Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-april-29
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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire report every Monday. Our fantasy junkies cover the hottest hitters, best waiver wire pick ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bullpens from around the league each and every week.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (Apr. 22-Apr. 28):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Nate McLouth* OF BAL 10 1 6 4 .545 1.433
2. Edwin Encarnacion 1B TOR 8 5 8 0 .308 1.264
3. David Ortiz 1B BOS 7 2 9 0 .478 1.413
4. Omar Infante* 2B DET 7 2 5 1 .526 1.603
5. Giancarlo Stanton OF MIA 6 3 8 0 .364 1.280
6. Josh Donaldson* 3B OAK 4 0 10 1 .545 1.497
7. Russell Martin* C/1B PIT 5 4 6 0 .375 1.333
8. Ryan Howard 1B PHI 5 2 10 0 .308 .950
9. Manny Machado 3B BAL 5 0 5 2 .433 1.118
10. Alex Gordon OF KC 5 2 7 1 .318 1.011
11. Nelson Cruz OF TEX 4 2 9 0 .360 1.107
12. Justin Upton OF ATL 6 3 5 0 .333 1.250
13. Miguel Cabrera 3B DET 5 1 8 0 .450 1.228
14. Starling Marte OF PIT 5 0 0 5 .333 .829
15. Howie Kendrick 2B LAA 4 2 6 0 .375 1.131
16. Buster Posey C/1B SF 3 2 6 0 .429 1.310
17. Dustin Pedroia 2B BOS 5 0 4 2 .370 .971
18. Pedro Alvarez* 3B PIT 4 2 6 0 .360 .970
19. Evan Longoria 3B TB 5 2 5 0 .345 1.008
20. Carl Crawford OF LAD 5 3 4 1 .217 .889
21. Yuniesky Betancourt* 1/2/3B MIL 3 2 8 0 .333 .958
22. Alcides Escobar SS KC 4 1 3 2 .381 1.077
23. Kyle Seager 2B/3B SEA 5 2 5 0 .346 1.010
24. Robinson Cano 2B NYY 5 2 4 1 .296 .938
25. Carlos Gomez OF MIL 5 1 2 1 .450 1.292

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Nate McLouth, OF, BAL (48% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
McLouth has been driving fantasy GMs nuts for years. This is a guy who is capable of huge fantasy success — try 113 R, 26 HR, 94 RBI and 23 SB in 2008 — but has been a huge disappointment ever since — 38 homers in four seasons. He showed signs of life last season, smacking seven bombs and stealing 12 bases in just 209 at-bats. Now, with 17 games in the leadoff spot for the Orioles, McLouth is hitting .382 with 21 runs scored and eight stolen bases. His power is well behind him but he should produce as long as he remains in the one-hole. He is worth a shot at this point if you are desperate for runs and stolen bases.

Gerardo Parra, OF, ARI (32%)
Parra always teases fantasy owners, and while GMs will have to deal with noticeable swoons, the gritty outfielder has the talent to explode from time to time. He hit .417 last week and has a tidy roto line thus far in 2013: 18 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 SB, .320/.864. No, it's not overwhelming but it's very helpful in more than one category. As long as Adam Eaton is on the DL, Parra will get playing time atop the D-Backs order.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, MIN (1%)
Not many Twins are worthy of regular playing time in mixed leagues but Arcia might be worth a look in deeper situations. He hit .316 over 1,449 minor league at-bats with 56 home runs. The 6-foot, 220-pounder has the ability to hit for power — he hit two dingers and drove in six runs last week — and should he work his way up the order (six games batting seventh, two batting sixth and one batting third), he could provide some value. Arcia is also a great keeper option. Aaron Hicks, by the way, has a modest five-game hitting streak going. 

Yuniesky Betancourt, 1B/2B/3B, MIL (37%)
I love guys who can play multiple positions and Betancourt can help at three different positions. That said, I am staying away from the pesky Brewer. He won't slug enough to be a play at first and he isn't going to help in the speed category at all. Would his .274 average and .788 OPS help at second base or middle infield? Possibly. But that is all fantasy owners can expect from the career journeyman.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Felix Hernandez SEA 22.0 2 28 0.82 0.77
2. Matt Moore TB 20.2 3 25 1.74 0.82
3. Tony Cingrani* CIN 18.0 2 28 1.50 0.89
4. Yu Darvish TEX 13.0 2 21 0.00 0.85
5. Jordan Zimmerman WAS 23.0 2 14 1.96 0.61
6. Kyle Kendrick* PHI 22.0 1 15 0.82 0.77
7. Lance Lynn STL 19.0 3 21 2.37 1.00
8. Kevin Correia* MIN 22.0 3 12 1.64 1.00
9. Doug Fister DET 21.0 2 18 2.14 0.86
10. A.J. Burnett PIT 18.0 2 21 2.00 0.94
11. Homer Bailey CIN 21.0 0 24 1.29 0.81
12. Justin Grimm* TEX 13.0 2 13 0.69 0.92
13. Wei-Yin Chen* BAL 14.0 2 7 0.64 0.79
14. Ervin Santana* KC 14.0 2 12 1.29 0.86
15. Roy Halladay PHI 13.0 1 14 2.08 0.54
16. Mat Latos CIN 14.0 1 14 0.64 0.86
17. Adam Wainwright STL 15.1 2 13 1.76 0.98
18. Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 17.0 0 21 1.06 0.94
19. Alex Cobb TB 15.2 2 10 1.72 0.96
20. Jeremy Hellickson* TB 20.0 1 23 3.15 0.85

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Mon. - Sun.):

1. Tony Cingrani, CIN: at Chicago Cubs (Sat.) 60% owned
The fill-in for Johnny Cueto has been electric since being called up. Last week he tossed seven innings with nine strikeouts, no walks and just two earned in a no-decision against the Cubs. Cingrani followed that up with a win on the road against the Nationals with 11 Ks and no earned runs. With 28 whiffs in 18.0 innings and a 1.50 ERA, there is no reason not to take a chance against the lowly Cubbies this week.

2. Tim Hudson, ATL: NY Mets (Sun.) 76% owned
The savvy veteran has allowed more than three earned runs in just one start so far this season and posted a quality start (at least 6 IP, 3 ER or less) in three of his first five outings. On Sunday, he's scheduled to take the mound at home against the Mets. In his career, Hudson is a 15-10 with a respectable 3.60 ERA in 27 career starts against the Braves' division rival.

3. Ervin Santana, KC: Tampa Bay (Thur.) 60% owned
I have never been a big supporter of Santana and his overrated career 4.27/1.29 rate. But he does have his moments of brilliance. In 2013 so far, the righty is sporting a 31:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts. He won three of those and pitched at least seven innings in each one. Tampa Bay isn't a great matchup but it's at home and he is too hot to ignore.

4. Wade Miley, ARI: at San Diego (Fri.) 75% owned
He was a bit wild over the weekend — seven walks in 4.1 against the Rockies — but the Padres should pose much less of a threat this week. Miley didn't allow a run in that shortened start and still boasts a 2.37 ERA with nearly one strikeout per inning. Look for a bounce back start from the young D-Back.

5. Patrick Corbin, ARI: at San Diego (Sat.) 45% owned
I added the young lefty for his start against the Rockies and ended up with a win and five strikeouts with two earned runs. In fact, Corbin has 12 strikeouts and no walks over his last two starts (14.0 IP) while allowing just four earned runs. His 1.91/1.06 ratio plays in any park, but especially PETCO.

Closing Morsels:

Kevin Gregg is the Cubs closer, for now. He is 3-for-3 in save chances and hasn't allowed a run in five appearances this year. Which means he is likely to blow up in your face shortly but there are few other options on the waiver wire if you are desperate... Jose Valverde could be a God-send for the Tigers. He has yet to allow a base runner in three innings and has worked two perfect saves. Add, plug and play... No, Matt Reynolds isn't going to close many games for the Diamondbacks. J.J. Putz was unavailable and David Hernandez blew his chance in the ninth last week. Yet, he may be worth owning in holds leagues. He hasn't allowed a run, has two saves and one hold. There could be some value there... Huston Street has pitched three straight scoreless innings and picked up three saves last week. All is well with the aging veteran. Get him back in your lineup. (But keep Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer on your watch list though)... Edward Mujica, Jim Henderson and Andrew Bailey all had great weeks and appear to locking themselves into the ninth inning for their respective clubs.

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: April 29</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/early-2014-nfl-draft-rankings
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The 2013 NFL Draft is in the books.

Some fans, in Minnesota and St. Louis for example, should be ecstatic about their new toys (Sharrif Floyd, Tavon Austin) while others, in Cleveland, Dallas or Oakland perhaps, might be wondering what just happened in New York. So while more than 250 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed prospects prepare for the long summer trek from being a draft pick to making an NFL roster, the next wave of college stars are already preparing themselves for the 2014 NFL Draft.

And so is Athlon Sports.

With a solid 2013 season on the field and, ideally, an uneventful year off of it, another crop of prospects will hear their name called in Radio City Music Hall in April 2014.

Here are the top 75 prospects to watch on the college gridiron this fall:

* - underclassmen with eligibility remaining

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (6-6, 272)*
Many believe that if the freakish Gamecocks defensive end would have come out this year, he would have been the top pick in the draft. His size, speed and ability to dominate makes him all but a sure-thing on the next level. He was the unanimous No. 1 recruit in the nation who was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2011 before earning the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top pass-rusher in 2012. He enters his third and, all but certain, final season in college with 86 career tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, 21.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles — and one earth-shattering hit on that poor Michigan Wolverine.

2. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (6-6, 310)*
The only player who might be able to push Clowney for top billing is AJ McCarron’s bookend left tackle. The only player considered more important and more valuable than an elite pass-rusher is the guy who can neutralize him — as the top two picks of the 2013 draft indicated. The star left tackle trailed only Clowney in the recruiting rankings two years ago as incoming freshman and both have clearly lived up to the hype. This prototype blocker could play three years at Alabama and walk away with three national championships.

3. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame (6-6, 303)*
Few defensive ends can match the size and power of those prototypical left tackles — like Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher — but Tuitt has the goods. The Monroe (Ga.) High prospect was an elite recruit and has proven that his freakish size was the real deal by playing most of his freshman season and blossoming into a star as just a sophomore last fall. He led an unbeaten team in sacks (12.0) while posting 47 tackles, 13.0 for loss and forcing three fumbles. And just pop in the tape of the 300-pounder returning a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown against Navy to see how well the big fella moves in space. The scouts will fall in love with the talented Golden Domer.

4. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (6-5, 305)
He isn’t as big or as talented as Joeckel, his former teammate, but he isn’t far behind. He has the pedigree as the son of NFL O-line legend Bruce Matthews and it didn’t take long for the star recruit to make an impact. He was named to the Big 12's all-freshman team in 2010 before leading the way in the SEC for Texas A&M’s prolific offense last season. He possesses the toughness, killer instinct and polished technique most players his age lack, undoubtedly from being coached by an NFL Hall of Famer since he first put on a helmet.

5. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (6-0, 195)*
He is undersized but doesn’t lack for big-play ability. The speedster likely would have been the first wide receiver taken had he been able to come out early this spring. He broke all kinds of school and conference records as a sophomore when he led the nation in receptions (118), was second in yards (1,721) and third in all-purpose yards (2,683). He has scored 27 times in just two seasons. Yes, he is undersized but Tavon Austin just proved a smallish all-purpose dynamo can land in the top 10 of the draft.

6. C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama (6-2, 232)
He doesn’t have the ideal frame for a linebacker taken this high in the draft but no player in this class can come close to matching the production, leadership and overall athletic ability of the Theodore (Ala.) High prospect. He is looking for his third national championship in 2013 after a breakout junior season last fall where he tallied 107 tackles, 8.0 for loss, 4.0 sacks, two interceptions and one touchdown. He is the leading tackler and heartbeat at a leadership position on the best team in the nation coached by Nick Saban. Enough said.

7. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (6-7, 308)
The eccentric blocker from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral has elite size and athleticism to go with loads of experience. He enters his final season with 35 starts under his belt and a chance to land in the top 10 of the 2014 draft with another solid season this fall. Under Brady Hoke, Michigan has gone pure pro-style on offense and Lewan has benefited. Now with Devin Gardner under center, Hoke’s offense should flourish with the All-American protecting the blindside.

8. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (6-3, 215)*
The elite recruit from South Florida powerhouse Miami (Fla.) Northwestern is poised for a run at a national championship this fall. The versatile quarterback earned Big East Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman before leading the Cardinals to an 11-2 record, a co-Big East title and high-profile win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. He is efficient — career 66.9 percent completion rate and 27:8 TD:INT rate last year — and has shown the necessary growth as a passer in two year to warrant a top 10 selection. His offensive system won’t allow him to throw for huge numbers but no quarterback in next year’s class combines leadership, efficiency, football IQ, toughness and upside like Bridgewater.

9. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU (6-3, 304)*
The consensus No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in 2011, Johnson earned Freshman All-American honors by multiple media outlets after providing support on that excellent LSU defense. Last year, the New Orleans native produced solid numbers backing up four NFL Draft picks along the D-line. His stats — 30 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks — could triple now that he is a starter and the unquestioned leader of the Bayou Bengals defense.

10. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA (6-4, 245)
DeMarcus Ware comes to mind when watching Barr except the San Pedro (Calif.) Loyola product might be quicker and more athletic. Barr was a five-star recruit who had no position when he got to campus, but in 2012 under Jim Mora, he developed into a freakish edge rusher with an elite combo of size and burst. The All-American posted 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks to go with 83 stops. There is no replacement for big-time production at a coveted position against big-time competition. Look for Barr to have a second All-American campaign in 2013.

Related: Grading every pick of the 2013 NFL Draft first round

11. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame (6-3, 340)
Nix has uncoachable size and power. He is the heart and soul of the interior defensive line for a team that was undefeated in the regular season a year ago. He got very little help from his back seven against Alabama and he will have a year to erase the memory of what took place in the Orange Bowl. He is an active nose guard who fits into multiple defensive schemes and has an excellent understanding of the game. He posted 50 tackles, 7.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks from his tackle position last year. The interior defensive line class looks especially deep in 2014 and this massive Floridian is a big reason why.

12. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 210)*
If fans are looking for the next Robert Griffin III, look no further than the Ohio State quarterback. While he isn’t as polished a passer as the Redskins quarterback, he exudes toughness, leadership and freaky athletic ability like RG3. He takes care of the football — 10 interceptions in 411 attempts — and is just now entering his junior season. He willed his team to an unbeaten record last year and has the Buckeyes poised for a national championship run in 2013. He has the frame, toughness and athletic ability to start in the NFL, and should he refine his in-pocket passing skills, he could press Bridgewater as the top quarterback available.

13. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama (6-1, 210)*
Do the Crimson Tide and former defensive back Nick Saban produce quality NFL prospects in the secondary? Mark Barron, Dee Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick, Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson would say so. Like Barron, Milliner and Kirkpatrick, Clinton-Dix was a five-star Southern-bred prospect who has developed into one of the nation’s best during his time at Alabama. He has the speed and quickness to play in the slot and over the top and the size and toughness to fill against the run and play around the line when needed. “Ha-Ha” will give Saban yet another first-round defensive back on his resume.

14. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (5-11, 195)*
The Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge prospect doesn’t have elite height like recent first-rounders Dee Milliner or Xavier Rhodes, but Roby will more than hold his own in man coverage. He enters his third year as a starter after 110 tackles, 6.0 for loss, five interceptions and 23 passes broken up over the last two seasons. He has great football instincts, excellent quickness and an uncanny knack for making big plays around the football. At the new glamour position, Roby could easily be the top option in next year’s draft.

15. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (6-6, 266)*
The junior from Fox Island (Wash.) Gig Harbor is as good a tight end prospect as the draft has seen in years. He broke all kinds of freshman receiving records for the Huskies before posting an All-Pac-12 season (69 rec., 850 yards, 7 TDs) a year ago. He has elite size, great hands, excellent athletic ability and will be used in the running game as a blocker. He is a complete tight end prospect in the mold of Tony Gonzalez.

16. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (6-3, 195)
Hideous chest tattoo aside, there is little to not like about McCarron’s resume. He has size, accuracy, poise, footwork, toughness, leadership and is arguably the most successful quarterback in NCAA history when it comes to winning. Yes, he has played on loaded rosters but he also led the nation in passing efficiency and has three national championship rings — two as a starter — and is targeting a fourth. In the modern age of dual-threat athletes under center, McCarron is as traditional as they come.

17. David Yankey, OL, Stanford (6-5, 311)
Where scouts project Yankey on the next level will determine if he is a early or late first-round pick. If the NFL thinks he will stick at tackle, his toughness, leadership and overall size will push him up draft boards. Otherwise, his consensus All-American talents for a team known for producing elite blockers could make him the top interior lineman in the ’14 class. He was voted as the Pac-12's best O-lineman by his defensive line peers a year ago — which includes ’13 first-round names like Star Lotulelei and Datone Jones.

18. Tim Jernigan, DT, Florida State (6-2, 298)*
Just behind Johnson in the recruiting rankings was this Lake City (Fla.) Columbia prospect. Cut from the Sharrif Floyd mold in terms of size and skill, Jernigan was an elite performer for the ACC champs a year ago despite only starting twice. He posted 45 tackles, 8.0 for loss and 1.5 sacks behind 2013 draft picks Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, and he should explode on to the national scene as a full-time starter and leader of the Seminoles' defensive line.

19. Aaron Lynch, DE, USF (6-6, 275)*
Lynch, from Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast was never a fit off the field at Notre Dame and it led to a transfer closer to home at South Florida during the 2012 season. On the field, however, Lynch led the Irish in sacks (5.5) as just a true freshman. He finished the year with 33 tackles, 14 QB hurries and 7.0 tackles for loss. He is an absolute monster and should dominate the American Athletic Conference as a third-year player this fall. He may not be running with the Bulls too long.

20. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (6-1, 205)*
Few true freshmen have ever had a season like Watkins had two years ago in 2011. The National Freshman of the Year was unstoppable as a receiver, return man and occasional running back, posting 1,219 yards receiving, 826 return yards and 231 rushing yards to go with 14 total touchdowns. His burst and explosiveness makes him a much bigger and stronger version of Tavon Austin. That said, he has dealt with off-the-field hurdles that aren’t too worrisome when taken individually but create a track record of poor decision-making. He is an elite big-play machine when focused and healthy, and ideally, 2013 will be a bounce-back campaign.

21. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 225)*
Few players in the nation are as explosive around the football and hit as hard as the Ohio State tackler. He is undersized and will need to prove he can play against linemen more than 100 pounds heavier, but he has speed to burn and plays extremely well in space. After 115 tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and 11 passes deflected as just a sophomore last year, the Plantation (Fla.) High prospect is eyeing a national title run in 2013.

22. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (6-1, 227)
Boyd could have been a first-rounder had he come out after his 46-touchdown junior season. He is a pocket passer with some added mobility and fits the ideal dual-threat mold the NFL is looking for (think Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, not Cam Newton or Michael Vick). He has a big arm, plays in a complex scheme, has posted huge numbers and will be looking for a championship in 2013. A run at an ACC — or national — title will push Boyd up draft boards.

23. Iko Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (5-10, 190)*
Much like Roby, Ekpre-Olomu isn’t overly tall or lengthy, but he has elite speed, better than advertised toughness and bulk and an instinctual nose for the football. He consistently makes big plays in a league stacked with elite passing attacks. The Chino Hills (Calif.) High product finished his sophomore season with 63 tackles, four interceptions (one touchdown) and 16 pass break ups.

24. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford (6-2, 205)
The Floridian who went across the nation for college is a well-coached and savvy competitor who brings excellent size and instincts to the back end of the secondary. In his first full season as the starter, Reynolds posted 47 tackles and six interceptions that he returned for 301 yards. He is a leader of a defense that is one of the stingiest and most disciplined in the nation.

25. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (6-1, 210)*
The undersized gunslinger has been compared to Drew Brees ever since he overcame a broken leg in high school to lead his powerhouse prep team at Tampa (Fla.) Plant to the state title. When it is all over at Georgia, Murray will be the most prolific passer in SEC history (yards, TDs). If he can eliminate the eight quarters of bizarro atrocious play each season and finish the year with a win in Atlanta, he could hear his name called in the top 20. The numbers, intangibles, winning and passing ability equates to NFL starter but the Dawgs signal caller will have to overcome his lack of size.

26. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (6-5, 245)
Had the star defensive end not been injured for the year against Oklahoma a year ago, he might have entered the draft as a junior. Few players are refined and polished with prototypical NFL size as the son of former NFL star Jim Jeffcoat. He earned a starting spot as just a true freshman three years ago and has been a starter for the Longhorns ever since. He has 117 total tackles, 38.0 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks entering his final season.

27. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU (6-3, 235)
A second outside linebacker from BYU could find his way into the first round in 2014. Van Noy is a much more polished, albeit smaller and slightly less athletic version of former teammate Ezekiel Ansah. He had an all-everything junior season in which he posted 53 tackles, 22.0 tackles for loss, 13.0 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and two blocked kicks. He is undersized to play along the line (think Jarvis Jones) but few players are as productive as the star from Reno, Nevada.

28. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida (6-1, 190)*
The star coverman from Pensacola (Fla.) Pine Forest has never missed a game in his two-year Gators career. In a scheme designed to put the corners on an island, Purifoy uses his elite length, size and quickness to lockdown receivers. He has 78 tackles through two seasons and rarely gets tested by anything but the best of quarterbacks. Look for Purifoy to blossom into an All-American in 2013.

29. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee (6-6, 332)*
Size and athleticism is unteachable and Richardson has the goods in that department. He has developed into a leader on one of the best offensive lines in the nation and will have a chance to improve his stock significantly with a great season in 2013. He has good feet, prototypical size and has flashed the ability to compete with the games best (pop in the South Carolina tape last year). "Tiny" Richardson could easily work his way into the top 10 with a stellar '13.

30. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (5-10, 199)*
He may not look like a workhorse but he plays like one. Carey, as just a sophomore, led the nation in rushing (1,929), set a Pac-12 single game rushing record (366) and scored 24 total touchdowns — all in his first season as the starter. He can play on all three downs and is right at home between the tackles. Packaged with great hands, excellent speed and huge production, Carey is a can't-miss prospect. However, he has dealt with some off-the-field issues (domestic abuse, campus police) and will need to prove he can be a professional to be drafted in the first round.

31. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (6-4, 211)*
Quiet feet, poised, athletic and leadership are the most common words used to describe the redshirt sophomore to be. Mariota plays the game like a fifth-year senior and has exactly what new NFL schemes are looking for — say, Chip Kelly, perhaps. He led the nation in road passing efficiency, proving his unflappable demeanor. Mariota scored 37 total touchdowns in just his first year on a college gridiron and will be one of the reasons fans in Eugene won't miss Kelly in 2013.

32. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon  (5-9, 176)*
He won't ever be a full-time running back in the NFL so landing in the first round might be a reach, but no player in the nation is more of a big-play threat than The Black Mamba. Although, St. Louis just used the No. 8 overall pick to draft someone with virtually identical skills. In two seasons, Thomas has scored 18 rushing touchdowns on 147 carries, 14 touchdowns on 91 receptions and four total return touchdowns. Used in the right role — think Darren Sproles — his home run ability will play on Sundays for years.

The Second Round:

33. Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama (6-6, 252)*
34. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State (6-3, 260)*
35. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (6-0, 200)*
36. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (5-10, 200)*
37. Aaron Colvin, DB, Oklahoma (6-0, 185)
38. Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State (6-1, 290)
39. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor (6-5, 335)
40. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (6-3, 210)
41. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6-3, 205)
42. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (5-10, 210)
43. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (6-3, 225)*
44. Morgan Breslin, DE, USC (6-2, 250)
45. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State (6-4, 320)
46. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford (6-6, 260)
47. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina (6-7, 305)
48. Josh Shirley, OLB, Washington (6-3, 230)*
40. Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma (6-6, 260)*
50. Lemarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State (5-9, 195)
51. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee (6-2, 240)*
52. Chaz Green, OT, Florida (6-5, 310)*
53. Dion Bailey, OLB/S, USC (6-1, 210)
54. Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma (6-3, 298)
55. Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State (6-4, 232)
56. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida (6-2, 285)
57. Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia (6-1, 195)*
58. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida (6-0, 180)*
59. David Fales, QB, San Jose State (6-3, 220)
60. Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State (6-3, 245)*
61. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon (6-5, 250)*
62. Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina (6-4, 295)*
63. Deshazor Everett, CB, Texas A&M (6-0, 185)*
64. Craig Loston, S, LSU (6-2, 205)

The Next 11:

65. Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA (6-3, 305)*
66. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (6-0, 200)
67. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (6-6, 260)
68. Cassius Marsh, DL, UCLA (6-4, 270)
69. Trey DePriest, OLB, Alabama (6-2, 245)*
70. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford (6-3, 245)
71. Bryan Stork, C, Florida State (6-4, 312)
72. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (6-6, 310)
73. Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia (6-5, 260)
74. Anthony Steen, OG, Alabama (6-3, 310)
75. Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame (6-4, 280)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon takes a very early look at who could have their name called in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 11:30
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-day-twos-best-prospects
Body:

The beauty of the NFL Draft lies in its unpredictability.

Teams move up in the draft to nab a player they particularly covet. Others move back in the process because the guy they have targeted can be selected later. Some teams reach on a player who didn’t expect to hear his name called in the first round. The result can be excellent prospects — who felt great about going in the first round — actually drop into the middle rounds for one reason or another.

Last year’s second round featured linebackers Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner and Mychal Kendricks. The trio combined for 353 total tackles in 2012 as rookies for Tampa Bay, Seattle and Philadelphia respectively. Others like Janoris Jenkins (64 tackles), Zach Brown (5.5 sacks) or defensive tackles Jerel Worthy and Kendall Reyes also made instant impacts for their teams.

