Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-2014-spring-football-preview
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Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly likely welcomed the turn of the calendar this New Year.

The calendar year began with his team getting trucked in the national title game by Alabama, continued with his star quarterback getting suspended in the spring and ended with a lackluster four-loss season that both began and ended with a sputter. The Irish began the season 3-2 with disappointing losses to fellow bluebloods Michigan and Oklahoma. After four solid wins, the Irish ended the year losing two out of three with a bad loss at Pitt and yet another painful defeat at the hands of rival Stanford.

A nine-win season is a solid year for most programs but Kelly has raised expectation levels after his run at perfection two seasons ago. However, competing for national championships is what coaching at Notre Dame is all about. Quarterback Everett Golson returns to the team after his semester-long hiatus and one of the most gifted rosters in the nation — the 10th-best roster in the nation to be exact — should take the field with a goal of landing in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

And Kelly will do so with two new coordinators.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 9-4

Spring Practice Opens: March 3

Spring Game: April 12

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

Returning Starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 5

Three Things to Watch in Notre Dame's 2014 Spring Practice

Welcome back, Everett
Near the end of the 2012 run to the BCS national title game, Everett Golson was developing into a future star under center for Brian Kelly. In fact, one could argue he was the only player who didn't look like he quit against Alabama. But after missing an entire season due to academic problems, Golson returns to the practice field this spring in his customary red jersey. Tommy Rees wasn't bad, considering the hand Kelly was dealt by Golson, but quarterback was clearly an issue on this team a year ago. Golson has the talent to be a special player and he gives Kelly what he desperately craves at quarterback — mobility. The signal caller spent two months working with QB guru George Whitfield but questions still exist about Golson's ability to step right back into the swing of things. Is Golson rusty? Is he focused off the field? How much has the year off set him back? This month of practice is a great chance for Golson to prove his fantastic freshman campaign was no fluke and earn his way back into the starting lineup.

Rebuilding the front seven
Brian Kelly and new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder have their work cut out for them up front on the defensive side of the ball. Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III departing for the NFL has literally left a 635-pound gapping void along the defensive line. Additionally, the linebacking corps will lose the top two tacklers on the team in Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese as well as Prince Shembo's 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Finding star power and developing experience up front will be critical if Notre Dame is going to compete for a playoff spot in 2014. Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and a host of other names have elite upside and are ready to make plays as Kelly has recruited extremely well on the defensive side of the ball in recent years. Look for VanGorder, a specialist at developing linebackers, to settle on a rotation up front this spring.

Replace Zack Martin
The Irish were great at protecting the quarterback a year ago, ranking second nationally with just eight sacks allowed, due in large part to the play of their stud left tackle Zack Martin. However, this unit ranked just 80th nationally running the football and filling holes at left tackle and left guard (Chris Watt) will be difficult. The surest way to help Golson ease his way back into play-making form will be to develop a running game and find protection for his blindside. The good news is Kelly and new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock return plenty of talent returning up front in the form of tackle Ronnie Stanley (13 starts), center Nick Martin (11) and guards Christian Lombard (7) and Steve Elmer (4). And there are highly touted recruits from the last few classes lined-up to earn a starting spot. With plenty of capable ballcarriers in the backfield and the return of a star at quarterback, creating running lanes and protecting the passer should be the focus of the new offensive hierarchy in South Bend.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
Notre Dame once again has a nasty schedule to face in 2014 with potentially seven preseason top 25 teams and 11 potential bowl teams on the slate this coming fall. Navigating that schedule to 11 wins — likely what it takes to reach the playoffs — will be extremely difficult while breaking in a new supporting staff under Kelly. That said, this is one of the best collections of talent in the nation and the Golson returns to lead the offense after a year off. The early part of the schedule is manageable as the Irish could easily be 4-0 heading into a home game with Stanford, but the final two months will feature the reigning BCS champs, the reigning Pac-12 champs, road games at Pac-12 South frontrunners USC and Arizona State and two home dates with ACC contenders North Carolina and Louisville. This team has the talent to compete for a playoff spot, but the Irish will have to win critical rivalry games amid a brutal final two months to put itself into postseason contention.

Teaser:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The Big Ten is known for its offensive lines and running games but that doesn't mean there haven't been some amazing quarterbacks to come through these ranks. Nothing proves this more than seeing three-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady sitting outside the Top 20.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (2011-pres.)
Stats: 5,292 yds, 52 TDs, 17 INTs, 59.3%, 3,054 yds, 32 TDs

It may seem too early to place Miller this high after just two full seasons under center but his resume is starting to become one of the best in Big Ten history. Along with Brees, Miller is the only other player in league history to win two Player of the Year awards (2012 and '13) after he led his team to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. He has already accounted for 84 total touchdowns and over 8,000 yards of total offense and will have a chance to catch Brees in both categories by the time his career is over in Columbus. His 3,054 yards rushing is already third all-time in B1G history among QBs and he has an outside chance to top Denard Robinson's record of 4,495 yards.

6. Brett Basanez, Northwestern (2002-05)
Stats: 10,580 yds, 44 TDs,36 INTs, 57.6%, 996 yds, 18 TDs
He didn't post the gaudy touchdown numbers of some of the others on this list, but Basanez ranks among the all-time best in productivity. After back-to-back losing seasons, Basanez helped lead the Wildcats to two bowls in three years and was awarded Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior in 2005. He completed 314-of-497 passes (both top 10 in league history) for 3,622 yards (ninth all-time) and scored 28 total touchdowns. Basanez ranks third all-time in league history with 11,576 yards of total offense and is fourth all-time in passing yards. 

7. Brad Banks, Iowa (2001-02)
Stats: 3,155 yds, 30 TDs, 7 INTs, 58.3%, 574 yds, 7 TDs

He only started one year in the Big Ten but it was a monster season in 2002. Banks was named Big Ten Player of the Year, won the Davey O'Brien Award, was named the AP Player of the Year and finished second in the Heisman voting. He also led Iowa to its first ever BCS Bowl berth. He posted 2,573 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, five interceptions, 423 yards rushing and five more scores in '02.

8. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State (2008-11)
Stats: 9,131 yds, 66 TDs, 64.1%, 30 INTs, 1 rush TD

Winning is what matters and few did that as well as Cousins at Michigan State. He went 4-0 against in-state rival Michigan and posted the programs first-ever 11-win season and a share of the Big Ten title as a junior. He led Sparty to the inaugural Big Ten title game and another 11-win season as a senior. He is tenth all-time in league history with 9,131 passing yards as well as 66 touchdown passes. His 64.1 percent career completion rate is tied for sixth-best in B1G history too. Cousins was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. His career QB rating of 146.1 is sixth all-time.

9. Chad Henne, Michigan (2004-07)
Stats: 9,715 yds, 87 TDs, 37 INTs, 3 rush TDs

Starting in his first career game as a true freshman, Henne was a true four-year starter for Michigan — just the second true freshman to start his career opener in school history. The freshman All-American eventually finished with every major Michigan passing record in the books. He is seventh all-time in Big Ten history in passing yards and trails only Brees (90) in career touchdown passes (87). Henne started 47 games in the Maize and Blue, posting 33 wins, two Rose Bowl appearances and came just one victory shy from playing in the national championship game in 2006.

10. Denard Robinson, Michigan (2009-12)
Stats: 6,250 yds, 49 TDs, 39 INTs, 57.2%, 4,495 yds, 42 TDs

There were certainly times when Robinson drove the Michigan fans batty but there is no doubting that he is one of the most dynamic, unique and explosive players in Big Ten history. Robinson set a Big Ten record with 4,272 yards of total offense in 2010, earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and becoming the first player in NCAA history top both 1,500 yards rushing and passing in the same year. He has the top three single-game rushing performances by a quarterback in league history (258) and topped 200 yards rushing five times. His 1,702 yards rushing are a single-season record for B1G quarterbacks and his 4,495 career yards are No. 1 all-time in NCAA history among signal-callers. Robinson's 10,745 yards of offense rank sixth all-time in league history and he is one of only five players in college football history to throw for at least 6,000 yards and rush for at least 4,000.

Just missed the cut:

11. Craig Krenzel, Ohio State (2000-03)
Stats: 4,489 yds, 28 TDs, 21 INTs, 56.8%, 600 yds, 6 TDs

He wasn't the flashiest and he certainly wasn't the most talented but Krenzel was a winner. And he is the only Big Ten quarterback to lead his team to a BCS National Championship when his Buckeyes went 14-0 in his junior season. He was a two-time Fiesta Bowl MVP, finished his career 24-3 as a starter and earned a degree in Molecular Genetics along the way.

