Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-washington-huskies
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College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Steve Sarkisian reworked his defensive coaching staff following the 2011 season and it paid immediate returns on the recruiting trail and eventual returns on the field. Defensive coaches Tosh Lupoi, Peter Sirmon and Justin Wilcox have had a year to recruit and this trio is clearly making a big impact as the Huskies finished second in the Pac-12 in the team rankings. 

Washington Huskies

National Rank: 15th
Pac-12: Second
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 1
National Signees: 6
Total Signees: 22

Where They Got 'Em:

California will be the foundation for most Pac-12 recruiting classes and the Huskies' 2013 haul proves that. Of their 22 new prospects, 17 of them hail from The Golden State, including all six nationally rated prospects in this class. Washington (4) is another solid state for talent nationally and it was the only other state that sent more than one prospect to Seattle. Arizona (1) and Oregon (1) are also Pac-12 recruiting posts and Texas (1) got into the mix as well. Coach Sark used just five states to sign 22 new players and only Texas wasn't a heavy Pac-12 territory.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The defense has clearly been the area of focus under the new-look coaching staff the past two recruiting cycles. The 2013 haul features a balanced defensive class that will feature 12 of the 22 total prospects. The defensive line is what stands out. Elijah Qualls nearly landed in the AC100 and is an extremely versatile player. How many defensive tackles play running back in high school? Another nationally rated lineman, Joe Mathis, joins this class as well. He will play end and has been a part of a winning program for the last two seasons at Ontario (Calif.) Upland. Andrew Basham will join Qualls inside at tackle while Marcus Farria will play outside with Mathis. This group has to make Lupoi excited about the future of the D-line in Seattle.

Four linebackers and four defensive backs also signed in this class, but none were nationally ranked. Cornerback got lots of attention with Kevin King, Jermaine Kelly and Patrick Enewally joining the depth chart on the outside. All three are listed at least 6-foot-1 and all three bring great length and upside. Safety Trevor Walker is already enrolled in class. 

While the defense got the most attention in this class, the wide receivers might be the most talented group in this haul. Demor'ea Stringfellow is a special talent and is the highest-rated player in this class. John Ross and Darrell Daniels are fellow nationally ranked prospects, giving Washington one of the best wide receiver classes in the nation. Two (Stringfellow and Daniels) bring huge frames as each stand at least 6-foot-3 and check in between 215 and 220 pounds while Ross (5-11, 180) brings speed to the slot position. With tight end David Ajamu (6-5, 245) in this class as well, this is literally a massive pass-catching class.

Troy Williams is the lone quarterback signee and could be a star. The No. 8-rated signal caller in the nation is already enrolled after claiming 2012 CIF Los Angeles City Section D-I Player of the Year honors as a senior. He has excellent upside as a passer but he also brings above average athletic ability to the table. 

Coach Sark has proven he is able to develop quality running backs and the burly (220 pounds) Lavon Coleman should be the next. This back is a winner, playing on a team that won 32 straight games at one point.

The offensive line was a major concern due to injuries and depth in 2012, and ideally, this three-man class will help stabilize the position.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 3
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 4, DB: 4, ATH: 0, K/P: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
79. Demor'ea Stringfellow WR No. 9 Perris, Calif. 6-3 215
110. Elijah Qualls DT No. 20 (DL) Petaluma, Calif. 6-2 285
114. Troy Williams QB No. 8 Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 205
186. John Ross WR No. 20 Long Beach, Calif. 5-11 180
199. Darrell Daniels WR No. 24 Pittsburg, Calif. 6-4 220
234. Joe Mathis DE No. 44 (DL) Ontario, Calif. 6-4 250

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Trevor Walker S Arlington, Texas 5-11 180 --
Troy Williams QB Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 205 No. 114

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Georgia Bulldogs

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Washington Huskies</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/northwestern-wildcats-2013-spring-football-preview
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Last season was historic for Northwestern Wildcats everywhere. Pat Fitzgerald led his alma mater to its first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats won 10 games for just the third time in the history of the program and the first since the famous 1995 Rose Bowl run. This team has been to 11 bowl games all-time and Fitzgerald has taken the Cats to five straight postseason appearances. Needless to say, it's a good time to be Northwestern fan. But expectations might be higher in Evanston, Ill., than ever before, so what can Coach Fitz do for an encore in 2013? 

Northwestern Wildcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 27-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Trevor Siemian, 128-of-218, 1,312 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Venric Mark, 226 car., 1,366 yds., 12 TDs
Receiving: Christian Jones, 35 rec., 412 yds, 2 TD
Tackles: Damien Proby, 112
Sacks: Tyler Scott, 9
Interceptions: Nick VanHoose, 3 

Redshirts to watch: DE/LB Ifeadi Odenigbo, OL Adam DePietro, OL Ian Park, OL Kenton Playko, DL Connor Mahoney, DL Greg Kuhar, CB Dwight Wite, S Joseph Jones, SB Jack Schwaba

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 at California
Sept. 7 Syracuse
Sept. 14 Western Michigan
Sept. 21 Maine
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Ohio State
Oct. 12 at Wisconsin
Oct. 19 Minnesota
Oct. 26 at Iowa
Nov. 2 at Nebraska
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 Michigan
Nov. 23 Michigan State
Nov. 30 at Illinois

Offensive Strength: Playmakers. Kain Colter is essentially a running back under center. Venric Mark is the best tailback to take hand-offs in Evanston since at least Tyrell Sutton. And a deep collection of wide receivers dot the offense.

Offensive Weakness: The offensive line. Three starters are gone from a unit that led the Big Ten in sacks allowed and finished 19th nationally in rushing a year ago.

Defensive Strength: Linebackers. With Damien Proby and Chi Chi Ariguzo both earning honorable mention a year ago, Coach Fitz's favorite position should be strong in 2013.

Defensive Weakness: Star power in the secondary. This team ranked last in the Big Ten in passing defense last fall and Jared Carpenter, Demetrius Dugar and Quinn Evans are gone. Ibraheim Campbell and Nick VanHoose need some help on the back end.

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats

1. Coping with injuries. Pat Fitzgerald will be without at least three starters and a host of other important contributors this spring. Starting cornerback Nick VanHoose, middle linebacker Damien Proby and offensive tackle Jack Konopka will miss all of spring ball. Offensive tackle Paul Jorgensen, wide receiver Kyle Prater, defensive tackle Will Hampton, defensive end Deonte Gibson and guard Matt Frazier are other key reserves looking to earn starting spots who won't get a chance to compete this spring. It will give Coach Fitz a long look at the deeper parts of his roster.

2. Plugging holes along the O-Line. All-Big Ten performers Brian Mulroe and Patrick Ward have moved on from the offensive line as well as Jack Deiters (11 starts). And without Konopka on the field this spring, the Wildcats will be focusing on the new faces blocking up front. This team is stacked with offensive skill talent and will only go as far against big, powerful Big Ten defensive lines as the offensive line takes it. Ironing out a rotation up front on offense has to be a top priority. 

3. Do the Cats need to pick a QB? Coach Fitz believes that he has two quarterbacks who can lead Northwestern to a Big Ten championship. Both Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian did a lot of good things a year ago and each brings a different skill set to an already creative offense. Fitzgerald has stated his focus this spring is more fundamentals-based rather than scheme or depth chart, so he has no desire to tab a starter this early. However, most coaches prefer to have one quarterback and how each signal caller develops this spring will go a long way to determining playing time come the summer.

4. Find star power in the front seven. Much like the offensive line, the defensive front seven has to deal with departures and injuries this spring. There are a lot of bodies up front, namely All-Big Ten performer Tyler Scott and his nine sacks, but this coaching staff needs to find players. Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson could start at end opposite Scott while Chance Carter, Sean McEvilly and Max Chapman will battle on the inside. With Proby out for the spring and David Nwabuisi graduated, Chi Chi Ariguzo is the only linebacker with any extended experience at the key position. Fitzgerald won't have a good view of his front seven until summer once all of the injuries heal up, but finding playmakers up front on defense will be important this spring.

5. Will timing impact spring practice? It isn't a huge story but it is worth noting that Northwestern is breaking spring camp earlier than any other Big Ten team has in years. Starting spring practice in February has given Fitzgerald a variety of advantages. Essentially, he has been able to stretch his calendar to better help with balance, lifting, injuries and timing. Undoubtedly, Fitzgerald feels the extended spring schedule will help his team deal with the pressure to build on a 10-win season and help keep them grounded in the face of growing preseason expectations. 

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Teaser:
<p> Northwestern Wildcats 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-clemson-tigers
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College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has quickly developed a reputation as a strong closer on the recruiting trail and 2013 only bolstered that thought. In fact, he landed two of the top three players ranked in this class on the final day of the cycle. And it helped Clemson finish with a top-15 class.

Clemson Tigers

National Rank: 13th
ACC: Second
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 1
National Signees: 6
Total Signees: 23

Where They Got 'Em:

The Palmetto State has long been an underrated location for football talent. With elite names like Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore hailing from South Carolina — and signing with the Gamecocks — Swinney knows how important winning in-state recruiting battles is for his Tigers. Nearly one-third of this class (7) are in-state prospects.

Otherwise, Clemson has long combed the talent-rich waters of neighboring states Georgia (5), Florida (4) and North Carolina (3). Alabama was another regional state to ship a prospect to Death Valley. All but three players in this class came from the Deep South with Hawaii, Maryland and New York (one each) also providing talent to Clemson. From the north, Maryland and New York each sent a nationally rated prospect to the Tigers too.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The most noticeable aspect of this class is the defensive secondary. At least seven new players are slotted into the future depth chart as defensive backs with a chance that two "athletes" could play there as well. This group includes the top-rated player in the class, AC100 cornerback MacKensie Alexander. He was the biggest NSD victory for Swinney and his coaching staff and he has all the makings to be an elite player both on and off the field. He and Ryan Carter are locked into cornerback spots and the rest of this extremely deep secondary class has tremendous length. Five of the seven DBs are listed at 6-foot-1 or taller. 

There are only two linebackers in this class but both are nationally ranked. Dorian O'Daniel is the No. 2-rated prospect in this class and should be a star on the outside. Ben Boulware is considered by many to be the top player in South Carolina and he will line up inside. This obviously isn't a deep linebacking class, but it's one that has excellent upside.

A four-man defensive line class rounds out what could be a dynamite defensive haul for Clemson. Ebenezer Ogundeko is the highest rated of the bunch and is already enrolled in classes. Fellow defensive end Shaq Lawson is on campus already as well, while Dane Rogers Jr. rounds out a solid collection of new pass rushers. Scott Pagano is the lone interior defensive lineman in the class.

Jayron Kearse, T.J. Green and D.J. Greenlee are the three "athletes" in the class. Green will be an outstanding return specialist who could play wideout or cornerback. Greenlee has a huge frame and seems pegged for safety or outside linebacker. Kearse is listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds and was a star linebacker at South Fort Myers (Fla.) High School. It could turn out that 15 of 23 signees in this class could end be on defense.

That leaves just eight new offensive players. Running backs Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman will look to replace Andre Ellington after stellar prep careers. Dye was his region's Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 despite playing in only seven games while Gallman excelled as a two-way star at Grayson (Ga.) High School — Robert Nkemdiche's high school.

Three long, rangy pass catchers will provide talented depth to an already loaded skill position roster. Wide receiver Mike Williams is 6-foot-5 while tight end and early enrollee Jordan Leggett stands 6-foot-6. Kyrin Priester is the smallest of the bunch at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds.

Swinney signed just two offensive linemen in this class, including the No. 3-rated player in the class Tyrone Crowder. 

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 0, RB: 2, WR: 2, TE: 1, OL: 2
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 2, DB: 7, ATH: 3

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
29. MacKensie Alexander DB No. 6 Immokalee, Fla. 5-11 185
121. Dorian O'Daniel LB No. 13 Olney, Md. 6-1 205
135. Tyrone Crowder OL No. 19 Rockingham, N.C. 6-2 325
149. Ben Boulware LB No. 18 Anderson, S.C. 6-1 230
175. Jayron Kearse ATH No. 23 (LB) Ft. Myers, Fla. 6-4 205
201. Tyshon Dye RB No. 23 Elberton, Ga. 6-1 205
205. Ebenezer Ogundeko DE No. 37 (DL) Brooklyn, N.Y. 6-3 230

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Jadar Johnson DB Orangeburg, S.C. 6-1 180 --
Jordan Leggett TE Navarre, Fla. 6-6 235 --
Ebenezer Ogundeko DE Brooklyn, N.Y. 6-3 230 No. 205
Shaq Lawson DE Central, S.C. 6-4 260 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Georgia Bulldogs

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Clemson Tigers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 06:14
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-oregon-ducks
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College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. The lead story in Oregon this recruiting season was Chip Kelly's departure for the NFL and the elevation of Mark Helfrich to head coach. At first, the loss of Kelly looked like it might have a devastating effect on the Ducks' recruiting class. Yet, Helfrich rallied the troops and the Ducks finished strong on NSD to claim one of the best classes in the Pac-12.

Oregon Ducks

National Rank: 20th
Pac-12: Fourth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 1
National Signees: 6
Total Signees: 19

Where They Got 'Em:

Helfrich's first full class will be the 2014 group, but since he was hired from within, he was a big part of putting together this class. The Ducks used nine different states to land 19 new prospects. California, as usual, was the most productive area for Oregon as it sent seven players, including three nationally rated kids from San Diego, north to Eugene. Other solid, underrated western states — Arizona (2), Nevada, Washington and Oregon (3) — for talent shipped players to Oregon as well.

Helfrich also continued the recent trend of dipping into Texas with two new players, including one of the top signees in this class. New Jersey, Georgia and North Carolina also are solid states for football talent and the Ducks went across the nation to get one player each from those three as well.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The strength of this class may not be realized until all the players are slotted into the depth chart. A pair of nationally rated twins from San Diego — Tyrell and Tyree Robinson — are listed as "athletes" along with Juwaan Williams. The Robinsons are long, rangy athletes who want to play basketball and project at a variety of positions. Outside linebacker or wide receiver seem like the most likely spot for either and they could end up on different sides of the ball. Williams also could play receiver or safety. 

Should one or more of the "athletes" land at wideout, this receiving corps will be one of the best in the Pac-12. Two of the top six players in this class, Devon Allen and Darren Carrington, are wide receivers and should one of the Robinsons and Williams join them, this could be the best part of the '13 class. 

The offensive line also got much-needed depth with over a quarter of this signing class slotted to play along the offense's front line. None of the five signees are nationally rated but Oregon has done a great job developing the type of player they need for its offense. Smaller, more athletic prospects are what Kelly looked for and this group fits that mold. No offensive lineman weighs more than 290 pounds and four of the five check in at less than 280 pounds. This is a deep group that adds the most depth of any position on the field.

Thomas Tyner should be the star of the 2013 haul for Oregon. A record-setting in-state tailback who can run inside and out is the top-rated player in the class. He could easily play as a freshman and will be a more complete player than either former five-star signees De'Anthony Thomas or Lache Seastrunk. He speed, burst and big-play ability makes him a perfect fit for this offense. Tyner will be the next big star in the Ducks backfield.

Damion Hobbs, a 6-2, 195-pound dual-threat prospect, was the only quarterback in this class. He has a similar skillset to the last big Lone Star State quarterback Oregon signed, Darron Thomas. At least 11 and possible 13 or 14 of the 19 total signings in this class will play offense.

On defense, Oregon didn't sign a single defensive lineman. Tyrell Robinson excelled at defensive end in high school and could grow into the position, however. That said, the defense was largely left alone in this class. A trio of linebackers leads the way, including late pick up and nationally rated Torrodney Prevot. He was a steal on NSD and could be one of the top players in this class. He too could grow into a defensive end. Linebacker Danny Mattingly (no relation), junior college linebacker Joe Walker and safety Chris Seisay were the only other defensive signings in this class.

