Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-rankings-2013-tight-ends
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Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country’s most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different. The evolution of the tight end position has been interesting to track over the last few seasons. Smaller, quicker players are being lined up in the slot while bigger, more physical options are getting time in the backfield. Even the Colts drafted two tight ends last year, one to catch passes and stretch the field and the other to block and be a red-zone target. Just ask Bill Belichick how valuable a good tight end can be — he uses his like no other coach in history. Be it pure pass-catchers or complete three-down options, this should be another solid collection of rookie tight ends.

Measurables: Height, Weight, 40-time, 225-lb reps

1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-5, 250, 4.68, 22
Final Stats: 140 rec., 1,840 yds, 11 TD
The big Fighting Irish tight end is easily the top prospect at his position for this upcoming draft. But poor quarterback play has limited his statistical production throughout his career. He entered his final season as more of a pass-catcher, but has gotten stronger at the point of attack as ND looked to pound the football more in 2012. He projects as an excellent receiver on the next level and, should he continue to develop as an in-line blocker, he should hear his name called somewhere in the first round.

2. Zach Ertz, Stanford (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-5, 249, 4.76, 24
Final Stats: 112 rec., 1,434 yds, 15 TD
Ertz is a slightly less talented version of Coby Fleener. He isn’t quite as fast and isn’t quite as a explosive, but he doubled Fleener's production from the year before. He is a very similar player with similar skills and might be the better all-around prospect. He has played in a pro-style attack that focuses on NFL skills at the tight end position and has excelled all over the formation. Few programs have prepared this position for the next level like Stanford.

3. Jordan Reed, Florida (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-3, 236, 4.72, 16
Final Stats: 79 rec., 945 yds, 6 TD, 77 att., 328 yds, 5 TD, 252 pass yds, 3 TD, INT
He will likely function more as an H-Back due to his overall lack of size and elite speed, but there are no weaknesses to his overall game. He is strong, physical and solid in a blocking role. He has quickness on the outside in the passing game and will stretch the middle of the defense. And he showed loads of versatility as a runner and quarterback prior to the Gators switching to a pro-style attack in 2012. He dealt with three different coordinators in three seasons in Gainesville, so he is only scratching the surface of his overall potential.

4. Dion Sims, Michigan State (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-5, 262, 4.75, 22
Final Stats: 59 rec., 707 yds, 8 TD
Sims entered his final season with no help at quarterback or wide receiver and was arguably the top target in a one-dimensional offense. He is a powerful blocker with a huge frame and solid athleticism. He won’t wow scouts with his overall speed or quickness, but he has enough talent to stay on an NFL field due to his physicality and overall size for years to come. He should be a solid first- and second-down option with red zone potential.

5. Vance McDonald, Rice (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-4, 267, 4.69, 31
Final Stats: 119 rec., 1,504 yds, 15 TD
Rice has produced solid tight ends of late and McDonald is the next one. He is extremely versatile and can be used all over the offense. He is a smooth pass-catcher with excellent athletic ability and will be a matchup nightmare in the open field. He also showed excellent strength with 31 reps on the bench at the combine. However, he needs to develop as a blocker and could refine his ball skills. He has some of the biggest upside in the draft at this position.

6. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-3, 258, 4.94, 21
Final Stats: 59 rec., 628 yds, 14 TD
Without being elite at any one thing, Lutz could be the complete package at tight end. He has suffered through horrendous quarterback play, multiple offensive systems and complete coaching turmoil. Yet, back in 2010 with Cam Newton as his quarterback, he produced in key situations and was a big part of the championship run as only a sophomore. He delivers big plays in clutch situations — short yardage third downs and in the red zone. While not overly athletic, he can be a difficult matchup. As an H-back he also has proved to be a solid blocker and his ability to move around in the formation gives him some upside.

Related: Athlon's 2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

7. Michael Williams, Alabama (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-5, 268
Final Stats: 51 rec., 503 yds, 7 TD
The pros for Williams: A huge frame. A nasty, powerful run blocker. He played in a pro-style system coached by football czar Nick Saban. He was a huge part of three BCS national championship runs and he is as dependable as any prospect in the draft. His pass-catching skills are limited, particularly down the field, but there is plenty of room in the NFL for a guy with his in-line blocking talents and overall skill set.

8. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-6, 254, 4.84
Final Stats: 122 rec., 1,646 yds, 17 TD
He is a very natural pass-catcher with good ball skills and great awareness in the passing game. He isn't overtly athletic and won't make people miss in the open field or run away from defenders. He also isn't a developed run blocker yet either. He is a great third-down, passing game option but lacks the complete skill set needed to play all three downs.

9. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-5, 255, N/A
Final Stats: 59 rec., 875 yds, 10 TD
The Bearcats prospect might have the best overall frame for an NFL tight end of anyone in the class. He has excellent strength and power and uses his frame well in the passing game. There is a major red flag as he was suspended for an entire season for violating team rules. He also doesn't have elite speed or burst. He was an excellent blocker and has an excellent frame, but with only one season of production, Kelce has some question marks.

10. Levine Toilolo, Stanford (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-8, 260, 4.86, 17
Final Stats: 50 rec., 763 yds, 10 TD
No player at this position will bring a bigger, better frame to the next level than Toilolo. His is massive. He can be used equally as a pass-catcher and in-line blocker, but needs to refine his talents at both. He is a more of a long-term project than some of his peers, but few can match his raw upside. When it comes to working vertically down the seam or in the red zone, few have the potential to be as dangerous as the 6-8 monster from out west. He has experience in a pro-style attack that has developed a number of NFL tight ends of late.

11. Joseph Fauria, UCLA (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-7, 259, 17 reps
Final Stats: 88 rec., 1,139 yds, 20 TD
From a pure athletic stand point, few players in the nation will match the size and speed combination Fauria brings to the table. He has more upside as a receiver than a blocker but is adequate at both. He needs to polish his overall game and prove his dedication and commitment to being a great player. Developing a killer instinct might be his only weakness.

12. D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-6, 255
Final Stats: 47 rec., 560 yds, 2 TD
Unfortunately, Jefferson's combine was cut short due to a pectoral injury sustained during his bench press. However, he has intriguing athleticism and upside. He has drawn comparisons to Martellus Bennett — physically, not mentally. He was talented enough to enter college as a quarterback and will have to prove his skills across the board to make an impact on the NFL level. But size, speed and work ethic are all solid aspects of his game.

Other Names to Watch:

13. Ryan Otten, San Jose State (6-6, 245, Sr.)
14. Ryan Griffin, UConn (6-6, 245, Sr.)
15. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State (6-5, 245, Sr.)
16. Justice Cunningham, South Carolina (6-3, 258, Sr.)
17. Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 236, Sr.)
18. Mychal Rivera, Tennessee (6-3, 245, Sr.)
19. Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 260, Sr.)
20. Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-4, 245, Sr.)

2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends

Teaser:
<p> NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-studs-avoid-2013
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Fantasy Baseball Season 2013 edition is underway!

There is no better time of the year for sabermetric nerds and fans of the middle reliever. Athlon Sports has constructed its consensus ’13 Big Board, the 26th annual preseason preview magazine is on newsstands and drafts have begun in earnest.

Veteran fantasy baseballers know that a championship cannot be won in the first three or four rounds, but it can definitely be lost with one or two blown picks early in the draft. Just ask Roy Halladay owners who likely used an early pick on the aging Phillies ace. Or those who reached on Carlos Santana? What about Tim Lincecum? Owners who leaped in the first four rounds for Jimmy Rollins, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence, Alex Rodriguez and/or Adrian Gonzalez were likely disappointed GMs a year ago as well.

