Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-ol
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The next batch of in-coming college football All-Americans have inked their respective letters of intent. Recruiting is the life blood of the greatest sport on the planet, and, while coaching stills plays the biggest role in winning a championship, having better players can go a long way to earning a trip to the BCS.

Recruiting is an inexact science by definition. It is virtually impossible to accurately peg the mental make-up of any 17-year old child -- much less high-profile, over-coddled 17-year-old athletes. But team recruiting rankings offer the best indication of which team has the best ingredients each coach has to work with each season.

Related: Athlon's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2012

Offensive Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR/TE | OL
Defensive Positional Rankings: DL | LB | DB | ATH

The position with the highest washout rate of any in football is the offensive line. This occurs for a variety of reasons. First, more offensive linemen are signed than any other position on the field — five are needed to start obviously — so the sheer numbers game means more busts. Second, raw size is more of a factor with offensive line rankings than any other position and this tends to lead to lead to more "misses" in the evaluation process. Level of competition, killer instinct, future growth and work ethic are all massive wildcards when trying to evaluate blockers.

That said, it is almost assured that the Stanford Cardinal will possess one of the best offensive lines in the nation in the coming years. They signed three of the top five blockers in the nation and seven overall. What David Shaw did along his offensive front is nearly unprecedented.

Here are the best incoming offensive linemen in the nation:

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. D.J. Humphries 6'6" 271 Charlotte, NC No. 3 Florida
2. John Theus 6'6" 292 Jacksonville, FL No. 13 Georgia
3. Andrus Peat 6'7" 305 Tempe, AZ No. 22 Stanford
4. Kyle Murphy 6'7" 278 San Clemente, CA No. 25 Stanford
5. Josh Garnett 6'3" 305 Puyallup, WA No. 30 Stanford
6. Isaac Seumalo 6'4" 290 Corvallis, OR No. 40 Oregon State
7. Kyle Kalis 6'5" 305 Lakewood, OH No. 45 Michigan
8. Jordan Simmons 6'5" 335 Inglewood, CA No. 47 USC
9. Zach Banner 6'9" 335 Puyallup, WA No. 50 USC
10. Kennedy Estelle 6'7" 300 Pearland, TX No. 51 Texas
11. Avery Young 6'6" 292 Palm Beach Gardens, FL No. 53 Auburn
12. Jessamen Dunker 6'4" 320 Boynton Beach, FL No. 64 Florida
13. Erik Magnuson 6'6" 275 Carlsbad, CA No. 73 Michigan
14. Max Tuerk 6'6" 295 Trabuco Canyon, CA No. 75 USC
15. Curtis Riser 6'4" 285 DeSoto, TX No. 80 Texas
16. Jordan Diamond 6'6" 290 Chicago, IL No. 88 Auburn
17. Evan Boehm 6'3" 290 Lee's Summit, MO No. 103 Missouri
18. Dan Voltz 6'4" 295 Barrington, IL No. 114 Wisconsin
19. Joey O'Connor 6'4" 295 Windsor, CO No. 120 Ohio State
20. Brandon Greene 6'5" 292 Ellenwood, GA No. 135 Alabama
21. Camrhon Hughes 6'7" 320 Harker Heights, TX No. 139 Texas
22. Patrick DeStefano 6'4" 275 Spartanburg, SC No. 147 Clemson
23. J.J. Denman 6'6" 310 Yardley, PA No. 159 Rutgers
24. Ronnie Stanley 6'6" 285 Las Vegas, NV No. 172 Notre Dame
25. Vadal Alexander 6'6" 315 Buford, GA No. 176 LSU
26. Ryan Ward 6'5" 275 Dublin, OH No. 177 Iowa
27. John Michael McGee 6'4" 275 Texarkana, TX No. 178 Oklahoma
28. Taylor Decker 6'8" 315 Vandalia, OH No. 179 Ohio State
29. Ty Darlington 6'3" 275 Apopka, FL No. 184 Oklahoma
30. Jay Guillermo 6'2" 287 Maryville, TN No. 190 Clemson
31. Chris Muller 6'6" 315 Perkiomenville, PA No. 197 Rutgers
32. Ereck Flowers 6'6" 312 Miami, FL No. 204 Miami
33. Evan Goodman 6'4" 290 Lakeland, FL No. 211 Arizona State
34. Issac Hayes 6'2" 275 Brooklyn Park, MN No. 212 Minnesota
35. Brock Stadnik 6'5" 287 Greensboro, NC No. 221 South Carolina
36. Paul Thurston 6'5" 275 Arvada, CO No. 230 Nebraska
37. Mike Matthews 6'3" 260 Missouri City, TX No. 238 Texas A&M
38. Patrick Miller 6'7" 275 West Palm Beach, FL No. 239 Auburn
39. Freddie Tagaloa 6'8" 312 Richmond, CA No. 261 Cal
40. Brandon Fanaika 6'3" 320 Pleasant Grove, UT No. 264 Stanford
41. Caleb Peterson 6'5" 310 Auburn, AL No. 269 North Carolina

2012 Athlon Sports Positional Recruiting Rankings:

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Running Backs

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Backs
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Quarterbacks
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Athletes

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Football Recruiting Rankings: OL</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 9-4, 5-3 Big Ten

Spring practice: March 10-April 14 

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Taylor Martinez, 2,089 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Rex Burkhead, 1,357 yards, 15 TD
Receiving: Kenny Bell, 32 rec., 461 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: Will Compton, 82
Sacks: Cameron Meredith, 5
Interceptions: Four tied with one

Redshirts to watch: DT Todd Peat, DT Kevin Williams, OL Ryne Reeves, LB David Santos, OL Ryan Klachko

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Southern Miss
Sept. 8 at UCLA
Sept. 15 Arkansas State
Sept. 22 Idaho State
Sept. 29 Wisconsin
Oct. 6 at Ohio State
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Northwestern
Oct. 27 Michigan
Nov. 3 at Michigan State
Nov. 10 Penn State
Nov. 17 Minnesota
Nov. 23 at Iowa

Offensive Strength: The backfield is clearly the position of strength for this roster. Taylor Martinez still has loads to learn but returns for his third season as the starter. All-American candidate Rex Burkhead is arguably the most complete player in the nation at any position. And the depth behind both is improved from a year ago. All seems right in the world when the Cornhuskers have a powerful running game.

Offensive Weakness: The loss of two all-conference performers and another with 13 starts up front along the line has left the biggest void on the offense. The cupboard is far from bare as an all-league guard returns in Spencer Long and upside prospects like Andrew Rodriguez look for breakout seasons in 2012. 

Defensive Strength: The overall depth of the roster. The unit has stars in the making on every level of the defense, so Bo Pelini just needs to put the right people in the right places to succeed. The D-Line has loads of upside and the secondary is extremely deep, but...

Defensive Weakness: This side of the ball lost most of its star power. Particularly hard hit were the cornerback and linebacker positions, where the best player at his position in the conference graduated. This group has churned out elite level players on every level of the defense over the last 3-4 years and finding leaders might be the biggest concern for a unit that needs direction. 

Spring Storylines Facing the Huskers:

1. The continued physical and mental development of Taylor Martinez. The sky is once again the limit with this team but will go only as far as the inconsistent signal caller will take them. Martinez, and offensive coordinator Tim Beck, will point to his command of the offense as his biggest area of growth in 2011. However, it doesn't matter how in control T-Magic is if he cannot complete passes when he wants to. His mental toughness and overall maturity also appeared to improve last season, leaving his accuracy and consistency as the major hurdles left to clear. He will work heavily this spring on footwork, throwing motion and developing a new set of receivers. Martinez's athletic ability will never be a question as there are few players in the nation that cover the first 10 yards as quickly as he can. So the ceiling for the 2012 Cornhuskers will tied directly to Martinez's ability to complete key third down and fourth-quarter passes.

2. Outside of getting more from Martinez, rebuilding the offensive line after losing three starters including All-Big Ten honorable mention blockers Mike Caputo and Marcel Jones is Nebraska's biggest offensive issue. With the loss of 13-start left tackle Yoshi Hardrick as well, Pelini needs to find some pieces to protect Martinez this spring. The good news is Long brings second-team all-Big Ten recognition back to the right guard position. After him, however, there is a long list of names looking to gain starring roles: Rodriguez, Tyler Moore, Seung Hoon Choi, Cole Pensick, Mark Pelini, Justin Jackson and Ryne Reeves. The two most important commodities on this team will line-up in the backfield, so keeping them healthy and opening up lanes on the ground will be major area of concern this spring.

3. Who will fill the void left by weakside linebacker, and Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, Lavonte David. Pelini has stated confidence in both Alonzo Whaley and David Santos as the top two candidates to fill the massive void left at the Will backer spot. No matter how much confidence the reworked defensive staff has in Whaley and Santos, no team in the nation can remove its heartbeat — aka 285 total tackles in two years — from the chest cavity of the defense and operate at the same level. All eyes in Lincoln will be on those two tacklers this spring.

4. Longtime Pelini minion John Papuchis takes over as the defensive cooridnator and he is charged with reinvigorating a defense that appears to have lost its edge. This unit, albeit led by a Boy Named Suh, was downright nasty three seasons ago but has clearly lost its tenacity in the last two years. The Blackshirts finished 64th nationally in rushing defense in 2011 and 63rd in 2010. This coming on the heels of finishing ninth in the nation against the run in 2009. Losing tackles Jared Crick and Terence Moore, as well as end Josh Williams, doesn't help matters either. Yet, with developing stars expected to produce career years (Baker Steinkuhler, Chase Rome, Eric Martin, Cameron Meredith), Papuchis has all the pieces in place up front to re-install the Blackshirt way. He just needs to go out and produce now (no pressure).

5. Additionally, replacing the Big Ten's top coverman, Alfonzo Dennard, and honorable mention All-Big Ten safety Austin Cassidy will be an area of focus as well. There is a lot of depth and talent in the secondary as Andrew Green, Ciante Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Justin Blatchford should fill in admirably for Dennard while P.J. Smith, Daimion Stafford, Harvey Jackson and the injured Courtney Osbourne return to the safety position. This is a very deep collection of defensive backs, but deciding how the pieces will fit and rotate together will be key this spring.

Related Content Links:

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early Big Ten Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 06:50
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-ath
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The next batch of in-coming college football All-Americans have inked their respective letters of intent. Recruiting is the life blood of the greatest sport on the planet, and, while coaching stills plays the biggest role in winning a championship, having better players can go a long way to earning a trip to the BCS.

Recruiting is an inexact science by definition. It is virtually impossible to accurately peg the mental make-up of any 17-year old child -- much less high-profile, over-coddled 17-year-old athletes. But team recruiting rankings offer the best indication of which team has the best ingredients each coach has to work with each season.

Related: Athlon's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2012

Offensive Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR/TE | OL
Defensive Positional Rankings: DL | LB | DB | ATH

There are many prospects who come to campus without a position. Many times, the most gifted athlete on a high school team is asked to play quarterback or both sides of the ball full-time. Once these 'athletes' get to campus, the coaches have the exciting but sometimes difficult decision to make on where to play a give prospect. Is this kid a tight end, outside linebacker or defensive end? What about this do-everything slot man who is also great in coverage? These types of players can offer versatility to a head coach who needs to fill voids on his depth chart. It just may take a year or two to figure out exactly where he helps the team the most.

Here are the best incoming 'athletes' in the nation (tight ends below):

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Stefon Diggs 6' 185 Olney, MD No. 5 Maryland
2. Cyrus Jones 5'10" 192 Baltimore, MD No. 48 Alabama
3. Davonte Neal 5'9" 175 Scottsdale, AZ No. 56 Notre Dame
4. Angelo Jean-Louis 6' 182 Wellington, FL No. 85 Miami
5. Bralon Addison 5'10" 185 Missouri City, TX No. 111 Oregon
6. Marvin Bracy 5'9" 170 Orlando, FL No. 126 Florida State
7. Sheldon Dawson 5'11" 180 Memphis, TN N0. 188 Georgia
8. Dominic Ramacher 6'3" 230 Denton, TX No. 231 Oklahoma State
9. Daje Johnson 5'10" 175 Pflugerville, TX No. 255 Texas

2012 Athlon Sports Positional Recruiting Rankings:

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Running Backs

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Backs
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Quarterbacks
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Athletes

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Football Recruiting Rankings: ATH</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-3, 6-3 Big 12

Spring practice: March 5-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Landry Jones, 355 of 562, 4,463 yards, 29 TD, 15 INT
Rushing: Dominique Whaley, 113 att., 627 yards, 9 TD
Receiving: Kenny Stills, 61 rec., 849 yards, 8 TD
Tackles: Aaron Colin, 84
Sacks: Corey Nelson, 5.5
Interceptions: Tony Jefferson, 4

Redshirts to watch: DT Jordan Wade, DT Jordan Phillips, DT Marquis Anderson, DE Nathan Hughes, OT Dylan Dismuke

2012 Schedule

2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 at UTEP
Sept. 8 Florida A&M
Sept. 15 Bye Week
Sept. 22 Kansas State
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 at Texas Tech
Oct. 13 Texas (Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas)
Oct. 20 Kansas
Oct. 27 Notre Dame
Nov. 3 at Iowa State
Nov. 10 Baylor
Nov. 17 at West Virginia
Nov. 24 Oklahoma State
Dec. 1 at TCU

Offensive Strength: The line has to be considered the most stable position on the offensive side of the ball. Only one departing player needs to be replaced while five players with playing experience return, including multiple All-Big-12 performers Gabe Ikard and Tyler Evans.

Offensive Weakness: The biggest issue on offense has to be with the pass-catchers. The loss of Ryan Broyles, the NCAA's all-time leading receiver, was painfully obvious over the last month of the 2011 season. Tight end James Hanna and wideout DeJuan Miller are gone as well. Running back could be an issue, especially if Dominique Whaley doesn't return 100 percent from an ankle injury.

Defensive Strength: The back seven of the defense has to be considered the strength. The linebackers return a pair of all-conference tacklers and the secondary is absolutely loaded with upside talent. However, the coaching staff needs to get them to perform up to their potential.

Defensive Weakness: The defensive line will be the area of focus for new (and old) defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Replacing the conference's "co-best" defensive player as well as another first-teamer at the end position will be key this spring. The Sooners lost 113 total tackles, 14 sacks and 32 tackles for a loss along the defensive line.