12. Michael Robinson, Penn State (2002-05)
Stats: 3,531 yds, 23 TDs, 21 INTs, 52.1%, 1,637 yds, 20 TDs, 52 rec., 629 yds, 3 TDs

The versatile weapon capped his career in Happy Valley by leading Penn State back to a conference championship and the BCS with a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award-winning campaign in 2005. He threw for 2,350 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 806 yards and 11 scores on the ground that season.

13. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (2008-10)
Stats: 6,177 yds, 57 TDs, 26 INTs, 60.9, 2,164 yds, 17 TDs

Entering the lineup early in his freshman year, Pryor proved why he was the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation coming out of high school. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year went on to win three Big Ten titles and play in three BCS Bowls in all three seasons under center. His numbers are prolific and his talent was electric, but he is also responsible for a scandal so bad that it took down the entire coaching staff as well.

14. Kurt Kittner, Illinois (1998-01)
Stats: 8,460 yds, 70 TD, 33 INTs, 54.4%, 168 yds, 7 TDs

The all-time leader in school history for passing touchdowns in a career and season, Kittner capped his excellent tenure at Illinois by leading the Illini to an outright Big Ten championship and berth in the Sugar Bowl in 2001. His 70 passing touchdowns are eighth all-time in Big Ten history.

15. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (2010-13)
Stats: 7,258 yds, 56 TDs, 29 INTs, 59.8%, 2,975 yds, 31 TDs

Few players have ever been as explosive and fun to watch as T-Magic was for the Huskers. And had an injury not ruined his final season, there is no telling where Martinez would have wound up in the record books. He owns Nebraska's all-time record for total offense, passing yards, career stars by a quarterback and touchdown passes as well as the single-season school record for total offense and total touchdowns. He led the Huskers to a Big 12 title game appearance as a freshman and was a first-team All-Big Ten pick when he led his team to the Big Ten title game in 2012. Fans in Lincoln were left to wonder what could have been had he stayed healthy this past fall.

16. John Navarre, Michigan (2000-03)
Stats: 9,264 yds, 70 TDs, 30 INTs, 56.1%, 2 rush TDs

Henne owns all of the major Michigan passing records but it was Navarre's marks that he broke. With three full seasons as a starter, Navarre is currently still ninth all-time in Big Ten history in passing yards and fourth all-time in touchdowns. Michigan won 29 games during his three-year run as the starter and went to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 2003-04.

17. Kyle Orton, Purdue (2001-04)
Stats: 9,337 yds, 63 TDs, 28 INTs, 58.8%, 316 yds, 6 TDs

Picking up where Brees left off, Orton posted three consecutive seasons with a completion percentage above 60 and led Purdue to four bowl games. He was named first-team All-Big Ten when he threw for 3,090 yards, 31 TDs and only five picks as a senior — making him one of only four players in league history to top 30 TD passes. He is eighth all-time in passing yards and was a fourth-round pick in 2005.

18. Juice Williams, Illinois (2006-09)
Stats: 8,037 yds, 56 TDs, 44 INTs, 53.3%, 2,557 yds, 18 TDs

The four-year starter for Illinois was one of the most productive players of his era and returned the Illini to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1983 when he got his team to Pasadena in 2007. Williams is seventh all-time in Big Ten history with 10,594 yards and is one of just eight to ever top 10K.

19. Curtis Painter, Purdue (2005-08)
Stats: 11,163 yds, 67 TDs, 46 INTs, 59.9%, 348 yds, 13 TDs

Painter started 41 of his possible 46 career games over four seasons in West Lafayette. His 11,163 career yards passing are second only to fellow Boilermaker Brees in Big Ten history and Painter also is ninth all-time in touchdown passes. He owns two of the Big Ten's top four single-season passing marks, including the conference's top performance with 3,985 yards in 2006. His 569 attempts in 2007 tied Brees for the Big Ten record while his 987 completions rank second all-time to only Brees as well. His 546 yards passing against Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl were the highest single-game total of any B1G QB during the BCS Era and the third most all-time.

20. Adam Weber, Minnesota (2007-10)
Stats: 10,917 yds, 72 TDs, 51 INTs, 57.0%, 873 yds, 10 TDs

A four-year starter, Weber posted four straight seasons with between 2,582 and 2,895 yards during his time in Minnesota. He is third all-time in the Big Ten in passing and fourth all-time in passing touchdowns. He led a 1-11 team as a freshman All-American to back-to-back bowl games as a sophomore and junior. His 11,790 yards of total offense are third all-time in league history.

Best of the rest:

21. Tom Brady, Michigan (1996-99): 4,773 yds, 30 TDs, 17 INTs, 61.9%,  3 rush TDs
22. Daryll Clark, Penn State (2006-09): 5,742 yds, 43 TDs, 16 INTs, 60.2%, 619 yds, 22 TDs
23. Dan Persa, Northwestern (2008-11): 5,181 yds, 34 TDs, 13 INTs, 72.7%, 716 yds, 10 TDs
24. Drew Stanton, Michigan State (2003-06): 6,524 yds, 42 TDs, 28 INTs, 64.2%, 1,512 yds, 15 TDs
25. John Stocco, Wisconsin (2003-06): 7,227 yds, 47 TDs, 22 INTs, 7 rush TDs

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, March 3, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-rosters-2014
Body:

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

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

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

My pick for the 2014 national championship is probably going to be Florida State versus Alabama. Nick Saban is the best coach in the nation, and Jimbo Fisher has quickly checked most boxes needed to earn a Hall of Fame induction. Both head coaches have a national championship on their resume — in fact, four of the five BCS titles — and both develop talent, call plays, prepare their team as well as any coach in the game today.

It doesn't hurt that they will have the best players in the nation as well. Alabama has won four straight recruiting national championships and Florida State returns the No. 2 roster in the nation — one that includes the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. 

According to the numbers, objectively, Alabama and Florida State will enter the 2014 season with the best depth charts in college football. Below is each roster in the major six leagues (plus Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU) based on average national recruiting ranking over the last five classes (according to 247Sports). Included is each team's win-loss record over the last four seasons.

 Team '14'13'12'11'10RankW/LConf.
1.Alabama111151.846-726-6
2t.Florida State4103295.645-1026-6
2t.Florida9341115.630-2117-15
4t.LSU2614777.244-925-7
4t.Ohio State3256207.242-1026-6
6.USC11129337.635-1723-13
7.Texas17172428.430-2018-17
8t.Auburn61311868.837-1619-13
8t.Georgia81185128.836-1822-10
10t.Oklahoma14161213411.843-1027-9
10t.Notre Dame1051891711.837-15--
12.Michigan2046261614.433-1918-14
13.Tennessee7242014814.621-287-25
14.Oregon211913121315.647-632-4
15.Texas A&M5916351816.636-1620-13
16.Miami121410331516.829-2118-14
17.Clemson181515102817.238-1524-8
18.South Carolina162017163019.842-1123-9
19.UCLA1971945102029-2419-17
20.Stanford1351722222346-831-5
21.Washington371823241423.230-2220-16
22.Ole Miss15846203825.421-297-25
23.Nebraska35223017262638-1623-9
24.Virginia Tech272121363227.437-1724-8
25.Arkansas302328213627.628-2214-18
26.North Carolina292843192428.630-2116-16
27t.Oklahoma State283232252728.839-1324-11
27t.Penn State243048311128.830-2020-12
29.Mississippi State382522342929.631-2113-19
30.Michigan State25373332233042-1225-7
31.Cal48393415193116-339-27
32.Baylor26272746393336-1622-13
33.Texas Tech414625184434.830-2114-21
34.West Virginia36313649333730-2116-16
35.Virginia322926237737.418-318-24
36.Kentucky223450374537.615-344-28
37.Missouri394331572138.235-1720-13
38.Arizona State234035653138.830-2221-15
39.TCU423529306239.635-1622-12
40.Louisville473645295041.437-1520-9
41.Rutgers605024274841.828-2313-16
42t.Pitt443342583442.227-2515-14
42t.Arizona314441484742.227-2414-22
44t.Iowa535840283542.828-2315-17
44t.Maryland434138524042.822-2811-21
46.Wisconsin333865394944.839-1523-9
47.Vanderbilt452647565445.626-2512-20
48.Utah634737404245.828-2216-19
49.Oregon State614544434647.824-2617-19
50.NC State345954723751.227-2413-19
51.USF405353685253.218-317-22
52.Georgia Tech547652444153.428-2519-13
53.Indiana514256556954.615-336-26
54.Northwestern465255625954.828-2312-20
55.Cincinnati686351475356.433-1818-11
56.Illinois704964386356.820-307-25
57.Kansas554881426157.410-382-34
58.Minnesota576659545558.220-3010-22
59.Boston College528771414358.820-3012-20
60.BYU666472702559.433-19--*
61.Kansas State496174516760.436-1623-12
62.Washington State655458676060.815-348-28
63.Iowa State566067596461.219-3111-24
64.Purdue726249755161.818-329-23
65.Colorado766839646562.413-366-29
66.Houston745657735863.631-2023-11
67.Syracuse507361617363.627-2414-15
68.Duke587062637465.422-2911-21
69.Wake Forest62676669716718-3111-21
70.Boise State6755605311169.241-928-5
71.UCF5981101505669.438-1525-7
72.SMU787168666669.827-2520-12
73.East Carolina756979718575.829-2222-10
74.Temple718573838278.824-2413-18
75.UConn1056570807879.621-2813-16
76.Tulsa807989797580.432-2022-10
77.Memphis79899277688110-386-26
78.Tulane898283819285.416-3410-22

Who are the biggest overachievers?

