Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-linebackers-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 saying goes defense wins championships and the quarterback of that defense is likely the most important player on the field. Generally, that means middle linebackers. So in a league that has dominated college football during the BCS Era, it is to be expected that the SEC has a long list of historically great linebackers.

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

1. Patrick Willis, 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.

2. Al Wilson, 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.

3. Rolando McClain, 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.

4. C.J. Mosley, 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.

5. DeMeco Ryans, 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.

6. Jarvis Jones, 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.

7. Brandon Spikes, 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.

8. Jevon Kearse, Florida (1995-98)
Kearse originally showed up on campus as a 215-pound safety. He eventually worked his way onto the field with a rare combination of length and explosiveness. The Freak played just one year in the BCS Era but helped lead the Gators to a national title in 1996. He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, was a two-time All-SEC pick and a first-team All-American. The Titans selected The Freak with the 16th pick of the 1999 NFL Draft.

9. Mike Peterson, Florida (1995-98)
Much like Kearse, the Gators linebacker was an All-American and led the defense to the 1996 national championship and two SEC titles. He finished his career with 249 tackles, 13.0 for loss and 8.5 sacks in 42 career games before getting picked with the 36th overall selection of the 1999 NFL Draft.

10. Karlos Dansby, Auburn (2001-03)
Dansby had to grow into a linebacker after coming to Auburn as a defensive back but he was one of the league’s great defensive playmakers during his time in college. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and an All-American in his final season on The Plains. He finished his career with 219 tackles, 36.0 tackles for loss, 10.0 sacks and eight interceptions. Dansby was a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Bradie James, LSU (1999-02)
James was a tackling machine who helped rebuild the LSU program from SEC also-ran to national title winner the year after he departed. He is one of just two players in school history with 400 tackles (418) and set the school’s single-season record for stops with 154 as a senior in 2002. James was an All-American and an All-SEC player in some fashion all four years on campus (two first-team selections, one second as well as Freshman All-SEC).

12. Raynoch Thompson, Tennessee (1996-99)
Alongside Wilson in Knoxville, Thompson was an integral part of a national championship run for the Vols in 1998. He was a two-time Butkus finalist and an All-American performer for Tennessee. Thompson was the 41st overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.

13. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama (2008-11)
The star linebacker won two national championships, two SEC titles, was the BCS title game MVP in 2012 and was an All-American on what many call the best defensive unit of the BCS Era. Bama was 48-6 during his time in college. Upshaw posted 104 tackles, 32.5 for loss and 16.5 sacks in his final two seasons.

14. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama (2008-11)
Lining up next to Upshaw the entire time was Hightower. Hailing from the middle Tennessee area, Hightower led Bama’s historic ’11 defense with 85 stops. He finished with 234 career tackles and 21.0 tackles for loss. He was the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

15. Boss Bailey, Georgia (1999-02)
The younger brother to Dawgs superstar Champ Bailey, Boss was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs during his time. He earned All-SEC honors and was a Butkus and Lombardi Award contender throughout his tenure in Athens. In his final season, he helped bring an SEC championship to Georgia for the first time since 1982.

Best of the Rest:

16. Rennie Curran, Georgia (2007-09)
17. Jerod Mayo, Tennessee (2005-07)
18. Jamie Winborn, Vanderbilt (1997-00)
19. Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina (2007-08)
20. Danny Trevathan, Kentucky (2008-11)
21. Channing Crowder, Florida (2002-05)
22. Odell Thurman, Georgia (2003-04)
23. Kelvin Sheppard, LSU (2007-10)
24. Kevin Burnett, Tennessee (2001-04)
25. Andrew Wilson, Missouri (2010-13)

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Linebackers of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-linebackers-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 has had some serious tradition and talent when it comes to the linebacker position. This conference has always favored the run and therefore has created some seriously decorated tacklers in the process. Penn State is Linebacker U but Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa each have their own long track record of producing top flight linebackers. Here are the 10 best to play in the Big Ten during the BCS Era:

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

1. LaVar Arrington, 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.

2. James Laurinaitis, 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.

3. Paul Posluszny, 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.

4. Andy Katzenmoyer, 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.

5. A.J. Hawk, 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.

6. Greg Jones, 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. 

7. Dan Connor, 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. 

8. Chris Borland, 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.

9. Julian Peterson, Michigan State (1998-99)
He only played for two seasons but he was a force for both of them. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten in his first year in East Lansing and an All-American and first-team All-Big Ten as a senior when he posted 15 sacks. In two years, Peterson posted 140 tackles and 25 sacks in just 23 career games. He was the 16th overall pick in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft.

10. Chad Greenway, Iowa (2002-05)
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Greenway is as gifted as any of the elite names on this list. He finished his illustrious Iowa career with 416 tackles, 31.0 tackles for a loss, 7.0 sacks and four interceptions. He was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and had three straight seasons with at least 113 tackles. His 156 total stops in 2005 rank No. 2 in the Big Ten since 2005. Greenway also played on the 2002 Orange Bowl team as a true freshman and was the 17th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (2011-13)
The Butkus Finalist this past season was one of the hardest hitting, most explosive linebackers to ever play the game. And he helped OSU to back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons (24-0). He posted 56 tackles as a freshman, 114 stops as a sophomore and 144 in his junior season. He finished with 44.0 tackles for a loss and nine forced fumbles to go with 15.0 sacks in just three years.

12. J Leman, Illinois (2004-07)
A consensus All-American on the first Rose Bowl team for Illinois in over two decades, Leman was one of the most consistent performers in Big Ten history. The two-time All-Big Ten pick finished his career with 407 tackles, 38.0 for a loss, eight sacks and six forced fumbles. He is sixth all-time in Illinois history in tackles.

13. Larry Foote, Michigan (1998-01)
Foote started 28 of the 48 games he played during his career in Ann Arbor. He won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-American in 2001. Foote was a two-time All-Big Ten pick and finished his career with 212 tackles, 44 for a loss and 11 sacks. He played in the NFL for more than a decade and was part of two Super Bowl-winning defenses in Pittsburgh.

14. Brandon Short, Penn State (1996-99)
Short was a four-year starter at linebacker alongside LaVar Arrington. He and Arrington were the first teammates to both be Butkus finalists in 1999 and Short earned consensus All-American recognition that season as well. He was a two-time All-Big Ten pick, led the team in tackles with 103 (’99) and was the 1998 Citrus Bowl MVP. He was a fourth-round pick in 2000.

15. Tim McGarigle, Northwestern (2002-05)
The tackling machine started 40 games in his career including the last 34 in a row. He is the NCAA’s all-time leading tackler with 545 total stops in his career and he was an All-Big Ten pick twice as an upperclassman. He also added 20 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and four sacks in his career. His leadership and toughness is unmatched by most players of his generation.

Best of the rest:

16. Lavonte David, Nebraska (2010-11)
A Two-time all-league pick and Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten LB of the Year winner in 2011, David started all 27 career games and owns the Nebraska single-season tackles record (152).

17. Max Bullough, Michigan State (2010-13)
Two-time All-Big Ten pick with 299 tackles and 30.5 for a loss while leading MSU to its first Rose Bowl in 20 years.

18. Matt Wilhelm, Ohio State (1999-02)
Three-year starter who earned consensus All-American honors on an undefeated national title team in ’02.

19. Michael Mauti, Penn State (2009-12)
Won Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten LB of the Year in 2012 after leading PSU to a winning record in Year One after Paterno.

20. Mike Taylor, Wisconsin (2009-2012)
Tackling machine with 377 career stops and 38 tackles for a loss on two Big Ten title teams.

21. NaVorro Bowman, Penn State (2007-09)
Posted 218 tackles, 36 TFL and 8.0 sacks in three years. Bowman also was an All-Big Ten selection in 2008.

22. Ian Gold, Michigan (1996-99)
A two-time All-Big Ten selection as an upperclassman and was a second-round pick.

23. Abdul Hodge, Iowa (2002-05)
Has the highest single-season tackle total in the Big Ten since 2005 with 158 stops as a senior.

24. David Harris, Michigan (2003-06)
Posted 191 tackles and earned All-Big Ten honors in his final two seasons on three Rose Bowl teams.

25. Sean Lee, Penn State (2006-09)
Missed all of 2008 but posted 313 career tackles and 30 for a loss as a team captain. A second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

ORV: Pat Angerer, Shawn Crable, James Morris, Na’il Diggs, Roosevelt Colvin, Denicos Allen

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Linebackers of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, February 17, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-running-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.

In a league with a tradition of high-flying passing attacks and decorated wide receivers, the list of running backs to star in the Big 12 is remarkable. The Big 12 boasts some of the greatest to ever play the position during the BCS Era, including the top two runners of the Era regardless of conference.

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


1. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06)
Stats: 747 att., 4,045 yds, 41 TDs, 24 rec., 198 yds, TD


The BCS version of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson was the three-year star from Palestine (Texas) High. A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 runner finished No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting as a true freshman in 2004. His 1,925 yards was an NCAA record for a true freshman and it earned him unanimous All-American honors. Despite missing chunks of time with injuries in each of his next two seasons, “All Day” Peterson still topped 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His natural blend of power, speed, size and balance has never been duplicated during the BCS era. He rushed for 970 yards for the Vikings in 2011 in a season shortened by a torn ACL, the only time since high school that A.D. hasn’t rushed for at least 1,000 yards. He is the Sooners' No. 3 all-time leading rusher.

2. Ricky Williams, Texas (1995-98)
Stats: 1,011 att., 6,279 yds, 72 TDs, 85 rec., 927 yds, 3 TDs

The power back from San Diego gave fans in Austin a preview of things to come when he rushed for 990 yards as a true freshman fullback. His two-year run as an upperclassman may never be matched, as he posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,800 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and claimed the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and Heisman Trophy as a senior. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (since broken) and he is one of four players to ever score at least 70 rushing touchdowns.

3. Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04)
Stats: 815 att., 4,979 yds, 45 TDs, 66 rec., 609 yds, 2 TDs, 1,224 ret yds, TD

Few players have ever been as valuable to their school as the diminutive Sproles was to Kansas State. The all-purpose dynamo rushed for at least 1,300 yards in three straight seasons and he helped lead the Wildcats to an improbable Big 12 championship in 2003. His 323 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns against Oklahoma in the title game will go down in history as arguably the greatest single-game performance by any Wildcat in history. The Sunflower State native finished fifth in the Heisman voting that year as his 2,735 all-purpose yards is the best single-season performance by any Big 12 running back during the BCS Era (fourth all-time). Sproles has proven himself by carving out an extremely productive niche in the NFL as an all-purpose talent.

4. Cedric Benson, Texas (2001-04)
Stats: 1,112 att., 5,540 yds, 64 TDs, 69 rec., 621 yds, 3 TDs

The Longhorns' running back is one of the most productive in history. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting two separate times and is one of only six players to score at least 60 rushing touchdowns. The Midland (Texas) Lee star posted four seasons of at least 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns while in Austin — one of just eight players in NCAA history to post four 1,000-yard seasons. He won the ’04 Doak Walker and carried more times (1,112) than any Big 12 back in history.

5. Quentin Griffin, Oklahoma (1999-02)
Stats: 714 att., 3,842 yds, 43 TDs, 154 rec., 1,282 yds, 7 TDs

A steady performer in both the running and receiving game, Griffin blossomed as a superstar in his senior season. He rushed for 783 yards and 16 touchdowns while catching 45 passes for the unbeaten 2000 national champions before exploding in his final season in 2002. He finished 10th in the Heisman voting after 1,884 yards rushing and 18 total touchdowns in '02 — which was the seventh-best single-season rushing total in Big 12 history and his 2,184 all-purpose yards that year are eighth-best all-time. Griffin is seventh all-time in rushing in the Big 12.

6. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma (2007-10)
Stats: 759 att., 3,685 yds, 50 TDs, 157 rec., 1,571 yds, 13 TDs, 1,462 ret. yds, 2 TDs

An underrated talent from Las Vegas, Murray was as productive across the board as any player in Sooners history. He is sixth in rushing, first in total touchdowns, fifth in receptions and No. 1 in all-purpose yards. In 2008, he helped lead the Sooners to a Big 12 title and a berth in the BCS title game, as he racked up 2,171 all-purpose yards, which is good for ninth-best all-time in Big 12 history. His 65 career touchdowns are fourth all-time behind Williams, Benson and Taurean Henderson.

7. Jamaal Charles, Texas (2005-07)
Stats: 533 att., 3,328 yds, 36 TDs, 49 rec., 539 yds, 3 TDs

Charles was a major contributor on the undefeated national title squad of 2005 by posting 1,035 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns. He capped his three-year stint in Austin with a 1,619-yard, 18-TD season in 13 games in 2007. Charles posted at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in all three of his seasons and at least eight touchdowns each year. He was drafted in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

8. Chris Brown, Colorado (2001-02)
Stats: 493 att., 2,787 yds, 35 TDs, 11 rec., 76 yds

He didn’t play for very long in the Big 12 but his final season was nearly as good as any of the Hall of Fame types atop these rankings. He carried 303 times for 1,841 yards and 19 touchdowns — after a 946-yard, 16-TD season in ’01 — en route to a Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award. He finished eighth in the Heisman voting and was a third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

9. Taurean Henderson, Texas Tech (2002-05)
Stats: 587 att., 3,241 yds, 50 TDs, 303 rec., 2,058 yds, 19 TDs

Certainly, the Mike Leach Air Raid offense bolstered his numbers, but it’s hard to argue with what Henderson accomplished in Lubbock. He scored more touchdowns (69) than anyone in league history except Ricky Williams and is one of just 10 players in NCAA history to catch at least 300 passes. His 5,299 yards from scrimmage is among the best in conference history.

10. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State (2007-10)
Stats: 708 att., 4,181 yds, 37 TDs, 63 rec., 519 yds, 2 TDs

Hunter was a consensus All-American and posted two different 1,500-yard, 16-TD seasons in 2008 and '10. Injuries shortened his junior campaign, otherwise Hunter might be even higher up the Big 12’s all-time rushing charts. Still, Hunter is fifth all-time in league history in rushing and eighth all-time in carries. The Pokes' top rusher helped elevate Oklahoma State from middle-of-the-pack Big 12 program to eventual conference champ in ’11.

Just missed the cut:

11. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State (2009-10)
Stats: 545 att., 2,850 yds, 30 TDs, 52 rec., 428 yds, 155 pass yds, 2 TDs

When it comes to a two-year run in the Big 12, few have been as productive as Thomas. He carried 247 times for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first year and then backed it up with 298 carries, 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns in his second. He was a quality receiver and Wildcat quarterback as well for Bill Snyder’s bunch.

12. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State (2010-12)
Stats: 564 att., 3,085 yds, 40 TDs, 108 rec., 917 yds, 3 TDs

For the 2011 Big 12 champions, Randle ran for 1,216 yards, caught 43 passes for 266 yards and scored a school-record 26 total touchdowns. He came back the next year and ran for 1,417 yards and scored 14 more rushing touchdowns. Randle carried on the Pokes' impressive streak of great backs before leaving early for the NFL.

13. Roy Helu, Nebraska (2007-10)
Stats: 578 att., 3,404 yds, 28 TDs, 54 rec., 501 yds

Helu posted three straight seasons of at least 800 yards and seven scores and back-to-back seasons with 1,100 yards and 10 scores. Helu helped lead Nebraska to back-to-back division titles and Big 12 title game appearances in his final two seasons before getting drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft.

14. Ricky Williams, Texas Tech (1997-01)
Stats: 789 att., 3,661 yds, 36 TDs, 172 rec., 1,151 yds, 6 TDs

The other Ricky Williams actually overlapped the more famous version by two years. This Williams is fifth all-time in league history with 5,992 all-purpose yards and is 10th all-time in rushing in the Big 12. He also caught 172 passes as a receiver. And he did all of this before Mike Leach got to town.

15. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M (2008-11)
Stats: 632 att., 3,298 yds, 30 TDs, 103 rec., 776 yds, 6 TDs, 2,349 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Gray was an all-around dynamo for the Aggies for four full seasons. Gray played 49 career games for Texas A&M and is third all-time in all-purpose yards in Big 12 history with 6,423 yards — behind only Sproles (6,812) and Murray (6,718). He scored 38 total times in his career.

Best of the rest:

16. Darren Davis, Iowa State (1996-99): 823 att., 3,763 yds, 26 TDs, 74 rec., 649 yds, 5 TDs
17. James Sims, Kansas (2010-13): 798 att., 3,592 yds, 34 TDs, 72 rec., 587 yds, 2 TDs
18. De’Mond Parker, Oklahoma (1996-98): 578 att., 3,404 yds, 21 TDs, 42 rec., 504 yds, TD
19. Jorvorskie Lane, Texas A&M (2005-08): 489 att., 2,193 yds, 49 TDs, 26 rec., 271 yds, TD
20. Henry Josey, Missouri (2010-13): 395 att., 2,771 yds, 30 TDs, 24 rec., 175 yds, TD
21. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (2009-12): 635 att., 3,329 yds, 30 TDs, 60 rec., 507 yds, 5 TDs
22. Alexander Robinson, Iowa State (2007-10): 705 att., 3,309 yds, 27 TDs, 83 rec., 789 yds, 4 TDs
23. Tatum Bell, Oklahoma State (2000-03): 634 att., 3,409 yds, 34 TDs, 36 rec., 258 yds, 2 TDs
24. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (2012-13): 289 att., 2,189 yds, 18 TDs, 9 rec., 107 yds, TD
25. Rodney Stewart, Colorado (2008-11): 809 att., 3,598 yds, 25 TDs, 93 rec., 969 yds

ORV: Bobby Purify, Vernand Morency, Zack Abron, Christine Michael, Baron Batch, Correll Buckhalter, Keith Toston, Brian Calhoun

 

Teaser:
Top 10 Big 12 Running Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, February 14, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-ten-team-recruiting-consensus-rankings-2014
Body:

Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus Big Ten team rankings for 2014.

• If the rest of the Big Ten isn’t careful, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will leave them all behind. Ohio State landed the best class in the Big Ten for the third straight season and the sixth time in seven years (2010, Michigan). Meyer's team is the only one in the league even attempting to compete with the SEC on the recruiting trail. The rest of the league finished outside of the top 20 and well behind the Bucknuts in the national rankings. There is a clear vacuum behind Ohio State on the recruiting trail in the Big Ten.

• So who will fill that void left in the wake of Meyer? Enter James Franklin. The new Penn State coach only had a few weeks to work his magic on the trail this year and it paid off in a big way as Penn State jumped to No. 3 in the Big Ten following a flurry of commitments. With a full season to recruit and now playing games every year in both Maryland/DC and New Jersey, the Nittany Lions have a chance to become the top challenger to Ohio State. Franklin’s ability to sell his program is uncanny — just ask the folks in Nashville. The recruiting battles — both on and off the trail — between Franklin and Meyer should be intriguing to watch for as long as both remain in place in Columbus and Happy Valley.

• Brady Hoke and Michigan were noticeably absent from the national conversation on National Signing Day. There is no shame in landing the Big Ten’s No. 2-ranked class or the nation’s No. 22-ranked group. But this team expects more, and losing five out of their last six games this past season clearly killed any momentum the Wolverines might have had on the trail. The Maize and Blue can do better than 22nd and if they want to compete with that school down South, Hoke will have to improve in recruiting as well as on the field.

• What to do with Michigan State? If five-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell wants to go to Michigan State without his parents' consent, he can. Eventually, when he turns 18, there is nothing to stop him from attending Michigan State. However, for the time being, his parents will not sign his Letter of Intent and he remains in recruiting purgatory. With McDowell, this is a Top 25 class nationally and one of the better groups in the Big Ten. Without him, this class drops 8-10 spots and lands near Wisconsin and Nebraska in the 33-35 range. Mark Dantonio needs to get this issue resolved in a timely fashion.

• For the second year in a row, Kevin Wilson and Indiana had an excellent class. After finishing 38th nationally a year ago, the Hoosiers once again landed inside the top 50 nationally. Prior to 2013, however, Indiana wasn’t accustomed to recruiting at this level. Indiana ranked 66th (‘12), 59th (‘11), 92nd (‘10), 59th (‘09) and 78th (’08) over the last five cycles. That stretch ranked the Hoosiers 10th in the Big Ten on average but Wilson now has back-to-back upper-half finishes in the conference.

• Maryland and Rutgers finished the recruiting cycle in two totally different ways. Kyle Flood and the Knights finished 12th in the Big Ten and 59th overall after a record 12 decommitments throughout the process. The Terrapins landed a five-star stud in offensive lineman Damian Prince and had three other four-star signings. This class was small (17) and that resulted in a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten. However, this group has excellent quality. How these two programs do in their own regions in their first few seasons in the Big Ten will be critical to the survival of the current coaching regimes.

• Illinois and Purdue have two embattled coaching staffs after two really bad seasons and both did very poorly on the recruiting trail. Not only were both classes small (18 signees) but the quality wasn’t impressive either. In fact, Purdue ranked dead last among all Big 5 conference schools while Illinois ranked ahead of only the Boilermakers and Colorado from the Pac-12. Tim Beckman and Darrell Hazell have two major uphill battles ahead of them and these two classes didn’t help with that process whatsoever.

   Total5-Star4-StarNational247RivalsScoutESPN
1.Ohio St231154th3357
2.Michigan161822nd20312716
3.Penn St250524th24242524
4.Michigan St*231325th25222129
5.Wisconsin260333rd33332934
6.Nebraska250235th35323439
7.Indiana280145th51374455
8.Iowa210050th53614149
9.Maryland171352nd43546150
10.Northwestern160453rd45685939
11.Minnesota200158th64534958
12.Rutgers250059th59575456
13.Illinois180070th70717166
14.Purdue180073rd72746869

* - This ranking reflects the addition of five-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell. This group falls back near Wisconsin and Nebraska without McDowell in the fold.

