Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-49
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

The first weekend is in the books.

No, the New York Mets are not going to finish 162-0 and David Wright will not lead the majors in hitting (.667). No, the Red Sox and Yankees are not going to go winless and finish tied for last in the AL East. No, the Rangers will not finish 12th in the American League in runs scored. No, Miguel Cabrera and Matt Kemp won’t finish as the No. 1 and 2 fantasy players in baseball – okay, well, that one could be 100% true.

So the first weekend of action is more about kicking back and enjoying the fact that America’s pastime is back in action. So be sure to take the current fantasy baseball rankings with a grain of salt. Yet, it doesn’t mean that we can learn a few things to tweak our rosters.

Each weekend, Athlon will analyze the hottest names from around the fantasy diamond and break down who needs to be added to your roster or who needs to be ignored. Here is how the rankings shake out after one weekend of action:

Week 1's Top 25 Hitters:

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Matt Kemp OF LAD 6 2 8 1 .412 1.213
2. Miguel Cabrera 1B DET 5 3 8 0 .455 1.806
3. Carlos Pena 1B TB 3 2 7 0 .500 1.654
4. Yoenis Cespedes OF OAK 3 3 7 0 .308 1.477
5. Eric Hosmer 1B KC 5 2 4 1 .286 1.000
6. Carlos Beltran OF STL 4 2 3 1 .389 1.143
7. Rafael Furcal* SS STL 3 0 3 2 .526 1.234
8. Alex Avila C DET 4 2 5 0 .417 1.500
9. Corey Hart OF MIL 3 3 4 0 .444 2.101
10. Jay Bruce OF CIN 3 3 5 0 .273 1.341
11. Nick Markakis OF BAL 3 2 4 0 .556 2.111
12. Starlin Castro SS CHC 2 0 1 4 .385 .847
13. Prince Fielder 1B DET 4 2 3 0 .417 1.346
14. Cameron Maybin OF SD 4 1 2 2 .294 .839
15. Adam LaRoche* 1B WAS 3 2 4 0 .417 1.379
16. David Freese 3B STL 2 1 6 0 .421 1.000
17. Dustin Ackley 2B SEA 4 1 3 1 .316 .790
18. Austin Jackson OF DET 5 0 2 0 .571 1.482
19. Emilio Bonifacio OF FLA 3 0 1 3 .333 .777
20. Zack Cozart SS CIN 4 1 2 0 .545 1.765
21. Evan Longoria 3B TB 4 1 1 0 .600 1.792
22. Kelly Johnson 2B TOR 5 1 2 0 .357 1.097
23. Shane Robinson* OF STL 2 1 4 0 .667 1.834
24. Chone Figgins* 3B SEA 2 0 4 1 .412 1.000
25. Dee Gordon SS LAD 3 0 1 3 .222 .578

* - unowned in the Athlon Sports Fantasy League

Find Your Middle Infield Help Now

Cincinnati’s Zach Cozart is had a top 25 weekend after hitting in the two-hole all three games of Opening Weekend. That puts the rookie directly in front of Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce. Don’t buy Top-10 shortstop value just yet, but he certainly has the bat to be an adequate producer at a shallow position all season long.

Washington’s Ian Desmond also had a key weekend, hitting with a .385/.429/.462 line for the weekend. He led off all three games and has a chance to provide big return on investment when it comes to stolen bases and runs scored in a much-improving line-up. But he could also easily get to double-digit dingers and a sound slash-line.

St. Louis’ Rafael Furcal might have been the biggest surprise of the weekend, however, don’t go wasting a top waiver priority on the aging shortstop. He has topped the 400 at-bat mark only one time since 2007 and has failed to top the 200 AB plateau in three of the last five years. He should be helpful when in the line-up, but like much of the Cardinals' batting order, he needs to stay fully healthy to be valuable.

Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill, Chris Getz and Rueben Tejada all had solid first weekends that require more observation time.

Yoenis Cespedes is For Real

Normally, it takes time for imports to get acclimated with the speed, control and raw talent of big league pitching. Well, Cespedes is putting that myth to bed as he stroked three home runs in his first four games. He has seven RBIs and has the raw athletic ability to swipe some bases too. I cannot imagine the Cuban defector didn’t get drafted in your league, but if he happens to be sitting on your wire, do not hesistate to snap him up.

Week 1's Top 25 Pitchers:

  Name Team IP W SV K ERA WHIP
1. Chad Billingsly LAD 8.1 1 0 11 0.00 0.48
2. Jared Weaver LAA 8.0 1 0 10 0.00 0.50
3. Roy Halladay PHI 8.0 1 0 5 0.00 0.25
4. Frank Francisco NYM 3.0 0 3 4 0.00 0.67
5. Jeff Samardzija* CHC 8.2 1 0 8 1.04 0.46
6. Fernando Rodney TB 1.2 0 2 1 0.00 0.00
7. Zack Greinke MIL 7.0 1 0 7 0.00 0.57
8. Lance Lynn* STL 6.2 1 0 8 1.35 0.45
9. Clayton Richard* SD 7.0 1 0 3 0.00 0.29
10. Lucas Harrell HOU 7.0 1 0 4 0.00 0.43
11. Justin Masterson CLE 8.0 0 0 10 1.12 0.38
12. Justin Verlander DET 8.0 0 0 7 0.00 0.38
13. Duane Below* DET 2.2 2 0 3 0.00 0.38
14. Jake Arrieta* BAL 7.0 1 0 4 0.00 0.57
15. Kyle Lohse* STL 7.1 1 0 3 1.23 0.27
16. Johnny Cueto CIN 7.0 1 0 4 0.00 0.71
17. Aroldis Chapman CIN 3.0 1 0 5 0.00 0.33
18. Brandon League SEA 3.0 0 2 2 0.00 0.67
19. Jeremy Hellickson TB 8.2 1 0 4 0.00 0.81
20. Jason Hammel* BAL 8.0 1 0 5 1.12 0.63
21. Javy Guerra LAD 2.0 0 2 2 0.00 0.50
22. Ryan Dempster* CHC 7.2 0 0 10 1.17 0.65
23. Josh Lindblom* LAD 4.0 1 0 3 0.00 0.50
24. Jim Johnson BAL 1.2 0 2 2 0.00 1.20
25. Luis Perez* TOR 4.0 1 0 3 0.00 0.75

* - unowned in the Athlon Sports Fantasy League

Bullpen Happenings

It wasn’t a good weekend for bullpens. Boston’s group is in complete disarray and I would not be rostering any of the names (Alfredo Aceves, Mark Melancon, Franklin Morales, Vincente Padilla) who could get the potential save chances. Look for the Red Sox to go after a rental in early summer — aka Jonathan Broxton, Huston Street, Frank Francisco, Matt Thornton, etc. Speaking of...

Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed were all preseason picks to land in the closing role on the Southside of Chicago. Yet, it appears that Hector Santiago, who pitched a perfect ninth on Saturday to earn his first career save, might be the guy to close games for the White Sox. Robin Ventura still might play the match-ups, but Santiago is worth an add this week. 

With Drew Storen still a few weeks away from returning to action — should his elbow injury not be (gasp) anything worse — it appears that Davey Johnson’s decision to platoon Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez was no empty threat. Both Lidge and Rodriguez were effective this weekend, combining for 2.0 scoreless innings with five total strikeouts and one save for each.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Athlon looks back at another weekend of fantasy baseball action.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Monday, April 9, 2012 - 10:44
Path: /college-football/ucla-bruins-2012-spring-preview
Body:

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.

UCLA Bruins 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 6-8, 5-4 Pac-12  

Spring practice: April 3-May 5 

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Kevin Prince, 126 of 224, 1,828 yards, 12 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Johnathan Franklin, 166 att., 976 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Joseph Fauria, 39 rec., 481 yards, 6 TD
Tackles: Patrick Larimore, 81
Sacks: Datone Jones, 3
Interceptions: Andrew Abbott, 4

Redshirts to watch: QB Brett Hundley, NT Kevin McReynolds, WR Devin Lucien, OG Ben Wyscoki, DE Sam Tai, NT Brandon Tuliaupupu

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 at Rice
Sept. 8 Nebraska
Sept. 15 Houston
Sept. 22 Oregon State
Sept. 29 at Colorado
Oct. 6 at Cal
Oct. 13 Utah
Oct. 20 Bye Week
Oct. 27 at Arizona State
Nov. 3 Arizona
Nov. 10 at Washington State
Nov. 17 USC
Nov. 24 Stanford

Offensive Strength: There is a bit of tie between the offensive line and skills players. Both lost quality starters but both return deep and versatile groups with upside. Johnathan Franklin, Joseph Fauria and Malcolm Jones should provide plenty of playmaking ability behind what could be a solid offensive line.

Offensive Weakness: The quarterback position has been a major issue for the Bruins for the better part of a decade. Does this sound familar? This roster has lots of talented depth at the position but lacks a consistent, driving force under center.

Defensive Strength: By all accounts, this defensive line has a chance to be one of the best in the conference. The collective star-rankings of names like Cassius Marsh, Owamagbe Odigizuwa, Brandon Willis and Datone Jones as recruits looks real pretty on paper. The depth and talent of this group is too much not to be the strength of this unit.

Defensive Weakness: Leadership and development. This unit is loaded with elite recruits at nearly every position. Yet, somehow this group finished 92nd in the nation in scoring defense at over 31 points allowed per game and 89th in total defense at over 417 yards per game. With a totally new coaching staff, finding leaders on this side of the ball will be key. Can the defensive line be both the strength and weakness of a defense?

Spring Storylines Facing the Bruins:

1. Building cohesion on a brand new coaching staff. Mora is hungry to prove he can win and he started by building a deep and talented coaching staff around him. He hired former Arizona State coordinator Noel Mazzone to run his offense and former Washington Redskins linebackers coach Lou Spanos to manage the defense. With the crosstown rival USC rising once again into national prominence, this coaching staff has to get acclimated with Westwood and its roster in a hurry this spring. After the Trojans, the South is wide open and UCLA is as talented as any other team in this league. It will be all about the coaching. 

2. Mazzone's first order of business is to implement his up-tempo scheme and find someone to run it with consistent efficiency. The quarterback position has been a complete failure for the Bruins since...Cade McNown? But UCLA has not been without talent at the position and this roster will be no different. Incumbents Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut need to adjust more to the new speed of the offense (think Oregon Ducks) rather than the new formation as it shifts from a true pistol to a hybrid spread attack. Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley and true frosh T.J. Millweard should also press for reps this spring as well. Prince will get the first crack as the most experienced player on the team, but Mazzone should have no loyalties when deciding who will run his offense in 2012.

3. Organizing the offensive line will go a long way to developing a signal caller. Three contributors are gone from the front line, but there is plenty of talent returning. Greg Capella (14), Jeff Baca (11), Alberto Cid (6), Chris Ward (4) and Wade Yandall (3) all got starting experience a year ago and will be champing at the bit to earn a starting spot. What could make this a special group is former uber-recruit Xavier Su'a Filo. He returns from his two-year Mormon Mission after flashing elite ability as a true freshman in 2009. Should he be ready to go at a BCS championship level, this group could turn into a strength of a team that was able to move the football on the ground last fall — third in the Pac-12 (178.4 ypg).

4. Spanos has a glut of riches to work with along the defensive line and three linebackers returning with a total of 218 tackles last year. But this unit finished 11th in the conference in rushing defense (190.6 ypg, 96th nationally) and was 112th nationally in quarterback sacks. If this defense is going to improve — which it needs to do across the board — stabilizing the front seven will be paramount this spring. There is too much talent on the front line and too much experience in the linebackers for this group not to show marked improvement in 2012. Spanos should have fun installing his system.

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Related Content Links:

Ranking the Pac-12's Head Coaches for 2012
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> UCLA Bruins 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-2012-spring-preview
Body:

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.

Oregon Ducks 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 12-2, 8-1 Pac-12  

Spring practice: April 3-April 28 

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Bryan Bennett, 25-of-46, 369 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Kenjon Barner, 939 yards, 11 TD
Receiving: Josh Huff, 31 rec., 430 yards, 2 TD
Tackles: John Boyett, 108
Sacks: Dion Jordan, 7.5
Interceptions: Four tied with 2

Redshirts to watch: WR B.J. Kelley, WR Tacoi Sumler, QB Marcus Mariota, WR Devon Blackmon, DT Jared Ebert (JC), OL Andre Yruetagoyena, LB Tyson Coleman, TE Christian French, OL Tyler Johnstone

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Arkansas State
Sept. 8 Fresno State
Sept. 15 Tennessee Tech
Sept. 22 Arizona
Sept. 29 at Washington State
Oct. 6 Washington
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 18 at Arizana State
Oct. 27 Colorado
Nov. 3 at USC
Nov. 10 at Cal
Nov. 17 Stanford
Nov. 24 at Oregon State

Offensive Strength: Those with ball in hand. Josh Huff, Justin Hoffman and Colt Lyerla will offer talented options with the ball on the edge and down the seam, but the real fireworks will come from Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas. Both have game changing ability and will be on the field at the same time. Needless to say, Chip Kelly has plenty of toys to play with on offense.

Offensive Weakness: The pass-catchers are relatively unproven and will need to be developed. The running backs lost a Doak Walker winner in LaMichael James. Quarterback Darron Thomas left school early. And two studs departed the offensive line. Yet, every position on this offensive two-deep has elite level skill and talent. This offense has no weaknesses, but if one area was a biggest "unknown" it would have to be the quarterback position.