Spring Storylines Facing the Sooners:

1. Which Landry Jones will show up for the Sooners this fall? One wouldn't think that a 12,000-yard quarterback who is approaching 100 career touchdowns would be an issue. However, the numbers are well-documented and well-scrutinized. Jones showed major development from 2009 to 2010. He increased his completion percentage - 58.1% passing to 65.6% - and significantly dropped his interception rate - one every 32.1 attempts versus one every 51.4 attempts. Yet, 2011 saw Jones regress in both categories (63.1% and 37.5 attempts/INT). Additionally, his road record has been a major issue. He is 7-8 on the road as a starter and is 19-1 in Norman. Finally, he limped to the finish in 2011, going without a single touchdown pass in the final three games of the regular season (with five interceptions nonetheless). There is no reason to think Jones won't bounce back as a senior and the unquestioned leader of Crimson and Cream nation, but questions still hang over his head. This team will go as far as Jones takes them — which could be an eighth conference championship in 13 years.

2. A month of spring practice developing and organizing the wide receviers will go a long way to helping Jones return to form this fall. Without Broyles, this unit struggled mightily down the stretch. Kenny Stills has NFL ability and should be the go-to target for Jones this fall. Jaz Reynolds looks to be second in line but has to stay healthy. After those two, names like Kameel Jackson, Trey Franks and Sheldon McClain need to prove they can be contributors this fall. Trey Metoyer did not qualify last season, but is expected to be a key contributor in Oklahoma's receiving corps. Junior college recruit Courtney Gardner will also push Jackson, Franks and McClain for playing time. 

3. The return of Mark Stoops has to have Sooners fans excited about their defense. Stoops helped build the BCS National Championship unit of 2000 — one of the greatest defensive teams ever assembled — and will be charged with refiring a stagnant unit. Brent Venables left for Clemson after a two uncharacteristically poor showings on defense: 55th nationally in total defense in 2011 and 53rd in 2010. There is uber-talent in the secondary and linebacking corps and those two areas should be the strength of this unit. But Stoops first order of business will be to develop a defensive line that watched Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander and first-team All-Big 12 end Ronnell Lewis depart for the NFL. Look for former elite recruit R.J. Washington, as well as David King and Geneo Grissom, to stablize the end position. Stacy McGee, Jamarkus McFarland, Casey Walker and Torrea Peterson should solidify the interior of the line.

Related Content Links:

2012 No. 11 Recruiting Class: Oklahoma Sooners
Top Transfers to Watch in 2012

Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early Big 12 Predictions

2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 9, 2012 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-wrte
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The next batch of in-coming college football All-Americans have inked their respective letters of intent. Recruiting is the life blood of the greatest sport on the planet, and, while coaching stills plays the biggest role in winning a championship, having better players can go a long way to earning a trip to the BCS.

Recruiting is an inexact science by definition. It is virtually impossible to accurately peg the mental make-up of any 17-year old child -- much less high-profile, over-coddled 17-year-old athletes. But team recruiting rankings offer the best indication of which team has the best ingredients each coach has to work with each season.

Related: Athlon's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2012

Offensive Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR/TE | OL
Defensive Positional Rankings: DL | LB | DB | ATH

No receiving class will ever compare to the 2008 haul that included top-100 talents like Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Michael Floyd, Jonathan Baldwin, DeAndre Brown, DeVier Posey and Joe Adams. But the 2012 group can make the case that it has the most highly-touted wide recevier to enter the collegiate ranks in years. He is the nation's all-time leading prep receiver and is the No. 1 prospect in the nation. And he is going to Missouri.

Here are the best incoming wide receivers in the nation (tight ends below):

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Dorial Green-Beckham 6'6" 220 Springfield, MO No. 1 Missouri
2. Eddie Williams 6'3" 204 Panama City Beach, FL No. 12 Alabama
3. Nelson Agholor 6'1" 180 Tampa, FL No. 26 USC
4. Thomas Johnson 5'11" 180 Dallas, TX No. 29 Texas A&M
5. Shaq Roland 6'1" 173 Lexington, SC No. 41 South Carolina
6. Chris Black 5'11" 180 Jacksonville, FL No. 42 Alabama
7. Deontay Greenberry 6'3" 185 Fresno, CA No. 52 Houston
8. Amari Cooper 6'1" 185 Miami, FL No. 58 Alabama
9. Cayleb Jones 6'3" 198 Austin, TX No. 59 Texas
10. Durron Neal 6'1" 195 St. Louis, MO No. 74 Oklahoma
11. Germone Hopper 6' 170 Charlotte, NC No. 81 Clemson
12. Kendall Sanders 6' 175 Athens, TX No. 87 Texas
13. Bryce Treggs 5'11" 171 Bellflower, CA No. 92 Cal
14. Joel Caleb 6'3" 205 Midlothian, VA No. 95 Virginia Tech
15. JaQuay Williams 6'4" 205 Tyrone, GA No. 99 Auburn
16. Sterling Shepard 5'11" 185 Oklahoma City, OK No. 100 Oklahoma
17. Aaron Burbridge 6'1" 190 Farmington Hills, MI No. 104 Michigan State
18. Ricardo Louis 6'2" 210 Miami Beach, FL No. 121 Auburn
19. Jordan Payton 6'2" 205 Westlake Village, CA No. 124 UCLA
20. Darreus Rogers 6'2" 195 Compton, CA No. 125 USC
21. Domnique Wheeler 6'1" 176 Crockett, TX No. 127 Texas Tech
22. Gabriel Marks 5'11" 175 Los Angeles, CA No. 131 Washington St
23. Eugene Lewis 6'2" 185 Wilkes-Barre, PA No. 151 Penn State
24. Avery Johnson 6'2" 180 Pompano Beach, FL No. 166 LSU
25. Darius Powe 6'2" 186 Lakewood, CA No. 168 Cal
26. Malcolm Lewis 6' 194 Miramar, FL No. 173 Miami, Fla.
27. D'Vario Montgomery 6'3" 210 Winter Park, FL No. 174 USF
28. Drae Bowles 6'1" 198 Jackon, TN No. 180 Tennessee
29. Leonte Carroo 6'1" 190 Edison, NJ No. 185 Rutgers
30. Justin Ferguson 6'2" 205 Pembroke Pines, FL No. 186 Notre Dame
31. Reginald Davis 6'1" 185 Tenaha, TX No. 187 Texas Tech
32. Quinshad Davis 6'4" 185 Gaffney, SC No. 195 North Carolina
33. Latroy Pittman 6' 195 Citra, FL No. 203 Florida
34. Brandon Shepard 6'1" 195 Creve Coeur, MO No. 205 Oklahoma St
35. Corey Coleman 5'11" 180 Richardson, TX No. 208 Baylor
36. Derrick Woods 6'1" 185 Inglewood, CA No. 210 Oklahoma
37. Dwayne Stanford 6'5" 185 Cincinnati, OH No. 213 Oregon
38. Alton Howard 5'9" 180 Orlando, FL No. 219 Tennessee
39. Cedric Dozier 5'11" 175 Lakewood, WA No. 232 Cal
40. Kwinton Smith 6'4" 206 Hamer, SC No. 235 South Carolina
41. Jason Croom 6'5" 200 Norcross, GA No. 240 Tennessee
42. Jaydon Mickens 5'11" 175 Los Angeles, CA No. 257 Washington

Here are the best incoming tight ends in the nation:

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Kent Taylor 6'5" 225 Land O'Lakes, FL No. 65 Florida
2. Ricky Parks 6'4" 235 Hogansville, GA No. 90 Auburn
3. Colin Thompson 6'4" 252 Warminster, PA No. 136 Florida
4. Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick 6'5" 260 Rocklin, CA No. 145 USC
5. Pharaoh Brown 6'6" 220 Lyndhurst, OH No. 168 Oregon
6. John Thomas* 6'5" 245 Bossier City, LA No. 220 LSU
7. Taylor McNamara 6'5" 235 San Diego, CA No. 234 Oklahoma
8. Sean Price 6'3" 235 Citra, FL No. 236 USF

2012 Athlon Sports Positional Recruiting Rankings:

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Running Backs

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Backs
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Quarterbacks
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Athletes

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Football Recruiting Rankings: WR/TE</p>
Post date: Friday, March 9, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Clemson Tigers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-4, 6-2 ACC

Spring practice: March 7-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Tajh Boyd, 298 of 499, 3,828 yards, 33 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Andre Ellington, 223 att., 1,178 yards, 11 TD
Receiving: Sammy Watkins, 82 rec., 1,219 yards, 12 TD
Tackles: Rashard Hall, 89
Sacks: Malliciah Goodman and Stephone Anthony, 2
Interceptions: Jonathan Meeks, 3

Redshirts to watch: OG Spencer Region, DE Roderick Byers, OT Joe Gore, TE Eric Mac Lain, LB B.J. Goodson

2012 Schedule

2012 ACC Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Auburn (Georgia Dome, Atlana, Ga.)
Sept. 8 Ball State
Sept. 15 Furman
Sept. 22 at Florida State
Sept. 29 at Boston College
Oct. 6 Georgia Tech
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Virginia Tech
Oct. 25 at Wake Forest
Nov. 3 at Duke
Nov. 10 Maryland
Nov. 17 NC State
Nov. 24 South Carolina

Offensive Strength: There might not be a better collection of offensive skill players anywhere in the nation than at Clemson. The pass-catching lawfirm of Watkins, Hopkins, Bryant, Brown, Humphries and Peake is as deep a collection of wide receivers as there in America. When quarterback Tajh Boyd steps to the line, he has to be giddy with anticipation when he sees the weapons lined up next to him.

Offensive Weakness: Rebuilding the offensive line will clearly be the top priority for offensive coordinator Chad Morris. All-conference tackles Phillip Price and Landon Walker, as well as guard Antoine McClain, have all departed campus and have left a major void in Tajh Boyd's main line of defense.

Defensive Strength: Since both the linebackers and secondary offer plenty of depth, talent and potential, it is hard to decide on one specific area of strength. The safeties are outstanding and the linebacking corps is deep and has loads of upside.

Defensive Weakness: After losing the top three, and four of the top six, the defensive line has to be considered the area of concern on this side of the ball. There are also question marks atop the defensive hierarchy, but more on that in a moment.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers:

1. The No. 1 issue facing Dabo Swinney and Boyd as the two unquestioned leaders of this Tigers program is mental toughness. The Tigers are the defending ACC champs, but certainly didn't play like it down the stretch last season. Clemson lost four of its last six games by a combined margin of 98 points. Losing by 25 points per game does not a champion make. Obviously, the most important game was the 38-10 drubbing of Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, however, the victory likely only added to the preturbed nature of the Clemson fan base. The team has the ability to repeat as ACC champs and potentially push for an even bigger prize, but this program has to prove that it can handle the stresses of championship caliber football. Consistency and composure has to come from the top - aka Boyd and Swinney.

2. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables lands in Death Valley after essentially being run out of town at Oklahoma. The Crimson and Cream fanbase had Venables under heavy scrutiny after multiple years of underacheivement - something with which the Tigers' fanbase is all too familiar. Old defensive guru Kevin Steele saw his unit surrender 169 points on those four losses, which included the 70-point Orange Bowl embarassment at the hands of West Virginia. The depth, talent and potential is dripping off this Clemson defense, but Venables has to prove that he still has what it takes to be an elite level BCS coordinator.

3. Finding some quality pieces to replace major holes left along the defensive line will go a long way in helping Venables rediscover his defensive spark. Andre Branch, Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore combined for 220 total tackles and 16.5 sacks a year ago and all three have moved on. Malliciah Goodman will stablize one end position while Corey Crawford, Tavris Barnes, Tyler Shatley and DeShawn Williams organize their rotation this spring. Finding and developing quality pieces in the defensive line two-deep will be argubaly the most important aspect of Clemson's spring practice.

4. The other line of scrimmage isn't in much better shape. The good news is that All-ACC center Dalton Freeman returns to campus for another year as the fulcrum of the Tigers' offensive line. The bad news is that he is basically the only experienced blocker on the roster. Brandon Thomas has some game action under his belt and will be counted on to take on a more prominent role this spring as offensive wizard Chad Morris attempts to rebuild his front line. There is a lot of Sunday talent on this offense, so protecting his cavalcade of skill weapons has to take top billing for Morris and his staff this spring.

Related Content Links:

2012 No. 16 Recruiting Class: Clemson Tigers
Top Transfers to Watch in 2012

Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early ACC Predictions

2012 ACC Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Clemson Tigers 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 06:15
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-dl
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The next batch of in-coming college football All-Americans have inked their respective letters of intent. Recruiting is the life blood of the greatest sport on the planet, and, while coaching stills plays the biggest role in winning a championship, having better players can go a long way to earning a trip to the BCS.

Recruiting is an inexact science by definition. It is virtually impossible to accurately peg the mental make-up of any 17-year old child -- much less high-profile, over-coddled 17-year-old athletes. But team recruiting rankings offer the best indication of which team has the best ingredients each coach has to work with each season.

Related: Athlon's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2012

Offensive Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR/TE | OL
Defensive Positional Rankings: DL | LB | DB | ATH

The defensive line might be the most important aspect to any championship caliber football team. Certainly, the quarterback is the most vital single position, but the D-Line might be the most important unit. Just ask Tom Brady what it is like to play against the Giants defensive line. Alabama and LSU boasted the top two DLs in the nation a season ago and it led to a national championship showdown. Whether it's a 3-4 or a 4-3, ends or tackles, pass rush specialists or run stuffers, a great defensive line wins championships.

