26 seniors to graduation as the roster is going through major turnover. The defense, built around an elite front seven, has major holes to fill up front while the offense is lacking in the playmaker department. And now the Big Ten is two teams bigger and the Badgers are in a totally new division.

With only eight total returning starters (but lots of upside) and a tough schedule, Andersen knows this spring might be the most important spring camp of his seven-year head coaching career.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30 (Houston)
Sept. 6Western Illinois
Sept. 13Bye Week
Sept. 20
Sept. 27
Oct. 4at 
Oct. 11
Oct. 18Bye Week
Oct. 25
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8at
Nov. 15
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

Wisconsin Badgers 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 9-4 (6-2 Big Ten)

Spring Practice Opens: March 5

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 3

Three Things to Watch in Wisconsin's 2014 Spring Practice

Find playmakers on offense
The Badgers' offensive line returns largely intact with the exception of All-Big Ten left guard Ryan Groy and should be one of the best in the nation once again. But senior leader James White and his 4,685 yards from scrimmage are gone. Star wideout Jared Abbrederis and his 4,818 all-purpose yards are gone as well. So too is All-Big Ten tight end Jacob Pedersen. While Melvin Gordon returns as a Heisman candidate at running back (who isn’t allowed to be tackled this spring), quarterback Joel Stave needs to find playmakers or defenses will completely stack the box to stop the running game. Kenzel Doe, Jordan Fredrick, Alex Erickson and Robert Wheelwright caught a total of 28 passes last year and one of them will have to step into a much bigger role. And, frankly, Stave needs to be more productive at getting the ball down the field in his own right. Rob Havenstein should have a chance to become the next in a long line of great UW tight ends and Sam Arneson will also see plenty of playing time. With an elite O-line and stud tailback coming back, finding some weapons to make plays in open space will be the focus of Andersen’s offense in his second spring camp.

Fill glaring holes in the front seven
Wisconsin is losing three All-Big Ten players in end Pat Muldoon, nose guard Beau Allen and all-world linebacker and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Chris Borland. On top of that, linebackers Ethan Armstrong (51 tackles), Conor O’Neill (41) and Brendan Kelly (35) are gone as well as D-line contributors Ethan Hemer and Tyler Dippel. Obviously, replacing a player like Borland is virtually impossible but talented backups Vince Biegel, Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter and Joe Schobert will give it their best shot. As will Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring along the line. The linebacking corps appears to be in better shape than the D-line but both positions have quality backups returning. Developing these players into every-week starters will be the focus of the defensive coaching staff in Madison this spring.

Stabilize the safety position
All-Big Ten safety Dezmen Southward has expired his eligibility and Tanner McEvoy is playing quarterback. This leaves only Nate Hammon with any starting experience at the safety position this spring. This pass defense was outstanding a year ago thanks to a great front seven and the emergence of Sojourn Shelton at cornerback. But if this unit wants to be anywhere near the No. 17-rated pass defense in the nation again, Andersen and his staff will have to find capable bodies to plug in at safety. With holes in the middle of the defensive line and at middle linebacker, Wisconsin can ill afford to have any glaring weaknesses at safety.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10
The 2014 season was business as usual for the Badgers. They ran the ball with vengeance, played physical defense and won nine games. Like clockwork. But in his second season at the helm, Andersen will be faced with a much bigger challenge. Finding offensive weapons and rebuilding the front seven aren't the only issues for this team. For example, it’s no secret that Andersen wants more production from his quarterback and passing game in ’14. That said, fans in MadTown shouldn’t be worried. Andersen has a tremendous track record of developing talent and implementing his system. As the Big Ten adds two teams and moves into the playoff era, Wisconsin finds itself yet again as a conference contender — albeit in a new division.

Teaser:
Wisconsin Badgers 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/maryland-terrapins-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

Randy Edsall won just two games in his first year in College Park. He won four games in his second season at Maryland — with his fifth-string quarterback. So a seven-win, bowl season in his third year was a clear sign of continued growth and development a year ago.

Now, the Terrapins move to a new league for the first time since 1953 as they prepare to enter the Big Ten this fall. And in the same division with Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State, Edsall knows his team will have a steep learning curve in the new league.

The good news is Maryland returns largely intact on both sides of the ball. Only two starters depart the defense and only four leave on offense while both specialists return to campus. Edsall has slowly rebuilt the overall roster talent and depth in his three years but the first season of the College Football Playoffs era could be a tricky one to navigate for the Big Ten newbie.

Especially, if this team deals with major injury issues again.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30James Madison
Sept. 6at 
Sept. 13
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27at
Oct. 4
Oct. 11Bye Week
Oct. 18
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

Maryland Terrapins 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 7-6 (3-5 ACC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 1

Spring Game: April 11

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 9

Three Things to Watch in Maryland's 2014 Spring Practice

Keep the stars on the field
It may sound cliché but on a roster loaded with returning experience, Edsall has to keep his star players healthy. Quarterback C.J. Brown had a breakout season a year ago but has dealt with injuries his entire career. Elite wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are future NFL players but both are already out this spring due to injuries — which could be misconstrued as a good thing. Additionally, former star tailback Wes Brown returns from his semester-long suspension stemming from an off the field run-in with the police. Brown returns to compete with a mix of very capable backs vying for carries this spring. This team could have lots of weapons on offense but Edsall and coordinator Mike Locksley need to make sure that they’re all on the field together come August.

Plug the holes up front on offense
Two starters depart the offensive line along with tight end Dave Stinebaugh. Filling the gaps along the offensive front might be the only area of concern for this side of the ball other than health. The tight end position might be the least experienced on the entire roster and Edsall needs to find a new left side of the line. Ryan Doyle, Michael Dunn and Moise Larose return with some experience at tackle and Sal Conaboy and Andrew Zeller return with some experience up the middle. There is a host of talented incoming freshmen who will show up on campus this summer so this month is the time for the incumbents to prove they belong in the starting lineup. Locksley’s top priority in his third spring with Maryland will be to settle the O-line depth chart and find some capable bodies at tight end.

Find depth on defense
Only linebacker Marcus Whitfield and cornerback Isaac Goins depart the starting 11 on defense. Finding depth at every position is the key this spring, as Edsall and new defensive line coach Chad Wilt look to continue to develop the ever-evolving Terps roster. This includes finding a pass rusher to fill the void left by Whitfield and a coverman who can play opposite William Likely. There are plenty of bodies returning at safety and linebacker but not all of them will be on the field this spring and this group struggled on the field a year ago. Injuries to linebackers Alex Twine and Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil make developing depth even more imperative this spring. Finding depth at all three levels of the defense will be a focus for the Terrapins this offseason.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 7-9
Maryland has gone from two to four to seven wins in Edsall’s tenure in College Park and there is no reason to think this overall trend won’t continue. Does it mean that the Terps can win more than seven games in their first romp through a new and more difficult division? Maybe not but a bowl bid in year one with a schedule that includes road trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan and has both Ohio State and Michigan State coming to town, would be a sign that Maryland won’t have too much difficulty making the transition to the Big Ten. Getting used to road trips from College Park to Minneapolis is, however, an entirely different discussion.

Teaser:
Maryland Terrapins 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-defensive-backs-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

The Big Ten is known for power running games, hard-hitting linebackers and big hog mollies along the offensive line. However, the conference also claims five Thorpe Award winners — given to the nation's top defensive back — on four different teams during the 16-year BCS Era. 

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Antoine Winfield, Ohio State (1995-98)
Winfield might be the most underrated defensive back in the history of all levels of football. The consensus All-American helped Ohio State win 43 games in four years and nearly (or should have) played in the first BCS National Championship Game in 1998. He was given the Thorpe and Tatum honors as a senior as the nation’s top defensive back before being selected 23rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.

2. Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000)
The Badgers’ coverman has as complete a resume as any during the BCS Era. He was a two-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection. He helped Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships and was the only Big Ten defensive back of the BCS Era to be named the outright Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He holds UW’s all-time record with 21 interceptions and was named the nation’s top defensive back with the Thorpe and Tatum Trophies as a senior in 2000. He was a first-round pick in 2001.

3. Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002)
The Buckeyes safety was a rare three-time All-American, three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick and was named co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 for the BCS National Champions. Doss started 40 of 50 possible career games and was named the 2002 Fiesta Bowl MVP. He finished his career with 331 career tackles, eight interceptions, eight fumbles recovered and 6.0 sacks. He was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

4. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (2005-08)
The Ohio State Buckeyes have a long tradition of great defensive backs and Jenkins is one of the most decorated. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick, including twice as a starter for two unbeaten regular-season teams that made it to the BCS National Championship Game in both 2006 and ’07. He was a two-time All-American, Jim Thorpe winner and was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

5. Bob Sanders, Iowa (2000-03)
One of the hardest hitting players to ever suit up, Sanders made big plays all over the field during his time in Iowa City. He helped lead Iowa to the Orange Bowl in 2002 and was an All-American as a senior in '03. He finished his career with 348 tackles, 16.0 for loss, four sacks, seven interceptions and 13 forced fumbles (he led the nation in FF with six as a senior). The Colts took him in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft and he went on to two Pro Bowls and also won a Super Bowl.

6. Tyrone Carter, Minnesota (1996-99)
The Florida native was a tackling machine for the Golden Gophers, finishing his career with an NCAA-record 584 total tackles and 414 solo stops He was a two-time, first-team All-American and won the 1999 Thorpe Award and Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back. Carter also was a return specialist, totaling over 1,800 combined punt and kick return yards. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. The Gophers increased their win total every year of his four-year, 46-game career.

7. Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin (2001-04)
A cult hero walk-on in Madison, Leonhard was a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick before even earning his first collegiate scholarship before his senior season. He went on to a third first-team All-Big Ten selection and All-American honors in his final season. He led the nation with a Big Ten single-season record 11 interceptions as a sophomore and broke the Big Ten record for punt return yardage with 1,347 yards (since broken). He played every game of his career, starting 39 times and registering 281 tackles and a Wisconsin-record 21 career interceptions (tied with Fletcher) — which is good for fourth all-time in Big Ten history and the most by any B1G player during the BCS Era.

8. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (2010-13)
Dennard was the nation’s best cover corner on a team that won a school-record 13 games, the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl. Dennard posted 62 tackles and four interceptions en route to winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. He was obviously named the Tatum-Woodson B1G DB of the Year and finished his four-year career with 167 tackles, 10.0 for loss, 10 INTs, 26 passes defended and, most importantly, 42 wins.

9. Leon Hall, Michigan (2003-06)
He never missed a game in his four-year, 50-game career and led Michigan to three Rose Bowl appearances. He is Michigan’s all-time leader with 43 passes broken up and also picked off 12 career passes. Hall was honorable mention All-Big Ten as a sophomore, second-team All-Big Ten as a junior and a consensus All-American and Thorpe Award finalist as a senior. The Michigan great was the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

10. Vontae Davis, Illinois (2006-08)
A three-year player for Illinois, Davis was a freshman All-American in his first season. He started all 12 games, making 56 tackles and earning first-team All-Big Ten honors while leading the Illini back to the Rose Bowl. He made 78 tackles as a junior and earned first-team Big Ten honors a second time. Davis was a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Donte Whitner, Ohio State (2003-05)
Donte “Hitner” was a big hitter before getting to the NFL. He contributed as a true freshman but entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He posted 143 tackles in two seasons as the starter, including All-American and All-Big Ten honors as a junior. He departed early for the NFL and was the eighth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

12. Marlin Jackson, Michigan (2001-04)
A hybrid safety-cornerback, Jackson was an All-American and senior captain for the Wolverines in 2004. He is second all-time in school history in passes broken up and was a first-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

13. Tracy Porter, Indiana (2004-07)
Arguably the best defensive back in school history, Porter is No. 2 in Indiana history with 16 interceptions and No. 1 with 413 return yards (third all-time in B1G history). He is the only player in IU history to return a punt, interception and fumble for a touchdown. He posted 212 tackles, was a first-team All-Big Ten pick and was taken in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

14. Chris Gamble, Ohio State (2001-03)
He played three ways for the undefeated BCS champs in 2002, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors in the process. He played in 38 career games, starting 18 on defense and 12 on offense and was one of the most explosive players to play in the Big Ten. He left school early and was a first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

15. Nate Clements, Ohio State (1998-2000)
The top flight coverman started 24 of his possible 36 career games at Ohio State, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior. He posted 177 tackles, seven interceptions and was a first-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft after leaving school early.

16. Stuart Schweigert, Purdue (2000-03)
He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year for the Big Ten champs in his first season. He set the Purdue interception record with 17 and was a two-time, first-ream All-Big Ten pick as well as a two-time, second-team selection. He posted 360 career tackles and went to four bowl games.

17. Will Allen, Ohio State (2000-03)
Sitting behind Doss most of career, Allen only got one year to showcase his ability. He was a big member of the 2002 BCS title team but played mostly in nickel packages. In his one year as a starter, he earned consensus All-American honors and was a fourth-round pick.

18. Bernard Pollard, Purdue (2003-05)
The Bonecrusher was a great player but didn’t always get along with Joe Tiller. He posted 254 tackles in three years and set a school record with five blocked kicks. Had he played four years and not constantly been at odds with Tiller, he could have been one of the B1G’s greats.

19. Kurt Coleman, Ohio State (2006-09)
He was a three-year starter at safety for two teams that went unbeaten in the regular season and played for the BCS national title. He was an All-American, team MVP and first-team All-Big Ten pick.

20. Micah Hyde, Iowa (2009-12)
Playing both cornerback and safety, Hyde won the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten DB of the Year award as a senior. He was also an excellent return man, being named first-team All-Big Ten in 2012.

Best of the rest:

21. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska (2008-11)
22. Ernest Shazor, Michigan (2002-04)
23. CJ. Barnett, Ohio State (2009-13)
23. Ahmad Plummer, Ohio State (1997-99)
24. Ricardo Allen, Purdue (2010-13)
25. Mike Echols, Wisconsin (1998-2001)
26. Ashton Youboty, Ohio State (2003-05)
27. Eugene Wilson, Illinois (1999-2002)
28. Calvin Lowry, Penn State (2002-05)
29. Brian Peters, Northwestern (2008-11)
30. Willie Middlebrooks, Minnesota (1998-2001)

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

Having dissected every season of every major conference from the BCS Era, I think I can safely say that the Big 12 had the best quarterbacks. Four Heisman Trophy winners, seven BCS National Championship Game appearances from six different signal-callers and two national titles say as much — and that’s just the top 10 in this league. The Big 12 also boasts who I believe is the best player regardless of position in college football over the last 16 seasons.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Stats: 6,040 yds, 44 TDs, 28 INTs, 61.8%, 3,127 yds, 37 TDs

The Texas quarterback was the most unstoppable single force of the BCS Era. Just ask Kansas. Or Colorado. Or USC even. He earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. The Longhorns' offense averaged more than 50 points per game, he was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin.

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (2008-11)
Stats: 10,366 yds, 78 TDs, 17 INTs, 67.1%, 2,254 yds, 33 TDs

Right alongside Andrew Luck will always be RG3, as the duo will forever be linked in football history. Griffin III beat out the Cardinal signal-caller to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy while leading Baylor to back-to-back bowl games. He led the NCAA in passing efficiency (189.5) — a Big 12 single-season record — and posted the fourth-best season in terms of total offense in conference history (4,992 yards, the most by any non-Texas Tech quarterback). He was a consensus All-American and won the Davey O'Brien and Manning Awards to go with his stiff-armed trophy. In fact, few players at any position in any league have meant more to their school than Griffin III. His impact on Baylor Bears football is immeasurable and could continue for decades. Had he been healthy for his entire career — he missed nine games in 2009 — his numbers might have been the best the BCS Era has ever seen.

3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2007-09)
Stats: 8,403 yds, 88 TDs, 16 INTs, 67.6%, 5 rush TDs

It didn't take long for the three-star recruit to establish himself as one of Oklahoma's best of all-time. He set a school record for yards in a half in the first half of his career and broke another school record for consecutive completions the next game (22) — still a Big 12 record and two shy of the NCAA mark (Tee Martin). By season's end, Bradford owned the NCAA's all-time freshman passing touchdowns record (since broken) with 36. He also won the Big 12 championship. The following season, Bradford led the Sooners to the BCS title game against Florida and beat out Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy for the Heisman Trophy. He won Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien honors as well. Bradford owns the NCAA record for career quarterback efficiency at 175.6 making him the most efficient quarterback in the history of the game. He also owns the NCAA mark for yards per play (8.7) and 86 of his 88 career touchdown passes came in just two seasons.