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Each year, there are players who are universally highly touted but fail to produce in relation to where they end up getting drafted. Using Athlon Sports' own fantasy rankings from this year's baseball preview magazine, here are the most likely candidates to disappoint in 2013 (in order of Athlon's ranking):

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado
Athlon Rank: 13th
When healthy, Tulo (28) is the best all-around shortstop in the game. He can hit for average and power and will produce in each counting stat. But owners would likely appreciate more dependability from a first- or second-round pick. He missed 115 games a year ago and hasn’t topped 150 games in any one season since 2009. In fact, in his six full seasons in the majors, Tulo averages just 119.8 games and has topped 140 games only three times. Draft with caution.

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta
Athlon Rank: 14th
The Braves outfielder is a classic case of risk and reward. He had a growth season last year in which he set career highs in runs, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases. There is a certainly a chance he continues to develop and establishes himself as a reliable early-round pick. However, he is a career .261 hitter with a career OPS of .799 and he posted his worst strikeout-to-walk rate of his young career last fall (152 K, 58 BB). He is a young, blossoming star in this game, but he would have to improve on career numbers once again to justify his ranking as an early second-round pick.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels
Athlon Rank: 17th
The star outfielder turns 32 in May and is now hitting in Anaheim rather than Texas. Enough said? Hamilton goes from one of the best hitter's parks to one of the worst and has yet to prove he can play a full season at full strength. He has missed 157 games over the last four years and had an off-the-field “relapse” in February 2012. He is easy to root for and has elite skills, but has some red flags that make him a riskier choice than other guys selected in the first half of the second round.

Gio Gonzalez, SP, Nationals
Athlon Rank: 21st
Gonzalez has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this winter as his name is linked prominently to the Biogenesis fiasco in South Florida. After being traded across the country from Oakland to Washington, Gonzalez had easily his best year. He somehow figured out how not to put people on base as his 1.13 WHIP last year is dwarfed by his career 1.33 mark. And this improvement netted him career-best numbers in ERA (2.89), wins (21) and strikeouts (207). The obvious and ominous question looms about his breakout season and his connection with PEDs, so using a second-round pick on Gio seems foolish.

Related: Top 20 MLB Prospects in the World Baseball Classic

Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
Athlon Rank: 23rd
This may be the most “gut instinct” red flag of all the dangerous high draft picks. He is a stud and has been so good that he is now worth $175 million to Seattle. Yet, someone floated the idea of elbow issues (perhaps as a negotiating ploy) and few players have pitched as much as King Felix the last four seasons. Hernandez has thrown 954.0 innings over that span with no fewer than 232.0 in any one season. In 2009-10, he went 32-17 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 449 strikeouts in 488.1 innings. In two years since winning the AL Cy Young, he is 27-23 with a 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 445 strikeouts in 465.2 innings. Those are extremely useful fantasy numbers, but aren’t worth a second-round pick.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
Athlon Rank: 24th
The case for Beltre is simple: 261 runs, 96 homers, 309 RBIs and sterling .314/.912 ratios. The case against Beltre is three-fold and raises concerns about being the slugging third baseman being a borderline second-round pick. He turns 34 on April 7 and has played more than 150 games only twice since 2006. He also won’t have Michael Young in front of him or Josh Hamilton behind him in the Rangers' lineup as both have moved on. He is a career .280 hitter with a career .807 OPS, so a repeat of his remarkable .321/.921 seems unlikely.

Joe Mauer, C, Twins
Athlon Rank: 26th
Mauer will never hit 28 home runs ever again. He has averaged 8.6 homers per season in his other seven full seasons in the big leagues. In fact, his 2012 season might be what fans can expect from the former MVP from now on. His 81 runs scored led all catchers, his eight stolen bases were second, his 85 RBIs were third and his .319 average was fourth. But his 10 dingers were 25th among backstops and his overall line wasn’t any better than names drafted dramatically later last year (e.g., Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero or Carlos Ruiz). Mauer is a stud but with a long track record of injuries, there is no reason to overpay for a small impact in the counting stats.

Jered Weaver, SP, Angles
Athlon Rank: 28th
Most of the concern about Weaver’s upside as a high pick stems from his decrease in velocity in September last year. His fastball averaged 87.8 MPH in the final month of the season a year ago and it hurt his numbers in a big way. His first half was sick: 96.2 IP, 10-1, 1.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 73 K. His second half was not: 92.0 IP, 10-4, 3.72 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 69 K. Names like Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and Adam Wainwright might be safer selections.

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres
Athlon Rank: 49th
So Headley isn’t ranked in the top two rounds, but many have him lumped in with the elite three-sackers (Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman). He doesn’t belong in that group and no one should consider drafting the Padres' third baseman in the first four rounds. Through four full seasons, Headley never hit more than 12 home runs and never drove in 70 — both of which took place back in 2009. Yet, he pounded 31 bombs last year and led the league in RBIs with 115. He is a career .273 hitter and has a career OPS of .769 so don’t expect another .286/.875 season. Especially, from a guy in one of the worst hitting parks in the National League who tolls in one of the weakest lineups in the Senior Circuit.

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Which Injured Players are Worth Drafting?

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-2013-spring-football-preview
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Was 2012 the best disappointment in school history? South Carolina won a school-record 11 games with wins over Michigan, Georgia, Clemson, Tennessee and Arkansas. It finished seventh in the final polls, the best final ranking in school history. But two crucial losses to LSU and Florida gave the Gamecocks a third-place finish in the SEC East and relegated them to the Outback Bowl. There are some specific holes to fill and new faces will need to step into more prominent roles, but all the pieces are in place for Steve Spurrier to make yet another run at the SEC Championship Game.

South Carolina Gamecocks 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 5-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Connor Shaw, 154-of-228, 1,956 yds., 17 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Connor Shaw, 131 car., 435 yds., 3 TDs
Receiving: Bruce Ellington, 40 rec., 600 yds, 7 TDs
Tackles: Jadeveon Clowney, 54
Sacks: Jadeveon Clowney, 13.0
Interceptions: Jimmy Legree, 3

Redshirts to watch: CB Chaz Elder, OT Brock Stadnik, WR Jody Fuller, LB T.J. Holloman, LB/S Jordan Diggs, DE Darius English

2013 Schedule

Aug. 29 North Carolina (Thur.)
Sept. 7 at Georgia
Sept. 14 Vanderbilt
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at UCF
Oct. 5 Kentucky
Oct. 12 at Arkansas
Oct. 19 at Tennessee
Oct. 26 at Missouri
Nov. 2 Mississippi State
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 Florida
Nov. 23 Coastal Carolina
Nov. 30 Clemson

Offensive Strength: The offensive line. Four of five starters return to the line and welcome loads of depth and new talent from the 2012 and '13 recruiting classes. Only center T.J. Johnson is gone from this battery of blockers.

Offensive Weakness: Playmakers. The team's top two leading rushers are gone, as is dynamic wideout Ace Sanders and leading tight end Justice Cunningham. Finding a tailback, a big vertical threat on the outside and developing a tight end would all help this offense.

Defensive Strength: Defensive line. The best player in the nation leads what could be one of the best defensive lines in the SEC. Replacing Devin Taylor and Byron Jerideau will be easier than expected.

Defensive Weakness: Linebackers. The top five players in the linebacking corps have moved on and no one player returns to the position with more than five total tackles from a year ago.

Spring Storylines Facing the Gamecocks:

1. Fill gaps at linebacker. The top five linebackers are gone from this roster and Spurrier will have his hands full trying to fill the gaps. Four of the five posted at least 47 tackles and no one player returns to the position with more than five tackles. Seven of the 10 returning linebackers will be freshmen, so this position has loads of talent but very little experience. Kaiwan Lewis and T.J. Holloman played as freshmen while a talented trio of redshirts in Edward Muldrow, Mason Harris and Cedrick Cooper will be intriguing to watch. Jordan Diggs could be in line to take over for DeVonte Holloman at the hybrid Spur position. This is an extremely young group but has upside, so the coaching staff needs to iron out this rotation sooner rather than later.

