Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The Pac-12 may not have the elite names along the line like Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan or Miami have boasted during the BCS Era but the diversity in this league is remarkable. Oregon has quicker, more versatile players who were wildly successful under Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly. Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw raised road graders at Stanford and won big with them. And Pete Carroll churned out pro-style left tackles and centers nearly every year at USC. Toss in a few Jeff Tedford products at Cal and it feels like four programs have dominated this position in the Pac-12 over the last 16 years.

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

1. Sam Baker, USC (2004-07)
The stud left tackle charged with protecting Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was a three-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. Baker helped lead the way on teams that played in back-to-back national championship games and won four straight Pac-10 titles. USC was 47-5 during his time and he went on to be a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.

2. Alex Mack, Cal (2005-08)
The star center started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears. He won the “Academic Heisman” when was named the recipient of the Draddy Trophy in 2008 and was a two-time Rimington Finalist. Mack was the only Pac-12 player to win the Morris Trophy (Offensive) as the league’s top lineman twice during the BCS Era and was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He also was a rare first-round pick as a center by the Browns in 2009 and has been sent to three Pro Bowls in his career.

3. Ryan Kalil, USC (2003-06)
The Rimington Finalist was one of the stars of the USC offensive line during its national championship run in the early 2000s. He played a big role on both the 2004 and '05 BCS title game teams and was voted the Morris Trophy winner in 2006. He also earned All-American honors and was drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler.

4. David Yankey, Stanford (2011-13)
In three short years, Yankey is likely the school’s most decorated offensive lineman. He earned consensus All-American honors as a sophomore for the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champs while also claiming the Morris Trophy as the league’s top OL. He returned as a junior and earned unanimous All-American honors en route to a second consecutive Pac-12 championship. He led Stanford to three straight BCS bowls and a 34-7 overall record over that span. He declared early for the NFL Draft after his 2013 junior season.

5. Kris Farris, UCLA (1995-98)
The 1998 Outland Trophy winner was a consensus All-American for the Bruins in 1998. In fact, Farris was one of only two players from the Pac-12 to win the Outland (Rien Long) and was the only offensive lineman to do so during the BCS Era. He helped lead UCLA to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and a Rose Bowl berth in his final season before being selected in the third round by the Bills in 1999.

6. David DeCastro, Stanford (2009-11)
As a freshman in 2009, he started all 13 games for the 8-5 Cardinal and was a freshman All-American. He started all 13 games as a sophomore for the 12-1 Cardinal, helping to win the program’s first BCS bowl game (Orange Bowl). He capped his career with a consensus All-American season for the 11-2 Cardinal. He left school early and was the 24th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Steelers.

7. Matt Kalil, USC (2009-11)
The Trojans' left tackle protected Matt Barkley during two seasons marred by NCAA sanctions. Still, Kalil was an All-American and Morris Trophy winner as the league’s best offensive lineman and became the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Kalil, who was a Pro Bowler as a rookie, may have never gotten the acclaim he deserved as the Trojans were playing under heavy sanctions during his time in Los Angeles.

8. Max Unger, Oregon (2005-08)
The Ducks' four-year starter at center earned some sort of all-conference honor in all four seasons. He was honorable mention as a freshman, second-team as a sophomore and first-team All-Pac-10 as both a junior and senior. Unger earned All-American honors as a senior as well on a 10-win team (his second 10-win season in Eugene). He was a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

9. Jonathan Martin, Stanford (2009-11)
Despite his NFL notoriety of late, Martin first made his name as a two-time All-American for Stanford. He started all three seasons for the Cardinal, leading his school to a 31-8 record and back-to-back BCS bowl berths — including the school’s first-ever BCS win in 2010 (Orange Bowl). Martin was an All-Pac-12 selection all three years and blocked for the Heisman runner-up, record-setting backfield of Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart. He was a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

10. Jacob Rogers, USC (2000-03)
Rogers was a three-year starter for the Trojans as they rose from middle-of-the-pack Pac-10 team to national champion. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors for back-to-back conference championship teams and helped USC win a share of the national title in 2003. That year, Rogers was a consensus All-American and won the Morris Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the league. He was a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Ryan O’Callahgan, Cal (2002-05)
A star blocker during the Golden Bears' best years under Jeff Tedford, O’Callahgan led Cal to 33 wins in four years, including a 10-win 2004 campaign. He was the Morris Trophy winner as the league’s top blocker as a senior and earned All-Pac-10 recognition twice. Tedford has been quoted as saying O’Callahgan was the best offensive lineman he’d ever seen.

12. Adam Snyder, Oregon (2001-04)
Synder is one of the most decorated and versatile blockers in Oregon program history. He started 35 of his career 49 games and did so at three different positions. He was named a first-team all-conference performer twice during his career and won the Morris Trophy as the league’s top blocker as a senior. He was a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

13. Winston Justice, USC (2002-05)
Had Justice played during the unblemished 2004 BCS title season, he would likely be a top-10 blocker. However, a student conduct violation made him ineligible during that historic season. Otherwise, he was a starter on the 2002 Orange Bowl champions, the 2003 national champs and returned to the national title game and blocked for the Heisman winner in 2005.

14. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford (2008-10)
Beeler was the consensus All-American pivot alongside Martin and DeCastro during Stanford’s rise to conference supremacy. He was a two-year starter and capped his career by leading the Cardinal to their first BCS bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2010.

15. Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA (2009-13)
His career was interrupted by his Mormon mission for two years but Su’a-Filo proved in short order to be one of the best in the league. He started all 13 games as a true freshman before leaving campus for two years. He returned and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a sophomore and junior in 2012-13. The Bruins' blocker helped UCLA win the South Division and won the Morris Trophy in his final season.

16. Chad Ward, Washington (1997-00)
A four-years starter for the Huskies, Ward's career culminated in a 2000 Rose Bowl win as a senior. He was named the Morris Trophy winner that same year and earned All-American honors as well. He also set multiple weight-lifting records while at U of W.

17. Travis Claridge, USC (1996-99)
Playing for the Trojans before Pete Carroll’s run of greatness began, Claridge proved to be one of the most consistent players to ever suit up. He started 48 games for USC, was a second-round pick in 2000 and won the Morris Trophy as the league’s top blocker in 1999.

18. Deuce Lutui, USC (2005)
He only played one season for the Trojans but he was excellent. Lutui was a consensus All-American, blocked for a Heisman Trophy winner and played for the national title against Texas in 2005. He was a second-round pick in 2006.

19. Charles Brown, USC (2006-09)
Brown sat behind Sam Baker for two years before taking over for the star left tackle. He earned All-Pac-10 honors in both seasons that he started and helped lead USC  to 43 wins and three conference titles during his time. He won the Morris Trophy as the league’s top blocker in 2009.

20. Kwame Harris, Stanford (2000-02)
A first-round pick in 2003, Harris earned two-time all-conference honors during his time at Stanford. He won the Morris Trophy as the best lineman in the league as a junior in his final season before leaving early for the NFL.

Best of the rest:

21. Tyron Smith, USC (2008-10)
22. Andy Levitre, Oregon State (2005-08)
23. Levi Jones, Arizona State (1998-01)
24. Yusuf Scott, Arizona (1996-99)
25. Eben Britton, Arizona (2006-08)

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-football-rosters-2014
Body:

Love or hate football recruiting, it matters. Coaching, support staffs, financial situations and even a little bit of luck goes into winning football games, but having great players always helps too.

So recruiting rankings are just one facet of a deliberate and in-depth equation that helps Athlon Sports project the college football season every year.

When the staff sits down to hash out the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 each year, recruiting rankings are as much a part of the discussion as returning starters, scheduling differences, coaching changes and historic trends. It all gets incorporated into what eventually becomes the best-selling college football preview magazine on newsstands.

When it comes to recruiting, the SEC is king. The best players hail from the SEC footprint and, frankly, the SEC cares more about recruiting rankings than any other league — from the head coaches to the boosters to the message board junkies. In the consensus 2014 team recruiting rankings, the SEC bragged seven of the top nine classes in the nation and 10 of the top 22. For more perspective, Vanderbilt has landed an average class of 45.6 nationally — which ranks dead last in the SEC.

When it comes to recruiting, the SEC is the most cutthroat league in the nation and one man stands above the rest on the trail.

Here is how the SEC rosters rank entering the 2014 season. Below is each roster in the SEC based on average national recruiting ranking over the last five classes (according to 247Sports), each team's win-loss record over the last four seasons and some analysis of what it all means heading into the '14 season.

 Team '14'13'12'11'10Avg.W/LConf.
1.Alabama111151.846-726-6
2.Florida9341115.630-2117-15
3.LSU2614777.244-925-7
4t.Georgia81185128.836-1822-10
4t.Auburn61311868.837-1619-13
6.Tennessee7242014814.621-287-25
7.Texas A&M5916351816.636-1620-13
8.South Carolina162017163019.842-1123-9
9.Ole Miss15846203825.421-297-25
10.Arkansas302328213627.628-2214-18
11.Mississippi St382522342929.631-2113-19
12.Kentucky223450374537.615-344-28
13.Missouri394331572138.235-1720-13
14.Vanderbilt452647565445.626-2512-20

What did we learn?