4. Colt McCoy, Texas (2006-09)
Stats: 13,253 yds, 112 TDs, 45 INTs, 70.3%, 1,571 yds, 20 TDs

Few players got more out of their abilities than McCoy. He was a two-time consensus All-American as a junior and senior, finishing second in the Heisman as a junior and third as a senior. McCoy was the 2009 Big 12 Player of the Year and claimed the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Manning, Unitas and Davey O'Brien Awards over his last two seasons. En route to the 2009 BCS National Championship Game, he produced 30 touchdowns and over 3,900 yards of total offense on the unbeaten Big 12 champs. He left school with more wins than any quarterback in NCAA history (since broken), owns the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage (76.7) and is the most efficient passer in Big 12 history (70.3 percent). 

5. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (1999-2000)
Stats: 7,242 yds, 53 TDs, 30 INTs, 63.8%, 43 yds, 12 TDs

He wasn't the most talented quarterback to play in Norman but he might have the best understanding of the position. He won AP Player of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American, earned the Walter Camp Trophy, finished second in the Heisman and led the NCAA in completion percentage (64.7) in 2000. More importantly, he led Oklahoma to arguably the biggest win in program history over Florida State in the BCS championship game in 2000. He posted back-to-back seasons of at least 3,400 yards passing and 27 total touchdowns.

6. Brad Smith, Missouri (2002-05)
Stats: 8,799 yds, 56 TDs, 33 INTs, 56.3%, 4,289 yds, 45 TDs

Smith is one of only five players in the 6,000-4,000 club after becoming the first player to accomplish the feat back in 2005. He is arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the history of the program and was nearly unstoppable in the backfield. His 799 rushing attempts are fifth all-time in Big 12 history and his 4,289 yards rushing are fourth while his 45 touchdowns rank ninth all-time. All of this on the ground from a guy who also ranks ninth all-time in passing yards, sixth in attempts (1,484) and seventh in completions (835).

7. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (2008-11)
Stats: 9,260 yds, 75 TDs, 27 INTs, 69.5%, 1 rush TD

The Pokes quarterback set all the important school passing records in 2011 and then returned to Stillwater in '12 and surpassed his previous benchmarks. His 4,742 yards passing in 2011 is the best single-season by a Big 12 quarterback not from Texas Tech. He led Oklahoma State to its first-ever Big 12 title and first-ever BCS bowl win. His 69.5 percent completion rate is third all-time in Big 12 history and he ranks eighth in league history in passing yards and ninth in touchdowns in just two seasons as a starter. Weeden went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Browns in the 2012 NFL Draft.

8. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (1998-2001)
Stats: 4,481 yds, 29 TDs, 25 INTs, 51.5%, 3,434 yds, 59 TDs

The Nebraska signal-caller continued the long run of elite running quarterbacks in Lincoln with a Heisman Trophy season that ended with a trip to the BCS title game against Miami. The two-time Big 12 Player of the Year also claimed Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp honors and led the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns three consecutive seasons. The four-year starter won three straight Big 12 North titles as well as the most recent conference title of any kind for Nebraska (’99). His 59 rushing touchdowns are a record for any QB in NCAA history and are third all-time in the Big 12 record books.

9. Jason White, Oklahoma (1999-2004)
Stats: 7,922 yds, 81 TDs, 24 INTs,  63.3%, 2 rush TDs

The list of awards and accomplishments is long for White. He was AP National Player of the Year, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, the Unitas, Davey O’Brien and Maxwell winner and claimed the 2003 Heisman Trophy. He led his team to two BCS National Championship Games and a perfect 13-0 Big 12 title in 2004 (before getting hammered by USC). He finished third in the Heisman voting in his senior season. White had over 7,000 yards passing and 75 touchdown passes in two seasons as the starter.

10. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (2005-08)
Stats: 15,611 yds, 134 TDs, 34 INTs, 69.8%, 12 rush TDs

No player in Big 12 history has thrown for more touchdowns than Harrell and only two players in NCAA history (Case Keenum, Kellen Moore) can top his 134 scoring strikes. The Red Raiders QB has two of the top three passing seasons in Big 12 history and three of the top nine. His career completion percentage of 69.8 is second all-time in league history behind only McCoy and no one has completed more passes in NCAA history than his 1,403 connections. Before ending his career, Harrell was awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy in 2007 and the Unitas Golden Arm Award in '08 when he nearly led Tech to what would have been its only Big 12 title game appearance to date.

Just missed the cut:

11. Chase Daniel, Missouri (2005-08)
Stats: 12,515 yds, 101 TDs, 41 INTs, 68.0%, 971 yds, 10 TDs

Like many names on this list, Daniel was more than just big stats and awards. He elevated his program to a new level of competition. Missouri won a school-record 12 games (since tied) during Daniel’s Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Heisman finalist (4th) season of 2007. He then won 10 games in ’08, posting two of the three double-digit win seasons in school history at the time. He also led Mizzou to its only two Big 12 title game appearances while setting every major school passing record along the way. Daniel is fourth all-time in passing yards and one of only four players with 100-plus TD passes in Big 12 history.

12. Todd Reesing, Kansas (2006-09)
Stats: 11,194 yds, 90 TDs, 33 INTs, 63.8%, 646 yds, 15 TDs

Exactly like Daniel, Reesing carried his program to levels never before seen in Lawrence. Before Reesing arrived, Kansas had won 10 games just twice in more than a century of football (1905, '95). In just his first season, the Kansas signal-caller threw for 3,486 yards, 33 TDs and only seven interceptions en route to a school-record 12 wins. The Orange Bowl victory that year was the only appearance the Jayhawks made in any BCS bowl during its 16-year run. Reesing had three straight seasons with at least 3,400 yards passing and is sixth all-time in league history in both yards and touchdown passes.

13. Collin Klein, Kansas State (2009-2012)
Stats: 4,724 yds, 30 TDs, 15 INTs, 61.3%, 2,485 yds, 56 TDs

He certainly isn’t a conventional quarterback but he was equally effective and just as successful as any of the pro-style pocket passers on this list. Klein tied a Big 12 record with 27 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and is fourth all-time in Big 12 history with a total of 56 — just three shy of the NCAA record. He literally carried Kansas State to a Big 12 championship, was named Big 12 Player of the Year, won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award and finished third in the Heisman voting in his final season on campus.

14. Michael Bishop, Kansas State (1997-98)
Stats: 4,401 yds, 36 TDs, 13 INTs, 1,314 yds, 23 TDs

Any place that Klein is mentioned in Kansas State or Big 12 lore, Bishop needs to be right alongside. Both were dual-threat talents who carried their Wildcats to the Big 12 championship game during an award-winning senior season. Bishop was a consensus All-American, Davey O’Brien Award winner and finished second in the Heisman voting when he posted this season: 2,844 yards, 23 TDs, 5 INTs, 748 yards rushing, 14 TDs.

15. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State (2006-09)
Stats: 8,317 yds, 66 TDs, 31 INTs, 1,858 yds, 22 TDs

One of the more underrated players in league history, Robinson took a four-win team the year before he arrived and led the Pokes to four winning seasons. He started the last three of those seasons and capped his career with back-to-back nine-win campaigns. His ability to make plays with his legs is often forgotten as his 10,175 yards of total offense rank ninth all-time (ahead of Vince Young). 

16. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (2009-12)
Stats: 16,646 yds, 123 TDs, 52 INTs, 63.6%,  3 rush TDs

Very few players in history have four 3,000-yard seasons on their resume but Jones is one of them. Jones is No. 3 in NCAA history in passing yards and No. 5 in touchdown passes, but also threw more interceptions than any player in Big 12 history (52). He won 40 games in his career, including one outright conference championship in 2010, but never took Oklahoma to the national title level.

17. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (1999-02)
Stats: 12,423 yds, 95 TDs, 40 INTs, 5 rush TDs

Kingsbury led the nation in completions for three consecutive seasons and owns the Big 12 record for completions in a game (49). He capped his career by leading the nation in passing yards and touchdowns with 5,017 yards and 45 in 2002. His is one of just three players in Big 12 history to top 5,000 yards and is one of just 10 players in NCAA history to reach 5K passing. And let’s face it, the ladies love them some Kingsbury.

18. Major Applewhite, Texas (1998-01)
Stats: 8,353 yds, 60 TDs, 28 INTs, 57.4%, 3 rush TDs

A cult hero in Austin, Applewhite battled blue-chip, NFL offspring Chris Simms for playing time most of his career. Starting as a sophomore, Applewhite threw for 3,357 yards and 21 scores en route to being named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. He left school as the record holder for passing yards in a career and season (since broken) as well as consecutive games with a TD pass (19).

19. Bryce Petty, Baylor (2011-present)
Stats: 4,340 yds, 33 TDs, 3 INTs, 62.4%, 237 yds, 15 TDs

This is really just a starting point for a player who could quickly rise in the Big 12 QB ranks with another huge season in 2014. In just one year, however, Petty led Baylor to its only Big 12 championship, its only BCS bowl bid and he won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. He was responsible for 46 total touchdowns, rolled up 4,409 yards of offense and threw only three interceptions in ’13.

20. Geno Smith, West Virginia (2009-12)
Stats: 11,662 yds, 98 TDs, 21 INTs, 342 yds, 4 TDs

He only played one season in the Big 12 but it was a monster season. He threw for 4,205 yards and an NCAA-best 42 touchdowns. His overall career numbers stack up with most of the Big 12’s best and he led WVU to an Orange Bowl romp over Clemson. He owns the Big 12 record for consecutive completions without an interception (273), the Big 12 single-game TD record (8) and the Big 12 single-game total offense record (687). Smith was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Best of the rest:

21. B.J. Symons, Texas Tech (2000-03): 6,378 yds, 59 TDs, 25 INTs, 64.4%, 208 yds, 6 TDs
22. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri (2008-10): 6,822 yds, 40 TDs, 18 INTs, 60.9%, 458 yds, 8 TDs
23. Bret Meyer, Iowa State (2004-07): 9,499 yds, 50 TDs, 41 INTs, 58.0%, 923 yds, 12 TDs
24. Nick Florence, Baylor (2009-12): 6,301 yds, 41 TDs, 22 INTs, 61.8%, 651 yds, 14 TDs
25. Zac Taylor, Nebraska (2005-06): 5,853 yds, 45 TDs, 20 INTs, 57.3%, 2 rush TDs
26. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (2009-12): 8,636 yds, 69 TDs, 26 INTs, 69.0%, 54 yds, 6 TDs
27. Ell Roberson, Kansas State (2000-03): 5,099 yds, 37 TDs, 26 INTs, 48.9%, 2,818 yds, 40 TDs
28. Seneca Wallace, Iowa State (2001-02): 5,289 yds, 26 TDs, 27 INTs, 57.7%, 912 yds, 15 TDs
29. Josh Freeman, Kansas State (2006-08): 8,078 yds, 44 TDs, 34 INTs, 59.1%, 343 yds, 20 TDs
30. Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M (2002-05): 6,992 yds, 44 TDs, 23 INTs, 54.6%, 1,889 yds, 15 TDs

Teaser:
Top 10 Big 12 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

Tennessee has posted three consecutive 5-7 seasons and has lost at least seven games in five of the last six years. In the standings, few things have changed in Knoxville despite the hiring of a fourth coach in six years.

However, things could not be more different now that Butch Jones is in charge. Entering his second spring practice, Jones has already accomplished more than his predecessor. He has a win over a top-15 opponent, produced more rushing yards in a season than any Tennessee team since 2004, signed a top-10 recruiting class, moved Tennessee from adidas to Nike apparel and has retained his entire coaching staff.

He also has converted a culture of losing into one with lofty expectations and championship aspirations. Jones talks of “building our identity,” improving “football intelligence,” creating “team brotherhood” and using a “consistent approach each and every day.”

All of that coach speak is important and relevant, especially for a team with 41 losses in the last six years. But behind closed doors, fans can bet his goals for his second spring camp are more specific. Tennessee must find pass rushers, rebuild the offensive line, work in more than a dozen early enrollees and, most importantly, settle on a quarterback.

These objectives are more concrete than “taking pride in the fundamentals” and will go a long way in setting up the Vols for their first bowl game since 2010.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30
Sept. 6
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20Bye Week
Sept. 27at 
Oct. 4
Oct. 11Chattanooga
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 

Tennessee Volunteers 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 7

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 5

Three Things to Watch in Tennessee's 2014 Spring Practice

Settle on a signal-caller
No one expects this battle to be over when spring camp ends, however, Jones and coordinator Mike Bajakian would feel a lot better about the future of their offense should they break camp with a clear(-er) pecking order under center. Justin Worley has the most experience. Joshua Dobbs has the most athletic ability. And Riley Ferguson, a redshirt freshman who didn’t play last year, might be the most gifted passer of the bunch. Nathan Peterman also is in the mix but appears like a distant fourth in the race for the starting job. Worley isn’t overly talented but has lots of snaps under his belt while Dobbs acquitted himself fairly well as just a true freshman a year ago with his ability to make plays with his legs. Ferguson is the wild card and many believe he might have the inside track on the starting job if he can prove to the coaches that he is ready to step into an SEC huddle. This battle should rage on into the fall but Jones and his staff would sleep better if they can establish at least the framework for a quarterback depth chart this spring.

Find answers in the trenches
All five offensive lineman are gone on offense and essentially the entire defensive line is gone as well. Restocking the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is imperative for success in the SEC. There is a host of young players on defense who will step into bigger roles (Jordan Williams, Corey Vereen) and a few who will eventually return from injury (Jaylen Miller, Trevarris Saulsberry) along the defensive front. And there are probably more than a few fans who would like to see what linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin would look like flying off the edge in blitz packages. So finding pass rushers on defense (ideally) shouldn’t be as difficult as replacing multiple All-SEC blockers up front on offense. Very little starting experience returns at this position for the Vols with Mack Crowder — and his one start — the only player with any starting experience. Crowder, Marcus Jackson and Kyler Kerbyson should get first crack at earning spots but other names will need to develop quickly if Tennessee wants to improve the 102nd-ranked total offense in college football. Going the junior college route is a slippery slope and can be extremely volatile but can also pay off in a big way (SEE: Cordarrelle Patterson). So keep an eye on JUCO early enrollees Dontavius Blair (OL) and Owen Williams (DL). It won’t matter who is under center if Jones and Bajakian can’t stabilize the front line... on either side of the ball.

Find playmakers and work in the youth
With 14 early enrollees, Jones has what amounts to an entirely new roster heading into his second spring camp. And he has repeatedly talked about finding playmakers on both sides of the ball. With Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson returning to the linebacking corps, that shouldn’t be a huge undertaking on defense. However, on offense, Tennessee is in much worse shape and will likely turn to more than one freshman to help create big plays with Pig Howard, Drae Bowles and Brendan Downs not participating in spring camp. Five-star wideout Josh Malone and five-star athlete Jalen Hurd, be it at running back or elsewhere, have elite upside but need to get acclimated quickly to college life if they want to contribute in the fall. The same can be said about junior college wideout Von Pearson and early enrollee freshmen tight ends Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf. Jones and Bajakian have a lot of new toys to play with and figuring out how all of those pieces fit together is much easier in the spring than en route to Norman, Okla.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 5-7
Things are finally pointed in the right direction for Big Orange Nation. While the results on the field are yet to come, Jones has established a winning culture within the halls of the luxurious Anderson Training Center. He has overhauled his roster, improved team speed, gotten stronger and now has a young roster he can mold into a winner. There is a lot of work left to be done before the Vols are competing for SEC titles again — in particular, with a schedule that includes road trips to Oklahoma, Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — but the overall trajectory of the program appears to be very positive for the first time in nearly a decade.  

Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

The Gamecocks are coming off of the best three-year run in program history.

South Carolina has posted three consecutive 11-win seasons — the only three 11-win seasons in school history. The year before that, it played in its only SEC Championship Game after winning its only East Division title since joining the conference in 1992.