The dust has settled on another wild first round and it’s time for NFL front offices to reevaluate their draft boards and get back to work. The second round starts at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here are Athlon’s Best Available Players on Day Two:

1. Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
There are very few sure-things in any NFL Draft much less after the first 32 picks. Warford is a plug-and-play stud at guard who isn't far behind both first-round studs Chance Warmack (TEN) and Jonathan Cooper (ARI). He was widely considered by opposing coaches as clearly the best player on a team with little to no support. And he still produced at an All-SEC level despite the struggle of his team. He is productive, powerful, game-ready and a steal in Round 2.

2. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Matt Taibbi said it best, "take the weed guy." Allen is a superstar in the making. He has elite ball skills, plays physical football, understands the game and is ready to play right away (unlike one first round "athlete" headed to Minnesota). He was extremely productive and led a wide receiver-rich Pac-12 in yards two years ago with little to no support from his half-brother, Golden Bears quarterback Zach Maynard. Think a slightly smaller Larry Fitzgerald. Watch.

3. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Both Brown and Manti Te'o were considered the best linebackers in the nation in 2008 and '09 as five-star recruits. Brown took much longer to realize his potential after making a poor decision to sign with Miami. After returning home to Kansas, he blossomed into a consistent superstar and Big 12 champion with the Wildcats. He is a bit undersized but has more than enough speed, physicality and instincts to start right away on the next level. The second round last year featured more than one undersized stat-stuffing tackler — Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, Mychal Kendricks — and those selections worked out pretty well.

4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The physical measurables at the combine have never been and will never be an accurate depiction of NFL potential. Never does a linebacker run in a straight line for 40 yards in shorts. Te'o is a leader, an incredibly productive player, a tremendous member of the community and will be a starter in the NFL. His work ethic is unquestioned and his off the field story is one of naiveté rather than evil genius — which is both positive and negative.

5. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
The Tar Heels star can do it all. He has speed to burn, great vision, burst, explosiveness and versatility. He will be a big part of the passing game and, unlike most rookies, is excellent against the blitz. At his best, Bernard isn't as talented as fellow back Marcus Lattimore, but Bernard has loads of tread left on the tires as he departed Chapel Hill as a redshirt sophomore. In a very talented, very deep running back class, Bernard is the most complete and most game-ready of the bunch and fantasy players should take note. He is a more mature LeSean McCoy — which is a scary thought.

6. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Few corners bring as much length and experience at an elite level like Banks. He is tall and long and matches up with the bigger, more physical modern NFL wide receivers. He can play in any scheme and will be a physical player around the line of scrimmage. Against the best competition in the nation, Banks was a highly respected and decorated player at a premium position. Sign me up.

7. Robert Woods, WR, USC
Few players have the combination of big-play talent, toughness and football IQ like Woods. Despite his smaller stature, he shouldn't be considered a finesse player. This, actually, is probably the only thing that kept him from being taken in the first round. If he was two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier, his durability wouldn't be an issue and he would have pressed Tavon Austin for top wide receiver status. He produced at an elite level and has been a proven commodity for years since being named the National High School Player of the Year as a prep senior.

8. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Thursday night was an obviously painful experience for the West Virginia gunslinger. Whether one particularly scathing pre-draft scouting report was accurate or not, the bottom line is Smith isn't a first-round quarterback. That said, he posted too many numbers, won too many games and has too many physical skills not be worth a risk at the beginning of the second round. Look for someone to jump up and snag the Mountaineers signal caller early in Day Two.

9. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Big, physical, handsy and versatile. Few programs coach the tight end position as well as Stanford. Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw develop true tight ends with the ability to be inline blockers as well as flexed out wide receivers. Ertz is a slightly less athletic, more physical version of Coby Fleener from a year ago. There is a chance he is the better of the two.

10. Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU
He didn't play against elite competition in the Sun Belt but he makes highlight-reel plays. A big hitter with great speed and range, Cyprien has all the tools to excel at the next level. He may take some time to refine and polish his game but there is loads of upside with this heavy-hitting safety. He is a slightly smaller version of Bernard Pollard.

Related: Sharrif Floyd's amazing journey to the NFL

11. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
A steal once he returns to full health. Durability a concern, talent isn't.

12. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Position and scheme changes stunted overall production but gets to the quarterback.

13. Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Likely the top tackle left on the board after a deep run in the first round.

14. Kawaan Short, DL, Purdue
Heart and soul leader of the defense in West Lafayette. Very productive.

15. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
A complete player on and off the field who is game-ready and talented enough to start.

16. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
If he can prove he will be aggressive and dependable like he was pre-knee injury, he will be a star.

17. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
Aggressive player who consistently made big plays for a team that expected to win every Saturday.

18. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
Stop me if you have heard this: undersized, productive, physical, instinctual second-round middle linebacker.

19. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Isn't flashy or overly explosive but is extremely dependable, well-coached and physical.

20. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Big, burly physical runner who dealt with constant injury concerns. Riskier pick with big-time upside.

Related: Grading the First Round of the 2013 NFL Draft

21. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
22. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
23. Brian Winters, OG, Kent State
24. Sio Moore, LB, UConn
25. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
26. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
27. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
28. Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
29. Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
31. John Simon, OLB/DE, Ohio State
32. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft: Day Two's Best Prospects</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 10:30
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The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft is complete and 32 new faces have joined the ranks of professional football. Some will play right away and become instant Pro Bowlers like first-rounders Matt Kalil, Andrew Luck, Doug Martin and Robert Griffin III did a year ago as rookies. Others rarely played like A.J. Jenkins (just three games played) or dealt with major injuries like Nick Perry (six games), David DeCastro (four games) or Dre Kirkpatrick (five games). Others like Detroit's Riley Reiff played, but simply didn't live up to the expectations.

In all, 24 of last year’s 32 first-round picks played in either 15 or 16 games last year. Needless to say, your first-round pick must be able to contribute quickly to justify the lofty draft status.

Last year’s grades included six “A’s” for Luck, Griffin, Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne, Michael Brockers and Dont’a Hightower. San Francisco, for example, got a “C” for Jenkins, who reported to camp out of shape and rode the bench for the first 12 weeks. And the only “D” was for the Chiefs' selection of Memphis’ Dontari Poe. He played all 16 games without registering a sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble or fumble recovery. It wasn’t all Poe’s fault obviously, but Kansas City was the league’s worst team, fired its coach and still needs defensive line help.

But 2013 is a new season and the 2013 NFL Draft is a new opportunity to rebuild.

So how did your favorite team do in the first round?

1. Kansas City: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (6-7, 306)
Team Needs: OL, DL, ILB, S
The Chiefs needed a lot of help and have gone defense in the first round in four of the last five years. With a new quarterback and Jamaal Charles in the backfield, protecting his skill players was a priority for Andy Reid. In a draft with no elite quarterback, the Chiefs did an excellent job filling the second most important position on the field. Fisher has great feet, a mean streak, a huge frame and little downside whatsoever. That said, there is a reason he is the first MAC player to be ever be taken No. 1 overall and only time will tell if Reid took the right left tackle.
First Round Grade: A-

I sat down with Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos last night just minutes after Fisher got selected:

2. Jacksonville: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (6-6, 306)
Team Needs: DE, QB, DT, CB, OL
For my money, the massive left tackle from College Station is the best player in the draft. He has every possible box checked with elite ability, track record of success and upside. There is less downside with Joeckel than Fisher and the Jaguars should be applauded for taking the best available when he dropped into their laps. Blaine Gabbert hasn't gotten a real shot at competing at a high level and whether he is the answer or not, Jacksonville has a body guard for its quarterback for the next decade-plus. He will also help extend the career span of Maurice Jones-Drew.
First Round Grade: A+

3. Miami (from OAK): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon (6-6, 248)
Team Needs: OL, CB, DE, TE
There is plenty of risk here for a team with a lot of needs. That includes the price to move up in the draft but also some risk involved in a player who needs to develop consistency. Jordan has Aldon Smith skills, size and upside but also disappeared at times early in his career. Was this simply the maturation process or was it a lack of focus and drive? Odds are his measurables and raw skill will remind people of Smith — or, perhaps, Jason Taylor.
First Round Grade: B-

4. Philadelphia: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (6-6, 303)
Team Needs: OL, CB, QB, WR
Chip Kelly loves athletic linemen who can move in space and have great feet. The former quarterback is exactly that. He is a tremendous athlete who has excellent footwork, balance and quickness. He should develop the overall bulk and sheer power needed to play left tackle in the NFL but his type of upside athletically isn't coachable, it's innate. There is plenty of risk involved with a guy who hasn't played the position for as long as his peers, but there is elite upside here as well.
First Round Grade: B

5. Detroit: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU (6-5, 271)
Team Needs: OT, DE, WR, LB
The scouting report on Ansah is pretty straight forward. He is a raw prospect who hasn't played a lot of football at an elite level. He doesn't practice well and lacks overall fundamentals. Yet, every time the tape is running, he is making plays all over the field. He has tremendous physical talents and should refine his technique and overall discipline. With a need for a pass-rusher, the Lions tabbed the former Cougars hybrid backer/end.
First Round Grade: B

6. Cleveland: Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU (6-4, 241)
Team Needs: OG, QB, WR, ILB
Defensive line is always a need for almost every team at all times. But the Browns could have used big-time help at a number of other positions. And underachieving, unproductive prospects who don't have great work ethic isn't the answer this high in the draft. On the positive side, Mingo has an elite frame with elite athletic ability and tons of upside. He also failed to produce at a high level — 4.5 sacks as a senior — for a team loaded with underachievers.
First Round Grade: C-

7. Arizona: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina (6-2, 311)
Team Needs: OL, OLB, TE, S
There is something to be said about downside and Cooper has none of it. The ceiling might not be as high as most traditional first-round picks as few guards can justify a pick this high, but the floor is about as high as any player at any position in the draft. He has great feet, a nasty streak and has produced at an elite level throughout his career. Is he better than Chance Warmack? That remains to be seen but Arizona — who's running game has struggled since... ever — got a player who can be plugged into the starting lineup on day one and likely won't leave for years to come.
First Round Grade: A-

8. St. Louis (from BUF): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5-8, 174)
Team Needs: S, WR, OL, OLB
The Rams gave up plenty of value to move up to get Austin, but Jeff Fisher got his guy. Austin might be the only truly game-changing offensive skill position player in this draft and Fisher will have fun figuring out how to use his new toy. Some much-needed big-play ability is now at Sam Bradford's disposal. Fans can figure to see the small speedster in the backfield, on trick plays and on special teams. There is little downside to Austin other than his lack of overall size.
First Round Grade: B+

9. NY Jets: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (6-0, 201)
Team Needs: OLB/DE, QB, OT, DB
There is some injury concern with Milliner but there should be no question about his ability to play cornerback. He should recover from off-season shoulder surgery and be ready to play early in 2013. He is a better all-around player at the position than fellow teammate and 2012 first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick. The former No. 1-rated cornerback prospect in the nation in high school consistently made bigger plays, is a better tackler and is the best pure lockdown cover corner in the draft. He is a great player but does he fill a pressing need for a coaching staff facing a pivotal season?
First Round Grade: B+

10. Tennessee: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (6-2, 317)
Team Needs: DE, S, OG, WR
The Titans running game has no excuses now that Chance Warmack and free agent signings Andy Levitre and Shonn Greene are coming to town. Warmack is a war-daddy of an offensive lineman who has little to no downside whatsoever. He is big, physical, nasty and has done nothing but win, and win big. The road grader will be in the starting lineup in Week 1. Titans running back Chris Johnson said it best on Twitter immediately following Warmack's selection: "THANK GOD."
First Round Grade: A+

Related: 2013's Best Day Two Prospects

11. San Diego: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (6-5, 339)
Team Needs: OL, DB, WR, RB
Fluker has always been a big-time NFL prospect ever since he was the No. 1-rated offensive line recruit in the nation. He worked his way quickly into the starting lineup and eventually locked down the right tackle spot for a two-time national champion. However, he was beat out for left tackle by potential 2014 first-round sophomore Cyrus Koundjio. He has elite size but may not be suited for left tackle — and thus justifying this selection. A great right tackle for years to come isn't a bad consolation prize, but is it worth the No. 11 pick? He has little downside and fills a need, so the Bolts could have done much worse.
First Round Grade: B

12. Oakland (from MIA): D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston (5-11, 191)
Team Needs: CB, OL, DT, LB, QB
The ghost of Al Davis must be floating around the facilities in Oakland because this was a definite reach. Hayden has speed and made plenty of plays while at Houston — facing C-USA quarterbacks, offensive schemes and wide receivers. This pick feels emotional and rushed — much like most of Davis' draft picks — which the is worst thing any front office can do on draft day (see every good team's draft day strategy). Hayden will play early but there is way too much risk at No. 12. Trading down to get extra picks, however, and filling a need was extremely commendable.
First Round Grade: C+

13. NY Jets (from TB): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (6-2, 294)
Team Needs: DL, QB, OT, DB
As usual, the J-E-T-S fans faces were priceless in Radio City Music Hall. And while the Mizzou D-lineman wasn't the top defensive tackle on the board, this wasn't a reach. Richardson has been a elite prospect since his five-star days as a recruit and he provided excellent support up the gut for the Tigers. He is a big, powerful, athletic defensive lineman who should help the Jets' front immediately. Did they need a pass-rusher more? Maybe so. But Richardson is no reach and he was one of the few players for Missouri who belonged in the SEC after changing leagues.
First Round Grade: B

14. Carolina: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (6-2, 311)
Team Needs: DT, DB, WR, OT
Despite the bizarre health issue that appears to be resolved (or contained), there is little downside with the big Utes defensive tackle. Few players produced at a more difficult position the way Lotulelei did for Utah the last two seasons. A former junior college prospect, he took time to find his stride, but his power, excellent fundamentals, toughness and motor make him an impact player at a rare position. To top it off, the Panthers did a great job filling one of its most pressing needs with what could be the best player at his position.
First Round Grade: B+

15. New Orleans: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (6-0, 214)
Team Needs: OT, CB, DL, S
There is a lot to like about the Longhorns safety, but there is a lot to question about him as well. He is a gifted athlete with great speed and size for a player at his position. He is versatile and will be capable of dropping into the box against the run. However, he isn't as fluid in space as he needed to be to match up with many of his more talented peers in the Big 12 — like fellow 2013 NFL draftees Tavon Austin, Terrance Williams and Kenny Stills, for example. Additionally, his Texas defenses dramatically underachieved and were, by in large, extremely disappointing. The upside seems limited here but he has the talent to be serviceable.
First Round Grade: C

16. Buffalo (from STL): EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State (6-5, 237)
Team Needs: QB, WR, LB, G/C
This is likely to be the most controversial pick in the first round but its far from the worst. Manuel has every single physical tool an NFL offensive coordinator is looking for from both a physical and mental standpoint. He is a tremendously intelligent student of the game who leads by example and is focused on doing what it takes to be a winner. He has elite level size, athletic ability and was efficient throwing the football. He is one of just two players in NCAA history to start and win four bowl games. Consistency is a concern, but he is the most physically gifted and mentally grounded quarterback in the draft so it shouldn't be a surprise he is the first and only quarterback off the board in the first round. Does he need to refine his consistency in the pocket? Yes, but he is a gym-rat type who do what it takes to be successful.
First Round Grade: B-

17. Pittsburgh: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (6-2, 245)
Team Needs: RB, OT, LB, WR, DL
He doesn't posses ideal size for his hybrid position and he has dealt with a bizarre neck injury in the past, but Jones is an excellent player. If he stays focused on every play — the Steelers organization generally makes sure of work ethic — Jones has a chance to be a disruptive force. He showed the ability in the best league in America to dominate games on the attack off the edge. Once he gets rolling he was impossible to stop. His skills are a perfect fit in a system that knows a thing or two about undersized outside linebacker-pass rusher-types.
First Round Grade: B+

18. San Francisco (from DAL): Eric Reid, S, LSU (6-1, 213)
Team Needs: DL, S, OLB, TE
The 49ers had few needs and were already a Super Bowl frontrunner, but moving up to grab what could be the best safety in the draft is a power move that should force the NFC to take note. Eric Reid has the speed, size, toughness, quickness and smarts to be an elite player right out of the gate. He was the most consistent performer in a secondary loaded with talent... and turmoil. Reid was one of the few hard workers on this roster in 2012 and his ability to play in the box against the run as well as center field against the pass is invaluable on the next level. He is a future star and now he plays for Jim Harbaugh.
First Round Grade: A

19. NY Giants: Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse (6-4, 307)
Team Needs: OL, LB, DB, RB
There is little downside with this pick. The Orange bookend tackle has loads of experience and has been widely recognized among his peers as one of the best in the game the last few seasons. He doesn't have the elite-level size or athleticism that a Joeckel or Fisher has, but he isn't few steps behind in any one category. Pugh is a polished passer who has a low(er) ceiling and high(er) floor that fills arguably the most pressing needs in the Giants locker room.
First Round Grade: B

20. Chicago: Kyle Long, OG, Oregon (6-6, 313)
Team Needs: LB, OL, CB, QB
The pick is the right position and the right upside, but it has tons of risk. The younger brother of former first-round pick Chris Long and NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, Kyle brings excellent footwork and quickness to the offensive line. He has tackle size and athleticism but questions remain about his bookend talent skills. Guard is possible but right tackle feels like the right fit. This could be a sneaky good pick but also could come back to bite the Bears. Getting help at a key position of need was critical for Chicago and Long definitely helps the line of scrimmage no matter where he plays.
First Round Grade: C+

21. Cincinnati: Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati (6-6, 251)
Team Needs: S, LB, RB, OL
The Irish tight end is an excellent player who is a sure-fire NFL starter as soon as he gets to camp. He has great size, speed, hands, awareness and plenty of potential as an inline blocker. The issue, however, is the depth chart. Former first-round pick Jermaine Gresham and undersized athlete Orson Charles already gives Andy Dalton two excellent receiving options at tight end. It's commendable picking who was likely the best available player on the board as Eifert likely was, but did the Bengals really need another pass-catcher?
First Round Grade: C+ (B+ player)

22. Atlanta (from STL/WAS): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington (6-1, 190)
Team Needs: CB, DE, WR, DL
Fans in Atlanta should be cautiously optimistic with their new lockdown corner. Trufant has a great pedigree as an NFL legacy at defensive back to go with an interesting career trajectory. He broke into the Pac-12 in a big way with an excellent freshman season before plateauing for sometime before an improved final campaign. Under the tutelage of a rebuilt coaching staff at Washington, he blossomed in 2012 once again. Odds are he is a dependable starter for many years without ever really developing into one of the elite stars.
First Round Grade: B

23. Minnesota: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (6-3, 297)
Team Needs: WR, MLB, CB, S
This might be the best pick in the first round, bar none. No team got more value and more talent with any one pick than the Vikings got with Floyd. Warren Sapp could not be a more perfect comparison as work ethic, burst or "get-off," size and power define the young nose guard. He can play in either technique as his disruptive abilities will play anywhere along the defensive front. Floyd never takes a play off and has the ambition and drive that made Sapp special for so many years in the NFL. The rest of the NFC North be warned, Floyd wouldn't be the first statement made by the Vikings on Thursday night.
First Round Grade: A+

Related: Sharrif Floyd's amazing journey to the NFL

24. Indianapolis: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (6-3, 266)
Team Needs: OG, CB, OLB, RB
Werner is a hard-working, football junkie who will give it his all and provide dependable play at a key position of need. That said, questions arise as to where his true position lies and what his strengths will be on the next level. He is a fundamentally sound and refined young player but does he have the size for defensive end or the quickness for outside linebacker?
First Round Grade: C

25. Minnesota (from SEA): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State (6-1, 210)
Team Needs: WR, MLB, CB, S
Few corners come packaged quite like Rhodes does. He has elite level, Patrick Peterson-type size and length for a cornerback, but he isn't the same raw athlete with the same quickness and agility of the No. 5 overall pick of the 2011 draft. He will definitely shift at some point in his career to a hybrid safety-corner role like Charles Woodson did and will be extremely effective. Rhodes is more than athletic enough to match up in man coverages in a division that features the largest and most physical wide receivers in the league — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and Brandon Marshall.
First Round Grade: B+

26. Green Bay: Datone Jones, DL, UCLA (6-4, 283)
Team Needs: S, OL, RB, DL
The similarities with the selection of Jones and the team's first-round pick last year should be a major case of deja vu for Packers fans. Jones was an elite recruit who blossomed into a playmaker during his junior season under a new coach for a Los Angeles Pac-12 school. Exactly like Nick Perry. There is some serious upside with Jones all along the defensive line as he brings elite size and athleticism to the table for Green Bay. However, he took a long time to develop and the risk is huge with a late bloomer who underachieved most of his career.
First Round Grade: C+

27. Houston: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (6-1, 214)
Team Needs: WR, OLB, ILB, OT
Some players are perfect fits at perfect times for perfect teams. Landing on a great team with an established running game and Hall of Fame veteran to learn from at wideout is about as perfect a situation as "Nuke" Hopkins could have hoped for. He isn't as talented as former teammate and potential 2014 NFL Draft prospect Sammy Watkins but has great size, hands and toughness to make plays opposite Andre Johnson. He may be more of an elite No. 2 but few players in the first round will step into a more favorable situation to succeed than Hopkins.
First Round Grade: B+

28. Denver: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina (6-3, 313)
Team Needs: MLB, S, DE, RB
The Broncos needed to fill some gaps along its defensive line Williams should do that quickly. While he may not be as productive or disruptive as Floyd or Lotelelei, he has good footwork and get-off. His quickness should allow him to rotate inside and out depending on game scenario and should give the Broncos continued flexibility along a reworked defensive line. It doesn't feel like a sexy pick for the Broncos, but building from the interior on a team loaded with offense is the right move.
First Round Grade: B-

29. Minnesota (from NE): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (6-2, 216)
Team Needs: WR, MLB, CB, S
Patterson is a big-time athlete who is dripping with talent and will contribute on special teams right away. However, he is a long way from being a productive No. 1 wide receiver, especially with a young quarterback who isn't overly talented. His size, burst and athleticism are elite for his position but his understanding of the position and its subtle nuances are far from NFL-ready, which is indicative of his junior college background. Look for him to be used in trick plays, short passes, on special teams and a few deep go routes for the first few seasons.
First Round Grade: B-

30. St. Louis (from ATL): Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (6-2, 242)
Team Needs: S, WR, OL, OLB
Another sound decision from one of the best CEOs in the NFL. Fisher once again got his guy with this talented tackler from Georgia. Ogletree plays at one pace: fast. He needs to refine his game and pack on some bulk but he has the instincts, explosiveness and range to be an elite player for years to come. His physicality and burst is uncoachable.
First Round Grade: B+

31. Dallas (from SF): Travis Frederick, G/C, Wisconsin (6-4, 312)
Team Needs:
OL, S, DT, OLB
Frederick is a quality player who would be a starting member of most NFL offensive lines. In that sense, Jerry Jones might have finally made a quality first-round offensive line choice. But in typical Jones fashion, he likely misjudged the value of this player. If it difficult to fault someone for taking "their guy" but some had the Badgers versatile blocker going in the third round, not the first. Use of the second-rounder — pick 47 overall — would have been dramatically more prudent for the Cowboys.
First Round Grade: D+

32. Baltimore: Matt Elam, S, Baltimore (5-10, 208)
Team Needs: WR, OT, ILB, S
Replacing Ed Reed won't just happen with one first-round draft pick but Elam has some rare ability. He might be the hardest-hitting player in the entire draft as he patrols the secondary with reckless abandon. He is shorter than desirable but played with great speed and range for one of the best defenses in the best league in college football. That said, his out-of-control style of play occasionally caused him problems with over-reactions and penalties. There are some kinks to iron out but Elam goes a long way as the Ravens attempt to replace Reed, a surefire future Hall of Famer.
First Round Grade: B-

Player Pos. NCAA NFL Pick Grade
Luke Joeckel OT Texas A&M Jacksonville #2 A+
Chance Warmack OG Alabama Tennessee #10 A+
Sharrif Floyd DT Florida Minnesota #23 A+
Eric Reid S LSU San Francisco #18 A
Eric Fisher OT Central Michigan Kansas City #1 A-
Jonathan Cooper OG North Carolina Arizona #7 A-
Tavon Austin WR West Virginia St. Louis #8 B+
Dee Milliner CB Alabama NY Jets #9 B+
Star Lotulelei DT Utah Carolina #14 B+
Jarvis Jones LB Georgia Pittsburgh #17 B+
Xavier Rhodes CB Florida State Minnesota #25 B+
DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson Houston #27 B+
Alec Ogletree LB Georgia St. Louis #30 B+
Lane Johnson OT Oklahoma Philadelphia #4 B
Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU Detroit #5 B
D.J. Fluker OL Alabama San Diego #11 B
Sheldon Richardson DT Missouri NY Jets #13 B
Justin Pugh OL Syracuse NY Giants #19 B
Desmond Trufant CB Washington Atlanta #22 B
Dion Jordan DE Oregon Miami #3 B-
EJ Manuel QB Florida State Buffalo #16 B-
Sylverster Williams DT North Carolina Denver #28 B-
Cordarrelle Patterson WR Tennessee Minnesota #29 B-
Matt Elam S Florida Baltimore #32 B-
D.J. Hayden CB Houston Oakland #12 C+
Kyle Long OL Oregon Chicago #20 C+
Tyler Eifert TE Notre Dame Cincinnati #21 C+
Datone Jones DL UCLA Green Bay #25 C+
Kenny Vaccaro S Texas New Orleans #15 C
Bjoern Werner DE Florida State Indianapolis #24 C
Barkevious Mingo DE/LB LSU Cleveland #6 C-
Travis Frederick G/C Wisconsin Dallas #31 D+

Teaser:
<p> Grading Every First-Round Pick of the 2013 NFL Draft</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-april-22
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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire report every Monday. Our fantasy junkies cover the hottest hitters, best waiver wire pick ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bullpens from around the league each and every week.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (Apr. 8-Apr. 14):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Carlos Gonzalez OF COL 7 1 6 2 .417 1.214
2. Mike Trout OF LAA 4 1 9 2 .391 1.052
3. David Wright 3B NYM 5 2 5 2 ..350 1.369
4. Evan Longoria 3B TB 6 4 6 0 .250 1.026
5. Carlos Gomez OF MIL 5 2 3 1 .500 1.470
6. Mike Napoli C/1B BOS 5 1 10 0 .354 1.096
7. Lorenzo Cain* OF KC 4 1 3 2 .556 1.508
8. Troy Tulowitzki SS COL 5 3 6 0 .333 1.242
9. Jacoby Ellsbury OF BOS 8 0 1 3 .355 .859
10. J.P. Arencibia* C TOR 5 4 5 0 .250 .964
11. Joe Mauer C/1B MIN 3 1 6 0 .588 1.491
12. Carlos Beltran OF STL 4 3 4 0 .375 1.192
13. Ryan Braun OF MIL 4 3 8 0 .200 1.010
14. Joey Votto 1B CIN 5 2 4 0 .385 1.100
15. Anthony Rizzo 1B CHC 4 3 5 0 .316 1.170
16. Desmond Jennings OF TB 6 2 3 2 .233 .706
17. Peter Bourjos* OF LAA 5 1 6 0 .318 1.010
18. Jose Altuve 2B HOU 4 0 3 2 .455 1.111
19. Todd Frazier 1/3/OF CIN 5 2 7 0 .238 .891
20. Bryce Harper OF WAS 4 2 4 0 .421 1.342
21. Mark Reynolds 1B/3B CLE 4 2 5 0 .368 1.053
22. Jonathan Lucroy* C MIL 4 2 6 0 .316 1.053
23. Robinson Cano 2B NYY 4 2 5 0 .346 1.068
24. Brandon Crawford* SS SF 6 2 2 0 .381 1.123
25. James Loney* 1B TB 4 1 5 0 .471 1.350

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Jonathan Lucroy, C, MIL (57% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
On April 12, Lucroy was hitting .167 with no home runs and a pathetic OPS of .424. A six-game hitting streak later and Lucroy is sitting at .259/.768 with three homers and 10 RBIs. He has moved up to the No. 10-rated fantasy catcher — meaning he is a starter in a 10-team league — and will only continue to hit. Playing in the World Baseball Classic is likely what caused his slow start and owners can't expect the .320 average he posted a year ago, but Lucroy can hit. 

