Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2015-spring-football-preview
Body:

The Sooners entered last season with loads of hype following a devastatingly impressive performance over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

 

Many had Oklahoma winning the Big 12 title and participating in the College Football Playoff.

 

Neither of these will be a concern for Bob Stoops and his Crimson and Cream faithful this spring. This team should enter spring practice grounded after a Stoops-worst five losses last year — four of which came in the Big 12. The 5-4 mark was the worst conference record of Stoops' entire career. 

 

With an overhauled coaching staff, a rebuilt line of scrimmage on both sides and questions under center, Oklahoma has its work cut out for it this spring. That said, this is still one of the most talented rosters in the nation led by one of the best head coaches, so expectations aren't going anywhere in Norman.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Oklahoma’s Spring Practice:

 

1. The Quarterback Battle

Trevor Knight was supposed to be a Heisman candidate in 2014, but his season spiraled out of control after a pick-six cost the Sooners the TCU game. Now he is in a dogfight with Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield and former OU baseballer (and spot starter) Cody Thomas for the Sooners' starting gig. Stoops and new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley need to depart spring camp with a good idea of the QB pecking order. The good news for Knight is that he brings something totally different to the table with his athleticism than either Mayfield or Thomas — IF that is what Riley wants under center.

 

2. Plug two big gaps at tackle

Departed defensive tackles Jordan Phillips and Chuka Ndulue have left Stoops with a huge void in the middle of his defensive line. There are plenty of linebackers returning and despite issues giving up big plays, the secondary returns plenty of talent too. But those position groups may not matter if OU can’t hold the point of attack up front.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview



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3. Rebuild the O-line

The quarterback position is critical and we will get to the backfield, but the biggest concern on offense for the Sooners is up front along the line. Four starters are gone from this unit, leaving Riley and Stoops to completely rebuild the offensive front. The first task will be at tackle where OU loses two first-team All-Big 12 players in Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson. Stabilizing this group will go a long way to helping develop a quarterback.   

 

4. Divide the workload

This collection of ball carriers might be the best in Norman since the current regime arrived 16 years ago. Which is saying something for a school with Adrian Peterson, Quentin Griffin and DeMarco Murray filling up pages in the record books. Samaje Perine, Alex Ross, Keith Ford, possibly Joe Mixon and incoming freshman Rodney Anderson might form the best backfield in the nation and the new offensive staff needs to figure out a way to get as many of them involved as often as possible. Riley's background as an Air Raid disciple makes this storyline even more intriguing.

 

5. Stabilize the sideline

One of the biggest storylines for Stoops this spring might have nothing to do with his players. With an entirely new coaching staff around him, meshing on the sidelines and in meeting rooms is just as important as anything else in Norman. Lincoln Riley brings a new offense from East Carolina and designing the right system for the roster will be huge for the Sooners. A reinvention worked for Gary Patterson and TCU last year, the same could be true for Oklahoma.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Oklahoma:

 

Oklahoma is always one of the most physically gifted teams in the Big 12 and is led by a potential Hall of Fame coach. Needless to say, the Sooners are always a threat to compete for a league title, especially with one of the best running back corps ever assembled. However, this current roster doesn't feel like one of his best so Stoops will have to find answers under center, along both lines of scrimmage and on the sideline. Should things come together this spring, however, and double-digit wins in the fall appear to be well within reach.

Teaser:
Oklahoma Sooners 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 23, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-2015-spring-football-preview
Body:

For the second time since 2011, Florida enters a season with a new leader at the helm of its once pristine football powerhouse.

 

Jim McElwain comes to Gainesville checking every box that Jeremy Foley needed in a new head football coach. He wanted a guy with head coaching and SEC experience (check and check). He wanted a guy known for developing high-powered offenses at a championship level (check and check). He wanted a guy who will rally the fan base and build a quality staff (check and check).

 

But that doesn't mean McElwain doesn't have loads of depth chart issues to overcome in his first spring. 