Needless to say, Steve Spurrier has built a giant in Columbia. But despite all of the success his team has brought fans over the last half-decade, it still hasn't produced a championship. This program is nationally relevant for the first time in its long history and an SEC title is the only thing left for the Ol’ Ball Coach to accomplish at South Carolina.

With a deep and talented depth chart returning to campus and a coaching staff that stayed intact, there is no reason why the Cocks can’t be a major contender for a playoff spot in 2014.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 28
Sept. 6
Sept. 13
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27
Oct. 4at
Oct. 11Bye Week
Oct. 18Furman
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15at 
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 

South Carolina 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 4

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 6

Three Things to Watch in South Carolina's 2014 Spring Practice

Thompson’s Time
Connor Shaw was one of the most underrated players to ever play in the SEC. His graduation leaves a gaping void under center and in the leadership department. The good news is Dylan Thompson has loads of experience and a big arm to stretch the field. His starting experience should help the redshirt senior assume the role as Commander-in-Chief of Spurrier’s huddle. He will have plenty of talent on the outside to work with, as names like Pharoh Cooper, Shaq Roland, Nick Jones and Rory Anderson highlight the receiving corps. The offensive line also returns largely intact with only one starter gone from last year’s unit. So if Thompson can settle into his role as “the guy” quickly this spring, there is no reason to think that this offense won’t be one of the best in the SEC.

Rebuild the defensive line
The defensive side of the ball has much bigger voids to fill, especially along the line of scrimmage. There is no substitute for Jadeveon Clowney but having to find suitable replacements for first-team All-SEC tackle Kelcy Quarles and end Chaz Sutton makes the chore even more difficult. Spurrier has recruited at an extremely high level nationally and should have plenty of bodies lined up for playing time. This coaching staff just needs to figure out which players fit where this spring. Darius English, Gerald Dixon, J.T. Surratt and Phillip Dukes all return with experience but organizing the D-line depth chart has to be a priority for the Cocks’ coaching staff this spring. What can JUCO defensive lineman Abu Lamin and converted linebacker Cedrick Cooper bring to the table?

Find cover corners
Victor Hampton was a second-team All-SEC pick and one of the most talented athletes on the roster a year ago. He and fellow starting cornerback Jimmy Legree have both departed Columbia, leaving Spurrier’s defense lacking in outside covermen. This might be the biggest area of concern in spring camp because there are only four scholarship cornerbacks slated to participate. Rico McWilliams has two career starts and he is the most experienced player in the group by a wide margin. There will be reinforcements coming when the bulk of the heralded 2014 signing class gets to campus in the summer, but for the spring time, depth is a major issue on the outside. Finding players who can matchup outside with big wide receivers will be the focus, but keeping an already thin depth chart healthy will be equally important.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
Spurrier is on a roll right now. He owns the Palmetto State in recruiting and on the field, he’s won 33 games in three years and has his entire coaching staff back intact. Both specialists and 13 (of 22) starters return along with three consecutive top-20 recruiting classes. So while expectation levels are rightfully sky high, this roster also is capable of competing despite the loss of Clowney and Shaw. The schedule sets up nicely too. Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee will all come to Columbia while there is no Alabama or LSU and Johnny Manziel-less Texas A&M in crossover play from the West. Key second-half road trips to Auburn and Florida look like the toughest tests in the SEC for South Carolina. With this roster, this coach and this schedule, an SEC East title is well within reach. 

Teaser:
South Carolina Gamecocks 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

There certainly have been greats that graced the SEC stage during the BCS Era. Every program in this powerhouse league, at one time or another, has had an elite signal-caller — even Kentucky (Tim Couch, Andre Woodson) and Vanderbilt (Jay Cutler). But one name stands above the rest in the SEC when it comes to quarterback play and the BCS Era.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-09)
Stats: 9,285 yds, 88 TDs, 16 INTs, 66.4%, 2,947 yds, 57 TDs

Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns (145), rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Awards when he set an NCAA record with 55 total touchdowns and 4,181 yards of total offense (since broken). He won the SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year in which he led Florida to its second national championship in three years. Tebow is one of only five players in SEC history to rush for 20 TDs in a season and his 57 career rushing touchdowns are an SEC record. He fell one game shy in 2009 of playing in — and likely winning — three national titles in four years. His speech following the loss to Ole Miss in '08 has been immortalized in Gator football lore and his cult following has only grown since leaving Gainesville.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (2012-13)
Stats: 7,820 yds, 63 TDs, 22 INTs, 68.9%, 2,169 yds, 30 TD
s

Manziel was one of the most unstoppable forces with the ball in his hands. He set the SEC single-season total offense record (5,116) by a large margin during his Heisman Trophy redshirt freshman campaign. His encore performance of 4,873 yards in his second season gives him the two most productive seasons in SEC history. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won the Manning and Davey O’Brien Awards and earned two bowl MVP trophies in the Cotton and Chick-fil-A Bowls. In just two seasons, his 9,989 yards tied Eli Manning exactly for eighth all-time in league history for total offense and his 93 total touchdowns rank fifth all-time. He is the all-time SEC leader in completion percentage (68.9 percent) and is one of only two players in league history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season (Tim Couch). Six conference losses and some injuries slowed the end of his short career, but Manziel’s excitement, improvisational skills, production and big-play ability are second to none in the storied history of SEC football. Few players ever burst onto the SEC scene quite like Johnny Manziel — despite the horrendous nickname — and few enjoyed the spotlight more.

3. AJ McCarron, Alabama (2010-13)
Stats: 9,019 yds, 77 TDs, 15 INTs, 66.9%, 3 rush TDs

He gets knocked for his vanilla offensive system, extraordinary head coach and talented supporting cast but McCarron is Alabama’s greatest quarterback and is arguably the most successful player in SEC history this side of Tebow (who also had a great coach and elite supporting cast). He earned three BCS National Championships rings — two as the starting quarterback — and is the most prolific passer in school history. He earned BCS title game MVP honors as a sophomore before leading the nation in passing efficiency and winning another title as a junior (175.3). His 77-to-15 TD-to-INT ratio is one of the best in NCAA history as he finished as the No. 4-most efficient passer in SEC history (162.5). McCarron was a Heisman Trophy runner-up, the Maxwell and Unitas Award winner and finished 36-4 as a starter in his career — never missing a game in his four-year, 53-game career. Having Katherine Webb on the resume doesn’t hurt either.

4. Cam Newton, Florida/Auburn (2008, '10)
Stats: 2,908 yds, 30 TDs, 7 INTs, 65.4%, 1,586 yds, 24 TDs

Newton's career is an intriguing one that could have been one of the greatest of all-time had he played more than just one season at Auburn. He was essentially kicked out of school, intertwined with a recruiting scandal and left early for the NFL. Yet, his one season in 2010 was one of the best in history. He single-handedly carried Auburn to a BCS title, won the Heisman Trophy as well as Davey O'Brien, Archie Manning, Maxwell, Walter Camp and AP Player of the Year honors. He set (since broken) the SEC’s single-season record for total offense with 4,327 yards and is one of just five players ever to rush for 20 TDs in an SEC season. Had he played more than one season, Newton could have challenged Tebow as arguably the best player to play in the SEC during the BCS Era.

5. Aaron Murray, Georgia (2010-13)
Stats: 13,166 yds, 121 TDs, 41 INTs, 62.3%, 396 yds, 16 TDs

When it comes to statistics, no SEC player in history was more productive than Murray. He owns the SEC record for passing yards and touchdown passes. His 137 total touchdowns trail only Tebow and his 13,562 yards of total offense bested Tebow’s record by a large margin (12,232). He is one of only three Georgia quarterbacks to beat Florida in three straight seasons and he posted at least 3,000 yards passing in four consecutive seasons. He is No. 1 all-time in SEC history with 921 completions and is No. 2 all-time with 1,478 attempts. He started 52 consecutive games, missing only the final two games of his senior season. His final record was 35-17 with two SEC East titles and the lack of a conference championship is the only missing piece to Murray’s otherwise sterling resume.