One has to think that with the depth on offense in this class, one Robinson and Williams will end up playing on the defense.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 2, TE: 1, OL: 5
Defense: DL: 0, LB: 3, DB: 1, ATH: 3, K/P: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
20. Thomas Tyner RB No. 2 Aloha, Ore. 5-11 201
131. Tyrell Robinson ATH No. 8 San Diego, Calif. 6-4 200
189. Devon Allen WR No. 21 Phoenix, Ariz. 6-0 187
202. Torrodney Prevot LB No. 25 Houston, Texas 6-3 215
209. Darren Carrington WR No. 26 San Diego, Calif. 6-2 186
212. Tyree Robinson ATH No. 11 San Diego, Calif. 6-4 200

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Joe Walker LB Palos Verdes, Calif. 6-2 225 JUCO

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Georgia Bulldogs

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Oregon Ducks</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 06:25
Path: /nascar/6-wildcard-drivers-watch-2013-daytona-500
Body:

The Daytona 500 is the Great American Race for a reason. Dreams are realized, careers are validated and history is made each and every season. For the 55th time in history, 43 cars will attempt to finish 200 laps around the 2.5-mile asphalt tri-oval called the Daytona International Speedway.

What makes this particular event the Super Bowl of NASCAR is its unpredictability. Since 2001, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth (twice) have won the prestigious event. But so has Ward Burton, Michael Waltrip (twice), Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne.

Burton had five wins in 375 career NASCAR starts and went his last full four seasons following his 500 victory in 2001 without a top five. Waltrip has started 770 career races and two of his four career wins have come in the Great American Race. McMurray has six career wins in 366 starts and hasn’t even finished in the top five in 48 straight races (Bristol, 2011). And the ultimate Cinderella story, Trevor Bayne, in a historic Wood Brothers Ford, won the sports’ highest honor in just his second career start in NASCAR. He has just two top 10s in 32 races since.

Needless to say, the race is a total crapshoot. When 43 cars ride wide open at over 200 miles per hour inches from each other, anything can happen — especially, when the sport is breaking in a new vehicle. So while superstars of the sport — Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch to name a few — are all searching for their first Daytona 500 championship, there is a host of upstarts who feel like they too can compete for a title this Sunday.

Related: The Top 10 Races to Attend in 2013

Athlon Sports’ 2013 Daytona 500 Wildcards to Watch:

Ricky Stenhouse, No. 17
Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Stenhouse enters his first full season of Sprint Cup action with back-to-back Nationwide points championships under his belt. His high-profile relationship with Danica Patrick aside, Stenhouse’s driving skills are what earned him a spot in one of the most successful Daytona 500 cars in recent years. Matt Kenseth wheeled the No. 17 Roush Ford to victory twice in the last four years in the season’s opening race and Stenhouse has the make-up and experience to make waves in his second career Daytona 500 start. He has his work cut out for him, however, starting 28th on Sunday.

Austin Dillon, No. 33
Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

This will easily be the most watched young driver in the field. Dillon, Richard Childress’ grandson, is one of the rising stars of the NASCAR ranks and has all the tools to push for a win in his just his third career Sprint Cup start and his first at Daytona. He ran extremely well in his first full Nationwide season in 2012, finishing third in the points championship. He also ran extremely well in the Bud Duels on Thursday, earning a Sunday starting spot outside of Row 4. He is experienced well beyond his 22 years of age and has been labeled as a driving prodigy by some. Watch out for the Honey Nut Cheerios Chevy on Sunday afternoon.

Kurt Busch, No. 78
Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet

It would not be that big of a shock to see a former points champion in victory lane at Daytona, however, if Busch wins the biggest race of the season it would be considered a huge upset. Busch has won 24 races in his career and clearly has elite driving talent. However, he has had major off the track issues over the last few seasons and is racing for a big underdog in Furniture Row Racing. He hasn’t won in 43 Sprint Cup starts and he posted just one top five in 2012. He raced well in the Duels and will start 11th on Sunday.

Related: Harvick the favorite, Danica starts on the pole

Marcos Ambrose, No. 9
Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

The Australian has tons of ability and it nearly led to an appearance in the Chase a year ago. While his strengths is clearly on short tracks and road courses, it doesn't mean that Ambrose can't compete at a plate track. He finished 13th in this race a year ago and is coming off his best points finish of his career (18th). Richard Petty's cars aren't the same as the bigger teams but they have what it takes to win the big one. Ambrose will begin the race in the 24th starting spot.

Joey Logano, No. 22
Penske Racing Ford

Sliced Bread hasn’t quite lived up to his billing since entering the sport full-time in 2009. After four full seasons, Logano has two career wins (one on rain) and has never finished higher than 16th in the points standings. He posted just two top-five finishes a year ago and is now racing for a new team. Penske won the points title a year ago, so Logano should have competitive equipment and has the upside to find himself near the front in the race’s closing laps. He will start 21st.

Michael Waltrip, No. 26
Swan Racing Toyota

Most people find it difficult to root for Mikey, however, watching the Sandy Hook tribute paint scheme on the No. 26 Toyota will be emotional for many in this country. Waltrip has won this race twice before (in much better equipment) and was inches from winning at Talladega a year ago before he collected Tony Stewart in the season’s biggest wreck on the penultimate lap. He knows how to drive at restrictor plate tracks and should be in the mix near the end.

Related: Fantasy Picks for the 2013 Daytona 500

Related: The 10 Most Memorable Daytona 500s

Teaser:
<p> 6 Wildcard Drivers to Watch in the 2013 Daytona 500</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 10:51
Path: /nfl/10-most-intriguing-names-watch-nfl-combine
Body:

Millions of dollars are made and lost at the NFL Combine and 2013 won’t be any different. Player interviews, mental acumen, agility, strength and speed tests all help NFL scouts, executives and coaches attempt to quantify over 300 different prospects over one weekend in Indianapolis.

Each year features freakish performances that makes eyes pop and mouths drool. Each season, workout warriors vault themselves into the first round. And each year, there are intriguing storylines to follow for more than a few important players.

Here are the 10 most intriguing players to watch at this year’s combine:

1. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
His is obviously the most anticipated combine performance in years. He has two glaring issues to overcome: His fake girlfriend scandal and extremely poor performance against Alabama in the national title game. He will need to address immaturity issues while explaining his lack of toughness and productivity in the biggest, and final, game of his college career. Can he shift scouts' focus back to his leadership and remarkable play in carrying Notre Dame back to national prominence?

2. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
He would have easily been the top-rated running back in this draft had he not horrifically injured his knee halfway through his junior season. He is focused, driven and ready to prove himself already just months following the terrible injury. In a draft class where no one stands out as a first-round pick, Lattimore’s work ethic, overall talent and genuine personality might make him this year’s Willis McGahee.

3. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
In a similar boat as Lattimore, Barkley needs to prove he made the right decision to return to USC for his senior year. He was lauded for his maturity and leadership when he initially returned, but many have doubts about his overall physical size and potential health. He must convince teams that his injured shoulder will be healthy and that he is the guy who broke records as a junior and not the guy who lost six games as a senior.

4. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, ex-LSU
Where to begin? Mathieu has been his own worst enemy ever since breaking onto the scene as a sophomore. What's more, there has been one awful BCS National Championship game performance, multiple arrests and it's been nearly two calendar years since anyone saw the Honey Badger make a play of any consequence. He is undersized and his cover skills were always a question, but now his dedication to football and maturity are major issues. The former LSU defensive back has much to prove to even get drafted late as a special teamer.

5. Wide Receivers, Tennessee
Justin Hunter had to overcome a torn ACL and wasn’t the same following the injury. He needs to prove his toughness, focus and overall explosiveness. Cordarrelle Patterson is an elite athlete who needs to prove he isn’t a long-term project as a wide receiver. And Da’Rick Rogers, from all accounts, needs to prove he cares about the team more than himself. He held the Volunteers hostage before getting kicked off of the team and has to show he has the mental makeup to match his exquisite athletic ability.

Related: 12 Players Who Could Dominate the NFL Combine

6. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Mingo doesn’t show up on game tape as often as his lesser talented teammate Sam Montgomery does. However, Mingo still is a tremendous athlete who has elite upside that just needs to show he can be a productive football player. Should he develop a better understanding of the game and prove he can be consistent, he could be a big winner in Indianapolis.

7. Offensive Linemen, Alabama
Chance Warmack needs to prove that war-daddy offensive guards are worth taking in the top ten (hint: they should be). He is arguably the safest, most dependable player in the entire draft but could slip due to his position. Barrett Jones is a three-time national champ and Outland Trophy winner who excelled at three positions. Proving he is at least a second-round talent at guard or center will be key. And D.J. Fluker, who will wow scouts with elite size and strength, needs to prove he can be a left tackle and not just a right-side guy.

8. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah is the opposite of the workout warrior. He won’t wow scouts with elite size, range or length. He won’t run an elite 40-yard dash or impress in the shuttle drill. But he is an excellent football player and needs to somehow prove that to scouts without wearing any pads. His terrible week of practice in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl was capped by a great performance in the game itself. Scouts want to know which player is he?

9. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
He has excellent measurables and is watching his stock skyrocket due to great size and athleticism. However, he played on defenses that consistently underachieved and was constantly exposed in man-to-man situations by smaller, speedy players like Tavon Austin. He needs to prove he is agile enough to play in pass coverages if he expects to garner Mark Barron comparisons, which, right now, are absurd.

10. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
This is someone to root for at the combine. He is a tremendous playmaker with elite production and speed to match. He will excel on special teams, can run the ball out of the backfield and will be an outstanding slot receiver. Percy Harvin is an apt comparison and he needs to prove his speed is more important than his diminutive frame.

 

 

 

 

Related: The 10 Freakiest Accomplishments at the Combine

Teaser:
<p> 10 Most Intriguing Names to Watch at the NFL Combine</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-12-georgia-bulldogs
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Over the last few seasons, Mark Richt has refocused his recruiting efforts within the state of Georgia and it has paid off in spades. While the 2013 class, which ranks seventh among its SEC peers, isn't as elite as years past, this group still has tons of talent. And at 32 signees deep, it is one of the biggest classes in the nation.

No. 12: Georgia Bulldogs

SEC: Seventh
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 2
National Signees: 6
Total Signees: 32

Where They Got 'Em:

The Peach State has separated itself from the rest of the nation as the No. 4-rated state for talent nationally. California, Texas and Florida will always be atop the charts, but Georgia has clearly claimed the fourth position. And Richt took advantage of his in-state talent pool once again with 18 new faces from Georgia signing with the Dawgs in this class. Florida (5), Mississippi (4) and Virginia (2) each provided more than one player while South Carolina, North Carolina and Indiana each shipped one prospect to Athens.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham are looking to replace at least eight starters on the defense and this class did an excellent job of restocking the cupboard on that side of the ball. Eight defensive backs, six linebackers and four defensive linemen — to go with a pair of "athletes" — gives Grantham at least 18 new faces to work with this season. Defensive back Tray Matthews is the top-rated player in the state and could play all over the secondary while nationally rated Shaquille Wiggins is the top-rated cornerback in the group. With as many as 10 possible defensive backs signing with this group, including a pair of game-ready junior college players, Georgia claims one of the deepest and most talented secondary classes in the nation.

Tim Kimbrough is the top-rated linebacker in the six-man class, and he and his fellow in-coming counterparts will do their best to replace stars like Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree. While four of the six linebackers are in-state prospects and one is from Florida (Ryne Rankin), the jewel of this group, Kimbrough, comes to Athens from famed Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. Grantham's 3-4 system needs versatility and depth at linebacker and this group gives him just that.

The four-man defensive line group isn't as highly touted according to the rankings, but it isn't lacking for size. Early enrollees Johnathan Atkins (6-4, 305) and Chris Mayes (6-4, 330), along with De'Andrew Johnson (6-3, 311), bring tremendous size to the interior of the D-line. Davin Bellamy appears to be in good position to eventually grow into a defensive end.

On offense, quarterback Brice Ramsey was the prized gem of the class. The No. 5-rated quarterback in the nation is already enrolled and he will be in line to take over when Aaron Murray departs campus following the 2013 season. He was high school teammates with "athlete" J.J. Green (who is likely a defensive back). Ramsey will have four wide receivers — possibly five should Tramel Terry land at WR — and one tight end joining him in this class. Terry would be the highest-rated skill player in this class after showing his versatility in high school. He rushed for 1,688 yards and 29 touchdowns while catching 92 passes for 1,625 yards and 11 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Goose Creek (S.C.) High. Junior college early enrollee Jonathon Rumph could be the earliest contributor, however, as his 6-5, 215-pound frame should allow him to see the field quickly this season.

Along the offensive line, Richt and the Dawgs signed four new players. Brandon Kublanow is the top-rated of the bunch and will lock down one of the guard positions. Early enrollees Aulden Bynum and Josh Cardiello gives this offense a new body at both tackle and center respectively.

Finally, Georgia signed two players to carry the football. With a pair of elite freshman tailbacks starring a season ago, it is hard to imagine Brendan Douglas (5-11, 202) and A.J. Turman (6-0, 198) getting too many touches as freshman. But Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall may not stick around past their junior seasons, so getting bodies ready to step up is always a solid course of action.

All in all, this isn't a star-studded class loaded with top 100 prospects like in years past. However, this is one of the largest and most balanced recruiting classes in the entire nation.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 4, TE: 1, OL: 4
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 6, DB: 8, ATH: 2

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
82. Tray Matthews DB No. 17 Newnan, Ga. 6-0 194
86. Brice Ramsey QB No. 5 Kingsland, Ga. 6-3 195
117. Tramel Terry ATH No. 6 Goose Creek, S.C. 5-11 195
124. Shaquille Wiggins DB No. 23 Tyrone, Ga. 5-10 165
166. Tim Kimbrough LB No. 22 Indianapolis, Ind. 6-0 230
230. Brandon Kublanow OL No. 29 Marietta, Ga. 6-3 290

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Johnathan Atkins DT Chatham, VA 6-4 305 Prep School
Aulden Bynum OL Valdosta, GA 6-5 270 --
Josh Cardiello OL Buford, GA 6-3 283 --
Reggie Carter LB Snellville, GA 6-1 225 --
J.J. Green ATH Kingsland, GA 5-8 171 --
Tray Matthews DB Newnan, GA 6-0 194 No. 82
Quincy Mauger DB Marietta, GA 6-0 197 --
Chris Mayes DT Perkinston, MS 6-4 330 JUCO
Brice Ramsey QB Kingsland, GA 6-3 195 No. 86
Ryne Rankin LB Orlando, FL 6-1 230 --
Jonathon Rumph WR Goodman, MS 6-5 215 JUCO
Tramel Terry ATH Goose Creek, SC 5-11 195 No. 117
Reggie Wilkerson DB Ocala, FL 5-11 162 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Georgia Bulldogs

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 12: Georgia Bulldogs</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-expansion-wish-list
Body:

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is many things, but dumb isn’t one of them.

His conference snaked football blue blood and powerhouse Nebraska from the Big 12 to grow the conference in 2011. He followed that up by stealing ACC founding member Maryland and Rutgers from the fledgling Big East to grow his conference into lucrative television and recruiting territories.

The Big Ten has much to offer, namely bigger dollars than any other league in the nation by a wide margin — including the SEC — tremendous academics and a great television presence with The Big Ten Network.

However, Delany knows that he can’t offer football championships like his Southern brethren. In order to stay relevant on the field, and not just in the accounting department, he also knows he needs to make a bold statement.

This means growing the Big Ten to 16 teams before their peers. The Big 12 is all but certain to grow by at least two, the ACC will likely have to pilfer the Big East again once it loses the Terrapins and the mighty SEC is lingering at 14 teams. Many believe that the B1G won’t ever play a game as a 14-team league, but rather, is looking to expand by four teams all at once in an effort to rebalance the college football scales.

The equation is simple: More teams equals more money equals more power equals, ideally, more wins. The Big Ten isn’t competitive on the field — it has one BCS national championship and that took place more than a decade ago — so retuning his league to national prominence on the field should be Delany’s primary focus.

News of Big Ten expansion isn’t anything new or shocking, but recently, Virginia has been rumored to be the most likely to join with North Carolina already holding an official offer. Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech will all figure heavily in the mix as well. Expansion hinges on many factors — TV market, likelihood of acceptance, academics, travel costs, exit fees, alumni base, potential growth, on-field success, history and tradition will all play a role in Delany’s decision making process.

Here is how Athlon Sports would rank the Big Ten’s expansion wish list:

1. Notre Dame
Pros: The Fighting Irish and the Big Ten have always seemed like a perfect fit. Notre Dame nearly joined the conference in 1999 and plays a handful of Big Ten teams every year. Notre Dame is one of college football’s most-storied programs and is on its way back to being a consistent national title contender under Brian Kelly.