Pied piper of the recruiting trail
Nick Saban stands above the rest of college football when it comes to recruiting. He landed his fourth consecutive No. 1-ranked class nationally according to 247Sports a few weeks ago on National Signing Day. He brings in better players than anyone else in the SEC or the nation for that matter. His 2014 signing class had more five-star prospects (6) than any other program — and every one of these players were considered among the top 16 in the country. Additionally, Bama signed 13 top-100 players this cycle while the Big 12 as a conference signed just seven combined. Frankly, Saban’s dominance on the recruiting trail is starting to get absurd and NSD no longer stands for National Signing Day, it stands for Nick Saban Day.

Will Muschamp can’t blame his roster
The Gators had a historically bad 2013 campaign and, while injuries were a major factor, a lack of talent was not. According to the rankings over the last five classes, Florida boasts the second-most talented roster in the nation — tied with Florida State (5.6). However, that talent doesn’t appear to be translating into wins and this is the primary reason Will Muschamp enters his critical fourth season on the hot seat. Florida ranks ninth in the league with 30 overall wins over the last four years and eighth in the league with 17 conference wins. Health was a huge factor last fall, especially on offense, but Muschamp has no excuses in 2014 as he goes to battle with what the rankings indicate is the No. 2 depth chart in the nation.

Steve Spurrier is actually underrated
He is a Hall of Famer, a Heisman winner and national champion, so it’s virtually impossible to be underrated as one of the best the game has ever seen. But he might be. Only Alabama (46) and LSU (44) have won more games than South Carolina in the last four years (42) and both the Crimson Tide (No. 1) and Tigers (No. 4) are ranked in the top four nationally in terms of talent. Yet, Spurrier has done it with the eighth-best roster in the league. Carolina sits fourth in the SEC East entering ’14 in terms of overall talent behind Florida, Georgia and Tennessee but only one of those squads has a chance to post a fourth consecutive 11-win season. Expect more of the same from the Ol’ Ball Coach.

Positive trajectory in Knoxville, Oxford
In short order, both Hugh Freeze and Butch Jones have proven to be extremely effective recruiters. Jones finished seventh nationally according to 247 in his first full season and Freeze worked minor miracles in his first full class in 2013. Neither roster ranks in the top five in the SEC but both rank in the top nine and both are recruiting on the same level with teams like Texas A&M, South Carolina and Auburn. The two programs have struggled mightily on the field as the Rebels and Vols are tied at 7-25 in SEC play over the four years — ahead of only Kentucky (4-28). This is, of course, is why Houston Nutt and Derek Dooley are no longer employed. Under new leadership, both programs have improved on the field and on the trail while setting themselves up for more upward movement. Expectations are growing in both Knoxville and Oxford.

Nick Saban Jr.
Gary Pinkel was a college teammate of Saban’s at Kent State under the late great Don James. And now that he is coaching in the SEC, he’s doing his best Saban impersonation. The Mizzou head coach is arguably the most important and successful coach in school history and he is clearly doing it with coaching acumen. Pinkel doesn’t come close to competing with the big boys on the recruiting trail (unlike Saban), ranking ahead of only Vanderbilt in terms of overall talent. But his teams have won 35 games overall and 20 games in conference play over the last four seasons, including a 12-win SEC East title campaign in 2013. The Tigers may be the SEC East frontrunner this fall despite coming in as the 13th-best roster in the 14-team league.

Sleeping giant waking up?
Texas A&M donations are way up, as new renovations will make Kyle Field one of the nation’s top destinations and a certain redshirt freshman quarterback won a Heisman Trophy. A lot has happened in Kevin Sumlin’s first two years in College Station. But most importantly, he appears to have staying power due to his success on the recruiting trail. The three years prior to Sumlin’s arrival, Texas A&M averaged a national recruiting ranking of 23. Since his arrival, they’ve posted the ninth- and fifth-rated classes in the nation. So while Texas A&M likely won’t compete for an SEC title in 2014 with the seventh-best roster in the league, the Aggies appear poised for huge things in 2015 and beyond should Sumlin maintain his torrid pace on the recruiting trail.

Status quo in Baton Rouge, Athens and on The Plains
Les Miles and LSU boast the third-best roster in the SEC and the fourth-best roster in the nation entering 2014. Mark Richt and Georgia rank fourth in the SEC in terms of talent and eighth nationally. The Auburn Tigers are tied for the fourth-best roster in the conference and the eighth-best depth chart in the country. Miles has 44 wins over the last four years, second in the SEC while Auburn and Georgia are fourth and fifth in the league with 37 and 36 overall wins in the last four years. Certainly, LSU and the Dawgs have been much more consistent than War Eagle over that span but how many fans in the Bayou or Between the Hedges would trade an 0-8 SEC season for two national championship game berths? (Hint: All of them). These three will be three of the top five most talented teams in the SEC entering ’14.

Be careful what you wish for
SEC fans, in Starkville or otherwise, are quick to criticize Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. And his 13-19 record in the SEC over the last four years does leave Bulldogs faithful wanting for more. But this is the toughest job in the SEC West and Mullen has more overall wins in the last four years than Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Mullen is also the only coach in school history to take MSU to four consecutive bowl games. So while some may call for his head, others point to his impressive overall win-loss record in the toughest division in football with what will be the 11th-best roster in the league in 2014. 

Uphill battle on West End
New coach Derek Mason has to know how difficult a job winning at Vanderbilt will be. James Franklin made it look easy and that has raised the level of expectations in Nashville. And while Mason, like Franklin, closed strongly on the recruiting trail in his first few weeks on the job, Vanderbilt is still clearly the least talented team in the league. Based on the recruiting rankings, the Dores are 45th in the nation overall in terms of talent but are dead last in the SEC.

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Football Rosters for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-football-rosters-2014
Body:

Love or hate football recruiting, it matters. Coaching, support staffs, financial situations and even a little bit of luck goes into winning football games, but having great players always helps too.

So recruiting rankings are just one facet of a deliberate and in-depth equation that helps Athlon Sports project the college football season every year.

When the staff sits down to hash out the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 each year, recruiting rankings are as much a part of the discussion as returning starters, scheduling differences, coaching changes and historic trends. It all gets incorporated into what eventually becomes the best-selling college football preview magazine on newsstands.

The ACC will go through yet another change in 2014 as the College Football Playoff Era begins. Louisville, fresh off 23 wins over the last two seasons, will join one year after Pitt and Syracuse entered the league. Maryland is off for greener (cha-ching) pastures in the Big Ten and so yet another era of ACC football begins.

However, with all of the turnover in recent years, the ACC will begin play in ’14 with a familiar face leading the charge.

Here is how the ACC rosters rank entering the 2014 season. Below is each roster in the ACC based on average national recruiting ranking over the last five classes (according to 247Sports), each team's win-loss record over the last four seasons and some analysis of what it all means heading into the '14 season.

 Team '14'13'12'11'10AvgW/LConf.
1.Florida State4103295.645-1026-6
2.Miami121410331516.829-2118-14
3.Clemson181515102817.238-1524-8
4.Virginia Tech272121363227.437-1724-8
5.North Carolina292843192428.630-2116-16
6.Virginia322926237737.418-318-24
7.Louisville473645295041.437-1520-9
8.Pitt443342583442.227-2515-14
9.NC State345954723751.227-2413-19
10.Georgia Tech547652444153.428-2519-13
11.Boston College528771414358.820-3012-20
12.Syracuse507361617363.627-2414-15
13.Duke587062637465.422-2911-21
14.Wake Forest62676669716718-31

11-21

What did we learn?

Florida State is a cut above
This is not rocket science. Florida State is by far the most talented team in the ACC. The Noles rank behind only Alabama in terms of overall talent nationally — tied with Florida for second with a national recruiting rank of 5.8 nationally. So it should come as no surprise that Jimbo Fisher’s squad has the best overall (45-10) and conference record (26-6) over the last four years. In fact, the recruiting class rankings indicate that no one is really even close. So as if the defending BCS National Champions and returning reigning Heisman Trophy winner needed any more help in their effort to repeat, Florida State will enter 2014 with a significant talent advantage in the ACC once again.

Clemson is Clemson
Ten or fifteen years ago, that statement would have carried a negative connotation. Now, however, it's positive. Clemson has really good players and is winning a lot of games. In fact, the Tigers are essentially tied with Miami as the league's second-most talented roster and is tied with Virginia Tech for the second-most ACC wins over the last four years (24-8). Has Clemson slipped behind Florida State to some degree? Certainly. But if the Tigers continue to recruit as well as they have and continue to get coaching from a star-studded staff, then they should be the top challenger to the Noles for the foreseeable future.