Brandon Crawford, SS, SF (40%)
The Giants took the UCLA shortstop in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB Draft and he is beginning to pay dividends. He has a great glove and has always been a solid fielder but his fantasy bat has come to life. And at a scarce position (one that's missing Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Derek Jeter), you cannot afford to ignore Crawford. Don't buy the power numbers — he has 10 HR in 694 career at-bats — but there is no reason he can't deliver solid counting stats. Think Alexi Ramirez-type production.

Yankee Free Agents
Travis Hafner is only eligible at UTL and is owned by only 34 percent of Y! leagues. Vernon Wells is owned in only 39 percent of Y! leagues. Neither should be considered long-term starters in your fantasy lineup, but while Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are out, these two will get at-bats. Hafner should capitalize on the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium and Wells appears to have plenty left in the tank. Both are worth the risk and both are ranked in the top 60 overall hitters thus far in 2013.

James Loney, 1B, TB (1%)
Only one-percent of Y! owners have use for a career .283 hitter? No, he will never deliver the power numbers — 74 homers in 3,213 career at-bats — but has always hit for average, driven in runs and been a solid fantasy backup at 1B or UTL. The Rays offense has taken off of late, winning four of five, and could still easily be the team to beat in the AL East. I am not using a waiver priority on Loney, but if I am desperate at corner infielder, he could be your guy.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Matt Harvey NYM 22.0 3 22 1.23 0.73
2. Clay Buchholz BOS 23.0 3 25 0.78 0.96
3. Paul Maholm ATL 20.2 2 19 1.31 0.77
4. Hiroki Kuroda NYY 21.2 2 18 1.66 0.83
5. Jose Quintana* CHW 13.2 1 14 0.00 0.59
6. Lance Lynn STL 18.0 3 22 2.50 1.06
7. Adam Wainwright STL 16.0 2 16 1.69 0.81
8. Jorge De La Rosa* COL 18.0 2 14 1.50 0.83
9. Wade Davis* KC 12.0 2 13 0.00 1.00
10. R.A. Dickey TOR 12.1 2 11 0.73 0.81
11. Shleby Miller STL 13.0 1 14 1.38 0.62
12. Ervin Santana* KC 23.0 2 18 1.57 1.09
13. Derek Holland TEX 15.0 1 10 1.20 0.67
14. Yu Darvish TEX 13.0 1 18 2.08 0.77
15. Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 12.2 1 8 0.71 0.63
16. Carlos Villanueva* CHC 14.1 1 9 1.26 0.63
17. CC Sabathia NYY 16.0 2 15 2.25 0.94
18. Doug Fister DET 22.0 2 15 2.05 1.00
19. Max Scherzer DET 14.0 0 23 1.29 0.93
20. A.J. Burnett PIT 13.0 1 16 2.08 0.77

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Mon. - Sun.):

1. Shelby Miller, STL: Pittsburgh (Sun.) 73% owned
Miller will pitch against the Nationals on Monday (if you can add him day of) and will get the Pirates on Sunday. Both offenses are adequate but Miller has been nasty of late. The former first-round pick is showing fans why he was so highly touted by allowing four earned runs, striking out 18 and winning twice in his first three starts this season.

2. Travis Wood, CHC: at Miami (Sat.) 22% owned
The former Reds starter is rounding into form for the lowly Cubs. He won't get great run support (11 runs in three starts) but has been strong in all three of his starts thus far. He has allowed no more than two earned runs in a start and will get the anemic Marlins next weekend. He will face his former team on Monday in Cincinnati.

3. Wade Miley, ARI: Colorado (Sat.) 75% owned
Other than one inning in his last outing, Miley has been downright unhittable. Outside of a three-run seventh inning against the Yankees last Wednesday, Miley had allowed three earned runs in over 18 innings pitched. He won't post huge strikeout totals but will help ratios and get wins. He also gets the Giants on Monday if you can add day-of starters.

4. Ryan Dempster, BOS: Houston (Fri.) 70% owned
The strikeout totals have been unreal for Dempster — he has 33 Ks in 24.0 innings thus far — but has yet to notch a win. He will get the Astros on Friday and should be able to provide solid ratios and big strikeout numbers against this lowly AL West lineup.

5. Ryan Vogelsong, SF: at San Diego (Sun.) 78% owned
Vogelsong is owned in four out of five leagues but owners may have given up on the young hurler after a slow start to the season (5.89 ERA/1.47 WHIP through Sunday). He gets the Diamondbacks on Monday (if you can add and start same day) but more importantly will get the Padres on Sunday. Look for Vogelsong's numbers to improve over the next few weeks.

Closing Morsels:

The Brewers' closing job might be Jim Henderson's for good. He has four successful saves and one win in six appearances since taking over for John Axford. He has allowed one run and struck out eight over that span... The Cardinals went with Edward Mujica last Thursday and it worked as he struck out two in a 1.1-inning save. St. Louis hasn't had a save chance since so keep an eye on this one but Mujica is the one to own currently... In Detroit, Drew Smyly is pitching in an interesting role — he threw 5.2 scoreless innings on Saturday. He has a win, a save and two holds over 15.0 bullpen innings (1.80, 1.00, 17 K). In leagues with holds, a guy with "SP" eligibility is invaluable. And don't be shocked if the tall lefty gets some more save chances for the Tigers... Greg Holland had the rare two-save day on Sunday, and, with Kelvin Herrera working through some struggles of late, he appears to have regained favor in the ninth for the Royals... Keep a close eye on Boston and add Andrew Bailey immediately if you are desperate. He converted three straight saves last week after blowing a lead on Monday while Joel Hanrahan is on the DL. Bailey has been lights out: 9.1 IP, 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 3 SV, 15 K and is a must add.

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: April 22</p>
Post date: Monday, April 22, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-sleepers-and-steals
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The first round of the NFL Draft monopolizes coverage in the media and fan’s minds alike. While the first 32 picks are important and generally feature the most elite talents, the best organizations in football are competitive year after year because of quality middle round work.

Alfred Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and was a sixth-round pick. Russell Wilson posted one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history as a third-round pick. Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner and Mychal Kendricks were all second-rounders and the trio of linebackers totaled 353 total tackles last season. Round three was also kind to wide receivers, as T.Y. Hilton (50), Chris Givens (42) and T.J. Graham (31) were fourth, sixth and seventh among rookie wideouts in receptions in 2012.

The point is most NFL championships are built mostly between rounds two and five. Consistent winners in Green Bay, New England, Indianapolis and the New York Giants are perfect examples of how to win the draft each year.

So who should NFL teams be targeting in the middle rounds in 2013?

Here are 15 sleepers guaranteed to outperform their draft stock this fall:

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (6-2, 185)
There is a chance that this lengthy corner goes late in the first round, but assuming he drops past the first day, he will be a steal. He has tremendous length and physicality and is a perfect fit in a Tampa-2 cover scheme. He plays the run well and once he adds some weight to his frame, should be capable of battling with the bigger, more physical NFL wide receivers. He was a three-year starter at Mississippi State and a leader of a team that went to three straight bowl games.

Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (5-8, 202)
NFL.com has 12 mock drafts posted in its Mock Draft Central and not one has Bernard listed in the first round. He isn’t a workhorse back, but that type of player has gone the way of the Dodo bird in the pass-happy NFL. Bernard brings a complete skill set to any offense, as he is an elite receiver and return man as well as running back. He has great quickness, burst and toughness to go with a compact frame that is difficult to hit. He also is a solid pass protector, giving him the chance to start right away. Other than Marcus Lattimore, Bernard might be the most talented runner in this draft.

Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers (6-1, 241)
Pitt running back Ray Graham’s half brother is a full-fledged NFL sleeper. One of the Big East’s top playmakers on defense the last three seasons, Greene posted nearly 400 tackles (387) in his decorated college career at Rutgers. He led what was one of the league’s best defenses and earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors as both a junior and senior. His tremendous speed and athletic ability make him a prototype 4-3 weak-side backer — a position that always delivers value in the middle rounds.

Zavier Gooden, LB, Missouri (6-1, 234)
Playing a lot of hybrid safety/linebacker at Missouri has given Gooden a unique skill set. He has excellent speed to cover loads of ground, both in run pursuit and pass coverage. He will have to battle the ‘undersized’ moniker as he lacks elite size for a linebacker, but more than makes up for it with toughness and athletic ability. His agility and speed should allow him to stick around for some time on the NFL level. Gooden isn’t a second-round pick but could be a steal in Rounds 3-5.

Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin (6-4, 312)
In a weak interior offensive line class, Frederick has a chance to be the best center in the draft. He has a thick body and versatility, excelling as both a guard and center at OL-friendly Wisconsin. He has been extremely well-coached, uses excellent technique and provides leadership and toughness up front. The Badgers have produced some big-time blockers under Bret Bielema of late and Frederick should be the next one as a potential second- or third-round pick.

Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (6-4, 306)
Few players have ever been as decorated and successful as Jones. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman in 2011 and has been an All-SEC performer at tackle, guard and center against the nation’s best defensive linemen. He was a huge part of three national championships at Alabama and there is no reason to think he won’t stick in the NFL. He is a little undersized and has dealt with plenty of small injuries, however, his work ethic, leadership, versatility, intelligence and toughness should keep him in the NFL for years.

Corey Lemonier, DE/LB, Auburn (6-3, 255)
There was only one bright spot for the Tigers the last two seasons and his last name was Lemonier. He has tremendous athleticism for his size and will fit into any scheme on the next level. He proved himself as an undersized down lineman who wreaked havoc in opposing backfields — try 24.0 tackles for a loss and 17.0 sacks in just two years of starting. He will need to add bulk and power if he wants to play with his hand in the dirt, but could also stand up as a hybrid 3-4 OLB/DE type. He was an elite recruit who starred in college and there is no reason to think he won’t be a capable defender on Sundays.

Sio Moore, LB, UConn (6-1, 245)
Normally, top combine performers don’t impress me. But Moore’s numbers stand out considering how productive he was in college. He led most linebackers in 40-time (4.65), bench reps (29), vertical jump (38.0”) and broad jump (127.0”). He led a defense that was the Big East’s best a year ago while consistently battling against teams with dramatically more talent. When he left Storrs, Moore had 274 total tackles, an absurd 43.0 tackles for loss and 16.0 sacks. Sign me up.

Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (6-0, 190)
The Oregon State Beavers cornerback might be the best defensive player in the history of the program. He has more than adequate size, dynamic return ability and a knack for making big plays on defense. He has an excellent football IQ and will lead by example on any roster. He isn’t an elite overall athlete but that shouldn't take away from the fact that he is a great football player. Look for Poyer to be a steal in the Round 3-5 range.

John Simon, DE, Ohio State (6-1, 257)
The book on Simon is pretty straight forward. He is undersized and lacks the elite explosiveness to be considered a first-round talent. However, he owns every major weight lifting record at Ohio State and was the unquestioned leader of an unbeaten Buckeyes team in 2012. He has one of the best motors in the draft, plays fundamentally sound football and maximizes his talent on every play. His toughness will allow him to play on the next level, ideally in a multiple front scheme. He wouldn’t be the first sawed-off defensive lineman to outperform his draft stock (see LaMarr Woodley or Robert Mathis).

Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M (6-0, 205)
Swope never stood out as a game-changer at any point in his career, but when he left College Station he was the most productive receiver in Texas A&M history. He is a gritty, tough-nosed, handsy receiver who isn’t scared of contact and will lead by example. He has plenty of speed and can make plays down the field. Swope is a guy whose sum of the parts is better than the whole. Think Marvin Harrison (NOT Wes Welker!)

Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford (5-9, 215)
This is a loaded running back class with as many as a dozen quality sleeper candidates and Taylor is one of them. He isn’t flashy or explosive, but he is extremely productive and rarely misses assignments. He posted three straight 1,000-yards seasons and touched the ball 881 times over the last three seasons. His durability isn’t in question either as he never missed a game over that span. He is a true workhorse back who picks up the blitz, catches the ball well and wins a ton of games.

Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky (6-3, 332)
The best player on the Kentucky roster the last two years has been Warford. On a team that provided him zero support on either side of the ball, this big blocker was consistently honored as one of the SEC’s best. He is a mauler and will physically control the point of attack on the next level just like he did against the best defensive lines in the nation. Guards don’t normally go in the first round, but 2013 could see two in Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, however, Warford isn’t too far behind.

Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor (6-2, 208)
Great speed. Tremendous body control and ball skills. Excellent size and strength. Ridiculous levels of production. Leadership and intelligence. What’s not to like about Williams? In fact, it almost seems odd that Williams doesn’t get mentioned with names like De Andre Hopkins, Cordarrelle Patterson or Tavon Austin. He is much bigger and stronger than Austin and more polished and game-ready than Patterson. Expect a big first year from this likely second-round pick.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (6-1, 201)
Had Woods been allowed to come out as a sophomore, he would have easily been a first-round pick. All those records teammate Marqise Lee broke in 2012 were set the year before by Woods. The star wideout plays with a toughness that few receivers possess and has been extremely productive. He has adequate size, great hands, a tremendous feel for the game and speed to burn. If he falls out of the first round, fans can bet Woods will be a steal.

Other names we like:

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (5-10, 214)
Matt Barkley, QB, USC (6-2, 227)
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee (6-6, 230)
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State (5-11, 190)
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue (6-3, 299)
William Gholston, DE, Michigan State (6-6, 280)
Kyle Long, OG, Oregon (6-6, 313)
Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma (5-11, 213)
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA (5-10, 205)
Phillip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn (6-3, 260)

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals</p>
Post date: Monday, April 22, 2013 - 10:45
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-toughest-schedules-2013
Body:

2013 NFL ScheduleThe NFL has got it all figured out. The most powerful, popular and lucrative sport in the history of sports has turned its annual schedule release into saliva-inducing, must-see TV for football-starved fans across the country.

And for the most part, all but two games have already been decided for every team. NFL schedules are fairly set in stone in terms of opponents. Each team rotates playing each division from the opposite conference every four years, each division in its own conference every three years and, of course, has its six division showdowns.

That leaves two open dates the NFL must fill for each team. Two games is all the NFL can manipulate in an effort to make a perceived playoff contender’s schedule more difficult and a perceived lower tier team’s schedule more favorable. Because of parity, scheduling isn’t the end-all, be-all determining factor for postseason success, but playing Jacksonville instead of New England sure does help.

Having said all of that, there are still many other subtleties the NFL must decide when it releases its schedule. Where to place bye weeks? Who plays on Thursdays and Mondays? What about home-road decisions? And the important back-loaded divisional schedules?

It's all part of the annual schedule party the NFL has created each spring. So with team and fan travel plans being feverishly orchestrated now that dates have been set, which teams appear poised to take advantage of a weaker slate (see Indianapolis last year)? And which will be facing the most daunting slate in 2013?

Related: 10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule


1. Atlanta Falcons (2012: 13-3)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC West, AFC East
Swing Games: at Green Bay, Washington
Opposing '12 Record: .504 (15th)

A nasty crossover slate with the NFC West, two tough swing games against Green Bay and Washington, the New England Patriots and a division that has no easy games gives the Falcons what could be the toughest schedule in the NFL. A tricky road trip to New Orleans starts the year but Atlanta's schedule is front-loaded with home games (four of the first six). It means the two marquee late-season showdowns with NFC contenders San Francisco and Green Bay will come on the road. The only comfort comes in the form of AFC East games with Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets. 

2. Minnesota Vikings (2012: 10-6)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC East, AFC North
Swing Games: Carolina, at Seattle
Opposing '12 Record: .516 (10th)

The NFC North teams will face arguably the toughest crossover schedules in the league, having to play what should be the deepest divisions in each conference. Add to it a road trip to Seattle and two games with the Packers and making the playoffs again feels like a tall order. The season begins with back-to-back road trips to Detroit and Chicago before a deadly eight-week mid-season stretch: at NY Giants, Packers, at Dallas, Washington, at Seattle, at Green Bay, Chicago and at Baltimore. The Vikes will play seven straight opponents who didn't having a losing record. No worries, Minnesota.

3. St. Louis Rams (2012: 7-8-1)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC South, AFC South
Swing Games: at Dallas, Chicago
Opposing '12 Record: .539 (4th)

The NFC West is likely the toughest division in football and having to face San Francisco and Seattle a combined four times is just unfair. Road trips to Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis and Carolina don't make matters any better. This schedule appears to match the gaudy .539 opponent's winning percentage and should be one of the toughest in the league. Anything above .500 might automatically make Jeff Fisher the Coach of the Year.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (2012: 11-5)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC North
Swing Games: at San Diego, Indianapolis
Opposing '12 Record: .508 (12th)

The Bengals got no favors with their home schedule but fans in the Queen City will get their money's worth in 2013. The home slate features the Steelers, Packers, Patriots, Colts, Vikings and Ravens, five of which made the playoffs a year ago. The start and finish to the Bengals' season will be extremely tough, with two difficult five-game stretches bookending a softer heart of the slate. Other than an obviously difficult road trip to Baltimore, the middle six games provide a chance for Cincy to pick up some ground on its AFC competitors. If the Bengals are over .500 heading into the bye in Week 12, it would be considered a big success.

5. Green Bay Packers (2012: 11-5)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC East, AFC North
Swing Games: at San Francisco, Atlanta
Opposing '12 Record: .533 (6th)

The Packers have been an elite team for the better part of two decades so rarely does the franchise get scheduling breaks. This fall will be no different as Green Bay will face two of the top three teams — San Francisco and Atlanta — in the NFC as swing games. Four games with the NFC East and AFC North provide few breaks and six always cut-throat NFC North games will be challenging as usual. However, it all gets started outside of the division with an extremely trying three-game set against San Francisco in the Bay, Washington at home and at Cincinnati. With the bye week falling so early in Week 4, Green Bay will be faced with playing 13 straight games to end the year. And only two of the last 10 are against teams that posted losing records last season. 

6. Washington Redskins (2012: 10-6)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC North, AFC West
Swing Games: San Francisco, at Atlanta
Opposing '12 Record: .498 (18th)

Only the Packers will play a tougher set of swing games as the Redskins face both the Niners and Falcons in the final six weeks. Add to it battles with Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler as well as six always territorial divisional games and the 'Skins are facing one of the league's toughest schedules. That is to say nothing of the road trip to Minnesota. With Robert Griffin III's return still a guessing game, Washington needed some good news with the scheduling and it got absolutely no favors — other than the max five primetime games, of course.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (2012: 4-12)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC North, AFC West 
Swing Games: at Tampa Bay, Arizona
Opposing '12 Record: .496 (20th)

The good news is two relatively winnable swing games with the Cardinals and Bucs, home games with the Bears and Lions and meetings with the Raiders and Andy Reid-led Chiefs. However, the Eagles may not be favored in any other game it plays the rest of the season. The six games in the NFC East might be the toughest division schedule of any team in the NFL. No one in the league will play a tougher October: at Denver, at NY Giants, at Tampa Bay, Dallas, NY Giants. 

8. San Francisco 49ers (2012: 11-4-1)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC South, AFC South
Swing Games: Green Bay, at Washington
Opposing '12 Record: .520 (9th)

No one starts the season like the 49ers do. Green Bay, at Seattle, Indianapolis, at St. Louis and Houston at home gives the San Francisco the toughest but most exciting first month of anyone in the league. The Redskins and Robert Griffin III join the Packers in swing matches with the defending NFC Champions as well. The heart of this schedule eases up significantly (Arizona, Tennessee, Jacksonville, bye week, Carolina in order), but will get rough again in the final month and a half. Three key showdowns with the NFC North, including a primetime Week 16 battle with Atlanta, combine with three divisional games to create a daunting finish to the season for the Niners.

9. New England Patriots (2012: 12-4)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC South
Swing Games: Denver, at Houston
Opposing '12 Record: .508 (14th)

The Patriots are in the easiest division in the easier conference but their schedule is balanced out by a nasty rotation of conference games. The Pats will play the toughest two possible swings games in their conference while also playing what could be the deepest division in the AFC North. Additionally, there is no easy out in the NFC South but at least the Saints must visit Foxborough — strangely, one week prior to the game Tom Brady COULD break Drew Brees' consecutive games with a touchdown streak. That said, the first month is a breeze and New England is all but guaranteed a 3-0 start.

10. Chicago Bears (2012: 10-6)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC East, AFC North
Swing Games: New Orleans, at St. Louis
Opposing '12 Record: .502 (16th)

There are much tougher sets of swing games than Chicago's games with the Saints and Rams, but there are also much easier ones too. An entire slate with the AFC North will be daunting as well for a reworked defense and offensive line that consistently struggles. The easiest two-game stretch on the schedule this fall for the Bears is a two-game road trip to Cleveland and Philadelphia in Weeks 15 and 16. And both of those could be nail-biters. This team should be excellent on offense but is slipping on defense and it will be tested by a host of elite quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers (twice), Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Matthew Stafford (twice) and Andy Dalton. 

11. New Orleans Saints (2012: 7-9)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC West, AFC East
Swing Games: at Chicago, Dallas
Opposing '12 Record: .539 (3rd)

The Saints need to get off to a hot start and take advantage of the home-road splits early on. Three of the first four and six of the first 10 are at home, however, Atlanta, San Francisco and Dallas are three of the home opponents. That leaves a pair of two-game road trips in the final six weeks. Where to? At Atlanta and Seattle in Weeks 12 and 13 and at St. Louis and Carolina in Weeks 15 and 16. The defense better have made significant strides in the first half if it expects to compete in the second. Road trips include visits to Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Jay Cutler.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (2012: 2-14)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC West
Swing Games: at Cleveland, Buffalo
Opposing '12 Record: .508 (13th)

Two soft swing games won't ease the pain of having to face one of the toughest divisional schedules in the NFL as six with the Texans, Colts and Titans is no easy task. Crossover play features the brutal NFC West along with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers from the AFC West. The Jaguars begin soft with Kansas City and Oakland and may not get another win until after the bye week in Week 9. This team might have to face one of the top five teams in the NFL five different times (Houston twice, no New England). Don't expect the Jaguars to be favored in more than two or three games.

13. Carolina Panthers (2012: 7-9)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC West, AFC East
Swing Games: NY Giants, at Minnesota
Opposing '12 Record: .543 (1st)

According to last year's records, the Panthers have the toughest schedule in the NFL. While the schedule isn't as daunting as those numbers might indicate, the team trying to scrap and claw its way above .500 got no favors from the league. Both swing games are tough and the foursome of NFC West tilts figures to be downright nasty. There is no break in the division for the Panthers either with all four teams sitting at 7-9 or better a year ago. Cam Newton will have to make headway early in the year despite facing the Seahawks in Week 1, the Giants in Week 3 and the Vikings on the road in Week 6. The second half of the season features two with Atlanta and New Orleans each, as well as New England and San Francisco. 

14. Seattle Seahawks (2012: 11-5)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC South, AFC South
Swing Games: Minnesota, at NY Giants
Opposing '12 Record: .516 (11th)

The start of the season looks to be plenty daunting with a huge matchup with San Francisco in Week 2. Road trips to face Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and the Houston Texans in the first five weeks sandwich the home game with the 49ers. There isn't much time to breathe as road trips to St. Louis and Atlanta and a visit from Adrian Peterson and the Vikings dot the middle of the schedule. The bye week comes late in the year and will be a welcome sight for a team that faces a nasty final month. Seattle will face the Saints at home, and the Niners and Giants on the road in back-to-back-back weekends to start December. The Seahawks should be able to exhale, however, as the final two are winnable division games at home.