Teaser:
Big Ten Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2014
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-running-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.

Being a running back in the SEC isn't easy. Generally, the defenses are the fastest and most physical in the nation. And the legacy set forth by two greats in the 1980s by the name of Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson is nearly impossible to live up to. But that doesn't mean the SEC didn't have some of the nation's best carrying the rock during the BCS Era.

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

1. Darren McFadden, 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.

2. Trent Richardson, 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.

3. Mark Ingram, 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.

4. Shaun Alexander, 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.

5. Kevin Faulk, 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. 

6. Cadillac Williams, 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).

7. Tre Mason, Auburn (2011-13)
Stats: 516 att., 2,979 yds, 32 TDs, 19 rec., 249 yds, TD, 1,107 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Mason’s numbers speak for themselves. His 1,816 yards rushing in 2013 are third-best all-time in the SEC behind only McFadden and Walker. His 23 rushing touchdowns tied Tebow for the most in a single season in SEC history. He carried his team to an SEC championship and berth in the BCS title game while finishing sixth in the Heisman voting. He was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year and posted the second-best all-purpose season in SEC history with 2,374 yards (Randall Cobb, 2,396). His record 46 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the SEC title game win over Missouri will go down as one of the greatest single-game performances in league history.

8. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (2010-12)
Stats: 555 att., 2,677 yds, 38 TDs, 74 rec., 767 yds, 3 TDs

What could have been for the star from South Carolina? Lattimore, in just 29 career games over just three seasons, finished 12th in rushing touchdowns (38) and averaged 118.8 yards from scrimmage per game throughout his time in Columbia. He rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as just a freshman in his only full season in college. Both his sophomore (seven games) and junior (nine) campaigns were cut short with major injuries. His numbers would be among the league’s greatest had he even just played three full seasons.

9. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (2007-08)
Stats: 498 att., 2,734 yds, 30 TDs, 53 rec., 645 yds, 2 TDs

As far as a two-year run goes, few have been as productive as Moreno. He carried 248 times for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns in 13 games in 2007 as a redshirt freshman. He came back the following season and rushed 250 times for 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. Moreno averaged 131.1 all-purpose yards per game during his two-year career, good for eighth in SEC history — with only 30 career return yards. He was a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2009 and could have posted four straight 1,000-yard seasons had he stayed in school.

10. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State (2006-09)
Stats: 910 att., 3,994 yds, 42 TDs, 56 rec., 449 yds, 4 TDs

Dixon finished second all-time only to Walker in SEC history with 910 carries during his career in Starkville. He is eighth all-time in SEC history in rushing (third to only McFadden and Faulk during the BCS Era) and is tied with Mark Ingram for seventh all-time with 42 rushing touchdowns. Dixon had two 1,000-yard seasons and never scored less than seven times in a season. The burly ball-carrier was one of the most consistent in the history of the league after playing 48 career games for the Bulldogs. 

Just missed the cut:

11. Jamal Lewis, Tennessee (1997-99)
Stats: 487 att., 2,677 yds, 17 TDs, 39 rec., 475 yds, 4 TDs

Lewis never scored 10 times in a season and isn’t near the top 10 in most career rushing lists. But few backs in SEC history have ever been as talented right from the get go. Lewis rushed for 1,364 yards as a true freshman in 1997 and then helped lead the Vols to a BCS National Championship and perfect record in 1998. After a modest junior year (and injuries over his last two seasons), Lewis left school early and was the fifth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. His NFL career speaks for itself.

12. Ronnie Brown, Auburn (2000-04)
Stats: 513 att., 2,707 yds, 28 TDs, 58 rec., 668 yds, 2 TDs

He was supremely talented but his best year was 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2002. He took a slight back seat to Williams on the unblemished ’04 squad, but still managed to produce 1,226 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns en route to an SEC and Sugar Bowl championship. He was the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

13. Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss (1997-00)
Stats: 633 att., 3,181 yds, 37 TDs, 66 rec., 671 yds, 3 TDs, 1,276 ret. yds, 2 TDs

A touchdown scoring machine, McAllister is 13th all-time in SEC history with 37 rushing touchdowns. He is Ole Miss’ leading rusher in every major category: carries, yards, touchdowns and 100-yard games (13). He only had one 1,000-yard season (1998) but averaged 5.0 yards per carry for his career and was unstoppable around the goal line. The Saints took him in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

14. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (2009-12)
Stats: 581 att., 3,143 yds, 30 TDs, 46 rec., 415 yds

Simply put, he is the best, most productive running back in school history. And he helped get the Commodores to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. He owns every major school rushing record after back-to-back seasons with at least 200 carries, 1,140 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011-12.

15. Travis Henry, Tennessee (1997-00)
Stats: 556 att., 3,078 yds, 26 TDs, 20 rec., 99 yds

An excellent producer for three full seasons, Henry helped lead Tennessee to a national title in 1998 before capping his career with a 1,314-yard, 11-TD season in 2000. The Volunteers went 41-9 during Henry’s time on campus. He was a second-round pick of the Bills in 2001.

16. Felix Jones, Arkansas (2005-07)
Stats: 386 att., 2,956 yds, 20 TDs, 39 rec., 383 yds, 3 TDs, 1,760 ret. yds, 4 TDs

Few players have the resume that Jones has in just three seasons… as a back up. He posted back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons and scored 27 total times in his career. His 1,990 all-purpose yards in ’07 is good for 11th all-time in SEC history. He was a consensus All-American and a first-round pick while helping Arkansas to an SEC title game.

17. Rudi Johnson, Auburn (2000)
Stats: 324 att., 1,567 yds, 13 TDs, 9 rec., 70 yds

Johnson played just one season in the SEC after winning two straight junior college national championships. But it was a good one. No back carried the ball more (324) in any one BCS season in the SEC than Johnson did in 2000. His 1,567 yards that season are second only to Jackson’s 1,786 in school history. He was named SEC Player of the Year and finished 10th in the Heisman voting.

18. Travis Stephens, Tennessee (1997-01)
Stats: 488 att., 2,336 yds, 21 TDs, 27 rec., 200 yds, TD

After biding his time behind both Lewis and Henry, Stephens posted one of the great single seasons in Vols history in 2001. He ran for 1,464 yards and 10 touchdowns on 291 carries and single-handedly beat No. 2-ranked Florida to win the SEC East title.

19. Ben Tate, Auburn (2006-09)
Stats: 678 att., 3,321 yds, 24 TDs, 53 rec., 336 yds

A few years after the Williams-Brown tandem, Tate posted three quality seasons in Auburn with at least 159 carries. But his final year was his best as he posted career highs in carries (263), yards (1,362) and touchdowns (10) to go with 20 receptions.

20. Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss (2006-09)
Stats: 304 att., 1,955 yds, 15 TDs, 130 rec., 1,703 yds, 7 TDs, 431 ret. yds

He wasn’t really a running back or a wide receiver and that may hurt his perception, but few players were as difficult to stop as McCluster was in his final season. He posted 1,689 yards from scrimmage and 11 offensive touchdowns while leading Ole Miss to their second straight nine-win season. The across-the-board production makes him one of the SEC’s best.

Best of the rest:

21. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (2010-12): 355 att., 2,402 yds, 30 TDs, 35 rec., 338 yds, 2 TDs
22. Todd Gurley, Georgia (2012-pres.): 387 att., 2,374 yds, 27 TDs, 53 rec., 558 yds, 6 TDs, 243 ret. yds, TD
23. Joseph Addai, LSU (2001-05): 490 att., 2,576 yds, 18 TDs, 66 rec., 641 yds, 6 TDs
24. Henry Josey, Missouri (2010-13): 395 att., 2,771 yds, 30 TDs, 24 rec., 175 yds, TD
25. Arian Foster, Tennessee (2005-08): 650 att., 2,964 yds, 23 TDs, 83 rec., 742 yds, 2 TDs
26. Earnest Graham, Florida (1998-02): 609 att., 3,085 yds, 33 TDs, 59 rec., 402 yds
27. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (2012-pres.): 382 att., 2,343 yds, 26 TDs, 31 rec., 314 yds, TD
28. Kenneth Darby, Alabama (2003-06): 702 att., 3,324 yds, 11 TDs, 70 rec., 340 yds, 2 TDs
29. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ole Miss (2003-07): 920 att., 3,869 yds, 25 TDs, 39 rec., 316 yds, TD
30. Jeremy Hill, LSU (2012-13): 345 att., 2,156 yds, 28 TDs, 26 rec., 254 yds
31. Rafael Little, Kentucky (2004-07): 580 att., 2,996 yds, 16 TDs, 131 rec., 1,324 yds, 4 TDs, 1,023 ret. yds, 2 TDs
32. Jerious Norwood, Mississippi State (2002-05): 573 att., 3,222 yds, 15 TDs, 43 rec., 186 yds, 2 TDs, 313 ret. yds
33. Artose Pinner, Kentucky (1999-02): 438 att., 2,105 yds, 17 TDs, 58 rec., 407 yds, 2 TDs
34. Stevan Ridley, LSU (2008-10): 306 att., 1,419 yds, 19 TDs, 17 rec., 94 yds
35. Montario Hardesty, Tennessee (2005-09): 560 att., 2,391 yds, 26 TDs, 38 rec., 405 yds, TD

ORV: Cedric Cobbs, Knile Davis, Kenny Irons, Glen Coffee, Mike Davis, Thomas Brown, Cedric Houston

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Running Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/sec-team-recruiting-consensus-rankings-2014
Body:

Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus SEC team rankings for 2014 — with the Crimson Tide once again dominating the stage.

• The SEC as a whole reigned supreme on National Signing Day yet again. Seven of the top nine classes in the nation hailed from the SEC, including the league’s third straight No. 1-ranked class. In fact, with Alabama’s third straight recruiting championship, the SEC can boast the No. 1 class in the land for the sixth time in seven years. Only Florida State in 2011 has been able to knock the SEC from the top slot. In addition, the SEC also claimed 10 of the top 19 classes in the nation. This league signed 117 four-star recruits and 19 five-star prospects in this class.

• Nick Saban landed his third straight recruiting national championship by landing six five-stars and 15 four-stars. All four major recruiting services agree (which isn’t an easy task) that Bama’s haul was the No. 1 group in the land. Alabama’s six five-star signees are more than the entire ACC (5), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (3) and Big 12 (2) conferences. This is how Saban maintains a dynasty in Tuscaloosa. He lands recruiting classes that an entire conference would be lucky to sign.

• Tennessee is one of three teams to land a top 25 class in 2014 and had a losing record in '13. Kentucky and Florida are the other two. The Vols landed one of the largest groups in the nation at 35 signees and already has 14 of those players enrolled in class. The Vols actually led the SEC with 16 four-star prospects. The Gators finished eighth in the nation while the Wildcats finished 19th nationally. These three teams combined to go 11-25 and finished as the bottom three teams in the SEC East last season. This only further illustrates the ability coaches have to sell the SEC to recruits.

• Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M continue to prove that they belong in the dangerous shark-infested waters that is SEC recruiting. The Aggies landed more five-star prospects (3) than the entire Big 12 conference combined (2), only rubbing more salt into the gaping wound that was the Aggies' departure two years ago. More importantly, Sumlin targeted needs with this class. Yes, he landed a five-star wide receiver (Speedy Noil) and quarterback (Kyle Allen) but he got the defensive help he needed. Five-star end Myles Garrett is joined by four defensive backs, two defensive tackles, two other four-star defensive ends and a four-star linebacker. Of the 21 signees in this class, A&M inked 11 highly touted defensive players. Sumlin ignored running back and tight end in this group.

• There are three tiers of quality in this conference. The top tier includes the top seven classes and the next few SEC champions are likely to come from this group. You don’t have to beat Bama on the trail to beat Bama on the field but you have to be close. The second tier is South Carolina, Ole Miss and Kentucky. All three have outstanding hauls but all three are behind the top seven. Finally, the bottom tier appears to be in rough shape relatively speaking. Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt actually signed excellent classes. However, all four are significantly behind the rest of the league when it comes to attracting talent in 2014.

• Derek Mason, the SEC’s only new coach in 2014, worked some minor miracles in the final weeks to move his class into the top 50. This group was in the 80s or 90s nationally when he took over after James Franklin swiped five commitments for Penn State. But Mason landed Nifae Lealao, arguably the highest-rated player in the history of the program, as well as nearly a dozen other new faces that Franklin had not offered before leaving. By flooding the market with offers, Mason was able to rebuild a top-50 class for a program unaccustomed to closing strong on Signing Day.

• It feels lackluster, but LSU, Auburn and Georgia cruised right along with elite top-10 classes nationally. Again. Les Miles used a huge year in the Pelican State to land four five-stars and both Gus Malzahn and Mark Richt closed very well with big commitments at the end of the cycle. All three classes will get lost in the shuffle but all three should be capable of competing for SEC titles.

   Total5-Star4-StarNational247RivalsScoutESPN
1.Alabama266151st1111
2.LSU234122nd2222
3.Tennessee330165th7545
4.Texas A&M213116th5674
5.Auburn232117th6988
6.Florida24188th9796
7.Georgia213109th88129
8.Ole Miss250616th16191818
9.South Carolina2101018th15162419
10.Kentucky290619th22172020
11.Arkansas240431st30293330
12.Missouri290334th39353233
13.Mississippi St230340th38413936
14.Vanderbilt220248th46505048

 

Teaser:
SEC Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-running-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 ACC has gone through many changes during the BCS Era with multiple rounds of expansion. This is why some of the greatest players of the BCS Era won't be found in the ACC ranks. Names like Kevin Jones from Virginia Tech, William Green from Boston College, Michael Bush from Louisville or the long list of elite backs from Miami (James, Portis, Gore, McGahee) won't be found below. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, Boston College joined in '05, Syracuse and Pitt played for one season last fall and Louisville enters the league in '14. It leaves the league lacking for playmakers at the running back position. But a few schools have carried the banner.

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

1. C.J. Spiller, 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.

2. Thomas Jones, 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).

3. Andre Williams, 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.

4. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (2011-12)
Stats: 423 att., 2,481 yds, 25 TDs, 92 rec., 852 yds, 6 TDs, 263 ret. yds, 2 TDs

It’s a shame fans in the ACC only got two seasons of Bernard because he could have been really special. No player in the history of the league has averaged more rushing yards per game than Bernard’s 107.9 per game. His 1,253 yards in 2011 were the third-best season by a freshman in ACC history and then he led the ACC in rushing as a sophomore with 1,228 yards despite missing three games. He scored 33 total touchdowns in just 23 career games while at Chapel Hill and he was the first running back taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. His 198.1 all-purpose yards per game in 2012 are an ACC single-season record, topping even Spiller.

5. Lamont Jordan, Maryland (1997-00)
Stats: 807 att., 4,147 yds, 36 TDs, 76 rec., 737 yds, TD

No player in the ACC ran for more yards during the BCS Era than Jordan. His 4,147 yards are third all-time in ACC history and his 18 100-yard games are tied for seventh all-time. He rushed for 1,632 yards on 266 carries for a 6.1 yard per carry average in 1999 — good for second-best in ACC history at the time and currently sixth-best all-time. He is one of just fix players in league history to top 300 yards in a single-game (306, Virginia, 1999) and he is seventh all-time with 4,960 all-purpose yards. He is tied with Peter Warrick for 17th all-time with 37 total touchdowns.

6. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
Stats: 517 att., 3,226 yds, 35 TDs, 15 rec., 263 yds, TD 

The burly ball-carrier was a freight train in Paul Johnson's option attack. In just three seasons, Dwyer averaged 6.2 yards per carry on just 517 attempts, landing eighth all-time in ACC in yards per attempt (min. 1,000 yards). He won ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors when he led the ACC in rushing in 2008, posted 17 career 100-yard games and was virtually impossible to tackle one-on-one. He posted back-to-back 1,395-yard seasons and scored at least nine times in all three seasons. Some may think the option inflated his numbers, however, Dwyer averaged only 12.9 carries per game for his career. Imagine what he could have done with 800-900 attempts?

7. James Davis, Clemson (2005-08)
Stats: 753 att., 3,881 yds, 47 TDs, 51 rec., 441 yds, 2 TDs

Davis’ career didn’t end with a bang as his senior year was slightly disappointing, but few reached paydirt and were as consistent as Davis was for Clemson. Davis never rushed for fewer than 751 yards (2008) and his 17 rushing touchdowns in 2006 are tied for eighth-best all-time. Davis finished second all-time in ACC history with 47 rushing touchdowns, fifth all-time with 49 total touchdowns and ninth all-time in rushing.

8. Chris Barclay, Wake Forest (2002-05)
Stats: 840 att., 4,032 yds, 40 TDs, 62 rec., 381 yds, 517 ret. yds

Few players were as consistent as Barclay was for Jim Grobe. He never scored fewer than nine rushing touchdowns in any of his four seasons and finished his career with back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Barclay is the ACC’s No. 5 rusher all-time and is one of just five to top 4,000 yards rushing. His 840 attempts are fifth all-time and he led the ACC in rushing in 2005, earning ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors. Barclay's 40 total touchdowns are 12th in league history.

8. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech (2009-10)
Stats: 403 att., 2,132 yds, 30 TDs, 26 rec., 289 yds, 2 TDs

Few players have posted a single year like Williams did… especially, considering he was a freshman. His 1,655 yards in 2009 are an ACC freshman rushing record and is good for the fifth-best rushing season in ACC history. Williams is the only player in ACC history to score 20 touchdowns in a season as his 21 rushing scores in ’09 are a single-season record. An injury slowed him during his sophomore season and then he departed for the NFL after his redshirt sophomore season leaving fans in Blacksburg to wonder what could have been.

10. Wali Lundy, Virginia (2002-05)
Stats: 742 att., 3,193 yds, 43 TDs, 114 rec., 895 yds, 9 TDs, 409 ret. yds

Lundy never topped 1,000 yards in any one season but he was wildly consistent and no one in the history of ACC football has scored more touchdowns. His 52 total touchdowns top Ted Brown (1975-78) and Spiller by one. Lundy burst onto the scene with 1,261 yards from scrimmage and 10 total scores as a freshman — in fact, his 58 receptions are third-best all-time among all ACC freshmen. Lundy posted three straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 17 times in 2004 as a junior. He never scored fewer than 10 times in any season for Virginia and the Wahoos went to a bowl game all four seasons — something that has happened just twice since Lundy graduated in 2005.

Just missed the cut:

11. David Wilson, Virginia Tech (2009-11)
Stats: 462 att., 2,662 yds, 18 TDs, 37 rec., 363 yds, 5 TDs, 1,324 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Wilson earned ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2011 when he finished with 1,709 yards (fourth all-time in ACC history) and 2,253 all-purpose yards (third all-time in ACC history). He was a first-round NFL Draft pick and led his team to the ACC title game two years in a row. His seven straight 100-yard games that year is the fifth-best streak in ACC history.

12. Montel Harris, Boston College (2008-12)
Stats: 973 att., 4,789 yds, 39 TDs, 59 rec., 467 yds, 3 TDs

After three full seasons and an injury-shortened fourth, Harris transferred to Temple. Taken in full, his rushing numbers would be the best in ACC history. His 4,789 would rank first but his 3,600 in the ACC are still 16th. He led the ACC in rushing as a junior and set the sophomore rushing record with 1,457 in 2009. He rushed for 1,054 and 12 scores for the Owls in 2012.

13. Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech (2005-07)
Stats: 697 att., 3,465 yds, 28 TDs, 41 rec., 288 yds

Like Harris, Choice played one year elsewhere (Oklahoma). Unlike Harris, Choice didn’t produce at all at his other school. He came to the ACC and was a star, leading the league in rushing in both 2006 (1,473) and '07 (1,379). He scored 28 times and posted an ACC-record nine consecutive 100-yard games.

14. Andre Ellington, Clemson (2009-12)
Stats: 621 att., 3,436 yds, 33 TDs, 59 rec., 505 yds, 2 TDs, 645 ret. yds, TD

Even though he battled nagging injuries throughout his career, Ellington still finished in the top 20 in rushing all-time in ACC history. He scored 36 total touchdowns and led Clemson back to its first ACC championship in 20 years in 2011. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in two years that Clemson played in the ACC title game.

15. Travis Minor, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 664 att., 3,218 yds, 28 TDs, 106 rec., 831 yds, 3 TDs

Like Lundy, Minor never topped 1,000 yards rushing but he was a huge contributor all over the field for a team that won a lot of games. He helped lead his team to three ACC titles and three straight BCS title games, including the 1999 national championship. Few players have this resume: 3,000 yards rushing, 100 receptions and a national title.

Best of the rest:

16. Travis Zachery, Clemson (1998-01): 686 att., 3,043 yds, 41 TDs, 104 rec., 1,032 yds, 11 TDs
17. P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech (2002-05): 707 att., 3,346 yds, 23 TDs, 56 rec., 369 yds, 3 TDs
18. Bruce Perry, Maryland (1999-03): 468 att., 2,491 yds, 17 TDs, 55 rec., 478 yds, 2 TDs
19. Alvin Pearman, Virginia (2001-04): 500 att., 2,394 yds, 19 TDs, 138 rec., 1,398 yds, 8 TDs
20. Chris Douglas, Duke (2000-03): 695 att., 3,122 yds, 21 TDs, 89 rec., 867 yds, 5 TDs, 1,759 ret. yds
21. Branden Ore, Virginia Tech (2005-07): 617 att., 2,776 yds, 31 TDs, 43 rec., 399 yds, 2 TDs
22. T.A. McLendon, NC State (2002-04): 542 att., 2,479 yds, 33 TDs, 93 rec., 858 yds, 3 TDs
23. Devonta Freeman, Florida State (2011-13): 404 att., 2,255 yds, 30 TDs, 47 rec., 475 yds, TD
24. Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (2008, '10): 438 att., 2,119 yds, 22 TDs, 26 rec., 217 yds
25. Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech (2006-10): 546 att., 3,036 yds, 33 TDs, 33 rec., 401 yds, 5 TDs

ORV: Duke Johnson, Greg Jones, Andre Brown

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Running Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-running-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 Pac-12 has had some elite running backs over the years. Marcus Allen and Charles White are two that come to mind — and are the two who stand above the rest of the league in the record books. But with the rise of Oregon's offense, USC's dominance in the 2000s and an impressive track record of runners at Oregon State, the modern era of Pac-12 ball-carriers is as strong as its decorated past.