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Florida’s Spring Practice:

 

1. The Quarterback Battle

There is no doubt Treon Harris sparked the Gators' offense when he took over full-time midway through the season. But he was far from All-SEC good, completing just 49.5 percent of his passes and averaging just 126 yards per game in six starts to end the year. He will be pressed by a new coaching staff as well as redshirt freshman Will Grier. McElwain needs to figure out if either can be the future star at quarterback Gators fans have craved since No. 15 departed.

 

2. Replace four starters up front

The best way to help a struggling offense is to rebuild the offensive line, protect the passer and open up running lanes. That's been easier said than done for Florida lately and it won't get any easier for the new staff this spring. Only Trip Thurman returns to a group that needs to replace both tackles, the center and a guard all in one offseason. Remember, someone might just be keeping the seat warm for consensus No. 1 offensive tackle prospect Martez Ivey.

 

3. Develop some playmakers

This also has long been an issue in Gainesville but this is a program located in a state that should never want for playmakers. Demarcus Robinson has special ability and is back, but no other returning Gator caught more than 15 passes. Additionally, leading rusher Matt Jones left early for the NFL. McElwain has some nice pieces to work with in Robinson and Kelvin Taylor, but he needs to find All-SEC-type stars to get the football too. He did it at Colorado State with Kapri Bibbs and Dee Hart, he should be able to do it at Florida.   

 

4. Fill Dante Fowler's shoes

Be it Ronald Powell, Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd or Dante Fowler, the Gators have long been inking five-star defensive line talent. CeCe Jefferson is the next in that long line but won't get to Gainesville until the summer. So with Fowler leaving, new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins needs to find a star pass rusher this spring. Jonathan Bullard can be a rock in the middle but isn't the explosive athlete Collins needs on the D-line. Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox both played significant minutes, combining for 10 sacks last fall. More will be expected of them this spring. The rest of the defense is stacked so a quickly developing D-line could give Florida the top defense in the division.

 

5. Get your swag back

These are the Florida Gators we are talking about here and this program needs to regain its former swagger. Part of the reason Will Muschamp was able to win 11 games in 2012 was the physical nature of the team and the overall confidence of the roster. This program has lost its confidence and Collins' defensive attitude needs to set the tone this spring. After all, this is a team that really won eight games last year (Idaho was cancelled) and was just quarters (not games) away from winning the East.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Florida:

 

The issues, in particular on offense, are obvious for the Gators: Develop a quarterback, find some playmakers and rebuild the offensive line. However, Florida isn't short on talent and there may not be an elite, playoff-caliber team in the East. This team wasn't nearly as bad last season as the headlines portrayed, so if McElwain is as good as advertised, this squad could easily be competing for an East title in 2015. 

Teaser:
Florida Gators 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 23, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-2015-pac-12-early-preview
Body:

 

Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan go in-depth with an early 2015 Pac-12 conference preview.

 

Has the Pac-12 caught the SEC as the nation's best conference? Is the Pac-12 South the best division in football? Or is this league too tough to produce a playoff team in 2015?

 

Is the State of Arizona or the City of Los Angeles better equipped to make a run at the Pac-12 South Division title? Is there someone other than Stanford or Oregon in the North that is ready to challenge for the crown?

 

The fellas touch on every team and how the predictions might shake out in the Pac-12 in 2015.


Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: 2015 Pac-12 Early Preview
Post date: Monday, March 23, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-2015-acc-early-preview
Body:

 

Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan go in-depth with an early 2015 ACC conference preview.

 

Has the ACC elevated itself into national prominence with the likes of the SEC and Pac-12? Who are the best quarterbacks in the league and who will start for Florida State?

 

Just how wide open is the Coastal Division? Are Miami and North Carolina the wild cards to watch? Can Duke maintain their current level of play? Which Tech school has the best shot to win the division?