Cons: Outside of a huge television market in South Bend and not being a member of the AAU, Notre Dame is the perfect Big Ten candidate. Then again, both parties went down this road before. If the Fighting Irish ever want to join the conference, don’t expect much resistance from the Big Ten. With the Irish locked into five ACC football games per year for the foreseeable future, the odds of Notre Dame even figuring in the Big Ten mix are slim and none.

2. North Carolina
Pros: Without question, North Carolina is one of the biggest prizes in the expansion pool. The Tar Heels are on the radar for future SEC expansion and are believed to be the No. 1 target for the Big Ten and even a possibility for the Big 12. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany attended North Carolina, so there’s already a strong tie for the conference. Chapel Hill isn’t a huge television market but is an excellent college town and provides a great location.

Cons: North Carolina hasn’t been awful on the gridiron, but there’s no question this is a basketball school. The Tar Heels have not won more than nine games since 1997 and had five losing seasons from 2000-07.

3. Florida State
Pros: Where should we start? Florida State has been in the rumor mill as a possible candidate for Big 12 expansion, so by adding the Seminoles, the Big Ten could issue a preemptive strike on its competition. The Tallahassee television market isn’t great, but Florida State is one of the top football programs that is likely interested in changing conferences. By adding Florida State, the Big Ten would add a program that is consistently among the top 15 in the nation, along with adding a presence in one of the best recruiting states.

Cons: Florida State is not a member of the AAU. While the money would be an improvement in the Big Ten, leaving a conference centered in the South for one that has more of a Northern flavor may give the Seminoles some concern about leaving the ACC.  

4. Miami
Pros: Miami provides a great location and a new market for the Big Ten. Recruiting Florida is always important, so the Big Ten could help its teams by having a bigger presence in the state. Miami is not a member of the AAU but is regarded for its academics.

Cons: This is not the Miami of the 1990s. The Hurricanes have not won an ACC title and lack a double-digit winning season since 2002. While Miami is a good television market to add, it’s a bit of a stretch geographically for the conference. 

5. Virginia
Pros: Located less than 200 miles outside of Washington, D.C., the Cavaliers are a prime target due to television market, as well as a regional partner for Maryland. Virginia is also a member of the AAU and a solid academic school, which would be a good fit for the Big Ten.

Cons: On-field success doesn’t necessarily mean everything in expansion, but Virginia has not had a season of double-digit victories since 1989. The Cavaliers aren’t a charter member of the ACC but have been a member since 1953 and there could be resistance from within the state to stay in the same conference as Virginia Tech. 

6. Georgia Tech
Pros: Due to an excellent location and a strong academic reputation, the Yellow Jackets are a prime target for Big Ten expansion. Atlanta is one of the top-10 television markets, and Georgia Tech has been successful on the gridiron, winning the 1990 national championship. The state of Georgia is also an excellent state for producing talent on the recruiting trail.

Cons: While Georgia Tech is located in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets aren’t the top destination in town and the campus would be a complete outpost.

7. Virginia Tech
Pros: Blacksburg isn’t a great television market, but Virginia Tech has been a consistent top-20 program during the BCS era. The Hokies also bring an excellent recruiting area to the table, along with a passionate fan base.

Cons: As mentioned with Virginia, there could be some in-state resistance preventing the Hokies and Cavaliers from being in separate conferences. The Hokies are not a member of the AAU but could form an excellent East Coast match with Virginia, Maryland and Rutgers.

8. Clemson
Pros: Clemson has a passionate fanbase and an excellent atmosphere for each home game. The Tigers seem to have turned the corner in football, winning at least nine games in three out of the last four seasons.

Cons: Clemson is a charter member of the ACC, and prying the Tigers away could be difficult. Clemson doesn’t bring a huge television market and is not a member of the AAU.

9. Pitt
Pros: The Panthers were mentioned as a likely target before the Big Ten added Nebraska. And should be a viable option if the conference wants to jump to 16 teams. Pittsburgh is a member of the AAU and is located in a top-25 television market. Pennsylvania also produces quality talent on the recruiting trail.

Cons: Considering Pittsburgh just joined the ACC, could there be some hesitation about leaving for the Big Ten in such a short window? The Panthers don’t have an on-campus stadium and has only one season of 10 or more wins since 1982.

10. SMU or Houston
Pros: Houston and SMU are the obvious targets here. It gives the Big Ten a foothold in one of the most talent-rich states in the nation — in two of the biggest TV markets in the nation. There is plenty of upward potential for both and both have proven the ability to be successful. This will give Nebraska its recruiting anchor back in the Lone Star State.

Cons: Academically, both programs are behind the rest of the conference. Financially, while both programs are located in huge TV markets, neither commands a large audience in Dallas-Ft. Worth or Houston. Facilities and fan support would need substantial upgrades to rival the rest of the Big Ten. 

11. Cincinnati
Potential upside is intriguing but TV market doesn't offer much and fan support is average.

12. Syracuse
Historic name brand but better days are behind them. Solid TV market but little upside.

13. Boise State
Best on-the-field option to the West but well below requirements academically and financially.

14. Boston College
Excellent academics and solid location, but extremely limited upside and fan support.

15. Iowa State
Sneaky good fan support but brings little to the table financially. Iowa already commands the state.
 

by Braden Gall and Steven Lassan

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big Ten's Expansion Wish List</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /nfl/12-players-who-could-dominate-nfl-combine
Body:

Chris Henry was a running back at the University of Arizona from 2003 to 2006. After redshirting, he rushed for 159 yards as a freshman, 119 yards as a sophomore and 581 yards as a junior. Henry had 859 career rushing yards over three seasons before skipping his senior season and declaring early for the NFL Draft. For a frame of reference, Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey led the nation in rushing last fall with 1,929 yards.

The Tennessee Titans selected Henry in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft with the 50th overall selection. Eleven Pro Bowlers and 14 more running backs, including Ahmad Bradshaw and Michael Bush, were selected after the Wildcats running back.

Henry rushed for 122 yards in 11 career games over four seasons with two teams and his career was headlined by a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy during his rookie year.

So why would a smart NFL guy like Jeff Fisher waste a valuable draft pick on a guy who wasn't productive, didn't win many games and didn't even start on the college level? The answer is a common narrative told across NFL front offices every season: The Combine. Henry wowed scouts, checking in at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds with a 4.40 40-yard dash, 26 bench reps (225 lbs) and a 36” vertical leap. Those numbers meant nothing once he put on the pads and had to play football.

For every combine freak of nature that pans out — like Vernon Davis, for example — there are boatloads of Chris Henrys. Last season, Stephon Gilmore and Dontari Poe used impressive combine showings to land in the top 11 picks of the 2012 draft. Whether or not Buffalo and Kansas City made quality decisions with those two remains to be seen.

So who will be this year’s workout warriors, freaks of nature and combine stars?

Note: NFL.com player ratings are on a scale of 100 and are in parentheses. Twelve of the 333 combine invitees are currently ranked 90.0 or higher, 52 players are ranked in the 80s, 64 in the 70s and 105 in the 60s. The other 100 prospects rank below 60.0.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (90.6) 6-3, 210
There might not be a wide receiver at the combine who has more physical talent than Patterson. And he is already close to being a first-round lock, however, he is an extremely unrefined prospect. He has elite size, speed, power, burst, special teams talent and versatility. But he needs to learn how to play the wide receiver position and that can only come with time spent on the field. He has played just one season of college football and it shows, but his combine numbers will be off the charts.

Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon (88.0) 6-7, 245
If scouts are looking for the next Aldon Smith, from a physical standpoint, Jordan will be their guy. He has elite size, length, range and athletic ability for a pass rusher. He can cover a lot of ground in short order and enjoys playing a physical style of football. However, he lacks overall power and strength and will have to overcome a stigma that he played with inconsistent effort at Oregon. This prospect is already a first-rounder but could easily find himself in the top ten with a freakish performance at the Combine.

Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia (84.0) 6-3, 235
From a physical standpoint, Ogletree is the perfect middle linebacker. He has elite speed to play sideline-to-sideline. He possesses a tough-nosed attitude and won’t hesitate to deliver a big hit. He can cover in pass defense and plays with great quickness. However, he has had plenty of off-the-field issues, including a recent DUI arrest, and missed time due to suspensions at Georgia. Once he learns to control his aggressiveness, he could be a three-down star in the NFL.

William Gholston, DE, Michigan State (74.1) 6-7, 275
The massive defensive line prospect will be extremely intriguing to watch at the combine. He towers over most college offensive lineman and absolutely looks like an NFL starter. He was an elite recruit for a reason and his length and power will be an asset to someone. Understanding the game, maintaining his focus and keeping his motor going full throttle will be key in determining the NFL future of this former Spartan.

Related: The 10 Freakiest Accomplishments in NFL Combine History

John Simon, DL, Ohio State (70.5) 6-2, 260
Simon won’t wow scouts with his 40-time, overall size or length, but when it comes to power and strength, few can match this workout warrior. He owns all types of weight room records at Ohio State and will be extremely impressive in his personal interviews with coaches and front office types. He is one of the top leaders at the combine.

Zaviar Gooden, LB, Missouri (70.0) 6-2, 230
Gooden has the power and strength to play outside linebacker in the SEC and the speed and agility to cover in space in the Big 12. He has been slowed by injuries over the course of his career, but his athletic ability will be obvious in Indy. He is great in the open field and will be able to play sideline-to-sideline. This is one workout warrior that will absolutely find his way into a starting lineup. Gooden is much more of a sleeper than a bust.

Tharold Simon, CB, LSU (70.0) 6-3, 195
Size is a coveted asset for cornerbacks in the modern pass-happy NFL and Simon has it in spades. The LSU coverman can turn and run with receivers with relative ease and it led to plenty of big plays during his three years in Baton Rouge. He doesn’t have the quickness or elite speed of former teammate, Morris Claiborne, who was selected by Dallas in last year's draft with the sixth overall pick, but Simon is bigger, stronger and nearly as intriguing. The scouts at the combine will see an excellent athlete with rare size and small technique issues they believe they can fix.

EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State (68.7) 6-5, 240
In a QB class that features nothing but pocket passers, Manuel’s massive frame and underrated athletic ability will stand out in Indianapolis. His maturity and interviews will be impressive as well. He was an elite recruit who developed slowly and dealt with injuries but led his team to an ACC title as a senior. In the modern era of mobile quarterbacks, Manuel will easily be the best athlete among all the other seemingly statuesque signal callers at the combine.

Marquis Goodwin, WR, Texas (68.6) 5-9, 180
Goodwin might be the fastest player at the combine. The wide receiver has won World Junior Track Championships and was a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, finishing 10th in London in the long jump. He is small, unpolished and will have to define his ability as a pass catcher, but speed can’t be coached and Goodwin has it in spades.

Kiko Alonso, ILB, Oregon (67.1) 6-4, 245
In the new era of hybrid outside linebackers and defensive ends, Alonso possesses excellent athletic ability. He can rush the passer, drop into coverage and hold his ground against the run as his Rose Bowl Defensive Player of the Game award proves (five tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception in the Ducks' win over Wisconsin). He is a freaky athlete who will wow scouts with his upside. However, his downside is all self-inflicted miscues. He has had multiple arrests stemming from a DUI and public intoxication and also dealt with a torn right ACL.

Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech (63.8) 6-4, 230
Few players have more athletic ability than the Virginia Tech wide receiver. He has a massive frame and excellent speed to start on the outside and will bring a vertical threat to an NFL offense. He has all the physical tools to excel on Sundays and will be very impressive at the Combine. However, blocking, route running, focus and consistency kept Davis from ever exploding on the college gridiron. Scouts beware.

Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA (60.8) 6-7, 258
As far as size and athleticism at the tight end position, few will be as impressive at the combine as the former top prospect. The UCLA tight end teased coaches and fans with elite speed and agility for a player of his size. His career culminated with his best year, catching 12 touchdowns in 2012. However, he struggles as a run blocker and doesn’t exhibit top-notch toughness that most NFL tight ends need to be successful.

Related: Athlon Sports' Latest 2013 NFL Mock Draft

Other names to watch:

Datone Jones, DT, UCLA (85.6) 6-5, 280
Elite recruit with excellent size who underachieved his entire career until his final season.

Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU (84.6) 6-1, 210
Won’t wow scouts with measurables, but huge thumper and elite tackler.

Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech (74.4) 6-3, 210
Total knuckle-head who cares only about himself… but a freakish athlete.

Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State (68.0) 6-1, 230
Extremely impressive athlete who never posted big numbers at either Oregon or Kansas St.

Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State (67.0)
Doesn’t posses high-end speed but elite size, power, strength and dependability.

Teaser:
<p> 12 Players Who Could Dominate the NFL Combine</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-11-florida-state-seminoles
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. When Jimbo Fisher took over in Tallahassee, he reenergized the Seminoles' recruiting base in the region and more importantly in the state of Florida. The 2013 class is once again an excellent haul and it won the ACC recruiting championship, but the league didn't land a single top-10 class and that has to be a concerning sign for the conference.

No. 11: Florida State

ACC: First
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 4
National Signees: 8
Total Signees: 22

Where They Got 'Em:

Florida State has always been able to package a loaded in-state class with a national focus on elite talent. Jimbo Fisher made a conscious effort to focus more on in-state talent since taking over and the 2013 class is the same. He signed 15 Sunshine State prospects in this haul including six of the eight nationally rated players in this class. Border state Alabama supplied three prospects, Tennessee sent its best player to Tallahassee and both Virginia and Louisiana offered up one player each. New York — by way of South Florida — sent a junior college transfer to play in Doak Campbell Stadium too. 

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

National Signing Day was a yearly holiday at Florida State under Bobby Bowden, as the legendary coach would dominate the final day of the recruiting calendar each year. Fisher did his own Bowden impersonation by finishing the '13 cycle with a major flurry. He landed elite linebacker Matthew Thomas and yanked star defensive back Jalen Ramsey from USC's grasp. Both were top-15 players nationally and head a star-studded defensive class for the Noles.

Thomas heads a loaded five-man linebacking class that features nationally rated E.J. Levenberry and early enrollee Freddie Stevenson. Rumors swirled that Thomas wanted to sign elsewhere (USC, perhaps?), but should he stick at Florida State, he should be the best pure outside linebacker in the nation. Four of the five names hail from Florida while Levenberry played prep football in Virginia. All but Stevenson are 6-foot-3 and all but Thomas are at least 220 pounds. This group is the next wave of elite Noles tacklers. 

Ramsey is one of only three defensive backs signed in this class, but he is a great one. He has the size and rangy frame to bulk up and play safety but also the quickness and speed to play corner. Look for him to be used at a variety of positions early on before settling in as a cornerback. Marquez White is another tall, rangy corner and Nate Andrews could play either position. 

Along the defensive line, two of the four signees were ranked nationally by Athlon Sports. Demarcus Walker will play defensive end and is the prized gem of the group while Keith Bryant is the big star on the inside at tackle. Walker is joined by Davarez Bryant and Desmond Hollin on the outside, giving Fisher and company an excellent crop of new talent to replace the departed Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner.

Of the 10 total offensive signings, the line (4) and wide receiver (3) will get the most help. Ira Denson leads the offensive line class that could be cut short by one should early enrollee Richy Klepal decide not to play football. His doctors told him his long-term health was at risk following multiple concussions at powerhouse program Tampa (Fla.) Plant. Levonte Whitfield (5-9, 175) is the star wideout of the bunch and brings electric speed to the slot position. Isaiah Jones (6-4, 200) complements the smaller wide receivers with a big frame and down-the-field ability. 