2. Find some playmakers on offense. The line of scrimmage is stacked on both sides of the ball and Spurrier has two talented options returning at quarterback. But he needs to see playmakers develop this spring on offense. The top two rushers from a year ago, Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles, are both gone while dynamic receiver Ace Sanders unexpectedly left early for the NFL. Sophomore Mike Davis heads a trio of unproven backs with Brandon Wilds and Kendric Salley all vying for carries in the backfield. Speedy wideouts Damiere Byrd and Bruce Ellington are both back but neither is a go-to target on the outside. Look for Nick Jones and Shaq Roland to get plenty of reps this spring.

3. Settle on a quarterback. It may be hard to believe that anyone other than Connor Shaw would begin the season under center. However, Dylan Thompson got tons of reps due to Shaw's lingering injuries. Thompson and early enrollee Connor Mitch both have tons of talent and will push Shaw for time. Gamecocks fans should be rooting for Shaw to put a stranglehold on the starting job this spring and make this position battle an afterthought heading into the summer.

4. Organize the secondary on defense. It's not as dire a situation as the linebackers, but there are some voids to fill in the defensive backfield as well. Akeem Auguste and D.J. Swearinger were the key departures. Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree should lock down the cornerback spots while Brison Williams should start at safety. Look for Spurrier to find some supporting actors for this portion of his defense. Ahmad Christian, T.J. Gurley, Kadetrix Marcus and the hybrid Diggs should all get long looks with the starters this spring.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the SEC Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

SEC Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> South Carolina 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 08:55
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-rankings-2013-quarterbacks
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Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different.

Following the combine, experts now have an even playing field to compare prospect's measurables. Heights, weights, 40-yard dash times and bench reps are all official NFL Combine stats. Today, we rank college football's best quarterbacks prospects — and do so with the help of Chris Leak, 2006 BCS National Championship Game MVP for the Florida Gators. You can follow @CLQB12 or hear him on SiriusXM College Sports Nation's Coast-to-Coast nightly radio show from 7-10 PM ET with Chris Childers. 

Measurables: Height, Weight, 40-yard dash

1. Geno Smith, West Virginia (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-2, 218, 4.59
Final Stats: 44 GP, 11,662 yds, 98 TD, 21 INT, 67.4%, 245 att., 342 yds, 4 TD
Smith may have the biggest arm of any prospect in the class with the possible exception of Tyler Bray. He is poised, lightning quick in his release and decision-making and has posted some huge numbers. He threw over 1,000 passes in his final two seasons with only 13 interceptions to go with 73 scoring strikes. He wasn't asked to run the ball much but was the fastest quarterback at the combine. He will be knocked for his bad second half of 2012 and that his numbers have been inflated by the shotgun, no-huddle spread attack at West Virginia. If he can prove he can play from under center and in a pro-style attack, Smith possesses all the elite tools to be an excellent quarterback on Sundays. Comparison: A more athletic Matthew Stafford

Chris Leak's Scouting Report: Elite passer at CFB level. Student of the game with high football I.Q. Field general that can have immediate impact on an NFL franchise.

2. EJ Manuel, Florida State (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-5, 237, 4.65
Final Stats: 43 GP, 7,741 yds, 47 TD, 28 INT, 66.9%, 298 att., 827 yds, 11 TD 
Manuel might be the most intriguing prospect on this entire list. He entered college as an elite prospect and took three full seasons to develop into the star he is today. He has a huge frame and big arm to make all of the throws. He is an excellent member of the community who will work extremely hard in the pros. He also has above average athletic ability to keep plays alive and move the chains with his legs as his time in the 40 indicates. However, he is unrefined as a true pocket passer and will need work developing his motion and release. He was an efficient passer (66.9-percent) but scouts will wonder if that translates given the much smaller passing windows in the NFL. He also has dealt with some injury issues in his past, especially in big games like against Oklahoma in 2011 and the second half of the Florida game this fall. The upside is massive with Manuel, who led his team to a conference and BCS bowl championship for the first time in nearly a decade, but he has some major question marks. Comparison: A less efficient Carson Palmer

Leak's Scouting Report: Ideal height with the arm strength to push the ball downfield. Has ability to extend and make plays with his legs. Intriguing NFL prospect because of his raw physical tools and athletic ability.

3. Matt Barkley, USC (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-2, 227, N/A
Final Stats: 47 GP, 12,327 yds, 116 TD, 48 INT, 64.1%, 132 att., minus-113 yds, 6 TD 
It was important that Barkley checked in at 6-foot-2 as some doubted his overall size. But he has more than adequate build and bulk to be a starter on the next level. His numbers have been huge —12,327 yards and 116 TD passes — and he is an upstanding member of any locker room. He wasn't overtly efficient (64.1 completion rate, 48 INT) but produced at a high level in the face of severe NCAA sanctions. He has a big arm and plays in a pro-style offense, but overcoming his late-season shoulder injury this fall will take some effort. There is little downside to Barkley as a professional as there are no questions about his work ethic, commitment, dedication to winning and leadership. The injury and team struggles in '12 have overshadowed a record-setting and admirable career for a prospect who is used to living in a fish bowl. Comparison: A slower Andy Dalton

Leak's Scouting Report: Intelligent QB who does so many of the little things well. Fundamentally sound and solid mechanics will allow immediate success at next level.

4. Tyler Bray, Tennessee (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-6, 232, 5.05
Final Stats: 28 GP, 7,444 yds, 69 TD, 28 INT, 58.6%, 61 att., minus-207 yds, TD
There is no middle ground with this prospect as his ceiling is as high as his floor is low. Bray has a first-round arm, a first-round frame and has played against first-round competition in the SEC. But the pure pocket passer currently has a seventh-round head on his shoulders and a terrible record against that elite competition. He can make every throw in the book, but he hasn't proven he can protect the football, stay healthy or lead an offensive huddle. He has a terrific 2.5 touchdowns-per-game career ratio but that's tempered by an ominous 1.0 interception-per-game career rate. Scouts will love his raw skills but will have major doubts about his mental makeup, maturity and dedication. Comparison: A taller Philip Rivers

Leak's Scouting Report: Gunslinger with great height to scan entire field. Great feel on downfield throws. Needs to improve accuracy on intermediate throws.

5. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-2, 215, 4.95
Final Stats: 37 GP, 7,765 yds, 52 TD, 26 INT, 62.8%, 110 att., minus-44 yds, 4 TD 
Wilson was highly thought of by college and pro personnel alike until this fall. His offensive production was clearly not the same without Bobby Petrino and it will raise questions about Wilson's long-term upside. He is one of the smallest quarterbacks in the top 10 and that is a concern as a pro-style pocket passer. He has a solid arm, displays toughness (just ask his OL), yet he does not possess one elite discernable talent . However, he has no glaring weakness either, making his floor higher than many others on this list. His team went from 11 wins to four in one year and his numbers plummeted in his senior season (3,638 yards, 24 TD, 6 INT in 2011 and 3,387 yards, 21 TD, 13 INT in 2012). His touchdown-interception ratio is one of the worst among other highly ranked quarterback prospects (2:1). Comparison: A better Mark Sanchez

Leak's Scouting Report: Possesses a strong arm, and has ability to fit passes through tight windows. Didn't progress as a senior however.

Related: Athlon Sports 2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

6. Mike Glennon, NC State (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-7, 225, 4.94
Final Stats: 36 GP, 7,411 yds, 63 TD, 31 INT, 60.4%, 112 att., minus-292 yds, 3 TD 
There isn't much left to learn about Glennon other than one key attribute. He has a massive frame that is perfect for an NFL pocket passer and could even carry 10-15 more pounds if needed. He is not an elite athlete but has some sneaky mobility so his big frame and big arm are well-suited for the pass-happy NFL. He has played with an underwhelming offensive supporting cast and his running game has been non-existent over the last two seasons. His biggest red flag is his penchant for being inaccurate, as he barely completed 60 percent of his passes, and his tendency to turn the ball over a bit too much (29 INTs in last two seasons). But he also was the reason Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin and he threw for over 7,000 yards and 62 TDs in the two seasons he was the starter. Comparison: A less accurate Joe Flacco

Leak's Scouting Report: Has ideal size and arm strength for the next level, but needs to continue and improve his technique. Unpolished with his footwork and needs to refine the details of the position.