6. Eli Manning, Ole Miss (2000-03)
Stats: 10,119 yds, 81 TDs, 35 INTs, 60.8%, 5 rush TDs

The third and final Manning to play quarterback in the SEC elevated Ole Miss to its highest levels of success during the BCS Era. He claimed the Unitas and Maxwell Awards, along with SEC Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003. He owns the Ole Miss single-season records for yards (3,600) and touchdowns (31) and is eighth all-time in SEC history with over 10,000 yards passing. He is clearly one of this generation's greatest talents and of all the other greats to play in the SEC, Manning might have had the least talented supporting cast. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

7. David Greene, Georgia (2001-04)
Stats: 11,528 yds, 72 TDs, 32 INTs, 59.0%, 5 rush TDs

Greene helped restore the winning ways in Athens and it started in his first season as the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2001. He led the Dawgs to their first SEC title in two decades as a sophomore and was named an All-SEC passer in each of his upperclass seasons. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time winningest quarterback with 42 wins in his career. He was the SEC’s all-time leading passer until Murray broke his record in 2013.

8. Tim Couch, Kentucky (1996-98)
Stats: 8,435 yds, 74 TDs, 35 INTs, 4 rush TDs

The consensus All-American and No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft brags two of the top four passing seasons in SEC history. He and Manziel are the only two players to top 4,000 yards passing in any season and his 4,275 yards in his junior season in the first year of the BCS system are still an SEC single-season record. His 37 touchdown passes in 1997 are tied for third all-time and his 36 scoring strikes the following year are tied for fifth.

9. Rex Grossman, Florida (2000-02)
Stats: 9,164 yds, 77 TDs, 36 INTs, 61.0%, 6 rush TDs

Grossman was a consensus All-American, SEC Player of the Year, AP Player of the Year nationally and finished second in the Heisman voting in 2001. His 3,896 yards passing in 2001 are a Florida school record and sit at No. 3 all-time in SEC history (Couch, Manziel). His 77 TD passes in just three years are ninth all-time and he was a first-round pick of the Bears in 2003. He led the Gators to two BCS bowls and his 146.8 passer rating is 10th all-time in SEC history.

10. Chris Leak, Florida (2003-06)
Stats: 11,213 yds, 88 TDs, 42 INTs, 61.4%, 137 yds, 13 TDs

Leak is third all-time in SEC history for passing yards and was the all-time leader in completions (895) until Murray came along. He started as a freshman and set SEC freshman passing records before three consecutive seasons with at least 2,600 yards and 20 TDs. As a senior he earned BCS Championship Game MVP honors after dismantling the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2006 title game. Florida won 37 games and went to four bowl games during his time in Gainesville. Leak won’t ever be confused with the most talented to ever play the game but his resume is as complete as any in the history of the sport.

Just missed the cut:

11. Andre Woodson, Kentucky (2004-07)
Stats: 9,360 yds, 79 TDs, 25 INTs, 61.9%, 5 rush TDs

From 1985-2005, Kentucky went to three bowl games. Woodson led the Wildcats to bowl wins in 2006 and '07 while setting several SEC single-season records in the process. He is the only SEC quarterback to ever throw 40 touchdown passes in a season (40) and his 79 career TD passes rank seventh all-time in league history. Woodson is one of four SEC quarterbacks with two seasons of at least 3,500 yards (Manziel, Couch, Ryan Mallett). Woodson owns the SEC record for consecutive attempts without an interception at 325.

12. Jason Campbell, Auburn (2001-04)
Stats: 7,299 yds, 45 TDs, 24 INTs, 64.6%, 307 yds, 9 TDs

He never threw for 3,000 yards but Campbell was extremely efficient and led his team to an SEC championship and unbeaten season as a senior in 2004. He won SEC Player of the Year and SEC title game MVP honors and finished seventh in the Heisman voting after 2,700 yards passing and 23 total touchdowns.

13. Greg McElroy, Alabama (2007-10)
Stats: 5,691 yds, 39 TDs, 10 INTs, 71 yds, 2 TDs

Signing with Nick Saban’s first class, McElroy and his elite football IQ was a huge part of returning Alabama to the mountain top in 2009. He led the Tide to their first national championship since 1992 with an excellent 2,508-yard, 17-TD, 4-INT season and SEC title game MVP award as a junior. He came back and set the school record with 2,987 yards as a senior before getting drafted by the Jets. 

14. Tee Martin, Tennessee (1996-99)
Stats: 4,592 yds, 32 TDs, 16 INTs, 55.4%, 614 yds, 16 TDs

Peyton Manning is the greatest Tennessee quarterback of all-time but Martin did what Manning couldn’t when he led the Vols to the first national championship of the BCS Era. Martin set the NCAA record for consecutive completions at 24 during that historic run at the SEC and BCS titles. Martin led Tennessee to another BCS bowl as a senior and finished 8-0 as a starter against Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Kentucky.

15. Connor Shaw, South Carolina (2010-13)
Stats: 6,074 yds, 56 TDs, 16 INTs, 65.6%, 1,683 yds, 17 TDs

His passing numbers will never be confused with either of Manning boys, but Shaw presided over the greatest era of Gamecocks football. He led three straight 11-win seasons in Columbia — the only three 11-win seasons in school history — and did it with elite toughness and efficiency. His career passer rating of 155.9 is sixth all-time in SEC history and his 56-to-16 TD-to-INT ratio is among the best in SEC history. He also ran the ball at least 130 times in each of his three seasons as the starter. Simply put, he was a winner — a school-record 27 of them overall, all 17 at home and three in a row over Clemson.

16. Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt (2002-05)
Stats: 8,697 yds, 59 TDs, 36 INTs, 57.2%, 1,256 yds, 17 TDs

Cutler played on three straight two-win teams before leading Vanderbilt to five wins and earning SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior. He is the Dores' all-time leading passer in most every category and is clearly the most physically talented player to ever quarterback the program. He was a first-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

17. Ryan Mallet, Michigan/Arkansas (2007, 2009-10)
Stats: 8,385 yds, 69 TDs, 24 INTs, 57.8%, 7 rush TDs

Mallett is one of only four SEC signal-callers in history with two 3,500-yard seasons on his resume. He set an Arkansas record with 3,624 yards passing in his first season in the SEC and then broke his own record with 3,869 the following year. His 32 TD passes in 2010 are a school record as well while his passer rating of 158.1 is fifth all-time in SEC history behind only Tebow, Manziel, Danny Wuerffel and McCarron. The Hogs went 18-8 during his span, earned their only BCS bowl berth of the era while posting 10 wins (2010) for only the second time since 1989.

18. Matthew Stafford, Georgia (2006-08)
Stats: 7,731 yds, 51 TDs, 33 INTs, 57.1%, 213 yds, 6 TD
s

From a talent standpoint, few players in SEC history can match the raw physical ability of Stafford. He struggled as a freshman but eventually improved greatly over his three seasons, eventually throwing for 3,459 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. Georgia won 30 games in three years with Stafford on the team and he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

19. Casey Clausen, Tennessee (2000-03)
Stats: 9,707 yds, 75 TDs, 31 INTs, 61.0%, 6 rush TDs

The eldest of three Clausen brothers to play college football, Casey entered the starting lineup for Tennessee as a freshman against Alabama. He went on to start 44 of 47 games, finishing with a 34-10 record overall. He posted two seasons with at least 2,900 yards passing and trails only Peyton Manning in the Tennessee record books in this category.

20. Matt Mauck, LSU (2001-03)
Stats: 3,831 yds, 37 TDs, 18 INTs, 58.6%, 345 yds, 5 TDs

He didn’t have big stats but he came up big when it mattered the most. He entered the 2001 SEC title game against Tennessee after starter Rohan Davey got hurt and led LSU to its first SEC title since 1988. He then helped LSU claim the BCS National Championship in 2003, the Tigers' first national title since 1958. He threw for 2,825 yards and 28 scores on 64 percent passing that historic season. Mauck also had streaks of 17 straight completions (5th all-time in SEC history) and 16 straight (9th all-time) in the ‘03 season.