Running back Ryan Green, however, is the highest-rated offensive prospect in the class. The star tailback is an all-purpose dynamo who missed a big chunk of his senior year due to a shoulder injury. With Jameis Winston set to take over the reins for the Seminoles offense, the lone quarterback signee, John Franklin III, appears to be more of a backup plan for the next three seasons. Jeremy Kerr brings a big frame (6-6, 254) as the lone tight end prospect in this class.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 4
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 5, DB: 3, ATH: 0

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
8. Matthew Thomas LB No. 3 Miami, Fla. 6-3 210
15. Jalen Ramsey DB No. 3 Nashville, Tenn. 6-1 195
36. Demarcus Walker DE No. 8 (DL) Jacksonville, Fla. 6-3 265
51. Ryan Green RB No. 9 St. Petersburg, Fla. 5-10 197
120. Ira Denson OL No. 17 Madison, Fla. 6-4 317
142. Levonte Whitfield WR No. 16 Orlando, Fla. 5-9 176
183. E.J. Levenberry LB No. 27 Woodbridge, Va. 6-3 230
216. Keith Bryant DT No. 40 (DL) Delray Beach, Fla. 6-2 306

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Richy Klepal OL Tampa, Fla. 6-4 285 --
Freddie Stevenson LB Bartow, Fla. 6-1 230 --
Demarcus Walker DE Jacksonville, Fla. 6-4 295 No. 36

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 11: Florida State Seminoles</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /mlb/major-league-baseballs-all-steroid-team
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy: Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Baseball Big Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Major League Baseball's All-Steroid Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 15:30
Path: /nascar/10-races-every-motorsports-fan-must-attend-2013
Body:

Athlon Sports has dissected the 2013 racing calendar and picked the top 10 must-see events of the year. Races from the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, Truck Series, IndyCar Series and Formula-1 were considered and events must take place within the lower 48 states. So gas up the RV and stock the coolers, because Athlon’s motorsports road trip is getting started this weekend:

1. Indianapolis 500 (97th)
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Where: Indianapolis, Ind.
When: May 26
Defending Champ: Dario Franchitti

Beginning in 1911, the Indy 500 is called the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for a reason. The releasing of the balloons, the singing of "Back Home Again In Indiana" by Jim Nabors, the drinking of the championship milk and the most famous words in motor sports will send chills down the spine of any racing fan. Drivers, crew chiefs and owners come from all over the world to compete at the world’s greatest track — a 2.5-mile oval complete with its own gold course — many of which will only compete in one race all season long. When an open-wheel rocket ship flies past Gasoline Alley or Tower Terrace down the front stretch and into the nastiest turn in racing at 230 miles per hour, the 300,000 spectators can’t help but smile. Many racing purists believe that the turns at IMS are the ultimate test for a driver. For many drivers, nothing in life will equal the Borg-Warner Trophy. And the Mardi Gras-esque party the night before is worth checking out (at your own risk, of course) too.

2. Daytona 500 (55th)
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Where: Daytona Beach, Fla.
When: Feb. 24
Defending Champ: Matt Kenseth

The Daytona 500 is to stock car racing as the Indy 500 is to open-wheel competition. The 500-mile Sprint Cup race stands alone as NASCAR’s most prestigious and most important race of the season each year. And as the sport’s “kickoff classic,” the build-up is nearly as entertaining as the event itself. Speedweek provides fans with ample opportunity to enjoy the Rolex 24, ARCA Series, Nationwide Series, Bud Shootout and qualifying throughout the weeklong festivities. The Great American Race, due in large part to restrictor plates, puts roughly 40 cars at full throttle inches from each other at over 200 miles per hour. It is the ultimate test of wills with the payoff being as high as there is in any sport.

Get Athlon Sports' complete Daytona 500 coverage

Mudsummer Classic3. Mudsummer Classic (1st)
Track: Eldora Speedway
Where: Rossburg, Ohio
When: July 24
Defending Champ: N/A

While the Indy and Daytona 500s are steeped in unmatchable history, tradition and lore, the inaugural Mudsummer Classic offers something totally different to fans this year. For the first time, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will race on dirt at famed Eldora Speedway in Ohio. The legendary half-mile oval track was built in 1954 and has been owned by Tony Stewart since 2004. The prospects of running a major series truck race on dirt smack-dab in the middle of the season has everyone excited about the late July trip to Rossburg. It will be the first NASCAR-sanctioned National Tour event held on dirt since September 1970. You don’t want to miss this one.

4. Irwin Tools Night Race (52nd)
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Where: Bristol, Tenn.
When: Aug. 24
Defending Champ: Denny Hamlin

The first time Bristol Motor Speedway hosted a night race under the lights was the Volunteer 500 in 1978. It has been one of the hottest and most entertaining NASCAR tickets ever since. The half-mile track is the fourth largest sports venue in America (165,000) and is nestled in “Thunder Valley” deep in the hills of East Tennessee. The track has long hosted two weekends, and both are excellent experiences, but the August race is clearly the one to go to if you can only pick one. Not only is racing under the lights more entertaining (and more comfortable for fans) but the late August date has become a key cog in NASCAR’s playoff structure. The driving is intense and physical and every seat in the house is perfect. There is a reason the Bristol night race is one of the hottest tickets in sports every year.

5. Formula-1 United States Grand Prix (2nd)
Track: Circuit of the Americas
Where: Austin, Texas
When: Nov. 17
Defending Champ: Lewis Hamilton

Technically, the F-1’s U.S. Grand Prix has been running on and off since 1908. Watkins Glen, Indianapolis and Phoenix have all hosted the event, but Austin’s brand new Circuit of the Americas appears to be its new home. The late November trip to Texas will be the series’ only visit to the United States in 2013, and for F-1 fans, will be a circled date on the calendar. The 3.4-mile track features 20 turns and will once again be the penultimate race of the F-1 season. Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural event a year ago over eventual points champion Sebastian Vettell by a mere six tenths of a second.

6. Camping World RV Sales 500 (45th)
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Where: Talladega, Ala.
When: Oct. 20
Defending Champ: Matt Kenseth

Since its inception in 1969, the race has been held in either September, August or July, and now resides in October, where it has been following a schedule change in 1997. It has become the wild-card event in the NASCAR Chase for the Championship with massive wrecks, bizarre racing strategies and unpredictable finishes. Many fans believe that restrictor-plate racing is the most entertaining in the sport and, much like the Daytona 500, wide-open engines inches from each other for 188 laps around the 2.66-mile tri-oval is one of the marquee dates on the racing calendar each season.

7. Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200
Track: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Where: Lexington, Ohio
When: Aug. 17
Defending Champ: N/A

While the truck series debuts on dirt in The Buckeye State, the Nationwide series will make its debut at a new track in Ohio as well. The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was opened in 1962 and has hosted GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, IndyCar, AMA Pro Racing, Le Mans and motorcycle events throughout the years. However, the Nationwide Series will bring a new audience to the 15-turn, 2.4-mile road course. And with the recent success and entertainment value of road races in all NASCAR circuits, this one should be filled with fireworks.

8. NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (29th)
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Where: Concord, N.C.
When: May 18
Defending Champ: Jimmie Johnson

Four 20-lap segments followed by a no-holds barred, every-man-for-themselves, rubbing is racing, 10-lap showdown for $1 million makes the NASCAR All-Star event one of the most intriguing and entertaining all-star events in all of American professional sports. Team orders and points championships mean nothing when roughly 20 drivers are thrown into a blender in NASCAR’s home town of Charlotte. The only drivers allowed to compete are winners from the previous and current seasons, the last ten All-Star winners and former points champions. It is a straight cash grab — except it’s done by the world’s best drivers using 900-horsepower performance machines.

Related: Ranking Pro Sports' Most Popular All-Star Events

9. Federated Auto Parts 400 (55th)
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Where: Richmond, Va.
When: Sept. 7
Defending Champ: Clint Bowyer

Famed Richmond International has hosted a late-season NASCAR event since 1958 when Speedy Thompson won the 100-mile event. It has gone by dozens of names over the years, but in 2004 the race at the asphalt 0.75-mile oval took on new meaning. It is the final race of NASCAR’s regular season and, with the newly implemented wild card points system, every lap at Richmond provides edge-of-your-seat action. Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch battled feverishly on every lap at RIR last season in an attempt to secure a spot in the Chase for the Championship.

10. Goody’s Fast Relief 500 (64th)
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Where: Ridgeway, Va.
When: Oct. 27
Defending Champ: Jimmie Johnson

Few races combine the importance of the moment, the tradition of the location and the excitement of elite racing like Martinsville. Additionally, positioned with just four races to go in the NASCAR season, few races will play as big a role in the Sprint Cup Championship like The Paperclip as well. Martinsville Speedway also is the longest active location in the series as at least one race has been run here every year since 1949 and the fall race has been running every year since 1950. Its unique slender shape and sharp turns help the 0.526-mile half-asphalt, half-concrete course produce some of the best on-track action of any venue on the circuit.

Best of the Rest:

“The Brickyard” (Sprint Cup)
July 28, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Southern 500 (Sprint Cup)
May 11, Darlington Raceway

DuPont Pioneer 250, U.S. Cellular 250 (Nationwide)
June 8 and Aug. 3, Iowa Speedway

Coke Zero 400 (Sprint Cup)
July 6, Daytona International Speedway

Aaron’s 499 (Sprint Cup)
May 5, Talladega Superspeedway

Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 (IndyCar)
May 5, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Road America 200 (Nationwide)
June 22, Road America

Food City 500 (Sprint Cup)
Mar 17, Bristol Motor Speedway

Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (Sprint Cup)
Aug. 11, Watkins Glen International

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (IndyCar)
Mar. 24, St. Petersburg, Fla. 

Teaser:
<p> The 10 Races Every Motorsports Fan Must Attend in 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-10-auburn-tigers
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Gus Malzahn took over for Gene Chizik on The Plains and instantly brought a renewed energy to the Auburn program. His Tigers were one of the big winners on National Signing Day and it resulted in a top 10 class that should build the foundation for a return to success on the field.

No. 10: Auburn Tigers 

SEC: Sixth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 3
National Signees: 7
Total Signees: 23

Where They Got 'Em:

Malzahn has the unenviable task of recruiting at an elite level in the same state as Nick Saban. And while Alabama landed the top five players in the state, Auburn did an excellent job inside the Yellowhammer State. Six new faces that hail from Alabama signed with Auburn, including two nationally rated quarterbacks who will vie for playing time in the new offense.

Florida (4), Georgia (3) and Mississippi (1) will always be a focus for the Auburn coaching staff and this season was no exception. Oklahoma, Indiana and Colorado are non-traditional recruiting territories for Auburn, but Malzahn went into each state and landed one player, while community colleges in Kansas (5) and California (1) also added to the Tigers' haul.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

Auburn had many issues a year ago, and not all of them will be addressed in one recruiting class, but Malzahn is looking to check the quarterback position off his "to do" list. Jeremy Johnson is the highest-rated prospect at the position and has elite upside. He is generously listed at 6-5 and 215 pounds and earned Mr. Football honors in Alabama after throwing for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2012. He will battle with another nationally rated signal caller in Jason Smith. The 6-1, 180-pounder is a dual-threat talent who will bring a different dimension than Johnson to the new Auburn offense. Should either freshman not prove to be ready, Malzahn has another option in junior college transfer Nick Marshall. The dynamic athlete threw for 3,142 yards and rushed for 1,095 a year ago at Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

Joining the talented trio of quarterbacks in the backfield are three new running backs. Under previous regimes the power rushing attack was a signature of Auburn football, however, under Chizik this offense lacked the physical presence many fans were accustomed to (minus Cam Newton, of course). While none of the three are nationally ranked by Athlon, speedster Johnathan Ford, early enrollee junior college prospect Cameron Artis-Payne and Peach State workhorse Peyton Barber should more than take care of the backfield woes on The Plains.

On the outside of the offense, four wide receivers provide new playmaking ability. Tony Stevens (6-3, 175) and Earnest Robinson (6-2, 200) bring big frames and plenty of vertical talent to an offense that needs some big-play talent. Marcus Davis (5-10, 165) will play in the slot and two-way star Dominic Walker (6-2, 195) can play all over the offense.

Malzahn signed only two offensive linemen in this class and neither were nationally rated.

After struggling so mightily to control the line of scrimmage against elite SEC offensive lines, Auburn had to address the defensive line. And it did so in a big way as all three AC100 signings will play along the D-line. The best three players in this class — Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel — make this one of the more intriguing defensive line groups in the nation. Adams, who is one of the top tackle prospects in the nation if not the top player at his position, will run with JUCO Ben Bradley on the interior while Daniel and Lawson provide serious talent on the edge. Replacing Corey Lemonier won't be easy but this class has the talent to come close.

A fairly non-descript four-man secondary class and two-man linebacking class provide some interesting depth to the back end of the defense. While none of the defensive backs are nationally ranked, the group has some excellent upside. Khari Harding and Brandon King bring elite size to the safety spot while Mackenro Alexander and Kamryn Melton will man the cornerback position.

It's a long and uphill battle to catch up with Alabama within the state lines, but Auburn's new coaching staff took a big first step with a top ten class in 2013.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 3, RB: 3, WR: 4, TE: 0, OL: 2
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 2, DB: 4, ATH: 0, K: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
10. Montravius Adams DT No. 4 (DL) Vienna, Ga. 6-3 310
21. Carl Lawson DE No. 6 (DL)  Alpharetta, Ga. 6-2 250
50. Elijah Daniel DE No. 12 (DL) Avon, Ind. 6-4 250
155. Jeremy Johnson QB No. 14 Montgomery, Ala. 6-5 215
167. Tony Stevens WR No. 17 Orlando, Fla. 6-3 175
180. Jason Smith QB No. 19 Mobile, Ala. 6-1 180
190. Earnest Robinson WR No. 23 Pinson, Ala. 6-2 205

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Cameron Artis-Payne RB Harrisburg, Pa. 5-11 210 --
Ben Bradley DT Hutchinson, Kan. 6-1 305 JUCO
Devonte Danzey OL Hutchinson, Kan. 6-4 295 JUCO

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 10: Auburn Tigers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-9-ucla-bruins
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Jim Mora got his tenure at UCLA kick-started with a great season on the field, nearly winning a conference championship. He parlayed it into the Pac-12's No. 1-rated recruiting class, dethroning the USC Trojans from their typical perch.

No. 9: UCLA Bruins

Pac-12: First
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
3
National Signees: 10
Total Signees: 24

Where They Got 'Em:

Jim Mora didn't over-think his first full recruiting class at UCLA. He targeted the best states for talent in the nation, by landing 13 players from California, three from Texas and two from Florida. Otherwise, he picked and chose his way through a handful of other states for elite players. He landed a nationally rated player from Arizona, Washington, Hawaii and Tennessee as well. In all, the Bruins used seven states to sign 24 new players.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The back seven of the defense got the most attention in the Bruins' 2013 haul. Nine new faces will play defensive back or linebacker for Mora and seven of them are nationally rated in the AC100 rankings. Star top 100 safeties Priest Willis and Tahaan Goodman, as well as Tyler Foreman, form one of the most impressive safety classes anywhere in the nation. Johnny Johnson is the lone cornerback of the group as all four defensive backs are four-star recruits.

Three of the five linebackers are highly touted as well with Isaac Savaiinaea, Myles Jack and Deon Hollins Jr. the highest-rated of the bunch. All three bring great height (6-3, 6-3, 6-2) and excellent size (230, 230, 222) to campus with them. Interestingly enough, all three hail from outside of California. Jayon Brown and Cameron Judge are smaller, quicker players who likely fit perfectly on the outside. This is a balanced and talented linebacking class.

A pair of defensive lineman, including top-rated Kylie Fitts, gives Mora a couple more bodies to help the deep group that is already returning to Westwood.

On offense, the line of scrimmage was clearly the area of focus. UCLA didn't sign a running back, picked up just one tight end and only one quarterback signed with the Bruins. Yet, seven offensive lineman inked scholarships with UCLA. Only Christian Morris is rated nationally and he comes to the West Coast all the way from Memphis, Tenn., but overall this group is extremely deep and helps rebuild an area of the team that has been a major concern under previous regimes. Morris will battle with Poasi Moala and Kenny Lacy at the tackle position. Caleb Benenoch, John Lopez and Alex Redmond will compete at guard while Scott Quessenberry appears to be the next starting center. This is an excellent group that has tremendous balance.

Quarterback Asiantii Woulard could be the star of this class, however, once this group begins to contribute on the field. Coming to UCLA all the way from Florida, the talented dual-threat player wanted to play in the UCLA scheme Brett Hundley made successful last fall. He can do everything this offense asks of its quarterbacks and he could be the heir apparent to Mr. Hundley.