Mike London’s Last Chance
Over the last four seasons, London and the Cavaliers have the worst conference record of any team in the ACC by three games (8-24). Overall, Virginia is tied with Wake Forest for worst overall record at 18-31. Yet, the difference for the Wahoos is their recruiting has been solid. According to the recruiting rankings, Virginia has the sixth-best roster in the ACC, ahead of Louisville, Pitt, NC State, Georgia Tech and Boston College. After one winning season 2011, London has struggled to win games and it should be no secret that this is a make-or-break season in Charlottesville for the fifth-year head coach.

Good things ahead for Larry Fedora, Al Golden?
While Mike London is on the hottest of ACC hot seats, two others should be poised to win. Or at least, will face increased expectations to win. Larry Fedora has the fifth-best roster coming back to Chapel Hill in 2014 and yet North Carolina is just .500 in ACC play over the last four seasons (9-7 under Fedora). He has the talent to work with but now needs to separate himself from his two predecessors — both of whom barely finished above .500 themselves (Butch Davis, 28-23; Everett Withers, 7-6). Fedora's talent at his previous stop, Southern Miss, relative to his competition in the C-USA underachieved. Will he experience the same thing in the ACC or will the Tar Heels win more than five conference games for the first time since 1997, when Mack Brown was still wearing Carolina blue.

Golden is in an even better situation with the No. 2-ranked roster in the league coming back to Coral Gables this summer. The time is now for a well-respected coach at a program that normally competes for national championships. Clearly, Golden didn't know the gravity of the situation he stepped into when he took the Miami job three years ago but his steady hand and throwback sideline style has increased Miami's win total in three straight seasons from six wins to seven to nine. The Coastal Division race is wide open and he has what appears to be the best roster among the any of the contenders. The time is now for the Canes.

Paul Johnson knows what he is doing
Has Georgia Tech lost a lot of games over the last four years? Yes, 25 in fact. But Johnson's team trails only Florida State (26), Clemson (24) and Virginia Tech (24) for ACC wins over the last four seasons. And he is doing it with one of the "poorer" rosters in the league. Johnson's depth chart ranks 10th in terms of talent entering this fall but his teams consistently beat those ranked above them as it relates to recruiting. He is 6-for-6 in postseason berths, has won three division titles and at least five ACC games in three straight seasons. Despite what could be perceived as an apparent lack of talent, Tech should once again compete for a division crown in '14.

Tough road for the new kids on the block
Syracuse has the 12th-best roster in the ACC heading into 2014. It definitely feels like the Orange will settle in as just another middle of the pack ACC squad on the football field. Pitt and Louisville have significantly more talented rosters but are still well behind the top of the conference when it comes to recruiting. All three were accustomed to be near the top of the Big East recruiting rankings in their old stomping grounds. Now, however, the Cardinals have the seventh-best roster entering this summer while the Panthers check in at eighth. It will be an uphill battle for all three.

Is the end really near for Beamer Ball?
Virginia Tech has slumped the last two seasons. There is no debating that. However, Frank Beamer's team is still tied for second in the ACC with a 24-8 record over the last four seasons and Tech's recruiting has seen a slight uptick over the last three classes — averaging as the 23rd-ranked class over the last three seasons. That is up significantly from back-to-back classes ranked outside of the top 30 in the two previous cycles. So the question becomes: Were the last two years Beamer's fault — an older coach slipping in the twilight of his career like so many before him — or just Logan Thomas' fault? The '14 season will be a critical one in Blacksburg.

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Football Rosters for 2014
Post date: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

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

1. Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2004-06)
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons. He was taken No. 3 overall in 2007 by the Cleveland Browns and is the best Big Ten offensive lineman of the BCS Era.

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

3. Jake Long, Michigan (2004-07)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy finalist. He was a Freshman All-American in his first year and was named Big Ten Lineman of the Year twice (junior and senior seasons) — one of just two players to accomplish this feat during the BCS Era. The 6-foot-7, 320-pounder won a Big Ten championship as a freshman and has been to four Pro Bowls in his six-year NFL career.

4. Steve Hutchinson, Michigan (1997-2000)
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Maize and Blue win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan. He was a first-round pick by the Seahawks in 2001 and earned seven Pro Bowl invites during his 12-year NFL career.

5. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (2007-10)
Carimi perpetuated the run of elite Badgers blockers by stepping in for the departed Joe Thomas and starting all 13 games as a freshman. By his senior season, Carimi was the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, the Outland Trophy winner as the best blocker in the nation, and was a consensus All-American. He started 49 games in his career, capping it with a Rose Bowl appearance and Big Ten championship in 2010. Carimi was a first-round pick by the Bears in 2011.

6. David Baas, Michigan (2001-04)
The interior blocker was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and capped his career with a Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He also earned consensus All-American honors, was named the Big Ten’s top lineman and was an Outland Trophy finalist. Baas was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft.

7. Chris McIntosh, Wisconsin  (1996-99)
An Outland Trophy finalist and consensus All-American, McIntosh helped pave the way for the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher and led Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships as a team captain. McIntosh was a first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2000 NFL Draft but his career ended after just three seasons due to injury.

8. Jon Jansen, Michigan (1995-98)
Mr. Durable set a Michigan school record with 50 consecutive starts along the Wolverines' offensive line. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors twice and helped lead the Maize and Blue to the national championship in 1997. He was an All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior before being selected in the second round by the Redskins in 1999.

8. Nick Mangold, Ohio State (2002-05)
From a technique and fundamentals standpoint, Mangold is one of the best college centers to ever play the game. He was a Rimington Finalist, a three-year starter and played in eight games as a true freshman for the BCS National Champions in ’02. Mangold started 33 of 45 career games and was a first-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Jets. He has gone to five Pro Bowls.

10. Robert Gallery, Iowa (2000-03)
The massive blocker helped Iowa win a share of the Big Ten title as a junior in 2002. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top blocker the next year as the Hawkeyes went 21-5 over his final two years. Gallery was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten pick and the consensus All-American was the No. 2 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Despite his lackluster NFL career, Gallery remains one of the most dominant Big Ten blockers.

Just missed the cut:

11. Taylor Lewan, Michigan (2010-13)
Lewan, along with Jake Long, is one of just two players during the BCS Era to claim Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors twice. Lewan was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and two-time All-American during his time at Michigan.

12. LeCharles Bentley, Ohio State (1998-2001)
The Cleveland native was a consensus All-American in 2001 as a senior. He also won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center that year before getting drafted in the second round by the Saints in 2002.

13. David Molk, Michigan (2008-11)
The Wolverines center was a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and earned Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in a conference with Michael Brewster and Peter Konz. Molk was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2011.

14. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa (2007-10)
A massive part of why the Hawkeyes won their only BCS Bowl in 2009 over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Bulaga was a four-year contributor for Iowa. He earned Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors as a senior and was a first-round pick of the Packers in 2010.

15. Levi Brown, Penn State (2003-06)
The star left tackle played all over the field but settled in as a two-time All-Big Ten selection. He helped Penn State to its lone BCS bowl win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season and one of only two Big Ten titles during the BCS Era. Brown was the second overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Best of the rest:

16. A.Q. Shipley, Penn State
17. Eric Steinbach, Iowa
18. Casey Rabach, Wisconsin
19. Aaron Gibson, Wisconsin
20. Michael Brewster, Ohio State

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-linebackers-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The list of elite linebackers who almost played in the ACC is remarkable. Miami’s Dan Morgan, Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams played in the years just before the Hurricanes joined the league. That doesn’t mean there weren’t elite tacklers. What is interesting, however, is the best the ACC has had to offer comes from places like Maryland and Boston College rather than Florida State or Clemson.

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

1. E.J. Henderson, Maryland (1999-02)
Henderson left Maryland with multiple NCAA records and numerous awards and honors. He owns the career tackles per game record (12.5), career solo tackles per game (8.8) and the single-season unassisted tackle record with 135 in 2002. That year, Henderson won his second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award as well as the Butkus, Lambert and Bednarik Awards nationally. He was a two-time All-American, Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP, is second all-time in ACC history with 62.5 career tackles for loss and 11th all-time with 473 tackles. Henderson was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2003.

2. Luke Kuechly, Boston College (2009-11)
Tackling. Machine. That is really all that needs to be said about the Boston College star defender. He was second nationally with 158 tackles as just a freshman, led the nation in tackles with 183 as a sophomore and led the world again in stops with 191 as a junior. So in just three seasons, Kuechly set the BC and ACC career tackle records en route to numerous awards. He was a two-time All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-round NFL Draft pick by Carolina in 2012 and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott and Lambert national trophies.

3. D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland (2002-05)
The undersized tackler played in all 14 games as a freshman, started all 11 games as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior and senior. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 after 137 tackles and four sacks. Jackson finished with 447 tackles, good for fourth in school history and 19th in ACC history — seventh among all players during the BCS Era. Jackson was a second-round pick of the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft.

4. Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (2005-08)
Curry was a freshman All-American after starting 10 games in his first season. He posted 83 tackles as a sophomore and tied an NCAA record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns as a junior. As a senior, he won the Butkus Award, was an All-American and registered 105 tackles. Curry finished with 331 tackles, 44.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, six interceptions and five forced fumbles in his career. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and in '06 helped lead Wake to its only BCS bowl berth and ACC title of the BCS Era.

5. Keith Adams, Clemson (1998-00)
He played in 35 games in three seasons for Clemson and became one of the most decorated tacklers in school history. Adams was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 when he led the league in tackles (16.0 per game), set the conference's single-season record for tackles for loss (33.0) and posted 16.0 sacks (third all-time). Adams was a two-time All-ACC selection and a first-team All-American. He finished his career 11th in league history with 54.0 tackles for loss and 22.0 career sacks.

6. Mark Herzlich, Boston College (2006-10)
Few players overcame as much during their college career as the Eagles' outside backer. He posted 110 tackles, 11.0 for loss, 2.5 sacks and six interceptions (two returned for scores) as a junior in 2008 en route to ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors. However, Herzlich missed the entire ’09 season while battling a rare form of bone cancer. Yet, after winning his battle with cancer, he returned to start 13 games in 2010, winning the Ruby Award and Brian Piccolo Award. He finished his career with 314 tackles, 31.5 for loss, five sacks, 11 interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

7. Levar Fisher, NC State (1998-01)
The in-state talent started all four seasons for the Pack and it led to one of the most productive careers in NC State history. He is the Wolfpack’s all-time leading tackler with 492 stops — good for seventh all-time in ACC history. Fisher led the nation in tackles (15.1), was an All-American, a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick and won the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2000. Fisher was a second-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

8. Leroy Hill, Clemson (2001-04)
In 2003 as a junior, Hill led the league with 27.0 tackles for loss (third-best all-time in ACC history) and was named first-team All-ACC. He came back as a senior and earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors over Jackson, Antrel Rolle, Shawne Merriman and Darryl Tapp. Hill posted 106 tackles, 19.0 for loss and 8.0 sacks during his award-winning season. The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

9. Tommy Polley, Florida State (1997-00)
The star linebacker was the most decorated Noles tackler during the BCS Era. During three consecutive runs to the BCS National Championship Game — including one title against Virginia Tech in ’99 — Polley earned back-to-back first-team All-ACC honors. He topped 100 tackles in both his ’99 and ’00 All-ACC seasons, finishing his career with 289 tackles. The three-year starter was a second-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

10. Darryl Blackstock, Virginia (2002-04)
Right out of the gate, Blackstock established himself as one of the ACC’s best by setting a freshman record with 10 sacks. He finished his three-year career with 26.5 sacks, good for 14th all-time in league history. His 45 tackles for loss rank in the top 30 all-time as well. The ACC’s sack leader in 2004, Blackstock left school early and was a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Alex Wujciak, Maryland (2007-10)
He started all three seasons he played (missing his first year with a torn ACL), posting at least 100 tackles in all three years. He was a second-team All-ACC pick as a sophomore when he registered 133 tackles and was a two-time, first-team selection as an upperclassman. Wujciak finished with 381 tackles, 22.0 tackles for loss and returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns in just three seasons of ball.

12. Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech (2004-07)
They played on the same four teams, winning two ACC championships in 2004 and '07. The duo is considered the best to ever play together in Blacksburg and they will be forever connected in history. Both earned first-team All-ACC honors and they combined for over 700 tackles, 50.0 tackles for loss and 20.0 sacks.

13. Daryl Smith, Georgia Tech (2000-03)
A decade-long starter in the NFL, Smith was a four-year starter at Georgia Tech. In fact, he started 44 of his possible 46 career games in Atlanta. He finished his career with 383 tackles, 48.0 tackles for loss and 15 career sacks for a team that went to four straight bowl games with four straight winning records. He was eventually a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

14. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech (2010-13)
Few players were better at getting after the quarterback in the ACC ever, let alone the BCS Era, than Tech’s Attaochu. His 31.5 career sacks rank fifth all-time in league history and are the most by any ACC defender during the BCS Era. He posted 196 career tackles and 43.5 TFL for a team that went to four straight bowls and won an Atlantic Division title in 2012.

15. Clint Sintim, Virgina (2005-08)
Sintim was the ACC’s Freshman of the Year in 2005 before earning back-to-back All-ACC honors as a junior and senior. He is second in Virginia history only to Chris Slade — who is the ACC's career leader with 40.0 sacks — with 27.0 sacks. Sintim's career sack total places him 13th all-time in ACC history.

Best of the rest:

16. Lawrence Timmons, Florida State (2004-06)
17. Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech (2006-09)
18. Ernie Sims, Florida State (2003-05)
19. Erin Henderson, Maryland (2005-07)
20. Jon Beason, Miami (2003-06)
21. Ryan Fowler, Duke (2000-03)
22. Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College (2010-13)
23. Buster Davis, Florida State (2003-06)
24. Michael Tauiliili, Duke (2005-08)
25. Stephen Tulloch, NC State (2003-05)
26. Geno Hayes, Florida State (2005-07)
27. Jon Abbate, Wake Forest (2004-06)
28. Kai Parham, Virginia (2003-06)
29. Dantonio Burnette, NC State (1999-02)
30. Ahmad Brooks, Virginia (2004-05)

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Linebackers of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, February 21, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR
Path: /top-10-most-exclusive-statistical-clubs-sports-history
Body:

When I was growing up there was only one record, one accomplishment, one historic statistical club that I cared about.

Home runs.

It was the most sacred of records held by a class act of a man who was ahead of his time and beloved by all. But then Barry Bonds happened. Now, there are three members of the 700-HR club, eight members of the 600-HR club and, unfortunately, many of them (Bonds, ARod, Sosa) have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs (a phrase I certainly didn’t know when I was 15 years old watching Mark McGwire chase history in 1998).

Before 1998, only two players in history had hit 60 homers in a season. Now that many have hit 70 and and eight times has someone hit 60.

It has lost its appeal for me and I believe that most fans of America’s pastime feel the same.

But not all records, streaks, historical accomplishments have been corrupted. Exclusivity is a huge part of measuring any elite athlete. Did he or she do something no one — or in this case, very few people — has ever accomplished? Some “sports clubs” are more obvious than others and can clearly define the game’s greatest players. Others are less obvious but no less intriguing.

Here are my favorite sports “clubs” and rarest accomplishments that indicate true greatness and success:

2,000-yard Club (7 members):
This one is pretty obvious and pretty exclusive. There are only seven players in the history of the NFL to have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. Adrian Peterson became the latest when he rushed for 2,097 yards in 2012, all while returning from a torn-up knee. Eric Dickerson owns the all-time record with 2,105 while Jamal Lewis (2,066), Barry Sanders (2,053), Terrell Davis (2,008), Chris Johnson (2,006) and O.J. Simpson (2,003) are the only other members of the 2K Club. Interestingly enough, only one other player has ever topped 1,900 yards and that was Earl Campbell in 1980 (1,934). And with the proliferation of high-flying passing offenses, the 2,000-yard running back is that much more impressive.

30,000-point Club (6 members):
Scoring points is the only way to win basketball games and only six players in the history of either the NBA or ABA have ever topped 30,000 points in their career. And this club's membership might just also represent the six best players of all-time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is basketball’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and no one has ever really come close to catching him. Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292), Kobe Bryant (31,700*) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) are the only other players to score at least 30,000 points in the NBA. Julius Erving reached the benchmark but needed 11,662 points in the ABA to reach the plateau. Next to join this exclusive club could be Dirk Nowitzki. He currently sits at 26,201* points, averaging 21.7 per game in his 16th season with the Dallas Mavericks. At that clip, Nowitzki needs 175 games, or a little more than two more seasons' worth of games to get to 30,000 points. 

* - as of Feb. 18, 2014

80-Goal Club (3 members):
Only eight players in the history of the NHL have ever scored 70 goals in a season much less 80. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Mario Lemieux are arguably the three greatest goal scorers in the history of the sport and their membership in the 80-goal club only confirms this. Gretzky is the only member of the 90-goal club and is the only player to top 80 goals twice (he topped 70 four times). Hull is No. 2 with 86 goals in 1990-91 and he has topped 70 goals three times. Super Mario is fourth all-time with 85 goals in 1988-89 and he also has also topped 70 more than once (2).

Quarterbacks with four Super Bowl starts (6 members):
Names like Troy Aikman (3-0), Bart Starr (2-0) and Eli Manning (2-0) might take offense to this club, but leading your team to four Super Bowls is an extremely rare accomplishment. Tom Brady (3-2) and John Elway (2-3) are the only two NFL quarterbacks with five Super Bowl starts. Terry Bradshaw (4-0) and Joe Montana (4-0) are the only two with perfect records in four starts. And Roger Staubach (2-2) and Jim Kelly (0-4) are both in Canton after taking their teams to the big game four times. No one in the history of the sport other than Kelly has gone to four straight Super Bowls. Aikman, Montana, Bradshaw and Brady are the only four players to ever win three Super Bowl starts.