Michigan State
The fifth-best roster in the Big Ten has delivered a Rose Bowl, Big Ten title and three seasons with at least 11 wins.

Kansas State
Bill Snyder's roster ranks 61st nationally in terms of talent but has consistently competed for Big 12 titles.

Wisconsin
Gary Andersen picked up where previous regimes left off on the field and might have actually improved UW off of it.

Stanford
Only the Ducks of Oregon have won more games than the 20th-best roster in the nation. Back-to-back Pac-12 titles.

BYU
Bronco Mendenhall has had a winning record every year since his first (9) and has six 10-win seasons. 

Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson has never missed a bowl and consistently competes for ACC titles with 52nd-ranked roster in the nation.

Duke
The 13th-best roster in the ACC and 68th-best roster in the nation won 10 games and its division last year.
Arizona State
Todd Graham has established ASU as a top-tier Pac-12 team with middle-of-the-pack (No. 7) talent.

Missouri
The 13th-rated roster in the SEC just won the East and 12 games.

Baylor
Art Briles has improved this roster incredibly over the last few years and now has depth that he didn't have before.

Who are the biggest underachievers?

Texas
It boasts the top roster in the Big 12 (No. 7 nationally) but is just 18-17 in league play over the last four seasons. 

Florida
Eight losses with the second-ranked roster in the nation is completely unacceptable.

USC
There is a reason that there was a regime change just a month into the season in Los Angeles.

Tennessee
Derek Dooley had solid recruiting classes but couldn't deliver on the field. See USC above.

Cal
Jeff Tedford had no problems luring talent, leaving Sonny Dykes with plenty to work with in Berkeley.

North Carolina
Not an elite roster but very talented within the league and UNC hasn't lost fewer than three ACC games since 1997.

Miami
The time is now for Al Golden and the ACC's second-ranked roster.

Virginia
Wahoos rank 35th nationally — ahead of Missouri, Wisconsin and Kansas State to name a few. 

Arkansas
The Hogs had their worst season in the program's history despite ranking 25th nationally in terms of talent.
Kentucky
Uphill battle in the SEC but this group has the worst record of any "Big 5" school and is 36th nationally in talent.

Teaser:
Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2014
Post date: Monday, March 3, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-football-rosters-2014
Body:

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

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

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

The Big Ten has seen plenty of movement of late. Not only does the conference welcome the Playoff Era in 2014 but it also welcomes two new teams — two new faces with fertile recruiting bases in the Northeast that should benefit every team in the league to some degree. The coaching ranks have seen plenty of turnover as well with changes taking place at powerhouses Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin over the last two years in addition to Purdue and Illinois.

One guys still stands above the rest when it comes to Big Ten recruiting. However, could there be a new face in the league poised to challenge in the very near future?

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

 Team '14'13'12'11'10RankW/LConf.
1.Ohio State3256207.242-1026-6
2.Michigan2046261614.433-1918-14
3.Nebraska352230172626.038-1623-9
4.Penn St243048311128.830-2020-12
5.Michigan State253733322330.042-1225-7
6.Rutgers605024274841.828-2313-16
7.Maryland434138524042.822-2811-21
8.Iowa535840283542.828-2315-17
9.Wisconsin333865394944.839-1523-9
10.Indiana514256556954.615-336-26
11.Northwestern465255625954.828-2312-20
12.Illinois704964386356.820-307-25
13.Minnesota576659545558.220-3010-22
14.Purdue726249755161.818-329-23

What did we learn?

Lapping the field
Urban Meyer has had two full recruiting classes in the Big Ten and the level with which he is attracting talent is putting the rest of the conference to shame. Ohio State has posted three consecutive top-five classes nationally under Meyer while only Michigan (6th in 2012 and 4th in 2013) brags even one class inside the top 20 nationally. The Buckeyes have the fifth-best roster in the country and sit well ahead of the rest of the conference. Only Michigan at 12th overall is ranked in the top 20 nationally in terms of talent. In the Big Ten, there is Ohio State and then everybody else when it comes to recruiting.

Who can challenge Urbs?
This one is easy. James Franklin at Penn State is the perfect mix of energy, talent, charisma, success, support and swagger that is needed to attempt to battle Urban Meyer head-to-head on the recruiting trail. This team remarkably posted 10 conference wins in two heavily sanctioned seasons under Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions don’t take any steps back with the transition to the new coaching staff and, in fact, Franklin is a better fit considering his background and love of the college game. Penn State enters this fall with the fourth-best roster in the league and 28th-best roster overall. Fans in Happy Valley should fully expect that ranking to improve dramatically over the next few recruiting cycles.

What happened to Michigan?
Losing five of your last six games will have an impact on recruiting, and, while Brady Hoke still landed a top-20 class in 2014, Michigan limped to the finish on National Signing Day. Michigan still brags what is clearly the second-best roster in the Big Ten and now the Wolverines' division has gotten even tougher. This team is dramatically more talented than every other team in the league not named Ohio State and there really is no excuse for the offensive ineptitude the Maize and Blue have experienced over the last 18 months. This, of course, is why Hoke made a change on his offensive staff. New coordinator Doug Nussmeier has obvious talent to work with and a returning quarterback in Devin Gardner. This coaching staff has to show marked improvement in 2014 or Hoke's seat will only continue to heat up in Ann Arbor.

Death, taxes and four losses for Nebraska
Bo Pelini is a fascinating head coach for a variety of reasons. His demeanor and overall prickliness aside, Nebraska is a lock for four losses every year under Pelini as he’s lost exactly four games in each of his six seasons. Nebraska has won either nine or 10 games in each season as well. The Cornhuskers haven’t recruited at an elite level nationally — ranking 23rd in the country in terms of talent over the last five classes. But that is good for third in the Big Ten (or first in the West Division) and it should allow for the Huskers to compete for championships in this league. It means it's time for the Pelini regime to break through and do something other than lose four games.

MadOverachievement in MadTown
The Badgers will enter the 2014 season as one of the championship frontrunners and one of the top contenders in the West Division. But they also will enter ’14 with the ninth-best roster in the league. And that was with a five-year high national ranking of 33rd in the latest cycle. Wisconsin has always been a middling program when it comes to recruiting but both Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema built teams that overachieved. Gary Andersen is a fantastic coach and will undoubtedly continue the profound level of overachievement that has taken place in Madison over the last few seasons.

What about the defending champs?
All of the other major players in the Big Ten seem to steal the headlines from Michigan State both on and off the field. But that is probably how Mark Dantonio wants it. His team quietly goes about its business, seemingly winning 11 games every season with little pomp or circumstance. And that should once again be the case in 2014. Dantonio returns the fifth-best roster in the league despite massive departures on defense, as the Spartans represent the last team among the top talent tier in the league. The drop off from No. 5 Michigan State to No. 6 Rutgers (and the rest of the league) appears to be glaring.