 

The rise of NC State and Boston College combined with the addition of Louisville has helped boost the ACC's standing, but can any of the three challenge the balance of power in the Atlantic Division?

 

The fellas touch on every team and how the predictions might shake out in the ACC in 2015.


Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: 2015 ACC Early Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 13:38
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2015-fantasy-baseball-big-board-rankings
Body:

Fantasy baseball leagues can be won from every location in the draft — early in the round or late — and with any variety of strategies. Some take pitching early while others wait on arms. Some like to go after veteran players in the twilight of their careers with low risk, while others go after youthful upside and the risk that comes along with it.

 

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

 

Enter Athlon Sports' consensus fantasy baseball Big Board. Rankings culled from CBS Sports (Scott White), ESPN, FOX, MLB.com, USA Today, Sports Illustrated (SI) and Yahoo! (in order) have been combined and averaged to offer the best possible fantasy baseball rankings on the web.

 

Note: Yu Darvish has been omitted from FOX Sports (33rd), Sports Illustrated (27th) and Yahoo! (36th) rankings due to his elbow injury, which resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery.

 

Athlon Sports official preview magazine can be purchased here.

 

2015 Fantasy Baseball Big Board:

 

 NameTeamPos.CBSESPNFOXMLBUSASIY!
1Mike TroutLAAOF1111111
2Andrew McCutchenPITOF3233222
3Giancarlo StantonMIAOF5322456
4Paul GoldschmidtARI1B4454335
5Clayton KershawLADSP6565543
6Miguel CabreraDET3B21146874
7Carlos GomezMILOF11677687
8Jose AbreuCHW1B7988768
9Jose BautistaTOROF108911151210
10Edwin EncarnacionTOR3B971314111012
11Adam JonesBALOF191517109119
12Felix HernandezSEASP16101013141513
13Anthony RizzoCHC1B1213111620911
14Robinson CanoSEA2B17121412161414
15Jose AltuveHOU2B1319189182015
16Troy TulowitzkiCOLSS8141215171828
17Anthony RendonWAS2B/3B14201624121317
18Max ScherzerWASSP21211922132416
19Yasiel PuigLADOF18162118282118
20Adrian BeltreTEX3B24172032221619
21Chris SaleCHWSP23242621251720
22Michael BrantleyCLEOF25223019232522
23Hanley RamirezBOSSS35302320102821
24Ian DesmondWASSS38262228191924
25Jacoby EllsburyNYYOF27232817293323
26Josh DonaldsonTOR3B15322931322327
27Stephen StrasburgWASSP28253627372225
28Madison BumgarnerSFSP31283129243426
29Buster PoseySFC/1B39291523274332
30Freddie FreemanATL1B33182442343029
31David PriceDETSP20332733333535
32Ryan BraunMILOF30274134214030
33Corey KluberCLESP22312530354139
34Justin UptonSDOF40343825312634
35Bryce HarperWASOF34363536302931
36Johnny CuetoCINSP26383437435752
37Zack GreinkeLADSP42394947394238
38Jose ReyesTORSS49423238265456
39Starling MartePITOF67374326483253
40Albert PujolsLAA1B36484741405540
41Jon LesterCHCSP37415149544643
42Corey DickersonCOLOF65354635723141
43Carlos GonzalezCOLOF66493752413647
44Adrian GonzalezLAD1B51503960583833
45Jordan ZimmermannWASSP54445448475151
46Matt KempSDOF41546151454957
47George SpringerHOUOF60435046684745
48Cole HamelsPHISP43467162564544
49Ian KinslerDET2B57514443556554
50Evan LongoriaTB3B47405667525660
51Nolan ArenadoCOL3B44757966423755
52Billy HamiltonCINOF91576440535046
53Yoenis CespedesDETOF70475239825358
54Aroldis ChapmanCINSP79535545576661
55Todd FrazierCIN1B/3B50745391366350