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

1. Reggie Bush, 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.


2. 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.


3. 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.


4. Toby Gerhart, 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.

 

5. Ka'Deem Carey, 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.


6. Ken Simonton, 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.


7. Marshawn Lynch, 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.

 

8. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State (2008-10)
Stats: 788 att., 3,877 yds, 46 TDs, 151 rec., 1,056 yds, 5 TDs


Little “Quizz” defied logic by producing at workhorse levels despite his 5-foot-7 stature. He carried at least 250 times in all three seasons and never rushed for less than 1,184 yards. He also averaged over 50 receptions per season and won the 2008 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award as just a true freshman. Rodgers is 11th all-time in league history in rushing and seventh all-time in rushing touchdowns while also producing in a big way as a receiver.


9. Maurice Jones-Drew, UCLA (2003-05)
Stats: 481 att., 2,503 yds, 26 TDs, 64 rec., 819 yds, 7 TDs, 1,366 ret. yds, 6 TDs

Formerly Maurice Drew, the UCLA tailback was a consensus All-American in 2005, yet never rushed for more than 1,007 yards in any season. He was an all-around talent who delivered in all three phases of the game — running, receiving and returning. His numbers don't begin to explain his talent, as he went on to become one of the NFL's best backs after being taken in the second round by Jacksonville in the 2006 draft.

10. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (2009-12)
Stats: 843 att., 4,300 yds, 40 TDs, 97 rec., 778 yds, 5 TDs

From a career achievement standpoint, few were as important to their team as Taylor was to Stanford. He posted three workhorse seasons for the Cardinal, topping 1,100 yards three times and 1,300 yards twice. Taylor is Stanford's all-time leading rusher and is seventh all-time in league history with 4,300 yards. His 40 rushing touchdowns are second only to Gerhart and he carried Stanford to a Pac-12 title with 322 attempts, 1,530 yards and 13 TD as a senior — all without Andrew Luck.

Just missed the cut:

11. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (2009-12)
Stats: 788 att., 4,403 yds, 31 TDs, 58 rec., 517 yds, 3 TDs

The Mayor of Los Angeles was the consummate leader, teammate and professional workhorse. He holds the career marks as UCLA’s all-time leading rusher — which is good for fifth all-time in Pac-12 history. And he also owns the school's single-season rushing record with 1,734 yards on 282 carries as a senior in 2012. Franklin was the complete package in the backfield for the Bruins.

12. LenDale White, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 541 att., 3,159 yds, 52 TDs, 31 rec., 331 yds, 5 TDs

The round mound of touchdown played alongside Reggie Bush in one of the best backfields in college football history. White is USC’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and is third all-time in league history with 52. He played on two national title winners and a third that lost in the BCS title game before getting taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.

13. Kenjon Barner, Oregon (2009-12)
Stats: 582 att., 3,623 yds, 41 TDs, 54 rec., 591 yds, 7 TDs, 1,634 ret. yds, 2 TDs

He was often overshadowed by James at Oregon, but Barner’s numbers stack up with anyone’s in league history. He is 18th all-time in rushing and is second only in school history to James in both career and single-season rushing yards (1,767 in 2012). He played on three Pac-12 title teams and helped the Ducks to the 2010 BCS title game.

14. J.J. Arrington, Cal (2003-04)
Stats: 396 att., 2,625 yds, 20 TDs, 42 rec., 299 yds, 3 TDs

Arrington is alongside Marcus Allen (2,427) and Charles White (2,050) as the only three running backs in league history to top 2,000 yards. His 2,018 in 2004 are obviously a school record and it went along with 15 touchdowns, an eighth-place finish in the Heisman voting and consensus All-American honors.

15. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon (2005-07)
Stats: 516 att., 2,891 yds, 27 TDs, 49 rec., 334 yds, 4 TDs, 1,664 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Few players can match Stewart’s raw ability and physical talent. He was a dynamic return man and capped his short three-year career with a monster (then school record) 1,722 yards and 13 total touchdowns in his final season in 2007. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Panthers.

Best of the Rest:

16. Yvenson Bernard, Oregon State (2004-07): 876 att., 3,862 yds, 38 TDs, 118 rec., 790 yds, 3 TDs
Posted three 1,000-yard seasons and is 12th all-time in Pac-12 in rushing and also is in the top 20 in touchdowns.

17. Trung Candidate, Arizona (1996-99): 604 att., 3,824 yds, 25 TDs, 42 rec., 468 yds, TD
Was Arizona’s all-time leading rusher and 12th in the Pac-12… until Ka’Deem Carey came along.

18. Bishop Sankey, Washington (2011-13): 644 att., 3,496 yds, 37 TDs, 67 rec., 567 yds, TD
Had two monster years before turning pro early. His 1,870 yards were a school record in 2013.

19. Jahvid Best, Cal (2007-09): 364 att., 2,668 yds, 29 TDs, 62 rec., 533 yds, 6 TDs
Electric playmaker who is tied with Bush with a 7.3 career yards per carry average.

20. Chris Polk, Washington (2009-11): 789 att., 4,015 yds, 26 TDs, 79 rec., 683 yds, 4 TDs
Is 10th all-time in Pac-12 history in rushing and ended up less than 100 yards shy of Napoleon Kaufman’s school record.

21. DeShaun Foster, UCLA (1998-01): 722 att., 3,194 yds, 40 TDs, 58 rec., 548 yds, 4 TDs
Bruins' No. 4 rusher all-time and trails only Skip Hicks’ 48 rushing touchdowns in school history.

22. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon (2011-13): 243 att., 1,890 yds, 26 TDs, 113 rec., 1,296 yds, 15 TDs, 2,159 ret. yds, 5 TDs
He scored 46 total touchdowns and produced 5,345 all-purpose yards in only 37 games in three years.

23. Jerome Harrison, Washington State (2004-05): 482 att., 2,800 yds, 25 TDs, 34 rec., 275 yds, TD
Consensus All-American is one of just six players in league history to top 1,900 yards in a season.

24. Justin Forsett, Cal (2004-07): 567 att., 3,320 yds, 26 TDs, 41 rec., 386 yds, TD
Capped a solid career with a monster 305-att., 1,546-yard, 15-TD season as a senior in 2007.

25. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford (2009-13): 486 att., 2,500 yds, 33 TDs, 32 rec., 264 yds, 4 TDs
Led Stanford to back-to-back Pac-12 titles and set records with 330 att., 1,709-yard, 21-TD season in ’13.

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Running Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pac-12-team-recruiting-consensus-rankings-2014
Body:

Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus Pac-12 team rankings for 2014 — with a familiar name reasserting itself out on the trail.

• Steve Sarkisian did his best Pete Carroll impersonation on National Signing Day by closing with two five-star gets (Adoree’ Jackson, JuJu Smith) and a top-40 blocker (Damian Mama). It should remind fans out west of what Carroll use to do on the final day of the recruiting cycle when the Trojans consistently dominated NSD each year. Coach Sark, in only a couple of months, moved USC from fourth or fifth in the rankings to the No. 1 class in the league.

• Stanford and David Shaw also closed very well with a few big gets. This is now a national brand that is consistently located in the top 25 nationally in recruiting. Since Jim Harbaugh took over in Palo Alto, Calif., the Cardinal have been transformed on the trail and Shaw has continued that trend. The 2014 haul gives Stanford a class ranked in the top 26 in five of the last six years (2013).

• The state of Arizona made a strong statement this year by competing directly with traditional recruiting powers like Washington, Oregon and UCLA. Both Arizona schools landed top-30 classes and the Sun Devils claimed the No. 3 class in the league. Both Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez have turned middling programs into winners in short order and that has clearly translated on the recruiting trail.

• UCLA didn’t have a good NSD as its crosstown rival snaked all of its targets. However, Jim Mora still signed an excellent class of talent despite being a smaller group. In fact, the 18 signees were the smallest haul by any team in the league but the Bruins tied for the Pac-12 lead with eight four-star signings. This isn’t an elite group nationally but it has plenty of big-time upside.

• The curious case of Chris Petersen on the recruiting trail at this level is still a big unknown. The Huskies landed a couple of names late in the process but couldn’t manage a top-35 class. Coach Sark had UW recruiting rolling and Petersen will now be asked to do something he has never done before. Which is consistently beat powerhouse programs (like Oregon and USC) for elite, five-star-type talents. Only time will tell if he is up to the task.

• While the top of the league did very well on National Signing Day and throughout the entire recruiting process, the bottom third of the conference left much to be desired. Four teams finished outside of the top 55 and Colorado trailed only Purdue among Big 5 teams nationally. Mike Riley and Mike Leach are accustomed to developing lower-tiered classes but it seems like the separation between the haves and have-nots in the Pac-12 is beginning to grow ever so slightly on the trail.

   Total5-Star4-StarNational247RivalsScoutESPN
1.USC192811th11101014
2.Stanford201714th13141515
3.Arizona St280820th23211721
4.UCLA180821st19181727
5.Oregon200723rd21262226
6.Arizona290428th31283023
7.Washington240438th37363645
8.Cal220144th48454346
9.Oregon St290057th60494867
10.Washington St190063rd65705861
11.Utah190167th62676964
12.Colorado220072nd76647271

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-consensus-acc-team-recruiting-rankings
Body:

Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus ACC team rankings for 2014 — with the defending national champions adding yet another title to the trophy case.

• Florida State won its fifth straight ACC recruiting championship by claiming the top class in the conference yet again. Jimbo Fisher has totally flipped the state of Florida in his favor since taking over and it has paid obvious dividends. Much like Ohio State in the Big Ten, the Noles appear to be distancing themselves from their conference foes in impressive fashion.

• Miami and Al Golden quietly put together a stellar class. Dabo Swinney and Clemson did the same. These two programs are the only two teams in the ACC who are even coming close to competing with FSU on the recruiting trail. These three programs generally lead the way in recruiting for this league and it happened once again in '14.

• There seems to be some major disagreements among the recruiting services about the ACC. In particular, Scout seems to be down on the league's better classes. Scout ranked Clemson 28th, Virginia Tech 37th and Virginia 51st. Those numbers are 12, seven and 15 spots lower than their team ranking averages. Mike London's class, which tied Florida State with two five-star signees, was completely disrespected by Scout. Which brings us to...

• London needs to win games now. Virginia had an excellent, albeit smallish, class. The Wahoos finished 36th overall and seventh in the league as London has proven his ability to recruit in the state of Virginia and the Atlantic seaboard. With a roster that is better than half of the league, the fourth-year head man needs to start winning games on the field to keep his job.

• Dave Doeren did an equally impressive job in his first full class despite not winning a single ACC football game this fall. The Wolfpack appear to be rejuvenated on the trail as the second-year coach is poised to improve this NC State squad in short order. It certainly doesn't appear like the Pack can get any worse in 2014.

• The new kids on the block are still struggling. Louisville is accustomed to finishing first or second in the Big East in recruiting so ninth has to be disappointing. Recruiting has never been Bobby Petrino's strong suit but to compete in the ACC, the Cardinals have to be better than ninth. The same can be said about Syracuse's second-straight 12th-ranked class in the ACC. Paul Chryst and Pitt have been the best on the trail of the new teams and again finished in the top eight (seventh last year).

   Total5-Star4-StarNational247RivalsScoutESPN
1.Florida St292143rd4433
2.Miami261712th12121110
3.Clemson2001017th18132812
4.North Carolina220329th29233132
5.Virginia Tech270430th27253731
6.NC State300232nd34302638
7.Virginia172236th32405125
8.Pitt230242nd44444244
9.Louisville200046th47474553
10.Boston College280047th52425742
11.Georgia Tech210049th54484754
12.Syracuse240154th50525360
13.Duke180060th57586751
14.Wake Forest260061st61596463

 

Teaser:
College Football: 2014 Consensus ACC Team Recruiting Rankings
Post date: Monday, February 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-running-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 has long been about running the ball on offense. Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin have some of the best running back traditions in the nation. But so does Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State and Minnesota. In fact, to be successful in the Big Ten during the BCS Era, you probably had a great running back. Here are the top 10 running backs to play in the Big Ten during the BCS Era:

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

1. Ron Dayne, 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.

2. Montee Ball, 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.

3. Larry Johnson, 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.

4. Anthony Thomas, Michigan (1997-00)
Stats: 924 att., 4,472 yds, 55 TDs, 79 rec., 762 yds, TD

From Louisiana originally, Thomas posted three straight seasons with at least 15 rushing touchdowns, and two seasons with at least 1,257 yards rushing. He posted 734 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns on the unbeaten 1997 national championship team. When he left school, Thomas was Michigan’s all-time leading rusher (since passed by Mike Hart and Denard Robinson) and was second all-time with 1,733 yards on a school-record (since broken) 319 carries in 2000. His 55 rushing touchdowns are tops in school history and fifth all-time in Big Ten history.

5. Chris Perry, Michigan (2000-03)
Stats: 794 att., 3,657 yds, 39 TDs, 64 rec., 569 yds, 2 TDs

Perry capped a solid Michigan career with an elite Doak Walker-winning, Heisman finalist season in 2003. He claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and was a consensus All-American while rushing 338 times for 1,674 yards and catching 44 passes for 367 yards and scoring 20 total touchdowns. It was his second straight 1,100-yard, 14-TD season in a row as Michigan won 10 games in each of his final two seasons. Perry was a first-round pick of the Bengals in the 2004 NFL Draft.

6. Michael Hart, Michigan (2004-07)
Stats: 1,015 att., 5,040 yds, 41 TDs, 67 rec., 566 yds, 2 TDs

Along with Dayne, Ball, Archie Griffin and Anthony Thompson, Hart is one of five players in Big Ten history to top 5,000 yards rushing in a career. That is special territory. He is Michigan’s all-time leading rusher and carried more times than any player in Wolverines history. Hart was a tremendous leader who outworked his opponents and willed his team to victory week in and week out. He played in two Rose Bowls and capped his career with a win in the Capital One Bowl over Tim Tebow and Florida in head coach Lloyd Carr’s final game.

7. Damien Anderson, Northwestern (1998-01)
Stats: 925 att., 4,336 yds, 37 TDs, 54 rec., 490 yds

During the BCS Era, only five players rushed for more yards than Anderson did at Northwestern and one was a quarterback. His 4,485 yards are 10th all-time in Big Ten history and his 2,063 yards rushing in 2000 are fourth all-time in league history. Anderson owns ever major single-season and career rushing record for the Wildcats and he finished fifth in the Heisman voting after his memorable junior year. He was a consensus All-American and had he not missed four games his senior year, he likely would have topped 5,000 yards rushing.

8. Javon Ringer, Michigan State (2005-08)
Stats: 843 att., 4,398 yds, 34 TDs, 96 rec., 719 yds, TD

No one in Big Ten history has ever touched the ball more in a season than Ringer did in 2008 when he got it 429 times. He led the country with 390 carries (second-best in Big Ten history) and 22 touchdowns to go with 418 offensive touches and 2,051 yards that year. He split time during most of his career and showed in his final season what he could do with a full workload.

9. Laurence Maroney, Minnesota (2003-05)
Stats: 660 att., 3,933 yds, 32 TDs, 21 rec., 197 yds, TD, 667 ret. yds, TD

Had Maroney not split time with another one of the greatest Big Ten backs of the generation (more on that in a second), his numbers could have been unreal. He was just the third back in league history to top 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2003 and then first-team Big Ten honors as a sophomore and junior. He left school early and was a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2006. He is second only to the great Darrell Thompson in Minnesota rushing history and would have blown past Thompson's records (4,518, 40 TDs) had he stuck around for his final year.

10. Shonn Greene, Iowa (2005-08) Stats
Stats: 376 att., 2,228 yds, 22 TDs, 11 rec., 72 yds

This portion of the rankings includes some of the best single seasons in Big Ten history and Greene’s 2008 campaign is among them. Greene rushed for a school-record (eighth in the Big Ten) 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns in '08. He was a consensus All-American, Doak Walker Award winner, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and finished sixth in the Heisman voting. Had he not missed an entire season while getting his grades up at Kirkwood Community College (2007), Greene probably would have been fifth or sixth on this list.

Just missed the cut:

11. Chris Wells, Ohio State (2006-08)
Stats: 585 att., 3,382 yds, 30 TDs, 15 rec., 84 yds

A five-star recruit, the player known as Beanie had big-time expectations heaped upon him when he got to Columbus. And he delivered by leading Ohio State to back-to-back BCS national title game appearances. He posted 576 yards and seven scores as a true freshman in ’06 before back-to-back 1,000-yards seasons in 07-08.

12. Marion Barber III, Minnesota (2001-04)
Stats: 575 att., 3,276 yds, 35 TDs, 21 rec., 190 yds, 1,029 ret. yds

Few players have ever been as tough to tackle as Barber. He rushed for 742 yards as a freshman before missing all but two games as a sophomore. He came back to rush for 1,196 yards and 17 TDs as a junior and 1,269 yards and 11 TDs as a senior. In short yardage and around the goal line, few have ever been more effective than this hard-charging Gophers tailback.

13. Anthony Davis, Wisconsin (2001-04)
Stats: 908 att., 4,676 yds, 42 TDs, 22 rec., 198 yds

The opposite of a one-year wonder, Davis was a stalwart for Wisconsin following Dayne and Michael Bennett. He rushed for 1,466 yards as a true freshman and 1,555 yards as a true sophomore, tempting people with a Dayne-esque start to his career. However, Davis battled injuries the rest of his career and he had to settle for the seventh-most rushing yards in Big Ten history.

14. Maurice Clarett, Ohio State (2002)
Stats: 222 att., 1,237 yds, 16 TDs, 12 rec., 104 yds, 2 TDs

People remember Clarett for many other reasons other than his stellar freshman campaign. He helped carry Ohio State to a unblemished national championship before challenging the NFL’s early entry draft rules. His career spiraled out of control but had he played three full seasons in Columbus, there is no telling what his numbers could have been.

15. James White, Wisconsin (2010-13)
Stats: 643 att., 4,015 yds, 45 TDs, 73 rec., 670 yds, 3 TDs, 750 ret. yds.

He was never the lead ball carrier for Wisconsin but his career is among the best in the history of the league. His 45 rushing TDs are ninth all-time, he played in three Rose Bowls on three Big Ten title teams and is a part of the most productive backfield in history. White (1,444 yards) and Melvin Gordon (1,609) rushed for more yards in 2013 than any backfield tandem in NCAA history.

Best of the Rest:

16. Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin (2003-05) 619 att., 2,760 yds, 27 TDs, 90 rec., 909 yds, 4 TDs
Led NCAA with 348 carries and 401 touches (53 rec.) and tied for NCAA lead with 24 touchdowns in 2005.

17. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (2009-12): 635 att., 3,329 yds, 30 TDs, 60 rec., 507 yds, 5 TDs
Consummate professional and leader who helped Nebraska to three conference championship games.

18. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State (2010-12): 671 att., 3,346 yds, 33 TDs, 78 rec., 531 yds, TD
Led the nation with 382 carries and posted 1,793 yards and 13 total touchdowns in monster junior season.

19. John Clay, Wisconsin (2008-10): 629 att., 3,413 yds, 41 TDs, 11 rec., 72 yds
Won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 with 1,517 yards and 18 TDs.

20. Ladell Betts, Iowa (1998-01): 832 att., 3,686 yds, 25 TDs, 72 rec., 702 yds, 2 TDs
Had at least 188 carries in all four seasons and is No. 2 all-time leading rusher in Iowa history.

21. Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois (2005-08): 388 att., 2,539 yds, 22 TDs, 59 rec., 564 yds, 5 TDs
Won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and got Illinois to its first Rose Bowl berth since 1983.

22. PJ Hill, Wisconsin (2006-08): 770 att., 3,942 yds, 42 TDs, 39 rec., 358 yds, 2 TDs
Burly two-star recruit turned touchdown machine. Topped 1,000 yards and 13 TDs in all three seasons.

23. Kory Sheets, Purdue (2005-08): 664 att., 3,341 yds, 48 TDs, 108 rec., 814 yds, 5 TDs, 789 ret. yds, TD
Do-everything producer who is sixth all-time in Big Ten history with 48 rushing touchdowns.

24. Fred Russell, Iowa (2000-03): 523 att., 2,760 yds, 17 TDs, 8 rec., 45 yds, 361 ret. yds
Posted two monster seasons as an upperclassman in leading Iowa to its first BCS Bowl (Orange, 2002).

25. Evan Royster, Penn State (2007-10): 686 att., 3,932 yds, 29 TDs, 61 rec., 562 yds, 3 TDs
Consistent performer posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons while playing all 39 games from 2008-10.

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Running Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, February 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/recruiting-complete-breakdown-sec-early-enrollees-2014
Body:

Enrolling early is a fairly new trend that is clearly used by one league more so than any other.

Fans always ask how the SEC does it? How can one league become so dominant? The simple answer is it cares more. The SEC is more dedicated to winning championships than your favorite conference, from the last graduate assistant on the sidelines to the last row of fans in the nosebleed seats at Neyland Stadium to the big-dollar donors and $7 million coaches.

It’s why enrolling early has become such an important aspect to SEC recruiting. This league more than any other mercilessly ignores senior prom in exchange for spring practice. While on the surface, a few extra months of work shouldn’t change the course of a coach’s career, enrolling players early can be extremely beneficial.