Early success for new faces?
Unlike Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12, Missouri in the SEC or Syracuse in the ACC, the Big Ten’s new editions are already on somewhat of an equal playing field in terms of talent. Missouri ranks 13th in the SEC, Syracuse is 12th in the ACC and Colorado is dead last in the Pac-12 when it comes to recruiting over the last five years. Rutgers and Maryland, however, appear on the surface to be in much better shape as they get ready to enter the Big Ten. The Knights boast the sixth-best roster in the league heading into the summer and the Terps are seventh in terms of talent entering 2014. These two coaching staffs are headed in opposite directions but both rosters look very capable of competing in their new league. To put it another way, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota all have “less” talent than the B1G newcomers, at least on paper.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Football Rosters for 2014
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

Texas and Oklahoma have dominated this league in all senses of the word for a long time. Nebraska has a long track record of great offensive line play (mostly before the BCS Era) and both Oklahoma State and Baylor have emerged recently with elite line play. But the rankings are still headlined by the Red River rivals — five of the top 10 Big 12 blockers and six of the top 12 during the BCS Era hail from either Norman or Austin.

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

1. Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04)
Starting his career as a defensive tackle, Brown exploded onto the national scene as a blocker as a sophomore. He helped lead the Sooners to the BCS National Championship Game twice and was recognized as the nation’s top offensive lineman in 2004 when he was awarded the Outland Trophy. The consensus All-American paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s NCAA record-setting freshman season. Brown was the 13th overall pick by the Saints in the 2005 NFL Draft and also was awarded the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman before he left college.

2. Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-00)
At a school known for its big uglies, Raiola is the Huskers’ best of the BCS Era. He was the first freshman O-lineman to start since 1991 when he took the field in '98. The following two seasons he set school records for knockdowns. As a junior, Raiola was the Rimington Trophy winner as the nation’s top center, was an Outland Finalist and earned consensus All-American honors before leaving school early for the NFL. The Huskers were 31-7 during his three seasons and won their last conference championship with Raiola leading the way in ‘99.

3. Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06)
The star blocker for the Horns helped return Texas to the promised land by paving the way for Vince Young on the 2005 BCS title team. He was an absurd four-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and earned Big 12 Lineman of the Year honors in 2006 as a senior. He was a consensus All-American that year and was a second-round pick of the Falcons in 2007. He led the way for some of the greatest offenses in Texas and Big 12 history.

4. Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13)
Few players have meant as much to their school’s success as Richardson has to Baylor. He led the charge on the first Big 12 championship team in school history as well as the program’s first BCS bowl appearance. He was named a two-time (2012, '13) recipient of the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year award and also was a consensus All-American and given the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman his senior season. Baylor went 36-16 during his four-year career and he never experienced a losing record while in Waco.

5. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2006-09)
The star left tackle for the Pokes was a four-year starter after entering the starting lineup four games into his college career. Okung was a freshman All-American, a two-time, first-team All-American (2008-09), an Outland Trophy finalist, the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2009) and claimed the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top blocker in his final season. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and has already been to one Pro Bowl.

6. Trent Williams, Oklahoma (2006-09)
The big fella was forced into action as a true freshman and earned freshman All-American honors in 2006. He paved the way for arguably the most productive backfield in Sooners history (Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray) and helped lead the Sooners to the 2008 BCS National Championship Game as a first-team All-Big 12 blocker in his junior season. He was a consensus All-American in 2009 and was the fourth overall pick by the Redskins in the 2010 NFL Draft. Oklahoma won three Big 12 titles and 42 games during Williams' four-year career.

7. Duke Robinson, Oklahoma (2005-08)
The guard from Atlanta was one of Bob Stoops' greatest players. He was a two-time consensus All-American in 2007 and '08 and helped lead Oklahoma to the BCS title game against Florida as a senior. Robinson was an Outland Trophy finalist that year and was a fifth-round draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Oklahoma went 34-8 during Robinson’s final three seasons, including three straight Big 12 championships.

8. Toniu Fonoti, Nebraska (1999-01)
This monster of a blocker set the Nebraska single-season and all-time record for pancake blocks. He was an All-American, a two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick, Outland Trophy finalist and helped the Huskers return to the BCS National Championship Game in 2001. Like Raiola, Fonoti left early for the NFL and was a second round pick in the 2001 draft.

9. Nate Solder, Colorado (2007-10)
The massive left tackle — who checks in at 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds — began his career at tight end before moving to the line as a sophomore. In three seasons along the line, Solder was a two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick, a consensus All-American, first-round NFL Draft pick (17th overall in 2011) and Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2010). He also was one of three Outland Trophy finalists during his senior season.

10. Jonathan Scott, Texas (2002-05)
Along with Blalock, Scott helped lead the Longhorns to their first national championship since 1970 when Texas went unbeaten during his senior season in 2005. Scott was a two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick and an unanimous All-American during his time in Austin. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Leonard Davis, Texas (1997-00)
The 6-foot-6, 355-pound stud from Wortham, Texas, was a consensus All-American in 2000 and an Outland Trophy Finalist in his final season. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft and has gone to three Pro Bowls in the NFL. Davis helped turn Texas from a 4-7 team in ’97 to one with three straight nine-win seasons from 1998-2000.

12. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (2010-13)
After his freshman All-American season in 2010, Ikard went on to earn three consecutive first-team All-Big 12 selections. Oklahoma went 43-10 during his four-year career, winning the 2010 Big 12 title outright and a share of the '12 conference crown.

13. Nick Leckey, Kansas State (2000-03)
The top KSU blocker from the BCS Era has to be the four-year starter from Dallas County, Texas. Leckey started 41 straight games, earning third-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore and back-to-back first-team honors as an upperclassman. He was a Rimington finalist and was on the Kansas State team that stunned previously undefeated Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game in 2003.

14. Andre Gurode, Colorado (1998-01)
The big blocker from Houston played both guard and center at a high level for the Buffaloes. He was a two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick and a consensus All-American as a senior. Gurode was a second-round pick in 2002 and has been invited to five Pro Bowls.

15. Jon Cooper, Oklahoma (2005-08)
On the same team with Duke Robinson and Trent Williams, Cooper actually was the top lineman in the league on the 2008 squad that lost to Florida in the BCS title game. He won three Big 12 championships and was a two-time,  first-team All-Big 12 pick. The three-year starter went undrafted.

16. Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech (2005-08)
One of the most physically dominant players in Big 12 history, Vasquez earned his first All-Big 12 honor when he didn’t allow a sack in the nation’s top passing attack in 2007. He returned and earned All-Big 12 honors again for the historic and memorable 11-2 Red Raiders squad of 2008.

17. Levy Adcock, T, Oklahoma State (2009-11)
Alongside Grant Garner, Adcock started for two of his three seasons in Stillwater. He helped Oklahoma State claim its first Big 12 championship and BCS bowl berth in 2011, earning consensus All-American honors in his final year. Adcock was a first-team All-Big 12 pick in both seasons that he started for Mike Gundy.

18. Seth McKinney, Texas A&M (1998-01)
A four-year starter at center, McKinney started all 50 of his possible career games in college. He was an all-conference selection multiple times and received some All-American consideration in his final season. McKinney was a third-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft and also was a Rimington finalist.

19. Adam Spieker, Missouri (2004-07)
Playing on some of the most successful teams in school history, Spieker was a two-time honorable mention All-Big 12 player as a sophomore and junior before winning co-Offensive Lineman of the Year honors as a senior in 2007. He was a part of the 12-win Tigers team that was the first in school history to play in the conference title game.

20. Cody Wallace, Texas A&M (2004-07)
Wallace was a three-year starter in College Station, earning some sort of all-conference recognition in all three seasons. He capped his career by winning co-Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in the Big 12 with Adam Spieker. He was a Rimington finalist and a fourth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

21. Anthony Collins, Kansas (2004-07)
Collins was an All-American and huge part of arguably the best Kansas football team in recent memory. He helped lead the Jayhawks to their only BCS bowl victory in its only such appearance as a senior protecting quarterback Todd Reesing.

22. Grant Garner, Oklahoma State (2007-11)
A two-year starter in Stillwater, Garner was honored as the Big 12’s best offensive lineman in 2011 — the same year Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 championship and first BCS bowl game.

23. Brandon Carter, Texas Tech (2006-09)
A guy with as big a personality as his 6-foot-6, 320-pound frame, Carter was a consensus All-American in 2008 on the historic 11-win Red Raiders squad that nearly won the Big 12 South championship.

24. Derrick Dockery, Texas (1999-02)
A four-year letterman and two-year starter, Dockery earned consensus All-American honors in his final season in Austin as he was a big part of the rebuilding process under Mack Brown. Dockery was a third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

25. Davin Joseph, Oklahoma (2002-05)
Playing on multiple Big 12 title teams and in multiple BCS National Championship Games, Joseph was a mainstay for the Sooners. He started 29 of the 50 career games he played in and earned consensus first-team Big 12 honors in 2005.