15. Baltimore Ravens (2012: 11-5)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC North
Swing Games: at Denver, Houston 
Opponents '12 Record: .535 (5th)

Just like the AFC rival New England, Baltimore will face a nasty pair of swing games in the conference as the season begins on the road against Peyton Manning. The Super Bowl champs also might have to defend their title playing in the deepest division in the AFC. But there is plenty of good news, however, as both the AFC East and NFC North crossover play are not all that daunting. Yes, Green Bay and New England are on the schedule, but so are the Lions, Bills, Jets, Bears, Dolphins and Vikings. There are clear tests for the Ravens but a repeat as the division champs is well within reach. The opponent's winning percentage looks stiff, but a few of Baltimore's opponents (Chicago, for example) appear to be trending in the wrong direction.

16. Detroit Lions (2012: 4-12)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC East, AFC North
Swing Games: at Arizona, Tampa Bay
Opposing '12 Record: .539 (2nd)

This is a crucial year for the powers that be in Detroit, and as one of the league's worst teams a year ago, the schedule in 2013 should be more manageable than in 2012. The Lions have the worst division schedule in the North as they don't get to face... themselves twice. But with a soft pair of swing games and an intriguing road schedule — five of the eight road games will be against teams that didn't make the playoffs a year ago — the Lions may have some chances at pull an upset or two. Atlanta, San Francisco and Seattle are obvious NFC omissions, giving Matthew Stafford a shot to improve on the four wins from a year ago. 

17. Arizona Cardinals (2012: 5-11)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC South, AFC South
Swing Games: Detroit, at Philadelphia
Opposing '12 Record: .520 (7th)

The Cardinals got a break with the Lions and Eagles in crossover play in what will be two of the few chances for wins in 2013. Arizona needs to get out of the gate fast once again and take advantage of three potential chances for wins in the first five (DET, TB, CAR) before a four-game stretch that includes the 49ers, Seahawks, Falcons and Texans. The schedule then lightens up again in late November and early December, however, the year will end with arguably the top two teams in the NFL: at Seattle and San Francisco at home.

18. Denver Broncos (2012: 13-3)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC East
Swing Games: Baltimore, at New England
Opposing '12 Record: .430 (32nd)

The Broncos posted the best record in the NFL last year and Denver looks like an early frontrunner to win the AFC. According to last year's win-loss record — which is always a dangerous endeavor — the Broncos will play the easiest schedule in the league. However, a four-pack with the NFC East is extremely dangerous and both swing games are nasty. Marquee showdowns with the Super Bowl champions and Tom Brady highlight a strong AFC schedule that also features the Colts and Texans as well. Additionally, the division will be much improved with the changes that have taken place in San Diego and Kansas City. Based on numbers this schedule doesn't appear to be all that daunting, but make no mistake, there is some serious juice to more than half of the Broncos schedule.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012: 7-9)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC West, AFC East
Swing Games: Eagles, at Detroit
Opposing '12 Record:  .500 (17th)

There are some brutal early season road trips and playing the entire NFC West is going to be rough, but there are some chances for wins in 2013 in Tampa. Both swing games are ones the Bucs should expect to win if they want to compete in the South — a division that featured three 7-9 teams a year ago. The AFC East also could serve up some victories for the Buccaneers. It might be a blessing facing New England and Seattle on the road since those would have been likely home losses. Tampa Bay has some tricky patches but there are few back-to-back surefire losses on this schedule and the Bucs could easily work their way back to seven wins.

20. Tennessee Titans (2012: 6-10)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC West
Swing Games: at Pittsburgh, NY Jets
Opposing '12 Record: .488 (23rd)

The Titans have one of the more difficult AFC schedules in 2013. Four games with Houston and Indianapolis inside of the division are uphill battles as is a four-game set with the NFC West. Toss in road trips to Pittsburgh and Denver and a home visit from San Diego and Tennessee is looking at barely competing for .500. It has to defeat the Jaguars twice and win clutch home games with beatable opponents — Kansas City, NY Jets, Arizona — if the Titans want to improve on their six wins from last season.

21. Miami Dolphins (2012: 7-9)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC South
Swing Games: at Indianapolis, San Diego
Opposing '12 Record: .520 (8th)

Traveling to the Colts and hosting the Chargers makes for two interesting swing games for a team bubbling just below the .500 surface. Eight tough crossover games with the NFC South and the AFC North give the Fish plenty of marquee home games — Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati — but also some brutal road trips — New Orleans, Pittsburgh. In the division is where Miami can make ground on a potential playoff bid. A 4--0 record against lowly New York and Buffalo is a must if the Dolphins want to compete for a Wild Card spot. 

22. New York Giants (2012: 9-7)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC North, AFC West
Swing Games: at Carolina, Seattle
Opposing '12 Record: .480 (24th)

The Giants' schedule is chalked full of juicy primetime matchups but doesn't seem to particularly overbearing. Three of the first four come on the road but are winnable, giving the Giants a favorable home-road split over the course of the second half. Also, playing the AFC West gives fans The Manning Bowl, but it also gives the Giants chances for wins. Battling with the NFC North is normally tough but the Giants have had Green Bay's number and it's hard seeing the rest of division improving. Once again, a balanced and tough but not elite division schedule will decide the Giants postseason fate.

23. New York Jets (2012: 6-10)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC South
Swing Games: at Tennessee, Oakland
Opposing '12 Record: .496 (19th)

In a key year for Rex Ryan, the Jets got some help in the scheduling department. A pair of easy swing games, packaged with four games against Buffalo and Miami, gives New York a chance to flirt with seven or eight wins should all things fall into place. Five or six victories is a more likely target, as the slate features a long list of home games with non-playoff teams like Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland. 

24. Cleveland Browns (2012: 5-11)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC North
Swing Games: Jacksonville, Kansas City 
Opposing '12 record: .492 (21st)

Is it time for the Browns to begin to build in a positive direction? With easy crossover games with what could be each conference's worst division — the AFC East and NFC North — and two very winnable swing games, the answer appears to be yes. The Browns likely play the toughest intra-divisional schedule with six games against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati, but all signs point to an improvement on the five-win 2012 season. The Browns will play six teams that lost 10 or more games a season ago.

25. Dallas Cowboys (2012: 8-8)
AFC/NFC Crossover: NFC North, AFC West
Swing Games: St. Louis, at New Orleans
Opposing '12 Record: .480 (25th)

Crossover play should be kind to the 'Boys this fall as both the NFC North and AFC West appear to be one-bid divisions. And both the Packers and Broncos must play in Dallas. Additionally, neither swing game will come against a playoff team from last year despite both being quality opponents. Toss in two games against the lowly Eagles and home games against the arch-rival Washington Redskins and New York Giants and the Cowboys have to be thinking postseason. Noticeably absent from the NFC slate are the best three teams in the league: San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta.

26. Oakland Raiders (2012: 4-12)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC East
Swing Games: Pittsburgh, at NY Jets
Opposing '12 Record: .469 (29th)

There are some rough battles ahead for the Raiders in 2013 but the schedule makers did what they could to ease The Black Hole's pain. Two with Denver and one each with Indianapolis, Houston and the NFC East couldn't be helped. But the other half of the schedule isn't all that daunting, with Jacksonville, Tennessee, the Jets and two each with Kansas City and San Diego on tap, giving fans in Oakland some sliver of hope for this fall.

27. Buffalo Bills (2012: 6-10)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC South
Swing Games: Kansas City, at Jacksonville
Opposing '12 Record: .496 (19th)

Few teams will get to play both 2-14 teams from a year ago but Buffalo does as it faces both Kansas City and Jacksonville in swing games. Four with the Jets and the Dolphins should give Doug Marrone and his new staff plenty of hope as well. They will need to make headway in those six as the other 10 are likely penciled in as loses. The NFC South round robin is brutal and the AFC North might be the deepest division in the AFC. And Buffalo gets to play New England to open and close the season. Winless in those ten is very possible.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (2012: 8-8)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC North
Swing Games: Tennessee, at Oakland
Opposing '12 Record: .496 (22nd)

The Steelers missed the postseason a year ago and enter a season with more questions marks than the Steel City has seen in over a decade. However, the schedule sets up nicely for Pittsburgh to make another run at the playoffs in 2013. Both crossover game are likely to be with one-bid divisions in the AFC East and NFC North, each of which could be their respective conference's worst. Both swings games are extremely winnable against the Titans at home and against what potentially could be the worst team in the league in Oakland. The six division games will be tough and a trip to Lambeau Field in Week 16 is poorly timed, but a home win over Cleveland in the season finale could easily put the Steelers into the playoffs. Back-to-back divisional road games to Baltimore and Cleveland late in November will be monumental. A trip to London in Week 4 is always difficult to predict and quantify.

29. Houston Texans (2012: 12-4)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC West
Swing Games: at Baltimore, Patriots
Opposing '12 Record: .473 (27th)

There are some elite showdowns for the Texans in 2013 but there are also a lot of games in which they will be heavy favorites. Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis and New England at home are marquee matchups as are road trips to Baltimore, San Francisco and Indianapolis. Otherwise, the rest of schedule sets up nicely for Houston. Four with the Titans and Jaguars as well as the soft underbelly of the AFC West gives the Texans an easy path to another AFC South title. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs (2012: 2-14)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC East
Swing Games: Cleveland, at Buffalo
Opposing '12 Record: .473 (28th)

Andy Reid should find things to his liking in Kansas City this fall. On a team with sneaky-good talent, the schedule sets up nicely for some upward movement. There are fewer guaranteed losses on this schedule than one would imagine for a team that lost 14 games a year ago. The swing games are about as easy as the schedule makers could have made it on the Chiefs and there are worse things than battling with Jacksonville and Tennessee from the South. An intriguing slate of tough home games — Dallas, San Diego and the Giants — could feature an upset and should have fans in KC riled up.

31. Indianapolis Colts (2012: 11-5)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC West
Swing Games: Miami, at Cincinnati
Opposing '12 Record: .461 (30th)

The Colts once again have a very favorable path to the postseason. A 3-1 record to start appears to be all but certain with Oakland, Miami and Jacksonville in the first month. The Colts have a nasty October capped by a trip to Houston in the first week of November as the schedule opens up into one of the easiest second-half slates in the league. Both the swing games and the AFC West crossover offers plenty of chances for key wins in the conference and should allow for Andrew Luck to lead his young Colts back to the playoffs.

32. San Diego Chargers (2012: 7-9)
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC East
Swing Games: at Miami, Cincinnati
Opposing '12 Record: .457 (31st)

The new regime in San Diego is set up for early success with a favorable schedule and capable quarterback. The Bolts should be favored in both swing games with Miami on the road and Cincinnati at home. Six games with Kansas City (2), Oakland (2), Tennessee and Jacksonville should net nothing worse than a 4-2 mark. Even the tougher games with Indianapolis, Houston, Dallas and the New York Giants will happen way out on the West Coast. This slate sets up very nicely for a quick rebuilding process for the Chargers.

VIEW A COMPLETE LIST OF 2013 NFL SCHEDULES. 

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, April 19, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/top-10-notre-dame-football-teams-all-time
Body:

Notre Dame has experienced a sustained stretch of "lean" years since claiming its last national title in 1988, failing to compete on a national level for elite bowls or championships (at least until the 2012 season). That still doesn't take away from the one of the most storied histories in all of college football. National championships, high-profile traditions, decades of winning, hundreds of NFL players, elite coaches and a picturesque campus have made the Fighting Irish one of the most powerful brands in the nation.

Even the College Football Hall of Fame is located in South Bend, Ind.

But how would Manti Te'o match up against The Gipper? Could Tim Brown make Ara Parseghian's disciplined teams pull their hair out? The Irish claim 11 consensus national championships and eight of those took place during the AP era (1934-present), so which one is the best? The fact of the matter is no one will ever know for sure, so trying to rank the best teams in Notre Dame history is virtually impossible. But we're going to try anyway.

1. 1988 (12-0)
Head Coach: Lou Holtz
Holtz and a star-studded coaching staff led the last Notre Dame team to win the National Championship and he did it in style. The only 12-0 team in Irish history rolled through the regular season, defeating four top 10 opponents, including No. 1 Miami, No. 2 USC and No. 3 West Virginia (in the Fiesta Bowl). Holtz was aided by Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez on the defense and Jim Strong on offense for a team that defeated 10 of 12 opponents by double figures. The '88 group featured 29 future NFL players and 11 first- or second-round draft picks. The offense was led by two Heisman finalists in quarterback Tony Rice and Raghib Ismail, Tony Brooks, Anthony Johnson and Ricky Waters in the backfield and Andy Heck and Tim Grunhard paving the way. Defensively, all three layers of the defense had star power. Todd Lyght led the secondary while Mike Stonebreaker and Chris Zorich starred in the front seven. This was one of the most complete and utterly talented teams ever assembled.

2. 1947 (9-0)
Head Coach: Frank Leahy
Johnny Lujack is considered by some to be the greatest player in Notre Dame history and he led his '47 Irish squad to an unbeaten National Championship. Lujack claimed the Heisman Trophy on a team that featured five All-Americans, seven NCAA Hall of Famers and an astonishing 41 future NFL players. The defense pitched three shutouts and allowed more than seven points only once all season (19 at Northwestern). The season was capped by a dominating 38-7 win over rival and No. 3-ranked USC. Strangely enough, ND only played four of its nine games at home in South Bend that year. Yes, an unbeaten Michigan claims the National Championship in 1947 as well, but that doesn't have any relevance on how great this team ranks in Irish lore.

3. 1949 (10-0)
Head Coach: Frank Leahy
Two years after Lujack won the national title and Heisman, Leon Hart followed suit by claiming the stiff-armed trophy when he led the Irish to an unbeaten National Championship. Unbelievably, Hart was one of three Heisman finalists on this team (Bob Williams, Emil Stiko). And rightly so, this team didn't just beat opponents, it crushed them. This group outscored its opposition 360-86, with wins over No. 4 Tulane, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 17 USC. Six players were selected in the following NFL Draft (1950) and five players off of this powerhouse went on to become NCAA Hall of Famers.

4. 1966 (9-0-1)
Head Coach: Ara Parseghian
Arguably the best team coached by Ara Parseghian, the '66 squad boasted a ridiculous 12 All-Americans including Heisman finalists Terry Hanratty and Nick Eddy as well as Maxwell Award winner Jim Lynch. Historic Irish great Alan Page led a defense that was simply impenetrable, pitching six shutouts and only twice allowing more than seven points. The controversial tie, a 10-10 decision against No. 2 Michigan State in East Lansing, was highlighted by an extremely conservative game plan due to injuries to the star backfield of Hanratty and Eddy. The team returned to full strength following the tie and proceeded to destroy No. 10 USC 51-0 in Los Angeles to clinch the National Championship. Eight seniors off of this title team got drafted the following spring by the NFL.

5. 1973 (11-0)
Head Coach: Ara Parseghian
A deep, talented and speedy backfield helped propel the Irish to an unbeaten 10-0 regular-season mark and meeting with No. 1 undefeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Tom Clements quarterbacked this historic group by finishing his season with a national title-clinching, game-winning drive trailing by two in the final minutes of the game. When Bob Thomas' field goal sailed through the uprights, ND took the 24-23 lead and claimed the AP National Title. Dave Casper and Mike Townshend led an eight-man draft class the following spring.

6. 1977 (11-1)
Head Coach: Dan Devine
The best team of the fairly short Dan Devine era was long on NFL talent. Joe Montana led the offense while Ross Browner, Willie Fry and Bob Golic spearheaded a salty defensive side of the ball. A Week 2 loss to Ole Miss in Jackson, Miss., didn't stop the Irish from eventually matching-up with No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Despite entering the game No. 5 in the polls, a 38-10 beatdown of the Burnt Orange allowed the Irish to jump to No. 1 in the standings and gave Devine his only championship. Browner claimed the Lombardi and Maxwell Awards after his 1976 Outland Trophy while Ken MacAfee earned the Walter Camp Award. Both finished in the top five of the Heisman voting. The '77 team featured seven All-American and eight 1978 NFL Draft picks — none of which was the one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of football.

7. 1993 (11-1)
Head Coach: Lou Holtz
The best Notre Dame team not to win a national title came so close to capturing what would have been Holtz' second championship. After rolling through the first ten weeks of the regular season, No. 2 Notre Dame defeated No. 1 Florida State 31-24 to put the Irish squarely in the National Championship driver's seat. However, a painful 41-39 home loss to No. 12 Boston College derailed the Irish's title hopes. A Cotton Bowl win over No. 6 Texas A&M did little to ease the pain of the season finale loss to the Eagles. Lombardi winner and NFL All-Pro Aaron Taylor and Derrick Mayes starred on offense while stud nose tackle Bryant Young paced the defense. This is easily one of the most talented teams Notre Dame has ever assembled and it came two points shy of being ranked much higher on this list.

8. 1946 (8-0-1)
Head Coach: Frank Leahy
Not only did the 1946 squad go undefeated and claim a national title but it began a 37-0-2 dynasty that led to three championships for head coach Frank Leahy. The only non-victory on the season was a famous 0-0 tie with No. 1 Army in a game played in Yankee Stadium. This team posted five shutouts and didn't allow more than six points in any game. This team outscored its opponents 271 to 24, George Connor won the Outland Trophy, four players were All-Americans and seven players went on to the NCAA Hall of Fame.

9. 1989 (12-1)
Head Coach: Lou Holtz
The year after claiming an unbeaten title, Unitas Award winner Tony Rice returned to lead a loaded Irish backfield. With wins over nationally ranked Michigan (No. 2), USC (No. 9), Air Force (No. 17) and Penn State (No. 17), the Irish were cruising to a second straight national title before a trip to Miami ended any and all hope of a repeat. The No. 7 Hurricanes toppled ND 27-10 and dropped the Irish to No. 4 in the polls. Holtz' squad went on to manhandle No. 1 Colorado 21-6 in the Orange Bowl, leaving Irish fans to wonder what could have been.

10. 1943 (9-1)
Head Coach: Frank Leahy
Angelo Bertelli won the Irish's first Heisman Trophy by spearheading a national championship run in just Leahy's third season in South Bend. Bertelli was one of six All-Americans who defeated No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Navy, No. 3 Army, No. 8 Northwestern and No. 2 Iowa en route to an unblemished 9-0 record. The season finale loss against Great Lakes in Chicago, Ill., didn't stop the Associated Press from awarding Notre Dame with its first AP title.

The best of the rest:

11. 2012 (12-1)
Brian Kelly shocked the world by returning the Irish to the title game. It marked one of two 12-0 regular seasons in the history of Notre Dame football.

12. 1964 (9-1)
Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte earned a share of the national championship under first-year head coach Ara Parseghian.

13. 1992 (10-1-1)
A loaded backfield featuring Rick Mirer, Reggie Brooks and Jerome Bettis only lost to No. 18 Stanford.

14. 1948 (9-0-1)
A team in the heart of the Leahy Dynasty didn't get beat but a season-ending 14-14 tie with USC allowed Michigan to finish No. 1 in the polls.

15. 1941 (8-0-1)
Yet another 0-0 tie with No. 14 Army kept the Irish from topping Minnesota or Alabama for the title.

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Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Top 10 Notre Dame Football Teams of All-Time</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-april-15
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire report every Monday. Our fantasy junkies cover the hottest hitters, best waiver wire pick-ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bellpens from around the league each and every week.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (Apr. 8-Apr. 14):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Prince Fielder 1B DET 5 2 11 0 .632 1.891
2. Chris Carter* 1B/OF HOU 7 4 7 0 .440 1.420
3. Robinson Cano 2B NYY 6 3 8 0 .500 1.633
4. Starling Marte* OF PIT 7 1 6 2 .423 1.156
5. John Buck* C NYM 5 4 10 0 .238 1.048
6. Austin Jackson OF DET 10 1 5 0 .394 .909
7. Will Venable* OF SD 5 2 8 1 .368 1.297
8. Hunter Pence OF SF 6 2 6 2 .290 .797
9. Justin Upton OF ATL 5 2 4 2 .375 1.214
10. Coco Crisp OF OAK 5 1 2 4 .333 .929
11. Miguel Cabrera 3B DET 7 1 7 1 .333 .956
12. Brandon Phillips 2B CIN 4 3 9 0 .318 1.106
13. Evan Gattis* C ATL 4 3 9 0 .304 1.153
14. Torii Hunter OF DET 7 1 6 0 .423 1.175
15. Matt Adams* 1B STL 3 3 6 0 .625 2.542
16. Alejandro De Aza* OF CHW 6 2 4 1 .333 1.093
17. A.J. Pollock* OF ARI 5 2 5 1 .316 1.105
18. Bryce Harper OF WAS 4 2 5 1 .333 1.059
19. Andrew McCutchen OF PIT 6 1 6 1 .286 .884
20. Josh Donaldson* 3B OAK 5 2 4 0 .400 1.184
21. Chris Johnson* 1B/3B ATL 4 1 4 0 .481 1.074
22. Adrian Gonzalez 1B/OF LAD 3 2 5 0 .417 1.189
23. Nate Schierholtz* OF CHC 5 1 3 1 .400 1.129
24. Jayson Werth OF WAS 4 1 4 2 .304 .795
25. Brandon Moss* 1B/OF OAK 3 2 9 0 .280 .957

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Starling Marte, OF, PIT (54% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
If this kid is around in your league, stop reading and go pick him up this instant. He has a ton of speed and more pop than your average National League leadoff hitter. He should help you in all five categories and won't hurt you in the power numbers. He has some dangerous hitters around him — especially if Travis Snider and Pedro Alvarez can start hitting — and should be a useful fantasy play all season. He also is a solid keeper option.

Chris Carter (36%) or Brandon Moss (46%)?
These two AL West sluggers are similar talents with the potential to hit 25-30 homers. They both offer first base and outfield positional help and both play in tough situations. However, both will hurt your team's batting average. Carter is off to a hotter start, but is a career .222 hitter while Moss is only slightly better at .252. Not only is Moss a slightly better overall hitter but his team's offense figures to be much more dependable all season. If you have to, I'd go Moss over Carter.

Matt Adams, 1B, STL (12%)
If you can afford to stash this guy, do so now. He won't get regular at-bats unless the Cardinals are playing in an American League park or when someone needs a rest. But his 250 at-bats this year could be very helpful. He has raked at every level for both power and average, so if you can handle only using a player twice a week, then jump on this slugger.

Outfield Help
Now is the time to snag some surging outfielders. Seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 25 hitters last week were outfielders and only nine were owned by more than 70-percent of Yahoo! leagues. That means there is plenty to pick through on the waiver wire. Marte is easily my top choice with Alejandro De Aza a close second. A.J. Pollock is an intruiging choice out in the desert while Adam Eaton is on the DL.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Matt Harvey NYM 22.0 3 25 0.82 0.55
2. Paul Maholm ATL 20.1 3 20 0.00 0.79
3. Justin Masterson CLE 22.0 3 20 0.41 0.82
4. Clayton Kershaw LAD 23.1 2 25 1.16 0.69
5. Clay Buchholz BOS 22.0 3 23 0.41 0.95
6. Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 20.2 2 16 2.18 0.48
7. Cliff Lee PHI 16.2 2 14 1.08 0.60
8. Yu Darvish TEX 19.2 2 28 2.75 0.76
9. Anibal Sanchez DET 19.0 2 21 1.42 0.95
10. Madison Bumgarner SF 20.1 3 17 1.77 0.98
11. Jon Lester BOS 19.0 2 18 1.42 0.95
12. Adam Wainwright STL 22.0 2 24 2.05 1.00
13. Matt Moore TB 11.1 2 13 0.00 0.97
14. Alexi Ogando TEX 16.2 2 17 1.08 1.02
15. Mike Minor ATL 13.0 2 11 0.69 0.85
16. Barry Zito* SF 14.0 2 8 0.00 1.00
17. Jeff Samardzjia CHC 19.2 1 27 2.75 0.97
18. Jhoulys Chacin* COL 18.1 2 11 1.96 0.98
19. Justin Verlander DET 18.1 2 17 1.96 1.15
20. Zack Greinke (DL)* LAD 11.1 1 10 1.59 0.71

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Mon. - Sun.):

1. Derek Holland, TEX: at Chicago Cubs (Tues.) 72% owned
Holland is finally delivering on his big potential. At least, thus far in two 2013 starts. He has hasn't picked up a win yet, but has allowed just two earned runs in each of his two starts. Look for him to continue his roll against the Cubs.

2. Jamie Garcia, STL: at Philadelphia (Fri.) 65% owned
Garcia tossed a shutout over seven innings on Sunday but his bullpen (ahem, Mr. Boggs) let him down. He will always allow baserunners but has 19 strikeouts in 19 innings and should win plenty of games.

3. Barry Zito, SF: at Milwaukee and San Diego (Tues., Sun.) 63% owned
Zito has yet to allow a run and should continue his excellent start this week with two solid matchups. He won't offer big swing-and-miss totals but should provide plenty of wins and ratio help all season long.

4. Andy Pettitte, NYY: at Baltimore (Fri.) 66% owned
The aging star keeps seeing his starts pushed back and will now go on Friday against the Orioles instead of against Arizona. He may not be a dependable full-time rosterable player, but he can still help your ratios from time to time.

5. Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA: Detroit (Thur.) 73% owned
Iwakuma has been stellar to start the season (the numbers above prove that out) and he has done so against some solid competition — Texas, Oakland and Chicago (AL). He won't be phased by the vaunted Tigers' lineup and he may be much more than a spot starter for your rotation.