Reached base 5,000 times (7 members):
No Major League Baseball player has ever gotten on base 6,000 times in his career, but seven players reached first at least 5,000 times. And they are seven of the greatest names to ever step onto a diamond. Pete Rose (5,929), Barry Bonds (5,599), Ty Cobb (5,532), Rickey Henderson (5,343), Carl Yastrzemski (5,304), Stan Musial (5,282) and Hank Aaron (5,205) are the only such players in MLB history. All topped the 5,200 mark as well, setting themselves apart even further from Tris Speaker (8th) and Babe Ruth (9th). What makes this club so great is its simplicity. The first and foremost goal when one steps to the plate — certainly the sabermetrics guys would agree — is to not get out and no one reached base more than these seven men.

6,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing (5 members):
The modern era of college football has watched electric athletes take control of the quarterback position. In fact, the pistol, zone read and option attacks are even starting to take hold of the NFL game as well. But the term "dual threat" is reserved for the only five quarterbacks in NCAA history to pass for at least 6,000 yards through the air while gobbling up at least 4,000 yards on the ground. Missouri’s Brad Smith (8,799 passing, 4,289 rushing) was the first to join the club in the early 2000s. He would soon be joined by West Virginia’s Pat White (6,049 passing, 4,480 rushing), Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (10,098 passing, 4,112 rushing), Michigan’s Denard Robinson (6,250 passing, 4,495 rushing) and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch (6,209 passing, 4,343 rushing). They are the only five college quarterbacks to rush for 4,000 yards in their career and one look at Kaepernick’s numbers and fans should understand how he led San Francisco to the Super Bowl two years ago.

Six-time NASCAR Champion (3 members):
No one really argues that Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty aren’t the best two stock car drivers of all-time. So it is appropriate that the duo is tied for the most NASCAR championships with seven each. But they could be joined by another steely-eyed wheelman in Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is the only other driver with six points titles after claiming the 2013 championship and he is the only driver to ever win five straight. Jeff Gordon is the only other driver with four championships, and should he win a couple more titles in the twilight of his career, he could join what many consider the three greatest drivers all-time with six trophies.

Golf’s Career Grand Slam (5 members):
Golf’s Mt. Rushmore has five names on it, not four. Only five players in the history of golf have won all four majors — aka the career Grand Slam — in their career. Jack Nicklaus leads the way with 18 major championships followed closely by Tiger Woods with 14, as each has won the career Grand Slam three times. Ben Hogan (9), Gary Player (8) and Gene Sarazen (7) are the only other pro golfers to accomplish the career foursome. In the pre-Masters Era which included The Amateur Open, Bobby Jones accomplished the career Grand Slam — and did it all in the same year (1930).

MLB’s Triple Crown (*5 members):
There are many lines of demarcation for one of America's oldest sports. Many begin counting at 1900 or consider the post-Black Sox (1919) era the “modern” era. Still others consider World War II or the expansion era (1962) as the best way to define baseball. However, the biggest and most influential time stamp came in 1947 when Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier. Since that time, only five men have won the Triple Crown of baseball — i.e., leading the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.330, 44 HR, 139 RBI) broke a 45-year triple crown drought when he led the AL in all three categories in 2012. Prior to Cabrera's remarkable season, Carl Yastrzemski (.326, 44 HR, 121 RBI) in 1967 had been the last to capture the Triple Crown. Frank Robinson (.316, 49 HR, 122 RBI) did it in 1966, Mickey Mantle (.353, 52 HR, 130 RBI) in '56 and Ted Williams (.343, 32 HR, 114 RBI) pulled of the rare feat in '47.

* - since integration

2,000 points and 900 assists (3 members):
Oregon State’s Gary Payton and Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas were the only two players to score at least 2,000 points and dish out at least 900 assists in their college basketball careers until 2012-13. Douglas, nicknamed “The General,” left Syracuse with what was then the all-time NCAA lead in assists (960). When Payton, nicknamed “The Glove,” left school one year later, he was No. 2 all-time with 939 dimes. They are now sixth and 11th all-time. These two were joined, however, by Ohio Bobcats great D.J. Cooper. He finished his illustrious career with 2,075 points and 934 assists. Before Cooper got to Ohio, the Bobcats hadn't won a NCAA Tournament game since 1983 and he delivered two trips to the Big Dance and three wins in his four-year career. Cooper is the only player in NCAA history with 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals and joins Payton as the only two players with 2,000 points, 900 assists and 300 steals in their collegiate careers.

Teaser:
The Top 10 Most Exclusive Statistical "Clubs" in Sports History
Post date: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-linebackers-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

One school has dominated this position during the BCS Era and it should come as no surprise as it's the same school that dominated the standings for the better part of a decade as well. That being said, Stanford has used some elite defenders to win back-to-back titles to end the BCS Era. Here are the league's top LBs from the last 16 years.

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

1. Rey Maualuga, USC (2005-08)
The hard-hitting tackler was a freshman All-American on the 2005 USC team that barely lost to Texas in the national title game. He then started the next three seasons for the Trojans, earning consensus All-American honors, the Chuck Bednarik Award and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008. The Men of Troy went 46-6 during his time on campus and few players were as feared nationally as Maualuga. He posted 272 career tackles, 22.5 for loss, 9.0 sacks and five interceptions before being taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

2. Chris Claiborne, USC (1995-98)
The three-year star for the Trojans was the first and only Butkus Award winner in USC history when he was named the nation’s top linebacker in 1998 — the same year both Al Wilson and Andy Katzenmoyer were seniors. He also is the only Pac-12 player to win the Butkus in the three-decade history of the award. He was a consensus All-American and the No. 9 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

3. Adam Archuleta, Arizona State (1997-00)
The West Coast’s favorite walk-on became a three-year starter for the Sun Devils. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors twice and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and finished with 330 tackles, 54.0 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks. The star tackler was a first-round pick of the Rams in the 2001 NFL Draft.

4. Shayne Skov, Stanford (2009-13)
The heart and soul of two Pac-12 championship teams and three teams that played in BCS bowls, few players have meant more to their team than Skov. He finished his career with 355 career tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss, 16.0 sacks and played his biggest games against the best competition (See: Oregon). During his last four years, Stanford was one of the best defensive units in the nation and his teams went a combined 46-8 during that span. He earned all-conference honors in 2010, '12 and '13.

5. Nick Barnett, Oregon State (1999-02)
One of the most consistent and dependable playmakers in league history, Barnett started three full seasons for the Beavers. He was a multi-year all-conference selection and led the league as a senior with 121 tackles in 2001. He was an integral part of the rebuilding of Oregon State football that included an 11-1 Fiesta Bowl championship season in 2001. Barnett was a first-round pick of the Packers in 2003.

6. Lofa Tatupu, USC (2003-04)
After transferring from Maine, Tatupu started all 25 games during his USC career. He won two Pac-10 championships and was a part of back-to-back national championships in 2003 and ’04. He posted 202 career tackles, nine sacks, seven interceptions and was a second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2005.

7. Robert Thomas, UCLA (1998-01)
Thomas played in every game as a true freshman on the Bruins' last conference championship and Rose Bowl team. By his senior year, he was a Butkus Finalist, a consensus All-American and won Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors. In his final and award-winning year, he posted 111 tackles, 26.0 for loss (fourth all-time in league history) and registered 6.5 sacks. He was a first-round pick of the Rams in 2002.

8. Keith Rivers, USC (2004-05)
He was an All-Pac-10 freshman teamer in his first year on a team that won the BCS national title and never lost. He then posted 52 tackles for a team that came up one play short of winning its second BCS national title in ’05. Rivers capped his career with back-to-back, first-team All-Pac-10 honors and was an All-American as a senior. He finished with 240 tackles, 18.5 for loss and was a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

9. Lance Briggs, Arizona (1999-02)
The Beardown star played 33 games in his career in Tucson, earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors twice during his time there. He finished with 308 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 36.0 tackles for loss in three seasons as a starter. He was a third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and has been invited to seven Pro Bowls.

10. Matt Grootegoed, USC (2001-04)
A rare four-year starter for the beginning of the epic USC championship run, Grootegoed helped USC to three straight Pac-12 championships and two national titles. He was a consensus All-American and Butkus Finalist as a senior, during which he also earned his second straight All-Pac-10 selection. He finished his career with 124 tackles, 41.5 for loss and seven interceptions.

Just missed the cut:

11. Anthony Barr, UCLA (2010-13)
He only played two years at linebacker but he was a dominant force while on the field. In those two seasons, he registered 149 tackles, 41.5 for loss and 23.5 sacks to go with 10 forced fumbles. He was a consensus All-American, two-time South Division champ and two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 pick. He won the Lott Award in 2013.