Defensive Strength: All three layers of this defense are in similar shape: losing a couple of starters but return talented stars and loads of depth. The constant rotation of fresh bodies has given this unit loads of depth and talent. The defensive line, led by all-everything end Dion Jordan and all-league tackle Taylor Hart might be the strongest unit on the team. But Kelly's ability to build depth through playing time has worked incredibly well at this position (and others).

Defensive Weakness: There is really isn't a glaring area of weakness as there is depth and talent on every level. Linebacker loses two all-conference performers, the secondary lost first-teamer Eddie Pleaseant and the D-Line replaces a pair of productive ends. Yet, each level returns experience and upside to every position. Pinpointing any specific weakness on this unit is virtually impossible. 

Spring Storylines Facing the Ducks:

1. Darron Thomas' announcement to go to the NFL might have been a shock to the masses — and possibly some NFL scouts — but wasn't to those inside the Ducks' program. As shocking as it sounds, the school's all-time leader in touchdowns was going to face pressure from a trio of talented passers: Sophomore Bryan Bennett, redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota and early enrollee Jake Rodrigues. Despite the rumors that Bennett and Mariota might actually be better than Thomas (gasp!), very few teams can simply replace someone who accounted for 6,334 yards of total offense and 71 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Bennett (6-3, 205) should have the early lead after showing well in a win over Arizona State and a start against Colorado (156 yards, 2 TD, 6 att., 69 yards rushing) as a freshman last season. Mariota was the star of the scout team a year ago and is extremely similar to Bennett in skillset, size (6-4, 205) and personality but has yet to play in a college game. Even true freshman Jake Rodrigues (6-3, 210) is already enrolled and working to learn Kelly's offense. All three are unquestioned athletic fits for the Ducks' spread attack, but all three also need development as passers and efficiency could be the determining factor in picking a starter.

2. Finding some big-play pass-catchers will be a focus of the spring workouts. Josh Huff and Justin Hoffman will likely be the starters most of the time — aka whenever De'Anthony Thomas is in the backfield. Rahsaan Vaughn also figures heavily into the mix as well.  Certainly, losing Lavasier Tuinei and tight end David Paulson, who combined for 79 receptions and 16 touchowns a year ago, and any suspension doled out to Huff, will hurt the offense. However, Lyerla, Thomas and even Barner combined for 17 of their own touchdown receptions last year and should only get better this fall. And the list of potential big-play talents champing at the bit to get the ball is long and is the envy of most teams in the nation: Eric Dungy, Devon Blackmon, Keanon Lowe, Daryle Hawkins, Tacoi Sumler, Will Murphy, Curtis White and Brian Teague.

3. Replacing two starters along the offensive line will also be an area of focus this spring, especially considering left guard and veteran Carson York won't be practicing (knee). Departing all-league talent Mark Asper and Darrion Weems leave holes at key positions up front. That said, the Ducks have recruited well along the line and always seem to plug holes with relative ease. Jake Fisher saw plenty of action as a freshman last season and redshirts Andre Yruretagoyena and Tyler Johnstone have loads of raw talent. These three will push veterans Everett Benyard, Ryan Clanton and junior college transfer Kyle Long for the empty starting positions. The good news is Hroniss Grasu should only get better and become more of a leader at center while right tackle Nick Cody returns for his senior season. Like most spots on this roster, Oregon will miss some key pieces but has a glut of riches waiting in the wings.

4. Losing honorable mention All-Pac-12 end Terrell Turner and fellow starter Brandon Hanna, like the O-Line, shouldn't be too painful but needs to be addressed. Taylor Hart returns to the interior and Dion Jordan return to the outside, but Kelly rotates so many bodies that most of the "back-ups" have seen extensive playing time. Tony Washington, Isaac Remington, Rickey Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi will all continue to grow into bigger roles while early enrollee and super-stud recruit Arik Armstead gets his first taste of big-time college football this spring.

5. As the knit-picking continues with the Oregon defense, filling starting spots in the back seven left by first-team all-conference linebacker Josh Kaddu, honorable-mention performer DeWitt Stuckey and first-teamer Eddie Pleasant at the Rover position should be surprisingly easy. Michael Clay is a tackling machine while Kiko Alonso is finally beginning to take advantage of his obvious physical gifts. Alonso got better as 2011 went along, culminating in a Rose Bowl MVP performance against Wisconsin. Boseko Lokombo enters the starting lineup with tons of stat-stuffing playing time as well (33 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT). John Boyett, the only starter from the 2010 BCS title game still on the roster, is the unquestioned leader of the secondary from his free safety position. With Anthony Gildon (and Cliff Harris) gone for good from the corner spot, youngsters Terrance Mitchell, Troy Hill and Ifo Ikpre-Olomu should grow into potential play-makers after receiving a baptism by fire a season ago. Erick Dargan, Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson also got hefty playing time a year ago. Expect Patterson and Jackson to compete for the starting safety spot. The positive effect of over-using the depth chart (and recruiting really well) will never be more obvious than in Eugene this fall as replacing outstanding starters on all three levels appears to be no big deal whatsosever.

6. Possibly the only thing that could derail the Ducks fourth consectutive trip a BCS bowl — besides the USC Trojans — will be the potential off-the-field questions. This is a team that has dealt with multiple knucklehead blunders by players, a coaching flirtation with the NFL and one man named Willie Lyles. Transgressors Thomas, LaMichael James and Harris have moved on the program and Kelly seems to be committed to the Ducks longterm success (at least for 2012), however, the NCAA's investigation into the Lyles scandal could be hanging over the program for the forseeable future.

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Related Content Links:

Ranking the Pac-12's Head Coaches for 2012
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> Oregon Ducks 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 07:01
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournaments-biggest-upsets-and-closest-calls
Body:

While none of the 112 No. 16 seeds has won a game in the NCAA Tournament (more on that below), six No. 15 seeds have shocked No. 2s since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. And two of them took place during this year's March Madness. Here's our look at the biggest upsets and closest calls from college basketball's NCAA Tournament. 

THE BIGGEST UPSETS: No. 2 vs. No. 15 (6-106)

Norfolk State 86, Missouri 84 (2012)

The Missouri Tigers were a chic pick to make it to the Final Four in 2012 after winning the Big 12 tournament. But Mizzou failed to make it out of the first round despite shooting 52.7% from the floor and making 13 three-pointers. It wasn’t enough to top the MEAC tournament champs from pulling off the monumental upset. Kyle O’Quinn led the Spartans with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 14 rebounds. A big reason the guard-heavy Tigers got beat? Norfolk State dominated the glass 35-23 in the two-point victory.

Lehigh 75, Duke 70 (2012)

The Mountain Hawks entered the tournament as Patriot League champions, led by superstar guard C.J. McCollum. The junior finished with 30 points, six rebounds and six assists in the startling upset of the powerhouse Blue Devils. Making the upset even more improbable was where the shocker took place: Greensboro, N.C. Duke missed 20 of its 26 three point shot attempts in the five point loss.

Hampton 58, Iowa St 57 (2001)

The Pirates of Hampton became only the fourth 15-seed to win in the first round when Tarvis Williams made a four-foot jumper with less than seven seconds left in the game. The Cyclones’ Jamaal Tinsley went the length of the floor and missed a point-blank lay-up to give Hampton the historic win. One of college basketball’s most memorable images is Hampton head coach Steve Merfeld sprinting around the court and being hoisted into the air, legs flailing wildly, by backup David Johnson.

Coppin St 78, South Carolina 65 (1997)

The Eagles of Coppin State entered their first-round tilt against South Carolina as a 30-point underdog. After Coppin State took the lead with just over six minutes left, the Gamecocks crumbled. For a team that, to this day, has not reached the second round of the tournament since 1973 — much less the Final Four — the loss to Ron “Fang” Mitchell’s upstart Eagles was especially painful.

Santa Clara 64, Arizona 61 (1993)

A Canadian freshman point guard by the name of Steve Nash knocked down six of eight free throws down the stretch to key the Broncos’ upset win over the Wildcats. Arizona, featuring a roster littered with future NBA players — Reggie Geary, Damon Stoudamire, Chris Mills and Khalid Reeves — put together a 25–0 run that spanned the end of the first half and the opening minutes of the second half. The Broncos answered with their own 19–7 run, and Pete Eisenrich’s jump shot gave them the lead late in the game before Stoudamire missed a three at the buzzer. Nash would go on to win two WCC Player of the Year awards.

Richmond 73, Syracuse 69 (1991)

The Spiders, led by 18 points and six assists from Curtis Blair, pulled off the first upset by a No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history. Billy Owens and the Syracuse zone were ineffective, as Richmond never trailed during the game. A Michael Edwards 3-point attempt that would have tied the game fell short with four seconds remaining, and 12-year coach Dick Tarrant had his signature moment as the Spiders’ head man.

 

THE CLOSEST CALLS 

It’s been well-documented that a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but there have been some extremely close calls. Did you know that five teams have nearly pulled-off what might be considered the biggest obstacle in mainstream sports?

Here are five 1 vs. 16 games decided by four points or less.

Purdue 73, Western Carolina 71 (1996)

The Southern Conference champs, coached by first-year head man Phil Hopkins, employed a zone defense that stymied Purdue for most of the game. The Catamounts actually had two chances to put themselves in a category all their own, but both the potential game-winning 3-pointer by Joel Fleming and the possible game-tying Joe Stafford 15-footer hit off of the back of the rim in the final seconds. Ironically, this Boiler team had to forfeit 18 of its 26 wins, including this game, the most recent near-miss by a 16 seed. Another interesting sidenote: Hopkins’ top assistant at the time, Thad Matta, is now the head coach at Ohio State.

Michigan St 75, Murray St 71 (OT, 1990)

The Ohio Valley champions, led by sophomore center Ronald “Popeye” Jones, pushed the vaunted Spartans to overtime by drilling a 3-point basket at the end of regulation. Jones’ game-high 37 points and 11 rebounds were not enough to slow MSU’s Steve Smith, who posted a team-high 22 points, including six of his team’s 10 overtime points. With 26 seconds left, Jones missed an interior shot and the Spartans snatched the rebound and held on to win the only 1-vs.-16 matchup ever to go to overtime.

Oklahoma 72, ETSU 71 (1989)

In the first of four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament for ETSU, the Buccaneers’ starting lineup featured three sophomores and two freshmen. Point guard Keith “Mister” Jennings, a 5'7" dynamo, led the Bucs to a 17-point lead over OU. The Sooners’ defense led the comeback, and after Jennings fouled out, Oklahoma found itself with the ball and a one-point lead shooting a one-and-one with four seconds left. Oklahoma’s Mookie Blaylock missed the front end, giving ETSU one final heave at the buzzer. The half-court air ball fell short, and Oklahoma escaped the historic upset.

Georgetown 50, Princeton 49 (1989)

In Pete Carril’s 22nd season as the Princeton head coach, the Tigers nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. With Princeton trailing by one with eight seconds left, Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning blocked two Princeton shots — one by Bob Scrabis and the other by Kit Mueller — to preserve the Hoya victory. To this day, Princeton fans still claim Mueller was fouled.

Michigan 59, Fairleigh Dickinson 55 (1985)

Head coach Tom Green spent 26 seasons leading Fairleigh Dickinson, but it was in his second year when he almost made his biggest mark. Despite losing four players to fouls, the Knights took the top-seeded Wolverines to the wire. Two late Roy Tarpley free throws sealed the win for the Maize and Blue. Villanova, the lowest-seeded team ever to win the title, proceeded to beat Michigan in the second round by the exact same score — 59–55 — en route to its famous upset of Georgetown in the finals.

By Braden Gall  (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Teaser:
<p> While none of the 112 No. 16 seeds has won a game in the NCAA Tournament, six No. 15 seeds have shocked No. 2s since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Monday, April 2, 2012 - 10:39
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-2012-spring-preview
Body:

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.

Penn State Nittany Lions 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 9-4, 6-2 Big Ten

Spring practice: March 26-April 21

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Matt McGloin, 1,571 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Silas Redd, 1,241 yards, 7 TD
Receiving: Justin Brown, 35 rec., 517 yards, 2 TD
Tackles: Gerald Hodges, 106
Sacks: Sean Stanley and Gerald Hodges, 4.5
Interceptions: Five tied with one

Redshirts to watch: OL Angelo Mangiro, DT Anthony Zettel, OL Donovan Smith, DE Deion Barnes, LB Ben Kline, OL Ryan Nowicki

2012 Schedule

Big Ten 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Ohio
Sept. 8 at Virginia
Sept. 15 Navy
Sept. 22 Temple
Sept. 29 at Illinois
Oct. 6 Northwestern
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Iowa
Oct. 27 Ohio State
Nov. 3 at Purdue
Nov. 10 at Nebraska
Nov. 17 Indiana
Nov. 24 Wisconsin

Offensive Strength: Silas Redd. The second-team all-Big Ten tailback proved as an underclassmen in his first season as the starter that his recruiting hype was warranted. He hit a wall down the stretch but Redd is a great piece for new head coach Bill O'Brien to build his offense around.

Offensive Weakness: Where to begin? The quarterback position has been the issue in Happy Valley for years and it appears, barring massive development from an incumbent, that 2012 won't be any different.