Closing Morsels:

Boston went with Andrew Bailey in the ninth inning on Monday instead of Joel Hanrahan. After entering the game with a one-run lead, Bailey promptly blew the save before Mike Napoli drove in the game-winner in the bottom of the frame. Bailey has loads of experience and is worth rostering if you are desperate, but he won't be closing unless Hanrahan's sore hamstring becomes a bigger issue... Edward Mujica looks like he might be the next option to get a shot at closing for the Cardinals after Mitchell Boggs blew Jamie Garcia's gem on Sunday. Mujica's line thus far in 2013: 5.0 IP, 5 K, 4 Holds, 1.80 ERA, 0.80. It's worth a shot at this point... Kevin Herrera is still ahead of Aaron Crow should Kansas City make a move in the ninth. Greg Holland has allowed four earned runs and 11 base runners in 3.0 innings... James Russell and Shawn Camp appear to be in the lead for the Cubs' ninth-inning duty with Kyuji Fujikawa on the 15-day disabled list. No, don't add Carlos Marmol (for the love of God).

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: April 15</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 15:32
Path: /mlb/10-young-mlb-players-who-will-be-hall-famers
Body:

To suggest that any player in any sport after just a few seasons is a lock to make the Hall of Fame is ridiculous. But it is always fun to look at athletes who have had instant success and try to extrapolate long-term potential. Limiting the scope to the last three rookie classes, here are the most likely future MLB Hall of Famers:

Class of 2012:

Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels
What else is there to be said of Trout's rookie season in the majors? He was an All-Star, he won the AL Rookie of the Year award, led the league in runs (129) and stolen bases (49), earned a Silver Slugger honor and finished second in MVP voting behind the first Triple Crown winner in more than 50 years. He finished with a .326 average, .963 OPS, hit 30 home runs and drove in 83. With a 10.0 WAR, it was the greatest rookie season in the history of the sport — right ahead of Joe Jackson's 9.7 WAR in 1911. And, oh by the way, he did all of this at age 20? Yeah, his ticket might already be punched for Cooperstown.

Bryce Harper, OF, Washington
The only reason Harper's own rookie season gets marginalized is Mr. Trout's performance in the American League. Harper, who played all of the season at the age of 19, posted one of the best inaugural seasons in recent memory as well. He was an All-Star and earned NL Rookie of Year honors. He finished with 22 home runs, 18 stolen bases, 98 runs scored, 59 RBIs and a .270/.817 split at the plate. And to start his second season, Harper went deep twice on Opening Day. It's Hall of Fame or bust for a player who made his Sports Illustrated cover debut at 16 and made his second appearance before turning 21.

Class of 2011:

Aroldis Chapman, P, Cincinnati
The Cuban defector debuted in 2010 but pitched only 13 1/3 innings, so his 50.0-inning, 71-strikeout middle relief effort of '11 was his rookie season. The Reds have toyed with moving him to the rotation the last two springs, but his other-worldly strikeout rate last season kept him in the closer's role. He tossed 71 2/3 innings with a 1.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts (15.3 per nine) while saving 38 games for the Reds last season. He was eighth in the Cy Young voting and 12th in the MVP balloting. Look for the (supposedly) 25-year-old's effortless 100-mph fastball to dominate hitters for the next decade — be it from the rotation or the bullpen.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta
There is a large group of 2011 rookie first baseman that could make the case for being on this list, namely Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo. Freeman, however, at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds is a monster from the left side of the plate. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting to only his teammate (more on him in a second) and has hit 44 bombs and driven in 170 in two full seasons. He plays a terrific first base on defense and should develop even more power as he gets more comfortable at the plate. He enters his third full season as just a 23-year-old with loads of big-time potential — and will likely never leave the Braves right side of the infield.

Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta
The only player to finish ahead of Freeman in the NL ROY voting in 2011 was the flame-throwing closer from the Braves. He turns 25 in May and is arguably the most dominant relief pitcher on the planet. He is the only player in the majors to post at least 40 saves in each of the last two seasons, as he finished tied for second in 2011 (46) and tied for third last season (42). He has allowed just 26 career earned runs in 161.1 career innings and has struck out 284 batters (for a sick 15.8 per nine rate). He is a two-time All-Star who finished ninth and fifth respectively in the Cy Young voting the last two seasons and was eighth in the MVP race a year ago.

Class of 2010:

Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington
Ever since Bob Costas called his memorable, nationally hyped debut with 14 strikeouts over seven innings against Pittsburgh, Strasburg has been a star. Despite missing all but five starts of his second season due to Tommy John surgery, Strasburg has been virtually perfect. He has a career 2.86 ERA and 316 strikeouts over 258 1/3 innings. He finished 15-6 in 28 starts last year in what was his first full season (159 1/3 IP) and even earned a Silver Slugger award in the process. The flame-thrower has done nothing but live up to his extremely lofty expectations as the No. 1 overall pick out of San Diego State in 2009.

Buster Posey, C, San Francisco
There are few players who have ever had a better start to a career than Mr. Posey. He claimed NL Rookie of Year honors in 2010 and led the Giants to their first World Series championship since 1954. Then, after missing all but 162 at-bats of his second year with an injury, he led the Giants to a second World Series title and claimed the NL MVP trophy in 2012. He is a career .313 hitter with an .880 OPS and just 187 career strikeouts in 1,122 at-bats. He is the consummate professional and the face of a franchise that is positioned to make another run at the World Series and he was recently rewarded with a 9-year, $164 million contract.

Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
The Dominican shortstop debuted as just a 20-year-old on the North Side and sustained a .300 average over 125 games. He was fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He has made back-to-back All-Star teams at age 21 and 22 and has a career .297 average. He led the NL in at-bats in each of the last two years and led the league in hits (207) in 2011. He was one of just five players to play in all 162 games last season. He has improved his defense and power in each of the last two seasons and is a integral part of the rebuilding project with the Cubs.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami
Few players have as much raw power as the slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton. After 91 homers in 328 career minor league games, Stanton already has 93 career homers in just three seasons, improving his power numbers in each of his professional seasons. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound outfielder hit .290 last season and made his first All-Star game appearance. Stanton has a sterling career OPS of .902. There is no doubt he will be among the league leaders in home runs each season, so the only question is how long will he be doing it for the Marlins?

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta
The 2007 first-round pick finished second only to Posey in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010. He played 142 games in his first season and slugged 18 home runs. After a disappointing 2011 campaign, Heyward bounced back impressively last season by posting the following: 158 G, 93 R, 27 HR, 82 RBI, 21 SB, .269/.814. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder is still just 23 years old and has all the physical talent to be an elite player for years to come.

The Top Prospects to Watch:

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis
Vlad Guerrero-type of hitter has uncanny plate approach and natural hitting ability.

Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Texas
Smooth middle infielder could stick at either second or short. An elite all-around prospect.

Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh
No. 1 overall pick with a huge power arm who excelled at UCLA.

Mike Zunino, C, Seattle
Former Florida Gators slugger crushed the ball (.360) in his first season in the minors.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Young MLB Players Who Will Be Hall of Famers</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Oregon just finished a historic run in Pac-12 play, going 33-3 in conference games over the last four years, including a trip to the BCS National Championship game. Those four years are better known as the Chip Kelly era in Eugene. However, Kelly is coaching in the NFL and former assistant Mark Helfrich is now leading the program and has elite expectations swirling around his first season as the head coach.

Oregon Ducks 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-1 (8-1)

Spring practice dates: April 2-April 27

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Marcus Mariota, 230-of-336, 2,677 yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Marcus Mariota, 106 att., 752 yards, 5 TDs
Receiving: De'Anthony Thomas, 45 rec., 445 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Brian Jackson, 69
Sacks: Taylor Hart, 8.0
Interceptions: Erick Dargan, 5

Redshirts to watch: DB Reggie Daniels, LB Brett Bafaro, WR Chance Allen, QB Jake Rodrigues, TE Evan Baylis

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Joe Walker

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Nicholls State
Sept. 7 at Virginia
Sept. 14 Tennessee
Sept. 21 Open Date
Sept. 28 Cal
Oct. 5 at Colorado
Oct. 12 at Washington
Oct. 19 Washington State
Oct. 26 UCLA
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 at Stanford (Thur.)
Nov. 16 Utah
Nov. 23 at Arizona
Nov. 29 Oregon (Fri.)

Related: Pac-12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines

Offensive Strength: Backfield. With Marcus Mariota returning at quarterback and both De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall back to carry the ball, Oregon is loaded once again with ball-carriers.

Offensive Weakness: Offensive line. There really is no weakness on this offense but replacing Kyle Long, Ryan Clanton and Nick Cody up front will be an area of focus.

Defensive Strength: Depth. This team is known for playing a lot of players in its rotation and despite some key losses there is a wealth of talent and experience at every position. Defensive tackle and the secondary are especially strong.

Defensive Weakness: Veteran leadership. The heart and soul of the defense is gone with veteran leaders Michael Clay, John Boyett, Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso departed.

Spring Storylines Facing the Ducks

1. Replace linebackers Clay and Alonso. Michael Clay was a fixture inside on the Ducks defense, and despite some career speed bumps, Kiko Alonso developed into a star as well. Not only did they make plays (182 tackles, 24.0 TFL) a year ago, but they were the leaders of the defense. Derrick Malone, Tyson Coleman, Boseko Lokombo, Rahim Cassell and Rodney Hardrick have all seen plenty of reps but organizing this depth chart and developing leaders in this group will be key for defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti this spring.

2. Sort out the defensive line. Dion Jordan and Issac Remington earned all-conference recognition and both are gone. Much like the linebackers, however, the rotation of bodies has given this depth chart plenty of experience. Taylor Hart will star at one end while Wade Keliikipi returns after an honorable mention All-Pac-12 season. This means former elite recruits like DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Christian French and Ricky Heimuli need to step into bigger roles and develop into the players scouts believed they were coming out of high school.

3. Fill the gaps along the O-line. Having All-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu and tackles Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone back is an excellent place to start along the offensive line. But both guards and overall depth needs to be developed. This offensive system runs at light speed and uses a lot of bodies to stay fresh up front so look for other names like Everett Benyard and Mana Greig to figure heavily in the mix.

4. Establish the process. Mike Belotti gets credit for building Oregon as both a head coach and athletic director. Chip Kelly gets credit for taking this program to the next level. And Helfrich is charged with not only maintaining elite-level success but taking the final step that has eluded the previous two regimes, a national title. He is familiar with the program and that will help the transition, but Kelly was so instrumental in elevating this offense to unprecedented levels, that many wonder if Helfrich can keep up. This spring will be his first chance to prove his detractors wrong by installing his game plan and setting the benchmark for expectations.

Related College Football Content

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Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

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Teaser:
<p> Oregon Ducks 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 09:45
Path: /mlb/setting-roster-major-league-baseballs-all-steroid-team
Body:

Steroids are now just as synonymous with baseball as hot dogs or cold beer. It is an unfortunate era of the game that fans of all ages must accept. Are the use of performance-enhancing drugs terrible for the body and a form of cheating? Yes, and this country should work diligently to combat their growth. But steroids are a part of why the game of baseball returned to the nation’s heart after a work stoppage and no World Series in 1994.

The 1998 home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, for example, revived a lifeless sport and, like it or not, everyone from the owners and the players to the managers and the fans benefited.

Should steroid users be in the Hall of Fame — alongside plenty of other great players who bent the rules? Who benefited more from PEDs: Hitters or pitchers? Will there ever be confirmation of who used what when? Since there will likely never be a definitive answer to these questions maybe baseball should build a “Steroid Wing” in Cooperstown and just lump everyone from 1990 to 2006 — when Bud Selig finally created the Joint Drug Prevention and Blunt Treatment Program.

How would that roster look? Here is the all-time steroid team made up of names who have been connected in one way or another to some sort of PED at some point. The starting lineup is a murderer’s row and the rotation has one of the all-time greats fronting it.

C: Pudge Rodriguez (1991-2011)
Key Stats: .296/.798, 2,844 H, 311 HR, 1,332 RBI
Awards: All-Star (14), Gold Glove (13), Silver Slugger (7), MVP

He is one of baseball’s all-time greatest catchers. He has more putouts (14,864) than any other catcher in history by a wide margin as his 21-season career would indicate. He hit over 20 home runs, however, just five times. They all came in consecutive seasons with the Rangers after playing three years with Jose Canseco. His 35-homer, 113-RBI MVP season is a clear outlier as Canseco claimed to have personally educated Rodriguez about steroid use. He never topped 30 home runs or 100 RBIs in any other season. Following the release of Canseco's inflammatory book, Juiced, the 215-pound catcher showed up at Tigers camp at 187 pounds and never hit more than 14 homers the rest of his career. Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza, Javy Lopez

1B: Mark McGwire (1986-2001)
Key Stats: .263/.982, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (3), Gold Glove (1), Rookie of the Year

McGwire is one of the few who has openly admitted that he used PEDs during his playing career. In fact, he dates his use of steroids back to as early as 1989 when he and Canseco won the World Series in Oakland — the modern birthplace for steroids. The Big Mac would have been a big bopper no matter what drugs he took, but breaking Roger Maris’ single-season home run record two years in a row seems highly unlikely. Especially considering he did it at age 34 (70 HR) and 35 (65). Honorable Mention: Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell

2B: Bret Boone (1992-2005)
Key Stats: .266/.767, 252 HR, 1,021 RBI
Awards: All-Star (3), Gold Glove (4), Silver Slugger (2)

Boone’s career stat sheet is one that steroid haters point to on a regular basis. How could a 5-foot-10, 180-pound second baseman who hit a total of 62 home runs in his first six seasons somehow blast 37 dingers and lead the league in RBIs (141) with a .331 average at age 32? His .950 OPS that year dwarfed his career .767 mark. In eight of 14 seasons, Boone hit 15 round trippers or less. But from 2001 to 2003, he hit 96 of his career 252 homers. Once again, it was Canseco’s book that fingered Boone as a potential steroid user. Honorable Mention: Brian Roberts, Chuck Knoblauch

3B: Alex Rodriguez (1994-present)
Key Stats: .300/.945, 647 HR, 1,950 RBI, 318 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (10), MVP (3), Gold Glove (2)

Playing in Seattle and Texas, two steroid hotbeds, A-ROD tested positive for PEDs in 2003 and eventually confessed to his use of banned substances from 2001-03. He has also seen his name mentioned prominently with more recent accusations hailing from Biogenesis in South Florida. He was an elite player with elite skills but his 40-40 season, multiple MVPs and historic numbers have all been called into question by his decision to cheat. His legacy will be an interesting one to track over the next, say, five seasons? Honorable Mention: Ken Caminiti, Mike Lowell, Gary Sheffield

Fantasy: Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Baseball Big Board

SS: Miguel Tejada (1997-2011)
Key Stats: .285/.793, 304 HR, 1,282 RBI
Awards: All-Star (6), Silver Slugger (2), MVP (1)

Tejada was arguably the top shortstop in the game during a five-year stretch from 2000-04. He hit over 30 home runs in four out of five seasons, led the majors with 150 RBIs in 2004 and won the 2002 MVP as a key cog in the emergence of the "Moneyball" era in Oakland. But like many Bay Area players, the Latin star was fingered for steroid use by a variety of people. Rafael Palmeiro accused him of giving him tainted B-12 shots. Canseco accused him in his book. And then his name was featured prominently in the Mitchell Report. It all eventually led to a somber confession in 2009, as he was facing federal perjury charges, leaving little doubt that his career is tainted.

OF: Barry Bonds (1986-2007)
Key Stats: .298/1.051, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 514 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (12), Gold Glove (8), MVP (7)

The most high-profile steroid user in the history of baseball also just happens to be its all-time home run champ. Everyone knows the number 755 but few know Bonds’ 762. This is all, of course, due to his miraculous late-career power surge. He never hit over 50 home runs in a season until he blasted 73 in 2002 at age 36. He hit over 40 dingers only three times in his career before topping 45 in five straight seasons from 2000 to 2004 — his 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th seasons. He was at the center of the BALCO scandal playing in a roided-up city during the peak of the steroid era. This one is a no brainer and it’s a shame, because he might have been one of the greatest hitters of all-time if he hadn't cheated. Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, Gary Sheffield

OF: Sammy Sosa (1989-2007)
Key Stats: .273/.878, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 234 SB
Awards: All-Star (7), Silver Slugger (6), MVP (1)

This should be the only stat you need to know about Sosa and the steroid era: The Cubs' slugger broke Maris’ single-season home run record three times (1998, 1999, 2001) and never once led his league in homers. Think about that? He was a power hitter despite his 6-foot, 165-pound frame before 1998, but his numbers spiked dramatically during his historic home run chase with McGwire. He hit 207 HR in his first nine seasons and 292 long balls from 1998 to 2002. His 2005 Congressional hearing performance was one for the ages and he was fingered by The New York Times in an article stating Sosa tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Seriously, Baseball-Reference has him listed at 6-foot and 165 pounds… and he has 609 home runs? Honorable Mention: Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez

OF: Manny Ramirez (1993-2011)
Key Stats: .312/.996, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (9)

There weren’t many better right-handed hitters in all of baseball than Man-Ram in his prime. But that all came crashing down when he tested positive in 2009 for testosterone levels and was suspended 50 games. He then tested positive again in 2011 for a banned substance. All of this after he was fingered as a user back in the infamous 2003 drug test that reportedly also implicated Sosa, A-Rod and others. He was an elite hitter who delivered in the clutch and led his team to four different World Series. But he also quit on his team and earned the "Manny Being Manny" moniker after bizarre and often inexplicable on-field behavior. Honorable Mention: Brady Anderson, Melky Cabrera

DH: David Ortiz (1997-present)
Key Stats: .285/.928, 401 HR, 1,326 RBI
Awards: All-Star (8), Silver Slugger (5)

Big Papi has a strange career boxscore. In six seasons with the Twins, Ortiz slugged just 58 home runs — or less than 10 per season. But paired up with Man-Ram in Beantown for an organization that is willing to do anything to win and he became the greatest hitting DH of all-time. He has averaged 34 home runs per season in his 10-year Red Sox career and topped out at a league-leading 54 in 2006. Ortiz, like so many others on this team, reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003, information that finally came to light in 2009, and his power numbers have dropped ever since that disclosure. Honorable Mention: Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui

SP: Roger Clemens (1984-2007)
Key Stats: 354 W, 4,916.2 IP, 4,672 K, 3.12 ERA
Awards: All-Star (11), Cy Young (7), MVP (1)

The Bonds of the mound, Clemens used PEDs to match the slugger's MVPs with seven Cy Young awards. He led the league in ERA seven different times, including a sterling 1.87 mark — his career best — at age 42 while pitching in a notorious steroid town (Houston) in 2005. The change in his career dates back to his move north of the border. After four middling years in Boston from 1993-96, he signed with Toronto and went 41-13 in 498.2 innings with a 2.33 ERA and 563 strikeouts — at age 34 and 35. He was then traded to New York and made more than $97.8 million from age 37 to 44. His name came up 82 times in the Mitchell Report and he has been fingered by former trainers and even teammates as a possible rule-breaker. Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt,

RP: Eric Gagne (1997-2008)
Key Stats: 187 SV, 643.2 IP, 718 K, 3.47 ERA
Awards: All-Star (3), Cy Young (1)

Gagne was magical when he was at his best. He converted an MLB-record 84 straight saves and closed 152 games with 365 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA in just 247.0 innings from 2002 to 2004. In his other seven seasons combined, he closed 35 games total. However, pitching on the West Coast during those years will raise major question marks and he was named prominently in the Mitchell Report complete with extremely incriminating evidence. He was never the same pitcher following his Tommy John surgery in 2005. Honorable Mention: John Rocker, Guillermo Mota

 

Note: This is simply for fun and not intended to cast official judgment of anyone named above nor is it investigative journalism.

Teaser:
<p> Major League Baseball's All-Steroid Team</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/oregon-state-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Mike Riley finished the 2011 season with a nasty taste in his mouth after losing nine of 12 games. It was his worst season as the head coach in Corvallis and his defense was the issue. Last season, Riley reinvented the defense and it led to nine wins. Now that Oregon State is back in contention, Riley is faced with battling Stanford and Oregon for Pac-12 North Division supremacy. And it all begins this month with spring practice for the Beavers.

Oregon State Beavers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 9-4 (6-3)

Spring practice dates: April 1-April 26

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Sean Mannion, 200-of-309, 2,446 yards, 15 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Storm Woods, 192 att., 940 yards, 13 TDs
Receiving: Brandin Cooks, 67 rec., 1,151 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Michael Doctor, 83
Sacks: Scott Crichton, 9.0
Interceptions: Rashaad Reynolds, 3

Redshirts to watch: RB Chris Brown, WR Malik Gilmore, DB Tyler Hasty, CB Zack Robinson, OL Garrett Weinreich

Early Enrollees to watch: CB Steven Nelson, DT Kyle Peko, DT Edwin Delva, DT Siale Hautau, DE Charlie Tuaau, DE Lyndon Tulimasealii

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Eastern Washington
Sept. 7 Hawaii
Sept. 14 at Utah
Sept. 21 at San Diego State
Sept. 26 Colorado
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at Washington State
Oct. 19 at Cal
Oct. 26 Stanford
Nov. 1 USC (Fri.)
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 at Arizona State
Nov. 23 Washington
Nov. 30 at Oregon

Related: Pac-12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines

Offensive Strength: Running game and backfield. There is plenty of talent and depth in the backfield at both quarterback and running back. Four starters return to the offensive line as well.

Offensive Weakness: Passing game. Talent needs to develop around wide receiver Brandin Cooks for the passing game to be a strength and settling on one quarterback would help.

Defensive Strength: The back seven. This part of the defense returns fairly intact other than the loss of Jordan Poyer. Safety, in particular, is in good shape where both starters are back to quarterback this side of the ball.

Defensive Weakness: Defensive line. Replacing three out of four starters won't be easy so expect plenty of new faces in the rotation up front.

Spring Storylines Facing the Beavers

1. Replace the defense line. Riley worked minor miracles defensively to turn around his team in 2012, but he will have to provide an encore as three of four defensive line starters are gone. End Scott Crichton, who won't be able to practice due to a shoulder injury, was the best of the group and he returns, so finding a dependable player opposite him is what Riley needs to accomplish this spring. The tackle position is a more pressing matter, however, as both starters Andrew Aeumalo and Castro Masaniai moved on from Corvallis. Finding not only production but leadership from this group will be imperative after the losses up front this offseason. This is why Riley signed four junior college defensive linemen, including potential starters inside in tackles Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau. If the Beavers are going to compete with Oregon and Stanford in the North, they must play defense like the 2012 team, not the '11 edition.

2. Support Brandin Cooks in the passing game. Markus Wheaton was an all-time great for Oregon State and will be missed. That said, Brandin Cooks is one of the single most underrated wide receivers in the nation and will be just fine serving as the team's No. 1 pass catcher. The problem for the Beavers' passing game, however, is depth outside of Cooks and at tight end. Riley is expecting big things from an incoming freshman class heavy on pass catchers but they don't arrive until the summer. Tight end Connor Hamlett and rising junior receiver Obum Gwacham have great size and should step into much bigger roles this spring.

3. Find a way to replace Jordan Poyer. He was one of the top defensive backs in the nation — and school history — and won't be easy to replace, not only on defense but as a leader and special teams performer. Safety Ty Zimmerman is out for spring and Anthony Watkins is gone as well, leaving just safety Ryan Murphy and corner Rashaad Reynolds as the only ones with starting experience who will participate in spring practice. Reynolds has big-time potential and will be counted on to fill Poyer's shoes, but in an explosive conference like the Pac-12, providing him with support on the other side of the field will be key. Keep an eye on junior college transfer Steven Nelson and key veteran reserve Sean Martin as well.

4. Pick a quarterback. Sean Mannion is the starter and will be listed atop the depth chart, however, Cody Vaz is nipping at his heels and will get half of the reps with the starting offense this spring. This is the time for Mannion to show Riley that his excellent freshman season was no fluke and that he is the clear-cut choice to lead this offense. He has the talent to be a playmaker in the Pac-12 and, if asked off the record, the bet would be the coaching staff would like to see the rising junior separate himself from Vaz this spring. Although Riley has admitted that he likely won't make a decision until the fall, Mannion could make it easy on him and his staff with a great month of practice.

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Teaser:
<p> Oregon State 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/byu-football-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The start of the 2013 college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about preseason predictions and some of the top games to watch in each conference — and since BYU doesn't play in a conference, the Cougars stand alone.

Bronco Mendenhall is entering his ninth season in Provo and the Cougars have won at least 10 games in five of those eight seasons. However, BYU now has to schedule a fully independent slate for the third season in a row. It means that the Cougs will face another brutal schedule with few easy wins and upwards of seven or eight bowl teams.

BYU 2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 at Virginia
Sept. 7 Texas
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 Utah
Sept. 27 Middle Tennessee (Fri.)
Oct. 4 at Utah State (Fri.)
Oct. 12 Georgia Tech
Oct. 19 at Houston
Oct. 26 Boise State
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 at Wisconsin
Nov. 16 Idaho
Nov. 23 at Notre Dame
Nov. 30 at Nevada

* A trip across the country to face an ACC opponent steeped in a rich tradition of football success isn't normally how anyone wants to start the season. However, Virginia lost eight games a year ago and there isn't much to indicate they will be dramatically improved. The season opener will be tough but is very winnable for the Cougars.

* An early-season visit from Texas provides Provo a chance to host and defeat a national powerhouse. Texas has issues but is extremely talented and has eyes on a Big 12 title. This is a huge barometer game for both programs, as well as their respective head coaches and quarterbacks.

* The first bye week comes early in the year in Week 3 but is well placed following two tough power conference opponents and prior to The Holy War with Utah. Getting a second week to prepare for the school's most hated rival can only be a good thing.