Here are the best incoming defensive linemen in the nation:

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Mario Edwards 6'4" 290 Denton, TX No. 2 Florida State
2. Noah Spence 6'4" 245 Harrisburg, PA No. 4 Ohio State
3. Arik Armstead 6'8" 280 Elk Grove, CA No. 8 Oregon
4. Eddie Goldman 6'4" 310 Washington, DC No. 9 Florida State
5. Malcom Brown 6'4" 285 Brenham, TX No. 10 Texas
6. Jonathan Bullard 6'3" 263 Shelby, NC No. 11 Florida
7. Darius Hamilton 6'4" 260 West Paterson, NJ No. 14 Rutgers
8. Ellis McCarthy 6'5" 326 Monrovia, CA No. 17 UCLA
9. Chris Casher 6'4" 240 Mobile, AL No. 24 Florida State
10. Adolphus Washington 6'5" 245 Cincinnati, OH No. 27 Ohio State
11. Channing Ward 6'4" 250 Aberdeen, MS No. 38 Ole Miss
12. Jonathan Taylor 6'4" 315 MIllen, GA No. 55 Georgia
13. Eli Harold 6'4" 215 Virginia Beach, VA No. 57 Virginia
14. Ondre Pipkins 6'3" 320 Kansas City, MO No. 60 Michigan
15. Aziz Shittu 6'3" 275 Atwater, CA No. 63 Stanford
16. Tommy Schutt 6'3" 300 Glen Ellyn, IL No. 67 Ohio State
17. Leonard Williams 6'5" 270 Daytona Beach, FL No. 68 USC
18. Javonte Magee 6'5" 265 San Antonio, TX No. 69 Baylor
19. Toshiro Davis 6'3" 220 Shreveport, LA No. 77 Texas
20. Se'Von Pittman 6'5" 245 Canton, OH No. 86 Ohio State
21. Carlos Watkins 6'4" 275 Forest City, NC No. 89 Clemson
22. Quay Evans 6'3" 305 Morton, MS No. 93 Mississippi St
23. Jarron Jones 6'6" 298 Rochester, NY No. 101 Notre Dame
24. Tyriq McCord 6'3" 212 Tampa, FL No. 107 Miami
25. Issac Gross 6'3" 270 Batesville, MS No. 109 Ole Miss
26. Sheldon Day 6'2" 275 Indianapolis, IN No. 116 Notre Dame
27. Devante Fields 6'4" 240 Arlington, TX No. 122 TCU
28. Dante Phillips 6'6" 270 Venice, FL No. 129 Florida
29. Justin Shanks 6'3" 310 Prattville, AL No. 137 Florida State
30. Michael Starts 6'4" 282 Waco, TX No. 146 Texas Tech
31. Jelani Hamilton 6'5" 262 Fort Lauderdale, FL No. 154 Miami
32. Alex Norman 6'4" 275 Dallas, TX No. 155 Texas
33. Chris Wormley 6'5" 250 Toledo, OH No. 157 Michigan
34. Alex Balducci 6'4" 262 Portland, OR No. 164 Oregon
35. Tom Strobel 6'6" 265 Mentor, OH No. 196 Michigan
36. Korren Kirven 6'5" 292 Lynchburg, VA No. 198 Alabama
37. Tyler Nero 6'2" 290 Atmore, AL No. 201 Auburn
38. Shaq Lawson 6'3" 240 Central, SC No. 207 Clemson
39. Danielle Hunter 6'5" 245 Katy, TX No. 209 LSU
40. Hassan Ridgeway 6'4" 255 Mansfield, TX No. 217 Texas
41. John Atkins 6'4" 300 Thomson, GA No. 218 Georgia
42. DeForest Buckner 6'7" 230 Honolulu, HI No. 224 Oregon
43. Gimel President 6'4" 250 Mt. Pleasant, SC No. 226 Auburn
44. Nick James 6'4" 330 Long Beach, MS No. 229 Mississippi St
45. Ryan Watson 6'3" 275 Olney, MD No. 233 Purdue
46. Quinteze Williams 6'5" 255 Tyrone, GA No. 247 Florida
47. Caleb Azubike 6'4" 250 Nashville, TN No. 248 Vanderbilt
48. Greg McMullen 6'5" 255 Akron, OH No. 249 Nebraska
49. Dalvin Tomlinson 6'2" 266 McDonough, GA No. 251 Alabama
50. Mario Ojenmudia 6'2" 220 Farmington Hills, MI No. 254 Michigan
51. Jaleel Johnson 6'4" 300 Lombard, IL No. 262 Iowa
52. Pio Vatuvei 6'3" 272 Patterson, CA No. 265 Washington
53. Faith Ekakitie 6'3" 275 Brampton, Ontario No. 266 Iowa
54. Mike Moore 6'4" 260 Hyattsville, MD No. 270 Virginia

2012 Athlon Sports Positional Recruiting Rankings:

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Running Backs

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Backs
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Quarterbacks
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Athletes

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Football Recruiting Rankings: DL</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/missouri-tigers-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Missouri Tigers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 8-5, 5-4 Big 12

Spring practice: March 6-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: James Franklin, 2,865 yards, 21 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Henry Josey, 1,168 yards, 9 TD*
Receiving: T.J. Moe, 54 rec., 649 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Andrew Wilson, 98
Sacks: Brad Madison, 4.5
Interceptions: E.J. Gaines and Zaviar Gooden, 2

* - Josey is recovering from a torn ACL and may miss some or all of 2012

Redshirts to watch: DL Shane Ray, OL Michael Boddie, LB Kentrell Brothers, LB Clarence Green, CB Cortland Browning, WR Wesley Leftwich, DB David Johnson

Injury Watch: RB Henry Josey, LT Elvis Fisher and LB Will Ebner

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 8 Georgia
Sept. 15 Arizona State
Sept. 22 at South Carolina
Sept. 29 at UCF
Oct. 6 Vanderbilt
Oct. 13 Alabama
Oct. 20 Bye Week
Oct. 27 Kentucky
Nov. 3 at Florida
Nov. 10 at Tennessee
Nov. 17 Syracuse
Nov. 24 at Texas A&M

Offensive Strength: The quarterback-head coach combination of Gary Pinkel and James Franklin should be in complete control of the offense after a sterling first season together. Franklin's skill set fits Pinkel's offense perfectly as the junior-to-be finished fourth in the Big 12 in QB rating — in a league that featured Robert Griffin, Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones.

Offensive Weakness: Offensive skill depth could be an issue for Mizzou. The Tigers watched tight end Michael Egnew and receivers Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson graduate. And the return of leading rusher Henry Josey is still up in the air. T.J. Moe returns but finding a ball-carrier and pass-catchers will be key for Pinkel's staff this spring — at least, until Dorial Green-Beckham shows up.

Defensive Strength: Despite losing Luke Lambert's 82 tackles, the Mizzou linebacking corps should be the strength of this unit. Andrew Wilson and Zaviar Gooden combined for 178 total tackles last year and this group will be bolstered by the return of starter Will Ebner from injury. And top reserve Donovan Bonner would start for most teams. The secondary isn't far behind the linebackers in terms of experience and depth. It is safe to say that the back seven of this defense should be fairly stout.

Defensive Weakness: The defensive line has to overcome injuries and losses to graduation as a whole, but defensive tackle specifically is thin and green. Sheldon Richardson is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and there are six career starts from the four names that will rotate this spring. While Brad Madison is nursing his own shoulder surgery, the end position is in slightly better shape than tackle.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers:

1. How does Missouri adjust to life in the SEC? No team will likely see a bigger shift in their team stats than the Tigers. After finishing 94th in the nation in pass defense, Pinkel can expect his deep and talented back seven to provide much better coverage against the pathetic SEC passing attacks. By the same token, don't expect Mizzou to finish third in its league in rush defense like it did a year ago. Solidifying the defensive line will be paramount this spring as MU prepares to face the stellar rushing attacks of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Offensively, the Tigers led the Big 12 in rushing a season ago at 244 yards per game. In a league where defensive lines reign supreme, it is hard to believe that Franklin will be able to match those rushing statistics in 2012. How will Pinkel and Franklin tweak their run-first system to excel in the toughest league in America? The biggest adjustment Missouri will have to make in the SEC will be along the line of scrimmage. Pinkel has to stablize the trenches on both sides of the ball this spring if he expects to compete in the East.

2. How the major injuries play out this spring will be key to determining '12 success for Mizzou. The defensive line combo of Madison and Richardson will have to be at full strength come August if Pinkel expects to slow names like Lacy, Crowell, Stacy and Lattimore. If Will Ebner can return to full strength, the linebackers could be one of the best groups in the nation. Left tackle Elvis Fisher was a preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection before an Achilles injury ended his season. His return to form could boost a group of blockers that has some experience but watched three All-Big 12 honorable mention performers depart. In fact, the health and development of the offensive line could be the most important offensive issue facing this team in the spring.

3. All eyes will be on Franklin to lead this team into the SEC era of Tigers football and finding consistent, depenable receiving options this spring will only help him ease into the new defensive-minded conference. Moe is locked into one starting spot but there are plenty of unknowns behind him on the depth chart. Fans likely have high expectations for big-play junior-to-be Marcus Lucas and would like to see him earn the spot opposite of Moe. Finding a tight end, likely Eric Waters, and third weapon, possibly L'Damian Washington, is something Pinkel undoubtedly wants to have ironed by the end of spring. Of course, they all might just be keeping the seat warm for uber-recruit Green-Beckham.

4. The aformentioned rushing attack will be under heavy scrutiny once SEC play opens in Week 2. The first two SEC games will feature two of the best rushing defenses in the nation (with Alabama looming in Game 4 of conference play) and will certainly challenge a ground game that will likely be without its leading rusher. Franklin cannot carry the load in the SEC like he did in the Big 12 — he wouldn't last six games. And with Josey possibly looking at another knee surgery, Pinkel and the offense must find a true workhorse back. Additionally, the offensive line is rebuilding after three starters who claimed all-league mentions moved on. Pinkel has had strong lines of scrimmage in the Big 12, but whether or not he can elevate that talent to SEC-calibur remains to be seen.

Related Content Links:

2012 SEC Schedule Analysis

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early SEC Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Missouri is on the move from the Big 12 to the SEC. How are the Tigers shaping up in the SEC East race for 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-lbs
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The next batch of in-coming college football All-Americans have inked their respective letters of intent. Recruiting is the life blood of the greatest sport on the planet, and, while coaching stills plays the biggest role in winning a championship, having better players can go a long way to earning a trip to the BCS.

Recruiting is an inexact science by definition. It is virtually impossible to accurately peg the mental make-up of any 17-year old child -- much less high-profile, over-coddled 17-year-old athletes. But team recruiting rankings offer the best indication of which team has the best ingredients each coach has to work with each season.

Related: Athlon's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2012

Offensive Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR/TE | OL
Defensive Positional Rankings: DL | LB | DB | ATH

When it comes to projecting talent, the linebacker position is by far the most versatile and ambiguous. Differences in schemes can create hybrid backer-ends and backer-safeties. The size and skillsets needed to be successful varies across a wide array of talents, everything from pass-rush specialists to man-to-man pass coverage. Traditionally, linebackers are broken up by inside or outside, but with the proliferation of hyrbrid roles, the game has evolved to include much more than simple Mike, Sam and Will players.

Here are the best incoming freshman linebackers in the nation:

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Josh Harvey-Clemons 6'5" 208 Valdosta, GA No. 20 Georgia
2. Dante Fowler Jr. 6'3" 261 St. Petersburg, FL No. 28 Florida
3. Jordan Jenkins 6'3" 245 Hamilton, GA No. 31 Georgia
4. Reggie Ragland 6'2" 247 Madison, AL No. 44 Alabama
5. Jabari Ruffin 6'4" 230 Downey, CA No. 46 USC
6. Noor Davis 6'4" 235 Leesburg, FL No. 49 Stanford
7. Ifeadi Odenigbo 6'3" 217 Centerville, OH No. 66 Northwestern
8. Markuss Eligwe 6'3" 225 Stone Mountain, GA No. 71 Florida State
9. Kwon Alexander 6'2" 200 Oxford, AL No. 82 LSU
10. Ryan Anderson 6'2" 250 Daphne, AL No. 84 Alabama
11. Dillon Lee 6'4" 240 Buford, GA No. 94 Alabama
12. Peter Jinkins 6'1" 200 Dallas, TX No. 105 Texas
13. Kwontie Moore 6'2" 243 Norfolk, VA No. 106 Virginia
14. Joe Bolden 6'3" 230 Cincinnati, OH No. 108 Michigan
15. Vince Biegel 6'3' 225 Wisconsin Rapids, WI No. 132 Wisconsin
16. Raphael Kirby 6' 207 Stone Mountain, GA No. 133 Miami, Fla.
17. Tyler Hayes 6'3" 215 Thomasville, AL No. 143 Alabama
18. Otha Peters 6'2" 225 Covington, LA No. 149 Arkansas
19. Brian Nance 6'2" 210 Euless, TX No. 150 Baylor
20. Royce Jenkins-Stone 6'2" 215 Detroit, MI No. 152 Michigan
21. Nick Dawson 6'3" 228 Charlotte, NC No. 156 Louisville
22. Denzel Devall 6'2" 236 Bastrop, LA No. 158 Michigan
23. James Ross 6'1" 215 Orchard Lake, MI No. 161 Michigan
24. Joshua Perry 6'3" 230 Lewis Center, OH No. 174 Ohio State
25. Scott Starr 6'3" 230 Norco, CA No. 182 USC
26. Dalton Santos 6'3" 250 Van, TX No. 194 Texas
27. Jordan Richmond 6'3" 225 Denton, TX No. 206 Texas A&M
28. Leonard Floyd 6'4" 215 Eastman, GA No. 214 Georgia
29. Michael Rose 6' 230 Kansas City, MO No. 216 Nebraska
30. Ronnie Feist 6'2" 225 Edgard, LA No. 227 LSU
31. Keith Brown 6'1 225 Miami, FL No. 241 Louisville
32. Lorenzo Phillips 6'2" 200 Patterson, LA No. 242 LSU
33. Quanzell Lambert 6'1" 230 Sicklerville, NJ No. 243 Rutgers
34. Camren Williams 6'2" 215 West Roxbury, MA No. 256 Ohio State

2012 Athlon Sports Positional Recruiting Rankings:

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Running Backs

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers

College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Backs
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Linemen
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Quarterbacks
College Football 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: Athletes

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Football Recruiting Rankings: LBs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Arizona Wildcats 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 4-8, 2-7 Pac-12

Spring practice: March 5-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Matt Scott, 66 of 93, 776 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT (2010)
Rushing: Ka'Deem Carey, 91 att., 425 yards, 6 TD
Receiving: Dan Buckner, 42 rec., 606 yards, 2 TD
Tackles: Marquis Flowers, 68
Sacks: Four tied with one
Interceptions: Shaquille Richardson, 4

Redshirts to watch: DE Dame Ndiaye, RB Jared Baker, WR Patrick Onwasor, WR David Richards

Back From Injury: LB Jake Fischer, S Adam Hall, CB Jonathan McKnight

Transfer to watch: LB Brian Wagner (Akron)

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Toledo
Sept. 8 Oklahoma State
Sept. 15 South Carolina State
Sept. 22 at Oregon
Sept. 29 Oregon State
Oct. 6 at Stanford
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Washington
Oct. 27 USC
Nov. 3 at UCLA
Nov. 10 Colorado
Nov. 17 at Utah
Nov. 23 Arizona State

Offensive Strength: Is Rich Rodriguez an eligible answer? His ability to out-scheme most defensive coordinators is a game-changer in and of itself. His spread-zone-read-option attack has leveled many-a-playing field in the past and should do so once again in the defensively challenged Pac-12. Aside from their new scheme, Zona fans have to be excited about 55 starts from 2011 returning to the offensive line. But they must run the ball better this fall.