7. Zac Dysert, Miami-Ohio (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-3, 231, N/A
Final Stats: 46 GP, 12,013 yds, 73 TD, 51 INT, 63.8%, 461 att., 1,086 yds, 12 TDs
Surprisingly athletic for a player of his size. It gives him good feet in the pocket and the ability to turn nothing into something. His frame could actually carry more muscle and he could play bigger and stronger. He can, at times, give up on the play too quickly, often looking to maneuver in the pocket quicker than needed. Dysert has loads of experience and looks the part of an NFL signal caller. Does he have elite accuracy and patience in the pocket to be successful on the next level? Comparison: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Leak's Scouting Report: Displays an obvious understanding of the game of football, with great size and height with the arm strength to stretch defenses from sideline to sideline. Shows confidence in arm and throwing with accuracy.

8. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-4, 225, 5.11
Final Stats: 52 GP, 16,646 yds, 123 TD, 52 INT, 63.6%, 132 att., minus-375 yds, 3 TD
Few players have ever been as productive as Jones in college. He finished third all-time in history in yards behind only Case Keenum and Timmy Chang and is fifth all-time in passing touchdowns. Yet, he has struggled with turnovers (52 INTs) and has struggled to win big games — on the road or at home. He has good size and a good arm as a potential pocket-passer, but will have to overcome the dreaded "system" mantra. Oklahoma quarterbacks haven't been successful in the pro game with the possible exception of Sam Bradford, while elite wideouts, a big-time OL and mediocre defenses have inflated his numbers. Comparison: A less-talented Matt Schaub

Leak's Scouting Report: Very accurate passer in the pocket but not as much on the move. Can lead receivers down the field and on crossing routes, places throws where only his man can make a play. Ideal size and athletic ability for the next level.

9.Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (Sr.)
Measurables
: 6-2, 227, 5.06
Final Stats: 48 GP, 9,190 yds, 70 TD, 28 INT, 60.1%, 242 att., 168 yds, 5 TD
There is little that stands out about the former Syracuse quarterback. His overall arm strength might be his most intriguing feature. He has a solid release and can power the football to all levels. He is a smart player who led a underdog roster of two-star prospects to multiple bowl games. He will force the ball at times, is smaller than most in this draft class and overall lacks quickness and speed. He will also need to adjust to playing under center as an exclusive shotgun player in college. There is some intrigue with Nassib but more than Comparison: A much-less athletic Jake Locker

Leak's Scouting Report: Has good arm strength and is very accurate throwing on the run. Shows toughness and is a gamer with a lot of potential.

10. Sean Renfree, Duke (Sr.)
Measureables: 
6-3, 219, N/A
Final Stats: 42 GP, 9,465 yds, 50 TD, 41 INT, 64.7%, 153 att., minus-167 yds, 9 TD
All of the physical tools are there for Renfree. He has a solid arm, quick release, quick feet and a good sized frame. He also led lowly Duke back to the postseason as a senior. However, he turned the ball over a bunch and lost a lot of games. It remains to be seen if that is more of a function of his situation and surrounding cast of lower than capable NFL talent. Comparison: A more physically gifted Matt Moore

The Best of the Rest:

11. Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech (6-2, 212)
12. Matt Scott, Arizona (6-2, 213)
13. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt (6-0, 205)
14. Alex Carder, Western Michigan (6-2, 225)
15. Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah (6-4, 229)
16. Ryan Griffin, Tulane
17. Collin Klein, Kansas State (6-5, 226)
18. James Vandenberg, Iowa
19. Mitchell Gale, Abeline Christian
20. Tino Sunseri, Pitt

 

2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers

Teaser:
<p> NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-rankings-2013-running-backs
Body:

Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country’s most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different. The running back position has become one of the easiest to find in the middle and late rounds each year. For every Adrian Peterson taken in the first round, there has been a Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore. Running backs can be found deep in the draft, and in that sense, this is an excellent running back class. 

Measurables: Height, Weight, 40-time, 225 reps, shuttle

1. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (rSo.)
Measurables: 5-8, 202, 4.53, 19, 4.32
Final Stats: 23 GP, 423 att., 2,481 yds, 25 TD, 92 rec., 852 yds, 6 TD, 1,115 ret. yds, 8 TD
This tough little runner came to UNC from St. Thomas Aquinas H.S., a storied South Florida program that prepares football talents for the next level. And as a redshirt freshman, Bernard exploded onto the scene with 239 carries for 1,253 yards, along with 45 receptions for another 362 yards and a total of 14 touchdowns. He missed some time in 2012, but delivered another huge year, including marquee performances against Virginia Tech and NC State. He is a bit smaller than a prototypical back but has speed to burn and the talent to play all three downs. In addition, as just a redshirt sophomore, Bernard will have the most “tread left on the tires” of any back in the class and his eight (6 kick, 2 punt) return touchdowns make him a dynamic return option as well.

2. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 221, N/A
Final Stats: 29 GP, 555 att., 2,677 yds, 38 TD, 74 rec., 767 yds, 3 TD
Just as he was beginning to appear fully recovered from a torn ACL sustained mid-2011, the most talented back in the class suffered another horrific knee injury. When healthy, he is big, physical runner who never goes down on first contact, a tremendous receiver and a guy who works hard off the field. His 41 touchdowns in 29 career games prove his production is no fluke. He is extremely driven and is working hard to be ready to play at the start of 2013 season. He is a risky selection anywhere in the draft but he has the talent to be another Willis McGahee.

3. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 214, 4.76, 17, 4.50
Final Stats: 53 GP, 843 att., 4,300 yds, 40 TD, 97 rec., 778 yds, 5 TD
Few players have as complete a game as the former Cardinal ball carrier. He was the workhorse back for a program that used a physical, pro-style attack based around Taylor’s ability. He is thickly built, has a tremendous work ethic, plays smart football, can catch passes and runs hard every game. His workload in college could be his only negative, as he touched the ball 940 times in his college career. He isn't overtly fast either, but his toughness and intelligence make him a sure-fire contributor on the next level.

4. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 231, N/A
Final Stats: 37, 355 att., 2,465 yds, 30 TD, 35 rec., 338 yds, 2 TD
Lacy has all the physical ability of any back in the class minus possibly a healthy Lattimore. And like the South Carolina back, his biggest issue is his health. He has proven to be a physical, dominant presence on the field and, frankly, didn't receive a heavy workload of carries during his time at Alabama. He played possessed football against Notre Dame in January's national title game and won the MVP honors because of it. Then he promptly got hurt again. With multiple health issues in every college season, Lacy comes with a large red flag. When healthy, he might be the best back in the class.

5. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-1, 230, 4.60, 24, 4.24
Final Stats: 40 GP, 671 att., 3,346 yds, 33 TD, 78 rec., 531 yds, TD
Bell has some negatives — average shiftiness and work ethic — but also has the biggest, most powerful frame of anyone in the class. He is accustomed to power-I formations and can carry the load if needed (see games of 44, 36 and 37 carries in 2012). He is right at home in a play-action style offense and will be a huge asset around the goal line. He also showed better than expected speed at the combine which will likely push him up draft boards. If he can stay focused on keeping his weight down and works hard, he could be a future feature back in the NFL.