Defensive Strength: State College has been referred to as Linebacker-U for years and this Penn State squad will do nothing to dispel that. A deep and talented group returns seven of the top eight tacklers and could be one of the best in the Big Ten — if it can stay healthy.

Defensive Weakness: The defensive line has to be rebuilt this spring without Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Devon Still and top sack artist Jack Crawford. However, the secondary must replace all four starters and could see a scheme change (what will happen to the Hero position), so the back end of this unit is the likely weak spot.

Spring Storylines Facing the Nittany Lions:

1. The healing process in State College has to continue and getting back onto the field is a step in the right direction. O'Brien has to insulate his team and create an internal rallying cry in order to build unity in the face of what will most assuredly be a very public and lurid trial of Jerry Sandusky. All while dealing with a fanbase that is seeing a new coaching staff on the practice field for the first time in nearly 50 years. Athletic competition can possess overwhelming rejuvenating powers and Nittany Lions fans have to be happy to see their team practicing for the first time since the end of the darkest season in Penn State history. For a coach who has yet to see most of his players practice, anything — and anyone — goes this spring in Happy Valley.

2. The former Patriots offensive coordinator's first order of business is finding a quarterback to run his offense. While installing his offense, he has made it clear that the position is up for grabs and he has two experienced options in Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden. Uber-recruit and upside athlete Paul Jones, who has yet to play a snap due to academic issues, will also figure heavily into the mix. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder might have the most raw ability but lacks time under center. Both Bolden and McGloin have had opportunities to seize the starting job over the last two seasons and both have failed to make a statement. Which is probably why O'Brien hosted former Maryland passer Danny O'Brien on the first day of spring camp. However, O'Brien chose to sign with division rival Wisconsin shortly after his visit to Happy Valley. There are options on this roster — how good they are remains to be seen.

3. Three All-Big Ten honorable mention offensive linemen have departed the roster and filling these holes will play a huge role in getting better quarterback play. There is no lack of talent but center Matt Stankiewitch is the only returning blocker with extensive starting experience. This could be a totally reworked group and finding the right pieces to protect his quarterback and star tailback will be priority No. 2 for O'Brien this spring. Mike Farrell, Donovan Smith, Adam Gress and John Urschel need to step into bigger, more prominent roles for a unit that, frankly, is a large unknown as this stage of the season.

4. There will be four new starters in the defensive secondary so settling on a defensive back rotation is at the top of the defensive wish list. The cornerback position appears to be in better (or more stable) shape than safety. Senior Stephon Morris will slide into one starting spot while super-sophomore Adrian Amos, who exhibited tremendous upside in 12 games as a true freshman, will snag the other job. Receiver Curtis Drake was moved to cornerback this spring, which figures to help with the depth and competition. But at safety, defensive back coach John Butler knows little after junior Malcolm Lewis. This is clearly the biggest unknown on the defensive side of the ball for Penn Staters.

5. Replacing Still and Crawford up front on the defense will be tough. However, Sean Stanley (30 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and Jordan Hill (59 tackles, 3.5 sacks) form a solid 1-2 inside-outside punch. Talented names like C.J. Olaniyan, Evan Hailes, DaQuan Jones and James Terry need to grow into the highly-touted recruits scouts projected. The Nittany Lions will also get some help in the form of end Pete Massaro, who missed all of last season due to an injury. 

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Related Content Links:

Big Ten 2012 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 Big Ten Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Penn State Nittany Lions 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 30, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-spartans-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.

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 11-3, 7-1 Big Ten

Spring practice: March 22-April 20 

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Andrew Maxwell, 18-of-26, 171 yards, TD
Rushing: Le'Veon Bell, 182 att., 948 yards, 13 TD
Receiving: Dion Sims, 12 rec., 99 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: Max Bullough, 89
Sacks: Denicos Allen, 11
Interceptions: Isaiah Lewis, 4

Redshirts to watch: DE Shilique Calhoun, S R.J. Williamson, WR A.J. Sims, LB Lawrence Thomas, WR Juwan Caesar, LB Darien Harris, CB Trae Waynes

2012 Schedule

Big Ten 2012 Schedule Analysis

Aug. 31 Boise State
Sept. 8 at Central Michigan
Sept. 15 Notre Dame
Sept. 22 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 29 Ohio State
Oct. 6 at Indiana
Oct. 13 Iowa
Oct. 20 at Michigan
Oct. 27 at Wisconsin
Nov. 3 Nebraska
Nov. 10 Bye Week
Nov. 17 Northwestern
Nov. 24 at Minnesota

Offensive Strength: The running game. Four starters are back along the offensive line and both Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper return with five total years of experience in the backfield. This Spartan rushing attack could be as productive as the dynamic Javon Ringer-Jehuu Caulcrick combo of 2007.

Offensive Weakness: Not having the school's all-time leading touchdown thrower Kirk Cousins under center will hurt. But losing the school's all-time leading receiver B.J. Cunningham, as well as all-purpose dynamo Keshawn Martin and Hail Mary hero Keith Nichol, leaves the passing game with very little returning experience. All-league tight end Brian Linthicum is gone as well.

Defensive Strength: These linebackers are outstanding. Sparty legacy Max Bullough leads the team in tackles and is the heartbeat of the defense. Denicos Allen is the team's top sack master. Chris Norman is an all-conference performer in his own right as well. Toss in Tyler Elsworth, Taiwan Jones, Steve Gardiner and redshirt freshman Lawrence Thomas and Mark Dantonio boasts one of the nation's top units.

Defensive Weakness: Few defensive lineman in the nation were better than Jerel Worthy last fall. His loss, combined with All-Big Ten honorable mention tackle Kevin Pickelman and Blake Pacheco, leaves a literal and figurative massive void at defensive tackle.

Spring Storylines Facing the Spartans:

1. Replacing Kirk Cousins has to be considered the biggest obstacle of spring practice in East Lansing. Andrew Maxwell has already been tabbed as the starter and he has all the physical tools to be an excellent heir to Cousins' thrown. His mental acumen, leadership and poise were all things that Cousins had in droves and can only come with time spent under center. Maxwell has patiently waited his turn to take the helm of the Sparty ship and how he handles the pressure can only come with game experience. A fortified front line and powerful running game will help, but Maxwell needs to prove that he is more than simply a big arm and an excellent athlete. He needs to become one of the team leaders if Michigan State is going to continue its in-state domination of the Maize and Blue.

2. Finding playmakers to catch Maxwell's passes will go a long way in helping the new quarterback settle into place in the offense. Wide receivers Tony Lippett, who also started five games at cornerback in 2010, Keith Mumphrey and Bennie Fowler return a total of eight catches and no touchdowns from 2011. A healthy Juwan Caesar would help this group. Dion Sims is a solid player with some experience who will fill the void left by Linthicum and Garrett Celek at tight end. He will be joined by converted defensive end Denzel Drone at tight end. However, the big news will be the NCAA's ruling on Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett. If he becomes eligbile to play right away, he instantly becomes the Spartans' most talented wide receiver.

3. Filling the massive void at defensive tackle is really the only major issue facing Pat Narduzzi and the Spartans defense. Worthy, Pickelman and Pacheco are all gone, leaving little experience on the interior of the defensive line. Luckily, the defensive end position is loaded and can afford to push Tyler Hoover, who has bulked up after missing the 2011 season to injury, to the tackle position. Vanderbilt transfer James Kittredge, Anthony Rashad, Corey Freeman and a number of redshirt freshmen should compete for playing time at tackle. This was one of the best defensive lines in the nation a year ago after allowing a Big Ten's best 100.5 rushing yards per game. If Narduzzi expects the same type of performance this fall, he will need to plaster the holes on the interior of his D-Line this spring.

4. The only other major loss for the Green Machine was first-team All-Big Ten free safety Trenton Robinson. Kurtis Drummond and Jairus Jones should get plenty of reps this spring but don't look for either to be asked to lead the secondary. Three starters return with some sort of all-conference recognition and Dantonio has already pinpointed cornerback Darqueze Dennard as a potential team captain and leader. Isaiah Lewis and Johnny Adams also return with plenty of snaps and second-team All-Big Ten honors. This is a deep group that can afford to send Lippett to wide receiver on more of a full time basis if the coaching so chooses.

Related Content Links:

Big Ten 2012 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 Big Ten Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Michigan State Spartans 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-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.

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record:  11-3, 6-2 Big Ten

Spring practice: March 17-April 28 

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Joe Brennan, 6-of-15, 48 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Montee Ball, 1,923 yards, 33 TD
Receiving: Jared Abbrederis, 55 rec., 933 yards, 8 TD
Tackles: Mike Taylor, 150
Sacks: Beau Allen, 4
Interceptions: Shelton Johnson, 4

Redshirts to watch: DL Jesse Hayes, TE Austin Traylor, WR A.J. Jordan, RB Melvin Gordon, LB Jake Keefer, DB Terrance Floyd

2012 Schedule

Big Ten 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Northern Iowa
Sept. 8 at Oregon State
Sept. 15 Utah State
Sept. 22 UTEP
Sept. 29 at Nebraska
Oct. 6 Illinois
Oct. 13 at Purdue
Oct. 20 Minnesota
Oct. 27 Michigan State
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 10 at Indiana
Nov. 17 Ohio State
Nov. 24 at Penn State

Offensive Strength: This one is fairly simple: Running backs. Only two players have ever scored 39 touchdowns in a single season before and Montee Ball is one of them. Packaged with third-year back James White and youngsters Jeffrey Lewis and Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin boasts one of the best tailback corps in the nation…again.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback will be a huge concern for this team. Russell Wilson was a special talent and the best to ever play the position in Madison. Replacing him will be one of the most difficult tasks Bret Bielema has faced as the head coach of Wisconsin. The four players vying for the starting job totaled 15 pass attempts in 2011.

Defensive Strength: The heart of this defense will be the linebackers. With two first-team all-Big Ten performers returning, this unit has a chance to be not only the conference’s top group, but one of the best in the nation. That said, leader and middle linebacker Mike Taylor is recovering from hip surgery and isn’t likely to practice this spring.

Defensive Weakness: The secondary will have two big holes heading into spring football. The team’s top coverman, first-team All-Big Ten cornerback Anotnio Fenelus, and top safety, all-conference honorable mention Aaron Henry, will be sorely missed. They were the most talented defensive backs on the roster and their leadership needs to be replaced.

Spring Storylines Facing the Badgers:

1. Finding a replacement for Russell Wilson is the top priority for the coaching staff. In only one season, Wilson set school records for career completion percentage (72.8%), passing efficiency (191.8 – which was also an NCAA single-season record), single-season passing yards (3,175), touchdown passes (33), completions (225) and total offense (3,513). Best of luck Joe Brennan, Joel Stave, Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips. Phillips (ACL) and Budmayr (arm) are the two most talented options on the roster but likely won’t see much time this spring as the duo is still recovering from injury. This leaves new offensive coordinator Matt Canada with Brennan and Stave as the only two healthy quarterbacks on the roster. These two will need to show marked improvement this spring to allow Bret Bielema to feel comfortable about his signal caller come fall. This dire situation could further influence the chase for former Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien.

2. How will the new coaching staff fit together? Canada is just one of six new faces on the Wisconsin coaching staff. Losing assistants is a double-edged sword that, over time, can cause serious issues to a program. It is a good thing to have highly-sought after coaches on the payroll, but replacing two-thirds of a staff in one year is a tall order. Bielema has shown the ability to reconstruct an excellent coaching staff, but dealing with attrition multiple years in a row will eventually take its toll at some point. Canada has the tallest task as he replaces departed offensive guru Paul Chryst, whose Big Red offenses have paced the Big Ten the last three years. Without a quarterback and having to rebuild one of the nation’s best offensive lines, this could be the year that the coaching turnover finally impacts the Badgers in a major way.

3. How many teams can lose three first-team all-conference offensive lineman and survive? That is what Montee Ball and Canada are going to have to do this spring. Josh Oglesby, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz have all moved on, leaving Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner as the only returning starters. Wisconsin recruits and develops the offensive line as well as any team in the nation, so fans shouldn’t be terribly worried about finding blockers in MadTown. Junior Ryan Groy appeared in all 14 games, senior Robert Burge played in 12, sophomore Rob Havenstein played in 12 and junior Zac Matthias played in nine contests. Having tight end Jacob Pedersen back should also help the blocking scheme develop over the next month. These are the names, among others, who will be asked to step up and produce this spring in the face of a major losses.

4. Replacing the leadership and talent lost in the secondary. Fenelus and Henry were the leaders of this unit and were recognized as two of the best defensive backs in the league last year. Shelton Johnson and Marcus Cromartie return with experience and ideally the recovery of Devin Smith will help with depth. Names like Dezman Southward and Peniel Jean need to step into bigger roles while the returning talent must provide leadership during the spring.

5. To a lesser extent, the defensive line needs to fill holes as well. All-conference tackle Patrick Butrym and top sackmaster Louis Nzegwu have moved on, but there is loads of depth within this group. High potential players like David Gilbert, who missed much of last year due to injury, and Brendan Kelly will fight with Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel for playing time at end while Jordan Kokout and Beau Allen will support Ethan Hemer on the interior. There are a lot of big bodies to work with up front, so the refining the the rotation and keeping healthy will be the top concern for the D-Line.

Related Content Links:

Big Ten 2012 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 Big Ten Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 26, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/auburn-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.