Offensive Weakness: Offensive skill depth. Since the running game — which ranked 114th in the nation last fall — will be vastly improved under the tutelage of Rich Rod, the depth on the outside and in the backfield has to be the biggest concern. Quarterback Matt Scott, tailback Ka'Deem Carey and wideout Dan Buckner are the only proven options on the entire roster after leading rusher Keola Antolin, passer Nick Foles and receiver Juron Criner all graduated. Look for RichRod to give his skill players plenty of opportunity to prove themselves this spring.

Defensive Strength: It is tough to find a strength for a unit that lost one third of its starting line-up to injury and ranked 10th or worst in the Pac-12 in nearly every major statistical category. But the secondary, bouyed by the return of safety Adam Hall and corner Jonathan McKnight, offers some talent and versatility. Shaquille Richardson and Marquis Flowers have all-league potential and Tra'Mayne Bondurant earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention a year ago. Replacing Robert Golden and Trevin Wade won't be easy, but this unit has plenty of depth and should fit perfectly into the new 3-3-5 scheme.

Defensive Weakness: The defensive front seven. This unit was downright atrocious last fall. The Wildcats finished last in the league with only 10 quarterback sacks a year ago, were 102nd nationally in tackles for a loss and allowed a Pac-12 worst 298.9 yards passing per game. Improving the front line will be priority No. 1 for a defense that says goodbye to its top sackmaster in C.J. Parish and top two tacklers in linebackers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo.

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats:

1. Can Matt Scott survive the season and excel as the starting quarterback? Rich Rod enters spring camp with only one quarterback on scholarship and will actually use wide receiver Richard Morrison under center to take the load off the redshirt senior. Scott appears to be a perfect fit for the zone read attack Rodriguez perfected at West Virginia and Michigan. Scott has played in 18 games in which he received at least one rushing attempt and posted 632 yards rushing and two scores in those games. He has the tools needed to succeed in this offensive system, but keeping him healthy throughout spring practice will be important.

2. A successful rushing attack, something Rich Rod has had at every stop, will go a long way to protect Scott. This unit ranked 114th in the nation and 11th in the Pac-12 last fall at only 94.5 yards per game. Leading rusher Antolin has moved on and left very little depth at running back. The good news is the lone returning ball carrier is rising sophomore star Ka'Deem Carey. Additionally, Carey and Scott will be running behind one of the more veteran offensive lines in the league. All five starters return to this group, including all-league center Kyle Quinn and tackle tandem Mickey Baucus (who is dealing with his own injury issues) and Fabbians Ebble. It raises the age old question about a unit that returns most of its experience but struggled mightily the previous year: Is it a good thing that all of those guys are back? This should be the strength of the Arionza offense in 2012, so keep an eye on how the ground game develops over the course of spring camp.

3. The defense has to improve as a whole if Arizona expects to compete in the South. This group finished last in Pac-12 in total defense, pass defense and sacks. So finding someone who can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks will be huge for new defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. This team returns a total of four quarterback sacks from a year ago. It falls to end Kirifi Taula and tackle Justin Washington to lead an inexperienced group along the D-Line. Of course, staying healthy will go a long way to fixing some of the Wildcats defensive woes. Injuries were such a well-documented aspect of this team's struggles a year ago and getting safety Adam Hall, corner Jonathan McKnight, linebacker Jake Fischer and defensive tackle Willie Mobley back to form in 2012 will be paramount for Casteel.

4. Defensive Injury Update from Rich Rod. Here is how the head coach has explained each's progress at the start of camp:

Fischer: “Jake Fischer is a full go. He’s worked so hard, without question (he) is going to be one of our leaders defensively and I can see why the coaching staff missed him so much last year. He’s a tough guy.”

McKnight: “(He) is on schedule, will be limited this spring. He’s doing most of the workouts though.”

Hall: “Adam is doing everything now, he had a foot issue but he’s doing everything.”

Mobley: “He’s limping around but he should be doing everything this spring.”

Related Content Links:

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early Pac-12 Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Arizona Wildcats 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 05:52
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-rbs
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The next batch of in-coming college football All-Americans have inked their respective letters of intent. Recruiting is the life blood of the greatest sport on the planet, and, while coaching stills plays the biggest role in winning a championship, having better players can go a long way to earning a trip to the BCS.

Recruiting is an inexact science by definition. It is virtually impossible to accurately peg the mental make-up of any 17-year old child -- much less high-profile, over-coddled 17-year-old athletes. But team recruiting rankings offer the best indication of which team has the best ingredients each coach has to work with each season.

Related: Athlon's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2012

The running back position might be the single easiest position on the football field to transition from high school to college. Marcus Lattimore, DeAnthony Thomas and others have proven that running in and around defenders is as much instinct as it is preperation. Learning blocking schemes and blitz pick-ups are major areas of work for most incoming freshman, but once the ball is in hand, it's all natural ability.

Here are the best incoming freshman running backs in the nation:

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Jonathan Gray 5'11" 202 Aledo, TX No. 7 Texas
2. Keith Marshall 5'11" 190 Raleigh, NC No. 16 Georgia
3. Trey Williams 5'8" 175 Spring, TX No. 19 Texas A&M
4. T.J. Yeldon 6'2" 210 Daphne, AL No. 32 Alabama
5. Rushel Shell 6'1" 210 Aliquippa, PA No. 33 Pitt
6. Randy Johnson 5'9" 183 Miami, FL No. 36 Miami, Fla.
7. Mario Pender 6' 190 Cape Coral, FL No. 37 Florida State
8. Mike Davis 5'9" 216 Lithonia, GA No. 54 South Carolina
9. Alex Ross 6'1" 205 Jenks, OK No. 78 Oklahoma
10. Barry Sanders, Jr. 5'10" 185 Oklahoma City, OK No. 79 Stanford
11. Todd Gurley 6'1" 195 Tarboro, NC No. 83 Georgia
12. D.J. Foster 6' 190 Scottsdale, AZ No. 97 Arizona St
13. Bri'onte Dunn 6'2" 220 Canton, OH No. 98 Ohio State
14. Kenyan Drake 6'1" 204 Powder Springs, GA No. 130 Alabama
15. J.C. Coleman 5'7" 170 Chesapeake, VA No. 140 Virginia Tech
16. Byron Marshall 5'10" 195 San Jose, CA No. 148 Oregon
17. Matt Jones 6'2" 213 Seffner, FL No. 165 Florida
18. Kei'Varae Russell 6' 177 Everett, WA No. 167 Notre Dame
19. Brian Kimbrow 5'8" 170 Memphis, TN No. 170 Vanderbilt
20. Wes Brown 6'1" 210 Olney, MD No. 191 Maryland
21. Greg Garmon 6'1" 200 Erie, PA No. 223 Iowa
22. Drew Harris 6'1" 220 Dowington, PA No. 228 Virginia Tech
23. Jovon Robinson 6'1" 220 Memphis, TN No. 244 Auburn

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Positional Recruiting Rankings: RBs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-team-recruiting-rankings
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The next batch of in-coming college football All-Americans have inked their respective letters of intent. Recruiting is the life blood of the greatest sport on the planet, and, while coaching stills plays the biggest role in winning a championship, having better players can go a long way to earning a trip to the BCS.

Recruiting is an inexact science by definition. It is virtually impossible to accurately peg the mental make-up of any 17-year old child -- much less high-profile, over-coddled 17-year-old athletes. But team recruiting rankings offer the best indication of which team has the best ingredients each coach has to work with each season.

Here are the Top 25 Recruiting Classes, based on averages of all the major recruiting internet services, for the Class of 2012:

Related: View the complete Athlon Consensus 100 here

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Total Signees: 26, Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 10, National Signees: 16

2. Texas Longhorns

Total Signees: 28, AC100 Signees: 7, National Signees: 17

3. Florida Gators

Total Signees: 23, AC100 Signees: 6, National Signees: 13

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

Total Signees: 25, AC100 Signees: 6, National Signees: 11

5. Florida State Seminoles

Total Signees: 19, AC100 Signees: 7, National Signees: 10

6. Michigan Wolverines

Total Signees: 25, AC100 Signees: 3, National Signees: 10

7. Stanford Cardinal

Total Signees: 22, AC100 Signees: 7, National Signees: 8

8. Miami Hurricanes

Total Signees: 33, AC100 Signees: 3, National Signees: 9

9. Georgia Bulldogs

Total Signees: 19, AC100 Signees: 6, National Signees: 8

10. USC Trojans

Total Signees: 16, AC100 Signees: 7, National Signees: 10

11. Oklahoma Sooners

Total Signees: 26, AC100 Signees: 3, National Signees: 7

12. Auburn Tigers

Total Signees: 21, AC100 Signees: 4, National Signees: 12

13. LSU Tigers

Total Signees: 22, AC100 Signees: 1, National Signees: 10

14. Texas A&M Aggies

Total Signees: 19, AC100 Signees: 2, National Signees: 6

15. UCLA Bruins

Total Signees: 25, AC100 Signees: 2, National Signees: 5

16. Clemson Tigers
Total Signees: 20, AC100 Signees: 3, National Signees: 7

17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Total Signees: 17, AC100 Signees: 3, National Signees: 9

18. Oregn Ducks

Total Signees: 21, AC100 Signees: 1, National Signees: 7

19. South Carolina Gamecocks

Total Signees: 25, AC100 Signees: 2, National Signees: 5

20. Tennessee Volunteers

Total Signees: 22, AC100 Signees: 0, National Signees: 4

21. Washington Huskies

Total Signees: 25, AC100 Signees: 2, National Signees: 5

22. Virginia Tech Hokies

Total Signees: 28, AC100 Signees: 0, National Signees: 4

23. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Total Signees: 20, AC100 Signees: 1, National Signees: 5

24. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Total Signees: 26, AC100 Signees: 0, National Signees: 3 

25. Cal Golden Bears

Total Signees: 17, AC100 Signees: 2, National Signees: 5

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' College Football 2012 Team Recruiting Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-studs-avoid-2012
Body:

— by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Every year there are sure-fire, can't-miss fantasy studs who go in the first couple of rounds and end up, for a variety of reasons, costing a GM a chance at a fantasy championship. Owners of Hanley Ramirez in 2011 know all about what I am talking about. It is imperative that your first three picks are sound. Without production from your first couple of picks, be it injury or otherwise, it is very difficult to compete for a fantasy championship.

Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, I asked the Athlon editors which Top 40, or first three round, player are you staying completely away from?

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

Debate: Which Top 40 player are staying away from?

Mark Ross:
I would not take either Josh Hamilton (No. 32 overall) or Carlos Santana (No. 33) in the first three rounds. There's no denying both can put up big numbers, but to do that they of course have to be on the field, and that has been anything but a sure thing when it comes to Hamilton. In 2010, the Rangers' outfielder won the AL MVP playing in just 133 games. The only other season he's played in more was 2008, when he posted MVP-worthy (.304-32-130) numbers in 156 games. Otherwise, he has averaged 100 games played in his three other seasons. I know this is a contract year and all, but that's too much risk and uncertainty in the first three rounds for me. As far as Santana goes, even with his dual eligibility at catcher and first base, which helps his playing time, you are more than likely drafting him as your catcher and the first three rounds is entirely too early for that. He did hit 27 home runs last year and will turn 26 once the season starts, but he also hit just .239 with just 79 RBIs. He could very well develop into a top 36 player at some point in his career, and it could possibly happen this season, but I am not going to be the one who drafts him as such.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
A player I will avoid from the top 36 of our Big Board is Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. His production is still solid when he’s on the field, but the former MVP seems like too much of an injury risk for me to select him in the first three rounds of a draft. Over the last three seasons, Hamilton has played 89, 133 and 121 games. His numbers in 2011 were still quality — .298, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 80 runs, .882 OPS — just not top 40 quality. I’d rather get a more reliable star in round three, and then find the above numbers with another outfielder deeper in the draft. It might in round four with Matt Holliday or Hunter Pence, or much later with a guy like Carlos Beltran, whose numbers — .300, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 78 runs, .910 OPS — in two pitchers’ parks were almost as good as Hamilton’s. If the Rangers’ slugger slips to round four or five, he would be worth the risk. However, I would avoid Hamilton in the top 36 picks.

Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie):
I don’t see any egregious inclusions in the top 40. But one player I would stay away from longer than the rest would be Carlos Santana of Cleveland. I like that he will get 500+ at-bats while qualifying for catcher, but other than home runs, he doesn’t bring much to the table for a middle-of-the-order hitter. Not afraid to take a walk, Santana misses out on RBI opportunities and we haven’t seen anything from him that makes us believe he can hit higher than .250. His OBP will give his OPS a boost, but he is a drain on batting average. He doesn’t score enough runs either to be an elite player.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
I will go with the King of the Northwest and Seattle's Felix Hernandez. There is no doubting his stuff, it is electric. But a closer look at the numbers indicates that his sub-par (as compared to ADP) 2011 really shouldn't have been a surprise. Through 1,388.1 career innings pitched, Hernandez has a career ERA of 3.24 and career WHIP of 1.22. His numbers last year (3.47 and 1.22) seem to line up perfectly with his career output. Yes, he had two sub-3.00 seasons in a row, but his three previous seasons were 3.45, 3.92 and 4.52 with a low WHIP of 1.34 - all in seasons of at least 190 innings. His delivery has always looked "dangerous" and he has averaged 241 innings over the last three seasons. You cannot argue with the strikeouts, but he has averaged 13.5 wins per season since his first full stint in the majors (six years) and only 12.4 wins/year if the 19-win outlier is removed. I would have no problem taking King Felix in the 5-7 round range, but 23rd overall? Not a chance.

Nathan Rush:
Steer clear of Mets third baseman David Wright, who was limited to 102 games last year with a back injury. Worse than the risk of injury is the miserable lineup in Queens — sans table-setter Jose Reyes — as well as the negative attitude and energy permeating Citi Field. Under different circumstances, Wright would be worthy of the high round pick. He's been loyal to the Mets to a fault and appears to be willing to go down with the ship by riding out the rest of his contract. Unless Wright gets traded to a contender, you're better off investing in Bernie Madoff — which the Mets did, not so long ago

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings

2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid

2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield

2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitchers
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers

2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Teaser:
<p> Who are the top-40 fantasy players to stay away from in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-25-cal-golden-bears
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 25: Cal Golden Bears (17 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 6th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 2
National Signees: 5

Where They Got 'Em:

Jeff Tedford used his home state with tremendous efficiency in 2012. He landed 13 stellar prospects from inside The Golden State's borders, including the state's top quarterback prospect. He then picked and choosed from talent rich states Oregon, Washington, Texas and Florida for one prospect each to round out his class.