Related: Athlon's 2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

6. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St (Jr.)
Measurables: 6-0, 204, 4.63, N/A
Final Stats: 39 GP, 564 att., 3,085 yds, 40 TD, 108 rec., 917 yds, 3 TD
Production hasn’t been an issue for Randle after a school-record 26 touchdowns in 2011. He was outstanding as the leader of the revamped Pokes offense this fall and brings breakaway speed to the edge, power up the middle and will play a big role in the passing game. Randle is taller than most ideal backs who aren’t 230 pounds, but he has plenty of big-play ability. 

7. Montee Ball, Wisconsin (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 214, 4.66, 15, 4.40
Final Stats: 49 GP, 924 att., 5,140 yds, 77 TD, 59 rec., 598 yds, 6 TD
Scouts cannot argue the production of a guy who scored more touchdowns than any player in the history of college football — both rushing and total. He dropped weight before his junior season and it helped with quickness and burst. Yet, he lacks the top-end skills of the NFL’s elite. However, he is a tough player who consistently produced and fumbled once in his entire collegiate career. His heavy workload will be a small concern.

8. Andre Ellington, Clemson (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 199, 4.61, N/A
Final Stats: 49 GP, 621 att., 3,535 yds, 33 TD, 59 rec., 505 yds, 2 TD, 642 ret. yds, TD
The only real knock on Ellington is his durability, which stems from his overall lack of size. His frame isn’t ideal and he was banged up throughout his Tigers career. That said, he finished with over 4,000 yards from scrimmage and more than 30 touchdowns while at Clemson. He has the raw ability to do everything an NFL back is asked to do, but can he be a true workhorse on Sundays?

9. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-8, 216, 4.55, 27, 4.17
Final Stats: 45 GP, 581 att., 3,143 yds, 30 TD, 46 rec., 415 yds
Stacy is Vanderbilt's all-time leading rusher and arguably the most talented runner in school history. He is extremely compact, posted more than adequate speed and quickness numbers at the combine and has a powerful running style. He is similar to Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew in his thick lower body. The only issue is he was slightly prone to injury during his collegiate years. He will undoubtedly be a contributor on the next level.

10. Mike Gillislee, Florida (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 208, 4.56, 15, 4.40
Final Stats: 49 GP, 389 att., 2,072 yds, 20 TD, 23 rec., 182 yds, 2 TD
This Gator tailback was a late bloomer — 920 yards and 10 TDs in his first three seasons — but developed into an SEC Player of the Year-type runner as a senior. He was miscast in Urban Meyer’s scheme and fit much better into the pro-style attack Will Muschamp brought to Gainesville. He is physical and is at his best deep into games and between the tackles. He isn't flashy or explosive but has a good chance to find work on first and second downs on the next level.

11. Jonathan Franklin, UCLA (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 205, 4.49, 18, 4.31
Final Stats: 53 GP, 788 att., 4,403 yds, 31 TD, 58 rec., 517 yds, 3 TD
The UCLA runner showed extremely well at the combine in terms of speed and quickness. He is a smart prospect who looks to lead by example. He has a solid frame and would be best served by adding some bulk to handle the rigors of the NFL. He was extremely productive in his time as the starter for the Bruins.

12. Kenjon Barner, Oregon (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 196, 4.52, 20, 4.20
Final Stats: 49 GP, 582 att., 3,623 yds, 41 TD, 54 rec., 591 yds, 7 TD, 1,371 ret. yds, TD
He is much bigger than his former backfield mate LaMichael James and could be more of an every down back if that is the case. He tossed up 20 reps at 225 as one of the stronger backs in this class and his speed and quickness ranks near the top of this board. His durability is really the only concern because the spread scheme he played in at Oregon is much less of hindrance than it once was in the NFL.

13. Knile Davis, Arkansas (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 227, 4.37, 31, 4.38
Final Stats: 36 GP, 349 att., 1,972 yds, 19 TD, 32 rec., 297 yds, 2 TD
Few players were more disappointing in 2012 than Davis. However, he only matched the rest of the Arkansas Razorbacks once Bobby Petrino left town. He showed elite talents at the combine and should have plenty of tread left on the tires. However, he has experienced major injuries and was effective for just an eight-game stretch two seasons ago. He was elite during that span but has done little else before or after SEC play in 2011. 

14. Christine Michael, Texas A&M (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 220, 4.54, 27, 4.02
Final Stats: 40 GP, 529 att., 2,883 yds, 34 TD, 44 rec., 323 yds, TD
Much like Davis and Lacy, he has the talent and the long track record of injuries. He posted elite shuttle times and more than adequate straight-line speed to be considered a future star on the next level. Michael was an elite recruit who blossomed early and then dealt with some bad injuries. However, if healthy, he has elite upside and the ability to contribute on all three downs  —between the tackles, on the edge, in the passing game and as a blocker.

15. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-10, 214, 4.73, 21, 4.09
Final Stats: 44 GP, 635 att., 3,329 yds, 30 TD, 60 rec., 507 yds, 5 TD
He didn’t wow scouts at the combine with his average measurables, but he makes up for it with things that simply cannot be tracked with a stopwatch: intangibles, leadership, blitz pickups, toughness and heart. He is one of the most complete players in the nation and will be a welcome addition to any NFL locker room. He will be a late-round steal and could be very productive for many years — even if he is never a star.

16. Juwan Jamison, Rutgers (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-7, 203, 4.68, 20
Final Stats: 26 GP, 486 att., 1,972 yds, 13 TD, 36 rec., 385 yds, 2 TD
Has a workhorse mentality and good size-strength combination. Lacks elite speed and burst.

17. Ray Graham, Pitt (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 199, 4.80, 19, 4.32
Final Stats: 46 GP, 595 att., 3,271 yds, 32 TD, 98 rec., 799 yds, 4 TD, 873 ret. yds
Has NFL ability but is still regaining form after torn ACL. Size could be an issue as well.

18. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Measurables: 5-11, 213, 4.56, 16
Final Stats: 37 GP, 450 att., 2,447 yds, 16 TD, 52 rec., 384 yds, 2 TD
Off-the-field focus issues have knocked him down a peg, but coming on strong.

19. DJ Harper, Boise State (Sr.)
Measurables: 5-9, 211, 4.52, 23, 4.35
Final Stats: 54 GP, 547 att., 2,792 yds, 39 TD, 54 rec., 559 yds, 2 TD
He should be a sneaky draft day value for someone. Can do a little bit of everything.

20. Zach Line, SMU (Sr.)
Measurables: 6-0, 232, 4.77, 26
Final Stats: 50 GP, 778 att., 4,185 yds, 47 TD, 75 rec., 599 yds
He should be a sneaky draft day value for someone. Can do a little bit of everything.

Third-Down Speedsters 

Curtis McNeal, USC (5-7, 190, Sr.)
Chris Thompson, Florida State (5-8, 190, Sr.)
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn (5-11, 175, Sr.)
Perry Jones, Virginia (5-8, 187, Sr.)
Dennis Johnson, Arkansas (5-8, 212, Sr.)

Other Names to Watch:

Stephon Jefferson, Nevada (5-10, 213, Jr.)
Zach Boren, Ohio State (5-11, 238, Sr.)
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State (5-6, 190, Sr.)
Spencer Ware/Michael Ford, LSU
Michael Dyer, Ark. Baptist (5-8, 210, Sr.)
Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech (6-0, 205, Sr.)
Cameron Marshall, Arizona St (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook (5-9, 205, Sr.)
John White, Utah (5-8, 190, Sr.)
Matthew Tucker, TCU (6-0, 225, Sr.)
Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma (5-11, 205, Sr.)
Mike James, Miami (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Ronnie Wingo, Arkansas (6-2, 230, Sr.)

 

2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers

Teaser:
<p> NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 11:59
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

For the second year in a row, Mark Richt's Bulldogs came up just shy of an SEC championship. This time, Georgia missed a chance at the national title game by just five yards. Yet, the 2013 team will look dramatically different than the last two SEC East champs. Massive defensive turnover, a huge influx of early enrollees and the return of arguably the most talented offense in the conference should make spring practice in Athens extremely entertaining.