12. Chase Thomas, Stanford (2009-12)
Another stalwart on those vaunted Cardinal defenses at the end of the BCS Era, Thomas capped his career with a Pac-12 and Rose Bowl championship as a senior. He finished with 229 total tackles, 50.5 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks from his hybrid outside linebacker position. He was an All-American selection as a senior and led the Cardinal to a 43-10 record during his time in Palo Alto.

13. Mychal Kendricks, Cal (2008-11)
Kendricks was an elite player on three bowl teams — the last three to represent the Golden Bears in the postseason. He finished his career with 259 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and four interceptions. His final season — 106 tackles, 14.5 for loss — earned him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Kendricks was a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

14. Trent Murphy, Stanford (2010-13)
When it comes to wreaking havoc, few were as productive as Murphy. He led Stanford to three BCS bowls, including back-to-back Pac-12 championships and Rose Bowls. He finished his career with 160 tackles, 52.5 tackles for loss, and 32.5 sacks (ninth all-time in league history). Stanford went 46-8 during his time on The Farm.

15. Dale Robinson, Arizona State (2004-05)
He only played two seasons but he made a huge impact for the Devils. He posted 208 tackles, 28.0 for loss and 8.5 sacks in 23 of 24 possible career starts. He was an All-Pac-10 selection both years and was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.

16. Brian Cushing, USC (2005-08)
Cushing played in 44 career games, making 178 stops, 27.0 for loss and 8.5 sacks. He earned 2007 Rose Bowl MVP honors and eventually was an All-American in 2008. Cushing was a consistent performer who was the 15th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. USC was 46-6 during his time in Los Angeles.

17. Zack Follett, Cal (2005-08)
The two-time all-league selection was a terror behind the line of scrimmage for the Bears. He had 244 career tackles, 51.0 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks and a Pac-12-record 13 forced fumbles during his time in Berkeley. He also won the Emerald Bowl MVP honors in 2008.

18. Casey Matthews, Oregon (2007-10)
As a leader of the only Ducks team to make it to the BCS National Championship Game, Matthews was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection and an All-American during his stay in Eugene. He posted 245 tackles, 30.5 for loss, nine sacks and went 41-11 during his career. The Ducks won three straight conference championships.

19. Spencer Havner, UCLA (2002-05)
The Bruins' tackling machine was a four-year starter and registered 402 tackles during his time in Los Angeles. This total is good for second among all players during the BCS Era in the Pac-12 (Marcus Bell). He was a three-time all-conference selection in some way and a Defensive Freshman of the Year according to the Sporting News in 2002.

20. Mason Foster, Washington (2007-10)
Few players were as productive as Foster was for the Huskies — and his NFL success proves that out. Foster posted 378 tackles, including a 163-tackle senior season, 38.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, four interceptions and eight forced fumbles. He played in 50 career games and helped Washington go from 0-12 (2008) to its first bowl game since 2002 to close out his senior season.

Best of the rest:

21. Desmond Bishop, Cal (2005-06)
22. Peter Sirmon, Oregon (1996-99)
23. Eric Kendricks, UCLA (2011-pres.)
24. Marcus Bell, Arizona (1996-99)
25. Clay Matthews, USC (2005-08)

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Linebackers of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/2014-fantasy-baseball-consensus-big-board-rankings
Body:

Pitchers and catches have finally reported and it means fantasy baseball drafts are soon approaching. And let's be honest, Draft Day is a glorious holiday that puts Valentine's Day to shame.

Fantasy baseball leagues can be won from every location in the draft — early in the round or late — and can be won with any variety of strategies. Is pitching moving up draft rankings? In what round should the first closer be selected? Speed versus power? Rookies, sleepers and reaches abound.

There are a ton of decisions to be made on draft day when constructing a fake baseball team. And while a fantasy league cannot be won in the first few rounds, it most certainly can be lost. Screwing up an early pick can decimate a roster in no time flat.

Enter Athlon Sports' consensus fantasy baseball Big Board. CBS Sports (Scott White), ESPN, Fox Sports, Athlon Sports magazine*, MLB.com,  RotoChamp (RC) and Yahoo! (in order) have been combined and averaged to offer the best possible fantasy baseball rankings on the web.

* - Athlon’s (AS) rankings come from the official preview magazine, which is on newsstands now.

So without further ado, here is the 2014 Athlon consensus fantasy baseball Big Board:

2014 Fantasy Baseball Big Board:

 PlayerTeamPosCBSESPNFOXASMLBRCY!
1Mike TroutLAAOF1111111
2Miguel CaberaDET3B2222222
3Andrew McCutchenPITOF5344434
4Paul GoldschmidtARI1B3435383
5Carlos GonzalezCOLOF7556566
6Clayton KershawLADSP910636115
7Robinson CanoNYY2B4971571412
8Ryan BraunMILOF15151181259
9Chris DavisBAL1B11692011138
10Joey VottoCIN1B8201213161915
11Prince FielderDET1B13141518151217
12Hanley RamirezLADSS141382813217
13Adam JonesBALOF1712103514711
14Bryce HarperWASOF2122162919410
15Yu DarvishTEXSP18212010172316
16Adrian BeltreTEX3B1911174781013
17Troy TulowitzkiCOLSS12161314184314
18David WrightNYM3B16192112232419
19Edwin EncarnacionTOR3B108146710920
20Jacoby EllsburyNYYOF67185294218
21Carlos GomezMILOF28171944211721
22Jason KipnisCLE2B23182722252627
23Adam WainwrightSTLSP30272623222522
24Felix HernandezSEASP34292916202029
25Yaisel PuigLADOF29282533301524
26Max ScherzerDETSP22342417333233
27Cliff LeePHISP35263234261832
28Freddie FreemanATL1B4533289283031
29Dustin PedroiaBOS2B20233139244628
30Stephen StrasburgWASSP36363311512826
31Evan LongoriaTB3B24252248464025
32Jose FernandezMIASP31543924353134
33Giancarlo StantonMIAOF26352371294723
34Chris SaleCHWSP42394525343942
35Ian DesmondWASSS38244040315843
36Jay BruceCINOF53453643411640
37Madison BumgarnerSFSP41484731434536
38Justin UptonATLOF39413569393435
39Jose BautistaTOROF33473490402230
40Alex RiosCHWOF73303853322744
41Jose ReyesTORSS323130423810037
42David PriceTBSP52384926475148
43Eric HosmerKC1B55434336274864
44Justin VerlanderDETSP3761527497737
45Buster PoseySFC/1B47403745536947
46Craig KimbrelATLRP78495321425649
47Shin-Soo ChooTEXOF27374188448241
48Cole HamelsPHISP48445038845346
49Albert PujolsLAA1B44524419629750
50Jean SeguraMILSS25734285575539
51David OrtizBOS1B59466527615467
52Hunter PenceHOUOF58695851483562
53Zack GreinkeMILSP56555630717045
54Matt KempLADOF40754649456861
55Ryan ZimmermanWAS3B50585437766756
56Starling MartePITOF66675770563751
57Ian KinslerDET2B49324866795972
58Matt CarpenterSTL2B/3B43686182722952
59Anibal SanchezDETSP61657246633665
60Matt HollidaySTLOF54805194373859
61Allen CraigSTL1B/OF57636373584954
62Elvis AndrusTEXSS60426755607890
63Aroldis ChapmanCINSP90566265557455
64Jason HeywardATLOF62827189366266
65Wil MyersTBOF648166100663360
66Yoenis CespedesOAKOF846068101506453
67Adrian GonzalezLAD1B69575974935774
68Carlos SantanaCLEC/1B70786441866594
69Joe MauerMINC/1B4662551027710957
70Kenley JansenLADRP995969755410558
71Josh DonaldsonOAK3B51516096898196
72Gio GonzalezWASSP94907332788970
73Greg HollandKCRP91668364529973
74Mat LatosCINSP88887497687963
75Matt CainSFSP877776585912677
76Alex GordonKCOF113898487654482
77Jose AltuveHOU2B748375638510687
78Jordan ZimmermannWASSP929277508810471
79Homer BaileyCINSP93769581678881
80Hisashi IwakumaSEASP727479861158479
81Mike MinorATLSP897188577512592
82Yadier MolinaSTLC7150709110912086
83Mark TrumboARI1B/OF858685103908080
84Shane VictorinoBOSOF82105871048141111
85Domonic BrownPHIOF6311086105986199
86James ShieldsKCSP1018493619911493
87Josh HamiltonLAAOF11510992721047183
88Wilin RosarioCOLC761028256107110121
89Pedro AlvarezPIT3B79101881067413076
90Koji UeharaBOSRP105125106591009175
91Carlos BeltranNYYOF1148590107829095
92Jayson WerthWASOF81877879105127109
93Billy ButlerKC1B95107103801138591
94Ben ZobristTB2B/SS686491108120 85
95Gerrit ColePITSP10899981091337369
96Brandon PhillipsCIN2B96539411013894107
97Desmond JenningsTBOF1189310011110152124
98Anthony RizzoCHC1B8310680112106112102
99Masahiro TanakaNYYSP117951016892103127
100Trevor RosenthalSTLRP121118991136411378
101Kyle SeagerSEA3B80701137696 129
102Billy HamiltonCINOF8611411411470 68
103Everth CabreraSDSS651128111591 108
104Curtis GrandersonNYMOF130 1041166950112
105Aaron HillARI2B1061041119380123119
106Alex CobbTBSP102121961171229589
107Kris MedlenATLSP1459712160112102118
108Martin PradoARI2B/3B671151099514996131
109Manny MachadoBAL3B7511311084147 84
110Brian McCannNYYC10011710711883116126
111Joe NathanDETRP104124123998713598
112Jonathan LucroyMILC779197119 92 
113Shelby MillerSTLSP11696102120123124105
114Michael CuddyerCOL1B/OF124103117121 66110
115Austin JacksonDETOF  1261227363123
116Jered WeaverLAASP10394116123114129143
117Starlin CastroCHCSS1477210598150 106
118Michael WachaSTLSP10914312412413683115
119Hyun-Jin RyuLADSP149126118125103119103
120Doug FisterWASSP 9812912694122134
121Julio TeheranATLSP112128112127 133101
122Salvador PerezKCC13113610854  144
123Aramis RamirezMIL3B 79132128143107140
124Matt MooreTBRP110129115129  97
125Daniel MurphyNYM2B14112213378108  
126Jose AbreuCHW1B125 12013013176 
127Glen PerkinsMINRP 13412213195142113
128Coco CrispOAKOF119142128132 111117
129Chase UtleyPHI2B97100119133   
130Brett LawrieTOR2B/3B 108138134 121100
131Leonys MartinTEXOF13615013713510298149
132Sergio RomoSFRP 132130136116143104
133Tony CingraniCINSP120  13713787141
134Chase HeadleySD3B15012713983127  
135Matt AdamsSTL1B98116140138  135
136Jon LesterBOSSP13214614362146  
137Brandon BeltSF1B142130135139111139136
138David RobertsonNYYRP 13814714097141120
139Brandon MossOAK1B/OF 123149141 75 
140Brett GardnerNYYOF   142 49148
141Johnny CuetoCINSP146 14577139 136
142Jedd GyorkoSD2B/3B107 127143 115 
143Sonny GrayOAKSP129  144 72 
144Alejandro De AzaCHWOF   145 60 
145Francisco LirianoPITSP111 125146134 147
146Pablo SandovalSF3B 137144147  87
147Alfonso SorianoNYYOF128144 148128145128
148Jim JohnsonOAKRP   92141 139
149Danny SalazarCLESP   149117132125
150Nelson Cruz--OF135 148150110134 
Teaser:
2014 Fantasy Baseball Consensus Big Board Rankings
Post date: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-linebackers-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