* Following the in-state battle with the Utes, BYU will host back-to-back Friday night affairs with tricky but beatable mid-majors. Both Middle Tennessee and Utah State have experienced success of late and both will be looking to knock off the Cougars.

* After the two Friday night primetime games, the schedule starts to get rough. Georgia Tech, Houston and Boise State are three of the winningest programs over the last few seasons and BYU will face the trio in consecutive weekends in October. The good news is the Yellow Jackets and Broncos have to come to LaVell Edwards Stadium.

* The second off weekend also is well placed following a tough October and prefacing a brutal November. Three road trips to Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Nevada are about as tough a final month of the season as there is in the nation. Idaho at home will offer a small breather, but 2-2 in November would have to be considered a success for Mendenhall's bunch.


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Teaser:
<p> BYU Football 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 10:59
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-football-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The start of the 2013 college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about preseason predictions and some of the top games to watch in each conference — and since Notre Dame isn't in a conference, the Fighting Irish stand alone.

So, too, does the difficulty of their schedule.

Brian Kelly led the Irish to the BCS National Championship game in 2012 well ahead of schedule. And while no team might have been capable of beating Alabama in that game last year, the Irish were plenty deserving of being in the game. Notre Dame plays one of, if not the, most difficult schedules each and every season. The 2013 slate is no different as major powerhouses like Michigan, Stanford, USC and Oklahoma dot the calendar. Toss in teams like Arizona State, Michigan State, Pitt and BYU and the Irish are looking at playing upwards of nine or 10 teams that played in bowl games last season.

If Notre Dame runs the table in the '13 regular season, it will be completely worthy of playing in the title game once again.

Notre Dame 2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Temple
Sept. 7 at Michigan
Sept. 14 at Purdue
Sept. 21 Michigan State
Sept. 28 Oklahoma
Oct. 5 Arizona State (Arlington)
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 USC
Oct. 26 at Air Force
Nov. 2 Navy
Nov. 9 at Pitt
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 BYU
Nov. 30 at Stanford

* Breaking in the new lineup against Temple at home is one of the easiest ways the Irish could have possibly opened their season. The Owls won't press the new starters on defense too much as they lack the playmakers to challenge the Irish. This is a perfect way to start the year for Kelly's bunch.

* The warm up in the opener will be just that for a huge Week 2 test on the road against rival Michigan. Devin Gardner is now under center for Michigan and Brady Hoke's offense will now be much more traditional — and more difficult to stop. The new defensive starters need to grow up quickly in order to be prepared for the trip to Ann Arbor — a place where the Irish haven't won since 2005. 

* Fans in the Midwest who love the regional rivalries with the Big Ten should be sure to sit back and enjoy another three-game, early-season schedule with the Big Ten. Soon, the Irish will be playing five ACC games each season, meaning the Big Ten rivalries are the ones that will fall by the wayside. So relish the back-to-back-to-back games with Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State.

* Following the Big Ten portion of the schedule, the Irish welcome Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma to town before heading to Dallas to take on Arizona State in Cowboys Stadium. The Sooners are rebuilding at quarterback and on defense, so this should be a brutal but winnable test for the Irish. The Sun Devils, with an elite offense, might actually be the tougher test for the Golden Domers. 

* The bye week is nicely situated to allow for Kelly's team to take a deep breath following a tough first six weeks to the season and before a visit from USC. Although you can pretty much throw out the records when these two historic teams get together, giving Kelly two weeks to prepare affords the Irish a major advantage.

* The triple option portion of the schedule comes at a good time. The defense might have been susceptible to the option early in the season but the depth chart should be stabilized by the time Air Force and Navy show up in '13.

* The second bye week is placed perfectly between a road trip to new ACC team Pitt and a tricky final two weeks of the season. Getting an extra week to prepare for BYU and Stanford is huge for Notre Dame as those two teams could be two of the top five teams it will face in 2013. Finishing the year at Stanford is great for the fans but could be dangerous if ND is back in the national title picture.
 

 

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Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Football 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-top-10-arena-nicknames
Body:

There are many reasons why fans gravitate to the college ranks over the professional ones. For those of us who love college sports, NCAA basketball is a vastly superior product over the NBA. Yes, the NBA features the best athletes in the world playing the game, but many point to a boring regular season, lack of overall defense and me-first holier than thou attitude that comes with million-dollar salaries.

While the level of athlete isn’t even comparable in the college game, there are many other reasons why its more enjoyable. Student sections, campus life, small towns, deeply connected alumni bases, dramatic game play, cheerleaders, defensive effort and kids playing for the love of the game are at the top of that list. But college arenas and stadiums are more intimate and interwoven into the history of a school unlike the NBA buildings (minus maybe Madison Square Garden or the Boston Gardens).

And the traditions of the college game — like arena nicknames — are priceless. Here are college hoops best arena nicknames:

1. The Pit, New Mexico (University Arena)
New Mexico’s famous basketball-only arena opened in 1966 as University Arena and was renamed officially as “The Pit” in 2009. It got its nickname from how the building was constructed, as the floor of the arena is 37 feet below “ground level,” meaning the court is actually built inside of a pit. Because it was built into such a small space with steep grading and relatively tight quarters for 15,411 capacity seating, the Lobos have enjoyed one of the loudest home quarter settings in all of college hoops. It cost a relatively affordable $1.4 million to build and the building itself reminds fans and opposing players that it sits a mile above sea level as well.

2. The Phog, Kansas (Allen Fieldhouse)
Named in honor of former head coach Dr. Forrest C. Allen, who led the Jayhawks program for 39 years and was nicknamed “Phog” for his distinct booming fog-horn voice. Allen Fieldhouse was opened in 1955 following four years of construction, the building currently seats 16,300 and originally cost just $2.5 million to build. The Phog is widely regarded as one of the loudest building in college basketball, and thanks to decades of great teams, is arguably the toughest place to win in all of sports. At home, Kansas is 107-2 since 2007, 263-14 since 1994 (the last renovation) and 699-108 all-time, so all who enter clearly must “Pay Heed.”

3. The Barn, Minnesota (Williams Arena)
One of the older buildings in the nation, Williams Arena was opened in 1928 and cost just $650,000 to build. Its 14,625 rowdy Golden Gophers fans and rounded ceiling shape give it a raucous barnyard feel — which is how the student section (The Barnyard) and building got their of their nicknames. The most unusual characteristic of the building, however, might be the raised floor design. The court is roughly two feet above player benches, press row and the first rows of seats. The Barn has hosted both The NCAA basketball finals (1951) and a pair of Frozen Fours (1958, 1966).

4. The Kennel, Gonzaga (McCarthey Athletic Center)
McCarthey Athletic Center was opened in 2004 and goes by The New Kennel or K2 to fans in the know, however, The Kennel is the best and most fitting. The nickname has carried over from the previous facility in Spokane, the Charlotte Y. Martin Center, and couldn’t be more appropriately named. The Bulldogs play extremely well at home and the boisterous fans pack the tight 6,000-person arena each and every home game. The Kennel cost Gonzaga $25 million to build.

5. The RAC, Rutgers (Louis Brown Athletic Center)
Rutgers’ basketball arena was originally titled the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) when it opened in 1977. It was renamed in 1986 as the Louis Brown Athletic Center but the nickname stuck through the name change. The 8,000-seat building hosted the New Jersey Nets from 1977-81 as well as the Scarlet Knights basketball and volleyball teams. The home team hasn’t been a championship contender, but Rutgers plays great at home and the fans are intimidating close to the action. The RAC just sounds like a great place to play hoops.

6. The Slim Gym, San Diego (Jenny Craig Pavilion)
Jenny Craig Pavilion, or the JCP, was opened in 2000 on the beautiful Toreros campus in San Diego, Calif. Named after famous weight loss guru Jenny Craig, the building quickly became known as the Slim Gym for obvious reasons. The punny nickname is one of the most creative and original nicknames in college hoops. JCP seats 5,100 patrons and cost $17.5 million to build.

7. Octagon of Doom, Kansas State (Bramlage Coliseum)
Kansas State plays all of its men’s and women’s basketball games in a place known as The Octagon of Doom. It seats 12,528, was opened in 1988 and cost $17.5 million to build. The nickname comes from the building’s eight-sided shape and was started by fans who would bring octagonal shaped signs with “Doom” written them due to reputation of tenacious defense. The Manhattan arena’s nickname has quickly (2007) become one of the best pseudonyms in college sports.

8. The Tad Pad, Ole Miss (C. M. Smith Coliseum)
The Ole Miss Rebels have called C. M. Smith Coliseum home since 1965-66 when the building was originally called Rebel Coliseum. Smith was a three-sport star at Ole Miss, a coach and eventually became the Athletic Director in Oxford. The important Mississippi personality went by “Tad” and so the 9,061-seat building is now referred to as The Tad Pad.

9. Dome of Doom, Wyoming (Arena-Auditorium)
With a formal name like Arena-Auditorium, its no wonder the fans in Laramie came up with a nickname for their basketball arena. The 15,028-seat building was built in 1982 for $15 million and is officially the highest arena in NCAA Division I basketball. Situated at 7,220 feet above sea level, the Dome of Doom, or “Double-A,” literally causes headaches to opposing teams and fans.

10. The Rock, Seton Hall/NJIT (Prudential Center)
165 Mulberry Street in Newark, N.J., is home to one of the most well-used buildings in college sports. Named affectionately for the Rock of Gibraltar corporate logo of Prudential Financial, The Rock is home to three different hockey teams, namely the New Jersey Devils, and has hosted both the New Jersey Nets and New York Liberty of the professional basketball ranks in the past. But why it makes this list is famed Seton Hall basketball — as well as NJIT — calls The PC home. The 18,711-seat building (for basketball) cost an astronomical $375 million to build back in 2007. 

The Best of the Rest:

11. The Thriller Dome, Georgia Tech (Alexander Memorial Coliseum)
12. Dean Dome, North Carolina (Dean Smith Center)
13. The Hump, Mississippi State (Humphrey Coliseum)
14. The Dunk, Providence (Dunkin Donuts Arena)
15. The O-Dome, Florida (Stephen O’Connell Center)
16. The Pete, Pitt (Petersen Events Center)


Old-School Honorable Mention:

Big Brown Box that Rocks, Loyola-Chicago (Alumni Gym)
From 1924 to 1996, Loyola-Chicago called Alumni Gym home. The 2,000-seat building was known for its crazy fans and eventually became known as the Big Brown Box That Rocks.

Chamber of Horrors, New Orleans (Human Performance Center)
New Orleans began playing Division I basketball in 1969 and called the Human Performance Center home until 1983 and then again following Hurricane Katrina from 2005-08. It seated just 1,200 fans was known as The Chamber of Horrors.


NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Previews

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College Basketball's Top 10 Dunkers of 2012-13

The NCAA Tournament's Biggest Upsets and Closest Calls of All-Time

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball's Top 10 Arena Nicknames</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Auburn fans can't forget about the 2012 season quick enough. The first 0-8 season in SEC play, as well as widespread off the field chaos, led to the eventual ouster of head coach Gene Chizik, who led the Tigers to a BCS title in the 2010 season. Enter Gus Malzahn, who was the offensive coordinator for that undefeated national championship team. He takes over a roster that was recruited well but clearly not coached much at all. Malzahn has his work cut out for him but there are plenty of four- and five-star recruits walking around The Plains right now. Developing this talent in the spring will go a long way to making Auburn competitive once again.

Auburn Tigers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 3-9 (0-8)

Spring practice dates: March 20-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Kiehl Frazier, 62 of 116, 753 yards, 2 TDs, 8 INTs
Rushing: Tre Mason, 171 car., 1,002 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: C.J. Uzomah, 7 rec., 136 yards, 1 TDs
Tackles: Demetruce McNeal, 90
Sacks: Dee Ford, 6.0
Interceptions: Trent Fisher, 1

Redshirts to watch: OL Alex Kozan, OL Jordan Diamond, TE Ricky Parks, DB T.J. Davis, DL Tyler Nero

Early Enrollees to watch: QB Nick Marshall, DT Ben Bradley, OL Devonte Danzey, DB Brandon King, LB Kenny Flowers

JUCO Transfers to watch: RB Cameron Artis-Payne, DT Ben Bradley, OL Devonte Danzey, LB Kenny Flowers, DB Brandon King, QB Nick Marshall

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Washington State
Sept. 7 Arkansas State
Sept. 14 Mississippi State
Sept. 21 at LSU
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Ole Miss
Oct. 10 Western Carolina
Oct. 18 at Texas A&M
Oct. 26 FAU
Nov. 2 at Arkansas
Nov. 8 at Tennessee
Nov. 16 Georgia
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Alabama

Related Content: SEC's All-Underrated Spring Team

Offensive Strength: The running game. Tre Mason returns as arguably the team's best player and four starters are back along the line.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. This is a major concern heading into the 2013 season as few teams played as poorly under center as Auburn did a year ago.

Defensive Strength: Defensive backs. This is the position that was hit the least with departures as only one key player (T'Sharvan Bell) doesn't return to the secondary.

Defensive Weakness: Front seven star power. Corey Lemonier, Daren Bates and Jonathan Evans leave three holes in the front seven — soon to be front six. This group has talented bodies but someone needs to step up and lead.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cardinals

1. Who will start under center? By far the biggest question mark swirling on The Plains is who will start at quarterback for the Tigers? Kiehl Frazier is the leading returning passer — if what he did last year can be called passing — but he is fairly young and his skills fit what Malzahn wants to do on offense.While Jonathan Wallace might be a slightly less refined (if that's possible) and talented version of Frazier, he was more effective last fall. With three highly touted passers coming to town in the summer, both Wallace and Frazier need to make major headway this spring. New offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will bring the no-huddle hurry-up back to Auburn and that system should allow the two scholarship players on campus to make plays with their legs. Are they keeping the seat warm for junior college transfer Nick Marshall or elite freshmen Johnny Johnson and Jason Smith or can Frazier/Wallace realize their potential and grasp the starting job?

2. Develop an edge up front on offense. The good news is the offensive line returns four starters. The bad news is those starters were horrendous last season. This group was dead last in the SEC at protecting the quarterback (3.09 sacks allowed per game) and finished 78th nationally in rushing. Creating a push and playing with a killer instinct up front will go a long way in helping develop a quarterback. This group has talent according to the recruiting sites but it hasn't played with the intensity and edge needed to be successful against SEC defenses. Look for Lashlee and Malzahn to instill some toughness in this group and develop talent up front on offense this spring.

3. Grow the defensive line. Gabe Wright has tons of upside at nose guard. So too does Dee Ford, the team's leading sack artist last fall, Nosa Eguae and LaDarius Owens on the outside. No one player may be able to replace Lemonier but as a whole this unit could be improved in 2013. Of course, on a team that was 14th in the SEC in rushing defense, 11th in the SEC sacks and 12th in tackles for a loss, the only place to go is up. Developing this area of the field, more so than any other, will help Auburn get back to competitive football as quickly as possible.

4. Create depth at linebacker. Jake Holland is the only returning linebacker with any substantial experience after Jonathan Evans and Daren Bates graduated. Ellis Johnson is moving this defense to a 4-2-5 and so this position might not be as big a concern had the switch (from 4-3) hadn't happened. However, Holland needs some help to step up around him. Kris Frost is someone Auburn fans have been excited about for some time and this spring is his chance to shine. Cassanova McKinzy has some time under his belt but needs to iron out his game to earn a starting spot while Justin Garrett also figures heavily into the mix.

5. Find playmakers on offense other than Mason. The Tigers' starting tailback, while not a true SEC workhorse, was the most productive player on the team last year. But there is little depth around him at running back, wide receiver or tight end in terms of playmakers. Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen are gone and this spring will likely see Malzahn attempt to find supporting pieces for Mason and his quarterbacks. Quan Bray, Trovon Reed and tight end C.J. Uzomah have upside and should develop into starters while Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis and running backs Corey Grant, Cameron Artis-Payne and Peyton Barber will look to create depth. Finding big-play options at running back, wideout and tight end will be huge this spring for the soon-to-be fast-paced offense.

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Teaser:
<p> Auburn Tigers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournaments-all-time-biggest-upsets-and-closest-calls
Body:

While none of the 112 No. 16 seeds has won a game in the NCAA Tournament (more on that below), six No. 15 seeds have shocked No. 2s since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. And two of them took place during this year's March Madness. Here's our look at the biggest upsets and closest calls from college basketball's NCAA Tournament. 

THE BIGGEST UPSETS: No. 2 vs. No. 15 (7-109)

Florida Gulf Coast 78, Georgetown 68 (2013)

The dunk-fest that is Florida Gulf Coast is partly why Sunday's second (or third, officially) round action was the highest-rated in 20 years. Andy Enfield — and his famous wife Amanda Marcum — led the Eagles to an improbable upset over the second-seeded Hoyas. Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Sherwood Brown scored 24 points as FGCU outplayed the regular season Big East champs from start to finish. And just to prove that it wasn't a fluke, Brown and the Eagles ran the seventh-seeded San Diego State Aztecs out of the building 81-71 to become the first 15-seed to ever make it to the Sweet 16. Gulf Coast's high-flying alley-oops were the top story of the first weekend of play in 2013 — and Enfield got a paltry $10,000 bonus for making the Sweet 16. Fans can bet he will be getting a big raise in the off-season.

Norfolk State 86, Missouri 84 (2012)

The Missouri Tigers were a chic pick to make it to the Final Four in 2012 after winning the Big 12 tournament. But Mizzou failed to make it out of the first round despite shooting 52.7% from the floor and making 13 three-pointers. It wasn’t enough to top the MEAC tournament champs from pulling off the monumental upset. Kyle O’Quinn led the Spartans with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 14 rebounds. A big reason the guard-heavy Tigers got beat? Norfolk State dominated the glass 35-23 in the two-point victory.

Lehigh 75, Duke 70 (2012)

The Mountain Hawks entered the tournament as Patriot League champions, led by superstar guard C.J. McCollum. The junior finished with 30 points, six rebounds and six assists in the startling upset of the powerhouse Blue Devils. Making the upset even more improbable was where the shocker took place: Greensboro, N.C. Duke missed 20 of its 26 three point shot attempts in the five point loss.

Hampton 58, Iowa St 57 (2001)

The Pirates of Hampton became only the fourth 15-seed to win in the first round when Tarvis Williams made a four-foot jumper with less than seven seconds left in the game. The Cyclones’ Jamaal Tinsley went the length of the floor and missed a point-blank lay-up to give Hampton the historic win. One of college basketball’s most memorable images is Hampton head coach Steve Merfeld sprinting around the court and being hoisted into the air, legs flailing wildly, by backup David Johnson.

Coppin St 78, South Carolina 65 (1997)

The Eagles of Coppin State entered their first-round tilt against South Carolina as a 30-point underdog. After Coppin State took the lead with just over six minutes left, the Gamecocks crumbled. For a team that, to this day, has not reached the second round of the tournament since 1973 — much less the Final Four — the loss to Ron “Fang” Mitchell’s upstart Eagles was especially painful.

Santa Clara 64, Arizona 61 (1993)

A Canadian freshman point guard by the name of Steve Nash knocked down six of eight free throws down the stretch to key the Broncos’ upset win over the Wildcats. Arizona, featuring a roster littered with future NBA players — Reggie Geary, Damon Stoudamire, Chris Mills and Khalid Reeves — put together a 25–0 run that spanned the end of the first half and the opening minutes of the second half. The Broncos answered with their own 19–7 run, and Pete Eisenrich’s jump shot gave them the lead late in the game before Stoudamire missed a three at the buzzer. Nash would go on to win two WCC Player of the Year awards.

Richmond 73, Syracuse 69 (1991)

The Spiders, led by 18 points and six assists from Curtis Blair, pulled off the first upset by a No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history. Billy Owens and the Syracuse zone were ineffective, as Richmond never trailed during the game. A Michael Edwards 3-point attempt that would have tied the game fell short with four seconds remaining, and 12-year coach Dick Tarrant had his signature moment as the Spiders’ head man.

 

THE CLOSEST CALLS 

It’s been well-documented that a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but there have been some extremely close calls. Did you know that five teams have nearly pulled-off what might be considered the biggest obstacle in mainstream sports?

Here are five 1 vs. 16 games decided by four points or less.

Purdue 73, Western Carolina 71 (1996)

The Southern Conference champs, coached by first-year head man Phil Hopkins, employed a zone defense that stymied Purdue for most of the game. The Catamounts actually had two chances to put themselves in a category all their own, but both the potential game-winning 3-pointer by Joel Fleming and the possible game-tying Joe Stafford 15-footer hit off of the back of the rim in the final seconds. Ironically, this Boiler team had to forfeit 18 of its 26 wins, including this game, the most recent near-miss by a 16 seed. Another interesting sidenote: Hopkins’ top assistant at the time, Thad Matta, is now the head coach at Ohio State.

Michigan St 75, Murray St 71 (OT, 1990)

The Ohio Valley champions, led by sophomore center Ronald “Popeye” Jones, pushed the vaunted Spartans to overtime by drilling a 3-point basket at the end of regulation. Jones’ game-high 37 points and 11 rebounds were not enough to slow MSU’s Steve Smith, who posted a team-high 22 points, including six of his team’s 10 overtime points. With 26 seconds left, Jones missed an interior shot and the Spartans snatched the rebound and held on to win the only 1-vs.-16 matchup ever to go to overtime.

Oklahoma 72, ETSU 71 (1989)

In the first of four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament for ETSU, the Buccaneers’ starting lineup featured three sophomores and two freshmen. Point guard Keith “Mister” Jennings, a 5'7" dynamo, led the Bucs to a 17-point lead over OU. The Sooners’ defense led the comeback, and after Jennings fouled out, Oklahoma found itself with the ball and a one-point lead shooting a one-and-one with four seconds left. Oklahoma’s Mookie Blaylock missed the front end, giving ETSU one final heave at the buzzer. The half-court air ball fell short, and Oklahoma escaped the historic upset.

Georgetown 50, Princeton 49 (1989)

In Pete Carril’s 22nd season as the Princeton head coach, the Tigers nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. With Princeton trailing by one with eight seconds left, Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning blocked two Princeton shots — one by Bob Scrabis and the other by Kit Mueller — to preserve the Hoya victory. To this day, Princeton fans still claim Mueller was fouled.

Michigan 59, Fairleigh Dickinson 55 (1985)

Head coach Tom Green spent 26 seasons leading Fairleigh Dickinson, but it was in his second year when he almost made his biggest mark. Despite losing four players to fouls, the Knights took the top-seeded Wolverines to the wire. Two late Roy Tarpley free throws sealed the win for the Maize and Blue. Villanova, the lowest-seeded team ever to win the title, proceeded to beat Michigan in the second round by the exact same score — 59–55 — en route to its famous upset of Georgetown in the finals.

Teaser:
<p> While none of the 116 No. 16 seeds has won a game in the NCAA Tournament, seven No. 15 seeds have shocked No. 2s since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-10-best-dunkers-2013
Body:

Part of what makes basketball such a fan-friendly sport is the high-flying, eye-popping feats of athleticism witnessed regularly on the hardcourt. And the dunk is the single most exciting, electric and jaw-dropping play in the sport. And as March Madness 2013 wraps up its first weekend, we thought we would provide the fans with our choices for the best dunkers in college hoops today.

Some of whom could be playing deep into the tourney this month.

1. Markel Brown, G, Oklahoma State (6-3, 190, Jr.)
What makes Brown so electric is his ability to build a highlight reel as just a 6-foot-3 guard. He can elevate and make defenders look silly. Depsite an early exit against Oregon in the first round of the Big Dance, Brown has still given fans in Stillwater plenty to cheer about. In fact, my favorite Brown throwdown is one against Mizzou that was so fierce he got a technical four and was ejected from the game.
.


2. Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana (6-5, 214, Jr.)
Few players showed as much improvement this season as Oladipo. And his unreal athletic abitlity is part of what has made him a National Player of the Year candidate. He has played huge in huge games and this play against Ohio State, in which he comes out of nowhere to throw it down, was downright sick.


3. Rodney Williams, F, Minnesota (6-7, 200, Sr.)
The senior has long been a fixture above the rim in The Barn at Minnesota. So here is a compilation of high-flying throwdowns from one of the nation's best athletes.


4. D.J. Stephens, G/F, Memphis (6-5, 188, Sr.)
Memphis has had a tremendous tradition of elite athletes who play above the rim over the last decade or so. And Mr. Stephens is this year's torch-bearer in that respect. This one in particularly was impressive because it came in the biggest game of the conference season for the Tigers.


5. Sam Thompson, F, Ohio State (6-7, 200, So.)
The Ohio State Buckeye might be one of the freakiest athletes in all of the nation. His dunking ability has been on full display since getting to Columbus two years ago and it could be a key piece to a deep Tournament run for Thad Matta's team.


6. Kyisean Reed, F, Utah State (6-6, 215, Sr.)
Reed is one of the darkhorses to watch in the 2013 Dunk Contest in Atlanta come Tournament end. He is a underrated player because of where he plays, but his ability to throw down with the best isn't underrated at all.


7. C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse (608, 25, Jr.)
Cuse has loads of lengthy, rangy athletes who can play above the rim and Fair is certainly among them. This particular dunk against National Player of the Year candidate Otto Porter of Georgetown was especially impressive.


8. Doug Anderson, F, Detroit (6-6, 212, Jr.)
Because he plays at a small school, many don't know about Anderson. Be he clearly has uncanny ability to star in a dunk contest — or just a regular season game.


9. Cody Zeller, C, Indiana (6-10, 240)
Zeller makes his living around the rim and has a long highlight reel of impressive dunks, many coming on forceful put backs. We'll simply call this one against Michigan at home Exhibit A.


10. Deuce Bello, G, Baylor (6-4, 187, So.)
For a guard, Bello has extreme hops. He is more of an honorable mention since he wasn't a huge part of his team this season, playing just over 11 minutes a game. But his historic prep career at Westchester Country Day (N.C.) more than served as a showcase for his dunking ability. This video has a slow start but delivers the goods and is worth checking out.