Georgia Bulldogs 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 3

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Aaron Murray, 249-of-386, 3,893 yds., 36 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: Todd Gurley, 222 car., 1,385 yds., 17 TDs
Receiving: Malcolm Mitchell, 40 rec., 572 yds, 4 TDs
Tackles: Amarlo Herrera, 70
Sacks: Jordan Jenkins, 5
Interceptions: Damian Swann, 4

Redshirts to watch: DL Jonathan Taylor, LB Leonard Floyd

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Shaquille Fluker, DB Kennar Johnson, DL Chris Mayes, WR Jonathon Rumph, DL Toby Johnson

2013 Schedule

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

Offensive Strength: The backfield. Few teams in the nation will return a backfield combination like Georgia. Aaron Murray at quarterback and Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back gives Richt possibly the best passing-running options in the nation.

Offensive Weakness: Pass catchers. Frankly, there is no weakness on this UGA offense although there is no established star pass-catcher at either wideout or tight end. There is loads of upside with guys like Malcolm Mitchell and Arthur Lynch, but having to replace the likes of Tavarres King and Marlon Brown might be the only concern on offense (if there is one).

Defensive Strength: Depth. This team has loads of talent all over the depth chart. Young names like Ray Drew at end, Damian Swann and Josh Harvey-Clemons in the secondary and Jordan Jenkins at linebacker give this team plenty of elite options.

Defensive Weakness: Experience. Giving the Dawgs three official returning starters might be generous. Twelve contributors departed this defense in the offseason, including 10 of the top 14 tacklers from a year ago. That includes the top four stoppers. Finding dependable bodies and leadership will be paramount this spring.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bulldogs:

1. Find a pass rush on defense. Jarvis Jones, despite some injuries, has been one of the nation's most productive pass rushers over the last two years. Alec Ogletree, Cornelius Washington, Abry Jones and a pair of massive nose tackles must also be replaced in the front seven. Getting the right bodies into the right positions in Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme has to be the primary focus this spring. Will Ray Drew take the next step on the edge of the line? Can Jordan Jenkins become the next Jones in just his second season? There is plenty of talent but Grantham and new line coach Chris Wilson need to get their rotation in order this spring.

2. What will the secondary look like? The front will have a lot of new faces but so will the defensive backfield. Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams are gone from the safety position while Branden Smith and Sanders Commings depart on the outside. Damian Swann could become a star and guys like Harvey-Clemons could develop into All-SEC-type talents. However, there is little experience on the backend and this spring should help develop the next line of defense.

3. Stay healthy along the line of scrimmage. This offensive line could be the best Richt has had in his long tenure in Athens. That is, if it can stay healthy. Chris Burnette (shoulder) and John Theus (foot) will both miss spring practice, giving some of the young bodies a chance to get reps. Getting them healthy and keeping the rest of the starting five — Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee and David Andrews — at full steam will be important this offseason.

4. Allow the newcomers to compete. Richt welcomes 13 early enrollees in what might one of the biggest such classes in the history of college football. Two junior college prospects, one prep schooler and 10 true freshman will take part in spring practice one semester earlier than the rest of the 2013 class. Tray Matthews, Brice Ramsey and Tramel Terry were all nationally ranked prospects in this haul.

5. Finalize the pass-catching rotation. Malcolm Mitchell will be a superstar if given the chance to shine on one side of the ball. He should be Murray's top target this fall — and spring — and will be backed up by a host of talented weapons. Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome need to take the next steps in their development at tight end and someone else needs to step up in place of the injured Michael Bennett. Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley and Rhett McGowan will all get plenty of reps.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the SEC Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

SEC Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Georgia Bulldogs 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-2013-spring-football-preview
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Front the first snap to the last, Rich Rodriguez' first season in Tucson was extremely entertaining if nothing else. He took a team that won four games and was primarily a passing offense and turned it into a bowl-winning squad built around his patented zone-read spread option attack. With all 11 starters returning on defense and a Heisman Trophy-contending tailback returning on offense, expectations in the desert should be much higher in season two under RichRod — even without a proven commodity at quarterback.

Arizona Wildcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 11

Returning Leaders:

Passing: B.J. Denker, 25-of-37, 259 yds., 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Ka'Deem Carey, 303 car., 1,929 yds., 23 TDs
Receiving: Austin Hill, 81 rec., 1,364 yds, 11 TDs
Tackles: Jake Fischer, 119
Sacks: Marquis Flowers, 5.5
Interceptions: Marquis Flowers, 3

Redshirts to watch: DE Kyle Kelley, WR Trey Griffey, DL Dwight Melvin, WR Jarrell Bennett, OL Zach Hemmila, OC Beau Boyster, QB Javelle Allen

JUCO Transfers to Watch: QB Jesse Scroggins (JC), OL Steven Gurrola (JC)

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Northern Arizona
Sept. 7 at UNLV
Sept. 14 UTSA
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Washington
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at USC
Oct. 19 Utah
Oct. 26 at Colorado
Nov. 2 at Cal
Nov. 9 UCLA
Nov. 16 Washington State
Nov. 23 Oregon
Nov. 30 at Arizona State

Offensive Strength: The running game. The best player on the team may be the best running back in the nation. Ka'Deem Carey returns with Heisman aspirations and three starting offensive lineman to block for him.

Offensive Weakness: Under center. Matt Scott redshirted as a junior and it could not have worked out better in his one season as the starter. He led the Pac-12 in total offense last year, and now, RichRod has to fill a gap that produced 343.8 yards per game.

Defensive Strength: Depth and experience. The linebacking corps is the most talented area of the defense, but the top 15 tacklers, including all 11 starters, are back on defense. Needless to say, this doesn't happen too often in college football.

Defensive Weakness: Overall production. The bodies are there. The experience and depth is there. But the numbers were not. This unit ranked 118th in total defense and 102nd in scoring defense last year. Yes, the Pac-12 has great offenses, but this side of the ball has to be more productive.

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats

1. Evaluate your quarterbacks. RichRod's top goal in the spring is to figure out what type of players he has under center. True freshman Anu Solomon isn't getting to campus until summer and USC transfer Jesse Scroggins is dealing with a foot issue that will limit his participation this spring. Leading the offense this spring then falls to senior B.J. Denker, redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and sophomore Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham. Isham has the most on-field experience and Denker saw the field last fall for Arizona. Organizing the pecking order at QB will be key for Arizona this spring.

2. Get Ka'Deem Carey focused. Despite multiple incidents in the offseason, Carey is a go for spring ball. His pretrial hearing for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges stemming from a December incident involving his pregnant ex-girlfriend has been pushed back to March 20. Carey also was kicked out of a Wildcats basketball game on Jan. 24 following a verbal altercation with a police officer. Carey needs to learn that no one is bigger than the game and even rushing for 2,000 yards doesn't mean he can get away with stupid, inappropriate conduct. The offensive line returns three starters and the running game could be one of the nation's best — if Carey can become a leader instead of a liability.

3. Overcoming injuries. Like many teams this spring, the Wildcats are dealing with numerous injuries and will be without many key performers in practice. Star linebacker Marquis Flowers (shoulder), starting cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson (shoulder) and Jonathan McKnight (shoulder) and nose tackle Dan Pettinato (knee) will be missed on defense. But so will key reserves C.J. Dozier (shoulder) and Kirifi Taula (shoulder). Supporting cast players on offense like wide receivers David Richards (foot) and Trevor Ermisch (hernia) also will be sitting out this spring. This is a great opportunity to get some young talent on the field and develop the depth chart. 