56Prince FielderTEX1B92605864495842
57David OrtizBOSDH52526689694848
58Victor MartinezDETDH/C294559801043976
59Adam WainwrightSTLSP456842112625949
60Craig KimbrelATLRP74566554616762
61Kyle SeagerSEA3B78626382386063
62Joey VottoCIN1B59896087445259
63Nelson CruzSEAOF53597363667166
64Brian DozierMIN2B32676278518882
65Jonathan LucroyMILC617848535087104
66Julio TeheranATLSP63589175646871
67Greg HollandKCRP73637755738169
68Jeff SamardzijaCHWSP55616871767788
69Hunter PenceHOUOF758140-964437
70Alex CobbTBSP89558761677273
71Dee GordonMIA2B72947057708067
72Jason KipnisCLE2B86655756757993
73Matt HarveyNYMSP487676811036274
74Matt HollidaySTLOF58848295876164
75Jason HeywardSTLOF102798569467675
76Evan GattisHOUC4610283448494106
77Kole CalhounLAAOF-647565806986
78Christian YelichMIAOF88729258928679
79Carlos SantanaCLE1B/3B567784-6010365
80Jay BruceCINOF110878870657584
81James ShieldsSDSP807074867810983
82David WrightNYM3B82-6979749280
83Devin MesoracoCINC629778118639595
84Chris DavisBAL1B/3B10571451087989111
85Sonny GrayOAKSP8166981057110685
86Starlin CastroCHCSS-83675059112-
87Jake ArrietaCHCSP6499-731067889
88Tyson RossSDSP838511272-74102
89Dustin PedroiaBOS2B120808990939987
90David RobertsonCHWRP10410181849510591
91Hisashi IwakumaSEASP9011210968-8577
92Chris CarterHOU1B1196986-819096
93Gerrit ColePITSP96731061151018394
94Alex GordonKCOF87918097 12072
95Alexei RamirezCHWSS-93729494113105
96Kolten WongSTL2B10088999611598103
97Gio GonzalezWASSP11782968312110497
98Alex WoodATLSP68123103103-9792
99Mookie BettsBOSOF116100--977381
100Dellin BetancesNYYRP103118-1049182100
101Charlie BlackmonCOLOF--110102-7070
102Jacob deGromNYMSP8492124111-84112
103Matt CarpenterSTL3B779090-112-113
104J.D. MartinezDETOF71--85116114101
105Yan GomesCLEC93-1028883-122
106Jorge SolerCHCOF98----6478
107Pablo SandovalBOS3B-111107-8910290
108Mark MelanconPITRP-8611410611311098
109Carlos CarrascoCLESP6996-114-108124
110Marcell OzunaMIAOF-9895-90115117
111Kenley JansenLADRP-103---9668
112Jayson WerthWASOF109-118-8891115
113Salvador PerezKCC9711994107107  
114Brett GardnerNYYOF-1141041201249399
115Manny MachadoBAL3B99106108 102116123
116Daniel MurphyNYM2B-1249377--118
117Garrett RichardsLAASP107105-93-107-
118Josh HarrisonPIT2B/3B/OF85-115-86--
119Ryan ZimmermanWAS3B/OF10112112011399111-
120Elvis AndrusTEXSS-11311610085--
121Masahiro TanakaNYYSP11311611776--119
122Trevor RosenthalSTLRP-95111121114122108
123Mark TrumboARI1B/OF11210797-110125121
124Brian McCannNYYC---59109--
125Hyun-Jin RyuLADSP9510812398---
126Eric HosmerKC1B--101-77--
127Leonys MartinTEXOF-104-74---
128Melky CabreraCHWOF76--109---
129Shin-Soo ChooTEXOF---92-119120
130Neil WalkerPIT2B121-100119118--
131Koji UeharaBOSRP-109 110--116
132Kris BryantCHC3B108----101-
133Yadier MolinaSTLC125-105-105--
134Phil HughesMINSP94----117-
135Cliff LeePHISP--119-117123110
136Lucas DudaNYM1B111-----107
137Cody AllenCLERP-115-116--114
138Alex RiosKCOF----98--
139Howie KendrickLAD2B---99---
140Anibal SanchezDETSP----122121109
141Brandon MossCLE1B/OF-----100 
142Brandon BeltSF1B----100--
143Jean SeguraMILSS---101---
144Collin McHughHOUSP106------
145Jimmy RollinsLADSS--113123123--
146Homer BaileyCINSP-110---124-
147Doug FisterWASSP----108--
148Rusney CastilloBOSOF115---119--
149Ben ReverePHIOF--125-111--
150Matt AdamsSTL1B-117121----
Teaser:
2015 Fantasy Baseball Consensus Big Board Rankings
Post date: Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2015-schedule-analysis
Body:

Never before has scheduling been a bigger issue than the 2014 College Football Playoff.

 

The committee clearly took a stance on Baylor’s weak non-conference matchups and it cost the Bears a chance at the national championship. That shouldn’t ever be the issue in the Pac-12 — also known as college football's second-best league.

 

Most will point to the depth of the South Division and how five different teams could be picked to win it. But the North continues to win league championships and compete for national titles.

 

Scheduling is a huge part of Athlon Sports’ process of making predictions. Here is what you need to know about the Pac-12's football schedules in 2015.

 

North’s Best Game: Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 14)

Stanford had pushed the Ducks around en route to Pac-12 championships prior to last year’s drubbing in Autzen Stadium. Oregon made a statement in this game last year and these two programs will likely enter the summer as the two front-runners in the North once again.

 

South’s Best Game: USC at Arizona State (Nov. 14)

The South’s round-robin format features several great matchups but these two programs could be the top two front-runners in the South entering the season. Who could forget how this one ended last season?

 

Best crossover: USC at Oregon (Nov. 21)

When it comes to brand equity and national intrigue, it’s hard to argue against the Trojans-Ducks matchup in late November. A playoff berth and spot in the Pac-12 title game could be on the line for both programs.

 

Other crossovers to watch:

Oregon’s visit to Tempe to battle Arizona State might be as important as the Trojans-Ducks meeting and it could be tougher since it comes on the road. Stanford also plays USC (road), UCLA (home) and Arizona (home) in great crossover action as well. 

 

North’s Toughest Schedule: Cal

There is no easy schedule in the North but Cal is probably the most unlucky team in the division. Road trips for the season include games at Texas, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Washington with USC and Arizona State at home. Washington also has a tough run starting Week 6: at USC, Oregon, at Stanford, Arizona, Utah, at Arizona State.

 

North’s Easiest Schedule: None (Oregon State)

I tried hard to find one schedule that stands out as “easiest” but they are all hard. Stanford has three nasty non-conference games, travels to Eugene and plays USC, UCLA and Arizona from the South. Oregon plays road games at Michigan State, Arizona State, Stanford and Washington as well as home tilts with USC and Utah. Oregon State wins the award by default because the Beavers miss both Arizona State and USC in crossover and get Stanford, Washington and UCLA at home. A non-con trip to Michigan still keeps this slate from being far from "easy" however.

 

South’s Toughest Schedule: USC

Arizona State and USC have the two toughest slates in the South division but the Men of Troy get the nod here. The Trojans have to face Notre Dame on the road in non-conference action as well as the projected top four teams in the North: Oregon (road), Stanford (home), Washington (home) and Cal (road).

 

South’s Easiest Schedule: Arizona

First of all, there is no easy schedule in the South. Five teams could win the division so crossover play and non-conference games are the deciding factors. UCLA and Arizona have the two easiest slates because both avoid Oregon from the North, but Zona gets the nod due to a non-conference slate that should provide three easy wins.