A trio of unranked wide receivers signed in this class as well. Early enrollee Eldridge Massington (6-3, 205) brings a big frame and outside, vertical ability while the smaller Darren Andrews and Jalen Ortiz will fill the slot roles in the near future.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 0, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 7
Defense: DL: 2, LB: 5, DB: 4, P: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
39. Priest Willis DB No. Tempe, Ariz. 6-2 200
65. Tahaan Goodman DB No. Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. 6-2 190
93. Isaac Savaiinaea LB No. Honolulu, Hawaii 6-3 230
103. Kylie Fitts DL No. Redlands, Calif. 5-11 180
137. Myles Jack LB No. Bellevue, Wash. 6-3 230
147. Johnny Johnson DB No. Fresno, Calif. 5-10 180
152. Asiantii Woulard QB No. Winter Park, Fla. 6-3 205
169. Tyler Foreman DB No. Encino, Calif. 6-2 190
178. Deon Hollins Jr LB No. Missouri City, Texas 6-2 222
207. Christian Morris OL No. Memphis, Tenn. 6-6 285

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Eldridge Massington WR Mesquite, Texas 6-3 205 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 9: UCLA Bruins</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR
Path: /nfl/ranking-pro-sports-most-popular-all-star-games
Body:

Another lackluster NBA All-Star weekend wrapped up in Houston Sunday night. The dunk contest isn't what it used to be and the game features superstars playing some sport vaguely akin to professional basketball. But on the surface, the NBA All-Star game gets rave reviews from die-hard fans and celebrity hoopsters alike. The pomp and circumstance of the NBA — and its overall culture — lends itself perfectly to a glamorous, exclusive weekend where only the elite get an invite.

However, the numbers say something different about its popularity. Fewer people tune in to the NBA All-Star game than both the Pro Bowl or MLB's midsummer classic. Yet, for some reason, people love to publicly, and rather loudly, hate the Pro Bowl.

Well, they are all just liars.

Because the Pro Bowl — a game the players don't want to play in and one this particular football fan hasn’t watched in nearly a decade — is still the most popular all-star event in professional sports. And there is a reason the Pro Bowl is the most popular All-Star event in all of the major American sports.

1. NFL Pro Bowl (Jan.)
Despite more public grumbling and finger-wagging than any other sport, the NFL’s Pro Bowl is still the most popular all-star game in American professional sports. The game pulled a 7.1 U.S. rating last month, down slightly from the previous year’s rating of 7.3. The game itself is actually the farthest from its regular-season form than any other sport, as the NFL implements rule changes for safety concerns. It's also the only all-star game in which the athletes have no real interest in actually competing at a high level. How could it possibly be in the best interest of Haloti Ngata to give it his all in the Pro Bowl? There is no incentive to play a "real" game, and better yet, is it even reasonable to expect that from these gladiators who destroy their bodies for the fans every Sunday? The high-scoring devolution of the game might deserve some credit for pulling in viewers, but the real answer is much more simple. The worst all-star event is the most popular all-star event because football is king. If the oblong spheroid is on the TV, people will watch.

2. MLB All-Star Game (July)
The midsummer classic was as much a part of my childhood as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But if the recent viewership trends continue, the game could be relegated to cable TV sooner rather than later. Broadcast on FOX since 2001, MLB’s All-Star Game has watched a steady decline in ratings since its peak in 1970 (28.5). It reached a historic low last summer with a 6.8 number. Making it “count” by adding home-field advantage to the stakes hasn’t had the impact Commissioner Bud Selig had hoped. This game seems to rouse the most nostalgia and seems to be the most highly thought of by dedicated sports fans (myself included). However, the trends are concerning and it clearly sits well behind the NFL.

3. NBA All-Star Game (Feb.)
It is hard to argue that the NBA All-Star festivities didn’t peak in the early 1990s. The Dunk Contest was electric because the best players in the game took it seriously and delivered a show for the fans every year (looking at you Michael and Dominique). And the ratings for the game itself prove that out with a high-water TV mark of 14.3 in 1993. However, since the early '90s, the game has seen a steady decline until recently. After bottoming out with a 4.2 rating in 2007, the game reached its highest numbers last fall since '03 (6.6). The 2012 event posted a 5.4 U.S. rating, up slightly from the '11 game, which drew a 5.2 U.S. rating. Is this a trend that will continue and potentially allow the NBA to move ahead of baseball? Or will competing with Sunday night TV and occasionally the Oscars eventually halt any growth the league has seen in recent years?

4. NASCAR All-Star Race (May)
NASCAR’s all-star event is extremely entertaining and might be one of the few events that actually improves on the regular-season product. A shortened field running a shortened race over various segments with no points implications and loads of cash on the line? Yes, please. In all but one year — Atlanta in 1986 — the event has been held at Charlotte Motorspeedway, the home track and birthplace of the entire sport. Yet, much like the rest of the NASCAR viewership, the ratings simply don’t carry the weight of football or baseball. That is the bad news. The good news is that the numbers have been stable for a long period of time pulling a 2.2 in 2012 after three straight 2.1’s from 2009-11. This might be the most underrated of the professional all-star events.

5. NHL All-Star Game (Jan.)
As expected, this is easily the lowest rated all-star event of the four main professional sports. This is partly due to Olympic and work stoppage interruptions but also because the sport has been relegated to smaller cable networks. It’s unfortunate since the gameplay itself is some of the most enjoyable of any of the pro events. The game still pulls solid ratings in Canada but the overall US viewership is clearly the lowest of the major sports. The 2011 event pulled a 1.3, up 33 percent from the '09 game, and was the highest such number since the '04 event that landed a 2.7 U.S. mark. After two years of steady TV ratings, it will be interesting to see what happens to the NHL mid-season classic. The work stoppage this season led to the game being cancelled and there will be no all-star game in 2014 due to the Winter Olympics in Russia. So the 60th annual NHL All-Star game in Columbus, Ohio, has been pushed back until January 2015.

6. MLS All-Star Game (July)
One of the least popular pro sports in America is soccer. And despite pockets of deeply passionate fans — kudos to you fútbol fans in Seattle, by the way — the sport has lagged behind its other professional brethren since its inception in 1996. So the other all-star game played in the summer is relegated to a mid-week broadcast on ESPN2. The game pulled a 0.34 U.S. TV rating in 2012, down from a 0.46 in '11. Unfortunately, soccer will never be huge in this country and neither will its all-star event.

Teaser:
<p> Ranking Pro Sports' Most Popular All-Star Games</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-8-texas-am-aggies
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. No team in the nation has capitalized more on its recent conference defection than the Texas A&M Aggies. Yes, finally hiring a quality coach and a redshirt freshman Heisman Trophy winner help, but make no mistake, the little "SEC" logo on shoulder pads and coaching polos is making the biggest impact on the recruiting trail. And with the recent struggles of Mack Brown at Texas, the Lone Star State could be up for grabs.

No. 8: Texas A&M Aggies

SEC: Fifth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 3
National Signees: 9
Total Signees: 32

Where They Got 'Em:

The battle for the state of Texas could be one of the more intriguing recruiting tugs-of-war to watch over the next few years. Kevin Sumlin has the Aggies brand riding at an all-time high, and while the Longhorns are always the biggest program in the state, he has noticeably closed the in-state gap. The Aggies landed 23 players from the Lone Star State, including eight nationally ranked prospects. It's the exact same number that Mack Brown landed at Texas this year and that is a huge step in the right direction for Sumlin.

New SEC territories, Louisiana (3) and Georgia (2), delivered five prospects to College Station while Sumlin went out West for a total of four players from California (2), Hawaii and Arizona.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The overall depth of this class is tremendous. In fact, some are wondering how Texas A&M is going to get all 32 players under the scholarship limitations (star wideout Derrick Griffin doesn't even count). But with eight early enrollees counting back towards the 2012 class, Sumlin should be able to restock his roster with one of the largest hauls in the nation. And the passing game stands out like a Johnny Manziel touchdown run.

Six wide receivers, one tight end and two quarterbacks give Sumlin and his high-flying passing attack an entirely new toy box. Ricky Seals-Jean is the top-rated player in this class and brings a massive (6-5, 225) frame to the vertical passing game. Smallish speedsters Sebastian Larue and LaQuvionte Gonzalez will be dynamic in the slot and short passing game. And former AC100 (2012) wide receiver Ja'Quay Williams will finally get to a college campus after a year of prep school. He is an elite 6-3, 210-pound big-play machine who might be the most gifted pass-catcher in the class. Toss in former Tennessee tight end Cameron Clear and Manziel should have loads of weapons to throw to.

Backing up Manziel will be two nationally ranked quarterback prospects from Texas. Few teams can lure more than one elite player at this position but the chance to play in Sumlin's system is obviously a big draw. Kohl Stewart (6-2, 200) and Kenny Hill (6-1, 215) each bring a different style to the position. Stewart was a three-star prospect who is more of a pure passer while Hill earned Texas Gatorade Player of the Year and 5A Offensive Player of the Year honors at storied Southlake (Texas) Carroll. Technically, Manziel could leave A&M for the NFL following the 2013 season and having two elite passers to back him up is quite a luxury.

One running back and three offensive line prospects also signed with the Aggies in this class. None are considered nationally ranked prospects.

Even though Sumlin is an offensive coach with an elite scheme, he understands that to win in the SEC he will have to be strong on defense. In particular, the front seven. He signed six defensive lineman and linebackers in this class, completely restocking his defensive front. The defensive line is especially talented as three of the top five players in this class will play along the D-line. Justin Manning and Isaiah Golden are stud tackles who will stabilize the interior of the line while Daeshon Hall, a late signing day flip-flop from Washington, gives the line a tremendous pass-rushing presence. Jay Arnold and Jordan Points will join Hall on the outside while Hardreck Walker will play inside with Manning and Golden. This was a key area of focus and could be the key to success in the SEC.

None of the six-man linebacking class were nationally ranked but they are an extremely deep and versatile group. The seven-man secondary class was headlined by nationally ranked safety Kameron Miles. He is one of four safeties to sign with the Aggies. Sumlin also signed three cornerbacks to bolster the outside of his pass defense. His defensive class isn't loaded with five-star talent but it is one of the deepest groups in the nation with 19 signees headed for that side of the ball.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 6, TE: 1, OL: 3
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 6, DB: 7, ATH: 0

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
25. Ricky Seals-Jean WR No. 3 Sealy, Texas 6-5 225
76. Justin Manning DT No. 15 (DL)  Dallas, Texas 6-1 270
94. Isaiah Golden DT No. 17 (DL) Carthage, Texas 6-2 320
127. Sebastian Larue WR No. 15 Los Angeles, Calif. 5-11 180
136. Daeshon Hall DE No. 24 (DL) Lancaster, Texas 6-6 225
170. Kohl Stewart QB No. 16 Tomball, Texas 6-2 200
185. LaQuvionte Gonzalez WR No. 22 Cedar Hill, Texas 5-10 165
195. Kameron Miles S No. 32 (DB) Mesquite, Texas 6-1 215
219. Kenny Hill QB No. 23 Southlake, Texas 6-1 215

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Reggie Chevis LB Houston, Texas 6-1 255 --
Cameron Clear TE Yuma, Ariz. 6-6 270 JUCO
A.J. Hilliard LB Klein, Texas 6-2 210 Transfer
Jordan Points DE Rockwall, Texas 6-3 255 --
Tommy Sanders LB Butler, Kan. 6-2 210 JUCO
Alex Sezer Jr CB Orange, Texas 5-9 180 --
Brett Wade LB Kennedale, Texas 6-1 225 --
Ja'Quay Williams WR Fork Union, Va. 6-3 210 Prep School

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 8: Texas A&amp;M Aggies</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 06:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-recruiting-big-ten-team-consensus-rankings-2013
Body:

Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. The Big Ten's recruiting trail is chalked full of intriguing storylines. Coaches on the hot seat struggling, a host of new coaching staffs are getting adjusted, Nebraska is beginning to flex its recruiting muscle and two historic programs are setting an entirely new bar.

Related: The Class of 2013 Top 25 Recruiting Classes

Urban vs. Brady
Big Ten recruiting has become a distinctive two-horse race. Michigan and Ohio State have long been the best two programs and two most powerful brands in the Big Ten, but the new coaches have taken it to a new level. Brady Hoke has the Maize and Blue back in the top five nationally in just two seasons and Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes competing for recruiting national championships after just one season in Columbus. And there appears no reason to think that this trend will slow down any time soon. The rest of the league — even Nebraska and Penn State — has been left scrambling to keep up with the big boys from Michigan and Ohio State.

Bill O’Brien works small miracles
In the face of the worst NCAA scandal in history and unprecedented heavy-handed sanctions, O’Brien put together one of the most impressive classes in the nation. Christian Hackenberg has a good chance at being the best quarterback in the nation and might even turn out to be the best player in the nation regardless of position. The fact this was a small group at only 17 total signees but still landed fourth in the Big Ten is impressive and to nearly land in the top 30 nationally with the swirling negativity in Happy Valley is astonishing. O'Brien also deserves credit for sticking around when he clearly had offers to return to the NFL.

Bo’s best Big Red class
Nebraska recruiting during the Internet era (since 2002) hasn’t been up to par with past Cornhuskers success on the field. And Bo Pelini’s classes haven’t been top 25 groups with the exception of the 2011 haul (17th nationally). In fact, the 2013 class tied that year as Pelini’s best recruiting class during his five-year tenure in Lincoln (17th). Otherwise, his classes have consistently ranked much lower than one would expect from Nebraska: 37th in 2008, 33rd in 2009, 31st in 2010 and 26th in 2012. The last three have easily been the best with two top 20 classes in three years. Perhaps, Big Red recruiting has turned a corner.

Sneaky good class for Kevin Wilson
Indiana has ranked no better than 59th nationally (2009, '11) in the last five classes and has been ranked as low as 92nd (2010). The Hoosiers average an 11th place finish in Big Ten recruiting rankings and have an average national rank of 70.8 over the last five seasons. But in 2013, Kevin Wilson’s staff made quite a statement by finishing seventh in the league and 46th nationally. This is the best IU class in recent memory and it should only continue the positive momentum for this team after improving from one to four wins in 2012.

Bad timing for Kirk Ferentz
The embattled Iowa head coach is making a whole lot of money — roughly $3.65 million per season — to be losing eight games a year. So the timing of this below average recruiting class for Ferentz couldn’t have been worse. The Hawkeyes average a sixth place finish in Big Ten in recruiting over the last five years, so claiming the 10th-rated class in the league this fall won’t sit well with the fans. The 53rd-rated class in the nation has to be considered a disappointment after three straight solid classes, including the No. 30-ranked group in 2011.

Related: Ranking the nation's most talented rosters

2013 Athlon Sports Big Ten Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat'l Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. Ohio State 2nd 10 24 2nd 5th 1st 3rd
2. Michigan 5th 5 27 5th 8th 2nd 6th
3. Nebraska 17th 0 26 17th 21st 11st 23rd
4. Penn State 33rd 2 17 40th 26th 45st 24th
5. Michigan State 36th 0 18 38th 40th 44th 35th
6. Wisconsin 38th 0 17 56th 34th 38th 33rd
7. Indiana 46th 0 22 41st 45th 51st --
8. Illinois 48th 0 25 46th 55th 42nd --
9. Northwestern 52nd 0 21 53rd 54th 46th --
10. Iowa 53rd 0 21 52nd 53rd 52nd --
11. Purdue 60th 0 23 55th 66th 58th --
12. Minnesota 69th 0 18 60th 70th 74th --

Teaser:
<p> College Football Recruiting: Big Ten Team Consensus Rankings for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 06:42
All taxonomy terms: AC100, LSU Tigers, Recruiting, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-7-lsu-tigers
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. The LSU Tigers have recruited as well as any team in the nation in recent years and 2013 is no different. This group is nationally elite and sets a foundation for future success on the Bayou. The only issue? Finishing seventh nationally is only good for fourth in the SEC and third in the SEC West.

No. 7: LSU Tigers

SEC: Fourth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 5
National Signees: 14
Total Signees: 27

Where They Got 'Em:

Les Miles knows that Louisiana is one of the more underrated states for elite talent. He inked 12 of his 27 players in this class from The Pelican State, including five nationally rated recruits. The rest of the SEC helped out as well, sending three prospects each from both Florida and Georgia. Alabama and Tennessee each shipped one player to Baton Rouge as well.

Miles also went outside of his region to get talent. LSU landed two big-time players from California, including a potential star in quarterback Hayden Rettig. Illinois and North Carolina each sent an AC100 prospect while Nebraska and New Jersey watched a nationally rated prospect head South to play for the Tigers as well.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

This class' breakdown has to start with the line of scrimmage. Twelve new faces, seven on defense and five on offense, will play in the trenches from this class. The defensive line class, which technically doesn't include AC100 talent Kendell Beckwith because he is listed as a linebacker, is one of the best collections of talent in the nation. End Frank Herron and tackle Greg Gilmore lead the way as the top-rated names in the group, as both were AC100 prospects. Three more nationally rated names in tackles Christian LaCouture and Maquedius Bain and end Tashawn Bower bring massive size and versatile athleticism. Add to it smallish ends Lewis Neal and M.J. Patterson and Miles has arguably the deepest and most talented defensive line class in the nation. 