4. Improve fundamentals on defense. Considering all of the shoulder injuries on defense, maybe form tackling will be an area of focus during spring practice? In fact, all fundamentals will need some work on this side of the ball. This team returned just four starters a year ago and faced the best offenses in the nation out West, so excuses can be made to try to explain the horrific defensive statistics from the 2012 campaign. With so much talent returning with a full season or more of experience, there won't be nearly as many excuses this time around. So fine-tuning their overall defensive prowess should be the focus this spring.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Pac-12 Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

Pac-12 Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Arizona Wildcats 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/tcu-horned-frogs-2013-spring-football-preview
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The 2012 season was a year of transition for Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs. Patterson didn't lose a single conference game (23-0) the three years prior to entering the Big 12. In their first season as a "BCS" or power conference team, the Frogs lost five conference games — as many as the previous five seasons combined. But that was to be expected now that Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State were on the schedule instead of Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado State. This team proved it could win on the road with all four Big 12 wins coming away from home, but the grind of a tougher schedule took its toll. That said, TCU acquitted itself well in its first year against the big boys, and with an extremely talented defense returning, the Horned Frogs could be in store for a return to national prominence in 2013.

TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: March 1-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Trevone Boykin, 167-of-292, 2,054 yds., 15 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: B.J. Catalon, 123 car., 582 yds., 2 TDs
Receiving: Brandon Carter, 36 rec., 590 yds, 6 TDs
Tackles: Joel Hasley, 79
Sacks: Devonte Fields, 10
Interceptions: Jason Verrett, 6

Redshirts to watch: QB Tyler Matthews, OL Chad Childs, WR Ja'Juan Story (transfer)

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 LSU (Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 7 Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 14 at Texas Tech
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 SMU
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma
Oct. 12 Kansas
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26 Texas
Nov. 2 West Virginia
Nov. 9 at Iowa State
Nov. 16 at Kansas State
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Baylor

Offensive Strength: Quarterback. The old adage goes "if you have two QBs, you have none." But that might not ring true with TCU. Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin both have proven to be quality options and each brings a different dimension to the offense. The duo give Patterson plenty of options for 2013.

Offensive Weakness: Leadership. Starting quarterback Casey Pachall was the antithesis of leader when he was dismissed from the team early in the year. With star power departing at running back and wide receiver, someone needs to step up and become the leader of the offense.

Defensive Strength: The secondary. Jason Verrett returns as one of the nation's top covermen, as do the other four starters in TCU's unique 4-2-5 defensive scheme. As a whole, this unit returns its top nine defensive backs, including three all-Big 12 performers.

Defensive Weakness: New coaches. This defense has loads of upside and talent returning despite the loss of star defensive end Stansly Maponga. But coordinator Randy Shannon must be replaced on the defensive coaching staff. Former Kansas assistant DeMontie Cross needs to prove his mettle this spring.

Spring Storylines Facing the Horned Frogs:

1. Trevone Boykin vs. Casey Pachall? Casey Pachall had an outstanding sophomore season in 2011 and was on a tear through four games (10 TD, 1 INT) to start 2012. However, substance abuse issues caused Patterson to remove Pachall from the field and locker room for the rest of the season. The good news was redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin stepped in and did an admirable job. However, now that Pachall is back in the fold, Patterson has to decide what to do with his QBs. Each player brings a unique skill set to the offense and the play calling would be dramatically different depending on who is on the field. The earlier this decision can be made, the better.

2. Find a workhorse back. Patterson has long used a stable of backs to power his rushing attack. However, it might be time to find a workhorse back that the offense can count on. Waymon James led the team in rushing in 2011 and returns to the field after missing most of 2012 with an injury. Sophomore-to-be B.J. Catalon led the team in rushing last year but didn't reach paydirt one time nor did he surpass 600 yards on the ground. There's also another option as elite recruit Aaron Green will be eligible after transferring from Nebraska. There's no arguing the success Patterson has enjoyed with his committee approach, but it might be time to turn one guy loose and give him the bulk of the carries. Patterson will use the spring to help sort out the pecking order in the backfield.

3. Replace two All-Big 12 blockers up front. The best named offensive lineman in program history, guard Blaize Foltz, has to be replaced up front. He and center James Fry were All-Big 12 performers and both are no longer on campus. Finding pieces to plug the holes up the gut of the offensive line will be huge this spring. The pivot is the most important position and Foltz was the best blocker on the team. Look for Joey Hunt and John Wooldridge will get the first crack at center and guard respectively.

4. Develop play-makers at linebacker. Devonte Fields is a superstar in the making and will anchor the defensive line as a just a sophomore. The talent and depth in the secondary is well documented. However, without All-Big 12 linebacker Kenny Cain (graduation), the linebacking corps looks to be the area of focus this spring. Joel Hasley is the lone returning tackler with experience, as no other linebacker on the roster had more than 18 tackles a year ago.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

Big 12 Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-south-carolina-gamecocks
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Steve Spurrier has the Gamecocks achieving at the highest levels in the history of the program. And it began with controlling in-state recruiting battles while also being able to dip into talent-rich border states.

South Carolina Gamecocks

National Rank: 18th
SEC: Eighth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 2
National Signees: 3
Total Signees: 21

Where They Got 'Em:

Carolina only needs a regional approach to land elite classes each season. Border states North Carolina (4), Georgia (6) and Florida (4) as well as The Palmetto State (4) provided 18 of the 21 signees. In fact, few states have as much talent as those near the Gamecocks' home base and each year Spurrier capitalizes on this geographical advantage. Alabama, Maryland and Pennsylvania — one prospect each — were the only other states to supply talent to the Cocks in this recruiting cycle.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

On offense, Spurrier clearly focused on one area of concern — the offensive line. Five of the eight offensive signings will play along the line including massive (6-4, 335) early enrollee D.J. Park. He will be joined at the tackle position by J.P. Vonashek (6-6, 285), Na'ty Rodgers (6-5, 295) and Alan Knott (6-4, 272) giving this offense plenty of options at left tackle. Bryce King is one of the nation's top-rated centers.

Otherwise, one quarterback and a pair of runners make up the offensive pieces of this class. Connor Mitch (6-3, 220) is one of the most prolific passers in North Carolina prep football history. He threw for 12,078 yards and 153 touchdowns at Wakefield High and has already enrolled in classes. Spurrier has to be excited about the future of his signal caller position. Philadelphia product David Williams (6-1, 200), the third-rated player in this class, rushed for 1,904 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior en route to a 14-1 record. Williams continues the recent trend of Carolina signing Keystone State prospects.  Jamari Smith (5-10, 183) is a smaller back who also posted huge numbers as a senior (2,178 yards, 24 TDs).

South Carolina didn't sign a single pass catcher of any kind as Spurrier didn't ink a wide receiver or tight end.

The defense got the most attention as 13 of the 21 new faces are headed to that side of the ball. Five new defensive backs, four new linebackers and four defensive linemen give this group tremendous balance. Nose guard Kelsey Griffin is the top-rated player in the class and has a chance to be a special player up the middle for the Gamecocks. Three defensive ends will play alongside Griffin: Devan'te Covington (6-4, 220), Gerald Turner (6-2, 256) and Devin Washington (6-3, 225). 

Larenz Bryant is the second-highest player in the class and he leads the new linebacking corps. He brings tremendous athletic ability — he excelled as a running back in high school as well — and will be able to play all over the field. David Johnson (6-1, 268) brings a massive frame and one has to think he will have his hand in the dirt at some point. Skai Moore and Jonathan Walton with help on the outside and inside respectively. 

In the secondary, Spurrier signed three cornerbacks and two safeties to thoroughly restock the defensive backfield. Ali Groves (5-10, 184), Pharoh Cooper (5-11, 194) and early enrollee Ronnie Martin (5-11, 173) aren't a big trio of covermen but bring speed and depth. Mohamed Camara (6-1, 191) and Jasper Sasser (6-0, 192) bring excellent athleticism to the backend of the defense.