In the Big 12, maybe more so than anywhere else, having great linebackers has appeared to correlate directly to big time success. The Sooners had a run with names like Calmus, Lehman and Marshall and it led to a national title. This league’s linebackers have won four Butkus Awards — more than any other major conference — to go with a pair of Bednariks, a Nagurski, Lambert and Lombardi award as well. Texas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Nebraska and even Kansas were at their best when they had a star linebacker to lean on. Additionally, fans will find a host of players from teams no longer in the Big 12. Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri all had stars at the linebacker position during the BCS Era.

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

1. Derrick Johnson, Texas (2002-04)
The big-play machine from Waco, Texas, was one of the greatest linebackers in Longhorns program history. He finished his career with 458 tackles, 65.0 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, nine interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Johnson was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American. He capped his career with the Butkus, Lambert and Nagurski national awards as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors before being taken 15th overall by the Chiefs in the 2005 NFL Draft. He helped build a team that went on to win the national title the year after he departed and was a part of a Cotton and Rose Bowl championship teams.

2. Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-01)
A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American, Calmus is one of the most important Sooners of all-time. As a senior in 2001 he won the Butkus and Lambert Awards for the nation's top linebacker, but his play in '00 will go down in Oklahoma history. He led the vaunted Sooners defense to a perfect record and spearheaded arguably the greatest defensive performance of the BCS Era by holding Florida State to zero offensive points in the BCS National Championship Game. Calmus was a third-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

3. Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M (1995-98)
Arguably the most decorated Texas A&M defender, Nguyen was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and his 517 career tackles are an Aggies record. His career in College Station culminated in 1998 with a historic and adorned senior season. Nguyen was named the Bednarik, Lombardi and Lambert trophy winner and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors as well. He led Texas A&M to the only Big 12 championship it would ever win that year as well — its last conference crown of any kind. The unanimous All-American was a third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2004.

4. Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03)
The Tulsa, Okla., native played in all 12 games for the 2000 BCS National Champions as a freshman. He was a three-year starter for the Sooners after that, posting 117 tackles and 19.0 TFL and earning the Butkus and Bednarik Awards while leading Oklahoma back to the BCS national title game in 2003. He was a two-time All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and was a second-round pick of the Lions in the 2004 NFL Draft. Oklahoma was 48-6 during Lehman’s four years and won two Big 12 titles.

5. Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10)
After an up and down but promising first two seasons, Miller exploded onto the scene as a junior in 2009. He led the nation in sacks with 17.0 and posted 21.0 tackles for loss for a team that lost seven games. As a senior, despite being slowed by an ankle injury, Miller posted 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss en route to the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker for a team that won nine games. Miller was a two-time, first-team All-American and All-Big 12 pick and was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.

6. Mark Simoneau, Kansas State (1996-99)
His long career in Manhattan gives him the edge over another Kansas State Defensive Player of the Year. He posted 400 career tackles and 52.0 tackles for loss, becoming the first Bill Snyder-coached player to be inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame. Simoneau was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American on his second 11-1 team as a senior. In all, Kansas State went 42-7 during Simoneau’s four seasons.

7. Arthur Brown, Kansas State (2011-12)
Brown originally signed with and played for Miami for his first two seasons but transferred back home to Kansas in the spring of 2010. After landing at middle linebacker, Brown was a workhorse for Bill Snyder. He topped 100 tackles in both seasons, posted 16.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and three picks for a Wildcats team that lost only once and won the ’12 Big 12 championship. He was first-team All-Big 12 in both seasons, was an All-American as a senior, won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a second-round pick of the Ravens in 2013.

8. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri (2006-09)
The elite tackler from Mizzou posted three straight 100-tackle seasons, finishing with 406 total stops, 44.0 tackles for loss and 12.0 career sacks. His 155-tackle season in 2008 led the nation and was a leader on what many consider the best two-year run in school history between 2006-07. Mizzou went 38-16 and he was a three-time All-Big 12 pick and was a part of the Tigers' only two Big 12 title game appearances.

9. Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma (2003-06)
The star Sooners tackler was a three-time All-Big 12 pick, twice landing on the first team as a junior and senior. He posted 118 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks en route to co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in ’06. Oklahoma played in three BCS bowls, including the ’03 BCS title game, during his four-year career and Alexander was an All-American in his final season.

10. Jordon Dizon, Colorado (2004-07)
Dizon was the first true freshman in school history to start in the season opener at inside linebacker. He set school records for tackles by a freshman (82), tackles in a game (22) and led the nation in tackling as a senior (2007). He was a first-team All-Big 12 pick twice, a consensus All-American and won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (’07). The Buffs went to three bowl games in Dizon’s four years — the last three bowls Colorado has been to.

Just missed the cut:

11. Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma (2005-07)
From a talent standpoint, few were as gifted as Lofton. He was a consensus All-American in his final season with 157 tackles, 10.5 for loss and three interceptions as a junior. He led Oklahoma to two Big 12 titles and two Fiesta Bowl berths but the Sooners lost 10 games in the three years Lofton was in Norman.

12. Travis Lewis, Oklahoma (2008-11)
Few players can claim that they led their team in tackling four consecutive years but that is what Lewis did in Norman. He started all 54 games of his career, posting 451 tackles, 32.5 for loss, 8.0 sacks and nine interceptions. He was Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and then a three-time All-Big 12 pick following that. He led the Sooners to the BCS title game, two Big 12 titles and a 42-12 record during his career.

13. Barrett Ruud, Nebraska (2001-04)
The star tackler started 37 of his 50 career games and finished his career with 432 tackles, 50.0 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and six forced fumbles. He earned All-Big 12 honors in each of his last three seasons and was an All-American in 2004 as a senior. He was a second-round pick of the Bucs in the 2005 NFL Draft.

14. Lavonte David, Nebraska (2010-11)
He played just two seasons in Lincoln and only one in the Big 12 but he was simply a stud. David was a two-time all-league pick in both the Big 12 and Big Ten and won Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten LB of the Year honors in 2011, David started all 27 career games and set the Nebraska single-season tackles record (152) in 2010.