On the opposite side of the ball, elite blocker Ethan Pocic leads the way. He has bookend tackle size and athleticism. Josh Boutte is a mauler inside and was nationally ranked as well. Andy Dodd, K.J. Malone and massive junior college prospect Fehoko Fanaika (6-6, 340) round out a very talented offensive line group. This five-man class can play all three positions on the line and should only continue LSU's recent run of elite blockers.

Beckwith, who is officially listed as a linebacker by the Tigers, could be yet another rush end if he adds weight and proves he can handle the running games in the SEC. Otherwise, he heads a three-man linebacking group that is talented but doesn't match the depth of the Tigers' 2012 LB haul.

On the back end of the defense, this class' top prospect will be the star. Tre'Davious White is an electric cornerback who will make a immediate impact on special teams. He could remind fans in Baton Rouge of the Honey Badger in that sense — well, on the field, at least — and should likely be a much better coverman. Rashard Robinson and Rickey Jefferson round out a fairly small secondary class. 

LSU didn't sign a single running back in this class and none of the four wide receivers were nationally ranked. Early enrollee and prep school prospect Avery Johnson should be the best of the group once he finally gets into the offense. Tight end DeSean Smith is one of the most game-ready players at his position in the nation and could easily be the earliest contributor of all the offensive skill players in this class. 

The quarterback position should be in good hands, however, as two of the top 25 signal callers in the nation signed with LSU. Hayden Rettig, the younger brother of Boston College starter Chase, is the higher-rated of the bunch and was an Army All-American this winter. The pro-style passer will compete with dual-threat prospect Anthony Jennings for the starting job once Zach Mettenberger moves on. They are built very similarly — both are listed at 6-2 and 200 pounds — but each brings a unique skill set to the offense, giving Miles and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron plenty to work with in the coming years.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 0, WR: 4, TE: 2, OL: 5 
Defense: DL: 7, LB: 3, DB: 3, ATH: 1 

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
45. Tre'Davious White DB No. 11 Shreveport, La. 5-10 170
57. Ethan Pocic OL No. 5 Lemont, Ill. 6-7 285
70. Frank Herron DE No. 13 (DL) Memphis, Tenn. 6-5 245
73. Greg Gilmore DT No. 14 (DL) Hope Mills, N.C. 6-4 275
77. Kendell Beckwith LB No. 8 Jackson, La. 6-3 225
125. DeSean Smith TE No. 5 Lake Charles, La. 6-4 225
128. Jeryl Brazil ATH No. 3 Loranger, La. 5-9 180
143. Hayden Rettig QB No. 10 Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 200
144. Josh Boutte OL No. 21 New Iberia, La. 6-4 325
193. Rashard Robinson DB No. 31 Pompano Beach, Fla. 6-1 165
206. Christian LaCouture DT No. 36 (DL) Lincoln, Neb. 6-5 290
210. Maquedius Bain DT No. 37 (DL) Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 6-5 285
213. Tashawn Bower DL No. 38 Somerville, N.J. 6-5 240
231. Anthony Jennings QB No. 25 Marietta, Ga. 6-2 205

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
John Diarse WR Monroe, La. 6-0 210 --
Fehoko Fanaika OL San Mateo, Calif. 6-6 340 JUCO
Anthony Jennings QB Marietta, Ga. 6-2 205 No. 231
Avery Johnson WR Pompano Beach, Fla. 6-1 180 --
Christian LaCouture DE Lincoln, Neb. 6-5 290 No. 206
Ethan Pocic OL Lemont, Ill. 6-6 285 No. 57
Hayden Rettig QB Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 200 No. 143
Logan Stokes TE Booneville, Miss. 6-4 240 JUCO

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 7: LSU Tigers</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-6-ole-miss-rebels
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation.

Few teams in the nation had a more exciting, more explosive National Signing Day than the Ole Miss Rebels. Head coach Hugh Freeze built on tangible momentum by finishing with a flurry of commitments on the cycle's final day. This is arguably the best recruiting class in school history and it all began with the nation's No. 1 prospect.

No. 6: Ole Miss Rebels

SEC: Third
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 4
National Signees: 7
Total Signees: 28

Where They Got 'Em:

The SEC footprint supplied all but one prospect in Ole Miss' 28-man class. Only Laquon Treadwell from Illinois heads to Oxford from outside of the SEC region. The state of Mississippi, which is one of the best states for talent per capita, provided nine athletes to Ole Miss. The Magnolia State had an above average year for talent in 2013 and Freeze capitalized.

Georgia (5), Tennessee (4), Alabama (3), Texas (3), Florida (2) and Louisiana (1) each shipped talented athletes to The Grove as well. Freeze and his staff used almost every SEC state to build this class and had a presence in every SEC West state except Arkansas. 

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

Hugh Freeze turned the Ole Miss offense around in one short season and he knows he needed to add big-time playmakers to that side of the ball. He did just that with at least 12 offensive skill players in this class and the potential for more should one or more of the "athletes" land on offense. 

Ryan Buchanan (6-4, 205) and Devante Kincade (6-1, 185) bring two totally different skill sets to the quarterback position. Freeze will have both a dual-threat option with athletic ability (Kincade) and a pro-style pocket passer (Buchanan) to work with in the near future. This duo should give Ole Miss a solid foundation at the most important position on the field. 

The best thing Freeze could do for his two young signal callers was surround them with elite talent. Three wide receivers and three tight ends should give these quarterbacks plenty of talented targets. Laquon Treadwell is the nation's No. 1 wide receiver in the nation and he should play right away. He is a special talent who is extremely gifted and physically prepared for the SEC as a freshman. He highlights the six-man pass-catching class that also could feature former elite recruit Nick Brassell. The electric athlete was an AC100 wide receiver in 2011 but needed a pit stop at East Mississippi Community College before landing in Oxford.

A deep and talented four-man running back class also completely restocks the roster. Two of the top seven players in this class, Kailo Moore and Mark Dodson, will tote the rock for the Rebels. Both bring state championship pedigrees and workhorse backgrounds. Eugene Brazley brings a smaller frame and some speed while Jordan Wilkins is the bigger, rangier power back. Ole Miss should have at least one quality replacement for Jeff Scott.

What will make those four runners successful, however, will be a four-player offensive line class led by a pair of elite prospects. Laremy Tunsil is the No. 1 offensive line recruit in the nation and has bookend prototypical left tackle skills. Austin Golson barely missed landing in the AC100 and has elite tackle upside as well. Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson could both end up at guard and round out a very nice OL class.

The defense got less of the focus with just eight players slated to play on that side of the ball. The defensive line — as well as the entire class, for that matter — is headlined by the nation's No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche. He is a college-ready edge rusher as a freshman and could easily develop into the game's best inside-outside three-down defensive lineman by his junior season. A pair of tackles join him on the defensive line and two middle-of-the pack linebacker recruits help bolster the front seven. Ole Miss' defense already has some young talent, which is why Freeze didn't focus on his front seven in this cycle.

Antonio Conner is one of the top safety recruits in the nation and he leads the three-man secondary signing class. Much like the receivers, however, this group could get a boost should any of the three "athletes" land on defense.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 4, WR: 3, TE: 3, OL: 4
Defense: DL: 3, LB: 2, DB: 3, ATH: 3, K: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
1. Robert Nkemdiche DE No. 1 (DL) Loganville, Ga. 6-5 270
3. Laremy Tunsil OL No. 1 Lake City, Fla. 6-6 320
14. Laquon Treadwell WR No. 1 Crete, Ill. 6-3 198
32. Tony Conner DB No. 9 (DB) Batesville, Miss. 6-2 205
107. Austin Golson OL No. 15 Prattville, Ala. 6-6 290
138. Kailo Moore RB No. 19 Rosedale, Miss. 5-10 190
217. Mark Dodson RB No. 24 Memphis, Tenn. 5-10 195

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht. Wt. AC100
Mark Dodson RB Memphis, Tenn. 5-10 195 No. 217
Lavon Hooks DT Booneville, Miss. 6-4 290 JUCO
Quadarus Mireles ATH Raymond, Miss. 5-11 185 JUCO
Christian Morgan TE Plano, Texas 6-4 255 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 6: Ole Miss Rebels</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/sec-east-football-schedule-analysis-2013
Body:

With signing day in the books, spring practice is just around the corner for all 125 FBS teams. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the upcoming season and some of the key games on the schedule.

The SEC East appears to be a three-team battle atop the standings next season. Georgia and South Carolina are the likely frontrunners, with Florida slightly behind the Bulldogs and Gamecocks. Georgia faces a tougher schedule than it has in recent years, but South Carolina has to play in Athens this year.

While Georgia, Florida and South Carolina will likely be the only top-25 teams from the East, Vanderbilt is poised to earn its third consecutive bowl berth, while Tennessee and Kentucky should show improvement under new coaching staffs. Missouri had a disappointing debut in the SEC but could be better with a full offseason for quarterback James Franklin to heal.

With spring practice getting ready to start across the nation, Athlon takes a look at the schedules for each of the SEC East teams and examines some of the interesting storylines, scheduling tidbits and trends to watch. 

Related Content: SEC West 2013 Schedule Analysis

SEC East Football Schedule Analysis for 2013

Florida

Aug. 31 Toledo
Sept. 7 at Miami, Fla.
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 Tennessee
Sept. 28 at Kentucky
Oct. 5 Arkansas
Oct. 12 at LSU
Oct. 19 at Missouri
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 2 Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Nov. 9 Vanderbilt
Nov. 16 at South Carolina
Nov. 23 Georgia Southern
Nov. 30 Florida State

* The second week should be circled for Florida fans. Al Golden has Miami pointed in the right direction and seems to be making progress nearly every week with a young roster will only continue to develop. This is a huge moment for the Hurricanes getting the SEC power at home and will be a major hurdle for Florida to clear so early in the season. A win over the Canes likely means a 5-0 start heading into Baton Rouge.

* Florida will play both major Sunshine State powers in Miami and Florida State. The three-team round robin is great for college football in the state of Florida and fans across the country should be paying attention. The Gators will be favored in both games but this could feature three fairly evenly matched teams.

* Following the trip to Miami in Week 2, Florida will get an off week before hosting Tennessee. The Gators have won eight straight over the Vols and while Will Muschamp gets an extra week to prepare for new coach Butch Jones, Tennessee will be traveling to Eugene, Ore., and back. This all but assures a ninth straight win for the Gators.

* Five straight SEC games pinnacle with a trip to Baton Rouge. This has been one of the best and most physical crossover rivalries in the conference and both teams could easily be unbeaten when they lock horns on Oct. 12. Florida and LSU both have one tough road game but should be no worse than 4-1 entering this game.

* Upset alert for Florida is clearly the road trip to Missouri the Saturday following the LSU game. The Gators will have to expend copious amounts of energy and will have to play at an elite level to defeat the Tigers in Baton Rouge. Should that happen, a long trip to Columbia to face a team that gave them fits in 2012 is an obvious spot for a slip-up. Can Muschamp get them up for a second straight week?

* Following the five-game SEC stretch, Florida will get another bye week before playing a key rival. From 1990-2010, Florida was 18-3 against Georgia, and often times, the win clinched the SEC East for the Gators. But the Dawgs have won two straight in the series in heart-breaking fashion. The extra time off couldn’t have come at a better time than before a trip to the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

* After facing all of that in the first three months of the season, Florida could be unblemished and ranked in the top five nationally. However, the entire season could come crashing down when the Gators head to South Carolina on Nov. 16. Some will pick the Gamecocks to win the East, and in fact, both teams could be unbeaten when they tangle in Columbia. This game, possibly more than the Cocktail Party, could decide who plays in the SEC title game. The enormity of this game could also cause Florida to totally overlook the tricky Vanderbilt Commodores the week before.
 

Georgia

Aug. 31 at Clemson
Sept. 7 South Carolina
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 North Texas
Sept. 28 LSU
Oct. 5 at Tennessee
Oct. 12 Missouri
Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 26 Open Date
Nov. 2 Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Nov. 9 Appalachian State
Nov. 16 at Auburn
Nov. 23 Kentucky
Nov. 30 Georgia Tech

* Special moments are extremely difficult to overcome in college sports. Entire towns, fanbases and programs build hype and pour themselves into specific moments in time. South Carolina did it to Georgia last year and Clemson will have a chance in 2013 right out of the gate. This moment will be huge for the Tigers at home, as they have a chance to make it two in a row against the SEC. Tajh Boyd’s offense is filthy loaded and the Dawgs are breaking in eight new starters on defense. A loss does nothing to the Dawgs SEC title hopes but…

* Georgia’s national title hopes could hang in the balance in the first two weekends. South Carolina comes to town in Week 2 and a home game with LSU wraps up one of the toughest first months of play anywhere in the nation. This team will face three top 10 teams in the first five weeks. Should UGA defeat Clemson, a win in the home opener over the Gamecocks is likely. But should they slip-up in Death Valley, a win over South Carolina — a team that has hung 80 points on Georgia in the last two meetings — the next week seems highly unlikely. What happens in the first two weeks will determine the entire ’13 season for Mark Richt.

* After facing three elite teams in the first month, should Georgia leave September unbeaten (4-0), the rest of the nation better watch out. The remaining schedule features some intriguing road trips and one Outdoor Cocktail Party, but the Dawgs would likely be favored in every game the rest of the way.

* Like the Gators, Georgia too will get an extra week to prepare for the trip South to Jacksonville. The Bulldogs have won two straight over Florida but needed some tricky fourth-down gambles and one amazing forced fumble to win both of those games. It is good for the SEC and for the fans that both coaches and teams get two weeks to prepare for what could be the biggest game of the year in the SEC East.

* After the cocktail party, all bets are off for Richt and company. The Bulldogs will finish with three of their last four at home and all three should be easy wins. The lone road trip to Auburn will be the toughest game of the final four weeks, and while the Tigers should be improved, one has to assume UGA will be a heavy favorite over a team that lost nine games in 2012. The final month could simply be a tuneup for another meeting with Alabama in Atlanta.
 

Kentucky

Aug. 31 Western Kentucky (Nashville, Tenn.)
Sept. 7 Miami, Ohio
Sept. 14 Louisville
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 Florida
Oct. 5 at South Carolina
Oct. 12 Alabama
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at Mississippi State
Nov. 2 Alabama State
Nov. 9 Missouri
Nov. 16 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 23 at Georgia
Nov. 30 Tennessee

* Kentucky has the toughest schedule in the East every single season simply because it doesn’t get to face… Kentucky. Playing in the SEC is nasty for the Floridas and Georgias of the world, but the Gators, for example, have it much easier because they don’t have to face the Gators. The Wildcats get no breaks in the East as they have to play every major power in the division each season.

* LP Field should be rocking in Nashville on opening weekend for the Wildcats. Western Kentucky will debut Bobby Petrino on its sideline with a chance to defeat an SEC team in Week 1. The entire college football world will be watching and it only increases the pressure new head coach Mark Stoops will be facing in his own debut. To top it off, the Cats have no more than five chances at wins and losing to a Sun Belt team in Week 1 could doom Stoops’ first year.

* Kentucky will head into the bye week in Week 4 after facing hated rival Louisville. This in-state basketball trio has long been extremely intriguing and fairly competitive, but with two new coaches and a one new league, these football teams are now moving the needle as well. No one could write a worse way to start a tenure for Stoops than an 0-2 in-state record.

* Playing well early is key for the Cats because wins will be impossible to come by once SEC play starts. Stoops’ first three SEC games will be absolutely murderous as Kentucky faces Florida at home, South Carolina on the road and Alabama at home in three consecutive weeks. At least the bye week will allow the Cats to lick their wounds once the Crimson Tide leaves town. Best of luck, boys.

* Three of the last five SEC games will also come on the road. Trips to Starkville, Nashville and Athens afford Kentucky few chances at upsets. However, the two home games against Missouri and Tennessee could provide upset opportunities. To somehow get to a bowl game, which appears to be a very long shot, the Wildcats would have to likely win both (and come up with an another upset somewhere else as well).