And the rest of college football needs to follow the SEC’s lead.

The hardest part of true freshman life in major college football isn’t on the field. Athletes are more prepared physically than ever to contribute early. It is the mental side of the game that is tough to adjust to — and that includes little things like finding a classroom or learning a road map.

Eight extra months of practice time to acclimate to college life, learn to function independently and work with teammates all while not having to worry about wins and losses is invaluable. It also allows athletic departments to fudge scholarship numbers forwards or backwards to accommodate the NCAA.

Just look at how many high school athletes who should be still in high school are already on an SEC campus today:

Tennessee (14)

Butch Jones' No. 5-ranked class was clearly about size and roster turnover. He signed 36 players and 14 of them are already enrolled. The offensive skill positions got a big boost this spring with the additions of names like Josh Malone, Jalen Hurd, Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf. Otherwise, the line of scrimmage got plenty of help as three offensive linemen and a pair of D-liners enrolled early for the Vols. This is one of the largest classes of early enrollees in history and should help churn the depleted Tennessee roster quickly this spring.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Josh MaloneWR6-3195Gallatin, Tenn.No. 36
Jalen HurdRB6-3227Hendersonville, Tenn.No. 40
Daniel HelmTE6-4225Chatham, Ill.No. 198
D'Andre PayneDB5-9176Washington, D.C.No. 264
Ethan WolfTE6-5243Minster, OhioNo. 325
Dimarya MixonDE6-3263Compton, Calif.No. 579
Neiko CreamerATH6-3223Wilmington, Del.No. 638
Coleman ThomasOL6-6299Max Meadows, Va.No. 639
Jakob JohnsonLB6-4240Stuttgart, GermanyNo. 642
Ray RaulersonOL6-5275Tampa, Fla.No. 849
Emmanuel MoseleyDB5-11165Greensboro, N.C.No. 857
Von PearsonWR6-3185Newport News, Va.No. 4 (JC)
Dontavius BlairOL6-8300Anniston, Ala.No. 8 (JC)
Owen WilliamsDL6-2285Macon, Ga.No. 113 (JC)

Florida (9)

The Gators need some offensive help and Will Muschamp and new coordinator Kurt Roper got some with this group. Will Grier is a special athlete who could be ready to help at quarterback in the fall because he will get a full spring to get accustomed with the Gators' program, offense and campus. With the loss of two stud cornerbacks, Muschamp also added some needed depth to the secondary with two of the top rated players in the class in Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Jalen TaborDB6-1188Washington, D.C.No. 14
Will GrierQB6-2190Davidson, N.C.No. 48
Duke DawsonDB5-10190Cross City, Fla.No. 194
Nolan KelleherOL6-6305Mt. Pleasant, S.C.No. 356
Brandon PowellRB5-9175Deerfield Beach, Fla.No. 400
Taven BryanDL6-5260Casper, Wyo.No. 533
DeAndre GoolsbyTE6-4230Derby, Ky.No. 535
Kavaris HarklessOL6-5275Jacksonville, Fla.No. 809
Drew SarvaryOL6-6318Tallahassee, Fla.No. 150 (JC)

Alabama (8)

Alabama welcomed eight new faces to campus this spring, including the top player in the class (Cam Robinson) and the No. 4-ranked quarterback in the nation (David Cornwell). In all, Nick Saban enrolled five top-100 prospects early and will have them for spring practice. He also brought in two four-star junior college players, both of which will help bolster the defensive line.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Cam RobinsonOL6-6325Monroe, La.No. 4
Tony BrownDB6-0195Beaumont, TexasNo. 9
Hootie JonesDB6-2215Monroe, La.No. 50
David CornwellQB6-5240Norman, Okla.No. 79
Cam SimsWR6-4200Monroe, La.No. 84
Dion HamiltonLB6-0240Montgomery, Ala.No. 203
Jarran ReedDL6-4310Goldsboro, N.C.No. 13 (JC)
D.J. PettwayDL6-3255Pensacola, Fla.No. 15 (JC)

Texas A&M (7)

Kevin Sumlin will get some immediate help from his early enrollees at two key positions. Wide receiver and offensive line got much deeper with the addition of five-star prospect Speedy Noil. Three blockers, including two elite junior college prospects, should help rebuild the depth along the offensive front quickly. Sumlin also gets his prized gem in the form of the nation's top quarterback, Kyle Allen, onto campus early.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Speedy NoilWR5-11190New Orleans, La.No. 8
Kyle AllenQB6-3200Scottsdale, Ariz.No. 10
Zaycoven HendersonDT6-1310Longview, TexasNo. 219
JJ GustafsonOL6-5310Dallas, TexasUR
Jermaine EluemunorOL6-4315Danville, N.J.No. 7 (JC)
Avery GennesyOL6-5310Southhaven, Miss.No. 9 (JC)
Josh ReynoldsWR6-4190San Antonio, TexasNo. 37 (JC)

Kentucky (7)

Mark Stoops did an excellent overall job with this class and his much-maligned offense should get a big boost with seven early enrollees. Drew Barker is the QB of the future in Lexington and is one of the highest rated players in this class overall. He will be joined by three other skill position prospects in wideouts Thaddeus Snodgrass and T.V. Williams and running back Mikel Horton. This is a strong group for the Cats.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Drew BarkerQB6-3217Burlington, Ky.No. 119
Thaddeus SnodgrassWR6-1180Springfield, OhioNo. 304
Mikel HortonRB6-1223West Chester, OhioNo. 380
T.V. WilliamsWR5-10165McKinney, TexasNo. 687
Dorian HendrixLB6-0230Huber Heights, OhioNo. 761
C.J. JohnsonDT6-3275Columbia, S.C.No. 30 (JC)
A.J. StampsCB6-0190Vicksburg, Miss.No. 215 (JC)

Ole Miss (7)

Only two true freshman early enrollees signed with Ole Miss so Hugh Freeze's class features mostly junior college prospects, one transfer and one prep schooler. But at least they are highly touted, as Marquis Haynes was the No. 5-rated prep school prospect in the nation and all three JUCOs are ranked in the top 50 nationally. Christian Morris comes to Oxford from UCLA after signing there originally in the 2013 class.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
C.J. HamptonDB6-1195Meridian, Miss.No. 96
Kendrick DossQB6-2215Florence, Ala.No. 610
Marquis HaynesDE6-3225Jacksonville, Fla.No. 5 (PS)
Christian RussellLB6-1235Fayetteville, N.C.No. 25 (JC)
Fahn CooperOL6-5315Crystal Lake, Ill.No. 28 (JC)
Jeremy LigginsATH6-4295Oxford, Miss.No. 48 (JC)
Christian MorrisOL6-6290Memphis, Tenn.Transfer

Auburn (5)

Gus Malzahn didn't get too many true freshman early enrollees (2) but he brought in quality junior college prospects. D'haquille Williams is considered the top JUCO player in the nation and he should help on the outside in short order. In fact, a total of three pass-catchers enrolled early to help Nick Marshall and the passing attack this spring.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Stanton TruittWR5-10185Monroe, Ga.No. 317
Chris LayeTE6-5240Cumming, Ga.Unranked
D'haquille WillamsWR6-3205LaPlace, La.No. 1 (JC)
Derrick MoncriefS6-3225Prattville, Ala.No. 11 (JC)
Xavier DampeerOL6-2300Mendenhall, Miss.No. 194 (JC)
Missouri (5)

Gary Pinkel didn't bring in much elite talent but getting five new faces on campus early is a big help. Brandon Lee is the only nationally ranked freshman joining the roster early and he should help fill out a depleted front seven. Kenya Dennis is a quality JUCO prospect who also will help rebuild depth on the defensive side of the ball for Mizzou.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Brandon LeeLB6-2215Indianapolis, Ind.No. 276
Logan CheadleDB5-9175Lee's Summit, Mo.Unranked
Michael FairchildOL6-4275Overland Park, Kan.Unranked
Marvin ZandersQB6-2185Jacksonville, Fla.Unranked
Kenya DennisDB6-0200Raymond, Miss.No. 100 (JC)
Arkansas (4)

Bret Bielema didn't have a great National Signing Day overall. The rest of the SEC West kept improving while the Hogs missed out on all of its big NSD targets. Getting four names onto campus early, however, will allow this class to help the winless Razorbacks address their needs sooner. In particular, the passing game should get some help this spring with two wideouts and a quarterback enrolling early in Fayetteville.

NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
Rafe PeaveyQB6-2212Bolivar, Mo.No. 355
Chris MurphyCB5-10180Marietta, Ga.No. 622
Jared CorneliusWR6-1185Shreveport, La.No. 907
Cody HollisterWR6-4205Bend, Ore.No. 232 (JC)
The Rest of the SEC:
Les Miles and LSU only bring in two early enrollees but both are highly touted, four-star recruits. It is sort of startling to see only one early enrollee for Mark Richt and Georgia. He normally brings in a half-dozen or so in January. South Carolina only had one while Mississippi State got two to enroll early and Vanderbilt had none.
NamePos.HtWtHometownNat'l Rank
LSU 
Edward ParisS6-1190Arlington, TexasNo. 42
Brandon HarrisQB6-2195Bossier City, La.No. 75
Mississippi St
Nick FitzgeraldQB6-5220Richmond Hill, Ga.Unranked
Jocquell JohnsonOL6-6307Jackson, Miss.No. 97 (JC)
Georgia
Jacob ParkQB6-3200Goose Creek, S.C.No. 114
South Carolina
Abu LaminDT6-4295Fayetteville, N.C.No. 16 (JC)

 

 

Teaser:
Recruiting: A Complete List of SEC Early Enrollees in 2014
Post date: Friday, February 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-consensus-big-12-team-recruiting-rankings
Body:

Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus Big 12 team rankings for 2014 — with familiar names atop the standings.

• The Sooners and Longhorns paced the Big 12 once again but neither was as strong (pardon the pun) as they are accustomed to being. Oklahoma's 13th-rated class nationally would be eighth in the SEC, third in the ACC and second in the Big Ten and Pac-12. Texas would be the same except third in the Pac-12. These two powerhouses have to be clicking on all cylinders on the trail for the Big 12 to be at its best.

• Overall, the league hasn't signed elite talent since Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri left the ranks. In 2014, the Big 12 signed two five-star prospects and 29 four-star prospects. The Aggies alone inked three five-star while the SEC signed 119 four-star recruits. The Big 12 landed seven top-100 players this year after just four last year and six the previous cycle. The Big 12 is improving across the board with great coaches but the nation's most elite players don't appear to be interested.

• Bill Snyder finished eighth in the Big 12... again. And he doesn't care... again. The Wildcats ranked outside of the top 50 nationally in recruiting for the sixth consecutive cycle with the 2007 class — ranked 30th — being the last Kansas State group to land inside the top 50. Yet, somehow, Snyder is one of the winningest coaches in the league — his 27 conference wins since returning to Manhattan in 2009 rank third in the Big 12 behind Stoops and Gundy.

• There were some rumors that Mack Brown, on his way "out" of town, told his class of players to look around at other options. So Charlie Strong, in theory, had to recruit against his own school over the first month of his tenure. The Longhorns had a solid class, ranking 15th nationally, but Strong did very little on the recruiting trail over the last month despite big promises at his press conference. The 2015 haul will be intriguing to watch from the outside looking in.

• Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech were the only team in the league that didn't sign at least one four-star recruit. He brought in a big (27) group filled entirely of three- and two-star recruits that landed in the top 40 nationally. Everyone knows he is confident and believes in his system but can Tech contend against the big boys in Austin and Norman with nary a four-star player?

• One class that experts can't seem to agree on is Oklahoma State. Scout is much higher on Mike Gundy's group than the other three sites, ranking them 14th in the nation as the Big 12's second-best class. However, 247, Rivals and ESPN had the Pokes at 27th or 28th nationally and both 247 and ESPN had OSU ranked fourth in the conference. Only time will tell who is right about Oklahoma State's '14 haul. 

   Total5-Star4-StarNational247RivalsScoutESPN
1.Oklahoma271713th14151313
2.Texas230815th17201617
3.Oklahoma St290526th28271428
4.Baylor281327th26342322
5.West Virginia220237th36384037
6.Texas Tech270039th41433535
7.TCU240143rd42513843
8.Kansas St240151st49465657
9.Kansas230155th55556247
10.Iowa St250156th56565259

 

Teaser:
College Football: 2014 Consensus Big 12 Team Recruiting Rankings
Post date: Friday, February 7, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/national-signing-day-2014-winners-and-losers
Body:

No head coach has ever had a bad National Signing Day.

No head coach at any school has ever come out on NSD and said, “You know, we just didn’t address any of our needs. We are disappointed with the group we’ve signed. And we are very concerned moving forward about the future of our program.”

Nope, from their viewpoint, every coach in the nation passed the National Signing Day test with flying colors.

Many recruitniks view the first Wednesday in February as the end of a long and arduous process that began years before and ends with two dozen signatures. However, the reality of the situation is that Signing Day is just the beginning. Coaches, new and old, get an injection of talent for their depth chart. Fans have new crushes to fawn over and the players' journey from high school superstar to brutally vicious adulthood actually begins.

And, no, despite what every coach tells you, not everyone was a winner on National Signing Day.

There were 316 four- and five-star prospects in the nation according to the composite 247Sports rankings. Of those 316 top-level recruits, 29 of them had yet to make a decision heading into Signing Day. Of course, there were plenty of surprise flip-flops and decommitments as well.

So now that the dust has settled, who were the big winners and big losers of National Signing Day 2014?

NSD ’14 Winners

USC
The team that had the best day on Wednesday was Steve Sarkisian and the USC Trojans. Three of the top 38 players in the nation, including two five-star talents, picked the Trojans over Pac-12 rivals UCLA, Oregon and others. Adoree’ Jackson (No. 7 overall) was the highest-ranked uncommitted player in the nation and he picked USC over UCLA, LSU and Florida. JuJu Smith (No. 20) was the fifth-highest rated uncommitted player in the country and he picked USC over Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame. Those two five-star prospects also keep USC’s streak of landing at least one five-star prospect since 2003 alive. Damien Mama (No. 38) is one of the highest-rated four-star prospects in the nation and the massive offensive guard picked USC over UCLA and Notre Dame. Not only did Coach Sark land some elite talent but he beat his conference rivals in the process. The Trojans moved from outside the top 25 to No. 11 in the final team rankings and put together the best class in the Pac-12.

Alabama
The second-highest rated player available heading into NSD was Auburn (Ala.) High School linebacker Rashaan Evans (No. 15). The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder hails from within the shadows of Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn High School and was considered a heavy Tigers lean. But just like last season when Reuben Foster shunned the hometown Tigers to head to Tuscaloosa, Evans signed with the Crimson Tide. The addition of Evans locked Nick Saban’s class in as the best in the nation in 2014 and gave the superstar coach his third consecutive recruiting national championship. According to the composite 247 rankings, Alabama signed six of the top 16, eight of the top 50 and 13 of the top 100 players in the nation. It was once again pure domination from Saban and the Tide on the recruiting trail.

Stanford
Not only did the Cardinal have one of the best days but they might have done it with the best style. The national headlines began with five-star defensive end Solomon Thomas (No. 25) picking Stanford over Texas, Ohio State and Arkansas. The Coppell (Texas) High product pulled an actual pruned miniature tree out from beneath the table during his press conference and donned the signature Nerd Nation glasses. David Shaw then followed that up with the addition of New Orleans defensive back Terrance Alexander. Stanford’s class moved up to No. 14 nationally and the strong finish gave the Cardinal the Pac-12’s second-best class (USC). Stanford has a clear brand identity and Shaw has honed his ability to effectively sell it on the trail. 

Georgia
Signing Day began with a boom for the Dawgs when they pulled the first big shocker of NSD 2014 when they landed Isaiah McKenzie (No. 307). The four-star wide receiver was thought to be picking between Ole Miss, Florida and Virginia Tech but signed with Georgia in a coup for Mark Richt. Later in the day, Georgia landed another huge blow when it beat Alabama, Florida and LSU for the services of five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (No. 25). Certainly, adding Jeremy Pruitt has helped bolster UGA's recruiting efforts but Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon is the one who deserves the credit. He was named National Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports for the 2014 cycle.

South Carolina
Early in the day, Steve Spurrier flipped three-star defensive end Blake McClain from Nebraska. Then in the early afternoon, Spurrier was back at it again stealing appropriately named four-star defensive tackle Dexter Wideman from the defending champion Florida State Seminoles. Finally, the Ol’ Ball Coach wrapped up his sneaky good NSD by inking four-star defensive back Wesley Green from Lithonia (Ga.) MLK. The three big pick ups for South Carolina moved the Gamecocks into the top 20 nationally. This class features six defensive linemen and five cornerbacks, as stopping the pass is clearly becoming more important in the SEC.

Florida State
It was a wild day for Florida State fans. Jimbo Fisher was guaranteed an excellent class but there was an outside chance FSU could have pushed Bama for the No. 1 slot. While the Noles didn’t catch Bama — it finished third nationally and No. 1 in the ACC — they certainly had some excitement. Four-star prospects Roderick Johnson (No. 125), Derrick Nnadi (No. 99) and Derrick Kelly got things started in a big way for Fisher and company before five-star wide receiver Ermon Lane (No. 24) and former Virginia Tech commitment Javon Harrison eventually picked the Seminoles. Fisher did lose quarterback Treon Harris to Florida and Dexter Wideman to South Carolina but made up for it by stealing Harrison from the Hokies in the 11th hour. This is an elite group that is poised for another title run or two.

Vanderbilt
No team jumped more in the team recruiting rankings than the Commodores. Weeks after James Franklin decimated a top-25 class when he headed to Penn State, Derek Mason rallied the troops by flooding the market with scholarships and landing more than a few quality prospects. Four-star defensive end Nifae Lealao (No. 103) was the prized gem of the group as Mason closed strong with a dozen commitments/signings over the last official visit weekend. In the end, Vandy moved up 35 spots in the team rankings in one week and salvaged a top-50 class. Vandy is ranked 50th by Rivals and Scout and 46th by 247Sports after ranking in the 80s for most of the last few weeks.

Related: Athlon Sports Consensus 2014 National Team Recruiting Rankings

NSD ’14 Losers

The Big 12
Oklahoma had an excellent finish to its cycle with the additions of Michiah Quick (No. 56) and Steven Parker (No. 108), but on the whole, it was once again a disappointing season on the recruiting trail for the Big 12. New Texas coach Charlie Strong had to recruit against Mack Brown down the stretch and finished well outside of the top 10 (No. 15). Texas’ class would be just the ninth-best class in the SEC and no other Big 12 team landed in the top 25 nationally. As a league, the Big 12 signed just seven top-100 prospects after inking just four top-100 players last year and six the year before that. By comparison, the SEC signed 45 top-100 recruits this cycle and, more painfully, former Big 12 member Texas A&M signed more five-star prospects (3) on Wednesday than its former conference combined (2). This is still a great league with great programs and solid classes but the elite-level talent doesn’t seem to be heading to the Heartland any longer.

UCLA
The Bruins landed a solid overall class, finishing 21st overall in the team rankings. But when the dust settled in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the Bruins hadn’t won many battles on Signing Day. Kenny Young (No. 175) from New Orleans picked the Bruins but UCLA missed out on every other prospect it was in on. Five-star talents Adoree’ Jackson, Malachi Dupre and JuJu Smith went elsewhere while Damien Mama, Michiah Quick and Budda Baker shunned UCLA as well. More importantly, three of them — Jackson, Smith and Mama — signed with the crosstown rival Trojans of USC while Baker went to Washington. This is a solid class that finished fourth in the Pac-12, however, with a strong day, Jim Mora could have boasted the best class in the league. Instead, USC is celebrating that moniker.

Michigan
Brady Hoke wasn’t expecting to have a dramatic finish to his ’14 cycle but the Michigan brand was noticeably absent from any meaningful conversations on Signing Day. The class dropped out of the top 20 nationally as other teams leapt ahead of the Wolverines. The Maize and Blue finished second in the Big Ten, but fell significantly behind Ohio State in the team ranks. Hoke missed out on a five-star in-state talent in defensive end Malik McDowell, who picked arch rival Michigan State instead, and the Wolverines weren't even in the mix for anyone else. It wasn’t supposed to be a big class but the 16 signatures are the fewest by any team ranked in the top 40. So while Michigan treaded water on NSD, Penn State, Michigan State and Maryland made moves and gained ground on the Wolverines within the division. Few schools nationally lost as much momentum on the recruiting trail throughout the course of the football season as the Wolverines did in losing five of their last six games.

Expansion Teams
Conference expansion has been a huge part of college football over the past few years and it has changed the way some teams are viewed on the recruiting trail. TCU was accustomed to signing the best classes in the Mountain West but finished outside of the top 50 nationally and eighth in the Big 12 on Wednesday. Utah and Colorado boast two of the worst Big 5 classes in the nation as Rivals ranks the Utes last in the Pac-12 while 247Sports ranked Colorado last in the league. Louisville is normally sitting atop its league in the Big East or AAC when it comes to recruiting. However, the Cards ranked ninth in the ACC and 47th overall by 247Sports, was 10th in the ACC and 46th overall by Rivals and didn’t get a top 40 mention by ESPN. Additionally, Syracuse and Pitt finished ninth and 12th respectively in the ACC while Maryland and Rutgers finished ninth and 10th respectively in the Big Ten. Even Nebraska finished sixth in the Big Ten.

Arkansas
Bret Bielema had a nice group, finishing 31st nationally in the team rankings. However, the Hogs, a team that finished very well last year with Alex Collins and Denver Kirkland, missed on their two big targets in Solomon Thomas (Stanford) and Richard Yeargin III (Clemson) this year. The Hogs finished 11th in the SEC in the team ranks, miles behind the top four classes in the league — all of which hail from the SEC West (Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn). The already steep uphill climb appears to be getting tougher rather than easier for the Hogs' field general.