Best of the Rest:

Andre Roberson, Colorado
Chris Evans, Kent State
Ronald Roberts, St. Joseph's
Shaquille Johnson, Auburn
C.J. Leslie, NC State
Roman Galloway, La Salle
Vander Blue, Marquette
Nick Johnson or Gabe York, Arizona
Dezmine Wells, Maryland

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball's 10 Best Dunkers of 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-50-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

Greatness is defined in so many different ways. Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, raw talent and athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.

So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest quarterbacks of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 signal callers since the BCS was implemented in 1998:

* - active, ** - not all seasons played in BCS era

1. Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Stats: 6,040 yds, 44 TD, 10 INT, 62.8%, 3,127 yds, 37 TD
The Texas quarterback was the most unstoppable single force of the BCS era. Just ask Kansas. He earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. His offense averaged more than 50 points per game, he was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell awards while finishing second in the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS era, returning the national championship to Austin.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-09)
Stats: 9,285 yds, 88 TD, 16 INT, 66.4%, 2,947 yds, 57 TD
The top two quarterbacks are a cut above the rest as Tebow is the only player who can challenge Young for top honors. Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Award. He won the SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year in which he led Florida to its second national title in three years. He fell one game shy in 2009 of playing in — and likely winning — three national titles in four years. His speech following the loss to Ole Miss in '08 has been immortalized in Gator football lore.

3. Matt Leinart, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 10,693 yds, 99 TD, 23 INT, 64.8%, 9 rush TD
Leinart won two national titles in three years starting at powerhouse USC under Pete Carroll. He finished in the top six of Heisman voting in all three seasons, winning the award in 2004, finishing sixth in 2003 and third in 2005. He also earned AP Player of the Year, Manning, Walter Camp, Unitas and consensus All-American honors during his remarkable Heisman campaign of 2004. He capped the season with arguably the second-best performance by a quarterback in a national title game by dissecting Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

4. Andrew Luck, Stanford (2009-11)
Stats: 9,430 yds, 82 TD, 22 INT, 67.0%, 957 yds, 7 TD
The best quarterback prospect in over two decades broke all kinds of rookie NFL records in his first trip through the professional ranks. This merely lends credence to his remarkable college career. Few players have meant more to their school in history than Luck meant to Stanford. He led his program to its first BCS bowl win and set every school passing record en route. The two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year finished second in the Heisman twice (2010, '11) and won the Unitas, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards in 2011. He is the Pac-12's all-time leader in completion percentage, yards per play (8.5) and passing efficiency (162.8). He was 27-4 in his last 31 starts and has an architecture degree from Stanford.

5. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (2008-11)
Stats: 10,366 yds, 78 TD, 17 INT, 67.1%, 2,254 yds, 33 TD
Right alongside Luck will always be RG3 as the duo will be forever linked in football history. Griffin III beat out the Cardinal signal caller to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy while leading Baylor to back-to-back bowl games. He led the NCAA in passing efficiency (189.5), was a consensus All-American and won the Davey O'Brien and Manning awards to go with his stiff-armed trophy. In fact, Griffin III is just one of the few players to have meant more to their school than Luck. His impact on Baylor Bears football is immeasurable and could continue for decades. Had he been healthy for his entire career — he missed nine games in 2009 — his numbers might have been the best the BCS era has ever seen.

6. Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (1999-00)
Stats: 3,299 yds, 21 TD, 11 INT, 1,299 yds, 17 TD
Johnny Manziel might be the only redshirt freshman to ever match Vick's impact on the game in just one season. The Hokies signal caller revolutionized the quarterback position in one year as he led Virginia Tech to its only BCS title game appearance with unprecedented foot speed and arm strength. He dropped jaws and popped eyes every step of the way, including a furious second-half comeback in the Sugar Bowl against eventual champion Florida State. He finished third and sixth in the Heisman voting both years he played, and had he stayed three full seasons under center, he could have pushed Young or Tebow for top billing simply based on never-before-seen athleticism.

7. AJ McCarron, Alabama (2010-12)*
Stats: 5,956 yds, 49 TD, 8 INT, 66.7%, 3 rush TD
McCarron could leave Alabama as the most successful college quarterback in the history of the game. He already has three BCS National Championships — two as a starter — as he enters his final season for the Crimson Tide. He earned BCS title game MVP honors as a sophomore before leading the nation in passing efficiency last fall (175.3) with 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His offensive system will never allow him to post elite numbers and he has been surrounded by first-round draft picks his entire career, so he may never get the recognition he deserves. Also, shouldn't he get some credit for Katherine Webb?

8. Chris Weinke, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 9,839 yds, 79 TD, 32 INT, 58.7%, 2 rush TD
There was little left unaccomplished in Weinkie's college career. He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost one game over that span — the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9).

9. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2007-09)
Stats: 8,403 yds, 88 TD, 16 INT, 67.6%, 5 rush TD
It didn't take long for the three-star recruit to establish himself as one of Oklahoma's best of all-time. He set a school record for yards in a half in the first half of his career and broke another school record for consecutive completions the next game (22). By season's end, Bradford owned the NCAA's all-time freshman passing touchdown record with 36. He also won the Big 12 championship. The following season, Bradford led the Sooners to the BCS title game against Florida and beat out Tebow and Colt McCoy for the Heisman Trophy. He won Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien honors as well. Bradford owns the NCAA record for career quarterback efficiency at 175.6 making him the most efficient quarterback in the history of the game. He also owns the NCAA mark for yards per play as well (8.7) and 86 of his 88 total touchdown passes came in just two seasons.

10. Kellen Moore, Boise State (2008-11)
Stats: 14,667 yds, 142 TD, 28 INT, 69.8%, 3 rush TD
The underachiever from Boise State has numbers that most quarterbacks dream about. He is the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history with an unreal 50-3 record and left school with more touchdowns passes than anyone in history (since broken). He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, won two WAC Player of the Year awards and three conference championships. He set most school passing records as a sophomore as he led his team to a 14-0 perfect season and a Fiesta Bowl win over TCU. His overall lack of competition and raw talent keeps him from being higher on the list.

11. Russell Wilson, NC State/Wisconsin (2008-11)
Stats: 11,720 yds, 109 TD, 30 INT, 60.9%, 1,421 yds, 23 TD
Not many players own school records for two different programs but Wilson excelled in both the ACC and Big Ten. He posted the single greatest season by a Wisconsin quarterback in history en route to a league crown and near national title berth. He owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38) and the single-season mark for passing efficiency at 191.8. His NFL rookie season with the Seahawks only solidifies his standing as one of the game's greatest players.

12. Colt McCoy, Texas (2006-09)
Stats: 13,253 yds, 112 TD, 45 INT, 70.3%, 1,571 yds, 20 TD
Few players got more out of their abilities than McCoy. He was a consensus All-American and won the Big 12 Player of the Year while finishing second in the Heisman in 2008. He won the Walter Camp, Davey O'Brien and finished third in the Heisman voting in 2009. He left school with more wins than any quarterback in history (since broken), led his team to the national title game and owns the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage (76.7)

13. Pat White, West Virginia (2005-08)
Stats: 6,049 yds, 56 TD, 23 INT, 64.8%, 4,480 yds, 47 TD
He left school as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher as a quarterback and was a stalwart in Morgantown for four years. He earned Big East Player of the Year honors twice and is the only player in NCAA history to start and win four bowl games. He finished sixth and seventh in the Heisman voting in 2006 and '07 and has a Big East-record 103 total touchdowns.

14. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada (2007-10)
Stats: 10,098 yds, 82 TD, 24 INT, 58.2%, 4,112 yds, 59 TD
No player was more dynamic both passing and rushing than Kaepernick. He is one of four player in the 6,000-4,000 club and accounted for 141 total touchdowns. The two-time WAC Player of the Year is the league's all-time leader in yards per carry (6.9) and touchdowns (60). He finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 2010 and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl as just a second-year NFL player. He was simply impossible to stop in Reno.

15. Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-00)
Stats: 11,517 yds, 88 TD, 45 INT, 61.2%, 925 yds, 14 TD
The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year led Purdue back to the Rose Bowl and finished among the top four in Heisman voting twice (1999, 2000). He owns the NCAA record for passes attempted in a game with 83 tosses against Wisconsin in 1998 and is the Big Ten's all-time leader in completions (1,003), passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards and total touchdowns.

16. Cam Newton, Florida/Auburn (2008, 2010)
Stats: 2,908 yds, 30 TD, 7 INT, 65.4%, 1,586 yds, 24 TD
Newton's career is an intriguing one that could have been one of the greatest of all-time had he played more than just one season at Auburn. He was essentially kicked out of school, intertwined with a recruiting scandal and left early for the NFL. Yet, his one season in 2010 was one of the best in history. He single-handedly carried Auburn to a BCS title, won the Heisman Trophy as well as Davey O'Brien, Archie Manning, Maxwell, Walter Camp and AP Player of the Year honors. His one season on The Plains was one of the greatest single seasons in BCS history, but its difficult to make the case that his career belongs in the top 10.

17. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (1999-00)
Stats: 7,242 yds, 53 TD, 30 INT, 63.8%, 43 yds, 12 TD
He isn't the most talented quarterback to play in Norman but he might have the best understanding of the position. He won the AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, was a consensus All-American, earned the Walter Camp Trophy, finished second in the Heisman and led the NCAA in completion percent (64.7) in 2000. And he led Oklahoma to arguably the biggest win in the history of the program over Florida State in the BCS championship game in 2000.

18. Ken Dorsey, Miami (1999-02)
Stats: 9,565 yds, 86 TD, 28 INT, 57.9%, 2 rush TD
Dorsey was a two-time Big East Player of the Year, finishing third and fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He led a loaded Miami roster to back-to-back BCS championship games, winning one with ease over Nebraska. He also is the conference's all-time passing touchdowns leader. Many think he was more caretaker than playmaker, but leading his team to two BCS title games takes plenty of talent. And his performance in the first half against the Huskers was legendary.

19. Chris Leak, Florida (2003-06)
Stats: 11,213 yds, 88 TD, 42 INT, 61.4%, 137 yds, 13 TD
Leak is second all-time in SEC history for passing yards and is the all-time leader in completions (895). He earned BCS Championship Game MVP honors after dismantling the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2006 title game. He gets knocked for lacking elite talent and for padding stats with a stacked roster at a powerful program, but he should get credit for posting most of those numbers under Ron Zook.

20. Philip Rivers, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 13,484 yds, 95 TD, 34 INT, 63.5%, 98 yds, 17 TD
The most productive passer in ACC history, Rivers owns the ACC record for completions (1,087), attempts (1,711), passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards and total touchdowns. He won ACC Player of the Year honors in 2003 and finished seventh in the Heisman balloting. He also is a member of the historic 2004 NFL Draft class that includes fellow quarterbacks Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

21. Andy Dalton, TCU (2007-10)
Stats: 10,314 yds, 71 TD, 30 INT, 61.7%, 1,611 yds, 22 TD
The two-time Mountain West Player of the Year is the most successful, most talented and most productive quarterback to play at TCU since Davey O'Brien roamed the Ft. Worth campus in the 1930s. He eventually led the Frogs to an unblemished record and Rose Bowl championship over Wisconsin. He also has led Cincinnati to the playoffs in both of his professional seasons.

22. Eli Manning, Ole Miss (2000-03)
Stats: 10,119 yds, 81 TD, 35 INT, 60.8%, 5 rush TD
The third and final Manning to play quarterback in the SEC elevated Ole Miss to its highest levels of success during the BCS era. He claimed the Unitas and Maxwell awards, along with SEC Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003. He is Ole Miss' all-time leading passer and is seventh in SEC history in passing yards. He is clearly one of this generation's greatest talents.

23. Case Keenum, Houston (2007-11)
Stats: 19,217 yds, 155 TD, 46 INT, 69.4%, 897 yds, 23 TD
It's hard to argue with Keenum's level of production. He is the NCAA's all-time passing leader in completions (1,546), passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards, total touchdowns and is second all-time in attempts (2,229). He won the Sammy Baugh Trophy twice and earned C-USA Player of the Year honors. He never won enough games against big enough competition to get Houston to a BCS bowl or earn himself national notoriety like Moore.

24. Brad Smith, Missouri (2002-05)
Stats: 8,799 yds, 56 TD, 33 INT, 56.3%, 4,289 yds, 45 TD
Smith is one of four players in the 6,000-4,000 club after becoming the first player to accomplish the feat back in 2005. He is arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the history of the program and was nearly unstoppable in the backfield. His 799 rushing attempts are fifth all-time in Big 12 history and his 4,289 yards rushing are fourth in league history.

25. Ben Roethlisberger, Miami-OH (2001-03)
Stats: 10,829 yds, 84 TD, 34 INT, 65.5% 246 yds, 7 TD
Big Ben began his legacy as a whirling dervish, play-extending improv artist while in the MAC at Miami, Ohio. He won the Player of the Year award in the league and finished ninth in the 2003 Heisman ballot. Going on to win two Super Bowls indicates his talents were far superior than his statistical resume.

26. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (2008-11)
Stats: 9,260 yds, 75 TD, 27 INT, 69.5%, 1 rush TD
The Pokes quarterback set all the important school passing records in 2011 and then returned to Stillwater in 2012 and set them all over again. He led Oklahoma State to its first-ever Big 12 title and first-ever BCS bowl win. His 69.5-percent completion rate is third all-time in Big 12 history.

27. Matt Ryan, Boston College (2004-07)
Stats: 9,313 yds, 56 TD, 37 INT, 60.0%, 39 yds, 11 TD
Ryan did more for Boston College than any player since Doug Flutie. He won the ACC Player of the Year and led the Eagles to the ACC title game. He was seventh in the Heisman ballot and won the Johnny Unitas and Archie Manning Awards before beginning his elite career in the NFL. From a raw talent standpoint, few players on this list are better quarterbacks than Matty-Ice.

28. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (1998-01)
Stats: 4,481 yds, 29 TD, 25 INT, 51.5%, 3,434 yds, 59 TD
The Nebraska signal caller continued the long run of elite running quarterbacks in Lincoln with a Heisman Trophy season that ended with a trip to the BCS title game against Miami. The two-time Big 12 Player of the Year also claimed Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp honors and led the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns three consecutive seasons.

29. Troy Smith, Ohio State (2003-06)
Stats: 5,720 yds, 54 TD, 13 INT, 62.7%, 1,168 yds, 14 TD
Smith won the AP Player of the Year, Davey O'Brien, Walter Camp awards and the Heisman Trophy in 2006 en route to a perfect season and BCS championship game berth against Florida. The consensus All-American was the first Buckeyes quarterback to go 3-0 against Michigan since the 1930s.

30. Aaron Murray, Georgia* (2010-present)
Stats: 10,091 yds, 95 TD, 32 INT, 61.5%, 202 yds, 9 TD
The debate between Murray and David Greene is a good one. Murray has already blown past his touchdown totals and will easily pass his win total and passing yards. He could easily rewrite the SEC passing record books and simply needs to finish a season in Atlanta with a win to entrench his legacy in Dawgs lore.

31. David Greene, Georgia (2001-04)
Stats: 11,528 yds, 72 TD, 32 INT, 59.0%, 5 rush TD
Left as NCAA's winningest QB (42). Led UGA back to an SEC title and is the SEC's all-time leading passer.

32. Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech** (1996-99)
Stats: 8,882 yds, 65 TD, 39 INT, 61.7%, 1,758 yds, 18 TD
O'Brien winner, finished second in Heisman, a consensus All-American and No. 2 all-time in ACC total yards.

33. Collin Klein, Kansas State (2009-2012)
Stats: 4,724 yds, 30 TD, 15 INT, 61.3%, 2,485 yds, 56 TD
Finished third in Heisman, led Kansas State to a Big 12 title and is 13th all-time in NCAA in rushing TD.

34. Antwaan Randle El, Indiana (1998-01)
Stats: 7,469 yds, 42 TD, 37 INT, 49.8%, 3,895 yds, 44 TD
Fourth all-time in Big Ten in total TD and fifth in total yards. Big Ten P.O.Y finished sixth in 2001 Heisman voting.

35. Aaron Rodgers, Cal (2003-04)
Stats: 5,469 yds, 43 TD, 13, 63.8%, INT, 336 yds, 8 TD
Led Cal back to relevance, finished ninth in Heisman and led NCAA in comp. percent and yards-per-attempt in '04 (66.1).

36. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M* (2011-present)
Stats: 3,706 yds, 26 TD, 9 INT, 68.0%, 1,410 yds, 21 TD
Will only work his way up this list after unprecedented redshirt freshman season — and living life like it.

37. Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan (2006-09)
Stats: 12,905 yds, 102 TD, 36 INT, 66.4%, 2,948 yds, 47 TD;
MAC record for comp., att., total yards (NCAA No. 4), total TD (NCAA No. 2) and won two MAC P.O.Y. awards.

38. Chase Daniel, Missouri (2005-08)
Stats: 12,515 yds, 101 TD, 41 INT, 68.0%, 971 yds, 10 TD
Heisman finalist is fourth all-time in Big 12 passing and total yards, passing and total TD.

39. Todd Reesing, Kansas (2006-09)
Stats: 11,194 yds, 90 TD, 33 INT, 63.8%, 646 yds, 15 TD
Most important QB in Jayhawks history owns every major school passing record and won a BCS bowl.

40. Chad Pennington, Marshall (1997-99)**
Stats: 11,446 yds, 107 TD, 30 INT, 63.6%, 61 yds, 4 TD
Finished fifth in Heisman, won Sammy Baugh Award and is the MAC's all-time leader in TD passes.

41. Geno Smith, West Virginia
Stats: 11,662 yds, 98 TD, 21 INT, 342 yds, 4 TD

42. Jason White, Oklahoma
Stats: 7,922 yds, 81 TD, 24 INT, 2 rush TD

43. Joey Harrington, Oregon
Stats:6,289 yds, 53 TD, 21 INT, 211 yds, 17 TD

44. Alex Smith, Utah
Stats: 5,203 yds, 47 TD, 8 INT, 1,072 yds, 15 TD

45. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech
Stats: 7,017 yds, 44 TD, 20 INT, 2,196 yds, 23 TD

46. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
Stats: 15,793 yds, 134 TD, 34 INT, 12 rush TD

47. Braxton Miller, Ohio State*
Stats: 3,198 yds, 28 TD, 10 INT, 1,986 yds, 20 TD

48. Matt Barkley, USC
Stats: 12,327 yds, 116 TD, 48 INT, 6 rush TD

49. Tajh Boyd, Clemson*
Stats: 8,053 yds, 73 TD, 28 INT, 765 yds, 16 TD

50. Brian Johnson, Utah
Stats: 7,853 yds, 57 TD, 27 INT, 848 yds, 12 TD

The Next 25:

51. Carson Palmer, USC: 11,668 yds, 72 TD, 49 INT, 9 rush TD
52. Brian Brohm, Louisville: 10,775 yds, 71 TD, 24 INT, 44 yds, 9 TD
53. Paul Smith, Tulsa: 10,924 yds, 83 TD, 35 INT, 666 yds, 28 TD
54. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska: 6,591 yds, 46 TD, 27 INT, 2,858 yds, 31 TD*
55. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State: 8,317 yds, 66 TD, 31 INT, 1,858 yds, 22 TD
56. Rex Grossman, Florida: 9,164 yds, 77 TD, 36 INT, 6 rush TD
57. Colt Brennan, Hawaii: 14,193 yds, 131 TD, 42 INT, 547 yds, 15 TD
58. Greg McElroy, Alabama: 5,691 yds, 39 TD, 10 INT, 71 yds, 2 TD
59. Matthew Stafford, Georgia: 7,731 yds, 51 TD, 33 INT, 213 yds, 6 TD
60. Denard Robinson, Michigan: 6,250 yds, 49 TD, 39 INT, 4,495 yds, 42 TD
61. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: 16,646 yds, 123 TD, 52 INT, 3 rush TD
62. Timmy Chang, Hawaii: 17,072 yds, 117 TD, 80 INT, 6 rush TD
63. Tom Brady, Michigan: 4,982 yds, 31 TD, 19 INT, 3 rush TD**
64. Darron Thomas, Oregon: 5,910 yds, 66 TD, 17 INT, 719 yds, 9 TD
65. Michael Bishop, Kansas State: 4,401 yds, 36 TD, 13 INT, 1,314 yds, 23 TD**
66. Kevin Kolb, Houston: 12,964 yds, 85 TD, 31 INT, 751 yds, 21 TD
67. Daunte Culpepper, UCF: 9,341 yds, 72 TD, 32 INT, 1,003 yds, 19 TD**
68. Michael Robinson, Penn State: 3,531 yds, 23 TD, 21 INT, 1,637 yds, 20 TD, 52 rec., 629 yds, 3TD
69. Jason Campbell, Auburn: 7,299 yds, 45 TD, 24 INT, 307 yds, 9 TD
70. Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt: 8,697 yds, 59 TD, 36 INT, 1,256 yds, 17 TD
71. Byron Leftwich, Marshall: 11,903 yds, 89 TD, 28 INT, 181 yds, 6 TD
72. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: 6,177 yds, 57 TD, 26 INT, 2,164 yds, 17 TD
73. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State: 9,131 yds, 66 TD, 30 INT, 1 rush TD
74. Jake Locker, Washington: 7,639 yds, 53 TD, 35 INT, 1,939 yds, 29 TD
75. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: 12,423 yds, 95 TD, 40 INT, 5 rush TD

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-2013-spring-football-preview
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Mississippi State started 7-0 last year before running into the eventual national champs, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, LSU, in-state rival Ole Miss and a Northwestern team that celebrated its first bowl win since 1949. Needless to say, the end of the season didn't go as Dan Mullen had planned. That said, Mullen still led State to its third straight bowl game and its second 4-4 SEC record in three seasons. In a loaded SEC West, sledding will always be tough for the Bulldogs. However, State is 24-15 over the last three years and Mullen has the program consistently overachieving. To maintain this new level of success, Hail State will have to fill plenty of holes this spring.

Mississippi State Bulldogs 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (4-4)

Spring practice dates: March 21-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Tyler Russell, 231-of-394, 2,897 yards, 24 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: LaDarius Perkins, 205 car., 1,024 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: LaDarius Perkins, 19 rec., 160 yards, 2 TDs
Tackles: Benardrick McKinney, 102
Sacks: Preston Smith, 4.5
Interceptions: Nickoe Whitley, 3

Redshirts to Watch: LB Richie Brown, LB Beniquez Brown, OL Devon Desper, DL A.J. Jefferson, DB Quadry Antoine

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Justin Cox, WR Jeremy Chappelle

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Oklahoma State (Houston)
Sept. 7 Alcorn State
Sept. 14 at Auburn
Sept. 21 Troy
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 LSU
Oct. 12 Bowling Green
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 24 Kentucky (Thur.)
Nov. 1 at South Carolina
Nov. 9 at Texas A&M
Nov. 16 Alabama
Nov. 23 at Arkansas
Nov. 30 Ole Miss

Offensive Strength: The backfield and line. Tyler Russell and LaDarius Perkins form one of the best 1-2 punches of any ground attack in the SEC. And four, possibly five, offensive linemen will be back as well.

Offensive Weakness: Pass catchers. The top four receivers are gone from last year's roster, including star wideout Chad Bumphis and dependable tight end Marcus Green.

Defensive Strength: Front seven. One key member of the defensive line (Josh Boyd) and the linebacking corps (Cameron Lawrence) will need to be replaced. However, seven of the top eight defensive linemen and six of the top seven linebackers return.

Defensive Weakness: Cornerback. Stars Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay moved on to the NFL and safety Corey Broomfield departed as well. The secondary needs to find covermen.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bulldogs:

1. Lockdown corners are needed. Banks and Slay were stalwarts for Mullen on the backend of his defense as was Broomfield at safety. Finding lockdown corners to step in and take over will be extremely difficult this offseason but spring practice offers a chance to evaluate the competition. Jamerson Love, Kendrick Market and Taveze Calhoun all saw time last year and are poised to battle for starting time in Starkville this spring. However, junior college transfer Justin Cox (6-3, 190) could be a huge addition this spring as his size and frame gives him the chance to contribute all over the defensive backfield. Will Redmond and Cedric Jones also will get plenty of looks as Mullen and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins try to rebuild their secondary.

2. Find some pass catchers. Receivers Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith and Arceto Clark combined for 141 catches last year while tight end Marcus Green added six touchdowns. All four (and Brandon Heavens) are gone from the Bulldogs roster and Mullen is left to restock his entire receiving corps. Robert Johnson brings size (6-1, 220) and a vertical threat to the offense — as well as a truly legendary Mississippi blues name. He caught 17 passes and two scores last year. Jameon Lewis (5-9, 185) complements Johnson well with shifty slot ability. Joe Morrow, Fred Brown and Ricco Sanders will figure heavily in the mix as well. The wildcard could be junior college transfer Jeremy Chappelle and his prototypical 6-2, 215-pound frame. A big, physical receiver seems to be one of the few positions that has eluded Mullen in Starkville. Malcolm Johnson appears poised to take over for Green at tight end and has intriguing upside.

3. 

Fill leadership voids on defense. While most of the depth chart returns at linebacker and defensive line, but there are two major voids of leadership departing. Lawrence was a second-team All-SEC performer and the team’s leading tackler with 120 stops last year. Boyd was an NFL-type talent at tackle up front. And the departing trio in the secondary has been well documented. Kaleb Eulls, Denico Autry and Preston Brown have experience and talent but need to become leaders. Benardrick McKinney and Deontae Skinner are in the same situation at linebacker. There is tons of depth along the line and at linebacker but the huddle needs a new leader with all of the departing senior leadership. Look for younger upside players like Quay Evans to step into much more prominent roles.