Areas of Focus:

Cal fans likely feel a bit like a jilted lover when discussing the 2012 Bears' recruiting class. It is a top 25 group with unbelievable talent in all levels of the offensive passing game. Yet, as Tedford watched his assistants bolt for Seattle, Wash., Cal fans watched as top level prospects decommitted for Pac-12 rivals Washington, UCLA and Oregon. This is an excellent class, but likely would have finished in the top 10 nationally had they kept names like (cover your eyes Bears fans) Shaq Thompson, Ellis McCarthy and Jordan Payton.

The biggest area of concern with this class would be the defensive line. Missing out on McCarthy and Arik Armstead can be attributed to losing one particular defesnive line coach to the Huskies — whose name (shh, Tosh Lupoi) will likely never be spoken around Tight Wad Hill ever again. Cal failed to sign a signal defensive lineman of any kind and will undoubtedly be looking to hammer this position in the 2013 class.

Despite the negative story lines to cap the recruiting calendar for the embattled Tedford, Cal still boasts arguably the top passing-game class in the nation — meaning quarterback, receviers and offensive lineman. Zach Kline vaulted to No. 3 in the quarterback rankings following an excellent showing at the Under Armour event. And rightly so, as he appears to be possibly the nation's most polished pro-style prospect in this class. His lightning quick release will get him onto the field and into Tedford's QB-friendly offense very soon. He finished his final year with 3,630 yards, 36 touchdowns, a 129.0 QB-rating and only seven interceptions.

And Kline will have some amazing options to throw to once he gets onto the field. After the quarterback, the next three highest rated prospects in this class will play wide receiver. Bryce Treggs brings explosive play-making ability and tremendous bloodlines to Berkeley. His father, Brian, left Cal with the school record for career receptions back in 1991 (167). The younger Treggs posted a 70-catch, 1,377-yard, 11-TD season in his final prep campaign.

Darius Powe is the next pass-catcher in the rankings. He brings a traditional receiver's skillset to the game: great size, speed and fluidity. Do-everything performer Cedric Dozier helped lead his powerhouse high school to four straight 11-1 seasons and three state championships.

The offensive line got four stellar new recruits, led by the mammouth 6-foot-8, 312-pound Freddie Tagaloa. He helped Salesian High to a 45-7 record in four years, including a 21-0 unblemished Bay League mark. Steve Moore and Chrisitan Okafor both stand 6-foot-6 and Matt Cochran is listed as a 6-4, 320-pounder.

With five receivers, four offensive lineman and one stellar signal caller coming to campus, Tedford has plenty of talent to work with to re-energize his once-potent passing attack.

The defense got very little help with only two linebackers and two defensive backs joining Cal's ranks. Again, the lack of any prospects up front could cause major issues down the road but is not an immediate problem.

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100 Recruits:

39. Zach Kline, QB (6-2, 210), Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley
92. Bryce Treggs, WR (5-11, 171), Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco

Other National Signees:

168. Darius Powe, WR (6-2, 186), Lakewood (Calif.) High
232. Cedric Dozier, WR (5-11, 175), Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes
261. Freddie Tagaloa, OL (6-8, 312), Richmond (Calif.) Salesian
262. Raymond Ford, DB (5-11, 174), Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Washington Huskies
22. Virginia Tech Hokies
23. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
24. Texas Tech Red Raiders
25. Cal Golden Bears

Teaser:
<p> The Cal Golden Bears landed the No. 25 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-24-texas-tech-red-raiders
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 24: Texas Tech Red Raiders (26 total signees)

Big 12 Rank: 3rd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 0
National Signees: 3

Where They Got 'Em:

The state of Texas supplied 14 of the Red Raiders' 26 total signees in this class. If Tommy Tuberville is going to be successful at Texas Tech, it goes without saying that the bulk of his roster should come from the Lone Star State. In fact, the only three nationally rated prospects in this class signed with Tech from in-state.

The state of California was also very kind to Tuberville this cycle. Certainly, when you sign nine junior college players, the Golden State will likely figure prominently in your plan. Six new faces come to Lubbock from the talent-rich state of California.

South Carolina provided a pair of signees while Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina each sent one player to West Texas.


Areas of Focus:

This was a key class for a coach who is dealing with issues on a variety of fronts. The past life and lawsuit from his previous stop at Auburn is lurking, the home life has created some unique stresses, but most importantly Tech has struggled to win football games. So landing a top 25 class in 2012 was a must for Tuberville.

Texas Tech landed 16 players for the defense — a side of the ball that clearly needed some help. Defensive lineman Michael Starts leads a five-man D-Line haul. The nationally rated prospect is a "big-time run stopper" and "a very powerful player" according to Tuberville. Starts' versatility plays both inside and out along the defensive line. Anthony Smith and J.J. Lollar will likely land on the interior. Chase Robison and junior college athlete Lee Adams are most likely landing at end.

Defensive back is the deepest position in this class with six signees heading to the secondary. In a league where quarterbacks reign supreme, it's a great move for Tuberville to add six — potentially more should any of the three athletes land on defense — new faces to the defensive backfield. In-stater La'Darius Newbold has the most upside of the deep group, while juco prospect Austin Stewart brings a tremendous frame (6-2, 200) to the safety position. In fact, this is one of the taller defensive back classes in the nation as four of the six stand at least six feet tall.

Four linebackers shore up the middle of the Tuberville defense. Lone Star speedster Ryan Flannigan leads the group with the type of sideline-to-sideline atheltic ability needed in a pass-heavy conference like the Big 12.

Athletes SaDale Foster, Casey Gladney and Keenon Ward all produced big numbers as a return specialist, wide receiver and quarterback respectively in high school. They could land at a variety of positions making either the defensive backfield or the receiving corps that much deeper.

Speaking of the pass-catchers, the wide receiver portion of this class might be the most talented of any position. Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis are the No. 1 and 3-rated prospects in this class. Wheeler offers a unique skillset that makes offensive coaches ecstatic. He posted 1,523 yards from scrimmage — 753 receiving and 770 rushing — and 15 touchdowns as he was utilized more in the passing game. He posted 1,164 yards rushing and only 153 receiving in 2010. Meanwhile, Davis also excelled in the backfield. He rushed for 1,915 yards on 171 attempts for a yards-per-carry average north of 11 as a senior while scoring 35 touchdowns. He led his team to the Class 1A state championship as a junior. These two will only get better as they learn the nuances of the wide receiver position and should be the gems of the '12 Texas Tech class.

The only other position on the offense that got as much attention as the receivers was the offensive line. Three new faces are headed to the offensive trenches with big Trey Keenan leading the way. The other two, Rashad Fortenberry and Jared Kaster, are already on campus working with the team in spring football.

Clayton Nicholas, the lone quarterback in this class, checks in at 6-3 and 205 pounds. He played at a big-time program in Abilene-Cooper, and Tuberville likes that he is a West Texas prospect. He threw for 2,956 yards and 26 scoring strikes during his playoff run as a senior.

All-purpose dynamo Quinton White is the lone running back in this class — at least for now.

This is an extremely deep and versatile group that should build a strong foundation for future Texas Tech defenses, while the offensive skill positions could actually end up being the most talented in this class. And with nine of the 26 already enrolled in class, a large chunk of this group could contribute right away.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 0, OL: 3, ATH: 3
Defense: DL: 5, LB: 4, DB: 6, K/P/LS: 0

AC100 Recruits:

None

Other National Signees:

127. Dominique Wheeler, WR (6-1, 176), Crockett (Texas) High
146. Michael Starts, DL (6-4, 282), Waco (Texas) La Vega
187. Reginald Davis, WR (6-1, 185), Tenaha (Texas) High

Early Enrollees:

Lee Adams, DL (6-1, 264), Corona (Calif.) Centennial/Riverside C.C.
Javon Bell, WR (6-0, 175), Jacksonville (Fla.) Ribault/Miss. Gulf Coast C.C.
Rashad Fortenberry, OL (6-4, 271), Tylertown (Miss.) High/Miss. Gulf Coast C.C.
SaDale Foster, ATH (5-8, 180), Riverside (Calif.) JW North/Riverside C.C.
Jared Kaster, OL (6-4, 268), Altair (Texas) Rice
Thierry Nguema, DB (6-0, 180), Corona (Calif.) Santiago
Chris Payne, LB (5-11, 191), Columbia (S.C.) High/Miss. Gulf Coast C.C.
Will Smith, LB (6-3, 220), Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame/Riverside C.C.
Austin Stewart, DB (6-2, 200), Matthews (N.C.) Butler/LA Pierce J.C.

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Washington Huskies
22. Virginia Tech Hokies
23. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
24. Texas Tech Red Raiders
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Texas Tech Red Raiders landed the No. 24 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Virginia Tech Hokies
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-22-virginia-tech-hokies
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 22 Virginia Tech (28 total signees)

ACC Rank: 4th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 0
National Signees: 4

Where They Got 'Em:

Frank Beamer signed one of the deepest classes in the nation, and a majority of the class comes from within the Commonwealth of Virginia. In fact, 17 of the 28 total signees hail from in-state — great news considering how well Mike London and the rival Cavaliers have been recruiting within the state. The Hokies landed two of the top four players in the state this cycle.

Georgia (3), North Carolina (2) and Pennsylvania (2) were the other states to send multiple players to Blacksburg while South Carolina, Florida, Maryland and Tennessee all sent one prospect to VPI.

Areas of Focus:

With as much depth as Beamer signed, all positions on the field got a nice boost from the 2012 haul. This class is also perfectly balanced, as it looks like 14 players will head to the defense and 14 to the offense. The gem, and lone AC100 signee, of this class is the state of Virginia's top wide receiver Joel Caleb. The dynamic prospect played six different positions as a senior at well-known Clover Hill High School. He leads a deep six-man receiving class that helps replenish a pass-catching corps that saw Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale depart campus. Mark Irick and Thomas Smith bring large 6-4 frames and potential vertical, big-play ability.

After watching Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson all leave school early over the last two seasons, Beamer ball was in need of some talented runners. He got them in the form of four (potentially five) new ball carriers. In fact, two of the four nationally ranked recruits in this class will line up in the backfield as J.C. Coleman and Drew Harris lead this group. Despite missing three games to an ankle injury in 2011, Coleman finished with 1,488 yards and 20 touchdowns at national prep power Oscar Smith. He is already enrolled in class and will compete in spring football for touches.

A three-man offensive line class will restock a line that is replacing four starters off of last year's squad. Beamer also signed one of the top in-state signal callers in 6-3, 195-pound Brenden Motley.

On defense, the front line — a staple of any good Bud Foster defensive unit — got the most attention as six new faces show up on campus. The pedigree for this group is astounding, as former Hokie great and NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith sends his son, Alston Smith, to Blacksburg. At 6-3, 270 pounds already, the younger Smith could easily end up playing inside — along with fellow signee Nigel Williams (also listed at 6-3, 270). The four other D-linemen are slated to play on the outside as Woody Baron (6-2, 258), Seth Dooley (6-5, 230), Jarontay Jones (6-2, 240) and Ken Elkanem (6-3, 240) are all listed as defensive ends.

Linebacker Trey Edmunds has his own quality bloodline as his father, Farrell Edmunds, was a Pro Bowl tight end in the NFL. Edmunds and the speedy Deon Clarke lead a solid four-man linebacking class at a position that always seems to overachieve under Foster.

Nationally rated early enrollee Donaldven Manning is the top-rated defensive back in this class. He is the lone Sunshine State prospect in this class and brings Miami speed to the Hokies. He and Davion Tookes restock the corner position, while the 6-2 Desmond Frye and 6-0 Donovan Riley could end up playing safety.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 4, WR: 5, TE: 1, OL: 3, ATH: 0
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 4, DB: 4, K/P/LS: 0

AC100 Recruits:

95. Joel Caleb, WR (6-3, 205), Midlothian (Va.) Clover Hill

Other National Signees:

140. J.C. Coleman, RB (5-7, 170), Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith
228. Drew Harris, RB (6-1, 220), Downington (Pa.) High
253. Donaldven Manning, DB (5-9, 155), Miami (Fla.) Central

Early Enrollees:

J.C. Coleman, RB (5-7, 170), Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith
Donaldven Manning, DB (5-9, 155), Miami (Fla.) Central

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Washington Huskies
22. Virginia Tech Hokies
23. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
24. Sat., Mar. 3
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Virginia Tech Hokies landed the No. 22 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-sleepers-and-busts-closers
Body:

— by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter), published on Mar. 2, 2012

Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?

Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers to keep an eye on and some possible busts to be wary of when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams this season.

Be sure to check out the Athlon Sports Fantasy Closer Grid as we keep fantasy GMs updated all season long.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

2012 Fantasy Baseball Closer Sleepers:

Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels
If you are looking for the next ace closer on a team that will win loads of game and will be available after the tenth round, then Walden is your guy. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound righty excelled in his first full season in L.A. He should be able to maintain his 10.0 K/9 rate and will be much better suited to withstand a full season this year — he struggled in the second half last season. Look for a similar line with improved walk and hit rates from a guy with loads of upside.

Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays
The talent is obvious as the former first round pick has all the tools needed to be an excellent closer. He improved his WHIP from 1.53 to 1.11 in only his second major league season and finished last year with a 30-save season under his belt. His 13.1 strikeout rate likely won’t be replicated but a 10-11 ratio is within reach. The biggest stat to cling to is his improved hit rate — it dropped from 9.2 H/9 to 5.8 H/9. He could be the 15-18th closer taken, so his value is through the roof.

Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox
Why else would you let a 28-year old closer who is under contract for six years go? That is what the Sox did with Santos in favor of Matt Thornton and Addison Reed. Thornton will likely begin the season as the closer, but Reed’s make-up and K-rate mean he is tabbed as the future. He struck out 155 batters in 108.1 minor league innings and was effective once called up last season. Look for more from the 23-year old righty.

Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers
The youngster proved last season in short order that he belonged in the majors. He converted 21 of his 23 save chances and posted a nasty set of ratios: 2.31 and 1.18. Kenley Jansen will be competing for the closer’s role and could be considered a solid sleeper as well, so keep an eye on this battle and be ready to snag the other one. And in holds leagues, drafting both isn’t a bad maneuver.