Teaser:
Top 10 Big 12 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The SEC is all about running the football, playing great defense and winning championships. How do you run the ball and/or stop a great defense? With great hog mollies. The big uglies in the SEC are among the greatest of any conference and its why the SEC has been so successful in the BCS Championship Game. In particular, one school in Alabama has been a factory of sorts during the BCS Era for blockers.

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

1. Barrett Jones, Alabama (2009-12)
No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA. Jones might not be the most physically gifted player to ever play in the SEC but he pretty much dominated college.

2. Chris Samuels, Alabama (1996-99, pictured)
The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999 as a senior. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American. He entered the starting lineup during his freshman season and proceeded to start 42 straight games — without allowing a sack. Samuels was picked third overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft and went to six Pro Bowls.

3. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (2011-12)
The supremely talented Joeckel helped lead the Aggies from the Big 12 to the SEC seamlessly due in large part to his blocking. In three full seasons, Joeckel started all 39 possible career games at left tackle for Texas A&M. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman and earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top blocker. He was an all-conference pick in two different conferences and a consensus All-American. The TAMU star was the No. 2 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft.

4. Shawn Andrews, Arkansas (2001-03)
A two-time consensus All-American, Andrews was an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist in 2003. He earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking Awards as the SEC’s top lineman in 2002-03 — the only SEC player to win the award twice during the BCS Era and the first since Florida’s Jason Odom in 1994-95. Andrews was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles and was invited to three Pro Bowls during his seven years in the NFL.

5. Andre Smith, Alabama (2006-08)
Smith was a five-star prospect from Birmingham before dominating the SEC for three seasons at Alabama. As a junior, Smith won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and was a consensus All-American. He left school early or else would have been a part of the 2009 BCS championship team. Still, Smith gets credit for helping to rebuild Alabama and was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection. The Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft.

6. Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas (2005-08)
The Razorbacks’ pivot for Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones was a three-time, first-team All-SEC performer. Luigs was a two-time Rimington finalist, winning the award given to the nation’s top center in 2007. He also was a consensus All-American in '07 and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with 49 consecutive starts and was a major part of one of the only two Arkansas teams to be ranked in the top five of the AP poll during the BCS Era (2006, '11).

7. Michael Oher, Ole Miss (2005-08)
One of the most high-profile linemen during the BCS Era, Oher was a consensus All-American, a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection and the SEC’s top offensive lineman in 2008 (Jacobs Trophy). The Outland finalist was a freshman All-American in 2005 and helped take a team with three straight losing seasons to a nine-win campaign and a Cotton Bowl berth as a senior. Oher was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.

8. Marcus McNeil, Auburn (2002-05)
The All-American started 28 games in his four-year career, helping lead the Tigers to an unbeaten SEC championship season in 2004 (13-0). He was again an All-American as a senior in 2005, paving the way for one of the most talented backfields in SEC history. McNeil was taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Chargers.

9. Ben Wilkerson, LSU (2001-04)
Starting for Nick Saban up front, Wilkerson helped lead LSU to two SEC championships and its first national title (2003) in over 50 years. After winning the BCS title as a junior, he was a consensus All-American in 2004 and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He was a two-time Rimington finalist and went undrafted in 2005.

10. Maurkice Pouncey, Florida (2007-09)
There are no holes in Pouncey’s resume. He won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2008 as the starting center as just a sophomore. He was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2009. Pouncey was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2010 and already has been to three Pro Bowls in his NFL career.

Just missed the cut:

11. Matt Stinchcomb, Georgia (1995-98)
The older Stinchcomb brother was a two-time All-American at Georgia as a junior and senior. He was awarded the Draddy Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." Stinchcomb was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 1999 NFL Draft.

12. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (2010-13)
The son of NFL blocking legend Bruce Matthews, Jake paved his own impressive career path through both the Big 12 and SEC. He was a two-time All-American as an upperclassman blocking for Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and won the Jacobs Trophy as a senior. He played right tackle for three years and switched to left for his senior season as Texas A&M won 36 games during his career.

13. Chance Warmack, Alabama (2009-12)
Warmack has three BCS National Championship rings from his four-year career at Alabama — two of them as a starting blocker in 2011-12. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior, an Outland Trophy finalist and first-round pick of the Titans in the 2013 NFL Draft. He started 39 games over his final three years paving the way for Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.

14. Lee Ziemba, Auburn (2007-10)
The Auburn blocker was a four-year starter for the Tigers, earning freshman All-American honors in his first year. He set the school record with 52 consecutive starts and his final game on a college field was the BCS National Championship victory over Oregon in 2010. Ziemba was a consensus All-American and Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner.

15. Andrew Whitworth, LSU (2002-05)
Along with Ziemba, Whitworth started all four seasons ending with 52 career starts (which was No. 2 in NCAA history at the time). He was a two-time All-SEC selection, a freshman All-American and helped LSU claim the BCS National Championship as a sophomore.

16. Brandon Burlsworth, Arkansas (1995-98)
For many reasons, Burlsworth is one of the greatest SEC linemen of all-time. The former walk-on worked his way from after thought on the depth chart to two-time, All-SEC first-teamer and an All-American as a senior. His No. 77 was just the second uniform ever retired by Arkansas and he was a four-time All-SEC Academic selection. His potential NFL career was cut short just 11 days after being drafted when he passed away in a car accident in 1999 at age 22. He was beloved by his fans and respected by his peers and is one of the SEC’s greatest walk-ons… ever.

17. Ciron Black, LSU (2006-09)
Picking up were Whitworth left off, Black started all four seasons while at LSU after Whitworth did the same in the previous four seasons. He led LSU to a BCS title in 2007 and a 40-13 overall record in 53 starts. He was a freshman All-American, three-time All-SEC selection and the Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner in 2009.

18. Kendall Simmons, Auburn (1997-01)
Simmons was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick as an upperclassman in 2000 and '01. He played in every game as a true freshman and entered the starting lineup as a sophomore before missing all of the 1999 campaign. He returned to start for two years, earning the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2001 as the SEC’s best offensive lineman. He was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2002.

19. Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia (2002-05)
MJG was a huge part of the return to SEC greatness for the Georgia Bulldogs. He played a significant role on two SEC championship teams as a freshman and senior. Jean-Gilles was named a consensus All-American and was a fourth-round pick by the Eagles in 2006.

20. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State (2010-13)
Only one time in history has Mississippi State gone to four consecutive bowl games and Jackson was a part of all four teams. He was a four-year starter and three-time All-SEC pick from 2011-13.

Best of the rest:

21. Mike Pouncey, Florida (2007-10)
22. Ben Grubbs, Auburn (2003-06)
23. Kenyatta Walker, Florida (1998-00)
24. Wesley Britt, Alabama (2001-04)
25. Larry Warford, Kentucky (2009-12)
26. Michael Munoz, Tennessee (2000-04)
27. Aaron Sears, Tennessee (2003-06)
28. D.J. Fluker, Alabama (2010-12)
29. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama (2011-13)
30. Greg Robinson, Auburn (2012-13)

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-rosters-2014
Body:

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

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

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

Things are getting serious out West.

The level of competition in the Pac-12 has increased substantially over the last few seasons. Increased spending and dedication from administrations, a lucrative new TV contract and excellent new leadership, both at the league level (Larry Scott) and throughout the coaching ranks have led the Pac-12 charging into the Playoff Era.

All of these new facilities and spending, of course, is to lure better players to the West Coast. And it has worked to perfection as the Pac-12 has become the top challenger to the SEC when it comes to conference supremacy.

In fact, in 2014, there is a chance that the Pac-12 might be the best league in the country. That is not by accident.

Here is how the Pac-12 rosters rank entering the 2014 season. Below is each roster in the Pac-12 based on average national recruiting ranking over the last five classes (according to 247Sports), each team's win-loss record over the last four seasons and some analysis of what it all means heading into the '14 season.

 Team '14'13'12'11'10RankW/LConf.
1.USC11129337.635-1723-13
2.Oregon211913121315.647-632-4
3.UCLA19719451020.029-2419-17
4.Stanford13517222223.046-831-5
5.Washington371823241423.230-2220-16
6.Cal483934151931.016-339-27
7.Arizona State234035653138.830-2221-15
8.Arizona314441484742.227-2414-22
9.Utah634737404245.828-2216-19
10.Oregon State614544434647.824-2617-19
11.Washington State655458676060.815-348-28
12.Colorado766839646562.413-366-29

What did we learn?