Best of the rest:

21. Nick Marshall, Auburn (2013-present): 1,976 yds, 14 TDs, 6 INTs, 59.4%, 1,068 yds, 12 TDs
22. Matt Jones, Arkansas (2001-04): 5,857 yds, 53 TDs, 30 INTs, 55.2%, 2,535 yds, 24 TDs
23. D.J. Shockley, Georgia (2002-05): 3,555 yds, 34 TDs, 9 INTs, 643 yds, 7 TDs
24. Jared Lorenzen, Kentucky (2000-03): 10,354 yds, 78 TDs, 41 INTs, 56.9%, 283 yds, 12 TDs
25. Erik Ainge, Tennessee (2004-07): 8,700 yds, 72 TDs, 35 INTs, 60.6%, Rush TD
26. Rohan Davey, LSU (1998-2001): 4,415 yds, 29 TDs, 15 INTs, 59.8%, 77 yds
27. Matt Flynn, LSU (2004-07): 3,096 yds, 31 TDs, 13 INTs, 56.1%, 340 yds, 5 TDs
28. JaMarcus Russell, LSU (2004-06): 6,625 yds, 52 TDs, 21 INTs, 61.9%, 79 yds, 4 TDs
29. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (2012-present): 6,340 yds, 40 TDs, 27 INTs, 64.3%, 745 yds, 14 TDs
30. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (2008-12): 7,765 yds, 52 TDs, 26 INTs, 62.6%, 4 rush TDs 

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

Things started with a bang for Michigan in 2013. Devin Gardner carried his team to victory with a Heisman Trophy-esque performance against archrival Notre Dame en route to a 5-0 start to the season.

Then the wheels fell off the Wolverines' offense.

Gardner turned the ball over too much, the offense never really got on track and Michigan lost five of its last six games. The Maize and Blue were held below 200 yards of offense on three separate occasions and held to negative rushing yards twice.

The same offense that rolled up a record 751 yards against Indiana.

Needless to say, consistency was a major issue and changes needed to be made to the 87th-rated offense. Not only will Michigan now be playing in a tougher Big Ten Division but they will be doing so with a new name calling plays on the offense.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30Appalachian St
Sept. 6at 
Sept. 13
Sept. 20
Sept. 27
Oct. 4at 
Oct. 11
Oct. 18Bye Week
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 

Michigan 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten)

Spring Practice Opens: Feb. 25

Spring Game: April 5

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 8

Three Things to Watch in Michigan's 2014 Spring Practice

Doug Nussmeier, meet Devin Gardner
Hoke hired former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier in early January. The timing was strange and the way Al Borges was put out to pasture was equally bizarre. But Hoke got his guy and Wolverines fans will be anxious to see how Coach Nuss works with embattled but extremely talented quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner at one point last year was leading the world in turnovers but also set a Michigan single-game record with 584 yards of total offense. Protecting the football and working on becoming a more efficient passer will be the focus of the new offensive duo in Ann Arbor. There were a lot things wrong with the Michigan offense last year but it begins and ends with Gardner’s play. Of course, if Hoke can provide some sort of running game for his QB, that might help…

Rebuild the line and develop a workhorse
Taylor Lewan is gone. So is Michael Schofield. So the best two players are gone from an offensive line that finished 102nd in the nation in rushing and 109th in sacks allowed. The quickest way to ensure success for Gardner in the passing game is to provide balance on the ground. To do that, Nussmeier will have to reverse a very disturbing trend in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s rushing offense has gone from 238.5 yards per game in 2010 to 221.8 in ’11, 183.8 in ’12 and just 125.7 yards per game last year. Replacing those stars up front on the O-line and developing a true workhorse (paging Derrick Green) has to be atop the offensive priority list for the new coordinator. Additionally, figuring out a way to maximize Gardner’s athletic ability in space could help to open up more traditional running lanes for Green.

Find a go-to weapon on the outside
With a defense ranked in the upper half of the Big Ten and returning eight starters, the focus all spring should stay on the offense. Devin Funchess can be a dangerous weapon in open space but record-setting wideout Jeremy Gallon is gone and dependable target Jake Butt is out with a torn ACL. So other than Funchess at tight end, Michigan won’t have any player returning this spring with more than 15 catches on their resume. Amara Darboh will return to the field after missing all of 2013 and Jehu Chesson and Dennis Norfleet have limited experience. Finding a go-to target on the outside would also go a long way in helping to improve Gardner’s production in the pocket.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 7-9
Despite entering a tougher division in 2014 with a new coordinator calling plays, Michigan fans should have plenty of optimism heading into the spring. Gardner can be a special player when things are going well and Hoke has easily the second-best roster in the Big Ten this season (as usual). Is there a lot of work to be done on the offense? Certainly, but with a manageable early schedule and key swing games coming at home late in the year (Indiana, Maryland), Michigan should find a way to improve on the seven wins from a year ago. Should Nussmeier find a workhorse back and stabilize the offensive line, 10 wins is well within reach.

Teaser:
Michigan Wolverines 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

The ACC has seen some elite signal-callers come through the ranks over the last 16 years. One went on to win a Big Ten title, more than a few were first-round picks and one is the reigning Heisman Trophy and BCS national championship winner. Unfortunately, two of the BCS' greats in Michael Vick and Ken Dorsey don't qualify because Virginia Tech and Miami weren't in the ACC during their collegiate careers.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Chris Weinke, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 9,839 yds, 79 TDs, 32 INTs, 58.7%, 2 rush TDs

There was little left unaccomplished in Weinke's college career. He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman Trophy as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost two games over that span and one was the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9) and was the conference’s all-time most efficient passer with a 151.15 rating until Tajh Boyd (and possibly Jameis Winston) came along.

2. Philip Rivers, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 13,484 yds, 95 TDs, 34 INTs, 63.5%, 98 yds, 17 TDs

The most productive passer in ACC history, Rivers owns the ACC record for completions (1,087), attempts (1,711), passing yards, total yards and set the record for passing touchdowns and total touchdowns (since broken). He won ACC Player of the Year honors in 2003 and finished seventh in the Heisman balloting. That year he led the nation in completion percent (72.0, an ACC record at the time) and set the ACC single-season passing yards record (since broken). His 18 career 300-yard games were an ACC record (broken). Rivers also is a member of the historic 2004 NFL Draft class that includes fellow quarterbacks Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

3. Jameis Winston, Florida State (2013-present)
Stats: 4,057 yds, 40 TDs, 10 INTs, 66.9%, 219 yds, 4 TDs

No player, especially no freshman, has ever posted a season like Winston in college football history much less in the ACC. His 184.8 passer rating was an ACC record (and would be No. 1 for a career as well), he set an NCAA freshman and all-time ACC single-season record with 40 touchdown passes and his 4,057 yards are fourth all-time in ACC history. Winston won the Heisman Trophy, the BCS national championship, the ACC Player of the Year, the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards as well. He has yet to lose a game on the gridiron and is poised to make another run at all of the above accolades as a sophomore.

4. Russell Wilson, NC State/Wisconsin (2008-11)
Stats: 11,720 yds, 109 TDs, 30 INTs, 60.9%, 1,421 yds, 23 TDs

Not many players own school records for two different programs but Wilson excelled in both the ACC and Big Ten and his overall career must be taken into account when measuring his greatness. The Super Bowl champion posted the single greatest season by a Wisconsin quarterback in history en route to a league crown and near national title berth. He owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38) and the single-season mark for passing efficiency at 191.8. In just three years in the ACC, Wilson finished eighth all-time in total offense (9,628), third in total offense per game (267.5 ypg), third in ACC history with 93 total touchdowns and set the ACC record with 379 consecutive passes without an interception. Imagine if he had stayed his final season in Raleigh.

5. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (2009-13)
Stats: 11,904 yds, 107 TDs, 39 INTs, 64.3%, 1,165 yds, 26 TDs

In just three full seasons as the starter, Boyd set every major Clemson passing record and is the ACC’s all-time leader in total touchdowns (133) and touchdown passes (107). He is No. 2 all-time in yards, won 2012 ACC Player of the Year honors, led Clemson back to an ACC championship in '11 and finished as the league’s most efficient passer in history with a QB rating of 155.2 (topping Weinke). Clemson went 32-8 over his final three years — all three of which he topped 3,800 yards and 33 TD passes. Boyd produced three of the top seven seasons in regards to total offense in league history. His 20 career 300-yard games broke Rivers’ previous ACC record of 18.