Auburn Tigers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 8-5, 4-4  SEC

Spring Practice: March 21-April 16

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Clint Moseley, 66 of 108, 800 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Onterio McCalebb, 112 att., 641 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Emory Blake, 36 rec., 613 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Daren Bates, 104
Sacks: Corey Lemonier, 9.5
Interceptions: Three tied at 2

Redshirts to Watch: OT Greg Robinson, OT Christian Westernman, ATH Kris Frost

Early Enrollees:

Zeke Pike, QB (6-6, 225), Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights
Patrick Miller, OL (6-7, 275), West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer
Shane Callahan, OL (6-6, 285), Parker (Colo.) Chaparral
Javiere Mitchell, LB (6-2, 209), Leeds (Ala.) High
Jay Prosch, FB (6, 250), Mobile (Ala.) UMS-Wright

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Clemson (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)
Sept. 8 at Mississippi State
Sept. 15 Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 22 LSU
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 Arkansas
Oct. 13 at Ole Miss
Oct. 20 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 27 Texas A&M
Nov. 3 New Mexico State
Nov. 10 Georgia
Nov. 17 Alabama A&M
Nov. 24 at Alabama

Offensive Strength: Offensive line depth. On a team that finished 100th in the nation in total offense, fans can't point to a clear strength. But the Tigers have recruited at an elite level along the offensive line, and this group, particularly the 2011 class, has loads of potential.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. There is a need to find athletes who can make big plays at wide receiver and running back, but there is no more important position on the field than under center. There is little experience and huge question marks exist with a talented sophomore, true freshman and physically limited junior battling for the starting gig this spring.

Defensive Strength: Overall depth, especially along the line of scrimmage. The top 10 players from the D-Line return in 2012 and this unit has a chance to lead this squad in the fall. Names like Corey Lemonier, Nosa Eguae and rising stars Gabe Wright and Jeffrey Whitaker should only continue to improve.

Defensive Weakness: Overall experience. While this unit is incredibly deep and highly-touted, new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has to develop some experienced leaders. Five of the top seven returning tacklers were sophomores a year ago. Look for leading tackler and rare senior starter Daren Bates to looked upon for leadership.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers:

1. Stabilize the coaching staff. In less than a year, the relationship between national championship head coach and star offensive coordinator soured to the point of divorce. Gene Chizik had to replace both his offensive and defensive coordinators for the first time in his Auburn career this offseason, but it appears that he might have broke even — if not upgraded both positions — when he hired Brian VanGorder from the Atlanta Falcons and Scot Loeffler from Temple. Getting these two heavy hitters, and their schemes, settled into place this spring should be top priority for Chizik. Both will bring what Chizik has apparently been craving for years, a pro-style attack on both sides of the ball. How quickly the deep but youthful defense and inexperienced offense take to these systems could be the difference between a .500 season and challenging for the division.

2. The quarterback position is clearly the biggest issue for new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler. Two of his three options were incredibly highly-touted prospects who player in SEC states and offer big frames and dual-threat ability. Kiehl Frazier threw just 12 passes during his freshman season and Loeffler has no idea if he can excel as a passer in the system. Zeke Pike brings a massive 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame and his own athletic ability to the position. However, he is a true freshman going through his first collegiate practices. Clint Moseley, the least touted prospect of the bunch, has the most starting experience after getting the nod in the final six games on '11. The fact that he hasn't separated himself since the end of the year has to be a concern. Don't expect Loeffler to make an announcement any time soon as he isn't likely to name a starter until deep into the summer months. But make no mistake, how each of the signal callers handles his new offense this spring will speak volumes to how he sets the pecking order.

3. Aside from the obvious issues at quarterback, Loeffler has stated that his "objective, besides running the football, is to find out who our playmakers are," the new OC told AL.com. Emory Blake is a solid place to start at one wide out position and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen can and should be a big part of the passing attack as well. Onterio McCalebb has big play ability but is the only running back with any significant experience whatsoever. Working out the Tre Mason, Corey Grant, Mike Blakely rotation will be key for the Tigers this spring.  In the passing game, names like Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton need to step up and help out whoever is playing quarterback.

4. VanGorder's job this spring to ensure the development of a plethora of talented youngsters. In a league where nine teams rank in the top 50 in total defense and the top 36 in scoring defense, Auburn stood (nearly) alone in defensive ineptitude last fall, beating only Ole Miss in both categories. There is no reason to believe, however, that this group won't show marked improvement in 2012. Chizik should see a seemless transition from Ted Roof's 4-3 system. VanGorder runs a similar 4-3 scheme with a desired emphisis on speed. Top tackler Bates returns for his final season as do a host of talented defensive front seven players: Lemonier, Wright, Eguae, Whittaker, Angleo Blackson, LaDarius Owens and Jake Holland, to name a few. Replacing Nieko Thorpe in the secondary and Eltoro Freeman at linebacker are the only two holes to fill on this unit. This spring is all about talent development and installing the new scheme. Like the offensive line, this is one of the most talented units in the nation and there is no reason why they should not be dramatically better in '12.

5. Only two starters are gone from the offensive line that formed the SEC's fourth-rated rushing attack. Much like the defense, development is the name of the game for this unit this spring. Youngsters Reese Dismukes, Chris Slade, Blake Burgess and Tunde Fariyike played every game last fall and will be joined by talented redshirt freshmen Greg Robinson and Christian Westernman in the rotation. Toss in veteran John Sullen and the Tigers have the makings of a tremendous collection of hog mollies. In fact, 16 of the 22 offensive linemen on the Auburn roster last season were underclassmen, so growth and maturation is the key to success for this group.

Related Content Links

2012 Recruiting Class: No. 12 Auburn Tigers
College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles for 2012

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

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

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

Teaser:
<p> Auburn Tigers 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-rankings-big-board
Body:

Believe it or not, but the 2012 MLB season gets started in a little more than a week when Oakland and Seattle start a two-game series in Tokoyo.

Granted, the "official" Opening Day isn't until April 5, but regardless of your preference, there's no time better than the present for an updated Fantasy Baseball Big Board.

And this time around, it's an even bigger Big Board as Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web and added 50 more spots to its consensus fantasy baseball Big Board, which now numbers 200, to help you get ready for this upcomnig season (with special thanks to FantasyRundown.com).

Not suprisingly, as spring training has gone on, different players' rankings across the board have gone up and down as teams' rosters are beginning to take shape on and off the fields in both Arizona and Florida.

As far as the updated Big Board, those changes start at the top. Reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun had his pending 50-game suspension for violation of the league's drug policy overturned on Feb. 24.

Now that it's clear Braun will be eligible to play, if healthy, a full 162-game schedule, it's no surprise that he has soared up the Big Board. Coming in at No. 71 on the consenus Big Board on Feb. 10, Braun is ranked No. 1 overall according to RotoSummit.com, making him one of four players, along with Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp and Albert Pujols, who received a first-place vote among the nine different sources used to compile Athlon's Big Board.

Taking all nine sources into account, Cabrera takes the No. 1 position on the updated Big Board, edging out Pujols for that distinction. Kemp, who finished second to Braun in the NL MVP voting last year, comes in third, followed by Braun.

Some of the other big risers among the consensus Top 200 include Joel Hanrahan (No. 125, up from No. 144), Andre Ethier (No. 130, up from No. 150), Martin Prado (No. 140, up from No. 157), Melky Cabrera (No. 143, up from No. 165), Rafael Betancourt (No. 153, up from No. 182), Gaby Sanchez (No. 158, up from No. 183), David Freese (No. 166, up from 198) and Carlos Lee (No. 172, up from No. 200),

On the other hand, several players' Big Board rankings dropped with some of the biggest fallers including the likes of Carl Crawford (No. 84, down from No. 67), Corey Hart (No. 104, down from No. 93), Nick Markakis (No. 117, down from 104), Ryan Howard (no. 160, down from No. 118), Ike Davis (No. 161, down from 137), Justin Morneau (No. 165, down from No. 153), Tim Hudson (No. 168, down from No. 133), and Ervin Santana (No. 184, down from No. 152).

And while not necessarily reflected in these Big Board rankings, two other injury situations that bear watching are David Wright, who has been limited by a torn abdominal muscle in his left side, and Chase Utley, who is dealing with issues in both of his knees. Wright has said he will be ready by Opening Day, while Utley's availability for the Phillies' opener on April 5 is questionable at best.

Several players also are making their debut on Athlon's consensus Big Board, including Coco Crisp, Angel Pagan, Delmon Young, Brandon Morrow, Brandon McCarthy and Huston Street, to name few.

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on Athlon Sports' consensus Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on Athlon Sports' consensus Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA — USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