Related Content: SEC West 2013 Schedule Analysis
 

Missouri

Aug. 31 Murray State
Sept. 7 Toledo
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 at Indiana
Sept. 28 Arkansas State
Oct. 5 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 12 at Georgia
Oct. 19 Florida
Oct. 26 South Carolina
Nov. 2 Tennessee
Nov. 9 at Kentucky
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 at Ole Miss
Nov. 30 Texas A&M

* This is how Gary Pinkel should have started his first season in the SEC: With easy non-conference wins. A road trip to Indiana might be the toughest test of the first five weekends for Mizzou and it likely means an undefeated record heading into conference play. And considering it’s the first month of SEC play, the Tigers will need all the momentum they can get.

* Pinkel’s bunch might be facing the toughest month of October in the nation. Road trips to Vanderbilt and Georgia to begin conference play are brutal but the month finishes with Florida and South Carolina coming to town. This four-week stretch is absolutely brutal and could take an unbeaten team and give them four straight losses.

* To make a bowl game, Mizzou likely has to win both the Nov. 2 home game with the struggling Volunteers and the Nov. 9 road trip to Kentucky. These two games were the only two conference wins for the Tigers a year ago and might be the only two in 2013 as well. If this team wants to return to the postseason after missing a bowl game for the first time since 2004, these two are must wins because…

* Mizzou finishes the ’13 campaign with two nasty conference games. In fact, while SEC East powers face Coastal Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia Southern, the Tigers will face a road trip to Oxford and a home game against Johnny Manziel. It’s a nasty way to finish and an upset against either seems unlikely.
 

South Carolina

Aug. 31 North Carolina
Sept. 7 at Georgia
Sept. 14 Vanderbilt
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at UCF
Oct. 5 Kentucky
Oct. 12 at Arkansas
Oct. 19 at Tennessee
Oct. 26 at Missouri
Nov. 2 Mississippi State
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 Florida
Nov. 23 Coastal Carolina
Nov. 30 Clemson

* Much like Georgia, South Carolina faces a solid ACC team in Week 1. But hosting a rebuilding North Carolina team that lost tons of NFL talent isn’t the same as visiting the ACC preseason frontrunner. The Gamecocks should roll over the Tar Heels in the Shriner’s Bowl, setting up a huge road trip to Athens in Week 2. Carolina has won three straight in the rivalry by outscoring the Dawgs 97-56 in that span. The atmosphere will be electric between the hedges for what could be a defacto SEC East championship game.

* Once the Gamecocks return from Georgia, the schedule sets up nicely. Getting Vanderbilt at home is key before getting the first bye week. Games with UCF and Kentucky wrap-up the first half in fairly easy fashion. An unbeaten 6-0 mark is well within reach for Steve Spurrier.

* Georgia and Florida are the two biggest games of the year for South Carolina, but a three-game road trip in October against Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri will determine if this is going to be a special season in Columbia. All three games are winnable and Carolina should be favored in all three, and a few years ago, this stretch would be as nasty as any in the nation. Spurrier’s bunch always loses one game it shouldn’t and this three-week stretch is where it’s most likely to happen. On the flip side, two new coaches and a bruised Mizzou team should pose little resistance if Carolina wants to consider itself a national championship contender.

* Mississippi State comes to Williams-Brice Stadium to start November in another key scheduling break for the Cocks. The Bulldogs, much like the Dores, might be able to pull an upset over South Carolina at home but will be heavy underdogs down in The Palmetto State.

* So after an extremely winnable six-game stretch without a break, Carolina will get an extra week to prepare for the Florida Gators. While Will Muschamp’s bunch will have to battle with Vanderbilt the week before, Spurrier and his team will be sitting at home resting and preparing for what could be the second defacto SEC East title game. The Cocks have won two out of three over Florida, including the last time these two met in Columbia.

* There is a chance that one of the most vicious rivalries in college football could be a national championship elimination game. Clemson visits South Carolina on the final weekend in what could feature two unbeaten, top-five teams. It’s a long shot, but should that happen, this nasty in-state rivalry will finally get the national recognition it deserves. Even if Carolina rolls for the fifth straight season.
 

Tennessee

Aug. 31 Austin Peay
Sept. 7 Western Kentucky
Sept. 14 at Oregon
Sept. 21 at Florida
Sept. 28 South Alabama
Oct. 5 Georgia
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 South Carolina
Oct. 26 at Alabama
Nov. 2 at Missouri
Nov. 9 Auburn
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Vanderbilt
Nov. 30 at Kentucky

* Butch Jones should get an easy win behind his stellar offensive line in his debut. But a win over Bobby Petrino in Week 2 is much less of a sure thing. After the disappointing 2012 campaign, a 2-0 start would do wonders for a famished Big Orange fan base. A loss to a coach that many fans in Knoxville opined for during the extended UT coaching search would be downright devastating to an already crippled program.

* A 2-0 start is also extremely important due to back-to-back road trips to Oregon and Florida. Few teams will face two teams that went 23-3 a year ago on the road in consecutive weeks like the Vols will. Keeping the bloodshed to a minimum would be a moral victory for Jones. While his team is trying to stop Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas in Auzten Stadium, Will Muschamp’s team will be kicked up in their lazy boys during the off week licking their chops.

* There is no rest for the weary, either, as the month of October offers little comfort to the downtrodden program. Tennessee will face Georgia and South Carolina at home and Alabama in Tuscaloosa in a four-week span in October. The only comfort that month will be a much-needed bye week following the visit from the Bulldogs in Week 6.

* The Vols run at a potential bowl game will come following the Alabama game. It begins with a road trip to Missouri where revenge should be on the minds of the Big Orange players. A win in Columbia could kickstart a manageable final month of the season for Tennessee. Home games with Auburn and Vanderbilt are tricky but winnable, with at least a split is likely needed for a bowl berth. A win over Kentucky in Lexington in the season finale is a must if Jones wants to reach the postseason in his first season.
 

Vanderbilt

Aug. 31 Ole Miss
Sept. 7 Austin Peay
Sept. 14 at South Carolina
Sept. 21 at UMass
Sept. 28 UAB
Oct. 5 Missouri
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 Georgia
Oct. 26 at Texas A&M
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 at Florida
Nov. 16 Kentucky
Nov. 23 at Tennessee
Nov. 30 Wake Forest

* There might not be a better way to get the season started than with Ole Miss visiting Vanderbilt. Wait, really? Yes, Ole Miss is one of the hottest names in college football after an unexpected bowl season and elite recruiting class. Vandy returns most of its offense and is riding high on West End after back-to-back bowl games. This matchup will set the tempo for both teams and fans across the nation should enjoy the offensive ingenuity involved in sneaky-good crossover contest.

* James Franklin isn’t scared of anyone, and he will have a chance to prove it in 2013. Not only does Vandy host Ole Miss but also has to visit South Carolina in the first three weeks of the year. A 2-1 start is well within reach and would have to be considered a successful start to the year. A 1-2 start could dampen the rampart energy running through this program at the moment.

* Should the Commodores start well in ’13, a 5-1 start is extremely reasonable. Following the nasty trip to Carolina, the Dores have three very winnable games with non-conference foes UMass and UAB before hosting a mediocre Missouri team. If Franklin wants this team to take the next step, winning five of the first six is almost a must.

* After the bye week following the Mizzou game, things get tough for the Dores. Vanderbilt will face Georgia at home and both Texas A&M and Florida on the road over a four-week span. It’s a brutal stretch and Franklin’s only comfort is a bye week sandwiched between Johnny Heisman and The Swamp.

* The end of the season provides the Dores with ample opportunity to get to a third straight bowl game for the first time in their program’s history. Home games with Kentucky and Wake Forest sandwiched around a key road trip to Knoxville is a fairly pleasant way to end an SEC season. Vandy should be a favorite in all three but a win over the Vols on the road could put a stamp on yet another stellar season on West End.

* Right now, Vandy appears to be the favorite in eight games and the underdog in four. This team should win the games it supposed to and should lose the games it’s supposed to. Upsets on either side of the coin seem unlikely.
 

Related College Football Content

SEC West Schedule Analysis for 2013
SEC Team Consensus Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Ranking the Best College Football-Basketball Coaching Tandems in the SEC

College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCOs for 2013

Teaser:
<p> SEC East Football Schedule Analysis for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-recruiting-big-east-team-consensus-rankings-2013
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Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. There is very little to get excited about when it comes to Big East football and the recruiting trail is no different. But the 2013 class could be historically bad for a league that is accustomed to being ranked at the bottom of the power conferences.

Related: The Class of 2013 Top 25 Recruiting Classes

Bad for business… as usual
Rarely do Big East teams press for elite recruiting classes, so its no shock that the best in the league was outside of the top 25. However, this season was particularly bad for the conference as the top class, Rutgers, could do no better than 40th nationally. Additionally, no other team finished in the top 50 this year. By comparison, Rutgers was 22nd nationally a year ago while Louisville was 38th and both Pitt and USF landed in the top 50 nationally. Even 2013 member Houston was 47th nationally in recruiting a year ago. No, 2013 was epically poor even for a normally very weak recruiting conference. The Big East is on life support, and if recruiting is the lifeblood of the sport, the conference clearly isn’t getting enough blood.

Where is the AC100 talent?
This might be redundant, but the Big East signed the fewest Athlon Consensus 100 prospects of any major league in the nation. One AC100 prospect signed with the entire conference, and even he, wide receiver James Quick, will be playing most of his career in the ACC. Nothing can illustrate the talent differential between the Big East and the nation’s best conference, the SEC, better than the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100. Southeastern Conference schools signed a combined total of 41 AC100 prospects.

Okay, now it’s just piling on
Missouri is the lowest rated class in the SEC at 35th. Kansas State is the lowest rated class in the Big 12 at 64th. Colorado is the lowest rated class in the Pac-12 at 67th. Minnesota is the worst class in the Big Ten at 69th. This means that nine “BCS” conference teams ranked 68th or worse this year and four of them come from the Big East while two others were former Big East teams (Syracuse, Boston College). Only Minnesota was 68th or worse and not a member of the Big East or ACC. Memphis finished with the worst power conference class in the nation.

It's only getting worse
Rutgers and Louisville have dominated this league in terms of attracting talent of late and once again claimed the top two classes in 2013. There is only one problem, however: none of these players will play in the Big East. Technically, anyone who plays in 2013 will get one year of Big East action, but both teams are departing the league following this season. The Knights are headed to the Big Ten in 2014 while the Cardinals are joining the ACC. Can a league survive when its best recruiting class is ranked 57th in the nation (USF)?

Houston can contend immediately
The Cougars are one of the lone bright spots for this league and should develop into one of the Big East's better programs over time. The 2013 season will be a year of transition for the four new members of the conference, but only the Cougars appear ready to compete right away. Houston beat more traditional Big East teams Cincinnati, UConn, Temple and former member Syracuse for talent in this class. Even a year ago, the Cougars' 47th-rated class would have been good for fourth in the conference. It means that Houston should be able to build its franchise as a Big East title contender by cultivating the rich waters of The Lone Star State. 

Can Tommy Tuberville maintain status quo
Mark Dantonio. Brian Kelly. Butch Jones. All three recruited at a mediocre level nationally and all three used conference championship runs to land big-time jobs. Tuberville isn't an up-and-comer like the Bearcats' previous head coaches, so he isn't necessarily looking to move on right away. But he will have some lofty standards to maintain and will have to do it with classes ranked consistently in the 50s. Will he elevate the recruiting status of the program or can he win the league with middle-of-the-pack recruiting hauls?

Related: Ranking the nation's most talented rosters

2013 Athlon Sports Big East Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat'l Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. Rutgers 40th 0 22 43rd 50th 31st 37th
2. Louisville 55th 1 17 57th 47th 56th --
3. USF 57th 0 23 49th 49th 63rd --
4. Houston 58th 0 26 50th 59th 61st --
5. Cincinnati 59th 0 22 71st 57th 50th --
6. UConn 63rd 0 24 65th 62nd 60th --
7. SMU 68th 0 19 69th 63rd 69th --
8. UCF 79th 0 25 74th 79th 88th --
9. Temple 82nd 0 23 84th 91st 92nd --
10. Memphis 84th 0 29 89th 87th 102nd --

Teaser:
<p> College Football Recruiting: Big East Team Consensus Rankings for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 06:25
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College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation.

Ohio State and Michigan appear poised to separate themselves from the rest of the Big Ten. For the second straight season, nothing can illustrate this more than the conference's recruiting rankings. In the first battle for talent between Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke, the Midwest duo finished fourth (OSU) and sixth (Michigan) nationally, while Nebraska finished third in the league, but outside of the top 25 nationally. With two more top-five classes nationally, the league appears to be headed for another Big Ten-Year War.

No. 5: Michigan Wolverines

Big Ten: Second
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
6
National Signees: 5
Total Signees: 27

Where They Got 'Em:

The Midwest will always be Michigan's focus in recruiting and 2013 was no different. In fact, the biggest difference between Hoke and Meyer thus far in recruiting is Ohio State's national approach while the Wolverines are more regionally focused. Ohio (9), Michigan (8) and Illinois (3) provided three-quarters of this group, including ten of the 15 nationally ranked prospects in the class. Snagging nine prospects from that state down South has to be particularly satisfying for Hoke.

Other Big Ten footprint states like Indiana and Pennsylvania as well as Northeastern territories like Massachusetts, Virginia and Maryland each provided one player each. The only states located outside of the Big Ten region to send a player to Ann Arbor were Colorado (1) and North Carolina (1).

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

Meyer has cast a major shot across the Big Ten offensive line bow with two elite defensive line classes in a row at Ohio State. Hoke countered with one of the best offensive line classes in the nation as six new faces signed with the Maize and Blue. Five of those six new blockers are nationally rated prospects who were coveted by nearly every team in the league. Patrick Kugler and Kyle Bosch are AC100 prospects while a pair of massive tackles — Chris Fox who stands 6-6 and Logan Tuley-Tillman who stands 6-7 — give Michigan not only one of the most talented line classes but also one of the largest. This group will have to develop quickly in order to keep up with OSU's stellar defensive line over the next four years.

The skill positions are also a big part of Hoke's 2013 haul and it should only help the transition back to a pro-style attack. Shane Morris is the No. 3-rated quarterback prospect in the nation and could be a special talent who reminds fans in Ann Arbor of Michigan quarterbacks of past years. And he won't be alone in the backfield either. Burly workhorse tailback Derrick Green is the top-rated player in the class and might be able to start immediately if he can grasp the offense. Along with De'Veon Smith, Hoke should have plenty to work with in his backfield for the first time since getting to Michigan. 

Morris is joined by three wide receivers and two tight ends in this class to help rebuild the passing attack. Only tight end Jake Butt is nationally rated so this isn't an elite haul, but the added depth is excellent.

On defense, Hoke focused on the secondary as six new names will join the depth chart. Defensive back is the new glamour position and Michigan got one of the best groups in the nation, led by AC100 talent Dymonte Thomas. Thomas has excellent range, physicality and size, so he will likely star at safety while Jourdan Lewis, who barely missed landing in the top 100, is the top coverman in the group. Reon Dawson (6-2, 175) and Channing Stribling (6-2, 170) bring elite size and length to the defensive backfield as well.

Up front, a trio of nationally ranked lineman restock the D-line. Henry Poggi (6-4, 260) can play inside or out but should grow into the tackle position. Taco Charlton (6-5, 250) has unpolished, elite upside and should be a terror off of the edge once he gets into a big-time football program. Maurice Hurst Jr. is a true tackle (6-2, 305) and should help clog up the middle as well. This isn't a deep group, but it is an overtly talented bunch.