 

Top 10 Non-conference games:

 

 AwayHomeDate
1.Sept. 12
2.Oct. 17
3.Sept. 5*
4.Nov. 28
5.Sept. 4
6.Sept. 12
7.Sept. 26
8.Sept. 19
9.Sept. 19
10.Sept. 5

* - neutral site

Teaser:
2015 Pac-12 Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: San Francisco 49ers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/chris-borland-retires-doesnt-spell-doom-nfl
Body:

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland shocked the NFL world by retiring after a stellar rookie season at age 24.

 

It’s an important, courageous decision not made lightly by a player who is thinking well beyond his playing years.

 

He isn’t the first player to step away from the game early and he won’t be the last. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Robert Smith were superstar running backs, made plenty of money and decided to walk away in the prime of their careers.

 

Borland's not even the first to do so this offseason, as Patrick Willis (30), Maurice Jones-Drew (29), Jake Locker (26) and Jason Worilds (27) have each retired with plenty of gas left in the tank.

 

You can think it’s stupid for a rising star who hasn’t made his big paycheck yet — Borland made just under $600,000 in 2014 — to retire from a dream career basked in the glory of the NFL spotlight.

 

The game is more violent than ever. The players are bigger and faster than ever. But no one has the right to tell anyone else what to do in this situation. The key is informed decision-making.

 

It’s no different than smoking cigarettes or eating Big Macs everyday. They will both kill you eventually, but this is America and if you want to live off special sauce and nicotine, you are allowed to.

 

Just as long as you know what’s happening.

 

If an athlete wants to make millions of dollars playing a sport knowing full well what the risks are who are we to tell them what to do?

 

"I think when you sign up for this job, you know what you're getting into,” said Lions offensive lineman Dominic Raiola during the NFL’s concussion lawsuit two years ago.

 

Raiola is making an informed decision and it’s his to make. Just like Borland, Locker, Willis or any parent who is faced with the choice to allow their child to play football.

 

Is this a concerning trend for the sport? Not according to the bank accounts. The TV ratings are through the roof, the Super Bowl is more popular than ever and the league is printing money with the biggest partnership contracts any sport has ever seen.

 

The game isn’t going anywhere, and as long as we are all informed, we should be allowed to make whatever decisions we want. Whether we are an All-Pro linebacker who decides to retire at 24 or a concerned parent.

Teaser:
Chris Borland Retires at 24, Doesn't Spell Doom for NFL
Post date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 10:36
All taxonomy terms: Philadelphia Eages, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/just-shut-chip-kelly-knows-what-hes-doing
Body:

Chip Kelly isn’t the nicest or most humble guy in the room but he’s probably the smartest.

 

Just ask him.

 

After all, you don’t go from New Hampshire’s offensive coordinator to NFL head coach and general manager in eights years by being stupid.

 

Kelly took over as general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles in early January. His first few months on the job have been anything but quiet. A flurry of personnel moves have drawn the ire of just about everyone around the sport.

 

What’s that guy doing in Phily?

 

Here’s the thing. Kelly knows exactly what he’s doing.

 

After just four seasons as a head coach at any level, he took a 4-12 Eagles team to back-to-back 10-6 seasons and the playoffs with one of the least-talented starting quarterbacks in the league.

 

NFL free agency kicked off this week with a whir of personnel movement that would make a Kelly offense look slow. But Kelly’s plan was being implemented well before the start of the new league year Tuesday afternoon, as the Eagles have made weekly headlines, leaving most fans and experts scratching their heads.

 

Related: Early Winners and Losers as NFL Starts New League Year, Free Agency

 

Relax, Kelly knows what he is doing.

 

He traded fan favorite LeSean McCoy to the Bills who proceeded to sign the seven-year veteran to a long-term (and very expensive) new contract. He shipped Nick Foles — who was 14-4 as a starter under Kelly and 1-5 under Andy Reid — to St. Louis for Sam Bradford. He let Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency to Kansas City.

 

This, just one season after punting DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick and Jason Avant off the roster as well.