2012 Fantasy Baseball Closer Busts:

Heath Bell, Miami Marlins
The big fella has always carried a little extra weight and it might have caught up with in 2011. He was never fully healthy and that could have led to his 34% reduction in strikeout rate (11.1 to 7.3 K/9). Additionally, with a career ERA of 3.06, a return to his 1.93 of 2010 seems highly unlikely. The move away from PETCO will only hurt his numbers as well.

Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals
Since taking over as the full-time closer (four years), Soria posted career lows in ERA, saves and strikeouts. Can the Royals ninth inning man rebound or will his slide continue? The best bet is a little bit of both. He was erratic and lost his job last season for a short period and with Aaron Crow and big Jonathan Broxton waiting in the wings, the leash will be rather short for Soria. And the fact remains, whether he returns to form or not, he will likely be traded to become a quality setup man for a contender.

J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks
Closers are easily the most volatile fantasy commodities and Putz exemplifies this fact. He has three seasons of 36 saves and five season of 15 saves or fewer. He has two seasons with an ERA below 2.80 and four above 3.60. While he has strung two solid seasons together in a row, I am not willing to pay much at all for that kind of headache.

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitchers

Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers</p>
Post date: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 06:59
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-23-rutgers-scarlet-knights
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 23 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (20 total signees)

Big East Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 1
National Signees: 5

Where They Got 'Em:

Six players from New Jersey were considered "nationally rated" prospects in the 2012 class. Rutgers signed the No. 1, No. 5 and No. 6 players in The Garden State. Putting up a fence around New Jersey has been the one recruiting issue keeping the Scarlet Knights from regualarly competing for BCS bowl bids. With 11 of this year's 20 signees hailing from in-state, the Knights not only claimed one of the best classes in school history but also won the Big East recruiting championship.

Pennsylvania (6), Maryland (2) and Florida (1) supplied the rest of the class as Greg Schiano's lasting impact on the program will be his ability to comb these four states for talent. In fact, Rutgers needed only four states to sign one of the best classes in program history.

Areas of Focus:

Rutgers had to deal with a late coaching change less than a month before Signing Day when Schiano left for the NFL. In short order, the Scarlet Knights elevated seven-year assistant Kyle Flood to the top spot. Only time will tell if he was the right man for the job long-term, but his hiring certainly kept together one of the best classes in school history. That said, it can be a terrible mistake to hire a coach simply to hold together a recruiting class.

The top prospect in the state and in this class is local defensive lineman Darius Hamilton. The 6-4, 260-pound lineman has every imaginable resume bullet point: Productive, talented and a champion with an NFL pedigree. Famed Don Bosco Prep won 46 straight games and four state titles during his time there. His father, Keith, played 12 stellar seasons for the New York Giants. And he is considered the fourth-best player at his position in the nation, whether it's tackle or end. He is a sure-fire all-conference-type player.

Hamilton speadheads a small four-man front seven class. Nationally rated linebacker Quanzell Lambert leads a LB class that's small as well. He helped Creek High to its first Group III state title in school history with 102 tackles and three sacks. The 6-5, 250-pound Julian Pinnix-Odrick joins Hamilton on the D-Line, and in-state tackler Steve Longa is the other linebacker. Despite this group being small in numbers, two of the top five players in this class will land in that section of the defense.

Jevon Tyree (5-11, 180) and Davon Jacobs (6-0, 170) are the only defensive backs to sign with Rutgers in this class.

On offense, the offensive line was the clear area of focus — and fans in Piscataway know all too well about the O-Line issues at Rutgers. Two of the top five players in this class, J.J. Denman (6-6, 310) and Chris Muller (6-6, 315), will land along the offensive line. These two big hog mollies lead a deep, six-man OL class. Massive tackle prospect R.J. Dill (6-7, 310) is already enrolled and preparing to contribute. This is one of the best offensive line classes in the nation and should go a long way to improving an area of weakness for the Knights.

The major area of depth in this class is at wide receiver. Nationally ranked Leonte Carroo, from the same program as Hamilton, leads four wideout signees into Rutgers. He won four state titles with Hamilton and finished with 82 receptions, 1,548 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final two seasons. Carroo also anchored the state 4x400 title-winning relay team as well.

Carlton Agudosi brings a massive frame (6-6, 200) that will excel in the vertical passing game and in the redzone. Ian Thomas (6-1, 200) and Ruhann Peele (6-1, 190) round out the stellar pass-catching class.

Athlete Delon Stephenson, younger brother of current Scarlet Knight Daryl, could land at defensive back, receiver or even tailback.

Should Stephenson lands in the backfield, he will be joined by one other tailback and one future signal-caller. Blake Rankin (6-4, 190) is the lone quarterback signee after an incredibly productive dual-threat season at Bloomsburg High in the Keystone State. He posted 2,129 yards and 20 touchdowns passing to go with 1,476 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing in 2011. He did, however, break his ankle in the district championship game.

Tailback Desmon Peoples (5-8, 175) started for three seasons on a team that went 27-2 over that span, including the school's first Class AAA state title.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 4, TE: 0, OL: 6, ATH: 1
Defense: DL: 2, LB: 2, DB: 2, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

14. Darius Hamilton, DL (6-4, 260), West Paterson (N.J.) Don Bosco

Other National Signees:

159. J.J. Denman, OL (6-6, 310), Yardley (Pa.) Pennsbury
185. Leonte Carroo, WR (6-1, 190), Edison (N.J.) Don Bosco
197. Chris Muller, OL (6-6, 315), Perkiomenville (Pa.) Boyertown
243. Quanzell Lambert, LB (6-1, 230), Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek

Early Enrollees:

R.J. Dill, OL (6-7, 310), Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Trinity
Kyle Federico, K (6, 185), Ponte Verda (Fla.) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Washington Huskies
22. Virginia Tech Hokies
23. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
24. Sat., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Rutgers Scarlet Knights landed the No. 23 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-21-washington-huskies
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 21: Washington Huskies (25 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 5th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 2
National Signees: 5

Where They Got 'Em:

The two most important states for talent for Washington will always be the home Evergreen State and the talent-rich state of California. Steve Sarkisian apparently agrees, as he signed 15 prospects from the Golden State — including the top player in the state and top safety in the nation — and five from Washington. These two states made up 80% of the 2012 Husky class.

Additionally, he went into Colorado to get his quarterback of the future, landing the top player in that state. Arizona (1) and Hawaii (3) supplied the rest of the class, as Coach Sark needed only five states to land a bulky 25-man class.

Areas of Focus:

Washington was having a solid class in 2012, but Husky Nation got a huge boost when Sarkisian started rebuilding his coaching staff. Stealing star recruiter and D-Line coach Tosh Lupoi from Pac-12 North rival Cal sent ripple effects up and down the West Coast. He was directly responsible for landing the top player in this class. New coordinators Justin Wilcox and Eric Kiesau, as well as developing star recruiter and new linebacker coach Peter Sirmon, clearly injected a new energy into Husky recruiting. Washington has made a big financial statement that it is committing to returning to national prominence.

The No. 4-rated quarterback in the nation spearheads a stellar offensive class for quarterback guru Sarkisian and new offensive coordinator Kiesau. Mullen High's Cyler Miles was arguably the best quarterback in San Antonio during the U.S. Army event — one that also featured Notre Dame's Gunner Kiel — and might be the most game-ready signal caller prospect in the nation. He was 7-of-8 passing for 155 yards and scored twice as he earned Co-MVP honors of the national showcase. Miles is a fantastic athlete who has a great arm and is clearly a winner — as his back-to-back state championships in 2009 and 2010 would indicate. He is the sure-fire heir to Keith Price.

But just to be sure Miles doesn't take anything for granted, Sarkisian also signed in-state dual-threat quarterback Jeff Lindquist. The 6-3, 234-pounder threw for 1,908 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 826 yards and 12 scores on the ground. Lindquist is no slouch himself and will undoubtedly push Miles every step of the way.

Five stellar offensive linemen make up the bulk of the offensive signing class. Three of the best in-state blockers — Nathan Dean, Jake Eldrenkamp and Cory English — lead this deep group of future hog mollies. Eldrenkamp won four straight state championships with Bellevue, English claimed his league's Offensive Lineman of the Year honors (Class 4A) at Auburn High, and Dean might have the most raw talent and upside of the bunch.

Three talented wide receivers join the squad led by the nationally rated Jaydon Mickens. The 5-11, 175-pounder earned Co-MVP honors of the Semper Fidelis All-American Game following his third straight trip to the CIF playoffs. Mickens is also a sprinter and long jumper on the track team. The lone prospect from Arizona, Kendyl Taylor, comes to Seattle after catching 87 passes for 1,132 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011. The do-everything athlete was also used in the ground game to the tune of 558 yards on only 68 attempts. Expect Coach Sark to have fun finding ways to use Taylor in the future. Dwayne Washington is the biggest of the trio at 6-1 and 205 pounds and is also a sprinter and long jumper. He posted a 66-reception, 1,338-yard, 15-TD season of his own in 2011.

Running back Erich Wilson II and fullback Psalm Wooching add some depth to a backfield that loses one of the greatest Huskies of all time in Chris Polk. Wilson II (6-1, 190) rushed for a Serra High school-record 2,106 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011, while Wooching (6-3, 217) rushed for 250 yards and three scores in the BIIF state championship win for Kealakehe High.

On defense, the class begins and ends with Shaq Thompson and the secondary group. Thompson is the nation's No. 1 defensive back (safety) prospect and is the top prospect from the state of California. It took two plays in the U.S. Army All-American bowl for fans to realize that Thompson was absolutely the real deal. The younger brother of former Cal cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and a former Cal commitment, Thompson enters college listed at a stout 6-2, 215 pounds. He could easily bulk up and be one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 as well. He has a Sean Taylor-like combination of size and speed and will be the clear-cut best prospect in this class. There might not be another prospect in the nation with as little downside as Thompson.

Nationally ranked cornerback Brandon Beaver and the versatile Cleveland Wallace restock the outside of the secondary. Beaver is one of the West Coast's top covermen, and Wallace excelled at running back, wide receiver, return specialist and defensive back in San Jose. Darien Washington is listed at "DB" and could be used in a variety of spots in the defensive backfield.

Nationally rated defensive end Pio Vatuvei leads a small three-man defensive line class that heads to Washington. Yet, the defensive line could grow should some of the linebackers in this class grow themselves.

Cory Littleton (6-4, 218) and Kalei Auelua (6-1, 227) could each grow into defensive ends but will start as linebackers. Ryan McDaniel, the highest-rated of the bunch, was an excellent running back in high school. The hard-nosed Blake Rodgers rounds out the four-man group.

Overall, this is an extremely versatile group in which fans could see plenty of position switching. Landing Thompson is one of the biggest recruiting victories of the entire 2012 cycle, and Miles appears poised for great things in college.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 2, WR: 3, TE: 0, OL: 5, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 1, DT: 2, LB: 4, DB: 4, K/P/LS: 2

AC100 Recruits:

6. Shaq Thomspon, S (6-2, 215), Sacramento (Calif.) Grant
91. Cyler Miles, QB (6-4, 218), Centennial (Colo.) Mullen

Other National Signees:

257. Jaydon Mickens, WR (5-11, 175), Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey
260. Brandon Beaver, CB (6, 176), Long Beach (Calif.) Dominiquez
265. Pio Vatuvei, DE (6-3, 272), Patterson (Calif.) Patterson

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregon Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Washington Huskies
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Washington Huskies landed the No. 21 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer. 

LSU Tigers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 13-1, 8-0 SEC

Spring practice: Mar. 1-Mar 31

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5, K/P — 2

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Zach Mettenberger, 8 of 11, 92 yards, 1 TD
Rushing: Michael Ford, 127 att., 756 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Odell Beckham, 41 rec., 475 yards, 4 TDs
Tackles: Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid, 76
Sacks: Sam Montgomery, 9
Interceptions: Four tied with 2

Redshirts to watch: CB Jalen Collins, DT Mickey Johnson, DL Quentin Thomas, OL Jonah Austin, CB David Jenkins, DB Micah Eugene

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 North Texas
Sept. 8 Washington
Sept. 15 Idaho
Sept. 22 at Auburn
Sept. 29 Towson University
Oct. 6 at Florida
Oct. 13 South Carolina
Oct. 20 at Texas A&M
Nov. 3 Alabama
Nov. 10 Mississippi State
Nov. 17 Ole Miss
Nov. 23 or 24 at Arkansas

Offensive Strength: LSU might possess the best combination of offensive line experience and running back depth/talent in the entire nation. This team has been built on a physical offensive presence up front and 2012 could feature the best power rushing attack in the nation.

Offensive Weakness: One doesn't have to search to hard to find the biggest question mark on offense. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee were not championship quarterbacks and it was the primary reason LSU failed so miserably in the BCS title game. And entering 2012, one very large (try 6-5, 220 pounds) question mark still exists under center: Can former Georgia Bulldog Zach Mettenberger become the leader — and passer — that Les Miles needs to win his second championship?

Defensive Strength: Just like the offense, this unit starts with a dominate front line. The loss of Michael Brockers certainly hurts, but eight of the top ten defensive lineman return. This group includes the top two sack masters in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Much like the offensive line, this has a chance to be the top unit in the nation.

Defensive Weakness: Replacing Morris Claiborne and Brandon Taylor will be much tougher than a team with a Heisman finalists returning to the secondary likely expects. That said, there is still loads of talent in the defensive backfield, so the biggest question mark has to fall to the linebackers. Kevin Minter is the only returning starter and is a solid player, but the star power on this defense is clearly up front and in the secondary. On a unit that really has no weaknesses, this group could be considered the biggest question mark.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bayou Bengals:

1. Coping with the pain. This team arogantly and prematurely used the words "greatest ever" to describe iteself entering its national title remmatch with Alabama. After one of the worst performances in BCS history, LSU is trying to regroup and refocus on winning a national championship — and it has as good a chance as any team in the nation to do so in 2012. Few 13-win coaches have ever been under as much scrutiny as Les Miles will face this fall, so simply getting back onto the field this spring will go along way to put January 9 in the rearview mirror. All of his doubters had been silenced by the 13-0 start, but after his team appeared woefully underprepared, all of the same questions about Miles' coaching ceiling have resurfaced. To quote The Hat himself, do the Bayou Bengals have the "chest" to rebound from their performance in New Orleans? Only time will tell, and time, like spring football, cures all.