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

**Positional rankings will be updated beginning later this week

  LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 3 Miguel Cabera DET 1B 2 1 1 4 4 1 4 3 1
2 1 Albert Pujols LAA 1B 1 3 2 3 2 3 3 4 3
3 2 Matt Kemp LAD OF 6 4 3 1 1 4 2 1 2
4 71 Ryan Braun MIL OF 5 5 4 8 5 2 1 2 6
5 4 Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 11 2 5 6 3 6 5 5 5
6 5 Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 4 9 6 5 6 15 8 6 4
7 8 Robinson Cano NYY 2B 3 16 7 10 10 13 7 8 8
8 6 Jacoby Ellsbury BOS OF 19 8 8 2 8 9 6 12 12
9 7 Joey Votto CIN 1B 16 12 10 12 9 5 9 10 7
10 9 Adrian Gonzalez BOS 1B 7 13 14 7 11 11 13 9 9
11 10 Justin Upton ARI OF 14 18 9 14 7 21 10 11 10
12 14 Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 12 19 16 18 15 12 11 16 11
13 12 Roy Halladay PHI SP 10 6 12 19 23 10 12 22 18
14 11 Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 9 7 20 13 19 8 22 21 15
15 15 Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 13 14 15 11 21 16 14 19 17
16 13 Justin Verlander DET SP 8 10 17 17 22 17 21 17 16
17 16 Prince Fielder DET 1B 17 26 18 15 12 7 18 18 14
18 17 Evan Longoria TB 3B 33 20 11 16 17 19 16 7 13
19 20 Hanley Ramirez MIA SS 27 29 13 9 16 34 15 13 21
20 19 Cliff Lee PHI SP 20 11 22 21 27 14 24 26 24
21 18 Curtis Granderson NYY OF 38 15 23 22 13 23 17 20 22
22 22 Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 28 30 19 26 14 35 20 15 20
23 21 Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 22 33 24 23 24 18 27 31 23
24 24 Jose Reyes MIA SS 18 32 21 31 18 61 19 14 19
25 23 Felix Hernandez SEA SP 24 21 28 28 28 31 32 35 30
26 25 Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 40 38 26 20 26 29 28 30 27
27 26 Jered Weaver LAA SP 15 25 31 38 33 25 39 45 35
28 30 Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 31 37 27 34 29 53 23 29 26
29 28 Tim Lincecum SF SP 25 27 32 32 30 51 42 32 28
30 32 Josh Hamilton TEX OF 26 46 40 35 36 49 25 27 34
31 31 CC Sabathia NYY SP 67 22 43 25 38 28 31 33 31
32 34 Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 83 68 25 33 25 22 30 25 25
33 27 Cole Hamels PHI SP 23 24 39 40 31 46 36 66 32
34 29 David Wright NYM 3B 73 23 29 24 20 91 26 23 29
35 36 Ryan Zimmerman WAS 3B 29 42 34 42 32 60 47 24 33
36 33 Carlos Santana CLE C/1B 52 17 52 30 35 32 46 40 41
37 39 Matt Holliday STL OF 42 57 30 36 65 45 33 28 36
38 38 Mike Napoli TOR C/1B 57 43 47 27 39 30 41 36 53
39 48 Pablo Sandoval SF 3B 34 54 33 44 68 27 38 69 39
40 40 Hunter Pence HOU OF 45 77 37 66 56 24 29 34 44
41 37 Dan Haren LAA SP 47 31 41 61 41 65 34 46 49
42 35 David Price TB SP 21 34 53 48 47 56 54 53 50
43 41 Zack Greinke MIL SP 66 28 48 57 46 55 50 44 40
44 44 Brian McCann ATL C 48 41 69 46 43 47 44 39 83
45 43 Starlin Castro CHC SS 44 79 57 63 42 59 37 43 38
46 42 Paul Konerko CHW 1B 70 97 36 37 40 38 35 65 47
47 47 Jay Bruce CIN OF 63 90 38 62 34 40 55 38 51
48 56 Brett Lawrie TOR 3B 71 55 46 67 44 33 63 71 45
49 45 Craig Kimbrel ATL RP 30 39 62 75 52 57 65 63 56
50 52 Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 93 72 51 41 45 64 43 51 52
51 46 Matt Cain SF SP 37 70 61 73 48 36 59 77 54
52 49 Eric Hosmer KC 1B 41 106 45 39 74 43 40 60 68
53 59 Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 39 101 54 49 49 71 52 47 55
54 54 Nelson Cruz TEX OF 94 76 44 56 37 95 48 37 37
55 57 Dan Uggla ATL 2B 100 103 42 52 64 50 45 55 48
56 50 Jon Lester BOS SP 49 50 56 55 61 98 78 62 58
57 51 Elvis Andrus TEX SS 64 108 60 60 63 92 49 41 42
58 55 Stephen Strasburg WAS SP 35 58 75 84 81 20 68 108 57
59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
60 60 Yovani Gallardo MIL SP 54 40 65 85 58 90 92 48 59
61 65 Michael Bourn HOU OF 80 74 35 72 87 84 51 42 67
62 61 Alex Rodriguez NYY 3B 98 66 67 50 53 83 72 58 46
63 68 Shin-Soo Choo CLE OF 51 75 77 80 85 58 64 49 63
64 58 Desmond Jennings TB OF 99 85 104 68 50 54 61 50 43
65 69 Alex Gordon KC OF 82 87 50 81 60 73 66 59 66
66 77 Shane Victorino PHI OF 102 69 55 65 79 78 58 56 65
67 73 Buster Posey SF C 62 52 127 51 75 44 87 61 75
68 62 James Sheilds TB SP 76 36 64 78 72 103 62 72 81
69 72 Kevin Youkilis BOS 1B/3B 58 45 98 59 77 105 76 68 60
70 79 Michael Morse WAS 1B/OF 103 83 71 53 82 42 70 83 62
71 66 Asdrubal Cabrera CLE SS 97 86 63 47 54 97 56 92 64
72 75 Madison Bumgarner SF SP 46 49 79 94 67 72 88 87 80
73 70 C.J. Wilson LAA SP 101 61 68 70 51 69 75 80 88
74 74 Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 89 107 58 64 86 62 73 57 74
75 64 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B 95 95 83 45 55 96 67 54 84
76 80 Jonathan Papelbon PHI RP 32 112 87 74 71 82 79 73 77
77 76 Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 43 48 131 58 66 77 85 93 95
78 63 Ian Kennedy ARI SP 90 35 72 86 76 70 69 122 79
79 78 Mariano Rivera NYY RP 56 110 73 88 57 85 82 84 76
80 84 B.J. Upton TB OF 106 99 80 82 73 87 60 64 69
81 81 Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 104 102 49 54 69 146 53 76 73
82 86 Matt Wieters BAL C 60 65 84 69 88 106 93 74 90
83 87 Lance Berkman STL 1B/OF 105 78 59 77 96 52 77 99 86
84 67 Carl Crawford BOS OF 79 67 70 29 59 - 71 52 103
85 88 John Axford MIL RP 36 92 93 108 70 127 96 82 78
86 94 David Ortiz BOS DH 72 91 66 100 122 41 114 70 121
87 92 Adam Jones BAL OF 86 117 78 102 110 63 83 88 89
88 91 Mat Latos CIN SP 111 47 94 103 62 104 84 119 100
89 83 Chase Utley PHI 2B 68 100 76 71 98 - 74 67 71
90 90 Howard Kendrick LAA 1B/2B/OF 85 119 118 79 84 88 91 101 72
91 89 Drew Storen WAS RP 50 93 89 96 78 141 107 110 82
92 82 Tommy Hanson ATL SP 77 62 116 131 80 68 86 142 97
93 95 Josh Johnson MIA SP 53 59 128 124 91 66 108 132 101
94 96 Daniel Hudson ARI SP 109 63 85 109 89 116 99 94 102
95 85 Michael Pineda NYY SP 91 60 96 116 105 74 101 116 116
96 97 Miguel Montero ARI C 69 53 117 125 113 86 103 89 122
97 103 Matt Garza CHI SP 114 71 101 119 93 107 109 86 104
98 98 Billy Butler KC 1B 55 111 102 129 153 37 121 85 123
99 101 Brett Gardner NYY OF 110 109 90 105 104 124 89 78 107
100 110 Adam Wainwright STL SP 78 64 97 143 126 89 100 134 99
101 99 Ricky Romero TOR SP 65 82 81 90 118 134 113 127 124
102 106 Chris Young ARI OF 117 88 107 110 116 93 81 98 125
103 102 Drew Stubbs CIN OF 113 129 112 87 95 136 102 79 92
104 93 Corey Hart MIL OF 107 89 100 97 176 114 80 96 93
105 108 Ichiro Suzuki SEA OF 116 84 88 120 121 129 90 106 106
106 115 Jayson Werth WAS OF 121 140 82 98 94 113 104 100 114
107 100 Josh Beckett BOS SP 75 51 108 121 107 145 119 128 126
108 119 Alex Avila DET C 122 44 121 99 120 130 126 91 127
109 107 Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 81 147 120 76 143 81 127 97 115
110 112 Matt Moore TB RP 115 104 74 221 140 79 95 130 91
111 105 Yu Darvish TEX SP 108 80 124 186 148 76 105 129 87
112 120 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 96 152 92 123 156 139 98 121 70
113 114 Jason Heyward ATL OF 119 153 109 92 106 182 111 102 85
114 109 Brian Wilson SF RP 84 133 106 122 92 189 106 118 112
115 113 Mark Reynolds BAL 1B/3B 120 98 156 107 111 101 123 124 128
116 121 Derek Jeter NYY SS 125 118 113 101 97 - 94 105 118
117 104 Nick Markakis BAL OF 88 128 145 111 139 48 112 176 130
118 123 Alexei Ramirez CHW SS 127 138 86 89 123 131 116 145 129
119 117 Brandon Beachy ATL SP 123 81 123 137 132 80 137 165 110
120 116 Jose Valverde DET RP 61 154 125 117 90 171 124 120 131
121 111 Heath Bell MIA RP 92 94 148 151 83 165 117 139 108
122 127 Ryan Madson CIN RP 129 120 99 182 108 132 118 107 113
123 129 Dustin Ackley SEA 2B 112 144 171 93 135 152 132 103 117
124 122 Chris Carpenter STL SP 132 136 103 114 100 - 97 159 133
125 144 Joel Hanrahan PIT RP 135 134 119 170 103 155 128 104 136
126 124 Gio Gonzalez WAS SP 118 73 132 115 160 - 125 161 109
127 139 Erick Aybar LAA SS 153 127 129 95 112 - 131 111 135
128 126 Jesus Montero SEA DH 126 124 188 206 142 39 110 135 132
129 130 Cameron Maybin SD OF 143 139 143 138 99 160 155 81 140
130 150 Andre Ethier LAD OF 137 130 140 127 174 100 166 109 120
131 132 Carlos Beltran STL OF 128 196 115 135 - 111 120 95 105
132 128 J.J. Putz ARI RP 149 113 142 145 102 120 130 168 138
133 141 J.J. Hardy BAL SS 140 168 111 91 129 191 170 90 134
134 135 Cory Luebke SD SP/RP 144 135 130 174 134 67 136 177 137
135 125 Emilio Bonifacio MIA SS/3B/OF 124 114 213 83 - 109 142 172 119
136 131 Jordan Zimmerman WAS SP 131 115 110 184 138 - 122 125 139
137 134 Anibal Sanchez MIA SP 134 96 137 173 137 125 133 191 141
138 147 Dee Gordon LAD SS 138 145 133 157 169 138 139 162 96
139 140 Andrew Bailey BOS RP 130 143 158 - 109 119 179 112 143
140 157 Martin Prado ATL 3B/OF 152 122 168 128 150 115 162 157 150
141 149 Nick Swisher NYY 1B/OF 163 170 150 146 115 137 158 114 153
142 143 Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 136 - 182 150 117 126 192 113 98
143 165 Melky Cabrera SF OF 164 141 149 149 151 102 138 173 157
144 138 Johnny Cueto CIN SP 87 162 151 134 180 163 152 149 152
145 136 Adam Lind TOR 1B 158 - 135 142 133 110 115 195 142
146 148 Neil Walker PIT 2B 141 157 167 104 - 117 154 144 147
147 158 Ubaldo Jimanez CLE SP 151 121 105 141 158 - 140 174 144
148 142 Logan Morrison MIA OF 146 - 153 118 - 75 171 133 145
149 156 Jeff Francoeur KC OF 189 151 180 136 124 133 144 146 164
150 145 Shaun Marcum MIL SP 147 186 122 - 114 142 129 179 148
151 163 Jhonny Peralta DET SS 142 169 126 106 193 200 159 138 149
152 146 Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 139 - 174 148 167 135 134 141 156
153 182 Rafael Betancourt COL RP 150 159 114 - 172 118 141 - 146
154 154 Torii Hunter LAA OF 172 - 146 159 198 94 149 131 154
155 160 Sergio Santos TOR RP 176 155 - 178 131 123 151 137 159
156 172 Jeremy Hellickson TB SP 160 164 91 165 164 - 161 156 158
157 151 Joakim Soria KC RP 196 142 152 169 119 187 135 160 162
158 183 Gaby Sanchez MIA 1B 156 182 162 133 200 154 175 115 161
159 164 Ryan Roberts ARI 2B/3B 162 123 165 112 192 162 189 180 155
160 118 Ryan Howard PHI 1B 159 126 196 171 187 - 160 150 94
161 137 Ike Davis NYM 1B 157 149 208 172 152 - 168 140 111
162 168 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B 182 185 189 113 166 140 165 155 160
163 NR Coco Crisp OAK OF - 146 138 167 199 112 153 169 170
164 166 Doug Fister DET SP 174 175 144 196 163 108 148 - 163
165 153 Justin Morneau MIN 1B 59 191 - 176 181 - - 126 151
166 198 David Freese STL 3B 145 192 194 160 145 169 - 117 167
167 186 Jemile Weeks OAK 2B 165 131 - 180 - 156 145 147 177
168 133 Tim Hudson ATL SP 133 189 139 132 - 179 174 - 166
169 181 Jaime Garcia STL SP 199 163 154 139 179 144 180 183 180
170 188 Jason Motte STL RP 178 172 136 197 136 175 156 194 178
171 170 Jordan Walden LAA RP - 171 163 163 125 183 143 - 173
172 200 Carlos Lee HOU 1B/OF 161 - - 147 - 150 183 123 175
173 173 Max Scherzer DET SP 190 188 134 185 130 - 178 171 169
174 180 Mike Moustakas KC 3B 186 181 190 130 - 149 - 148 172
175 174 Carlos Marmol CHC RP 198 - 183 - 127 148 146 182 174
176 189 Austin Jackson DET OF 177 148 - 179 144 - - 136 182
177 179 Joe Nathan TEX RP - 156 - 195 128 181 164 170 184
178 193 Kelly Johnson TOR 2B - 161 175 164 141 199 157 - 188
179 169 Yadier Molina STL C - 132 186 140 - 193 191 164 179
180 159 Neftali Feliz TEX RP - 187 141 - - 121 181 - 168
181 NR Ted Lilly LAD SP 191 - 164 - 159 151 147 - 192
182 190 Kendrys Morales LAA 1B 154 - - - 168 122 - - 176
183 191 Hiroki Kuroda NYY SP 193 174 147 - - 170 150 196 193
184 152 Ervin Santana LAA SP 148 - 161 156 - - 176 187 197
185 NR Angel Pagan SF OF 187 167 178 187 154 - 163 193 -
186 NR Delmon Young DET OF 155 195 - 162 177 177 169 - 200
187 NR Brandon Morrow TOR SP - 176 170 154 161 - 198 175 -
188 162 Daniel Bard BOS RP 185 - 185 - - 99 - - 165
189 184 Wandy Rodriguez HOU SP - 137 166 199 194 185 184 189 186
190 NR Stephen Drew ARI SS - - 160 152 - - 197 151 -
191 187 Matt Joyce TB OF - 150 - 192 - 164 194 163 199
192 175 Carlos Quentin SD OF 194 - - 126 - - - 166 183
193 197 Justin Masterson CLE SP - 158 159 153 - - 200 - -
194 NR Brandon McCarthy OAK SP 170 200 179 188 - 147 - - 189
195 NR Josh Willingham MIN OF - - 184 - 183 167 190 158 -
196 171 J.P. Arencibia TOR C - 125 - - 178 - - 199 181
197 NR Huston Street COL RP - - 176 - 157 186 167 - -
198 204 Chris Sale CHW SP 183 - 177 - - 143 199 - 187
199 211 Yunel Escobar TOR SS 192 183 200 161 - - - 153 -
200 161 Russell Martin NYY C - 116 - - - - - - 171

Next 25: Kyle Farnsworth (TB, RP), Brandon League (SEA, RP), Edwin Encarnacion (TOR, 3B), Peter Bourjos (LAA, OF), Jhoulys Chacin (COL, SP), Colby Lewis (TEX, SP), Lucas Duda (NYM, 1B/OF), Scott Baker (MIN, SP), Mark Trumbo (LAA, 1B/OF), Brandon Belt (SF, 1B/OF), Vance Worley (PHI, SP), Clay Buchholz (BOS, SP), Wilson Ramos (WAS, C), Marco Scutaro (COL, SS), Seth Smith (OAK, OF), Colby Rasmus (TOR, OF), Alex Rios (CHW, OF), Carlos Pena (TB, 1B), Matt Thornton (CHW, RP), Chase Headley (SD, 3B), Kenley Jansen (LAD, RP), Yoenis Cespedes (OAK, OF), Yonder Alonso (SD, OF), Derek Holland (TEX, SP), Geovany Soto (CHC, C)

— by Mark Ross, Updated on March 20, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

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 Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

 

For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

Teaser:
<p> With Opening Day a few weeks away, Athlon Sports has updated its consensus MLB fantasy big board for 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-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.

Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-4, 7-1 SEC

Spring Practice: March 20-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Aaron Murray, 3,149 yards, 35 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Isaiah Crowell, 850 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Tavarres King, 47 rec., 705 yards, 8 TD
Tackles: Shawn Williams, 72
Sacks: Jarvis Jones, 13.5
Interceptions: Bacarri Rambo, 8

Redshirts to Watch: TE Jay Rome, WR Justin Scott-Wesley, LB Sterling Bailey, CB Devin Bowman, OL Xzavier Ward, OL Zach DeBell

Early Enrollees:

Keith Marshall,
RB (5-11, 190), Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook
Faton Bauta, QB (6-3, 225), West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer
Mark Beard, OL (6-4, 290), Adamsville (Ala.) Coffeyville C.C. (Kan.)

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Buffalo
Sept. 8 at Missouri
Sept. 15 Florida Atlantic
Sept. 22 Vanderbilt
Sept. 29 Tennessee
Oct. 6 at South Carolina
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Kentucky
Oct. 27 Florida
Nov. 3 Ole Miss
Nov. 10 at Auburn
Nov. 17 Georgia Southern
Nov. 24 Georgia Tech

Offensive Strength: Leadership and the passing game. With Aaron Murray returning after tossing 35 touchdown passes last season, offensive leadership should start and end with No. 11. He returns a glut of weapons despite the loss of tight end Orson Charles. If Mark Richt has the luxury of playing Malcolm Mitchell at cornerback, he must feel confident in his talented receiving corps.

Offensive Weakness: This one of the easier weaknesses to pinpoint in the SEC. The offensive line is the clear area of concern for this unit heading into spring. Replacing two All-SEC selections and another player who started every game is going to be the biggest questions for analysts to cover this summer.

Defensive Strength: This Georgia front seven should be one of the best in the nation. With the exception of DeAngelo Tyson, the third season under 3-4 guru Todd Grantham will feature virtually the same rotation of players that finished behind only Alabama and LSU in rushing defense in the SEC.

Defensive Weakness: On a defense that finished fifth in the nation last year and returns virtually intact, any weakness is a minor concern. However, the fact Richt might have to move Mitchell - who proved to be a dynamic offensive weapon as a freshman - to cornerback to help fill the void left by Brandon Boykin, indicates he has questions about his secondary. This is a group that cannot afford a significant injury.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bulldogs:

1. Richt and Murray said goodbye to first-team All-SEC left tackle Cordy Glenn, second-team All-SEC center Ben Jones and right tackle Justin Anderson. This group finished only seventh in the SEC in rushing a year ago and struggled mightily to move the football on the ground in the final two games. Yes, it was against LSU and Michigan State, but the Dawgs mustered only 1.7 yards per carry on 73 rushing attempts in those two losses to end 2011. Those are the types of teams Georgia has to be successful against in a conference that is built upon power football. David Andrews looks to be the leader in the clubhouse to replace Jones at center while Austin Long, Watts Danztler, junior college transfer Mark Beard, and come summer time, freshmen John Theus and Greg Pyke, will battle it out for time at tackle. Redshirt freshmen Xzavier Ward and Zach DeBell could also figure heavily into the mix for a group that will be the most closely monitored this spring. The good news is the depth at guard is outstanding as Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette return with starting experience. This unit is the key between another four-loss season and a truly special fall in Athens, Ga.

2. If the words National Championship want to be tossed around Athens this summer, the youngsters on this roster need to mature. Handling the expections of being the defending East champions will be an enourmous focus for the coaching staff. If local media can describe the start of spring practice like this, "Georgia begins spring practice on Tuesday, officially ushering in a 2012 season that has already started garnering buzz and anticipation at a level not seen in Athens for years," then keeping the team grounded and hungry will be that much more difficult. Young players in key positions — Isaiah Crowell, John Theus, Jay Rome, Ray Drew, Malcolm Mitchell, Marlon Brown — need to show they are ready to shoulder the load of the SEC spotlight.

3. Special teams have always been a staple under Richt at Georgia and he will need to find specialists of all kinds this spring. Longtime kicker Blair Walsh, who struggled in his final season in Athens (21 of 35), and punter Drew Butler, who earned All-SEC honorable mention, have exhausted their eligibility. Finding replacements will be a top priority this spring. Filling the hole by return specialist Brandon Boykin might be a taller order. The loss of the school's all-time kick return leader (2,263 yards) will be felt not only on special teams, but also...

4. In the ever-thinning defensive backfield. This unit has watched Boykin graduate, Jordan Love transfer and Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders get booted off the team. With suspensions looming for returning starters Sanders Commings and Branden Smith, finding suitable defensive backs who can contribute this season is the biggest issue on the defensive side of the ball. New faces Mitchell and redshirt freshman Devin Bowman could provide some quality depth, but how ready will the two newcomers be come September? Names like Damian Swann and Blake Sailors will be expected to step into bigger roles this spring. Cornerback is the key concern within this group, but developing sound depth behind star safety Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams would be welcomed safety net for secondary coach Scott Lakatos. 

Related Content Links

2012 Recruiting Class: No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs
College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles for 2012

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

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

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

Teaser:
<p> Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 06:35
Path: /college-football/college-football-ranking-acc-coaches
Body:

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the ACC:

1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (25 years)
Alma Mater: Virginia Tech (1966-69)
Record: 209-98-2 (1987-present)
Record: 42-23-2 (Murray State, 1981-1986)
Overall: 251-121-4 (31 years)

Born in the Commonwealth, playing in the Commonwealth and coaching the Commonwealth, “Beamerball” has been a fixture of Virginian football for more than four decades. Prior to his arrival in Blacksburg, the Hokies had been to six bowls games. After six years and a 24-40-2 record, Beamer broke through with his first bowl appearance in 1993. He has been to 19 straight bowl games since, including a Michael Vick-led chance at the 1999 national championship against Florida State. Beamer has claimed three Big East Championships (1995, 1996, 1999), four ACC titles (2004, 2007, 2008, 2010) and five conference Coach of the Year honors. He is the longest tenured and winningest active FBS coach in the nation and has had at least 10 wins in eight straight seasons and 11 of the last 13. Beamer was there to usher in two new eras of Hokie football as he transitioned his team from Independent status to the Big East in 1991 and then into the ACC in 2004. Virginia Tech has won the Coastal Division five times in its seven-year history and will likely be the preseason favorite once again in 2012. There are few better in the nation than Beamer.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Beamer has won 75% of conference games since 2001
  • Since 2001, Beamer's defenses win 3rd down 70% of the time
  • Since 2001, Virginia Tech has scored 22 special team TDs and given up just 7
  • Beamer is 10-1 against rival and conference foe Virginia since 2001

2. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (5 years)
Alma Mater: Western Carolina (1979), Appalachian State (1982)
Record: 33-19 (2008-present)
Record: 45-29 (Navy, 2002-2007)
Record: 62-10 (Georgia Southern, 1997-2001)
Overall: 140-58 (15 years)

After two I-AA National Championships at Georgia Southern, Johnson completely reinvented the Naval Academy before bringing his patented triple-option attack to the big leagues. Navy had been to nine bowl games in over 100 years of football when they hired Johnson. He led them to five bowl games in six seasons, including two wins. At Georgia Tech, there were doubts about whether or not the antiquated system would work in the ACC. After five seasons, two division championships and one ACC crown (2009), the answer is most definitively yes. The Jackets have led the ACC in rushing all four seasons under Johnson and finished no worse than fourth nationally on the ground. Georgia Tech enters 2012 as the top contender to Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Johnson's teams have averaged 302 rushing yards per game at Georgia Tech
  • Johnson's FBS offenses (10 yrs) have converted on 3rd Downs nearly 47% of the time
  • Johnson's FBS offensive possessions went three and out only 15% of the time
  • Johnson has won eight or more games in eight of the last 10 years

3. Al Golden, Miami (1 year)
Alma Mater: Penn State (1987-91)
Record: 6-6 (2011-present)
Record: 27-34 (Temple, 2006-2010)
Overall: 33-40 (6 years)

After spending time on Tom O’Brien’s staff at Boston College and Al Groh’s Virginia staff, Golden was plenty familiar with ACC football when he got the call from Coral Gables. He landed at Miami after building Temple into a MAC contender (he claimed 2009 MAC Coach of the Year honors). Despite the scrutiny from the Nevin Shapiro scandal and potential NCAA sanctions, Golden appears to have Miami trending back towards conference contention. After only its third non-winning season since 1979, Miami decided to withdraw itself from bowl contention due to the ongoing NCAA investigation in Golden's first year. The strong-willed, brutally honest head man recruited incredibly well in 2012 in the face of possible sanctions. His tribute to Howard Schnellenberger — his dress shirt, tie, slacks and jacket gameday combo — has once again become an iconic symbol on the Hurricanes’ sideline. The sky is the limit for Golden and Miami should they avoid heavy-handed NCAA sanctions.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Improved Temple's winning percentage by 25 percentage points compared to the five years prior to his arrival

4. Mike London, Virginia (2 years)
Alma Mater: Richmond (1979-82)
Record: 12-13 (2010-present)
Record: 24-5 (Richmond, 2008-2009)
Overall: 36-18 (4 years)

Virginia wanted to keep it in state in all senses of the word when it hired Mike London away from Richmond. He has completely reinvigorated the Cavalier brand name within the state as Wahoo recruiting has sky-rocketed since London took over in 2010. In only two seasons at the helm, London returned Virginia to posteason play for the first time since 2007 and has his program back near the top of the ACC recruiting hierarchy. The Cavaliers improved from 10th in the ACC in total and scoring defense in 2010 to third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense. London has constructed an excellent staff and has himself positioned for long-term success in Charlottesville.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • As a defensive coordinator (2006-2007) and head coach (2008-2011), Coach London's teams have won eight or more games four of his six years

5. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (2 years)
Alma Mater: Salem College (1985-86), Samford (1987)
Record: 19-8 (2010-present)

Fisher didn’t have an easy task taking over for a coaching legend (Bobby Bowden), while dealing with the always high expectations in Tallahassee. The Seminoles went to the ACC title game in Fisher’s first season and were picked by many to finish among the top 10 teams last year. However, Florida State underachieved last season, finishing 9-4 with a berth in the Champs Sports Bowl. Fisher has proven to be an excellent recruiter and is undefeated against the Seminoles’ biggest rivals – Miami and Florida. Florida State appears ready to re-emerge back on the scene as a national power, but it’s hard to rank Fisher any higher just three seasons into his career and with no ACC title on his resume.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Coach Fisher is just 9-7 as a head coach against teams that finish the season with a winning record and just 2-4 against Top 25 teams

6. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (11 years)
Alma Mater:
Ferrum (1971-72), Virginia (73-74)
Record: 68-67 (2001-present)
Record: 33-33-1 (Ohio, 1995-00)
Overall: 101-100-1 (17 years)

Outside of Duke, Wake Forest is probably the most difficult place to win in the ACC. Prior to Grobe’s arrival (2001) in Winston-Salem, the Demon Deacons had just four winning seasons from 1987-00. Wake Forest has played in five bowl games under Grobe, including an appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl. After a disappointing performance in 2010, the Demon Deacons bounced back to a 6-7 record last year and should be in position to make another bowl appearance in 2012. Grobe may never lead Wake Forest to a national title, but he is highly-respected and helped establish the Demon Deacons as a consistent bowl team in the ACC.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • From 1980-2000, Wake Forest had just four winning seasons. In his eleven years as head coach of the Demon Deacons, Grobe has had five winning seasons.
  • Since 2004, Coach Grobe has faced off against opponents 73% of the time when he had inferior talent and has managed to win nearly 50% of the time.

7. Tom O’Brien, NC State (5 years)
Alma Mater: Navy (1968-70)
Record: 33-30 (2007-present)
Record: 75-45 (Boston College, 1997-06)
Overall: 108-75 (15 years)

When reviewing O’Brien’s resume, it’s interesting to note his two coaching stops almost mirror each other. O’Brien’s tenure got off to a slow start at Boston College, beginning with two 4-7 seasons. At NC State, O’Brien posted three years of seven losses, but eventually turned both teams into a consistent bowl team. However, there was some doubt O’Brien would survive as NC State’s head coach last year, as the Wolfpack got off to a 4-4 start and needed a furious second-half rally to beat Maryland and clinch a bowl appearance. O’Brien has a solid resume after two stops, but has never finished a season with fewer than three losses and his NC State teams have consistently finished in the middle of the ACC each season.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • O'Brien has won eight or more games in eight of the last eleven seasons
  • 23% of Coach O'Brien's wins since 2001 have come against Cupcakes (FCS teams and Non-Conference, Non-AQ opponents who finish the season under .500). This is the second highest among active ACC head coaches with at least three years of head coaching experience in the ACC

8. Dabo Swinney, Clemson (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Alabama (1990-92)
Record: 29-19 (2008-present)

Tommy Bowden was fired midway through the 2008 season, opening the door for Swinney to serve as Clemson’s interim coach. The Tigers finished the year 4-3 and made an appearance in the Gator Bowl against Nebraska. Swinney was hired as the full-time coach after the regular season finale against South Carolina and has posted an overall record of 29-19 in his tenure. The Tigers have made two appearances in the ACC title game under Swinney’s watch and won the conference crown in 2011. Swinney is regarded as an excellent recruiter and has assembled a solid coaching staff with Chad Morris as his offensive coordinator and Brent Venables leading the defense. However, the Tigers had a disappointing 6-7 record in 2010 and if Clemson struggles in 2012, the blame is going to squarely fall on Swinney’s shoulders.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Swinney is just 13-15 against opponents that finish the season with a winning record
  • Swinney is 6-8 against Top 25 teams
  • Coach Swinney is 0-3 against arch rival South Carolina

9. Larry Fedora, North Carolina (First Year)
Alma Mater: Austin College (1981-84)
Record: First Season
Record: 34-19 (Southern Miss, 2008-11)

After learning from two of the best in the business — Bobby Bowden at Florida State and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State — Fedora got his first head coaching job at Southern Miss in 2008. A historically strong C-USA program, he maintained status quo with a slightly better than average 22-17 overall record in his first three seasons. However, in 2011, behind the leadership of senior quarterback Austin Davis, Fedora led the Eagles to a Conference USA championship after a major upset of then-unbeaten Houston. He took USM to a bowl game in all four of his seasons in Hattiesburg and accepted the Tar Heels’ head coaching position on December 7, 2011. Unfortunately for Fedora, his tenure in Chapel Hill got off to a rocky start - although no fault of his own - as the Tar Heels are banned from postseason play in 2012 and will have to deal with 15 fewer scholarship players over the next three years.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • In 13 years as an offensive coordinator and head coach, Coach Fedora's teams have lost five or more games in 11 of 13 years.