There’s a reason Lane Kiffin is in Alabama
USC’s roster is clearly the most talented in the conference. And while sanctions have kept USC from playing in the Pac-12 title game or postseason, the real reason Steve Sarkisian is now in Los Angeles is because this powerhouse program underachieved. The Trojans' roster is the sixth-best in the nation but the Men of Troy have performed significantly behind the Pac-12’s current power duo from the North. The good news is that Coach Sark has plenty of talent to work with, especially after winning National Signing Day in impressive fashion. The rest of the league be warned because it shouldn’t take too long for the most talented roster in the Pac-12 to return to title contention.

Balance of power shifting?
USC and UCLA have the No. 1- and No. 3-most talented rosters in the league and USC won a share of seven straight conference titles from 2002-08. However, the last five conference champions have come from either Eugene or Palo Alto. It hasn’t been just great coaching either, in fact, both teams lost an elite head coach to the NFL in the last few seasons. Mark Helfrich and David Shaw have maintained a level of success on the recruiting trail that both Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh established years ago at Oregon and Stanford respectively. The Ducks (No. 14) and Cardinal (No. 20) are in the top third in terms of talent in the Pac-12 and both rank in the top 20 nationally. And no team in the nation, not even Alabama, has won as many games as Oregon’s 47 over the last four years. Stanford is tied with Bama for No. 2 among power schools with 46 wins. The point is if fans expect a shift away from the North's two powerhouses in the Pac-12 anytime soon, it won’t be because of lack of talent.

According to Jim
Recruiting wasn’t Slick Rick’s problem at UCLA. It’s why Jim Mora has been able to compete in the Pac-12 right out of the gate, winning the division in his first season and posting 10 wins in his second. He has continued UCLA’s overall success on the trail as well, bringing in two top-20 hauls in his first two cycles. This is something he will have to continue to do in order to compete with Stanford and Oregon. UCLA lost 16 games the two years prior to Mora’s arrival and he has posted back-to-back nine-win seasons to start his Bruins tenure. With the third-best roster in the league entering 2014 (and Brett Hundley under center), Mora should have another great shot at UCLA’s first Pac-12 title since 1998.

Tempe Todd
It took just two seasons for Todd Graham to post the best record in the Pac-12 and earn a berth in the conference championship game. The Sun Devils aren’t without talent, but ASU will boast just the seventh-best roster in the league and the 38th-best roster overall in the nation entering 2014. It makes his 18-9 record and 10-win season that much more impressive over the last two years. With UCLA and USC entering ’14 with significantly better rosters, can Arizona State repeat as South Division champs?

Sonny side up
Cal has always had a strong recruiting presence on the West Coast. However, the Bears' recruiting trend might be concerning as the national recruiting ranking for Cal has dropped four years in row from 15th in 2011 to 48th in '14. Despite all of that talent, nine total wins in the league from 2010-12 is why Sonny Dykes is now in charge in Berkeley. This is still the sixth-best roster in the league, however, and it means that Dykes shouldn’t have to work miracles to get his Bears back on the winning track. But if Cal wants to compete with the likes of Oregon and Stanford, he will have to start by rebuilding his program’s image on the recruiting trail as well as on the field.

Long uphill climb
Kyle Whittingham elevated Utah from the Mountain West to the prestigious ranks of the Pac-12. Mike Leach and Mike MacIntrye were both hired in the last two seasons to lead once excellent programs back to relevance. And while all three coaches are very well respected and all three teams seemed improved in 2013, all three will be entering the ’14 season with three of the four worst rosters in the conference. Utah ranks significantly higher than both the Buffs and Cougs in terms of talent, sitting at 48th nationally. The climb will be tougher in Boulder and Pullman. Colorado ranks ahead of only Syracuse, Duke and Wake Forest nationally among Big 5 schools while Washington State ranks 62nd nationally in terms of talent.

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Football Rosters for 2014
Post date: Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The ACC has been knocked for its overall lack of football talent in recent years. While it is hard to find elite running backs, for example, from the BCS Era, there is no lack of big-time talent along the offensive line. And most of it appears to come from either Florida State — six of the top 20 — or the state of Virginia — six of the top 15. And the overall theme for the best the ACC had to offer up front on offense appears to be longevity. There were more than a few four-year stalwarts along the offensive line from the conference during the BCS Era.

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

1. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (2002-05)
Ferguson started 49 games in his Virginia career — all at left tackle —  helping the Cavaliers to four straight bowl games. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and earned All-American honors in his final season in Charlottesville. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has gone to three Pro Bowls.

2. Alex Barron, Florida State (2001-04)
The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder was Florida State’s top lineman of the BCS Era. He was a consensus All-American in 2003 and a unanimous All-American in 2004. Barron was an Outland Trophy finalist in his final season as well. His teams never won fewer than eight games, won two ACC titles and went 26-6 in conference play over that span. Barron was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Rams.

3. Steve Justice, Wake Forest (2004-07)
Few players have meant more to their school than Justice did to Wake Forest. After enduring two losing seasons as an underclassman, Justice was the first-team All-ACC pivot for arguably the greatest team in school history. He led the way on the 11-win, ACC championship squad of 2006. He came back for his senior year and earned his second first-team All-ACC nod and was a consensus All-American as well. Justice was a Rimington finalist and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC in ’07.

4. Rodney Hudson, Florida State (2007-10)
The mauler from Mobile was a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, a two-time, first-team All-American and a two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC. He is one of only two guards to ever win the award twice (Elton Brown). He helped return Florida State to the ACC championship game as a senior in 2010 for the first time since '05. Hudson was a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

5. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (2009-12)
The massive Tar Heels blocker was a three-time All-ACC performer and an Outland Trophy finalist in 2012. The unanimous All-American won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the league’s top lineman and eventually was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Cardinals. He paved the way for the ACC’s top running back (Gio Bernard).

6. Brett Williams, Florida State (1999-2002)
Williams stepped in midway through his freshman season in 1999 to help lead Florida State to a BCS National Championship in just his first season. He then started every game for a team that returned to the title game the following year (losing to Oklahoma). As an upperclassman, Williams earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking awards as the ACC’s top lineman — one of three players to do so in the BCS Era. He was a three-time All-ACC pick (twice on the first team).

7. Elton Brown, Virginia (2001-04)
Brown was one of just four players in school history to earn consensus All-American honors at Virginia when he did so as a senior. He was awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy twice — one of three to do so during the BCS Era — and was an All-ACC player. Virginia went to three bowl games in his final three seasons, winning 25 games over that span. He was a fourth-round pick in 2005.

8. Branden Albert, Virginia (2005-07)
Albert became just the second true freshman to start for Virginia along the offensive line since 1972 when he entered the lineup in 2005, earning freshman All-American honors along the way. He started all 37 games for the Cavaliers during his three-year career and was named first-team All-ACC. Albert was a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and has been to the Pro Bowl.

9. Craig Page, Georgia Tech (1996-98)
After one season at Louisville, Page transferred to Tech and was a three-year star for the Yellow Jackets. He was the first Outland finalist in school history as a senior and earned consensus All-American honors as well as the Jacobs Trophy in 1998 for a team that won a share of the ACC championship. Page holds numerous weight lifting records at Tech and started 35 straight games at center for the Ramblin’ Wreck.

10. Kyle Young, Clemson (1998-01)
Young was a two-time All-American and two-time Rimington Finalist during his time at Clemson. He was a three-time, first-team All-ACC pick and was a part of three bowl teams for Clemson.

Just missed the cut:

11. Cameron Erving, Florida State (2011-present)
After playing every game in 2011 as a freshman defensive lineman, Erving moved to the O-line where he has started two full seasons on back-to-back ACC title teams. He was the Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner for the BCS National Champions in 2013 as he and linemate Bryan Stork headed up the protection of Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Erving was an All-American and All-ACC selection.

12. Bryan Stork, Florida State (2010-13)
Stork worked his way into the starting lineup as a freshman and then started for the final three years of his career. He led the way as the center on back-to-back ACC championship teams and the BCS National Champions as a senior. He was an All-American and Rimington Award winner as the nation’s best center as a senior.

13. Eugene Monroe, Virginia (2005-08)
Learning from Ferguson, Monroe entered the starting lineup midway through his sophomore season. He was an All-ACC pick as a junior and didn’t allow a sack all season. He was first-team All-ACC as a senior and won the Jacobs Trophy as the league’s top offensive lineman. Monroe was the eighth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

14. Duane Brown, Virginia Tech (2004-07)
The Hokies won two ACC championships and played in another conference title game during his four-year run in Blacksburg. He switched from tight end as a freshman to offensive line and started their the rest of his career. He was an all-conference selection (second-team) in both of his upper class seasons and eventually was a first-round pick of the Texans in 2008. He’s been to two Pro Bowls.

15. Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech (2008-11)
DeChristopher was a huge part of two ACC championship teams and three division-winning teams at Tech. He was a first-team All-ACC pick and Jacobs Trophy winner — the first in school history — as a senior in 2011. He started every game but one in his final three seasons in Blacksburg.

16. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (2008-11)
The big fella from Illinois was the first true freshman to start on the offensive line for Boston College since 1998 — and he did it on a team that went to the ACC championship game. He was a freshman All-American and two-time All-ACC pick as an upperclassman. He set the BC record with 54 consecutive starts and was a Rhodes Scholar nominee in 2010.

17. Chris Brown, Georgia Tech (1997-00)
A four-year starter, Brown got the nod in 43 of his 48 career games. He was named a consensus All-American as a senior and was part of a team that won 34 games, a share of an ACC title and went to four bowl games.

18. Eric Winston, Miami (2002-05)
Winston was a tight end on the 2002 team that lost to Ohio State in the BCS title game as a freshman. He then switched to O-line and was one of the team best blockers as just a sophomore before missing most of the ’04 season with a torn ACL. He returned for his final season to earn the Jacobs Blocking Trophy and All-ACC honors before getting selected in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft.

19. Josh Beekman, Boston College (2003-06)
Beekman started 37 straight games for the Eagles during his time in Chestnut Hill. He was an All-American as a senior and was named the ACC's top offensive lineman as the recipient of the Jacobs Trophy. He just missed playing in two ACC title games but helped build the foundation for those teams.

20. Tarlos Thomas, Florida State (1998-01)
He was a starter in every game on back-to-back ACC championship teams and in back-to-back BCS National Championship Games. He was the Jacobs Blocking Trophy recipient as the top ACC lineman on the the Noles team that won the national title in ’99. He tore his ACL and missed most of his senior season, however, otherwise he could have landed much higher on this list.

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-football-rosters-2014
Body:

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

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

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

When it comes to the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma stand above the rest — in all senses of football success. These two normally dominate the headlines, the standings and the recruiting trail. And one quick look at the last five years' worth of recruiting rankings indicate this is still very much the case in the Big 12. However, the rise of potential Big 12 powers in other Heartland outposts have flipped the conference standings upside down for the most part — which is why there is a new coach in Austin.

Here is how the Big 12 rosters rank entering the 2014 season. Below is each roster in the Big 12 based on average national recruiting ranking over the last five classes (according to 247Sports), each team's win-loss record over the last four seasons and some analysis of what it all means heading into the '14 season.

 Team '14'13'12'11'10Avg.W/LConf.
1.Texas17172428.430-2018-17
2.Oklahoma14161213411.843-1027-8
3.Oklahoma State283232252728.839-1324-11
4.Baylor262727463933.036-1622-13
5.Texas Tech414625184434.830-2114-21
6.West Virginia363136493337.030-2116-16
7.TCU423529306239.635-1622-12
8.Kansas554881426157.410-382-34
9.Kansas State496174516760.436-1623-12
10.Iowa State566067596461.219-3111-24

What did we learn?

Charlie Strong has no excuses
Mack Brown is one of the nicest guys to ever coach in major college football and that might have been part of the problem. The Longhorns have the best roster in the Big 12 and the seventh-best roster in the nation heading into the 2014 season. Yet, Brown and the Horns are ahead of only Kansas (10) and Iowa State (19) in the Big 12 in overall wins in the last four seasons. The 18 conference wins over that span rank sixth in the Big 12 as well. The bottom line is that Charlie Strong enters a situation where he's taking over a team that has dramatically underachieved despite having the best players in the league, at least according to the recruiting rankings. There are no excuses for Strong, especially if he keeps Texas atop the Big 12 recruiting rankings as expected.

Bill Snyder doesn’t care about any of this
Let’s face it, there is really only one coach in college football who can take the 60th-best roster in America and consistently win 10 games a season and that is Bill Snyder. His roster ranks ahead of only Iowa State’s entering Big 12 play and just behind in-state “rival” Kansas. Yet, the Wildcats have 26 more overall wins and 21 more conference wins than the Jayhawks over the last four years. Snyder won the Big 12 title in 2012 and consistently beats more talented teams on a yearly basis. He lives on the edge with junior college players but he has proven that he is a unique motivator and one-of-a-kind head coach.

Emerging powers
Baylor and Oklahoma State have won the past two Big 12 championships, as both Mike Gundy and Art Briles have built powerhouses in Stillwater in Waco. The recruiting rankings bear this out as both the Cowboys and Bears are nipping on the heels of the two big boys from Norman and Austin. Gundy (39 wins) and Briles (36) are second and third in the league in wins and have slowly built rosters that are beginning to be comparable to Texas and Oklahoma. The drop off in overall recruiting talent is still a large one as both the Horns and Sooners reside in the top 10 nationally while both Okie State and Baylor are outside of the top 25. But as fans in the Big 12 have seen, few coaches level the playing field better with schematics than Briles and Gundy. And now, it appears those two programs are elevating their stock on the recruiting trail as well.

Welcome to the big time
Gary Patterson has an impressive 35-16 overall record and 22-12 conference record over the last four years. That, of course, is with two decidedly different seasons each in the Mountain West and two in the Big 12. All 12 of those conference losses have come in the last two seasons in the Big 12 and 14 of those 16 overall losses have come in the last two seasons. TCU has seen a strong surge on the recruiting trail — from 62nd in 2010 to an average of 34th nationally over the last four cycles. This seems to indicate that the Frogs will be able to compete in the Big 12 once they gain their footing. How soon that will happen remains to be seen.

Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia are in the same boat as TCU. After finishing atop the Big East standings nearly every year in recruiting, the Mountaineers now sit sixth in the Big 12 in terms of talent entering the '14 season. Both of these teams are adjusting to a massive step up in competition and it will take time to win at a rate that either experienced in their former leagues. But much like TCU, West Virginia has a comparable roster to teams like Baylor and Texas Tech and should be able to flourish in the Big 12 over the long haul.

Captain Skinny Jeans
Kliff Kingsbury’s first season at the helm was an interesting one in Lubbock. He won his first seven games over teams with lesser talent, lost his next five against teams with better talent and then pulled off the huge upset over Arizona State in the postseason. Texas Tech enters this season with the fifth-best roster in the league but is trending in the wrong direction in recruiting. After two classes ranked in the top 25 under Tommy Tuberville, Kingsbury’s first two hauls have ranked outside of the top 40. Does he need elite players to win with his unique offensive system? Probably not. But should he not regain some footing on the recruiting trail in short order, his depth chart could take a hit. This would more than likely translate to fewer Ws and more Ls on the field, especially in Big 12 play.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12 Football Rosters for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did we learn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11-21

What did we learn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/ranking-top-25-sportscenter-anchors-all-time
Body:

There’s a reason ESPN has become the sports goliath that it is today.

They were the first and best in the business to do what they do. It began on Sept. 6, 1979 with the original run of their signature nightly sportscast that kept fans informed about what was happening in sports. This well before the eruption of the Internet, blog-o-sphere, social media or niche television networks.

For those of us born in the early '80s (like myself), SportsCenter was as big a part of my childhood as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I could follow my favorite teams, stories and personalities from all over the nation in one place. I could watch Knicks and Mets highlights every night whether I lived in Dallas, Atlanta or Austin. But what took SportsCenter from small cable network newscast to broadcasting behemoth was the creative, funny and unique personalities that, as Ron Burgundy would say, read the news. To quote one truly epic newscaster, “I don’t know how to put this, but, I’m kind of a big deal.”

With that in mind, from the viewer's perspective, here are the Top 25 SportsCenter anchors of all-time:

1. Dan Patrick (1989-06)
Not many jobs in any broadcasting field last for nearly 20 years and Patrick was the one of the best. Signature phrases "en fuego" (which actually started as "el fuego") and "The Whiff" helped grow the idea that SportsCenter was as much entertainment as it was news. He and his cohort Keith Olbermann should be largely credited with the initial growth of ESPN as the World Wide Leader. Others brought creativity and entertainment to sports broadcasting but Patrick and "KO" perfected the art and changed the way fans consume highlights forever. Not many sportscasters have 16 motion pictures and two national radio shows on their resume. Patrick has set the bar in the sports broadcasting industry.