2. Is Mettenberger the answer under center? Jefferson was downright atrocious in the title game and Lee never got a chance to spark the offense. On a team that has one of the best collection of running backs in the nation and returns four of five offensive lineman, the quarterback position is the glaring issue. If Mettenberger is that good, why didn't he push for playing time in 2011? The LSU coaches and players feel that without the competition, Mettenberger will be more comfortable in his role and should develop into the passer most expected from the highly-touted prep prospect. Make no mistake, Mettenberger and the Tigers can win most games by turning around and handing it off. But against that team from Tuscaloosa, or Los Angeles for that matter, the quarterback will have to make plays.

3. Just how good is the Honey Badger? Yes, he made the big plays. Yes, he was the Heisman finalist. Yes, he has the cool nickname. But many believe (correctly) that Morris Claiborne was the best cornerback on the team. With the additional loss of strong safety Brandon Taylor, more of the onus will fall to the Honey Badger to be a leader on and off the field. Without the Jim Thorpe winner on the other side, and with at least one suspension under his belt already, Tyrann Mathieu becomes the best and most important defensive back in Baton Rouge.

4. Miles plays a lot of names along the defensive line and in the linebacking collective, so replacing two starters at linebacker shouldn't be a huge stumbling block for LSU. Yet, Ryan Baker, Karnell Hatcher and Stefoin Francois have moved on and filling those gaps will be key this spring. Considering the amount of talent still on the roster — and a stellar five-man in-coming LB class as well — Miles shouldn't struggle to find playmakers. Tajh Jones, Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie will get the first crack at earning a starting spot.

5. Sorting out the carries in the backfield. This is clearly an issue every team in the nation would like to have, but deciding who gets the bulk (if anyone) of the carries in 2012 could be a big part of the spring. Michael Ford led the team in rushing (756 yards), Spencer Ware got the most carries by a wide margin (177 to 127) and freshman Kenny Hilliard might have played the best down the stretch in 2011. Hilliard and Ware led the team with eight touchdowns. Toss in Alfred Blue, who rushed for 539 yards and seven scores of his own last fall, and Miles has a gluttonous collection of talent in the backfield. All of whom likely want the football.

Related Content Links

2012 Very Early SEC Predictions
Athlon's Very Early Top 25 for 2012

2012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 13 LSU Tigers

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews LSU's spring practice and some of the key questions facing the Tigers for 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-sleepers-and-busts-starting-pitching
Body:

— by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter), published on Mar. 1, 2012

Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?

Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers to keep an eye on and some possible busts to be wary of when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams this season.

Note: Ranking in the Top 150 is listed, if applicable. UR means player was not ranked in the Top 150.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

2012 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Sleepers:

Ricky Romero, Toronto (No. 99)
There were three lefties in all of the majors that produced a sub-3.00 ERA with at least 15 wins and at least 225 innings pitched last season. They were Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee and Romero. Over the last three years, he has started to develop into the ace Toronto needs. His innings, strikeouts and wins have all increased three years in a row while his ERA, WHIP and BAA has dropped in each of those seasons. He was the No. 13-rated starter in fantasy last year and should finish around there again — or 13 spots higher than his No. 26 positional ranking.

Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay (unranked)
The AL Rookie of the Year needs no introduction but is getting overshadowed in the rankings by the darling of Game 1 of the ALDS Matt Moore. Moore is a stud in his own right, but is ranked much higher than his teammate. Both are proven commodities but can still be had on the cheap for one more draft. Hellickson isn’t ranked among the top 40 starters, coming in behind the likes of Cory Luebke, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Beachy and Gio Gonzalez. His 13-win, 117-K, 2.95-ERA, 1.15-WHIP season was good for 22nd in the final SP ranks last year and with a small innings jump from 189.0, Hellickson could creep into top-20 territory fairly easily.

Jordan Zimmerman, Washington (No. 131)
After Tommy John surgery in 2009, Zimmerman proved last season that the hype surrounding his MLB debut was no joke. He posted career bests in wins, innings, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. His BAA has dropped in each of the last three seasons (albeit in a small sample size) and will be pitching for a team with a much improved offense. He should not have a problem outperforming his 34th ranking in the starting pitching pool.

Daniel Hudson, Arizona (No. 96 overall)
Everyone should know the story by now. Hudson posted a 6.32 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 2010 before being traded to Arizona. He went 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in nearly 80 innings to finish 2010. He finished his first complete season in 2011 with a tidy 16-12 record, 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. As long as the innings jump doesn’t effect him too much (at 6-3, 232 it shouldn’t), Kirk Gibson will undoubtedly rely on the young righty again. Arizona will contend again and plays in the offensively challenged NL West — both good things for the rising star. If there is a mid-level starter who has the talent and situation to vault himself into the “Ace” category, it might be Huddy #2.

Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees (unranked)
Quietly out there on the West Coast, Kuroda has developed into one of the more dependable, if uninspiring, starters. He was the No. 24-rated starter in the game last year and has never had an ERA over 3.76 or a WHIP over 1.22. For where he is going in drafts — he is the No. 48 starter in the rankings currently — his value is excellent. Yes, he just turned 37 last month. But he now pitchers for the Yankees and will likely see his win total increase while maintaining his above-average 7.2 K/9 rate of the last two seasons.

2012 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitching Busts:

Mat Latos, Cincinnati (No. 91)
From 2010 to 2011, Latos regressed in almost every major fantasy category. With 10.1 more innings pitched, Latos won five fewer games, struck out four less batters and saw his ratios slip from 2.92/1.08 to 3.47/1.18 (both still useful). But now he moves from the fantasy friendly PETCO Park in San Diego to the hitterish Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. And for a player who has dealt with injuries over his first two seasons, pitching for Dusty Baker could be the kiss of death. Don’t overpay (the word of the day).

Michael Pineda, New York Yankees (No. 85)
For a pitcher to post a .211 BAA and 1.10 WHIP in his first 171.0 innings pitched in the majors is remarkable. The massive righty also collected more than a strikeout-per-inning in his rookie year. Yet, Pineda deteriorated over the course of the year from a 2.01 April ERA to a 6.75 July and 4.70 August. He failed to win a game over his final seven starts as well. His win total (9) should easily go up in the Bronx, but expect his ratios to be closer to his final month (4.00, 1.17) than his stellar first three months. The move to the AL East and Yankee Stadium will act as the primary culprits. He will have a long career in pinstripes, but fantasy GMs will overpay in 2012.

Ian Kennedy, Arizona (No. 63)
Kennedy’s talent has never been the issue and his minor league track record suggests he has staying power. The question is cost with the D-Backs ace. The likelihood of him repeating a 21-win season are slim and none, so is using a top 5-7 round pick on him worth it? His career line before 2011 was 253.2 IP, 10-14, 4.33 ERA, 1.31 WHIP. I expect a much better line than that, of course, but he should return to earth this season and that screams over-valued to me.

Gio Gonzalez, Washington (No. 124)
His innings, strikeouts and wins have gone up every year for the last three seasons. And his ERA has dropped in three straight campaigns as well. However, he still puts entirely too many people on base to pitch in Washington as opposed to Oakland. His 1.41 career WHIP indicates as much. In fact, his BAA and WHIP both increased slightly in 2011 from 2010. He has a chance to be a dependable fourth fantasy starter but is likely going too high in drafts.

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-20-tennessee-volunteers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 20: Tennessee Volunteers (22 total signees)

SEC Rank: 8th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 0
National Signees: 4

Where They Got 'Em:

The state-by-state breakdown of this Tennessee class is exactly what a quality Volunteer class should look like. Derek Dooley used a heavy Southeastern focus mixed with talent-rich states like Ohio (2), Texas and Michigan to round out his class. Tennessee (4), Florida (5), Georgia (4), Louisiana (2), South Carolina (2) and North Carolina (1) provided the bulk of this haul. Without an elite naturally talented in-state recruiting base, the Vols have to be competitive in the thoroughly combed SEC states.

With a loaded (relatively speaking) in-state year in 2013 looming, new defensive coordinator and ace recruiter Sal Sunseri should make his presence felt more in the next cycle than in 2012.

Areas of Focus:

2012 will be a make or break season for Dooley, and all of Vol Nation knows it. Landing a top 25 class was imperative to keep the barking dogs at bay, and Dooley was able to accomplish that. And he did so in the face of massive coaching turnover. Dooley used elite level junior college talent — which can be a double-edged sword — and excellent coaching hires to ink the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation.

The hiring of Sunseri and former Vol Jay Graham have brought some excellent rising clout to the Big Orange recruiting trail. While a few names defected from this class following the coaching departures, undoubtedly these two deserve a lot of credit for not only holding the class together but also landing some big names down the stretch.

The biggest, both literally and figuratively, names to commit to Tennessee come from the JUCO ranks with the 6-6, 380-pound defensive tackle Daniel McCullers and five-star wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. A two-time NJCAA All-American, Patterson excelled as a wideout (61 rec., 924 yards, 15 TD), a return man (48.2 yards per kick return on 10 attempts) and in the ground game (32 att., 379 yards, 6 TD). These two are joined by former Alabama Crimson Tider Darrington Sentimore — who played 11 games as a freshman for Nick Saban back in 2010. McCullers and Sentimore are high-quality prospects who can contribute immediately to a D-Line that needs help.

Patterson leads a wide receiving class that is one of the best in the nation, and combined with Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, will form arguably the deepest receiving corps in the nation. Three of the four nationally ranked players in this class are headed to the WR position and each brings a different skillset to the offense. Alton "Pig" Howard is a smallish speedster who can be used in a variety of unique ways. He posted 2,630 yards receiving and a 1,000-yard season (2010) as a wideout with 2,147 yards rushing and a 1,000-yard season (2009) over his final three prep campaigns. He scored 48 times over that span. The 6-5, 220-pound Jason Croom brings a long frame and big-time deep threat ability. He also ran track and played basketball and should be a fantastic vertical threat. In-stater Drae Bowles is the highest-rated of the bunch and might be the most complete. He finished his high school career with 171 receptions, 2,569 yards and 23 touchdowns — all while playing linebacker and defensive back on the other side of the ball. Add in tight end Justin Meredith to the mix, a guy who averaged 25 yards per catch as a junior, and the Vols boast the top pass-catching unit in the SEC.

With Tauren Poole graduating, the Vols needed to replenish their backfield, and three new faces come to campus in this class. Louisiana tailback Davante Bourque is the highest-rated of the bunch after rushing for 3,368 yards (8.4 ypc) and 57 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Crowley. Bourque has the most upside as a true three-down back, but smaller back Qeunshaun Watson and bruiser Alden Hill offer excellent complimentary pieces. Hill, who is already enrolled in class, finished as his school's all-time leading rusher (4,745 yards, Marlington, Alliance, Ohio) while Watson posted his own school record with a 1,790-yard senior year (Clarke Central, Athens, Ga.).

The big JUCO talents along the defensive line are joined by two true freshmen — 310-pound Michigan product Danny O'Brien and Lakeland, Fla., talent Trent Taylor. But make no mistake — Sentimore and McCullers are the likeliest to contribute early on the D-line.

Three linebackers signed with the Vols in this class with an oustide chance of a few other converts. The lengthy tandem of Justin King and LaTroy Lewis add tremendous athletic ability to the middle level of the Tennessee defense. Lewis, at 6-4 and 235 pounds, has some serious upside as an edge rusher but missed most of his senior season with a broken bone in his foot. If he fully recovers, he could easily outperform his recruiting rankings. King, who played quarterback and running back on offense as well as LB, brings a serious speed-size combination. Additionally, the Vols signed Florida linebacker Kenneth Bynum two weeks after National Signing Day. The 6-3, 213-pounder was formerly committed to Cincinnati, and Dooley's patience with him further indicates the issues at linebacker for Tennessee. Where and how these three end up will be key to how Dooley and Sunseri attack the potentially loaded 2013 class to fill a major area of need.

The defensive backfield got an excellent boost as well from a four-man defensive back class. Future safety LaDarrell McNeil is the top-rated player in this class and was once an AC100 talent. He led his team in tackles with 124 stops in 2011 and will likely make an immediate impact in the secondary. Cornerback Deion Bonner is the top coverman of the bunch after back-to-back all-state selections at Georgia powerhouse Columbus-Carver. He was named 2011 Co-MVP of the Georgia All-Star game. Bonner is joined on the outside by Sunshine State speedster Daniel Gray.

Even though quarterback is the least of Dooley's concerns at the moment, the Vols still landed a good one in Florida product Nathan Peterman. Offense-Defense named the Florida 6A first-teamer as the National Scholar-Athlete of the Year. His 36 passing touchdowns in 2011 rank second all-time in St. Johns County to that guy who wore No. 15 for the Gators.

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100 Recruits:

None

Other National Signees:

112. LaDarrell McNeil, DB (6-1, 195), Dallas (Texas) Wilmer-Hutchins
180. Drae Bowles, WR (6-1, 198), Jackon (Tenn.) Christian
219. Alton Howard, WR (5-9, 180), Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater
240. Jason Croom, WR (6-5, 200), Norcross (Ga.) High

Early Enrollees:

Cody Blanc, ATH (6-1, 200), Knoxville (Tenn.) Central
Alden Hill, RB (5-11, 180), Alliance (Ohio) Marlington
Justin Meredith, TE (6-5, 225), Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna
Nathan Peterman, QB (6-3, 210), Fruit Cove (Fla.) Bartram Trail
Darrington Sentimore, DL (6-2, 273), Norco (La.) Destrehan (Gulf Coast C.C.)
Trent Taylor, DL (6-2, 271), Lakeland (Fla.) Lake Gibson
Tino Thomas, DB (5-11, 195), Memphis (Tenn.) Melrose

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Tennessee Volunteers landed the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-19-south-carolina-gamecocks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 19: South Carolina Gamecocks (25 total signees)

SEC Rank: 7th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 2
National Signees: 5

Where They Got 'Em:

If South Carolina could use only three states to recruit talent, it would probably survive just fine. Florida, Georgia and the home Palmetto State have supplied the majority of the roster for most of the Steve Spurrier era in Columbia. While inking only five in-state prospects in 2012 — the fewest since the 2007 class — Spurrier absolutely dominated in the state of Georgia. With 12 signees from the Peach State this cycle, South Carolina has landed a total of 23 prospects from the neighboring state over the last two years — and has signed a total of 42 Georgians over the last five years. Florida supplied a solid trio of talents this year as well.

North Carolina added three prospects, including a pair of already enrolled blocking brothers, while New Jersey and Pennsylvania added one apiece to the Carolina class.