Purdue and Illinois
Neither the Boilermakers nor the Illini had a lot left on their boards entering the day but both Purdue and Illinois finished at the bottom of the Big Ten. The duo finished 70th (Purdue) and 71st (Illinois) respectively in 247Sports national team rankings and finished only ahead of Colorado among Big 5 schools. Tim Beckman was last in the Big Ten in recruiting this year and Darrell Hazell was 13th. The already extremely difficult turnaround projects in West Lafayette and Champaign don’t appear to be getting any easier. And, by the way, Indiana had a solid class ranked in the top 50 nationally by some.

Teaser:
National Signing Day 2014 Winners and Losers
Post date: Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/2014-consensus-national-team-recruiting-rankings
Body:

Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus Top 40 team rankings for 2014 — with a familiar name atop the standings once again.

• The SEC dominated again, landing the top two slots, seven of the top nine and 10 of the top 20 classes. Bama won its third straight recruiting title and the SEC's sixth in seven years. The only three teams with top-20 classes and losing records in 2013 were from the SEC (Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky).

• Ohio State left everyone else in the Big Ten in their dust. Michigan dropped on signing day and the rest of the Big Ten stood fairly still. The Buckeyes are lapping the field in the B1G when it comes to recruiting.

• The Trojans are back with a vengeance as they landed three top-40 players, including two five-stars on NSD. Coach Sark closed with a fury and landed the Pac-12's highest-rated class.

• The rest of the Pac-12 held its own, however. Stanford was awesome on Wednesday and Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Arizona all landed top-30 classes as well.

• The Big 12 struggled again. Oklahoma and Texas had strong classes but those two schools are accustomed to being in the top five nationally not 13th and 15th respectively. No other Big 12 team landed in the top 25 and only seven total top-100 players signed with the Big 12.

RankTeam (signees) 247RivalsScoutESPN
1.Alabama (26)1111
2.LSU (23)2222
3.Florida St (29)4433
4.Ohio St (23)3357
5.Tennessee (33)7545
6.

Texas A&M (21)

5674
7.Auburn (23)6988
8.Florida (24)9796
9.Georgia (21)88129
10.Notre Dame (23)1011611
11.USC (19)11101014
12.Miami (26)12121110
13.Oklahoma (27)14151313
14.Stanford (20)13141515
15.Texas (23)17201617
16.Ole Miss (26)16191818
17.Clemson (20)18132812
18.South Carolina (21)15162419
19.Kentucky (29)22172020
20.Arizona St (28)23211721
21.UCLA (19)19181927
22.Michigan (16)20312716
23.Oregon (20)21262226
24.Penn St (25)24242524
25.Michigan St (22)25222129
26.Oklahoma St (29)28271428
27.Baylor (28)26342322
28.Arizona (28)31283023
29.North Carolina (22)29233132
30.Virginia Tech (27)27253731
31.Arkansas (24)30293330
32.NC State (30)34302638
33.Wisconsin (26)33332934
34.Virginia (17)32404925
35.Missouri (28)39353233
36.Nebraska (25)35323440
37.West Virginia (22)36384037
38.Texas Tech (27)41433535
39.Washington (24)37363645
40.Mississippi St (23)38413936

 Also receiving votes: Indiana, TCU, USF, Northwestern

Teaser:
2014 Consensus National Team Recruiting Rankings
Post date: Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-top-15-recruiting-class-modern-era
Body:

The "modern" recruiting era is tied directly to the online recruiting websites. Rivals and Scout began the explosion around 2001 and ESPN and 247Sports have powerfully entered the market since. The rankings databases only go back 10 or 11 years, so it is difficult to evaluate historic recruiting classes. But since the turn of the millennium, fans and analysts alike have a tremendous amount of data to evaluate recruiting rankings, talent development and scouting evaluations.

Studying recruiting rankings can highlight coaching deficiencies as well as the overachievers. That said, the best recruiting classes of the modern era are more about salesmanship, brand equity, the NFL and big-time athletic department budgets.

Here are the top 15 recruiting classes of the modern era:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2008

Rank: 1st (Athlon Sports), 32 signees
Key Players: Mark Barron, Julio Jones, Terrence Cody, Marcel Dareus, Dont'a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Courtney Upshaw, Damion Square, Michael Williams, Robert Lester, Brad Smelley

Nowhere is the impact of recruiting rankings more apparent that in Tuscaloosa, Ala. On the verge of signing yet another No. 1 class, Nick Saban began his domination of the recruiting trail back in 2008 when he signed Athlon Sports’ No. 1 class. This group was a huge part of the 2009 national championship and obviously was featured in both the '11 and '12 title runs. This group includes five first-round picks and two second-rounders among those who went on to play at the next level. It is hard to argue that a group that won three BCS titles and features double-digit NFL draft picks isn’t the best modern collection of talent ever assembled.

2. USC Trojans, 2003

Rank: 3rd (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Reggie Bush, Sam Baker, Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson, Ryan Kalil, Terrell Thomas, Steve Smith, LenDale White, Fili Moala, John David Booty, Eric Wright, Brandon Ting, Ryan Ting, Drean Rucker, Chauncey Washington

Much like the ’08 Alabama group, this team experienced three national championship runs. Only two ended in victory — it lost to Texas in 2005, but more on that in a second — but this class was the foundation of USC's Pac-10 dynasty. Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy and is one of four first-round picks from this class. Steve Smith, Terrell Thomas, Ryan Kalil and LenDale White were second-round picks while still others went later in the draft. USC dominated recruiting for nearly a decade and it led to seven conference championships from 2002-08.

3. Florida Gators, 2006

Rank: 2nd (Rivals), 27 signees
Key Players: Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Maurice Hurt, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Lawrence Marsh, Brandon James, Marcus Gilbert, Terron Sanders, Dustin Doe, AJ Jones, Carl Johnson

At one point or another, 16 of the 27 recruits in this class went on to start a game for the Gators. But this class was led at the top by elite superstars Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes. Jermaine Cunningham and Spikes were second-rounders while Maurice Hurt and Riley Cooper went later in the draft. Tebow alone makes this class a gem for Florida and it led directly to two BCS national championships. The depth in the middle and at the bottom are nearly as impressive as the elite-level talent of the top names.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 

Rank: 3rd (Athlon), 28 signees
Key Players: AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, Eddie Lacy, Quinton Dial, Nico Johnson, Ed Stinson, Anthony Steen, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick

This group was a big part of three national championships at the Capstone and played a much bigger role in the 2012 title than the '08 haul. This class has already featured six first-round picks and a few more (such as AJ McCarron) should hear their name called in May. An interesting thing to note about this class is the offensive line. It was the best OL in the nation in 2012 and three-fifths of the starters signed in this class.

5. Texas Longhorns, 2002

Rank: 1st (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Vince Young, Kasey Studdard, Rod Wright, Brian Robison, Aaron Ross, Chase Pittman, Justin Blalock, Aaron Harris, David Thomas, Selvin Young

This group was the core of the 2005 national championship run led by superstar quarterback and five-star recruit Vince Young. He was the gem of the nation’s No. 1 class that eventually featured numerous NFL Draft picks. Ross, Studdard, Wright, Robison, Pittman, Thomas and Blalock were all huge pieces to Mack Brown’s championship puzzle and most of them have gone on to excel in the NFL.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002

Rank: 5th (Rivals), 24 signees
Key Players: AJ Hawk, Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold, Troy Smith, Maurice Clarett, Bobby Carpenter, Mike D’Andrea, Doug Datish, Quinn Pitcock, Nate Salley, Roy Hall

This class was a big part of the 2002 national championship run as just freshmen, with Maurice Clarett playing the biggest role. This group features elite offensive firepower and Troy Smith, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who led his team to the national title game in 2006. This group provided four first-round picks in the 2006 NFL Draft and included six other picks from the 2005-07 drafts as well. Three BCS title appearances and four Big Ten titles over a five-year span indicate that Jim Tressell’s ’02 haul was one of the best in recent memory.

7. Oklahoma Sooners, 2006

Rank: 9th (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Trent Williams, Demarco Murray, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter, Chris Brown, Dominique Franks, Mossis Madu, Tim Johnson, Brandon Caleb, Malcolm Williams, Chase Beeler

All four Sooners who went in first round of the 2010 NFL Draft signed with Bob Stoops in this class and all four NFL draft picks from Oklahoma in the '11 draft came from this class too. Sam Bradford set all types of records, won the Heisman Trophy and led this team to the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. Even a guy who ended up transferring (Beeler) went on to star at his second school (Stanford).

8. Florida State Seminoles, 2011
Rank: 1st (Athlon), 29 signees
Key Players: Kelvin Benjamin, Nick O'Leary, Timmy Jernigan, Terrance Smith, Tank Carradine, Rashad Greene, James Wilder, Bobby Hart, Devonta Freeman, Josue Matias, Tre Jackson, Nile Lawrence-Stample, Nick Waisome, Jacob Coker, Jacob Fahrenkrug

This group already has proven itself, as one of the deepest hauls in history led directly to a BCS National Championship. The following class in 2012 — Jameis Winston, Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, Chris Casher — might eventually be better, but for now the '11 group is the best of the Jimbo Fisher era. This group, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Athlon Sports in 2011, featured over a dozen starters on the '13 title team and has already delivered two ACC titles as well.

9. LSU Tigers, 2009

Rank: 1st (Athlon Sports), 24 signees
Key Players: Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Kevin Minter, Rueben Randle, Chris Faulk, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Chris Davenport, Bennie Logan, Michael Ford, Craig Loston, Josh Downs, Stavion Lowe, Lamin Barrow, Russell Shepard

This group was the foundation of the 13-0 regular season run to the title game in 2011. And had it finished the job against Alabama, it might be considered the better group. The potential of this class is astounding. It features three first-round picks in Morris Claiborne (6th overall in 2012), Michael Brockers (14th, 2012), and Barkevious Mingo (6th, 2013), and three others were selected in last year's NFL Draft as well. Three-fourths of the starting 2012 defensive line signed in this group as well as star linebacker Kevin Minter. The star power is obvious but the supporting cast is impressive as well.

10. Oregon Ducks, 2008

Rank: 16th (Athlon Sports), 22 signees
Key Players: LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Darron Thomas, Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, John Boyett, Nick Cody, Hamani Stevens, LeGarrette Blount, Josh Kaddu, DeWitt Stuckey, Jeremiah Masoli

Four members of this class (Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, Kenjon Barner, John Boyett) were taken in the 2013 NFL Draft alone. Darron Thomas was the most productive quarterback in school history over two years and led his team to the BCS National Championship Game. Two starting offensive linemen helped pave the way for a trio of running backs any school would covet in one class (Barner, LaMichael James, LeGarrette Blount). The defense is also well represented with steady leaders (Boyett) as well as athletic freaks of nature (Jordan, Alonso). This class went 40-5 in Pac-12 play over a five-year period of time from 2008-12.

10. Michigan State Spartans, 2010

Rank: 25th (Athlon), 22 signees
Key Players: Max Bullough, William Gholston, Kurtis Drummond, Darqueze Dennard, Le'Veon Bell, Jeremy Langford, Marcus Rush, Isaiah Lewis, Nick Hill, Keith Mumphrey, Tony Lippett

It may not have the elite NFL talent of some of the Saban or Carroll classes but fewer units have meant more to their program than the 22 guys Mark Dantonio inked in 2010. This class made up the majority of the nation's top defense, including the Thorpe Award winner, that led the Spartans to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl championship for the first time in 25 years. Two All-Big Ten running backs, William Gholston and a host of contributors in the passing game complete a class loaded with long-time starters and veteran senior leaders. This has to considered Dantonio's finest work on the recruiting trail.

11. Auburn Tigers, 2010

Rank: 7th (Athlon), 32 signees
Key Players: Cam Newton, Jake Holland, Jonathon Mincy, Chad Slade, Michael Dyer, Chris Davis, Corey Lemonier, Ryan Smith, LaDarius Owens, Jeffrey Whitaker, Trovon Reed, Shon Coleman

Not many classes have produced two BCS National Championship berths, a Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall pick and one crystal football but that is just what the 2010 group did for Auburn. Newton was obviously a huge get and an immediate impact player but a host of veteran starters on the 2013 SEC championship squad came to The Plains in the '10 signing class. Holland and Owens were leaders at linebacker while Mincy, Smith and Davis all started in the secondary for the SEC champs. This was a deep and talented haul that Gus Malzahn had a big part in bringing to campus. The worst season in program history in 2012 keeps this group from the top 10. 

12. Stanford Cardinal, 2009

Rank: 18th (Athlon), 22 signees
Key Players: Shayne Skov, Stepfan Taylor, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner, Tyler Gaffney, Zach Ertz, Khalil Wilkes, Levine Toilolo, Josh Mauro, Taysom Hill

Stanford had a three-year run on the recruiting trail that featured elite classes in both 2010 and '11, but the group that got it started stands out above the rest. On defense, Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and Ben Gardner are three players any coach would wish for once in a lifetime much less all in the same signing class. On offense, both Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor carried their team to Pac-12 championships and Taylor might be the best Stanford running back of all-time. Khalil Wilkes started on both of those title teams at center while a pair of NFL tight ends (Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo) are featured as well. Even BYU got its starting quarterback (Taysom Hill) from this class.

13. LSU Tigers, 2004

Rank: 2nd (Rivals), 26 signees
Key Players: Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Jacob Hester, Early Doucet, Chevis Jackson, Herman Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Craig Steltz, Claude Wroten, Tremaine Johnson, Curtis Taylor, Brett Helms, Lavelle Hawkins

The 2004 class set the foundation for the run at the '07 BCS National Championship. Glenn Dorsey and Jacob Hester were the primary leaders on both sides of the ball and eventually hoisted the crystal football. Five players were selected in the 2008 NFL Draft and four more were taken in the '09 draft. Three star defensive linemen, including two first-round picks in Dorsey and Tyson Jackson led this defense when it dominated Ohio State in the title game. Lavelle Hawkins was a big-time player but did it for Cal after transferring.

14. Georgia Bulldogs, 2009

Rank: 6th (Athlon), 19 signees

Key Players: Aaron Murray, Arthur Lynch, Branden Smith, Shawn Williams, Chris Burnette, Marlon Brown, Austin Long, Dallas Lee, Kwame Geathers, Orson Charles, Rantavious Wooten, Zach Mettenberger, Abry Jones, Washaun Ealey

This class really begins and ends with the most productive quarterback in the history of the SEC. And one that beat Florida like few in school history ever had. Aaron Murray headlines an excellent offensive class that features multiple starting offensive linemen, a trio of extremely athletic pass-catchers and arguably the nation's best tight end in 2013 in Arthur Lynch. Zach Mettenberger didn't last long at Georgia, but eventually ended up at LSU and was the Tigers' starting quarterback the past two seasons. The defense got plenty of production from Shawn Williams, Branden Smith and Kwame Geathers during two runs to the SEC Championship Game. Had this group, in particular, Murray, ever finished with a title, it would be ranked higher.

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 2009

Rank: 14th (Athlon), 18 signees
Key Players: Manti Te'o, Zack Martin, Tyler Eifert, Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, Zeke Motta, Chris Watt, Alex Bullard, Jake Golic, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Tyler Stockton

This class is headlined by Manti Te'o, one of the most decorated defensive players in college football history. Tyler Eifert was a first-round pick last year and Zack Martin, one of the best players in the nation at his position, leads a strong collection of offensive line talent. Both Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick were solid contributors on offense while this haul also featured a host of defensive starters for a team that went undefeated in the 2012 regular season and put the Irish in the BCS title game.

The Best of the Rest:

Wisconsin Badgers, 2009
Rank: 39th (Athlon), 21 signees
Key Players: Montee Ball, Chris Borland, Jacob Pedersen, Ryan Groy, Travis Frederick, Dezmen Southward, Jordan Kohout, David Gilbert, Tyler Dippell, Conor O'Neill, Pat Muldoon

Florida Gators, 2007
Rank: 1st (Rivals), 27 signees
Key Players: Ahmad Black, Carlos Dunlap, Joe Haden, Chas Henry, Aaron Hernandez, Cam Newton, Chris Rainey, Maurkice Pouncey, Michael Pouncey, Major Wright, John Brantley

Georgia Bulldogs, 2006
Rank: 4th (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Asher Allen, Geno Atkins, Shaun Chapas, Akeem Dent, Kris Durham, Akeem Hebron, Reshad Jones, Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford, Kiante Tripp, Clifton Geathers, Prince Miller

Ohio State Buckeyes, 2008
Rank: 2nd (Athlon), 20 signees
Key Players: Mike Adams, Terrelle Pryor, Travis Howard, DeVier Posey, Michael Brewster, Nathan Williams, Garrett Goebel, Etienne Sabino, JB Shurgarts, Andrew Sweat

LSU Tigers, 2003
Rank: 1st (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: LaRon Landry, Will Arnold, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Matt Flynn, Alley Broussard, Anthony Hill, JaMarcus Russell, Jonathon Zenon, Justin Vincent

Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 2008
Rank: 4th (Athlon Sports), 23 signees
Key Players: Kyle Rudolph, Michael Floyd, Braxton Cave, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Jamoris Slaughter, Mike Golic, Robert Blanton, Darius Fleming, John Goodman, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Steven Filer, Sean Cwynar, Dayne Crist, Ethan Johnson

Texas Longhorns, 2005
Rank: 20th (Rivals), 15 signees
Key Players: Colt McCoy, Roddrick Muckelroy, Henry Melton, Jermichael Finley, Quan Cosby, Jamaal Charles, Chris Brown, Aaron Lewis, Roy Miller

USC Trojans, 2005
Rank: 1st (Rivals), 19 signees
Key Players: Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, Mark Sanchez, Kevin Ellison, Charles Brown, Patrick Turner, Kyle Moore, Kaluka Maiava, Will Harris, Cary Harris

Teaser:
College Football: The Top 15 Recruiting Class of the Last 10 Years
Post date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/national-signing-day-2014-announcement-watchlist
Body:

According to 247Sports, there are 283 four-star prospects and 33 five-star recruits in the class of 2014.

All of them will officially become a member of a college football team on National Signing Day 2014 (NSD). Well, at least, they are supposed to, but who knows what will happen when dealing with 17 and 18 year olds.

Of those 316 four- and five-star recruits in the ’14 class, currently 29 of them have yet to make their college decision. Will someone pull the Bryce Brown or Terrelle Pryor and wait to sign after NSD? Will someone’s mom forge a signature or hire a lawyer to fight her son’s decision? And what types of props will be used?

All of this stuff is wild, wacky and memorable but the only thing that really matters on signing day is where that Letter of Intent get faxed.

Here are the top rated uncommitted prospects who will put pen to paper on Wednesday (ranking by 247):

The Five-Stars

7. Adoree Jackson, CB (5-9, 182)
Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra
Schools: USC, Florida, LSU, UCLA
Time: SIGNED

15. Rashaan Evans, LB (6-3, 220)
Auburn (Ala.) High
Schools: Auburn, Alabama
Time: SIGNED

17. Malachi Dupre, WR (6-2, 190)
New Orleans (La.) John Curtis
Schools: LSU, Florida St, UCLA
Time: SIGNED

18. Lorenzo Carter, DE (6-5, 232)
Norcross (Ga.) High
Schools: Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Florida
Time: SIGNED

20. JuJu Smith, ATH (6-1, 200)
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Schools: USC, Notre Dame, UCLA
Time: SIGNED

24. Ermon Lane, WR (6-3, 190)
Homestead (Fla.) High
Schools: Florida St, Miami, Florida, Alabama
Time: SIGNED

25. Solomon Thomas, DE (6-2, 260)
Coppell (Texas) High
Schools: Stanford, Texas, Ohio St, Arkansas
Time: SIGNED

27. Damian Prince, OL (6-5, 295)
District Heights (Md.) Bishop McNamara
Schools: Maryland, Florida, Florida St, Ohio St
Time: SIGNED

32. Malik McDowell, DE (6-7, 290)
Southfield (Mich.) High
Schools: Michigan St, Michigan, Ohio St, Florida St
Time: SIGNED

The Top 100

38. Damien Mama, OG (6-4, 360)
Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Schools: USC, UCLA, Notre Dame
Time: SIGNED

55. Budda Baker, ATH (5-9, 175)
Bellevue (Wash.) High
Schools: Washington, UCLA, Oregon
Time: SIGNED

56. Michiah Quick, ATH (6-0, 170)
Fresno (Calif.) Central East
Schools: Oklahoma, Notre Dame, UCLA
Time: SIGNED

63. Braden Smith, OG (6-6, 290)
Olathe (Kan.) South
Schools: TCU, Auburn, Texas A&M
Time: SIGNED

65. Travonte Valentine, DT (6-3, 335)
Hialeah (Fla.) Champagnat Catholic
Schools: LSU, Miami
Time: SIGNED

99. Derrick Nnadi, DT (6-1, 305)
Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes
Schools: Virginia Tech, Florida St, Virginia
Time: SIGNED

The Rest of the Four-Stars

103. Nifae Lealao, DE (6-5, 282)
Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian
Schools: Vanderbilt, Stanford
Time: SIGNED

108. Steven Parker, S (6-2, 190)
Jenks (Okla.) High
Schools: Oklahoma, Texas A&M
Time: SIGNED

125. Roderick Johnson, OT (6-6, 315)
Florissant (Mo.) Hazelwood Central
Schools: Florida St, Ohio St
Time: SIGNED

160. Wesley Green, CB (5-11, 170)
Lithonia (Ga.) MLK
Schools: South Carolina, Georgia, Clemson
Time: SIGNED

173. Hoza Scott, LB (6-2, 225)
La Porte (Texas) High
Schools: Texas A&M, Alabama, Florida, LSU
Time: SIGNED (Blinn Junior College)

175. Kenny Young, LB (6-2, 220)
New Orleans (La.) John Curtis
Schools: UCLA, LSU, Texas A&M
Time: SIGNED

205. Chris Lammons, CB (5-9, 170)
Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Plantation
Schools: South Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin
Time: SIGNED

226. Donte Thomas-Williams, RB (6-0, 220)
Durham (N.C.) Hillside
Schools: West Virginia, Florida St, Clemson
Time: SIGNED

231. Andrew Williams, DE (6-4, 250)
McDonough (Ga.) Eagle’s Landing Christian
Schools: Auburn, Clemson, Georgia
Time: SIGNED

245. Raymon Minor, ATH (6-3, 210)
Richmond (Va.) Benedictine
Schools: Virginia Tech, Marshall, Nebraska, Cincinnati
Time: SIGNED

263. Poona Ford, DT (6-0, 285)
Hilton Head (S.C.) High
Schools: Texas, South Carolina, Louisville, Missouri
Time: SIGNED

266. Richard Yeargin III, LB (6-4, 225)
Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School
Schools: Clemson, Notre Dame, Texas, Arkansas
Time: SIGNED

300. Daniel Cage, DT (6-3, 295)
Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods
Schools: Michigan St, Louisville, Missouri, Notre Dame
Time: SIGNED

307. Isaiah McKenzie, WR (5-8, 175)
Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage
Schools: Georgia, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Notre Dame
Time: SIGNED

Teaser:
National Signing Day 2014 Announcement Watchlist
Post date: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-national-signing-days-wildest-tales
Body:

Children are complicated, fickle, naive creatures who seldom have any perspective on the trappings of adult life. Few 16-year-old kids in this country know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Hell, most of them have never even done their own taxes.