Nationally rated Mike McCary and Ohio native Ben Gedeon were the only two linebackers to sign with the Wolverines.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 3, WR: 3, TE: 2, OL: 6
Defense: DL: 3, LB: 2, DB: 6, ATH: 0, LS: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rank Hometown Ht Wt
26. Derrick Green RB No. 5 Richmond, Va. 5-11 220
68. Patrick Kugler OL No. 7 Wexford, Pa. 6-5 280
72. Dymonte Thomas DB No. 16 Alliance, Ohio 6-2 195
74. Shane Morris QB No. 3 Warren, Mich. 6-3 185
92. Kyle Bosch OL No. 9 Wheaton, Ill. 6-5 310
108. Jourdan Lewis DB No. 22 Detroit, Mich. 5-10 160
109. David Dawson OL No. 16 Detroit, Mich. 6-4 285
122. Henry Poggi DT No. 23 (DL) Baltimore, Md. 6-4 260
134. De'Veon Smith RB No. 18 Warren, Ohio 5-11 218
141. Taco Charlton DE No. 26 (DL) Pickerington, Ohio 6-5 250
146. Chris Fox OL No. 22 Parker, Colo. 6-6 300
148. Mike McCary LB No. 18 Trotwood, Ohio 6-4 230
154. Logan Tuley-Tillman OL No. 23 Peoria, Ill. 6-7 305
221. Jake Butt TE No. 7 Pickerington, Ohio 6-6 235
222. Maurice Hurst Jr DT No. 42 (DL) Westwood, Mass. 6-2 305

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht. Wt. AC100
Kyle Bosch OL Wheaton, Ill. 6-5 310 No. 92
Jake Butt TE Pickerington, Ohio 6-6 235 No. 221
Taco Charlton DE Pickerington, Ohio 6-5 250 No. 141
Ross Douglas DB Avon, Ohio 5-10 180 --
Dymonte Thomas DB Alliance, Ohio 6-2 195 No. 72
Logan Tuley-Tillman OL Peoria, Ill. 6-7 310 No. 154

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines

Teaser:
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Post date: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 06:30
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Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. The ACC has been taking a beating on the field and in the media from fans and analysts alike for its recent lack of success. It has struggled in BCS bowls and, in particular, against the SEC. While the conference isn't nearly as bad as the incessant badgering would indicate, the results of this year's recruiting cycle still has to leave ACC fans nervous.

Related: The Class of 2013 Top 25 Recruiting Classes

No top-10 class
The ACC has had at least two top-10 classes nationally in four of the last five recruiting cycles. Only 2010 featured a single ACC top-10 class. So for the conference’s best class (Florida State) to be ranked 11th nationally doesn’t bode well for an already tarnished image. For comparison, the ACC had three teams land in the top 25 while its regional rival, the SEC, posted 11 top 25 classes. Florida State, Clemson and Miami carry the mantle of recruiting in this league and if none can pull a top-10 class, the league will continue to be ridiculed nationally. In particular, Jimbo Fisher and Florida State is accustomed to being not only in the top 10, but the top five nationally. An 11th-rated class is still an excellent haul, but it remains to be seen if that can get the Noles back to national championship relevance. The good news? Seven different teams landed at least one Athlon Consensus 100 prospect and the league more than doubled the numbers of top 100 signees than that of the Big 12.

Dabo maintains status quo… and then some
Dabo Swinney has had an interesting up-and-down career at Clemson. He has been doubted and questioned. He also won the team’s first ACC title in 20 years. Over the last five recruiting cycles, Clemson has finished no better than third in the ACC just once (2011). With the No. 2-rated class in the league this time around — and his second in three seasons — Swinney has put Clemson in a position to become the dominant team in the league. The Tigers won a couple of National Signing Day battles and it finished just two spots behind the vaunted Seminoles (No. 11). This highly touted top 15 class will only add to the pressure of being the likely preseason pick to win the ACC in 2013.

Al Golden continues to work miracles
A 26th national ranking isn’t anything to write home about for Miami football recruiting. But after the biggest BCS signing class in the nation a year ago (33 signees) led to double-digit freshman starters, Golden didn’t have too many scholarships to offer. Yet, he made the best of it by winning some late battles for key players. His four AC100 signees are tied with Florida State for the ACC lead and only seven other schools in the nation signed more. This wasn’t supposed to be a big class (16) but there are plenty of marquee instant impact prospects in the group. And for a team facing a litany of NCAA inquiries, Golden continues to deserve major kudos for his work on the trail.

Quality over quantity
Miami wasn’t the only school to sign a smaller class with an emphasis on quality. Virginia Tech landed a top 25 class with just 18 signees and North Carolina finished 28th nationally with just 17 new faces. Both were ranked in the top five in the ACC ranks and both signed top-level talent. The Tar Heels landed six four-star players while the Hokies landed seven that received at least four stars. Essentially, a third of each class were elite-level national talents. Give both Frank Beamer and Larry Fedora credit for landing highly touted classes without the benefit of deep numbers.

Paul Johnson’s scheme better work
First, Georgia Tech only signed 14 players, so it was going to be tough to land an elite class with such small overall numbers. That said, 11th in the ACC and 77th nationally isn’t what Yellow Jackets fans want to see. Johnson has averaged a 47.6 national recruiting ranking and has ranked no better than 41st or no worse than 55th nationally since arriving in Atlanta. No, his triple-option system doesn’t need five-star athletes to be effective, but this 2013 haul is easily his worst class to date. Only time will tell if Tech is devolving or simple rebuilding.

Mike London needs to get back to winning
London stepped on to campus in Charlottesville and reinvented the Cavaliers' name brand on the recruiting trail. He has landed the 25th- (2011) and 27th-rated (2012) classes in the last two years and added to it with the 31st-ranked group in 2013. And it appeared that the energy on the recruiting trail was going to translate into wins, going from 4-8 in his first season to 8-5 in his second. Yet, a major step back in 2012 (4-8, 2-6) has raised concerns. The 2013 class was another solid group for the Wahoos and the pressure is now back on London to generate similar results on the field.

Pitt will be fine, Syracuse not so much
The Panthers landed the seventh-rated class in the ACC and the 39th-best class in the nation. It puts Pitt dead in the heart of its new conference in terms of talent. With Paul Chryst leading the way, this program should be able to adapt and compete rather quickly if it can maintain this type of recruiting. New Orange head coach Scott Shafer will have a much tougher job ahead of him, however. This team has consistently been one of the least talented BCS rosters in the nation over the last five years. Shafer will have to do improve Syracuse's recruiting prowess — which was 74th nationally this cycle — or work minor miracles on the practice field. 

ACC’s hierarchy is painfully obvious
Florida State (13), Clemson (2) and Virginia Tech (4) have won 19 of the last 22 ACC championships. Only three times since 1991 has a team other than those three won an outright ACC title — 2001 Maryland, 2006 Wake Forest and 2009 Georgia Tech. This is due in large part because those three programs have the best players. Boston College, Duke, Wake Forest and NC State consistently finish in the bottom of the league in recruiting and 2013 was no different. All four, along with Georgia Tech, ranked outside of the top 50. There is a reason this group is a combined 62-98 in ACC play over the last five years. It doesn’t look like this trend will end anytime soon and makes the ’06 Demon Deacons team that much more impressive.

Related: Ranking the nation's most talented rosters

2013 Athlon Sports ACC Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat'l Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. Florida State 11th 4 22 9th 9th 16th 9th
2. Clemson 13th 1 23 14th 15th 15th 13th
3. Virginia Tech 21st 2 18 22nd 14th 35th 19th
4. Miami 26th 4 16 44th 19th 28th 21st
5. North Carolina 28th 0 17 39th 28th 30th 20th
6. Virginia 31st 1 22 26th 29th 41st 34th
7. Pitt 39th 1 27 33rd 32nd 22nd --
8. Maryland 42nd 1 22 30th 31st 49th --
9. NC State 56th 0 25 47th 60th 53rd --
10. Wake Forest 64th 0 25 58th 81st 62nd --
11. Duke 72nd 0 20 67th 77th 62nd --
12. Syracuse 74th 0 19 72nd 69th 75th --
13. Georgia Tech 77th 0 14 84th 78th 73rd --
14. Boston College 83rd 0 17 87th 93rd 90th --

Teaser:
<p> College Football Recruiting: ACC Team Consensus Rankings for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-4-florida-gators
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp was not happy on National Signing Day. It had nothing to do with his elite top-five class ranking or deep collection of future Gators stars. No, he was worn out from a hard season on the recruiting trail and was ready for the process to be over. But all that hard work paid off in spades and Florida landed one of best classes in the nation.

No. 4: Florida Gators

SEC: Second
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
6
National Signees: 11
Total Signees: 30

Where They Got 'Em:

The state of Florida will be and always should be the primary focus of any head coach in Gainesville. More top-flight prospects come out of The Sunshine State each season than anywhere else in the nation. It shouldn't be a surprise then that Muschamp landed 19 in-state signees, including eight nationally ranked players. Florida can recruit nationally, but the foundation for every Gator class should come from within its borders.

Georgia has quickly become the No. 4 (Fla., Texas, Calif.) state for talent nationally and the Gators took advantage here as well. Six players signed with Florida from The Peach State, giving this class 25 players from either Georgia or Florida. Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina and Tennessee provided one signee each.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

It seems impossible, but Florida has lacked big-time playmakers on offense since Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper and Louis Murphy departed campus. This offense has been desperate for a star on the outside and Muschamp hopes that he has found one with five highly rated wide receiver signees. Three of the top 15 wideout prospects in the nation are headed to Gainesville. Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 195) and Almad Fulwood (6-4, 200) bring size and vertical ability to the outside while Alvin Bailey (5-11, 175) and Chris Thompson (6-0, 170) should be featured in the slot. 

With Mike Gillislee running out of eligibility, this team also needed to find a workhorse. Gators' legacy prospect Kelvin Taylor should be the guy. He is the No. 2 running back in the nation and is the son of NFL great Fred Taylor. He has been a prep star in The Sunshine State since starting for Glades Central as a middle schooler and should compete for carries right away. He is already on campus working in the offense.

Helping to make all of these stars successful on offense are five offensive line signees. None are nationally ranked but depth shouldn't be an issue along the front line.

The defense is getting loads of help in this class. The defensive line class is one of the best in the nation as seven new faces show up along the defensive front. Caleb Brantley is the only nationally ranked player in this deep and versatile group. He can play inside or out along with early enrollee Joey Ivie and Antonio Riles. Darious Cummings, Jay-nard Bostwick and Jarran Reed will land at tackle while Jordan Sherit will come off of the edge. Muschamp and company will have to develop this haul, but the upside is remarkable.

The star power of this recruiting class resides in the back seven on defense, however. Six of the 11 nationally rated prospects will play either defensive back or linebacker. Four of the top five players in this class will play there are well. Vernon Hargreaves III is the top coverman in the nation and a pair of electric linebackers in Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian restock a position that lost Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic this winter. Both highly touted players enrolled early and both are listed at an impressive 6-3 and 220 pounds. Three of the top 20 linebackers in the nation signed with Florida.

Along with Hargreaves III, AC100 safety Marcel Harris, an jumbo prospect who could be special at 6-2, 220, and nationally rated Keanu Neal bolster the back end of the Gators defense with elite talent.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 5, TE: 0, OL: 5
Defense: DL: 7, LB: 4, DB: 4, ATH: 1, P: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rank Hometown Ht Wt
3. Vernon Hargreaves III DB No. 1 Tampa, Fla. 5-11 180
22. Kelvin Taylor RB No. 2 Belle Glade, Fla. 5-10 205
54. Alexander Anzalone LB No. 5 Wyomissing, Pa. 6-3 220
56. Daniel McMillian LB No. 6 Jacksonville, Fla. 6-3 220
78. Marcel Harris DB No. 15 Orlando, Fla. 6-2 220
81. Demarcus Robinson WR No. 11 Ft. Valley, Ga. 6-2 195
104. Keanu Neal DB No. 19 Bushnell, Fla. 6-0 205
106. Alvin Bailey WR No. 13 Seffner, Fla. 5-11 175
119. Caleb Brantley DL No. 22 Crescent City, Fla. 6-3 295
127. Ahmad Fulwood WR No. 14 Jacksonville, Fla. 6-4 200
153. Matt Rolin LB No. 20 Ashburn, Va. 6-4 205

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht. Wt. AC100
Alex Anzalone LB Wyomissing, Pa. 6-3 220 No. 54
Darious Cummings DL Scooba, Miss. 6-2 305 JUCO
Joey Ivie DL Dade City, Fla. 6-4 270 --
Daniel McMillian LB Jacksonville, Fla. 6-3 220 No. 56
Tyler Moore OL Clearwater, Fla. 6-5 312 --
Demarcus Robinson WR Ft. Valley, Ga. 6-2 195 No. 81
Matt Rolin LB Ashburn, Va. 6-4 205 No. 153
Kelvin Taylor RB Belle Glade, Fla. 5-10 205 No. 22

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 4: Florida Gators</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-recruiting-pac-12-team-consensus-rankings-2013
Body:

Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. The Pac-12 has watched its league and programs grow substantially in the past few years. Commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-12 Network, a new media rights contract, six new coaches in the last two seasons and a variety of major facilities upgrades give Pac-12 schools plenty to sell to recruits.

Same Ol' Bruins
UCLA has never had an issue with recruiting. Under Rick Neuheisel, the Bruins were a national power on the trail, landing the No. 13- (2008), No. 14- (2009), No. 8- (2010) and No. 13-rated (2012) classes in the nation over the last five years. So a top-ten class following a Pac-12 South Division crown shouldn't come as a surprise. That said, USC has won the league's recruiting championship in every one of those cycles. So Jim Mora clearly capitalized on a Pac-12 South Division title and the Trojans' late struggles to claim the best class in the conference.

Don't be too concerned for USC
Yes, Lane Kiffin struggled on the field in 2012. Yes, he had to make coaching changes. Yes, he is entering a key season as the head coach in Los Angeles. Yes, USC limped to the finish on the recruiting trail and had the worst National Signing Day in the school's recent memory. However, in the face of 10 fewer scholarships than everyone else, Kiffin signed four more Athlon Consensus 100 prospects (9) than the rest of the Pac-12 combined (5). This group includes the nation's No. 1 QB, No. 1 safety and No. 2 defensive tackle. USC's nine AC100 signees trailed only Alabama (15) and Ohio State (10) nationally.

Mark Helfrich saved the day
When Chip Kelly pulled his own flip-flop and took the Eagles job, many were concerned with the continuity of the Ducks' 2013 signing class. Oregon did lose AC100 running back Dontre Wilson to Ohio State but the rest of the cycle ended well. Mark Helfrich kept twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson in the fold and also lured Torrodney Prevot from a host of Pac-12 rivals. This group wasn't extremely deep but it could have been much worse than 20th nationally. The new head coach passed his first test as the head coach of the Nike Empire.

Best Supporting Cast
Steve Sarkisian has revamped his coaching staff significantly since taking over in Seattle. The moves he made on defense following the 2011 season (Justin Wilcox, Peter Sirmon, Tosh Lupoi) not only buoyed the Huskies' brand on the recruiting trail immediately but also worked wonders on the field during the 2012 campaign. This group once again excelled at landing elite talent by claiming the Pac-12's second-rated class. This was a top-15 group and features deep talent at wide receiver and defensive line — where Lupoi likely deserves a lot of credit.

What happened to Stanford?
This wasn't going to be a large class for David Shaw's bunch in Palo Alto, but barely cracking the top 50 has to be disappointing. Rivals and 247 both ranked the class 61st nationally while Scout had the Cardinal's class at 59th in the nation. Only ESPN's ranking (40th) kept this group inside the top 50 nationally. After four straight top 25 classes, including the fifth-ranked class last year, finishing 11th in the Pac-12 is not what fans expected. Next year's class will either return Stanford to recruiting relevance after what was simply a small class or could indicate a concerning developing trend.

Mike Leach turning things around?
In-fighting and one of the worst rushing offenses in the history of the sport wasn't exactly what Mike Leach planned in his first year at Washington State. Yet, there might be a hint of optimism in Pullman following signing day. The Cougars have averaged a 79.6 national recruiting ranking over the last five cycles, ranking ahead of only UConn and Temple among BCS teams (73rd). Therefore a national ranking of 47th should be something to be celebrated. One would think that Leach's high-flying offensive scheme will once again be attractive to West Coast prospects.

Related: Ranking the nation's most talented rosters

2013 Athlon Sports Pac-12 Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat'l Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. UCLA 9th 3 23 11th 11th 5th 12th
2. Washington 15th 1 22 18th 17th 14th 18th
3. USC 16th 9 13 13th 25th 18th 14th
4. Oregon 20th 1 19 21st 16th 17th 26th
5. Cal 32nd 0 25 29th 43rd 29th 30th
6. Arizona 37th 0 22 36th 58th 27th 39th
7. Arizona State 41st 0 27 32nd 38th 31st --
8. Oregon State 43rd 0 23 37th 41st 36th --
9. Utah 45th 0 23 42nd 42nd 47th --
10. Washington State 47th 0 24 54th 46th 39th --
11. Stanford 49th 0 12 61st 61st 59th 40th
12. Colorado 67th 0 20 68th 67th 66th --

Teaser:
<p> How did recruiting shake out for the Pac-12 in 2013.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 06:20

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