Areas of Focus:

Spurrier has to like this skill class. The best tailback in the nation, Marcus Lattimore, doesn't count, but his return to the lineup and the arrival of seven stellar offensive skill freshman should more than make up for the loss of Alshon Jeffery. Shaq Roland is the top prospect in this class and is the nation's No. 3 overall wide receiver. He led his squad to an unblemished regular season and claimed South Carolina Mr. Football honors with nearly 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011. He also earned Offensive MVP of the Shrine Bowl.

Roland is joined in the receiving corps by nationally rated Kwinton Smith and Jody Fuller. Smith has a massive frame (6-4, 206) and was also a baseball star in high school while Fuller also earned a Shrine Bowl invitation after 68 receptions and 11 touchdowns as a senior. Two tight ends, early enrollee Kelvin Rainey and prep schooler Jerell Adams, completely restock the pass-catching depth chart for the Gamecocks.

In the backfield, AC100 prospect Mike Davis might turn out to be the gem of this class. The bowling ball of a tailback rushed for 1,923 yards on 213 carries — yes, that is over 9.0 yards per carry — and 21 touchdowns in 2011 for Stephenson. He was a rapid riser in the rankings as the season wound down and excelled at the U.S. Army All-American event in San Antonio. He is the No. 8-rated running back in the nation in what turned out to be a loaded year for RBs. In-stater Kendric Salley rushed for over 5,000 yards and 90 touchdowns in his prep career and gives South Carolina one of the deepest backfields in the SEC.

Brendan Nosovitch is the lone quarterback in this class. He comes to South Carolina from Pennsylvania as the state's all-time record holder for total yards with 12,877 and second all-time in passing yards with 9,249. The football in the Keystone State certainly isn't what it used to be 30 years ago, but I shouldn't have to remind South Carolina fans of who dots the PA prep quarterback record books. Try Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, George Blanda, Rich Gannon and Johnny Lujack. Nosovitch isn't a five-star talent, but he was incredibly productive and won a state title as a junior. He should easily outperform his middling recruiting ranking.

Five stellar offensive line prospects signed with South Carolina this cycle. A pair of brothers, Clayton and the nationally ranked Brock Stadnik, are already enrolled and will participate in spring ball. Clayton is slotted to play center, while Brock and the 6-foot-9 Mason Zandi bolster the tackle position. Joe Harris and Cody Waldrop both tip the scales at over 300 pounds and will both play guard.

The secondary got the most attention on the defense as Spurrier lost plenty of talent to graduation and early NFL entries. Nationally rated Chaz Elder leads half a dozen defensive back prospects headed to South Carolina. The versatile coverman could end up as one of the biggest cornerbacks in the league at 6-2 and 190 pounds, but also excelled as a safety. Jordan Diggs is slated to play the hybrid 'Spur' position for the Gamecocks, while T.J. Gurley and Kyle Fleetwood are expected to play safety. Chris Moody and Rico McWilliams add tremendous depth to the outside, as they should land at cornerback. This is a deep, versatile and complete defensive back class that should outperform its recruiting rankings as well.

The front seven, which should be dominant once again in 2012, didn't need too much attention. Spurrier added five names to this group with end Darius English heading the defensive line class and Kaiwan Lewis topping the linebackers. Lewis helped lead St. Joseph's to an unbeaten state championship season in the Garden State, while the 6-6, 215-pound English claimed Georgia's 5A Defensive Player of the Year honors after 21 sacks in 2011. End Jhaustin Thomas and tackle Carlos Hood will team with English to add depth to an already stacked front line for South Carolina.

Positional Breakdown:

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

AC100 Recruits:

41. Shaq Roland, WR (6-1, 173), Lexington (S.C.) High
54. Mike Davis, RB (5-9, 216), Lithonia (Ga.) Stephenson

Other National Signees:

221. Brock Stadnik, OL (6-5, 287), Greensboro (N.C.) Western Guilford
222. Chaz Elder, CB (6-2, 187), Union City (Ga.) Banneker
235. Kwinton Smith, WR (6-4, 206), Hamer (S.C.) Dillon

Early Enrollees:

Kelvin Rainey, TE (6-3, 216), Yulee (Fla.) High
Brock Stadnik, OL (6-5, 287), Greensboro (N.C.) Western Guilford
Clayton Stadnik, OC (6-2, 265), Greensboro (N.C.) Western Guilford

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The South Carolina Gamecocks landed the No. 19 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 05:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-sleepers-and-busts-infield
Body:

— by Mark Ross, published on Feb. 28, 2012

Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers to keep an eye on and some possible busts to be wary of when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams this season.

Note: Infield includes all players who have C, 1B, 2B, SS and/or 3B eligibility. Ranking in the Top 150 is listed, if applicable. UR means player was not ranked in the Top 150.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

2012 Fantasy Baseball Infield Sleepers:

Michael Cuddyer, COL, 1B/2B/OF (No. 120 overall)
His versatility alone increases his value, especially if you play him at second. Cuddyer’s numbers (.284, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB) weren’t horrible last year and should be even better this year, his first with Colorado. Besides the home park advantage (switching from Target Field to Coors Field), the Rockies line up packs more offensive punch than the Twins. Colorado finished tied for seventh in the majors in runs last season, while Minnesota was 25th.

Ike Davis, NYM, 1B (No. 137 overall)
For Davis, it’s all about health and if he’s fully recovered from the ankle injury that limited him to just 36 games last year. He was off to a great start in 2011, hitting .302 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs, which translates into a .302-31-112 line when prorated to a full (162 games) season. The Mets moving the fences in at Citi Field certainly won’t hurt either.

Danny Espinosa, WAS, 2B (UR)
The batting average (.236) is a bit of a problem; but Espinosa still posted a near 20-20 campaign (21 HR, 17 SB) in his first full season in the majors. If he’s able to improve his contact rate (166 strikeouts), he could be in for a big 2012.

J.J. Hardy, BAL, SS (No. 141 overall)
Only two shortstops hit 30 home runs last season – Troy Tulowitzki and Hardy. When healthy, Hardy has hit for power, hitting a combined 50 home runs from 2007-08, and his overall numbers from 2011 (.269, 76 R, 27 2B, 80 RBI) are pretty solid. Shortstops that hit for power are few and far between, especially ones that figure to be available in the later rounds.

Adam LaRoche, WAS, 1B (UR)
His first season in Washington was a disaster (.172, 3 HR, 15 RBI in 43 games) that can be largely attributed to an injured shoulder. From 2006-2010, LaRoche’s seasonal average looked like this: .272, 26 HR, 89 RBI. You could do worse on a late-round filer, no?

Kendrys Morales, LAA 1B/OF (UR)
If healthy, and that’s a rather large “if,” Morales could put up huge numbers in an Angels lineup that now includes Albert Pujols. In 2009, Morales broke out in a big way with a .306-34-108 season and was on pace for similar numbers in 2010 (.290-11-39 in 51 games) before breaking his ankle celebrating a walk-off home run. He hasn’t played in a game since May 29, 2010, but if he’s able to prove he’s ready during spring training, he could pick up where he left off almost two years ago.

2012 Fantasy Baseball Infield Busts:

Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE, SS (No. 66 overall)
Before last season Cabrera had hit a grand total of 18 home runs in four major league seasons. In 2011, he had nearly that many (14) before the All-Star break and finished the season with 25. He also struck out 119 times and cooled off quite a bit (.244, 10 2B, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 5 SB) after an incredible first half (.293, 22 2B, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 12 SB). Cabrera still offers production at shortstop, which is somewhat shallow, but I would be wary of drafting him based on a repeat of last season.

Alex Rodriguez, NYY, 3B (No. 61 overall)
Even though injuries plagued Rodriguez throughout last season, you can’t ignore his numbers either. A-Rod hit .276 with just 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 99 games, his lowest run-producing totals since 1995. He was 19 that season and will turn 37 this July. It’s been an incredible run, but I think his days as a consummate fantasy producer are past him. His current consensus ranking puts him around the 6th round, but I won’t be the one taking him there.

Michael Morse, WAS, 1B/OF (No. 79 overall)
First, let’s give credit where credit is due: Morse clubbed 31 home runs, drove in 95 and hit .303 in his first full season. So by calling him a “bust,” I’m not saying he’s going to pull an Adam Dunn this season and bottom out, but I am concerned that he won’t put up similar across-the-board numbers. You can’t ignore his low OBP (.360) and ugly walk-to-strikeout ratio (36:126). The power, which is something you want from your first baseman, will probably still be there, but don’t be surprised if the average dips and he profiles more along the lines of a Mark Reynolds (No. 113) when looking at the complete package.

Mike Napoli, TEX, C/1B (No. 38 overall)
Napoli hit four more home runs and drove in seven more last season compared to 2010, and he accomplished this in 27 less games and 84 fewer at bats. He also increased his batting average by 82 points (.238 to .320) and his OPS went from .784 to 1.046. Even with 2011’s incredible season included, Napoli is just a .264 career hitter, so don’t be surprised to see the average dip this season. He’s also not a full-time player (113 GP in 2011) and is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered during last year’s World Series. So despite his catcher-eligibility and appealing power potential, I think there are too many question marks to draft him in Round 4, which is where his current consensus ranking places him.

Chase Utley, PHI, 2B (No. 83 overall)
Injuries have had a lot to do with it, but you can’t help but notice the decline over the past three seasons in Utley’s numbers. Home runs have dropped from 31 in 2009 to 16 in 2010 to just 11 last season. His batting average has gone from .282 in ’09 to .259 last year and both runs and RBIs have decreased by more than 50 percent over the past three seasons. There are guys like Dustin Ackley, Jason Kipnis and Neil Walker, to name a few, that offer more upside than a 33-year-old Utley does at this point in his career.

Kevin Youkilis, BOS, 1B/3B (No. 72)
The last time Youkilis played in at least 145 games was 2008, which also was the last season he drove in more than 100 runs (115). In 2008-09 Youkilis averaged 28 home runs per season. He hit a total of 36 the past two seasons combined. A career .289 hitter, Youkilis should still hit for average, but probably shouldn’t be drafted as the run producer he was just three seasons ago.

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Teaser:
<p> Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-18-oregon-ducks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 18: Oregon Ducks (21 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 4th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 1
National Signees: 7

Where They Got 'Em:

There might not be another team in the nation that has elevated it's national recruiting stock in the last decade more than the Oregon Ducks. The Nike money certainly helps, but winning three straight Pac-12 titles does too. Chip Kelly has been able to sell his brand nationally and his 2012 class was no different.

He used 10 different states covering six time zones to land his newest collection of athletes. The bulk of the class, however, comes from talent-rich states California (6) and Texas (4). Ohio sent two prospects while Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Virginia, Colorado and Hawaii delivered one each. The home state of Oregon also sent three talented athletes to Eugene.

The biggest story to watch, however, is the developing NCAA situation with Willie Lyles. The Texas-based scout has delivered more than a few stellar Lone Star prospects to Eugene and it could cost the Ducks in some fashion. Oregon officially recognized the investigation late last week and could be facing sanctions or probation — and frankly, who knows what the wildly inconsistent and completely opaque NCAA will do these days.

Areas of Focus:

This class starts up front on the defensive side of the ball with the No. 2 player in the state of California Arik Armstead. The 6-8 280-pound athlete is also a basketball star and could easily end up back on the offensive side of the ball. For now, he will have his hand in the dirt rushing the passer and leading the Ducks defensive line. He is joined on the D-line by four more stellar prospects who would make most college basketball teams feel small. Stetzon Bair stands 6-9, nationally-ranked lineman DeForest Buckner goes 6-7 and Cody Carriger is listed at 6-6. Last but not least, nationally-ranked Alex Balducci is merely 6-4 and 262 pounds. This group has three natioanl prospects and is easily the tallest defensive line class in the nation.

The secondary also got a nice boost with four talented prospects signing with the Ducks. None of the quartet is ranked nationally, but safety Reggie Daniels has loads of experience at a high level of success. He posted 90 tackles at Arizona powerhouse Hamilton High and led his squad to two state championships in three years. He is joined by a pair of brothers from Texas, Eric and Stephen Amoako, and in-state do-everything athlete Oshay Dunmore.

In-state talent Brett Bafaro, who was the top linebacker in the state of Oregon this cycle, is the lone backer in this class.

Kelly lost Darron Thomas prematurely, in this writer's opinion, and was looking to rebuild the depth under center. With California products Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues, the Ducks should be fine at quarterback. Lockie is more of a pure passer as he threw for 3,278 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior while Rodrigues exhibits more traits essential to Kelly's offense. The 6-3, 210-pound dual-threat rushed for 684 yards and 15 scores on the ground to go with his 2,036 yards and 26 passing touchdowns, earning CAL MVP honors. If 'athlete,' and No. 2-rated player in this class, Bralon Addison lands at quarterback, Kelly is all of the sudden looking at a glutton of riches at the position. Addision was a first-team all-state quarterback as a senior in Texas after rushing for 1,625 yards to go with this 2,158 yards through the air.

Four pass-catchers should help whoever ends up taking snaps — and should Addison end up catching passes this group gets even deeper. Chance Allen excelled at the highest level in the Lone Star State, finishing with 126 receptions, 1,920 yards and 22 scores in his prep career. His 6-3, 190-pound frame will play well in Eugene. The nationally rated Dwayne Stanford checks in at 6-5 and 185 pounds after averaging 22.5 yards per catch at Ohio powerhouse Taft High. He earned CMAC Offensive Player of the Year honors as a junior. Toss in one of the nation's top tight end prospect in 6-6, 220-pound Pharaoh Brown as well as Evan Baylis, and Kelly should have a completely restocked cupboard of receivers.

Top 150 running back Byron Marshall only adds quality depth to the already supremely talented Ducks backfield.

Offensive skill and defensive line appeared to be the top priorities for Kelly and he accomplished his goals with flying colors. His brief flirtation with the NFL had little to no effect on the Ducks recruiting efforts as Oregon remains one of the most powerful national brands in the sport today.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 1, ATH: 2
Defense: DL: 5, LB: 1, DB: 4, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

8. Arik Armstead, DL (6-8, 280), Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove

Other National Signees:

111. Bralon Addison, ATH (5-10, 185), Missouri City (Texas) Hightower
148. Byron Marshall, RB (5-10, 195), San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian
164. Alex Balducci, DL (6-4, 262), Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic
168. Pharaoh Brown, TE (6-6, 220), Lyndhurst (Ohio) Brush
213. Dwayne Stanford, WR (6-5, 185) Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft
224. DeForest Buckner, DL (6-7, 230), Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Oregon Ducks landed the No. 18 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 27, 2012 - 07:00

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