It’s why uniforms, shoes, weather, license plates and even a coin flip have been used to select a university in the recent past. And I don’t expect National Signing Day 2014 to be much different.

The 2014 cycle has already provided plenty of excitement. Coaches like Butch Jones, Mark Stoops and Gus Malzahn have done an elite job putting together their first full classes at SEC programs. New USC coach Steve Sarkisian is preparing for a monster final day of recruiting. And April Justin, mother of Landon Collins and Gerald Willis, has not once (Collins, 2012) but twice (Willis, 2014) witnessed her offspring shun the in-state LSU Tigers for an out-of-state SEC rival against Mama's wishes on national TV (Willis picked Florida over LSU).

Willis is just one of many interesting, bewildering and sometimes hilarious recruiting decisions. My personal favorite came from Florida State signee Fred Rouse. On our national radio show on Sirius, he was asked, where are you going to college? And Rouse responded with “You know, a lot of people want me to go here or there. But I had to think, you know, what Fred wanna do? And Fred want to go to Florida State.” I think I have replayed that clip a thousand times since. The first-person, verbally illiterate announcement was absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately for everyone involved, his career wasn’t nearly as entertaining on the football field as it was on radio airwaves.

The Imaginary Scholarship

Nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernley (Nev.) High wanted to play college football so badly that he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On Feb. 1, 2008, Hart held a historic announcement at his high school in which he picked Cal over Oregon. “Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement.

There was only one problem. Jeff Tedford had never spoken too, visited or contacted Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.

The Forged Signature

April Justin isn’t the first parent to disapprove of their son’s educational choices. In 2011, Reserve (La.) East St. John defensive back Floyd Raven had decided that Texas A&M was the right school for him. There was only one issue, however, his letter of intent had already been sent to Ole Miss. The Rebels' admissions department couldn’t read the signature and asked for a second copy. Raven’s mother wanted him to go to Ole Miss so badly, that she had forged the signature and sent it to Oxford without her son’s knowledge. Eventually, Floyd learned of his mother’s “betrayal” and sent the appropriately signed paperwork to Texas A&M.

The Coin Flip

It takes thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars to recruit athletes at the highest level. But in 2009, Atco (N.J.) Winslow Township linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud trimmed the entire process to a few cents. After taking five school-funded official visits, Glaud had narrowed his list to West Virginia and Rutgers. But the linebacker was still so torn he couldn’t make up his mind. So naturally, he decided to let chance decide his fate as he literally flipped a coin between the two programs. Heads he goes to WVU, tails he goes to Rutgers. He has posted 47 total tackles in three seasons for the Scarlet Knights.

The Five-Minute Flip-Flop

Flip-flops happen in recruiting all the time – especially, as National Signing Day draws near. The recruiting picture gets clearer for all parties involved, while schools get desperate to fill needs with late scholarship offers. Cyrus Kouandjio, the nation’s No. 2 player in 2011, however, made heads spin in record time a few years ago. An offensive tackle from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha, Kouandjio's older brother, Arie, was already at Alabama. Yet Cyrus announced on ESPN that he would be attending Auburn, not Alabama. No more than five minutes after the bright TV lights had gone out, however, the younger Kouandjio recanted his pledge to the Tigers. He never sent in his letter of intent to Auburn and three days later it was revealed he had officially signed with Alabama via Twitter. Longtime commitments are snaked away at the last minute every season, but never has a kid committed on national television only to decide to sign with someone else five minutes later. The venom of the Yellowhammer rivalry only added to the drama of the younger Kouandjio's signing.

Lone Star Identity Theft

The Ron Weaver saga wasn’t really a huge story on National Signing Day since he completely duped an entire university with identity fraud in 1996. In fact, it is the last documented case of identity fraud in major college football.

Ron Weaver signed with Texas and played every game of the regular season in the 1996 season under coach John Mackovic as a 23-year old defensive back. There was only one problem. Weaver was actually a 30-year old by the name of Ron McKelvey who had used up his collegiate eligibility when he play at Sacramento State back in 1989. He duped Mackovic, the University of Texas at Austin and the NCAA — which later found no wrongdoing in the case by the school. Weaver was suspended the day before the Longhorns lost to the Hokies in the Sugar Bowl.

Mom Hires A Lawyer

Alex Collins, a four-star running back from Miami who had an excellent first year in the SEC, was one of the biggest stories on NSD ’13. He announced he was signing with Arkansas but it was reported that his mother, Andrea McDonald, had absconded with her son’s Letter of Intent and went into hiding. She wanted him to stay close to home at play for the University of Miami and made sure everyone knew about it.

It was later reported that she did not, in fact, steal the LOI but still stood firmly against letting her son play at Arkansas. So Collins had to have a second ceremony where he signed another LOI, this time with his father’s approval. While this was going on, it was reported that McDonald hired an attorney to “represent the family’s interests.” Her efforts ultimately fell on deaf ears and Collins, wearing, of course, a camouflage suit, signed with Bret Bielema and Arkansas.

For what it was worth, Collins was named SEC Offensive Freshman of the Year this past season after rushing for 1,026 yards on 190 carries.

The Announcement Props

I am not one who enjoys recruiting announcements. They are filled with superfluous rhetoric from coaches, analysts and handlers. They go on too long and rarely does a recruit offer any pertinent news or information other than his college of choice. Every now and then, however, if done with style, an announcement can be fun – or infuriating. Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell made fans coo when he pulled out an actual Bulldog puppy to signify his decision to play for Mark Richt in Athens. Andre Smith sent the Crimson Tiders into hysterics when he pulled out the houndstooth hat at his announcement for Alabama.

But Antonio Logan-El’s live announcement back in 2006 was met with a slightly harsher response. The Forestville (Md.) High offensive lineman had been committed to Maryland for the better part of a year. While dressed in Maryland red in front of a Terps crowd at the ESPN Sportszone in Maryland — including head coach Ralph Friedgen’s wife — Logan-El first pulled out a Florida hat before tossing it to the ground. He then pulled out a Tennessee hat. That, too, was tossed aside before picking up the Terps black and red headgear. After a few nice words, Logan-El threw his Maryland hat to the ground and held up a picture of Joe Paterno and announced he would be heading to Penn State. The decision was met with screams of “traitor” and violence nearly resulted. Logan-El, much to the pleasure of Terps fans, washed out at Penn State after only one redshirt year.

At least he actually made a decision, however, as the worst recruiting press conference in history has to belong to Greg Little. The peculiar wide receiver held a press conference in October of his senior year to announce what school he would be attending. Fans waited with anticipation while Little huddled with his family and coaches for a long period of time. He emerged from the mini-summit to announce that he had narrowed his list to Notre Dame and North Carolina. It’s the only news conference I can remember where a recruit officially announced that there was nothing to announce.

The Slimy Mentor

The most recent trend for elite recruits, for some reason unbeknownst to me, is to wait until after National Signing Day to make a decision. Terrelle Pryor, Orson Charles, Latwan Anderson, Vidal Hazelton, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio and 2011's top prospect Jadeveon Clowney all signed their LOIs well past signing day. But Wichita (Kan.) East running back Bryce Brown, and his handler/mentor/coach/agent/leech Brian Butler, set a new low for recruiting sludge back in 2009.

Brown, whose older brother Arthur was enrolled at Miami, had been committed to the Hurricanes from the early stages. He did not sign on NSD and instead took a couple of extra visits to Tennessee and LSU after Signing Day. While Brown watched the calendar flip to March without a decision, Butler, who was a convicted felon and fledgling rapper, set up a website in order to charge $9.99 per month for recruiting updates on his protégé.

Threats from Butler about Brown potentially skipping college for the Canadian Football League only further exemplified how ridiculous the handler’s influence was over Brown. Meanwhile, Miami (and others) stopped recruiting the troubled tailback until halfway through March, when Brown got “a sign from god” to go to Tennessee. Arthur left Miami for Kansas State (where he became an All-American) shortly thereafter. Bryce lasted one year in Knoxville before transferring back to Kansas State as well. He played in two games in 2011, got three carries and comically declared for the 2012 NFL Draft where we was a seventh-round pick of the Eagles.

Obviously, most of the names who waited until beyond Signing Day to make their decision official have had major trouble getting their careers started on the next level (with the exception of Clowney). So there does appear to be a fairly simple and obvious lesson to be learned here: Sign the stinking papers and get to work because nothing is guaranteed on the next level.

Teaser:
College Football: National Signing Day's Wildest Tales
Post date: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/national-signing-day-14-preview-sec-james-franklin-and-other-wackiness-watch
Body:

College football will welcome more than 3,000 new faces to its ranks on Wednesday.

National Signing Day is a mix between Christmas morning and Valentine’s Day for most diehard NCAA fans. New toys in the form of 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebackers are neatly wrapped under the tree and new crushes are fawned over by fan and coach alike when a bunch of high school prospects sign their Letter of Intent for the first time — making them an official member of a collegiate roster.

Every year, the media and fans (as well as many athletic directors) make a big fuss about recruits decommitting and switching teams, especially when coaches change jobs around this time of year. “Recruits commit to a school, not a coach” is the standard cry across the board.

I am here to tell you this isn’t true. Recruits commit to a coach and they sign with a school. All is fair in love and recruiting.

So National Signing Day is the first time that anything binding between recruit and school takes place. These future stars can commit to whomever they like for months on end, but come NSD, they must put pen to paper to certify their final decision.

To be sure, it isn’t an easy one to make. It is a decision that will shape and mold the rest of their lives. And not just on the football field.

It’s an intense and stressful but very fun time for all parties involved — coaches, players, fans and, yes, even us in the media (try an 18-hour work day trying to sift through 3,000-plus new roster additions).

Love or hate recruiting rankings, the bottom line is NSD matters in a big way. It shapes and molds the future of college football and is the lifeblood of future championships.

To those who don’t agree with imperfect “star rankings” I submit this fact: Of the 32 teams to play in the BCS National Championship Game, only one, Virginia Tech in 1999, had an average recruiting ranking outside of the top 15.

You gotta have quality players to win titles, folks. Plain and simple.

So how will the 2014 edition of NSD influence college football? What are the storylines to watch? The teams and players to keep an eye on? And what wackiness will ensue?

Here is what I am watching for come Wednesday:

How bad ass is the SEC?

The SEC's reign of terror technically ended in January when Florida State finally snapped the Southeastern Conference’s seven-year BCS title streak. Mike “Vito” Slive has finally been slain.

Or has he? No matter which recruiting service you subscribe to, the SEC is still the top dog. And it’s not even close.

According to 247Sports, seven of the top 10 and 10 of the top 20 classes heading into Wednesday hail from the SEC. According to Rivals, six of the top 10 and nine of the top 15 classes heading into NSD are SEC programs. Scout has seven of the top 12 classes coming from the SEC. ESPN’s team rankings include seven SEC teams in its top 10 as well.

Using Athlon Sports’ composite team rankings and assuming that Alabama will hold onto the top spot again this year, the No. 1 class in the nation has come from the SEC in six of the last seven years, including what will be Nick Saban’s third straight No. 1 class. More impressively, three different teams have claimed the mythical recruiting national championship as Florida claimed the top spot in 2010 and LSU in '09 (Bama won it in '08).

The only non-SEC team to win the recruiting championship according to Athlon Sports was, you guessed it, Florida State in 2011. That class helped lead the Seminoles to a BCS title this season.

Finally, the No. 1 recruit in the nation will sign with an SEC school for the fifth straight year when New Orleans running back Leonard Fournette signs with LSU. Again, what’s more impressive is that all five No. 1 overall players have come from different SEC states and signed with different SEC schools.

YearTop PlayerPos.SchoolHometown
2014Leonard FournetteRBLSUNew Orleans, La.
2013Robert NkemdicheDLOle MissLoganville, Ga.
2012Dorial Green-BeckhamWRMizzouSpringfield, Mo.
2011Jadeveon ClowneyDESouth CarolinaRock Hill, S.C.
2010Ronald PowellDEFloridaMoreno Valley, Calif.

Will the Big 12 struggle… again?

Keith Ford was the top-rated recruit in the Big 12 last year, finishing as the No. 24 overall player in the nation according to the 247 composite rankings. He would have been the 14th-rated player in the SEC, the sixth-rated Pac-12 recruit and only the fourth-best player in the ACC. In all, only four of the top 100 players in the nation signed with the Big 12 in 2013 — down from 10 the year before. By comparison, the SEC bragged 42 top-100 signees last year while 11 of the 14 SEC programs inked at least one top-100 player.

Will 2014 continue what has to be a very scary trend for the Big 12? It appears so. Heading into NSD, the Big 12 has six top-100 players committed thus far while the SEC boasts 41. That is a massive talent differential that no coach — not even Bill Synder — can overcome. The Big Ten now boasts two of the most dynamic recruiting personalities in the nation (more on that in a second), the ACC just claimed the national title and the Pac-12 appears to be on par with the SEC. If the Big 12 doesn’t regain its recruiting strength — looking at you “Stronghorns” — the league could significantly fall behind the rest of college football in a dangerous way.

The James Franklin ripple effect

Vanderbilt had a top-25 class when James Franklin left Nashville to return home to The Keystone State to coach Penn State. No one can blame him for the move but what he has done to the Dores' recruiting class is downright absurd. Vandy has some quality prospects set to sign on Wednesday but is now ranked 82nd in the nation by 247Sports. So unless new coach Derek Mason works a few minor miracles, the Commodores are looking at an extremely disappointing class in 2014.

On the flip side, Penn State’s recruiting has been buoyed by the addition of Franklin and his crack staff of ace recruiters. The Lions flipped five of the Dores' commitments and have jumped way up the team rankings into the top 25. The Lions, despite major scholarship limitations, are competing with the likes of Oregon, South Carolina and Oklahoma for positioning in the team rankings. Basically, Franklin has been a godsend for the Nittany Lions.

But the ripples from Franklin's new address go much farther than just State College or Nashville, Tenn. Franklin’s emergence in the Big Ten is a direct challenge to the recruiting powers that be in the Midwest — aka Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, Michigan and Nebraska. Bo Pelini and Dantonio are having a hard enough go of it as it is against Meyer and the Buckeyes, but Franklin knocks them even further down the pecking order. Michigan State and Nebraska are sitting at 34th and 35th respectively entering NSD. Wisconsin isn’t much better at 30th in the nation and don’t even get started with new members Rutgers and Maryland. A powerful PSU presence in the DC/Maryland and New Jersey areas are a nightmare for both programs as they enter the Big Ten fray.

The battles on the trail — and hopefully in the media — between Franklin and Meyer should be the stuff of legends. With two polarizing, take-no-prisoners personalities, its only a matter of time before the verbal barbs start flying between Columbus and State College.

Can anyone stop Nick Saban?

As mentioned earlier, Saban is looking for his fourth recruiting championship in seven seasons. That is a Pete Carroll-level of production on the recruiting trail as Saban is beginning to redefine recruiting greatness. Alabama is ranked No. 1 in all four major online services’ team rankings (ESPN, Scout, 247, Rivals) heading into NSD this week. The Tide leads the nation with five five-star commitments — no other team has more than three — and is second only to Tennessee (16) with 15 four-star commits.

Saban still has some big-time targets left on his board like five-stars Rashaan Evans, a linebacker from Auburn, Ala., or John Curtis (La.) wide receiver Malachi Dupre among others. Even if Bama misses on every one of its remaining targets on NSD (which is highly unlikely), it is still in great shape to finish atop the team rankings for the third straight year.

Ohio State, Texas A&M, LSU, Florida State and Tennessee are nipping at Saban’s heels, however. Florida State (27) and Tennessee (34) already have massive classes, yet each will find it hard to reach Bama’s level. But the Buckeyes, Bayou Bengals and Aggies each have enough space and enough targets left on the board to potentially challenge for top billing.

My prediction? Saban lands one or two more big names and crushes the field again on the recruiting trail. What he is doing right now in terms of attracting talent is downright unfair.

New coaches get their first taste

The coaching carousel had a unique year in that huge jobs came open and not many of them were filled with first-time head coaches. So while Mason at Vandy will be going through his first National Signing Day as a head coach, most new faces are old veterans when it comes to recruiting. Steve Sarkisian has not only been through many a Signing Day but has done it at USC as an assistant. Franklin’s effectiveness at Vandy was well documented and Charlie Strong recruited extremely well at Louisville.

Still, each of these names must acquaint themselves with a totally new zip code and what it takes to recruit in that area. In particular, Strong moving to a massive state with elite talent where he has very few ties. And his comments about closing the borders were direct shots at Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy and Kevin Sumlin. Now, fans in Austin will see if he can back it up on his first Signing Day on the 40 Acres.

One unique name to watch will be Chris Petersen at Washington. Coach Sark had Husky recruiting rolling when he headed south to Los Angeles and Petersen hasn’t ever had to recruit at this type of level. Can he keep U-Dub’s momentum going on the trail and is he equipped to battle the Pac-12’s big boys — Stanford, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Arizona State — when it comes to recruiting. Keep in mind, he won a lot of games at Boise State without ever calling, much less signing, a five-star recruit.

The Ol’ Switcharoo

Decommitments are a part of recruiting like official visits or Letters of Intent. Each Signing Day there will be plenty of names who flip at the last second. Some do it for family reasons. Others because a late sales pitch struck a chord. And sometimes, shockingly, adolescent teenagers change their mind at the last minute. Last year, A’Shawn Robinson flipped from Texas to Alabama and became one of the best freshmen in the SEC. A couple of years ago, top-100 wide receiver Deontay Greenberry signed with Houston without even telling Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly that he had decommitted. A big name or two will change their minds, make no mistake, so don’t be surprised when it happens.

Who will close strong?

Bobby Bowden wrote the book on closing strong over the years at Florida State and Jimbo Fisher has revived that tradition in Tallahassee. Clemson also has been a strong finisher under Dabo Swinney. Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze have proven in very short order that they are two of the best closers in the SEC currently after dominating the headlines on NSD last year.

So who will make a big move this year? Sarkisian at USC could be a prime candidate to make a big push on signing day. The Trojans could land three superstars in five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson, five-star athlete JuJu Smith and four-star blocker Damian Mama. Land all three and USC could move from outside the top 25 to near the top 10. Malzahn, Fisher and Freeze should all make waves as well on Wednesday. But don't forget about Saban at Alabama. The Tide are sure to make some big moves on Wednesday as well en route to yet another recruiting title.

General Wackiness

National Signing Day will always have some bizarre storylines. Alex Collins last year — who was one of the better running backs in the SEC this year — couldn’t get his family to sign his LOI and it turned into one of the bigger stories in 2013. How about Floyd Raven’s mother forging his signature to Mississippi State when he sent his LOI to Texas A&M? Who could forget Kevin Hart’s public selection of Cal over Oregon at a press conference? There was only one problem, he didn’t have a scholarship offer from either school and Jeff Tedford hadn’t ever heard of Hart.

And, of course, there was Ron Weaver. Weaver signed with Texas in 1996 and played most of the season, however, Ron Weaver wasn’t Ron Weaver. Weaver had assumed the identity of someone else, Ron McKelvey, and faked his way into Texas despite being a 30-year old who had run out of eligibility. The hoax was discovered just days before the Texas-Virginia Tech Sugar Bowl and Weaver/McKelvey was promptly suspended. The NCAA ruled that he had officially duped everyone, including the entire University of Texas.

So what will 2014 bring? The good money might be on April Justin. The outspoken and disappointed mother of Landon Collins and Gerald Willis. She obviously wanted them both to play at LSU and Willis is scheduled to sign with Florida. Will she let another one of her boys leave The Pelican State?

I, for one, can’t wait until tomorrow.
 

Teaser:
National Signing Day '14 Preview: The SEC, James Franklin and Other Wackiness to Watch
Post date: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-amazing-stats-super-bowl-48
Body:

The 2013 NFL season is officially over and the Seattle Seahawks have won their first-ever world championship after dominating the Denver Broncos Sunday night in Super Bowl XLVIII. While the game at MetLife Stadium might have been a massive dud for fans not from the Pacific Northwest, the 48th playing of the greatest sporting event on the planet was not without some remarkable, amazing, historic and memorable stats.