15. Torrance Marshall, Oklahoma (1999-00)
Known for his Orange Bowl MVP award in the national title win over Florida State, Marshall continued Bob Stoops' early run of elite linebackers. Marshall had a knack for making huge plays in key situations and helped Oklahoma win its first national title since 1985.

Best of the rest:

16. A.J. Klein, Iowa State (2009-12)
Posted three straight seasons with at least 100 tackles and won Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011.

17. Nick Reid, Kansas (2002-05)
He posted 416 tackles and 41.0 for loss and scored the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005.

18. Sergio Kindle, Texas (2006-09)
Was an All-American for unbeaten team that lost to Alabama in the BCS national title game.

19. Jeff Kelly, Kansas State (1995-98)
Was a consensus All-American in his final season after back-to-back 11-win seasons.

20. Jake Knott, Iowa State (2009-12)
He posted 346 tackles and was a two-time All-Big 12 honoree.

Teaser:
Top 10 Big 12 Linebackers of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-linebackers-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

1. Patrick Willis, Ole Miss (2003-06)
The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior. He was taken with the 11th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft by San Francisco.

2. Al Wilson, Tennessee (1995-98)
Wilson isn’t as decorated as some of his BCS brethren but few players had as big an impact on their team as the Vols middle linebacker. He helped lead Tennessee to two SEC championships and the historic and unblemished 1998 national title. He was a consensus All-American, a consummate teammate on and off the field and was the 31st overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

3. Rolando McClain, Alabama (2007-09)
His fall from grace aside, McClain was one of the BCS’s great defensive leaders. He started eight games and posted 75 tackles as a freshman before earning some All-American honors as a sophomore (95 tackles). As the unquestioned heartbeat of the Alabama defense, McClain led the Crimson Tide back to the BCS promised land with a perfect senior season. He posted 105 tackles, 14.5 for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, was a unanimous All-American and won both the Butkus and Lambert Awards. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

4. C.J. Mosley, Alabama (2010-13)
Few players can boast both a Butkus Award and a national championship — let alone two national championships and freshman All-American honors. Mosley posted a career-high 108 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss and came up one play shy of winning back-to-back SEC titles and possibly a third BCS title. He collected 318 career tackles and 23.0 tackles for loss in his decorated and illustrious career in Tuscaloosa. Alabama went 46-7 during Mosley’s time on campus and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in all four seasons.

5. DeMeco Ryans, Alabama (2002-05)
The former three-star recruit outperformed all expectations for the Crimson Tide. In 2005 as a senior, he was a unanimous All-American, won the Lott Trophy and was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Ryans finished with 76 tackles and five sacks in his final season and just missed winning the Nagurski, Butkus and Draddy Awards as well. The Crimson Tide tackler was a second-round pick in 2006 by the Texans.

6. Jarvis Jones, Georgia (2011-12)
Jones was a Lambert Award winner, a two-time All-American, led the nation in sacks as a sophomore (14.5), forced more fumbles in 2012 (7) than any player in his conference during the BCS Era and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He also led Georgia to consecutive SEC East titles and was the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He finished his career with 168 total tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss and 28.0 sacks in two years as a starter in Athens.

7. Brandon Spikes, Florida (2006-09)
Spikes' resume is virtually complete. He was a two-time, consensus All-American, a three-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won two BCS National Championships, was a second-round pick and dated Doc Rivers' daughter. He posted 307 total tackles and started 39 of his 47 career games as a Gator before a slow 40-time caused him to fall into the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Linebackers of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-linebackers-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The Big Ten has had some serious tradition and talent when it comes to the linebacker position. This conference has always favored the run and therefore has created some seriously decorated tacklers in the process. Penn State is Linebacker U but Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa each have their own long track record of producing top flight linebackers. Here are the 10 best to play in the Big Ten during the BCS Era:

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

1. LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99)
Few college players were as intimidating as the rabid Nittany Lions linebacker. Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was named as the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American and is credited with arguably the signature defensive play of the BCS Era when he leapt over the Illinois offensive line on 4th-and-1 to secure the win. Arrington consistently delivered crushing blows and wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Redskins.

2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08)
Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game. The Buckeyes' tackler was taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

3. Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06)
As a junior, the Nittany Lions tackler was recognized as the nation’s top LB when he posted 116 tackles (11.0 TFL) en route to a Big Ten championship, consensus All-American honors and both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. He followed that up as a senior with a second Bednarik Award and second consensus All-American nod. The in-state Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell product was a second-round pick by the Bills in 2007. He left school as Penn State's all-time leading tackler with 372 total stops.

4. Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio State (1996-98)
His pro career notwithstanding, this Buckeye was one of college football’s greatest tacklers during his time in Columbus. He was the first true freshman to ever start at linebacker for the Buckeyes, won the Butkus and Lambert Awards as just a sophomore and nearly led OSU to the inaugural BCS title game in 1998. He started all 37 games of his college career and finished with 18 sacks and 50.0 tackles for a loss. He was a first-round pick by the Patriots in 1999.

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

6. Greg Jones, Michigan State (2007-10)
The stabilizing force for four years in East Lansing, Jones was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and a two-time consensus All-American. In both of those seasons, Jones led the Big Ten in tackles and no one since 2005 has made more stops than Jones. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. The star playmaker finished third in school history in tackles (465), second in tackles for a loss (46.5) and sixth in sacks (16.5). He started 46 of 52 career games for the Spartans. 

7. Dan Connor, Penn State (2004-07)
The Nittany Lions know something about playing linebacker and Connor is yet another elite tackler. He was a two-time All-American and won the Bednarik Award in 2007 as the nation's top defensive player. He was a leader and was huge part of the '05 Big Ten/Orange Bowl championship team before posting back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. He broke Posluszny's all-time school record with 419 career stops when he graduated in '07. 

8. Chris Borland, Wisconsin (2009-13)
Few players have been as productive and as successful as the Original Honey Badger. He finished his career with 420 tackles, second most in the Big Ten since 2005, 17.0 sacks, 50.0 tackles for a loss and an NCAA-record 14 forced fumbles. He helped lead his team to three consecutive Big Ten championships and did just about everything for the Badgers, including fake punts, blocked kicks and returning kicks. He was a consummate hard worker and leader for Wisconsin and it earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten Linebacker of the Year award in 2013.

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teaser:
SEC Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-running-backs-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The ACC has gone through many changes during the BCS Era with multiple rounds of expansion. This is why some of the greatest players of the BCS Era won't be found in the ACC ranks. Names like Kevin Jones from Virginia Tech, William Green from Boston College, Michael Bush from Louisville or the long list of elite backs from Miami (James, Portis, Gore, McGahee) won't be found below. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, Boston College joined in '05, Syracuse and Pitt played for one season last fall and Louisville enters the league in '14. It leaves the league lacking for playmakers at the running back position. But a few schools have carried the banner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

ORV: Duke Johnson, Greg Jones, Andre Brown

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

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

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

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

The Pac-12 has had some elite running backs over the years. Marcus Allen and Charles White are two that come to mind — and are the two who stand above the rest of the league in the record books. But with the rise of Oregon's offense, USC's dominance in the 2000s and an impressive track record of runners at Oregon State, the modern era of Pac-12 ball-carriers is as strong as its decorated past.

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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


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


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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teaser:
College Football: 2014 Consensus ACC Team Recruiting Rankings
Post date: Monday, February 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-running-backs-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The Big Ten has long been about running the ball on offense. Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin have some of the best running back traditions in the nation. But so does Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State and Minnesota. In fact, to be successful in the Big Ten during the BCS Era, you probably had a great running back. Here are the top 10 running backs to play in the Big Ten during the BCS Era:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee (14)

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

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

Florida (9)

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

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

Alabama (8)

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

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

Texas A&M (7)

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

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

Kentucky (7)

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

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

Ole Miss (7)

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

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

Auburn (5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NSD ’14 Winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Athlon Sports Consensus 2014 National Team Recruiting Rankings

NSD ’14 Losers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas A&M (21)

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

 Also receiving votes: Indiana, TCU, USF, Northwestern

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

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

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

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

1. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2008

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

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

2. USC Trojans, 2003

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

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

3. Florida Gators, 2006

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

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

4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 

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

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

5. Texas Longhorns, 2002

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

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

6. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002

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

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

7. Oklahoma Sooners, 2006

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

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

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

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

9. LSU Tigers, 2009

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

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

10. Oregon Ducks, 2008

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

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

10. Michigan State Spartans, 2010

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

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

11. Auburn Tigers, 2010

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

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

12. Stanford Cardinal, 2009

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

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

13. LSU Tigers, 2004

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

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

14. Georgia Bulldogs, 2009

Rank: 6th (Athlon), 19 signees

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

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

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 2009

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

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

The Best of the Rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
College Football: The Top 15 Recruiting Class of the Last 10 Years
Post date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 07:15

Pages