10. David Cutcliffe, Duke (3 years)
Alma Mater: Alabama
Record: 15-33 (2008-present)
Record: 44-29 (Ole Miss, 1998-2004)
Overall: 59-62 (11 years)

Cutcliffe has been an incredibly effective offensive coach — when he has a Manning under center. He was Peyton’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee and coached Eli at Ole Miss. With a Manning as his starter (2001-03), Cutcliffe is 24-13 as a head coach. Without a Manning guiding his ship, he is 35-49 as a head coach and hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2003 — aka Eli’s final season in Oxford. His offensive prowess is still respectable (see Thaddeus Lewis) but Duke has gone 6-26 in ACC play under Cutcliffe with only one season with at least two conference wins (3-5 in 2009).

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Cutcliff's 15 wins in his four years as head coach of the Blue Devils is just two shy of the number of wins Duke had in the 10 years prior to his arrival

11. Randy Edsall, Maryland (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Syracuse (1976-79)
Record: 2-10 (2011-present)
Record: 74-70 (Connecticut, 1999-2010)

Disaster is really the only way to properly describe Edsall’s inaugural season at Maryland. The Terrapins won only two games (Miami and Towson) and lost eight consecutive games to end the year. The disaster wasn’t relegated to just on-field activities, as 24 players have left the team since Edsall took over in College Park. Before coming to Maryland, Edsall posted a 74-70 record in 12 years at Connecticut, but only finished better than fourth two times in seven seasons in the Big East (Connecticut was a FCS school in 1999 and was a FBS Independent from 2000-03). Edsall still has time to redeem himself after an awful start, but there’s plenty of concern surrounding the direction of the program after just one year at Maryland.

12. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Penn State (1965-68)
Record: 20-19 (2009-present)

After 12 consecutive years with a winning record, Boston College slumped to a disappointing 4-8 mark in 2011. Although the Eagles made a bowl game in Frank Spaziani’s first two years, the program’s win total has declined over the last three seasons. With the lack of success last year, Spaziani needs to show progress in 2012 to keep his job in 2013. Former coach Jeff Jagodzinski didn’t exactly leave a full cupboard of players for Spaziani, but the Eagles can’t afford to sink too far in the standings, especially with the ACC likely expanding to 14 teams in 2013. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

  • Under Coach Spaziani, Boston College has scored 30 or more points just six times in 38 games
  • The Eagles won 74% of their games in the five years prior to Spaziani's arrival. BC is 20-19 under Coach Spaziani.
  • Coach Spaziani is 5-14 against teams finishing the season over .500 and 0-5 against Top 25 teams.

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

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

Teaser:
<p> College Football: Ranking the ACC Coaches</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-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.

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 11-2, 6-2  Big Ten

Spring practice: March 17-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7, K/P — 2

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Denard Robinson, 142 of 258, 2,173 yards, 20 TD, 15 INT
Rushing: Fitzgerald Toussaint, 187 att., 1,041 yards, 9 TD*
Receiving: Jeremy Gallon, 31 rec., 453 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: Kenny Demens, 94
Sacks: Craig Roh and Jordan Kovacs, 4
Interceptions: J.T. Floyd and Courtney Avery, 2

* - Robinson actually led the team in rushing with 1,176 yards. Toussaint led all running backs in rushing.

Redshirts to watch: RB Justice Hayes, DE Chris Rock, LB Antonio Poole, OL Chris Bryant

Early Enrollees:

Joe Bolden, LB (6-3, 230), Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain
Kaleb Ringer, LB (6-1, 225), Clayton (Ohio) Northmont
Jarrod Wilson, DB (6-2, 190), Akron (Ohio) Buchtel

2012 Schedule

Big Ten 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Alabama (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 8 Air Force
Sept. 15 UMass
Sept. 22 at Notre Dame
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 at Purdue
Oct. 13 Illinois
Oct. 20 Michigan State
Oct. 27 at Nebraska
Nov. 3 at Minnesota
Nov. 10 Northwestern
Nov. 17 Iowa
Nov. 24 at Ohio State

Offensive Strength: One word: Quarterback. Denard Robinson is entering his third full season as the starter after back-to-back 2,000-yard/1,000-yard seasons and a BCS Bowl win over Virginia Tech. He is the most explosive athlete playing quarterback in the entire nation. While his efficiency could still use some work, his leadership and production are virtually unmatched nationally.

Offensive Weakness: There really isn't a major area of concern for this unit, but without Rimington Award winner David Molk at center, Kevin Koger at tight end and Mark Huyge at right tackle, the offensive line will need to rebuild this spring. With Taylor Lewan back, however, this isn't a position that will keep Michigan from winning a Big Ten title.

Defensive Strength: The back seven returns entirely intact minus Troy Woolfolk, so this has to be considered the muscle of the defense. Every contributing linebacker returns and has added two early enrollee freshman, including future star Joe Bolden. The secondary returns two all-conference performers and plenty of depth as well.

Defensive Weakness: The defensive line lost two all-conference players and has to be completely reworked. How well Michigan fills the holes left by leading sackmaster Ryan Van Bergen and interior stud Mike Martin could determine if this is a Big Ten title team or perhaps even more than that.

Spring Storylines Facing the Maize and Blue:

1. Rebuilding the defensive line this spring might determine just how high this team can go in 2012. Without Martin, Van Bergen and Will Heininger, the group lacks experience outside of Craig Roh. The D-Line was easily the most improved unit from 2010 to 2011 and was the main factor in Michigan being able to land in a BCS bowl in Brady Hoke's first season. Jibreel Black, Quinton Washington and Frank Clark have some ability, but uber-recruit William Campbell needs to show fans what recruiting scouts saw in him back when he was the Big Ten's No. 2-rated overall recruit in 2009. Fans are eagerly awaiting the arrival of potential freshman contributor Ondre Pipkins this summer. His addition will be that much more effective if Roh, Campbell and company can solidify the rotation up front. With expectations sky high in Ann Arbor this season, the defensive line will likely be the difference between a great Michigan season and a truly special one — also known as the BCS National Championship game.

2. Developing the receiving corps. Hoke has to replace his top receiver in Junior Hemingway and dependable tight end in Kevin Koger. Roy Roundtree (355 yards) and Jeremy Gallon (453 yards) return as the top targets for Robinson and should step into bigger roles with relative ease.  Beyond that, names like Jeremy Jackson, Drew Dileo and Jerald Robinson must develop into consistent play-making threats. There is little experience at tight end but lots of bodies. Tight ends Brandon Moore and Ricardo Miller will be the starters in spring practice with the addition of AJ Williams and Devin Funchess looming this summer. Developing a reliable rotation of pass-catchers at both wideout and tight end has to be near the top of Shoelace's spring wish list.

3. Shoelace also needs to stay healthy, and to do so, Hoke will need to find replacements for some key losses along the offensive line, most notably the center position. Rimington Trophy winner David Molk isn't around any longer to lead the hog mollies, so redshirt freshman Jack Miller, senior converted guard Ricky Barnum and veteran reserve Rocko Khoury will likely fight it out for the starting spot. With star left tackle Taylor Lewan protecting Robinson's blindside and two experienced guards, Michael Schofield and Patrick Omameh, returning to the starting line-up, the center position will take center stage this spring.

4. Dealing with expectations. This Michigan team will likely be picked by Athlon Sports to win the Legends Division and probably the Big Ten title. With a chance to knock off the defending champion Crimson Tide — and their completely rebuilt defense — on the fast track of Jerry's World in Week 1 could also have Maize and Blue faithful thinking South Beach in January. After a tremendous first season under Hoke, the players need to remain grounded, work as hard as ever and stay healthy this spring. This falls to the team leaders Robinson and Lewan on offense and Jordan Kovacs, J.T. Floyd, Kenny Demens and Roh on defense.

Related Content Links

Athlon Sports No. 6 Recruiting Class: Michigan Wolverines
College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles for 2012

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

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

Big Ten 2012 Schedule Analysis
2012 Very Early Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's Very Early Top 25 for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Michigan Wolverines 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 16, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-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.

Florida Gators 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 7-6, 3-5 SEC

Spring practice: March 14-April 7

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 11

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Jacoby Brissett, 18 of 39, 206 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Mike Gillislee, 56 att., 328 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Andre Debose, 16 rec., 432 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Jon Bostic, 94
Sacks: Ronald Powell, 6
Interceptions: Matt Elam and De'Ante Saunders, 2

Redshirts to watch: WR JaJuan Story, S Valdez Showers

Early Enrollees:

Willie Bailey, DB (6-1, 167), Hallandale (Fla.) High
Jessamen Dunker, OL (6-4, 320), Boynton Beach (Fla.) High
D.J. Humphries, OL (6-6, 271), Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
Damien Jacobs, DL (6-3, 310), Scooba (Miss.) East Miss. C.C.
Antonio Morrison, LB (6-1, 209), Bollingbrook (Ill.) High

JUCO Transfers to watch: DT Damien Jacobs

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 Bowling Green
Sept. 8 at Texas A&M
Sept. 15 at Tennessee
Sept. 22 Kentucky
Sept. 27 Bye Week
Oct. 6 LSU
Oct. 13 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 20 South Carolina
Oct. 27 Georgia
Nov. 3 Missouri
Nov. 10 UL-Lafayette
Nov. 17 Jacksonville State
Nov. 24 at Florida State

Offensive Strength: On a unit that has struggled ever since Urban Meyer left town, is it okay to say none? There is still plenty of offensive skill depth and versatility, but none of those hefty recruiting rankings have panned out. It's not to say that there is loads of potential, especially in the receiving corps. There is plenty of speed with Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar and Frankie Hammond on the outside while Jordan Reed and A.C. Leonard were two of the most highly-touted tight ends in the nation. This group can only improve.

Offensive Weakness: Since this entire offense was "highly-touted" and has yet to stabilize in any sense of the word, really every position could be listed as a weakness. However, the offensive line could feature two true freshman this fall and therefore gets the nod as the biggest area of concern. But make no mistake, the quarterbacks or running game (or receivers for that matter) aren't in much better shape.

Defensive Strength: All areas of this defense are supremely talented and return intact, but if one area is the strength it would have to be the defensive line. Fourteen players registered a sack last fall for Florida and 12 of them are returning, including six of the top seven D-Linemen. This is an active, explosive, versatile and extremely talented front line. Fans have high expectations for uber-recruits Ronald Powell, Dominique Easley, Omar Hunter and Sharrif Floyd.

Defensive Weakness: This unit is quite the opposite of the offense. With 11 starters returning, there really isn't a glaring weakness. Finding tall corners that fit Wil Muschamp's scheme might be an area of focus for the spring. Developing a physical Alabama-esque edge in the extremely athletic linebacking corps is important. And adding bulk up front are small areas of development for a defense that could be the SEC East's most talented unit.

Spring Storylines Facing the Gators

1. Stablizing the offensive coaching staff had to be Muschamp's top priority this offseason. With the hiring of former Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease to call plays, the Gators will be featuring its fourth OC in four seasons. Hardly stable. Yet, Pease helped develop one of the most prolific offensive attacks in the nation in Boise and is charged with the continued shift from Meyer spread to Muschamp pro-style. There are a lot of moving parts on the offense and figuring out how they all fit together needs to be done quickly if Pease expects to complete the transition to the more traditional power offense.

2. Finding a quarterback will be Pease's main focus this spring. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Gators truly have no clue who will be the starting quarterback on September 1. Both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are dripping with talent, arm strength and size. Yet, both are young, inexperienced and need development. Additionally, Pease has no loyalty to either as he didn't recruit them to Gainesville. It is a quarterback competition in its truest form and the winner of the job will get the keys to one of the most prolific offensive programs in the modern history of college football.

3. Does there seem to be a developing theme with Florida football this spring? With a new coordinator and new quarterback, the next step for the Gators is to develop the offensive line. Both in pass pro and the running game, the Gators front line struggled mightily a year ago. So even though 50 starts return to the O-Line, Pease knows he needs an influx of young talent to advance this bunch. Look for incoming freshmen and early enrollees D.J. Humphries, who was the No. 1 offensive lineman recruit in the nation, and Jessamen Dunker to push for starting spots in the trenches. These two big-time recruits cannot be asked to step in and be stars right away, but if they can simply play effective football, it should press the incumbents to improve. For a team that finished 73rd in the nation in rushing and 105th nationally in total offense, it all starts up front.