Here are the 10 best stats from Super Bowl XLVIII:

3: Coaches to win a Super Bowl and NCAA national championship
Pete Carroll’s improbable career path from failed NFL coach to championship college coach at USC to persona non grata in Los Angeles to Super Bowl champion is fascinating. But when his Seahawks dominated the Broncos 43-8 on Sunday, he joined an elite fraternity of coaches to win a title on both the college and NFL levels. Barry Switzer at Oklahoma and Jimmy Johnson at Miami both won NCAA national championships in college before winning a Super Bowl for Dallas. Carroll is now one of three men to win the NCAA title and a Super Bowl. For the record, Paul Brown won a national title at Ohio State in 1942 and then a number of NFL championships — prior to the advent of the Super Bowl.

3: Jersey number won by Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson is easy to root for. He is an affable character with a great story, great personality and great maturity. But the odds he would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this year seemed slim to none. Wilson became the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl wearing jersey No. 3 and just the second African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl (Doug Williams). He became just the fourth quarterback to win the big game in just his second season (Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Ben Roethlisberger). Wilson is also 5-foot-11 and a third-round pick (sounds like Drew Brees to me).

11-12: Peyton Manning’s playoff record as a starter
Manning was playing for a lot on Sunday. A second Super Bowl title and perhaps the legacy of being labeled the greatest of all-time. However, Manning was flustered all day, threw two critical interceptions and got little to no help from his defense. His all-time playoff record dropped below .500 again (11-12) during his remarkable career. One of his two interceptions was returned 69 yards for a touchdowns by Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith — the longest interceptions return since the Saints' Tracy Porter took one back 74 yards in Super Bow XLIV against, you guessed it, Peyton Manning. The phrase “he’s the greatest regular-season quarterback in NFL history” will be heard at every water cooler in America this week as he fell to 1-2 on Super Sunday.

0: Interceptions thrown by Russell Wilson in the playoffs
Manning is the name that gets all of the recognition. And rightly so. However, Wilson, after struggling for much of the final month of the regular season, played flawless football this postseason. After an effective performance against Denver (206 yards, 2 TDs on 72 percent passing), Wilson capped his championship run without throwing an interception in 68 attempts. His final playoff statline for this year: 43-68 (63.2 percent), 524 yards, six touchdowns, zero interceptions, 11 rushes for 42 yards. Coincidentally, zero is also the number of quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl with two different teams — something Peyton Manning would have done on Sunday had his team not laid a giant egg.

12: Seconds it took for Seattle to score the game’s first points
The fastest score in Super Bowl history was Devin Hester’s kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI. It took him 14 seconds to work his way 92 yards down the field against the Colts quarterbacked by… Peyton Manning. When Manning stepped up to the line on the first play from scrimmage Sunday night in MetLife Stadium, the snap sailed past everyone and into the end zone for a safety just 12 seconds into the game. It was the fastest points scored in Super Bowl history. It also means that Seattle led the Super Bowl for a record 59 minutes and 48 seconds.

3: Straight Super Bowls with a safety
The opening safety was as bizarre as it gets from a prop bet standpoint  — someone likely cashed in big with “safety” as the first scoring play — but the two-point play makes for an interesting Super Bowl trend. It marks the third straight Super Bowl with a safety. The Ravens took a safety late in the game to preserve the lead with four seconds to play. Two years ago, New England's first offensive play of the game was a safety when Tom Brady was called for intentional grounding with 8:52 left in the first quarter. It also was the first score of the game.

19: Minutes it took the Broncos to get a first down
Manning and the Broncos looked completely out of sorts for the entire game. Seattle’s front seven pressured him on every dropback and the running game offered little to no support — try 27 yards on 14 carries. It took 19 minutes of game time and four drives for the most prolific offense in NFL history to get a first down. The Broncos' first possession ended on one play (safety), the second was a three-and-out and the third featured Manning’s first interception on a third down. But on third-and-one roughly midway through the second quarter, Knowshon Moreno rushed five yards and picked up Denver’s first first down of the game.

13: Super Bowl-record number of receptions for Demaryius Thomas
Thomas would likely trade his personal success for more team success but at least no one can say they caught more passes in a Super Bowl than Thomas. He finished with a Super Bowl-record 13 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. The previous record was 11 held by four different players: Cincinnati tight end Dan Ross (XVI), New England’s Deion Branch (XXXIX) and Wes Welker (XLII) and the legendary Jerry Rice (XXIII).

34: Super Bowl-record numbers of completions for Peyton Manning
Like Thomas, Manning set a completely worthless record in the Super Bowl on Sunday. He completed a Super Bowl-record 34 passes on 49 attempts. The previous record was 32, set by Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers and Drew Brees against the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Both Brady and Brees took home the Lombardi Trophy.

7/1: Odds Seattle will repeat as Super Bowl champions
Vegas works quickly and the odds are out (according to Pregame.com’s RJ Bell) for Super Bowl XLIV. Seattle and Denver top the list at 7/1 and 8/1 respectively, as Bell is calling for a rematch next year. San Francisco is tied with the Broncos at 8/1 while New England (12/1), Green Bay (20/1) and New Orleans (20/1) round out the top five. Bring up the rear, Jacksonville and Oakland are the least likeliest teams to win the Super Bowl next season at 200/1.

Teaser:
10 Amazing Stats from Super Bowl 48
Post date: Monday, February 3, 2014 - 14:10
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfls-10-best-quarterback-seasons-all-time
Body:

Super Sunday has come and gone and another team has taken its place in the annals of NFL lore.

 

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are champions — the first for the franchise and the city of Seattle.

 

Pete Carroll became the third coach in American football history to win the Super Bowl and the NCAA national championship (Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer). His defense was the star of the show, scoring points and stuffing Peyton Manning unlike the football world has ever seen. Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks family.

 

Despite a horrific Super Sunday, however, Manning's 2013 campaign is still one of the best ever assembled by a professional passer. Certainly, his second Super Bowl victory would have been a better way to cap the year — and likely would have given him the greatest single season by a quarterback in NFL history — but let's not overlook a tremendous first 18 games from No. 18.

 

Toughness, leadership, statistical production, winning championships, clutch performances and overall physical ability are just a few of the ways to quantify greatness. It is using a combination of all these factors that Athlon ranks the greatest complete NFL seasons a quarterback has ever had—from Week 1 through Super Sunday.

 

1. Steve Young, San Francisco, 1994

There hasn't been a more complete NFL season than the year Young and offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan put together in 1994. The 49ers finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 13-3 while Young set an NFL single-season record for efficiency with a 112.8 QB rating, breaking the previous record set by former mentor Joe Montana. He also came 0.3 percentage points from breaking Ken Anderson's NFL mark for completion percentage at 70.6 percent (Young's 70.3 percent still sits at No. 4 all-time). He started all 16 games, finished with 3,969 yards and an NFL-best 35 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions. Additionally, Young led the team in rushing touchdowns with seven as he compiled 293 yards on 58 carries. For all of this he earned the NFL MVP, but what made the '94 campaign special is what took place following the regular season. The Niners steam-rolled the Bears, Cowboys and Chargers en route to Young's first Super Bowl — a win commemorated by a record six touchdown passes, 325 yards passing, the MVP trophy and Gary Plummer's famous monkey exorcism. Oh, and No. 8 was the game's leading rusher as well. Young posted 623 yards passing, 128 yards rushing, 11 total touchdowns and nary an interception in San Francisco's three playoff games. It was the finest season a quarterback has ever seen.

 

2. Peyton Manning, Denver, 2013

Regardless of the outcome in Super Bowl XLVIII, nearly the entirety of the NFL’s single-season record book was re-written by Manning and the Broncos this season. His final game was a massive disappointment and will go down in history as one of the most bizarre Super Bowl performances in NFL history. But no player — regular season or otherwise — has ever thrown for more yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) than Manning did in the 2013 regular season. He added 910 and five more scores to his totals in three postseason games while boasting a 15-4 overall record for the year. Manning finished with an NFL-record 6,387 yards and 60 touchdown passes. He also tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in the season opener and ran the NFL’s greatest offense. Denver broke the NFL record for scoring with 606 points in the regular season and total touchdowns with 76 — both set by New England in 2007 (589 and 75). The Broncos were the first team in NFL history with five players with at least 10 touchdowns. The great quarterback finished with 280 yards and one scoring strike in the loss to Seattle, and, had he won on Sunday, it would have completed the best single-season performance by any quarterback in history. However, the lasting image of Manning's '13 campaign will forever be the 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

 

3. Kurt Warner, St. Louis, 1999

Part of what makes Warner's '99 campaign so memorable is how the Northern Iowa signal-caller ended up a Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP. The undrafted rookie finally broke into the league four years after graduating from UNI and led the inept Rams to the best record in the NFC (13-3) as a first-year starter. The 28-year-old led the NFL in touchdown passes (41), completion rate (65.1 percent), yards per attempt (8.7) and QB rating (109.2) while finishing with a franchise-record 4,353 yards passing. He then proceeded to complete over 81 percent of his passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns in his first career playoff start — a 49-37 win over Minnesota. By the end of Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner had thrown for 414 yards and two touchdowns to earn his second MVP trophy of the season. The huge numbers, the sheer improbability and ultimate victory combined to produce what was nearly the greatest season in history. 

 

4. Tom Brady, New England, 2007

Today's sports culture values the championship and quarterbacks rarely disagree. So had Brady finished his magical romp through the NFL in 2007, he would be sitting at No. 1 on this list. He is only one of two QBs to ever finish a regular season 16-0 and eventually worked the record to 18-0 before the show-stopping loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII . Brady threw for a franchise-record 4,806 yards, good for third all-time in NFL history at the time. His QB rating of 117.2 was second all-time in NFL history and he became the first player to ever throw 50 touchdown passes in one season. He threw only eight interceptions and led the league in 11 passing categories. In the postseason, Brady and the Pats took care of business against Jacksonville in the Divisional Round, but the Michigan grad struggled in his final two games of the year. He threw three interceptions and had his second-worst yardage day of the year (209 yards) in the AFC title game win over San Diego. He capped his MVP season with an underwhelming performance against the extraordinary Giants defensive line, costing him his fourth Super Bowl ring and the unbeaten immortality of 19-0.

 

5. Dan Marino, Miami, 1984

Marino was well ahead of his time back in only his second year in the league. He set an NFL record for passing yards (5,084) that would stand for nearly 30 years and an NFL record for touchdowns (48) that would stand for 20 years. He led the Dolphins to the best record in the AFC at 14-2, claimed the MVP trophy and returned Miami to the Super Bowl where they fell just short of defeating the 18-1 Joe Montana-led 49ers. The Pitt Panther threw for 1,001 yards and eight scores in three postseason games. The 23-year-old with a lightning-quick release led the NFL in completions, attempts, QB rating and yards per attempt in a season that totally changed the way the game of football was played. He paved the way for what we see today on Sunday and came up 22 points short of a championship.

 

6. Joe Montana, San Francisco, 1989
The Golden Domer wasn't ever the most talented or fastest or strongest quarterback on the field, but his 13 regular-season games — and subsequent playoff run — during the 1989 season were as brilliant as most's 16-game seasons. Montana completed 70.2 percent of his passes, led the NFL at 270.8 yards per game and finished with a then-NFL record 112.4 QB rating. His completion rate was second all-time to only Ken Anderson and is still one of only five seasons with a completion rate of better than 70 percent in history. The 49ers finished 11-2 in his 13 starts and 14-2 overall and Montana was the MVP of the league. Montana threw for 3,521 yards, 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He also added 227 yards rushing and three more scores on the ground. However, what made No. 16's '89 campaign one of the greatest in history was his thorough destruction of the NFC and Denver Broncos in the postseason. He completed 65 of his 83 passes (78.3 percent) for 800 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero picks, finishing his historic season with arguably the most dominant Super Bowl performance to date by crushing John Elway and company 55-10. Three more games puts Montana over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and moves him ahead of Marino and Brady on this list.

 

7. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2009
One could argue Brees' 2011 season was better, but I am guessing if you ask him which year was better, he would take 2009 everyday and twice on Sunday. He led the NFL in completion rate (70.6 percent), breaking the aforementioned Anderson's NFL single-season record. He also topped the charts in touchdown passes (34) and QB rating (109.6) en route to a 13-3 final record. He finished with 4,388 yards and only 11 interceptions. He then capped New Orleans' magical resurrection with 732 yards passing, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff wins. His performance in the Super Bowl XLIV win over the Colts and Peyton Manning gave the Saints franchise their first championship. Brees completed 82.1 percent of his passes and claimed the game's MVP honors.

 

8. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2011
It is hard to argue that from a statistical perspective, no quarterback has ever had a better regular season than Brees last fall (until Manning). He set NFL records for completions (468), passing yards (5,476) and completion rate (71.2 percent) while leading the Saints to a 13-3 record. He then proceeded to throw for 928 yards and seven touchdowns in two playoff games. His defense let him down in the postseason and he contributed two of the team's costly five turnovers in the Divisional Round loss to the 49ers.

 

9. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2006
Manning has posted better numbers in a season (2013, '04), but when it comes down to his best two seasons as a Colt, the Super Bowl ring in '06, trumps the statistics he compiled in '04 (see below). In 2006 he threw for 4,397 yards on 65.0 percent passing and a league-leading 31 touchdown passes. This also was the only year in which No. 18 threw fewer than 10 interceptions (9). His 101.0 QB rating also led the NFL that season and he added four rushing scores for good measure. Manning led his Colts to four postseason wins that year (16-4 overall) and the 29-17 Super Bowl XLI win over Chicago in which he claimed the game's MVP trophy.

 

10. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 2011
In a season in which three passers topped 5,000 yards and numerous NFL records were broken, Rodgers' season can get lost in the shuffle. Yet, the Packers' quarterback set every major franchise passing record and led a team that finished 15-1 in the regular season. The year ended with a whimper with Rodgers sitting out the regular-season finale and then losing to the Giants in the first playoff game. But his 4,643 yards, 10.5 yards per attempt and absurd 45:6 TD:INT ratio gave No. 12 the most efficient season in NFL history (122.5 QB rating) — and it earned him the league's MVP trophy. Had he posted Matt Flynn's (480 yards passing, 6 TDs) numbers in the final week of the regular season, he would have hit 50 TDs and topped 5,000 yards. That said, Packers fans will always look at '11 with "what-if" memories.

 

Others to consider:

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2004 (12-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,557 yds, 49 TDs, 10 INTs, 121.1 QB rating

Dan Fouts, San Diego, 1981 (10-6, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,802 yds (NFL record), 33 TDs, 17 INTs, 90.6 QB rating

Warren Moon, Houston, 1990 (8-7, Postseason: None)
Stats: 4,689 yds, 33 TDs, 13 INTs, 96.8 QB rating, 215 rush yds, 2 TDs

Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia, 1990 (10-6, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,466 yds, 30 TDs, 13 INTs, 91.6 QB rating, 118 att., 942 yds, 5 TDs

Brett Favre, Green Bay, 1996 (13-3, Postseason: 3-0) MVP, Super Bowl
Stats: 3,899 yds, 39 TDs, 13 INTs, 95.8 QB rating, 136 rush yds, 2 TDs

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2004 (11-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 2,313 yds, 14 TDs, 12 INTs, 78.1 QB rating, 120 att., 902 yds, 3 TDs

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2006 (7-9, Postseason: None)
Stats: 2,474 yds, 20 TDs, 13 INTs, 75.7 QB rating, 123 att., 1,039 yds, 2 TDs

Brett Favre, Minnesota, 2009 (12-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,202 yds, 33 TDs, 7 INTs, 107.2 QB rating

Michael Vick, Philadelphia, 2010 (8-3, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,018 yds, 21 TDs, 6 INTs, 100.2 QB rating, 100 att., 675 yds, 9 TDs 

Tom Brady, New England, 2011 (13-3, Postseason: 2-1)
Stats: 5,235 yds, 39 TDs, 12 INTs, 105.6 QB rating, 109 rush yds, 3 TDs

Teaser:
The NFL's 10 Best Quarterback Seasons of All-Time
Post date: Monday, February 3, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-defensive-linemen-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.

One name stands above the rest when it comes to dominance along the defensive line in the Big 12. It also feels like a few schools — shockingly, Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska — have dominated the all-conference teams for the last 16 seasons. 

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

1. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09)
That one name that stands above the rest is the Boy Named Suh. The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks.

2. Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08)
The trophy case for the former Longhorn defensive end is packed with a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Lombardi, and Hendricks trophies. He was an All-American who played in 47 career games in Austin, posting 132 tackles, 38.0 tackles for a loss, 22.0 sacks and six forced fumbles in his tenure. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American saw his career slowed by a knee injury in 2007 or else his totals would be even higher. He was a contributing member in all 13 games of the 2005 BCS national championship run and was taken 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.

3. Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03)
Harris was a dominant interior lineman for three of the better Sooners teams of the BCS Era. He helped lead his team to the BCS championship game in 2003 while claiming the Lombardi and Willis Trophies. He was a two-time consensus All-American selection as the Sooners went 35-6 during his three-year tenure. Oklahoma won the Cotton and Rose Bowls before losing in the Sugar Bowl in his final season. Harris was downright unblockable in Norman and was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

4. Casey Hampton, Texas (1996, 98-00)
From 1997-2000, Hampton started 37 straight games for the Horns and finished with 54 tackles for a loss — fifth all-time in Big 12 history. He posted an absurd 329 tackles from his line position and forced nine fumbles. He was a consensus All-American, two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. The All-Pro Super Bowl champion was taken in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft with the 19th overall pick.

5. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma (2007-09)
After redshirting, McCoy was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year after playing in all 13 games on the Big 12 championship squad. He was a two-time All-American as a sophomore and junior, helping to lead Oklahoma to the 2008 BCS National Championship Game against Florida. He finished his career with 83 tackles, 33.0 for a loss and 14.5 sacks from the tackle position while winning two Big 12 titles. McCoy was taken with the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay.

6. Justin Smith, Missouri (1998-00)
The Mizzou standout has developed into one of the NFL’s most consistent and productive players for two teams. He left Columbia after a huge junior season that featured 97 total tackles, 24 tackles for a loss — good for eighth all-time in Big 12 history — and 11 sacks. He was an All-American that year and also was a two-time All-Big 12 selection. His 53 career tackles for a loss in just three seasons ranks seventh all-time in league history as well. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Bengals.

7. Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma (2007-10)
Beal is one of just two players in Big 12 history to rank in the top five in both career sacks and career tackles for a loss. He finished his collegiate career third all-time with 58.5 TFL and fifth all-time with 29 sacks — good for second all-time in school history. His 10 forced fumbles rank third in Big 12 history and he helped the Sooners capture three Big 12 titles and earn one trip to the BCS title game in 2008. Beal was a model of consistency, posting three straight seasons with at least 60 tackles, 15.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks. The three-time all-conference selection finished with 224 total tackles.

8. Rod Wright, Texas (2002-05)
The big fella inside made an instant impact, starting nine games as a true freshman and earning Freshman All-American status and claiming Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors as well. He went on to start 36 more games over the next three years, earning All-Big 12 honors in three straight years (first team his final two seasons). He was a consensus All-American and started every game for the 2005 BCS national champions and finished as a Lombardi Trophy finalist. Wright finished with 227 tackles, 42 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks.

9. Dan Cody, Oklahoma (2001-04)
He began his career as a redshirt tight end on the scout team for the 2000 BCS champs but turned into a force on the defensive side of the ball. He helped lead his team to three Big 12 crowns and two appearances in the BCS title game. Cody was an All-American his senior season and finished his career with 42 games played, 117 tackles and is sixth all-time in Big 12 history with 25 sacks. No. 80 was a second-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

10. Darren Howard, Kansas State (1996-99)
Other than Beal, Howard is the only other player in the Big 12 to be ranked in the top five of both career sacks and tackles for a loss. He finished tied for fifth with 54.0 TFL and is third all-time with 29.5 sacks. Howard was a big part of the Wildcats' success in the late '90s, as Kansas State went 42-7 during his four-year career, including two division titles and two postseason wins (Fiesta, Holiday). He played 10 years for the Eagles after being a second-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Kevin Williams, Oklahoma State (1999-02)
K-Will was a huge part of the rebuilding that took place in Stillwater. He posted 160 tackles, 38 for a loss and 18.5 sacks during a career that saw the Pokes go from three wins to eight. The ninth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft got OSU back to a bowl for just the second time in 14 seasons.

12. Shaun Rogers, Texas (1997-00)
Playing alongside Hampton, Rogers set a Big 12 record with 27.0 tackles for a loss in 1999. His 53 career TFLs rank tied for seventh all-time in Big 12 history. He also had 199 total tackles and 14 sacks before getting picked in the second round by the Lions in 2001.

13. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (2010-13)
The son of Jim Jeffcoat made an instant impact in Austin, playing in eight games as a true freshman. He capped his outstanding career with Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s best defensive end. Jeffcoat posted 174 tackles, 49.5 for a loss and 26.0 career sacks — good for sixth all-time in Big 12 history — despite missing more than half of his junior season due to injury.

14. Jared Crick, Nebraska (2008-11)
The Cornhuskers' edge rusher missed most of his senior season or he would be higher on this list. He posted two monster seasons by combining for 143 tackles, 27.0 tackles for a loss and 19.0 sacks in 2009 and '10. The two-time All-Big 12 pick was an All-American and fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

15. Frank Alexander, Oklahoma (2008-11)
Alexander earned Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2011 with 54 tackles, 19.0 TFL and 8.5 sacks to go with three forced fumbles. The fourth-round pick finished with 142 stops, 44.0 for a loss, 20.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. He played in one BCS title game and two BCS bowls on the back of two Big 12 titles (2008, '10).

Best of the rest:

16. Adam Carriker, Nebraska (2003-06)
Two-time All-Big 12 pick and 2006 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.