6. Matt Ryan, Boston College (2004-07)
Stats: 9,313 yds, 56 TDs, 37 INTs, 60.0%, 39 yds, 11 TDs

Ryan did more for Boston College than any player since Doug Flutie. He won the ACC Player of the Year and led the Eagles to the ACC title game. He was seventh in the Heisman ballot and won the Johnny Unitas and Archie Manning Awards before beginning his elite career in the NFL. Ryan owns the ACC single-season record for passing yards (4,507), completions (388) and attempts (654), all of which were set in 2007, and is second all-time with his 4,509 yards of total offense that year as well. From a raw talent standpoint, few players on this list are better quarterbacks than Matty-Ice.

7. Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech (1996-99)
Stats: 8,882 yds, 65 TDs, 39 INTs, 61.7%, 1,758 yds, 18 TDs

One of the most dynamic players in league history, Hamilton led the Jackets to three straight winning seasons, three straight bowl games and only Tech’s third 10-win season since 1956. Hamilton won ACC Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American, finished second in the Heisman voting and won the Davey O’Brien Award in 1999. He threw for 3,060 yards and 29 scores while running for 734 and eight touchdowns in his final season. The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick is third all-time in total offense and he currently stands as the ACC’s No. 5 most efficient passer with a rating of 148.19.

8. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (2007-10)
Stats: 7,017 yds, 44 TDs, 20 INTs, 57.2%, 2,196 yds, 23 TDs

From a production and success standpoint, its impossible to argue with Tyrod Taylor. He is fourteenth all-time in ACC history for total offense with 9,213 yards. He set and then broke Virginia Tech’s single-season total offense record in his junior and then senior seasons, leading the ACC in passing both years. Tech won three ACC championships and 42 games total during Taylor’s time in Blacksburg, including two titles and two Orange Bowl berths with him under center. He is also fourth all-time in rushing yards by any ACC quarterback.

9. Matt Schaub, Virginia (2000-03)
Stats: 7,502 yds, 56 TDs, 26 INTs, 67.0%, 58 yds, 5 TDs

As a junior, Schaub was the best player in the ACC when he threw for 2,976 yards, 28 touchdowns, only seven interceptions and completed 68.9 percent of his passes. He was named ACC Player of the Year. His career 67.0 percent completion rate is the all-time ACC benchmark and he is the 10th-rated passer in ACC history (138.35).

10. Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson (1998-01)
Stats: 5,634 yds, 36 TDs, 23 INTs, 58.0%, 2,761 yds, 27 TDs

One of the truly remarkable athletes to play quarterback, Dantzler was ahead of his time as a true dual threat. He owns the ACC’s single-game (220) and single-season (1,061) rushing records by a quarterback and has two of only three 1,000-yard rushing seasons by an ACC quarterback. His 2,761 yards rushing are second all-time among all ACC QBs and his 68 total touchdowns rank 13th all-time in league history. Clemson went from a three-win team his freshman season to three straight bowls in his final three.

Just missed the cut:

11. Bryan Randall, Virginia Tech (2001-04)
Stats: 6,508 yds, 48 TDs, 31 INTs, 58.8%, 1,526 yds, 11 TDs

He only played one year in the ACC, but Randall was a star in his new league. Randall was named ACC Player of the Year in 2004 as he lead Tech to the ACC crown in its first season. He won 28 games as a starter in three seasons and helped transition the Hokies from Big East play into a string of eight consecutive 10-win teams in the ACC. The only losses Tech sustained during his final year were to No. 1 national champ USC, unbeaten Auburn in the Sugar Bowl and a one-point upset to NC State.

12. Scott McBrien, West Virginia/Maryland (2000, '02-03)
Stats: 5,924 yds, 37 TDs, 19 INTs, 543 yds, 13 TDs

After one year at West Virginia, McBrien transferred to Maryland and sat out the 2001 season. He started every game after that for two Terps teams that went 21-6 and won both the Gator and Peach Bowls. He helped win Maryland’s first and only ACC title since 1985. He is the 10th-most efficient passer in ACC history as well as the No. 3 left-handed passer in the conference record books.

13. Riley Skinner, Wake Forest (2006-09)
Stats: 9,762 yds, 60 TDs, 37 INTs, 66.9%, 161 yds, 4 TDs

Skinner could have played just his freshman season and gone down in history as one of the greatest Demon Deacons of all-time. The ACC Freshman of the Year quarterbacked Wake Forest to its only title during the BCS Era, only BCS bowl berth and first title of any kind since 1970. He is fifth all-time in ACC history in total yards (9,923) and set the ACC single-season record with a 72.4 percent completion rate in 2007. Skinner is fifth all-time in passing yards, 12th all-time with 60 passing touchdowns and second all-time with 903 completions.

14. EJ Manuel, Florida State (2008-12)
Stats: 7,741 yds, 47 TDs, 28 INTs, 66.9%, 827 yds, 11 TDs

Only two players in NCAA history have started and won four bowl games during their college career and Manuel is one of them (Pat White). The elite recruit led the Noles back to an ACC championship as a senior, the school’s first since 2005, and is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in ACC history. His career 66.9 percent completion rate trails only Schaub as the ACC’s top mark all-time and his 150.13 passer rating trails only Winston, Boyd and Weinke all-time among all ACC signal-callers. Manuel was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

15. Joshua Nesbitt, Georgia Tech (2007-10)
Stats: 3,276 yds, 20 TDs, 16 INTs, 42.9%, 2,806 yds, 35 TDs

The ACC’s all-time leading rusher by a quarterback topped 6,000 yards of total offense running Paul Johnson's triple option attack. Nesbitt led the Jackets to their first outright ACC title since 1990 and has one of only three 1,000-yard rushing seasons by an ACC quarterback in history (Dantzler). His 18 rushing TDs that season are tied for fourth all-time by any player in any one season in ACC history (Ryan Williams, 21).

16. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (2010-13)
Stats: 8,221 yds, 64 TDs, 25 INTs, 66.5%, 4 rush TDs

Renner entered the starting lineup as a sophomore and proceeded to produce back-to-back 3,000-yard, 25-TD seasons for the Tar Heels. He set all the major school passing records in his first year (3,086 yds, 26 TDs) and then broke them all in his junior year (3,356, 28). Had he not been hurt during his senior season, his career stats would be among the league’s best. His 64 TD passes are ninth all-time in ACC history.

17. Mike Glennon, NC State (2009-12)
Stats: 7,411 yds, 63 TDs, 31 INTs, 60.4%, 3 rush TDs

The 6-foot-6 monster posted one of the best two-year runs at QB the ACC has ever seen. After forcing Russell Wilson to transfer in a round about way, Glennon produced back-to-back seasons with 31 touchdown passes and over 7,000 yards passing. Despite starting just two years, he is ninth all-time with 63 TD passes and he is one of just five ACC players ever to top 4,000 yards passing in a season (Ryan, Rivers, Weinke, Winston).

18. Darian Durant, North Carolina (2001-04)
Stats: 8,754 yds, 68 TDs, 38 INTs, 60.5%, 875 yds, 11 TDs

When he left Chapel Hill, Durant had 51 school records under his belt. Most of them have been broken since and North Carolina didn’t win a ton of games (going to only two bowl games during his career). He is eighth all-time in ACC history in total offense (No. 1 at UNC) and is seventh all-time in total touchdowns with 79 (UNC record). He is sixth all-time in ACC history with 68 scoring strikes.

19. Thaddeus Lewis, Duke (2006-09)
Stats: 10,065 yds, 67 TDs, 40 INTs, 58.1%, 9 rush TDs

Lewis has the numbers and the longevity and has to be given some credit for helping to rebuild an ACC doormat. Duke increased its win total in each of Lewis’ four seasons and he finished third all-time in passing yards (Rivers, Boyd), seventh all-time in TD passes, second in attempts (1,510), fourth in completions (877) and once went 206 passes without an INT (sixth-best in ACC history). His 76 total touchdowns are ninth all-time as well.

20. Sean Renfree, Duke (2009-12)
Stats: 9,465 yds, 51 TDs, 40 INTs, 64.7%, 9 rush TDs

Biding his time behind Lewis, Renfree stepped in and started for three full seasons, eventually leading Duke back to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. He had three straight seasons with at least 2,800 yards passing, including two seasons in excess of 3,100 yards. He started 36 games over his final three seasons.

Best of the rest:

21. Christian Ponder, Florida State
22. T.J. Yates, North Carolina
23. Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech
24. Chris Rix, Florida State
25. Reggie Ball, Georgia Tech

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 07:15

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