4. Last but not least is the running game. If the new coordinator can design an effective game plan, the quarterback can protect the football and the offensive line can develop, it will fall to the undistinguished ball carriers to pick up the tough yards in SEC play. Ironing out who will be will get the lion's share of the touches is completely up in the air. Mike Gillislee is likely the most dependable. Trey Burton might be the most physical (and best suited for a pro-style attack) but is more of a fullback and H-Back than tailback. And sophomore Mack Brown might have the most upside. Someone in the backfield has to step up after the loss of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps — who didn't really fit Muschamp's desired power scheme anyway despite their success. All three should be pressing in spring camp as they may simply be keeping the seat warm for 6-foot-2, 213-pound star recruit Matt Jones (who is definitely keeping the seat warm for 2013 superstar Kelvin Taylor).

Related Content Links

Athlon Sports No. 3 Recruiting Class: Florida Gators
College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles for 2012

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

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

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

Teaser:
<p> Florida Gators 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 06:43
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-db
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

Here are the best incoming defensive backs in the nation:

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Shaq Thompson 6'2" 215 Sacramento, CA No. 6 Washington
2. Tracy Howard 5'9" 170 Miramar, FL No. 18 Miami
3. Landon Collins 6' 202 Geismer, LA No. 21 Alabama
4. Ronald Darby 5'11" 176 Oxon Hill, MD No. 34 Florida State
5. Tee Shepard 6'1" 175 Fresno, CA No. 43 Notre Dame
6. Geno Smith 6' 182 Atlanta, GA No. 61 Alabama
7. Travis Blanks 6'1" 195 Tallahassee, FL No. 62 Clemson
8. Yuri Wright 6'1" 185 Ramsey, NJ No. 70 Colorado
9. Brian Poole 5'10" 202 Bradenton, FL No. 72 Florida
10. Alex Carter 6' 195 Ashburn, VA No. 76 Stanford
11. Kevon Seymour 6' 170 Pasadena, CA No. 96 USC
12. Deon Bush 6'1" 179 Miami, FL No. 102 Miami
13. DeVante Harris 5'10" 160 Mesquite, TX No. 110 Texas A&M
14. LaDarrell McNeil 6'1" 195 Dallas, TX No. 112 Tennessee
15. Elijah Shumate 6'1" 205 East Orange, NJ No. 117 Notre Dame
16. Marcus Maye 5'11" 200 Melbourne, FL No. 118 Florida
17. P.J. Williams 6'2" 190 Ocala, FL No. 124 Florida State
18. Terry Richardson 5'9" 165 Detroit, MI No. 128 Michigan
19. Bryson Echols 5'10" 165 DeSoto, TX No. 138 Texas
20. Ishmael Adams 5'10" 190 Westlake Village, CA No. 141 UCLA
21. Armani Reeves 5'10" 185 West Roxbury, MA No. 142 Ohio State
22. Joshua Hosley 5'11" 175 Fairburn, GA No. 144 Auburn
23. A.J. Leggett 6' 175 Miami, FL No. 160 Marshall
24. Duke Thomas 5'11" 170 Killeen, TX No. 163 Texas
25. Adrian Colbert 6'2" 191 Mineral Wells, TX No. 181 Texas
26. Trae Elston 6' 183 Oxford, AL No. 189 Ole Miss
27. Demetrious Cox 6'1" 192 Jeannette, PA No. 199 Michigan State
28. De'Van Bogard 6' 175 Cleveland, OH No. 215 Ohio State
29. Chaz Elder 6'2" 187 Union City, GA No. 222 South Carolina
30. Wayne Morgan 5'11" 191 Brooklyn, NY No. 225 Syracuse
31. T.J. Davis 6'1" 180 Tallahassee, FL No. 237 Auburn
32. Lucas Thompson 6'1" 190 Winter Garden, FL No. 245 East Carolina
33. Corey Thompson 6'2" 205 Missouri City, TX No. 246 LSU
34. Donaldven Manning 5'9" 155 Miami, FL No. 253 Virginia Tech
35. Dwayne Thomas 6'1" 170 New Orleans, LA No. 258 LSU
36. Brandon Beaver 6' 176 Long Beach, CA No. 260 Washington
37. Raymond Ford 5'11" 174 Gardena, CA No. 263 Cal
38. Rhaheim Ledbetter 5'11" 195 Shleby, NC No. 268 Florida

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: DB</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-recruiting-rankings-qb
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

My biggest issue with quarterback recruiting rankings is the lack of quarterback depth near the top of the rankings. Normally, there are four to six AC100 signal callers in any given year. However, seeing as how the quarterback is the single most important position on the field, it seems like the position (somehow, someway) gets underranked.

The 2006 quarterback class comes to mind. The Tim Tebows and Matt Staffords landed in five-star territory, but Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Greg McElroy, Christian Ponder, Thad Lewis, Ricky Stanzi, Nate Davis and Todd Reesing were all three-star prospects. It makes no sense that every one of those names wasn't at least considered a "national recruit." For some reason, the most important piece to any football puzzle gets consistently underranked. 

In 2012, there are only five top-100 quarterback recruits — one of which is a longshot to stick at the position. I find it hard to believe that only five of the best 100 players in the nation play quarterback.

Additionally, where a player lands can also impact how he is rated. Devin Fuller and Anthony Alford, for example, might not be listed as quarterbacks had they gone to different schools. But at UCLA and Southern Miss, those two dual-threat athletes will get every chance to play quarterback.

The league to watch out for in this class is the Pac-12. Washington and Cal landed arguably the two most game-ready signal callers in the nation in Cyler Miles and Zach Kline respectively. UCLA and BYU each landed an elite passer as well, giving the West Coast four of the top six quarterback prospects.

Here are the best incoming quarterbacks in the nation:

  Name HT WT Hometown AC100 College
1. Jameis Winston 6'3" 195 Hueytown, AL No. 15 Florida State
2. Gunner Kiel 6'4" 220 Columbus, IN No. 24 Notre Dame
3. Devin Fuller 6' 195 Old Tappan, NJ No. 35 UCLA
4. Zach Kline 6'2" 210 Danville, CA No. 39 Cal
5. Cyler Miles 6'4" 218 Centennial, CO No. 91 Washington
6. Tanner Mangum 6'3" 195 Eagle, ID No. 113 BYU
7. Chad Kelly 6'3" 209 Buffalo, NY No. 115 Clemson
8. Anthony Alford 6' 200 Petal, MS No. 119 Southern Miss
9. Connor Brewer 6'2" 200 Scottsdale, AZ No. 134 Texas
10. Zeke Pike 6'6" 225 Edgewood, KY No. 153 Auburn
11. Matt Davis 6'2" 202 Houston, TX No. 162 Texas A&M
12. Jeremy Liggins 6'3" 270 Oxford, MS No. 171 LSU
13. Travis Wilson 6'6" 207 San Clemente, CA No. 183 Utah
14. T.J. Millweard 6'4" 225 Ft. Worth, TX No. 192 UCLA
15. Tyler Matthews 6'3" 205 McPherson, KS No. 193 TCU
16. Chad Voytik 6'1" 185 Cleveland, TN No. 200 Pittsburgh
17. Justin Thomas 5'11" 185 Prattville, AL No. 202 Georgia Tech
18. Ford Childress 6'4" 210 Houston, TX No. 250 West Virginia
19. Tommy Armstrong 6'2" 210 Cibolo, TX No. 252 Nebraska
20. Bart Houston 6'4" 215 Dublin, CA No. 259 Wisconsin

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: QB</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-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. 

South Carolina Gamecocks 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 11-2, 6-2 SEC

Spring practice: Mar. 13-Apr 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Connor Shaw, 65.4%, 1,448 yards, 14 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Marcus Lattimore, 163 car., 818 yards, 10 TD
Receiving: Ace Sanders, 29 rec., 486 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: D.J. Swearinger, 80
Sacks: Jadeveon Clowney, 8
Interceptions: D.J. Swearinger, 3

Redshirts to watch: OL Brandon Shell, DT Phillip Dukes, LB Edward Muldrow, TE Drew Owens, LB Cedrick Cooper, W Shamier Jeffery, FS Sheldon Royster

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 at Vanderbilt
Sept. 8 East Carolina
Sept. 15 UAB
Sept. 22 Missouri
Sept. 29 at Kentucky
Oct. 6 Georgia
Oct. 13 at LSU
Oct. 20 at Florida
Oct. 27 Tennessee
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 10 Arkansas
Nov. 17 Wofford
Nov. 24 at Clemson

Offensive Strength: It may just feel weird to say this, but the running backs are the clear strength of Steve Spurrier's offense. Assuming Marcus Lattimore returns to form, Spurrier will boast the most talented running back in the nation as well as a rising sophomore who posted three 100-yard games in Lattimore's absence last fall. Toss in a quarterback who carried 135 times and, according to NCAA stats, technically led the team in yards per game (52.5), the 'Cocks have plenty of people to carry the football.

Offensive Weakness: Just how productive those backs will be depends on filling some holes along the offensive line. There is plenty of talent here to work with, but replacing 31 starts up front, including first-team All-SEC left tackle Rokevious Watkins, won't be easy.

Defensive Strength: It only took South Carolina two decades, but this defensive line has a decisively SEC-feel to it. It has turned into a year-in, year-out strength for a program that has only been to one SEC title game. Despite losing Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson, this defensive line is stacked. Combine that with only one departing linebacker, and Carolina boasts one of the best front sevens in the nation.

Defensive Weakness: The secondary will have to be almost completely reworked, however, that may not be as terrible as it sounds. Stephon Gilmore was a solid player but never built on his solid early production. C.C. Whitlock and Marty Markett also depart at corner.

Spring Storylines Facing the Gamecocks:

1. The health of Marcus Lattimore. The guy who will get the most attention this spring for Carolina might not play a single down in spring practice. The former National Freshman of the Year and likely first-team preseason All-American running back is returning from ACL surgery. He will begin to push the knee more this spring — with lateral movements and cutting — but it isn't worth risking a setback with any contact or team drills. This team went 5-1 with him out of the lineup last year, but with the best back in America fully healthy, this team could easily challenge for an SEC title.

2. Lorenzo Ward is now the sole owner of the defensive coordinator position in Columbia after two very successful campaigns with the Cocks. With Ellis Johnson moving on to take the Southern Miss head coaching position, the onus to continue South Carolina's stellar play falls to Ward. The bad news is the departure of leaders Melvin Ingram, Rodney Paulk and Antonio Allen. The good news is the defensive line is abosolutely stacked, the secondary is deep and the linebackers are talented. Finding a new 'Spur,' filling voids at corner and linebacker will be key. How will Ward put his stamp on a defense that finished third nationally in total defense (behind only Alabama and LSU) and 11th in scoring defense — or should he change much at all?

3. Despite the loss of Allen, D.J. Swearinger, the team's leading returning tackler and intercepter, returns with DeVonte Holloman to form a solid safety tandem. Holloman should slide into the Spur position vacated by Allen because there is loads of depth behind them. Look for redshirt Sheldon Royster to get plenty of reps with Swearinger still recovering from foot surgery. Yet, the cornerback position lost Gilmore, Whitlock and Markett, so filling these voids is key this spring. Getting Akeem Auguste back healthy on the field will help, but much will be expected from names like Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree — who shifts over from safety. Even linebacker Edward Muldrow could see time in the secondary. There is plenty of upside and potential in this group, but it also features a lot of moving parts at the moment. This spring should go a long way to fitting the pieces together.

4. A.J. Cann and T.J. Johnson return to the offensive line and will control the interior of the trenches, be it at guard or center for Johnson. The other three spots on the offensive line must be solidified this spring. Cody Gibson and Will Sport will likely compete for the right tackle job while Kyle Harris, Kaleb Broome and freshman Clayton Stadnik should add plenty of depth to the interior. Stud recruit Brandon Shell is the guy the coaching staff is likely rooting for to win the left tackle gig. With Mike Matulis, Brock Stadnik and Travis Ford all missing time with injuries, finding depth and organizing the offensive line two-deep will be important. This is the portion of the team that seems to have held Carolina back over the last decade, so an SEC title could, literally, be on the line.

5. The development of the passing game. With the running backs healthy, and should the offensive line develop, the passing game then becomes the focus. Connor Shaw has had his share of struggles but also proved late last fall that he is clearly the future of the position. His athletic ability was never the problem, but as the season progressed he proved his arm was developing as well. Through his first five starts A.G. (aka After Garcia), Shaw tossed 44 incompletions while connecting on just over 60% of his passes. Over the final three contests, he threw only 14 incomplete passes for a completion rate over 75%. He will enter his junior season as the unquestioned starter and brings stability to a position that has lacked maturity for years. Look for Shaw to filter through a talented but undistinguished receiving corps this spring, and, most importantly, stay healthy. He and his receivers will have to prove this fall they can win games when teams stack the box to stop Lattimore.

Related Content Links

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

2012 Very Early SEC Predictions

Athlon's Very Early Top 25 for 2012

2012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 19 South Carolina

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines for 2012

Teaser:
<p> South Carolina Gamecocks 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 07:09
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

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