17. Brian Smith, Missouri (2003-06)
Big 12’s sack master with record 34 career QB sacks. Sixth all-time with nine forced fumbles.

18. Cory Redding, Texas (1999-02)
Fourth all-time in league history with 57 career TFL, including 24 in 2002.

19. Aldon Smith, Missouri (2009-10)
Big 12 Freshman of the Year, first-round pick and 17.0 sacks in only two seasons.

20. Mike Rucker, Nebraska (1995-98)
Played a key role on two national championship teams and is fourth in school history with 40 TFL.

21. Alex Okafor, Texas (2009-12)
Seventh all-time with 13 sacks in 2012. Two-time All-Big 12 pick and an All-American.

22. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (2010-12)
Consensus All-American finished his career with 26.5 sacks in just three seasons in College Station.

23. Aaron Hunt, Texas Tech (1999-02)
Second all-time in Big 12 history with 34 career sacks.

24. Adell Duckett, Texas Tech (2001-04)
Fifth all-time in league history with 28 career sacks.

25. Kelly Gregg, Oklahoma (1996-98)
Tied for fourth all-time with 24.0 TFL in 1998 and is ninth all-time with 53.0 career TFL.

Teaser:
Top 10 Big 12 Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, January 31, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-biggest-five-star-busts-last-10-years
Body:

“Five-star” is a term in recruiting reserved for the nation’s elite. Roughly 30 players each year are awarded the coveted fifth star next to their name by the recruiting websites.

According to MaxPreps.com, there are roughly 15,000 high school football teams in this country. So if each team has on average 20 seniors, that is roughly 300,000 senior football players in the country who are looking for scholarships to play college football.

However, just over 3,000 of those — or less than one percent — will sign a Letter of Intent with an FBS program on National Signing Day next Wednesday (125 FBS schools X 25 scholarship offers per year = 3,125 signees per year).

So about one percent of one percent of high-school senior football players will be ranked a “five-star” prospect. And only one percent of anyone signing an LOI next week will have a five-star rating.

Does that mean every five-star athlete is a lock to be a superstar and future NFL first-round pick? Of course, not. But Hall of Fame college football names like Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Manti Te’o, Jadeveon Clowney and dozens of others have been extremely deserving of their five-star ranking.

But who are the names that didn’t deserve it? Who are the biggest five-star busts of the last 10 years? Who are the forgotten names once ballyhooed on message boards across the Internet only to fall into college football obscurity forever?

Below is a year-by-year breakdown of the biggest five-star busts of the last 10 recruiting cycles (since 2005).

Note: For the sake of consistency, the composite 247Sports ranking was used for each class.

Class of 2005 (38)

Busts: Fred Rouse (No. 5), Ryan Perrilloux (No. 6), Callahan Bright (No. 18), Melvin Alaeze (No. 20), Jason Gwaltney (No. 25), Marques Slocum (No. 34)

There were plenty of names who didn’t live up to expectations in this group but were contributors (Michigan fans remember Kevin Grady, for example). However, this group also has a long list of talented youngsters with major off-the-field issues. Names like Alaeze, Perrilloux, Rouse and Bright all had major legal issues either shortly after arriving on campus or before even getting to school. Rouse was was kicked off Florida State when he robbed a teammate and Alaeze was sentenced to eight years in prison in December 2006. Injuries slowed names like Gwaltney while grades stopped players like Bright. In all, this is one of the worst five-star classes in the modern era of recruiting rankings.

Deserving: Michael Oher, Darren McFadden, Brian Cushing, DeSean Jackson, Jonathan Stewart, Kenny Phillips, Rey Maualuga, Eugene Monroe, Derrick Williams, Mark Sanchez

Class of 2006 (29)

Busts: Vidal Hazelton (No. 3), Mitch Mustain (No. 7), Antwine Perez (No. 21), Marcus Ball (No. 29)

There were a lot of elite players (see below) and plenty of solid contributors in this five-star class (See: Stafon Johnson, Allen Bradford, Carl Johnson), so the recruiting services did a pretty good job in 2006. Hazelton was a top-five recruit and a signing saga with his father got his career off track early. Mustain, Perez and Ball all transferred and none accomplished anything more than Mustain’s freshman run of eight straight wins as the starter. It was the peak of his career on a gridiron while Perez and Ball never made any sort of impact for USC or Florida State respectively. This was one of the best five-star classes ever evaluated.

Deserving: Andre Smith, Percy Harvin, Sergio Kindle, Myron Rolle, Matthew Stafford, Sam Young, Beanie Wells, Taylor Mays, Micah Johnson, Gerald McCoy, Brandon Graham, Tim Tebow, C.J. Spiller, DeMarco Murray, Ricky Sapp, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Evans

Class of 2007 (26)

Busts: Aaron Corp (No. 19), Eugene Clifford (No. 25), John Brantley (No. 26)

The ’07 five-star class didn’t have many elite superstars (Eric Berry, Noel Devine) nor did it have many total busts (Corp, Clifford). This group was loaded with middle-of-the-pack contributors who were solid players but never deserved five-star rankings: Jimmy Clausen, Joe McKnight, Ronald Johnson, Everson Griffin, Chris Galippo, Marc Tyler and Terrance Toliver just to name a few. Quarterbacks will always be judged harshly and John Brantley and Aaron Corp both had their shot at power programs to become “the guy” and both fell flat on their faces. Deonte Thompson, John Chiles, Torrey Davis, Ben Martin and Tray Allen weren’t complete busts but weren’t stars either.

Deserving: Eric Berry, Marvin Austin, Ryan Mallett, Noel Devine, Arrelious Benn, Carlos Dunlap, Josh Oglesby, Martez Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Miller

Class of 2008 (27)

Busts: Darrell Scott (No. 4), Jermie Calhoun (No. 9), Blake Ayles (No. 15), Dayne Crist (No. 19), Tyler Love (No. 21), B.J. Scott (No. 26)

This group has some elite superstars like Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Matt Kalil, Patrick Peterson and Da’Quan Bowers. But it also has a long list of true busts — all of which happened for different reasons. Scott was never committed to playing football, Calhoun wasn’t good enough while Ayles and Crist were hurt too much to make an impact. Tyler Love won a couple of titles with Alabama but never played and retired before his eligibility ran out while Scott transferred to South Alabama (where he was a solid player). This was a class with big hits (Jones, Green, etc) and big misses (Darrell Scott).

Deserving: Da’Quan Bowers, Terrelle Pryor, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, Arthur Brown, Jonathan Baldwin, Michael Floyd, Michael Brewster, Matt Kalil, Mike Adams, Brandon Harris, EJ Manuel

Class of 2009 (30)

Busts: Bryce Brown (No. 2), Russell Shepard (No. 3), Gary Brown (No. 11), Andre Debose (No. 15), Dorian Bell (No. 20), Darius Winston (No. 24)

While the ’08 class seemed to be a group of busts and stars, the ’09 group features a large number of guys who weren’t either — and a bunch of guys who don’t really have a category. Jacobbi McDaniel, Xavier Nixon and Devon Kennard all were solid players but didn’t develop into special players. Meanwhile, Greg Reid was a special talent who couldn’t stay focused off the field for Florida State. Garrett Gilbert was a bust for Texas but was No. 2 in total offense nationally in 2013 for SMU. Andre Debose was supposed to be the second coming of Percy Harvin but could never stay healthy (or productive). Christine Michael was Big 12 Freshman of the Year and was a second-round pick but could never stay healthy. Rueben Randle and Craig Loston were excellent players for LSU but were they the No. 1 player in the nation at their position? Chris Davenport and Russell Shepard were just okay for the Tigers and Davenport was solid for Tulane last fall after transferring. Bryce Brown, Gary Brown and Dorian Bell are the truest “busts” in this group as all three failed to make any impact in college whatsoever. This group of five-stars is a hodgepodge of everything that makes recruiting impossible to evaluate. Mostly, this is a group of players that were just OK — names like Jamarkus McFarland, Jelani Jenkins, Marlon Brown, Nico Johnson, Donte Paige-Moss and Branden Smith.

Deserving: Matt Barkley, Manti Te’o, Trent Richardson, Vontaze Burfict, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mason Walters, Aaron Murray, D.J. Fluker, Sheldon Richardson

Class of 2010 (30)

Busts: Kyle Prater (No. 11), Jeff Luc (No. 26), Darius White (No. 27)

The evaluators did an amazing job with this class. Of the top 30, nearly 20 of them deserved a fifth star in the rankings as a long list of future NFL stars dot this group. Prater, Luc (right) and White all transferred without making any impact whatsoever at USC, Florida State or Texas respectively. And other names like Ronald Powell, Seantrel Henderson, Mike Davis, Xavier Grimble, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Reggie Wilson, Robert Crisp and Trovon Reed were solid contributors but are neither deserving of five-star nor bust status. What about Da’Rick Rogers and Michael Dyer? They were obviously extremely talented and productive while at Tennessee and Auburn but both were kicked off their teams only to land on their feet elsewhere. Where do they belong?

Deserving: Robert Woods, Dominique Easley, Jackson Jeffcoat, Sharrif Floyd, Jordan Hicks, Marcus Lattimore, Keenan Allen, Lamarcus Joyner, Dee Milliner, Matt Elam, William Gholston, Alec Ogletree, Christian Jones, Josh Shaw, George Uko, Ja’Wuan James, Lache Seastrunk

Class of 2011 (30)

Busts: Isaiah Crowell (No. 6), George Farmer (No. 8), Christian Westerman (No. 10), Trey Metoyer (No. 21)

There is still much left to be determined about this class. Names like Karlos Williams, Brandon Williams, Ray Drew, Curtis Grant and Malcolm Brown have a good chance to improve their legacies in 2014 while others like Christian Westerman, Jeff Driskel, Tony Steward and Ishaq Williams need to make big waves this fall to avoid being labeled a bust. Aaron Lynch is a unique case of obvious five-star talent but bouncing around from South Bend to Tampa will change his college legacy while not impacting his draft status much at all (he is highly regarded by scouts). To date, only Farmer and Metoyer have failed to make some sort of impact — be it good or bad (See: Crowell).

Deserving: Jadeveon Clowney, Cyrus Kouandjio, La’El Collins, Anthony Johnson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Timmy Jernigan, Jarvis Landry, De’Anthony Thomas, Stephone Anthony, Sammy Watkins, Anthony Chickillo, Steve Edmond, James Wilder

Class of 2012 (35)

Busts: Gunner Kiel (No. 27), Thomas Johnson (No. 33)

Even more so than the ’11 cycle, very little is known about this group as a whole. That said, many of these names have already made a huge impact on the positive side of the ledger and this five-star class looks like one of the best in recent memory. Jameis Winston is pretty good, right? What about DGB for Mizzou? What about Pac-12 offensive linemen Andrus Peat and Isaac Seumalo? How about Ohio State D-liners Noah Spence and Aldophus Washington? Or SEC running backs T.J. Yeldon and Keith Marshall? Or Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard at The U? Needless to say, it looks like the talent scouts pegged this class pretty accurately. There are loads of names who look poised to break out in ’14: Darius Hamilton, Eddie Williams, D.J. Humphries, Trey Williams or Arik Armstead. And if signing Winston wasn’t enough for Florida State, a trio of emerging five-stars look poised to defend their title in Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman and Chris Casher. The closest to joining Kiel and Johnson in the bust category is Rushel Shell, who will need to be very good at West Virginia to avoid the moniker.

Deserving: Dorial Green-Beckham, Shaq Thompson, Noah Spence, Johnathan Gray, Landon Collins, Stefon Diggs, Keith Marshall, Jameis Winston, Duke Johnson, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Adolphus Washington, Tracy Howard, Ronald Darby, Isaac Seumalo, T.J. Yeldon, Andrus Peat, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Jenkins

The Class of 2013 is only a glimmer in the eye of college football fans right now but names like Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Hargreaves, Su’a Cravens, Jalen Ramsey and Christian Hackenberg already looked poised to become superstars (if they aren’t already). And others like O.J. Howard, Derrick Henry, Laquon Treadwell, Kendall Fuller, Thomas Tyner, Chris Jones, Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams might not be too far behind.

Only time will tell if the upcoming group of five-stars, headlined by future LSU tailback Leonard Fournette, will continue the recent trend of spot-on evaluation.

Or if they will go the way of Aaron Corp and Gunner Kiel.

Teaser:
College Football: Biggest Five-Star Busts of the Last 10 Years
Post date: Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-defensive-linemen-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.

Defensive line is where many experts point when discussing the difference between the SEC and every other conference. It's all about SEC speed... along the defensive line. Just ask Troy Smith. And while there are some elite defensive ends that have passed through the nation's best conference, what sets this league apart from others is the extremely impressive tradition at defensive tackle. As you will see below.

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

1. David Pollack, 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.

2. Glenn Dorsey, 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.

3. John Henderson, 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.

4. Alex Brown, 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.

5. 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.

6. Terrence Cody, 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.

7. Chad Lavalais, LSU (2000-03)
After two years working as a prison guard between high school and college, it should come as no surprise that Lavalais turned into one of the toughest lineman in SEC history. He played in nine games as a true freshman and eventually started 41 of 47 possible career games. He was the National (and SEC) Defensive Player of the Year for the 2003 BCS national champions and was a consensus All-American. He finished his career with 202 tackles and 12 sacks before getting selected in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

8. John Abraham, South Carolina (1996-99)
Unfortunately, Abraham played on bad teams and that likely hurts his overall ranking. One of the more productive ends in NFL history, “The Predator” led the Gamecocks — who won 12 games during his four years — in sacks in each of his four seasons. He posted 23.5 career sacks, good for second in school history, and was taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

9. Richard Seymour, Georgia (1997-00)
A stalwart on the defensive line as a four-year letterman, Seymour was a star at Georgia before going to become one of the most decorated NFL D-lineman in history. He started 25 of his 41 career games, finishing with 223 tackles — a huge number for an interior player — 25.5 for a loss and 9.5 sacks. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and an All-American in 2000 before being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

10. Marcus Spears, LSU (2001-04)
He played both sides of the ball as an All-SEC freshman on the conference championship squad of 2001 before moving full time to the defensive line. He excelled as a sophomore (46 tackles, 3.0 sacks) before earning All-SEC honors as a junior and senior. The eventual consensus All-American helped lead LSU to the 2003 BCS title over Oklahoma’s high-flying offense. Spears was a two-time SEC champ, a BCS champ and a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2005. He finished his LSU career with 152 tackles, 34.5 for a loss, 19 sacks and an absurd four interceptions (including the game-winning touchdown against the Sooners).

Just missed the cut:

11. Nick Fairley, Auburn (2009-10)
The 2010 Lombardi Award winner was a dominant force up the middle for the BCS national champs. He posted 60 tackles, 24.0 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks from his tackle spot during the ’10 title run. Fairley’s one season was as good as any in the league’s history and it led to him being the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

12. Shaun Ellis, Tennessee (1996-99)
Taken one pick ahead of Abraham in the first round by the same team (Jets) in the 2000 NFL Draft, Ellis was a horse for the Vols on the edge. He was a force for the ’98 BCS champs, posting 40 tackles and returning his only career INT for a touchdown. He finished with 104 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss.

13. Michael Sam, Missouri (2010-13)
In just their second year in the league, Missouri’s star end became the first lineman to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor since Dorsey in 2007. He led the SEC in sacks with 11.5 and led Mizzou to an SEC East title in ’13. He finished his career with 21.0 sacks, 123 tackles and 36.0 tackles for a  loss.

14. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama (2008-10)
The three-year contributor helped lead Bama back to championship contention as a junior in ’09. Dareus posted 71 tackles, 20.0 for a loss and 11.0 sacks in 33 career games and was named Defensive MVP in the 2009 BCS title bout with Texas. He was an All-SEC performer and was the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

15. Antonio Coleman, Auburn (2006-09)
All-around performer was a three-time All-SEC pick over his final three seasons. He led Auburn in sacks and tackles for loss all three seasons, finishing with 24.5 QB takedowns and 46.5 TFL. The undersized end was the leader on a team that won 33 games in four seasons.

Best of the rest:

16. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (2008-11)
Posted 19 sacks in his final two seasons after switching to end. The consensus All-American was a first-round pick.

17. Gerard Warren, Florida (1998-00)
First-round draft pick and All-American posted 159 tackles (30 TFL) and 9.5 sacks in three seasons.

18. Anthony McFarland, LSU (1995-98)
SEC Freshman D.P.O.Y., first-team All-American and 15th overall pick in the 1999 draft.

19. Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee (1999-01)
Freshman All-American was a first-round pick and three-year starter alongside Henderson.

20. Dewayne Robertson, Kentucky (2000-02)
Two-time All-SEC pick as a sophomore and junior. Was the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

21. Peria Jerry, Ole Miss (2005-08)
First-team All-American, first-round draft pick and two-time All-SEC selection.

22. Geno Atkins, Georgia (2006-09)
Classic overachiever who posted 120 tackles, 33.5 for a  loss and 11 sacks for the Dawgs.

23. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (2011-12)
In just two seasons, he posted 112 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles. First-round pick.

24. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (2010-12)
Consensus All-American finished his career with 26.5 sacks in just three seasons in College Station.

25. Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss, Florida (2003-06)
All-SEC, All-Americans who led Florida to the BCS title and were first-round picks.

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 06:45
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-defensive-linemen-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 gone through many changes during the BCS Era with multiple rounds of expansion. This is why some of the greatest players of the BCS Era won't be found in the ACC ranks. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, Boston College joined in '05, Syracuse and Pitt played for one season last fall and Louisville enters the league in '14. This is why Virginia Tech's Corey Moore, Syracuse's Dwight Freeney, Miami's Vince Wilfork or Louisville's Elvis Dumervil won't be found below — because they never played in the league. However, names like Aaron Donald and Mathias Kiwanuka do show up since they played at least one season in the ACC. Even without the Wilforks of the world, the ACC has an impressive list of elite defensive linemen.

Note: 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. 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.

3. Aaron Donald, 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. 

4. 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.

5. Mario Williams, 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).

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Corey Simon, DT, Florida State (1996-99)
A consensus All-American, Simon helped lead Florida State to back-to-back BCS championship games with a win in his final game over Virginia Tech in 1999. He left school with a then-record 44.0 tackles for a loss and was a finalist for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies as a senior. One of the most dominant interior lineman in ACC history was taken sixth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

9. Darnell Docket, Florida State (2000-03)
The four-year starter for Florida State was a starter and big-time contributor as a redshirt freshman in 2000 on a team that played for the national title. Eventually, Dockett was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 as a senior. He left Tallahassee with 247 total tackles, 10.5 sacks and an ACC-record 65.0 tackles for a loss. Dockett was a third-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and has gone to three Pro Bowls since.

10. Calvin Pace, Wake Forest (1999-02)
A four-year starter for the Demon Deacons, Pace helped lead Wake Forest to a winning record in three of his four years and two of the team’s three bowl appearances between 1980 and 2005. Pace is eighth all-time in ACC history with 29.0 career sacks and is 12th all-time in ACC history in tackles for a loss with 54.0. He led the league in TFL as a senior (19.5) and was the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College (2002-05)
A two-time All-American, Kiwanuka was a first-team all-league pick in two conferences as he helped moved BC from the Big East into the ACC. He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and posted 51 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 16.5 TFL in his senior year in the ACC.

12. Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
One of the freakier athletes to play in the ACC, Morgan was an instant impact guy as a freshman. By his junior season, the Jackets end was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American. He posted an ACC-best 12.5 sacks that season and 18.5 tackles for a loss before leaving early to become a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

13. Bjoern Werner, Florida State (2010-12)
The Berlin, Germany, native played in all 14 games as a true freshman before becoming a dominant starter for two full years in Tallahassee. He led the ACC with 13.0 sacks and posted 18.0 TFL to earn ACC Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American honors in 2012. He was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

14. Shawne Merriman, Maryland (2002-04)
One of the most talented athletes to ever play in any league, Merriman was a impact player as a freshman in 2002. He constantly made plays around the line of scrimmage for three seasons in College Park for two teams that won at least 10 games.

15. Greg Gathers, Georgia Tech (1999-01)
Among every ACC player during the BCS Era, no one registered more sacks than Gathers’ 31.0 — which is good for fifth all-time in ACC history. His 57.0 tackles for a loss are eighth all-time in league history and fifth among BCS Era players. 

Best of the rest:

16. Calais Campbell, Miami (2005-07)
Long, rangy player led league in TFL (20.5) in 2006 and was a second-round pick in 2008.

17. B.J. Raji, Boston College (2004-08)
Missed all of ’07 but was an All-American in 2008 and a first-round pick in the '09 draft.

18. Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech (2002-05)
Finished career 17th in ACC history in sacks (25.5) and fifth in tackles for a loss (59.5)

19. Robert Quinn, North Carolina (2008-10)
Monster end led ACC in TFL (19.0) in 2009 before being picked 14th overall in 2011 Draft.

20. Chris Ellis, Virginia Tech (2004-07)
Freshman All-American finished with 19.0 sacks, five forced fumbles, 28.0 TFL and two ACC titles.

21. Ebenezer Ekuban, North Carolina (1995-98)
Only played defense for two years and led ACC in TFL in 1998 with 23.0. Was a first-round pick.

22. Andre Branch, Clemson (2008-11)
Led ACC in sacks (10.5) and tackles for a loss (17.5) for ACC champs in 2011.

23. Everette Brown, Florida State (2006-08)
Played 41 games posting 100 tackles, 46.5 for a loss and 22.0 sacks with five forced fumbles.

24. Clint Sintim, Virginia (2005-08)
Is 13th all-time in ACC history with 27.0 sacks, freshman All-American and second-round pick.

25. Quinton Coples, North Carolina (2008-11)
Finished 19th all-time in ACC in sacks with 24.0 and was a first-round pick in 2012.

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 07:15

Pages