4. Keep up with the Joneses. There is no rest for the weary in the SEC, especially in the West. Five of the last six national champions play in the West and it doesn’t appear LSU or Alabama are slowing down. Meanwhile Texas A&M has joined the mix in a big way. Over the last three seasons, Mississippi State is achieving at a higher level than it has since 1998 but still struggled down the stretch last year. Are Mullen and his Dogs destined to finish fifth or sixth every season or can this program rebuild quick enough to challenge the big boys? It likely comes down to coaching and this spring is where Mullen can gain ground on guys like Les Miles.

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Teaser:
<p> Mississippi State Bulldogs 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 12:25
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-2013-heisman-trophy-candidates
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Heisman Trophy trends finally appear to be changing. Defensive players are getting invited to New York City with increased regularity as one player from that side of the ball has been a finalist in three of the last four seasons. The age stigma has fallen by the wayside as well with Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel each winning the award in just their second seasons on campus.

Johnny Heisman confirmed his amazing season by putting on a record-setting show in the Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma. But is the redshirt sophomore-to-be the frontrunner to win the Heisman again in 2013? Considering only once in 77 years has someone won the stiff-armed trophy a second time, and that was back in 1975 (Archie Griffin), the odds are distinctly against the Aggies' signal caller.

So with the NFL Draft deadline well in the rear-view mirror and spring practice in full swing across the nation, Athlon delivers its Top 25 Heisman Trophy candidates for 2013 — complete with Vegas odds. Keep in mind, Manziel wasn't one of the top 50 most likely players to win the award a year ago heading into the fall.

The Heisman Finalists:

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (7/1)
The Buckeyes' quarterback was easily the biggest finalist snub this past season, as he ended up finishing fifth in the voting. As the unquestioned leader of an unbeaten Ohio State squad, Miller single-handedly carried the Bucknuts to victory week after week. He was fourth in the Big Ten in rushing (105.9 ypg), second in passing efficiency and second in total offense. Few players on this list can improve their numbers like Miller will in his second year in Urban Meyer's unstoppable spread scheme. His electric play-making ability, raw toughness and perfect fit in the system make him a virtual lock as a Heisman contender next season — as well as potential top overall NFL Draft pick.

2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (15/1)
Few players posted numbers comparable to Johnny Heisman, but Boyd was one of them. He led the ACC in passing efficiency (165.59) and total offense (339.2 ypg) and was fifth and seventh in each category nationally. He scored 46 total touchdowns (36 pass, 10 rush) and has a host of elite weapons returning. More importantly, this team should be the preseason favorite in the ACC with Boyd under center and Chad Morris calling the plays. He is one of few players who will have the numbers, the marquee showdowns (vs. Georgia, at South Carolina), the potential championship and the offensive support to win the Heisman.

3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (12/1)
There is little doubt that Clowney is the most physically gifted player in the nation. He is a near lock as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. And because he set the table as a sophomore with a monster hit against Michigan and huge numbers statistically, he has a great chance at landing in New York. The monster defensive end finished third in the nation in sacks (1.08 pg) and second nationally in tackles for loss (1.96 pg). He enters his third year with 21.0 sacks, eight forced fumbles and 35.5 tackles for loss and because he plays a stat-heavy defensive position, his boxscore will speak for itself. However, winning the SEC East might be a must if Clowney wants to become just the second true defensive player to ever win the award.

4. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (4/1)
What else is there to say about Manziel? His numbers speak for themselves and his Cotton Bowl performance will go down in Aggie lore as one of the greatest postseason performances by a Heisman winner of all time. But Tim Tebow couldn’t repeat. Neither could Mark Ingram, Matt Leinart or Sam Bradford. All were elite talents like Manziel, but the odds of repeating are 1-in-77. And now that SEC defensive coordinators will be spending the next five months figuring out ways to stop him, a repeat of his production seems highly unlikely mostly because he set the bar so high for himself in 2012.

5. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (18/1)
Manziel gets most of the love as a redshirt freshman, but Mariota wasn’t far behind. He rarely played in any second halves and led the nation in road passing efficiency. Overall, he led the Pac-12 in passer rating and scored 37 total touchdowns. He plays with poise and confidence well beyond his years. The big question mark will be the loss of head coach Chip Kelly. The last time Oregon switched head coaches internally, there was little drop off, but one has to think this offense will take a small step back. Yet, as the leader of Oregon's offense, the supremely gifted 6-foot-4, 200-pound second-year starter should be destined for at least one trip to NYC in his career.

6. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (33/1)
Carey was the most underrated player in the nation last fall. He led the nation in rushing (148.4 ypg, 1,929 yards), set the Arizona single-season rushing record and the Pac-12 single-game rushing record (366 yards). He scored 24 times and helped turn the Wildcats from a four-win team in 2011 to an eight-win, zone-read monster. And he did all of this as a sophomore. With spread guru Rich Rodriguez calling the shots, the tough-nosed workhorse has a chance to post huge numbers once again in 2013. Although Carey's on-field performance merits inclusion, there is one glaring issue with Carey. Should his off-the-field behavior — a domestic abuse issue and basketball game incident — become an issue, he drops out of the Heisman race. Currently, he is being disciplined internally and is practicing, so he makes the list.

The Top Challengers:

7. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (10/1)
The Dawgs' signal caller will make a push to rewrite the Georgia and SEC record books with another big year in Athens. He led the nation in passing efficiency and has 77 total touchdowns in the last two seasons. With a loaded offense returning around him, Murray just needs to eliminate the bizarro game from his resume — e.g., Florida and South Carolina in 2012, Mississippi State in 2011 — to be an NYC finalist. He might also need to finish a season in Atlanta with a win instead of a loss.

8. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (10/1)
An elite big-play machine, Thomas’ biggest weakness is actually one of his biggest strengths. The Oregon scheme lends itself to huge numbers but it also distributes the football. Simply put, he needs more than 137 touches on offense to get to New York. The change in head coach will also play a role with Thomas' campaign like it will Mariota's.

9. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (--)
It will be tough for Gurley to top his freshman numbers in the brutal SEC, but his quarterback and offensive line return intact. He led the league in rushing by a running back and scored 17 times. Only Trent Richardson has ever scored 20 rushing TDs in SEC history as a running back. With Murray and Gurley in the same backfield, one has to wonder if the UGA vote will be split between two elite players.

10. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama (18/1)
Looking for another true sophomore to win the award? Look no further than the extremely gifted Yeldon. As just a freshman, he rushed for 1,000 yards and 10 scores as a backup last season en route to a national championship. Nick Saban’s offense is a proven Heisman commodity for running backs and Eddie Lacy has moved on to the NFL. If Yeldon gets 200+ touches, he easily has the skill to make it to New York.

11. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (12/1)
The De’Anthony Thomas of the East Coast, Johnson led the ACC in kickoff returns and was third in all-purpose running as just a freshman. As the season went on, Al Golden trusted Johnson more on offense and he topped 100 yards three times in his last four games. The key will be his role in 2013 as Golden looks to get him more involved in the traditional offense. He could see a big jump from 139 carries a year ago, and should that happen, fans can bet the sophomore speedster's numbers will be eye-popping.

12. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (9/1)
With a proven commodity at quarterback coming back, Lee would be in the “Finalists” category. But with Matt Barkley — and counterpart Robert Woods who drew plenty of defensive attention — leaving for the NFL, Lee’s numbers will almost assuredly go down. He is an elite player who may not have the supporting cast to get to Radio City Music Hall.

13. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (--)
The hot name du jour is the Cards' signal caller after his electric performance against Florida’s nasty defense in the Sugar Bowl. The numbers have to get bigger and better for him to be a finalist, however, as Louisville's system is the most bland of any of the other contenders. Charlie Strong isn't going to throw the ball 50 times a game. Also, The Ville likely needs to run the table for the junior-to-be to get an invite to the Big Apple.

14. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska (15/1)
Few players make the eye-popping plays in the backfield like Martinez. He showed marked improvement in efficiency and decision making this fall, leading the Big Ten in total offense and passer rating. A pair of potential showdowns with Braxton Miller will likely determine T-Magic’s Heisman fate. Four more losses for the Big Red and Martinez will find it hard to get to New York without elite statistics.

15. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (20/1)
The Bruins finally found a quarterback. The redshirt sophomore-to-be threw for three 300-yard efforts in his first four career games. He then led his team to the Pac-12 title game, scored 38 total touchdowns and produced nearly 4,100 yards of total offense in just his first year under center. The show will be all his in Westwood now that Johnathan Franklin is gone.

16. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (12/1)
A big part of why Yeldon will be successful will be the return of McCarron. The O-line will have to be rebuilt (to some extent), but the talent at the skill positions could be better than Saban has ever had at the Capstone. If McCarron goes for 30 TDs and just three interceptions again, he will most definitely be in the Heisman race. The biggest issue is his offensive system may never allow for big numbers from the quarterback as names like Ingram, Richardson, Lacy and Yeldon get most of the attention.

17. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan (40/1)
Fans in Ann Arbor have been waiting for Gardner for years and 2013 will be his chance to shine. In just five starts last year, the former elite recruit accounted for 18 touchdowns, just five interceptions and 264 yards of offense per game. He fits Brady Hoke's scheme better than Denard Robinson but has similar athletic ability. His ability to pass the football could set him apart from his former teammate.

18. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (--)
When it comes to raw upside and physical talent, Watkins is second to none nationally. But staying healthy and focused has been an issue for the electric play-maker, causing him to miss four games in his first two years. With DeAndre Hopkins off to the NFL and his quarterback Boyd returning, the sky could be the limit for the star wideout. Consistency will be the name of the game for the junior-to-be.

19. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (20/1)
Seastrunk's journey to Heisman contender has been long and winding, but he is finally here. He left Oregon before ever playing a down and finally set Waco afire in the second half of 2012. The former five-star recruit rushed for 831 yards, including five 100-yard games, and six of his seven touchdowns in the season's final six games. Art Briles system is set up for big numbers but he needs solid play from a new quarterback to get to NYC.

20. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (--)
The Fresno State offensive system will allow Carr to air it out all season long. He has 7,648 yards passing and 63 touchdowns against only 16 interceptions over his last two seasons. An unbeaten record and BCS bowl bid would go a long way in elevating the Heisman profile for the Bulldogs' starter.

21. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (18/1)
Nebraska has always loved to run the football and the explosive back will finally be the full-time starter in Lincoln. After starter Rex Burkhead went down with an injury, the sophomore stepped in and provided big support in the running game. He posted six 100-yard efforts over a nine week span in place of Burkhead and should get the lion's share of carries this fall.

22. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois (--)
For Lynch to get to Manhattan next December, he would have to improve on what could be considered the best single-season in MAC history. A BCS bowl bid, nearly 2,000 yards rushing, over 3,000 yards passing, 44 total touchdowns and just six interceptions will be tough to reproduce.

23. Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern (--)
The Northwestern offense is as dynamic as any in the nation and Mark will be the centerpiece. He rushed for 1,366 yards, caught 20 passes and scored on two punt returns. He can do everything for a team looking to win its first Big Ten title since 1995. With exciting players returning around him, Mark's only negative heading into the season will be the losses along the offensive line. That said, the Wildcats normally plug in the next guy on a roster that isn't ever overloaded with talent.

24. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (--)
Many people, myself included, were massively disappointed by the 260-pound quarterback in 2012. He rallied the Hokies late and the offense should be improved in 2013 under new coordinator Scott Loeffler, but Thomas needs to show quite a bit more growth as a passer (18 TD, 16 INT) to get to New York. The good news is he did run the ball more effectively and threw it with more accuracy as a sophomore than he did as a junior. A return to 2011 will get Thomas back in the mix.

25. Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma (30/1)
Bell has one of the most bizarre stat lines in college football. As a backup quarterback entering his first season under center, the massive 6-6, 260-pound passer has had more rushing touchdowns (24) than passing attempts (20). He has rushed 104 times and has scored on nearly a quarter of his attempts. On a team poised to make yet another run at a conference crown, passing the football effectively is still the overwhelming concern for Bell's Heisman candidacy.

Some Defensive Long Shots to Consider:

Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Is a terror off of the edge and will push for nation's lead in sacks.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Elite recruit produced All-Big 12 season as just a freshman. The sky is the limit.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Legacy talent needs to stay healthy all year to prove how dominant he can be.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Elite leader is one of few major defensive stars who elected to return to college.

Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Lost a lot of talent around him, but no one hits harder and bigger than Shazier.

Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year back on a team that could push for a division title.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Elite playmaker who should blossom into an All-American as just a sophomore.

Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
Supremely gifted athlete could pass Louis Nix as top Irish defender this fall.

 

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Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 25 2013 Heisman Trophy Candidates</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

An undefeated run and a BCS National Championship were clearly premature for Brian Kelly. However, no one has ever doubted his ability to return the Golden Dome to national prominence and 2012 was proof. Now, the bar has been raised considerably for Kelly and his Irish. With elite recruiting class stacked upon elite recruiting class, Notre Dame fans are as optimistic about their future, including 2013, as any team in the nation. And the next run at a national title begins with the start of spring football on March 20.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-1

Spring practice dates: March 20-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Everett Golson, 187-of-318, 2,405 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: George Atkinson III, 51 car., 361 yards, 5 TDs
Receiving: TJ Jones, 50 rec., 649 yards, 4 TDs
Tackles: Bennett Jackson, 65
Sacks: Stephon Tuitt, 12.0
Interceptions: Bennett Jackson, 4

Redshirts to Watch: DL Jarron Jones, RB Will Mahone

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Temple
Sept. 7 at Michigan
Sept. 14 at Purdue
Sept. 21 Michigan State
Sept. 28 Oklahoma
Oct. 5 Arizona State
Oct. 12 Open Date
Oct. 19 USC
Oct. 26 at Air Force
Nov. 2 Navy
Nov. 9 at Pitt
Nov. 16 Open Date
Nov. 23 BYU
Nov. 30 at Stanford

Offensive Strength: Offensive line. This group returns three starters with a combined 39 starts last year and a deep host of elite recruits.

Offensive Weakness: Playmakers. The top two rushers, the main two contributors at wide receiver and tight end Tyler Eifert have moved on. The offense needs to find skill players to contribute.

Defensive Strength: Defensive line. Losing Kapron Lewis-Moore hurts but this unit returns largely intact, and with more experience, could be one of the nation's elite front lines.

Defensive Weakness: Leadership. Four senior leaders, including Manti Te'o, Lewis-Moore and safety Zeke Motta have departed. Each layer of the defense will need a new leader.

Spring Storylines Facing the Fighting Irish:

1. Replace Manti. There is no shortage of talent in the Irish linebacking corps. Dan Fox, Prince Shembo, Carlo Calabrese and Danny Spond have loads of experience while Ishaq Williams, Ben Councell, Jarrett Grace and Kendall Moore add intriguing upside to the position as well. However, Te'o was the heart and soul of the locker room and his leadership will be missed as much as his 113 tackles and seven interceptions. Williams has a chance to be special and will push for time on the outside along with Concell. Fox, Calabrese and Grace appear to be the most likely candidates to fill Te'o's spot on the inside. Look for coordinator Bob Diaco to pay special attention to this group over the next month.

2. Build a supporting cast for Everett Golson. Running back and tight end, in particular, should be interesting position battles this spring. Troy Niklas is the most talented tight end of the bunch but Ben Koyack and Alex Welch will battle for time as well. George Atkinson III is the top returning rusher but Kelly undoubtedly wants to establish some depth behind the speedster. USC transfer Amir Carlisle, redshirt freshman Will Mahone and junior Cam McDaniel will all see plenty of time this spring in an effort to replace Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Two star freshmen are waiting to show what they can do in the summer (Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston), so spring practice should be an opportunity for one or more ball carriers to step up and take control of the position. 

3. Find safeties. Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter and Dan McCarthy are all gone. Slaughter missed all but three games last year with an injury while Motta was an unquestioned leader of the secondary. So rebuilding depth at this position is important this spring — especially considering the gaping voids Alabama exploited in the Irish backfield in the BCS title game. Matthias Farley has the most experience and he will be joined by Elijah Shumate and Nicky Baratti on the backend. Austin Collinsworth could also factor in if healthy. Developing the talent at cornerback, which appears like it could be a position of strength in 2013, will help break in the new safeties as well. Getting Lo Wood back after missing all of 2012 will improve the defensive backfield overall.

4. Rebuild the interior of the O-line. The return of Zack Martin was a huge boost to the Irish offseason's expectations. But losing Braxton Cave and Mike Golic hurts the interior of the offensive line. Kelly has recruited at an elite level along both lines of scrimmage and new names will need to step up this spring to fill voids at center and guard. Matt Hegarty is first in line to take over at center and should be more than capable after playing in nine games last year. Nick Martin played in 13 games, Conor Hanratty played in six games and is versatile along the line while Bruce Heggie was officially the backup at right guard last year. Look for Kelly and O-line coach Harry Heistand to have some fun sorting through a very talented depth chart up front on offense.

5. Handle expectations. Notre Dame's unexpected run to the BCS national title game sped up the expectations calendar in South Bend. Many have long believed that Kelly is the right fit at Notre Dame and last year proved that to be accurate. However, after throngs of Irish fans left Miami Gardens, Fla., with their heads buried in their hands, Kelly will have his work cut out for him in 2013. Key seniors have departed at key positions, and despite those losses, Irish faithful are still expecting another push at a national title. This roster and coaching staff is capable of returning to a BCS bowl game once again in 2013, but Notre Dame is no longer the hunter. They now have to handle the bulls-eye firmly planted on the backs of their jerseys.

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Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-spartans-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Entering 2012, Mark Dantonio's program faced an age-old question of rebuilding or reloading? Had Michigan State, following the two most successful seasons in program history (11 wins), become a program that reloads or rebuilds? After five losses in Big Ten play, it appears the Spartans are closer to rebuilding than reloading. However, with a host of talent returning to both sides of the ball, Dantonio's bunch won't be "down" for too long. Expectations in East Lansing will be high once again this summer.

Michigan State Spartans 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (3-5)

Spring practice dates: March 19-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Andrew Maxwell, 234-of-446, 2,606 yards, 13 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Nick Hill, 21 car., 48 yards, 1 TDs
Receiving: Bennie Fowler, 41 rec., 524 yards, 4 TDs
Tackles: Max Bullough, 111
Sacks: Denicos Allen, 3.0
Interceptions: Darqueze Dennard, 3.0

Redshirts to Watch: QB Tyler O'Connor, TE Josiah Price, TE Evan Jones, S Demetrious Cox, OL Jack Conklin, LB Riley Bullough, DB Jermaine Edmondson, WR Monty Madaris, RB Nick Tompkins, CB Ezra Robinson

2013 Schedule

Aug. 30 Western Michigan (Fri.)
Sept. 7 USF
Sept. 14 Youngstown State
Sept. 21 at Notre Dame
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Iowa
Oct. 12 Indiana
Oct. 19 Purdue
Oct. 26 at Illinois
Nov. 1 Michigan
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 at Nebraska
Nov. 23 at Northwestern
Nov. 30 Minnesota

Offensive Strength: Offensive line. Dan France, Jack Allen, Skyler Burkland and Blake Treadwell return after making a combined 41 starts a year ago.

Offensive Weakness: Running back. Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper are gone and the duo combined for 400 carries, 1,901 yards rushing and 12 of the team's 13 touchdowns on the ground.

Defensive Strength: Linebacker. This position has everything any coach could want: experience, talent, versatility, production and depth.

Defensive Weakness: Defensive line. William Gholston and Anthony Rashad-White are gone from this unit as is contributor Tyler Hoover.

Spring Storylines Facing the Spartans:

1. Develop a workhorse. Le'Veon Bell touched the ball 414 times last year on offense — the most of anyone in all of college football. He is gone as is his backup Larry Caper. That leaves Mark Dantonio with a glaring hole in his offense at tailback. Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford return but rushed for a total of 71 yards last season. Redshirt freshman Nick Tompkins, who battled an ankle injury all of last year, will also compete for touches this spring. A host of talented newcomers will join the battle this summer (Gerald Holmes, R.J. Shelton, Delton Williams), but Hill and Langford will have a chance this spring to get a headstart on the competition. Dantonio would feel much better about his running game if one of these players can step up and prove themselves in spring practice.

2. Establish a new identity on offense. New co-offensive coordinators Jim Bollman and Dave Warner take over running the offense for the Spartans. The system will still be a pro-style, power running attack but look for the new architects to add wrinkles. The first decision will be to decide if Andrew Maxwell is the final answer at quarterback. There is plenty of talent behind him with Connor Cook and redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor pressing for time this spring. Adding an athletic dimension to the quarterback position is something MSU wants to do but Maxwell isn't the guy for that job. It will be interesting to see if Cook and O'Connor can close the gap on the incumbent this spring.

3. 

Stablize the defensive line. Two very dependable players — William Gholston and Anthony Rashad-White — have left the starting defensive line and Ron Burton will now be in charge of the D-line. So with one of the best back seven's in all of college football, the Spartans' one area of focus on defense this spring has to be the defensive line. Marcus Rush will lock down one defensive end spot while Shlique Calhoun seems like the favorite to replace Gholston. James Kittredge, Denzel Drone, Lawrence Thomas and Micajah Reynolds return with experience and all have the talent to start up front. Organizing this group and settling a rotation will be key in a league based so heavily on running the football.

4. Get the redshirts some reps. Michigan State has the luxury of a deep and talented class of redshirt freshmen to pick from this spring. The aforementioned O'Connor and Tompkins will compete at two key offensive positions but so too will names like safety Demetrious Cox, linebacker Riley Bullough, wide receiver Monty Madaris and cornerback Ezra Robinson. Josiah Price and Evan Jones, a pair of redshirt tight ends, also will be particularly interesting to watch this spring as they battle to replace the departed Dion Sims.

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Teaser:
<p> Michigan State Spartans 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Year One After Paterno was a tough one to handle off of the field, but was a pleasant surprise on it. Bill O'Brien took over in the face of the worst NCAA scandal in history and Penn State was rewarded with an offense that was more creative and innovative than anything Happy Valley had seen since (at least) Michael Robinson's Orange Bowl run in 2005. The sanctions continue to hold this program down, but the returning talent has PSU poised for yet another winning season.

Penn State 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-4 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 18-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Steven Bench, 2-of-8, 12 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Zach Zwinak, 203 car., 1,000 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving: Allen Robinson, 77 rec., 1,018 yards, 11 TDs
Tackles: Glenn Carson, 85
Sacks: Deion Barnes, 6.0
Interceptions: Adrian Amos, 2

Redshirts to Watch: RB Akeel Lynch, TE Brent Wilkerson, WR Malik Golden, WR Eugene Lewis, OL Wendy Laurent, DL Austin Johnson, DB Jake Kiley, OG Anthony Stanko, DT Derek Dowrey, DT Brian Gaia

JUCO Transfers to Watch: QB Tyler Ferguson

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Syracuse
Sept. 7 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 14 UCF
Sept. 21 Kent State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Indiana
Oct. 12 Michigan
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at Ohio State
Nov. 1 Illinois
Nov. 9 at Minnesota
Nov. 16 Purdue
Nov. 23 Nebraska
Nov. 30 at Wisconsin

Offensive Strength: Offensive line. This group returns three starters as well as the top four tight ends on the roster. The running game should be just fine with three of the top four rushers returning as well.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. There aren't many weaknesses on this offense with the glaring exception under center.

Defensive Strength: Depth. There are major holes to fill on all three layers of the defense, but there are tons of bodies in the secondary and young stars ready to emerge along the defensive line. The redshirt freshmen class is large and will be on full display this spring.

Defensive Weakness: Linebackers and leadership. Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges depart, leaving a gaping void in the linebacking corps and in the leadership department. It is time for new faces to continue the LB-U trend in Happy Valley.

Spring Storylines Facing Penn State:

1. Develop a quarterback. Bill O'Brien transformed Matt McGloin into a very capable quarterback and now he will have to do it again with players far less experienced. Sophomore Steven Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this spring. Both are simply keeping the seat warm for incoming uber-recruit Christian Hackenberg, who will show up in Happy Valley this summer. This spring gives both Bench and Ferguson the chance to prove that Hackenberg doesn't need to be ready to start right away. The incoming freshman has the talent to steal the job by the end of the fall but does O'Brien want to go into the season opener counting on a true freshman?

2. Replace leadership at linebacker. It's safe to say that the Nittany Lions wouldn't have been close to eight wins without the leadership of Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges at linebacker last fall. Not only will their 204 tackles be missed so too will their uncanny ability to elevate the play of those around them. Glenn Carson and Mike Hull return with experience and were solid as a supporting cast. Yet, both will need to step into lead roles now and continue the tradition of Linebacker-U. Others like Nyeem Wartman and Ben Kline will need to take over as supporting actors.

3. 

Rebuild the defensive line. Two All-Big Ten performers, first-team tackle Jordan Hill and honorable mention end Sean Stanley, need to be replaced. Depth also is a concern, as tackle James Terry and end Pete Massaro have departed. It is time for big-name recruits to blossom into all-conference performers. Names like Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan have bright futures while DaQuan Jones, Kyle Baublitz and Anthony Zettel all have major upside. This unit isn't hurting for talent, and by the year's end, it could be one of the Big Ten's best. But that path begins this spring. 



4. Find a center and left tackle. Center Matt Stankiewitch was one of the nation's top pivots a year ago and left tackle Mike Farrell earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. The left tackle and center are the two most important offensive line positions and both must be replaced this spring. Donovan Smith has the inside track on the left tackle spot while a host of young, talented players will battle for reps with the first team this spring. John Urshcel and Miles Dieffenbach return to the guard positions and will be leaned on for leadership all year long. This offense has loads of talent at tight end, wide receiver and even in the backfield, so filling holes along the offensive line is one of the few concerns on offense (along with quarterback, obviously).

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Teaser:
<p> Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 07:40

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