2. Bob Ley (1979-present)
The classy stalwart has been with the network since its inception in 1979, making him one of (if not the) longest tenured ESPN employees in the building. Over the course of his prestigious career, Ley has claimed eight sports Emmys (Sports Journalism) and three Cable ACE awards (Sports Information Series) and has been the long-time host of the acclaimed investigative program Outside the Lines. He is credited with breaking the story of Pete Rose being banned from baseball.

3. Keith Olbermann (1992-97)
After a decade with CNN, Olbermann joined ESPN’s SportsCenter in 1992 quickly becoming a marquee personality. By 1995, he had won the Cable ACE award for Best Sportscaster. After things had soured internally at ESPN, and with an eye always toward the political spectrum, Olbermann left SportsCenter for MSNBC in 1997. He also worked for Fox Sports Net and NBC Nightly News. The cult-hit sitcom Sports Night, written by Aaron Sorkin, is based on Olbermann’s time spent with Patrick on the set of SportsCenter. Despite his bizarre and eccentric personality, ESPN likely isn’t what it is today without the impact of the combination of Patrick and Olbermann. He is credited with the advent of the phrase “This is SportsCenter” which has been used in cross-promotion and advertising for nearly two decades.

4. Greg Gumbel (1979-88)

There is little Mr. Gumbel has yet to accomplish in his illustrious broadcasting career. He has done play-by-play for the NCAA Tournament, NBA, MLB, Winter Olympics, college baseball and NFL. He has hosted shows about every sport on NBC and CBS as well as ABC. But it all started back in 1979 when he started his career at ESPN. He was a reporter, anchor and play-by-play man at a time when many doubted the future of SportsCenter. Gumbel’s no-nonsense approach has made him a model and iconic broadcaster who influenced generations of rising journalists and TV personalities.

5. Scott Van Pelt (2001-present)

The signature bald head of Van Pelt has become a staple of the ESPN television and radio broadcasts. He began working at the Golf Channel and has continued his work as one of the top host/analysts at all the major tournaments each season. Much like Patrick, Mayne and Olbermann, SVP’s comedic talents on SportsCenter helped him land an ESPN Radio gig as well as a variety of video game jobs (EA Sports).

6. Kenny Mayne (1994-present)
Few television personalities have ever had a dryer sense of humor than Mayne. The Washington native and junior college quarterback debuted on SportSmash in 1994 before moving over to the big network and developing into one of the funnier broadcasters in sports. His extensive and creative home runs calls in particular have withstood the test of time. He then developed “The Mayne Event” for NFL Sunday mornings and is still currently involved with his own feature “Wider World of Sports” as well as horse racing.

7. Linda Cohn (1992-present)
In 1987, Cohn made her first big mark in the business by becoming the first full-time national female sports anchor in U.S. radio history. She has withstood the test of time, hosting SportsCenter for over 20 years. Along the way, she was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and given the Women’s Sports Journalism Award. She also authored her own biography and has paved the way for women everywhere to break into the sports broadcasting business — or, as she puts it, “The Boys’ Club.”

8. Rece Davis (1995-present)
Laurece “Rece” Davis graduated from Alabama in 1968 and worked his way to ESPN2 by 1995. The consummate professional, Davis can play both host and analyst roles as well as anyone in the business. His work on College Football Live, Gameday Final and College Gameday make him one of the best in the business. He is always gracious with his time and is one of the few who genuinely loves the sports he covers.

9. Robin Roberts (1990-04)
The smooth-talking Roberts has been a staple of national television for over two decades. With quality catch-phrases and her up-tempo personality, Roberts developed into one of the best SportsCenter anchors of all-time. She won three Emmys for her work at ESPN and was given the Mel Greenberg Media Award in 2001. It eventually landed her on ABC’s signature morning program Good Morning America. Her very public bout (and victory) with cancer is just one reason millions have grown to love the Mississippi native.

10. Chris Berman (1979-present)
When he was good, few have ever been as entertaining and likable as Berman. Signature catch phrases and nicknames made him one of the preeminent SportsCenter anchors during the time of biggest growth for ESPN. His work on NFL Primetime and the Home Run Derby makes him one of the most distinctive personalities in ESPN history. However, his longevity might be his biggest weakness as 30 years in the business has left his shtick a bit stale. At his best (the '90s), he was one of the greats. And at his worst (the '00s), he can be nails on a chalkboard.

11. Ron Burgundy (2013)
The legend himself had a short run at ESPN — one show — but he is one of the greatest broadcasters to ever grace a television set. His interview with Peyton Manning alone was epic. And, of course, who could forget his audition tape from before SportsCenter had launched. As it turns out, Burgundy's intuition about the potential of 24-hour sports network were incorrect.

12. Brian Kenny (1997-11)
A baseball and boxing junkie, Kenny won an Emmy at ESPN and was named the network’s Volunteer of the Year in 2007. He also was named SI’s Media Personality of the Year in 2004 and Boxing Broadcaster of the Year in 2005.

13. John Anderson (1999-present)
Hailing from one of the most prestigious journalism departments in the nation at Missouri, Anderson has been one of the best new generation anchors at ESPN. He won the Oklahoma Sportscaster of the Year in 2012 and has crossed over into mainstream as the co-host of ABC's Wipeout.

14. Craig Kilborn (1993-96)
Many give credit to Kilborn, Patrick and Olbermann for bringing comedy to the SportsCenter set. He went on to host The Daily Show on Comedy Central and The Late, Late Show on CBS. He also famously appeared in Old School.

15. John Buccigross (1996-present)
The hockey aficionado has won Emmys for his work on SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight as well as NHL Tonight. He has written for the Web site (as well as a book) and hosted for ESPN for nearly 20 years. 

16. Dave Revsine (1999-07)
An even-keel broadcaster is as professional as they come. A Northwestern grad, Revsine hosted a variety of shows for ESPN and did play-by-play. In 2007, he left ESPN to become the lead studio host for the Big Ten Network when the channel launched.

17. Charley Steiner (1987-01)
The jolly, bearded anchor always seemed to have a good time on the air and always seemed to be involved in the funnier SC moments (Carl Lewis?). He eventually worked his way onto ESPN’s national baseball radio broadcasts as well before moving on to the Yankees' radio team in 2002.

18. Rich Eisen (1996-03)
The affable NFL Network lead host began his broadcasting career at KRCR-TV in Redding, Calif. He landed at ESPN in 1996 and built a name for himself with baseball impersonations and quality reporting. His podcast (The Rich Eisen Podcast) is one of the most listened to on the Web (over 7 mill. downloads).

19. Tim Brando (1986-94)
Brando has been a broadcasting giant for nearly 30 years. He has worked for CBS and, now, SiriusXM College Sports Nation, but it all began nationally at ESPN. He worked on the NCAA basketball championships and the beginning of the great College Gameday as well as anchoring SportsCenter for nearly a decade.

20. Mike Tirico (1991-1997)
One of the smoothest sportscasters in the business today has arguably the best job in the business calling Monday Night Football. However, he got started on SC in the early 90s. He is calm, cool and collected at all times and it makes for an enjoyable broadcast nearly everytime.

21. Steve Levy (1993-present)
A quality and likable broadcaster, Levy has been around the SportsCenter desk for two decades. His famous “bulging disk” slip-up is one of the all-time great moments in ESPN history. He also earned the nickname “Mr. Overtime” for his work as a hockey broadcaster.2

22. Neil Everett (2000-present)
The West Coaster worked at Hawaii Pacific University for 15 years before getting back into broadcasting. His signature deep, gravelly voice and Island vocabulary makes him one of the better “new” anchors.

23. Suzy Kolber (1993-96, 1999-present)
She has been around and lasted as long as anyone in the business. Like Roberts and Cohn just before her, Kolber is a bit of a pioneer in the male-dominated industry. She also gave American sports fans one of the greatest TV moments of all-time.

24. Kevin Frazier (2002-04)
His time was brief at ESPN, but “K-Fray” has long been one of the business’ most respected personalities. He is now the host of The Insider as well as college football coverage on FX and Fox.

25. Sage Steele (2007-present)
One of the most affable hosts in the business earned her stripes as a SC anchor and it delivered her a big-time gig. Steele recently has taken over as the lead chair for ESPN's NBA coverage.

Teaser:
Ranking the Top 20 SportsCenter Anchors in History
Post date: Sunday, February 23, 2014 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-linebackers-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

Home runs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* - as of Feb. 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* - since integration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Fantasy Baseball Big Board:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teaser:
SEC Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:15

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