This is a deep and balanced defensive class with key positions on the offensive depth chart (OL and QB) getting much-needed help too. Put it all together and the end result was a top-20 recruiting class for the Cocks.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
89. Kelsey Griffin DT No. 17 (DL) Buford, Ga. 6-2 290
96. Larenz Bryant LB No. 11 Charlotte, N.C. 6-0 215
204. David Williams RB No. 23 Philadelphia, Pa. 6-1 200

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Ronnie Martin CB Spartanburg, S.C. 5-11 175 Prep
Connor Mitch QB Raleigh, N.C. 6-3 220 --
D.J. Park OL Dillon, S.C. 6-4 335 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: South Carolina Gamecocks</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-nebraska-cornhuskers
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Bo Pelini's recruiting at Nebraska has been scrutinized heavily as he has landed just one top-20 class during his time in Lincoln. His 2013 class was the second such top-20 haul for the Big Red. In fact, his good-but-not-elite recruiting rankings match his good-but-not-elite records on the field. With two top-20 classes in the last three seasons, Pelini's recruiting should help push his win-loss record to the next level. 

Nebraska Cornhuskers

National Rank: 17th
Big Ten: Third
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 0
National Signees: 2
Total Signees: 26

Where They Got 'Em:

The Cornhuskers have long had to extend their recruiting base into other regions to land talent. And the 2013 class illustrates this national approach for Pelini and his staff. Nebraska used 13 different states from coast to coast and even Canada to land 26 new players. Texas, which used to be a recruiting stronghold for the Huskers, led all states with four signees. Talent-rich states like Florida (3), California (3) and Ohio (3) trailed just behind Texas. Louisiana (2), Missouri (2) and Indiana (2) were the only other states to send more than one player to Lincoln. 

Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Maryland, New Jersey and Ontario each shipped one player to Nebraska. In all, Pelini used seven different Big Ten (or future Big Ten) states to land talent.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

This class is all about depth rather than star power. Only two players were ranked nationally and none were ranked in the AC100. But this class has loads of depth and has more than enough big-time prospects to make Big Red fans happy, especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

Six defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs give Pelini 13 new faces on defense. Local product Josh Banderas is a known commodity and will be a perfect fit in his hometown. He is joined by nationally rated Marcus Newby and early enrollee Courtney Love (yes, that is his name). This is a fast and versatile group and should continue the lofty tradition of Nebraska linebackers.

The deepest position in this class is the defensive line. Kevin Maurice (6-3, 270) and Maliek Collins (6-2, 285) aren't monster space eaters but have plenty of room to grow and possess excellent agility for nose tackles. On the outside, four lengthy defensive ends join the squad. Junior college defensive end Randy Gregory (6-6, 230) might be the most ready to play immediately while Ernest Suttles (Fla.) and Dimarya Mixon (Texas) bring big-time prep experience from talent-rich states to Lincoln. 

On the back end of the defense, Pelini has signed four incredibly long defensive backs. All but one of the four are listed at 6-foot-2 and all weigh at least 190 pounds. Nathan Gerry (6-2, 210) brings a huge frame and could grow into a linebacker.

On offense, the line of scrimmage got the primary focus of the coaching staff. Five offensive linemen and two tight ends will restock the always important Nebraska front line. Two junior college blockers, Matt Finnin (6-7, 305) and Chongo Kondolo (6-4, 290), have a chance to contribute right away while Dwayne Johnson, Zach Hannon and early enrollee David Knevel add solid depth.

The top-rated player in the class will be running behind the line of scrimmage, however. Terrell Newby rushed for over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and accounted for 105 total touchdowns at West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade. He will be pushed for playing time by a bigger back in Texas product Adam Taylor. This position has been in good hands in Lincoln for decades and that should continue with these two star recruits. 

Wide receivers Tre'Vell Dixon and Kevin Gladney are both listed at 6-1 and 185 pounds. Both played all over the field in high school and could do the same in college. Dual-threat quarterback Johnny Stanton (6-2, 220) is the lone signal caller in this class.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 5
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 3, DB: 4, LS: 1 

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
123. Terrell Newby RB No. 18 West Hills, Calif. 5-10 180
228. Marcus Newby LB No. 29 North Potomac, Md. 6-1 210

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
David Knevel OL Brantford, Ontario 6-9 300 --
Courtney Love LB Youngstown, Ohio 6-1 225 --
D.J. Singleton DB Jersey City, N.J. 6-1 195 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Nebraska Cornhuskers</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:26
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-washington-huskies
Body:

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

Washington Huskies

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

Where They Got 'Em:

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

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

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

Early Enrollees:

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

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Washington Huskies</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/northwestern-wildcats-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Last season was historic for Northwestern Wildcats everywhere. Pat Fitzgerald led his alma mater to its first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats won 10 games for just the third time in the history of the program and the first since the famous 1995 Rose Bowl run. This team has been to 11 bowl games all-time and Fitzgerald has taken the Cats to five straight postseason appearances. Needless to say, it's a good time to be Northwestern fan. But expectations might be higher in Evanston, Ill., than ever before, so what can Coach Fitz do for an encore in 2013? 

Northwestern Wildcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 27-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

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

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

2013 Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats

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

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

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

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

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

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Big Ten Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

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Big Ten Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Northwestern Wildcats 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-clemson-tigers
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has quickly developed a reputation as a strong closer on the recruiting trail and 2013 only bolstered that thought. In fact, he landed two of the top three players ranked in this class on the final day of the cycle. And it helped Clemson finish with a top-15 class.

Clemson Tigers

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

Where They Got 'Em:

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

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

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

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

Early Enrollees:

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

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Clemson Tigers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 06:14
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-oregon-ducks
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. The lead story in Oregon this recruiting season was Chip Kelly's departure for the NFL and the elevation of Mark Helfrich to head coach. At first, the loss of Kelly looked like it might have a devastating effect on the Ducks' recruiting class. Yet, Helfrich rallied the troops and the Ducks finished strong on NSD to claim one of the best classes in the Pac-12.

Oregon Ducks

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

Where They Got 'Em:

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

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

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

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

Early Enrollees:

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

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: The Top 10 Races to Attend in 2013

Athlon Sports’ 2013 Daytona 500 Wildcards to Watch:

Ricky Stenhouse, No. 17
Roush Fenway Racing Ford

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

Austin Dillon, No. 33
Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

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

Kurt Busch, No. 78
Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet

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

Related: Harvick the favorite, Danica starts on the pole

Marcos Ambrose, No. 9
Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

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

Joey Logano, No. 22
Penske Racing Ford

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

Michael Waltrip, No. 26
Swan Racing Toyota

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

Related: Fantasy Picks for the 2013 Daytona 500

Related: The 10 Most Memorable Daytona 500s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: 12 Players Who Could Dominate the NFL Combine

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Related: The 10 Freakiest Accomplishments at the Combine

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

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

No. 12: Georgia Bulldogs

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

Where They Got 'Em:

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

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

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

Early Enrollees:

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

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Braden Gall and Steven Lassan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: The 10 Freakiest Accomplishments in NFL Combine History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Athlon Sports' Latest 2013 NFL Mock Draft

Other names to watch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 11: Florida State

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

Where They Got 'Em:

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

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

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

Early Enrollees:

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

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy: Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Baseball Big Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Athlon Sports' complete Daytona 500 coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

Southern 500 (Sprint Cup)
May 11, Darlington Raceway

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

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

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

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

Road America 200 (Nationwide)
June 22, Road America

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

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

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

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

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

No. 10: Auburn Tigers 

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

Where They Got 'Em:

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

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

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

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

Early Enrollees:

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

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

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

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

No. 9: UCLA Bruins

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

Where They Got 'Em:

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

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100/National Recruits:

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

Early Enrollees:

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

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

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

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

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

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

Well, they are all just liars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Ranking Pro Sports' Most Popular All-Star Games</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 09:30

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