 

How could anyone get rid of so much proven offensive talent?

 

His plan isn’t nearly as complicated as people think. He is investing in defense and the offensive line while devaluing positions he thinks he can fill with his system — also known as the offensive skill positions.

 

Why pay a running back who is 5-foot-10, doesn’t like to practice, has touched the ball 706 times over the last two years and has constantly dealt with injuries when he can draft a starting tailback in the third round for a fraction of the cost?

 

Instead, he’s bolstered a linebacking corps that was a liability last year with a rising All-Pro who will cost less than a $1 million per season and is just 24 years old.

 

His plan seems pretty clear. Kelly’s first personnel move as GM was to re-sign linebacker Brandon Hepburn. Then he signed linebacker Brad Jones from Green Bay. Then he agreed to terms with linebacker Brandon Graham. Then he traded for Kiko Alonso. Then he signed defensive backs Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond to revamp the secondary.

 

Last offseason, he re-signed left tackle Jason Peters to a massive five-year extension and center Jason Kelce to a seven-year deal while four of his six offseason acquisitions came on defense. The year before that he drafted offensive tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick. In two drafts, 10 of his 15 picks have come on defense.

 

The blueprint is obvious in Philadelphia. Invest heavily in the defense and the offensive line and then allow Kelly to work his magic with the guys who actually touch the football and score the points.

 

Trade a fifth-round pick for Darren Sproles. Acquire two former first-round picks at quarterbacks on the cheap in Mark Sanchez and Bradford. Draft future stars in Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews in the second round. Kelly even found a world-class kicker in a preseason trade last year when he shipped running back David Fluellen to Indianapolis for Cody Parkey. Parkey was third in the NFL with 32 made field goals and second with 54 extra points. (For the record, Fluellen has never played a down in the NFL.)

 

Are there kinks to work out on defense? Certainly. But his offensive system is a proven commodity and the fans need to let his strategy play itself out.

 

There is a reason that only the Denver Broncos have scored more points (1,088) and gained more yards (13,763) than the Eagles (916 and 13,024) over the last two seasons.

 

The Patriots (912) and Packers (903) are third and fourth on the scoring list. What is it that those other three teams have in common that the Eagles are clearly lacking? That’s right, Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Kelly is working minor miracles in the City of Brotherly Love so let’s all just let it play out before judging the plan.

 

Clearly, Kelly knows what he’s doing. 

Teaser:
Just Shut Up, Chip Kelly Knows What He's Doing
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/2015-acc-football-schedule-analysis
Body:

Never before has scheduling been a bigger issue than the 2014 College Football Playoff.

 

The committee clearly took a stance on Baylor’s weak non-conference matchups and it cost the Bears a chance at the national championship. That shouldn’t ever be the issue in the ACC with Notre Dame and a litany of constant SEC foes dotting the non-conference slate.

 

The balance of power still appears tilted towards the Atlantic Division with Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. But the Coastal always delivers parity and entertainment.

 

Scheduling is a huge part of Athlon Sports’ process of making predictions. Here is what you need to know about the ACC’s football schedules in 2015.

 

Atlantic’s best game: Florida State at Clemson (Nov. 7)

These are the two best teams in the conference and DeShaun Watson could be a superstar by November. This game was ugly in Death Valley two years ago but was much closer last fall. This one could decide half of the ACC title game matchup.

 

Coastal’s best game: Georgia Tech at Miami (Nov. 21)

Virginia Tech and North Carolina will challenge Georgia Tech as well but the trip to Miami is always interesting and it comes in the second to last weekend of the year. The division title could hang in the balance.

 

Best crossover: Florida State at Georgia Tech (Oct. 24)

A rematch of the ACC title game? Yes, please. Late in October, Florida State travels to Atlanta to take on the Coastal Division front-runner. Look for another classic showdown and a likely playoff elimination game for what could be two highly ranked opponents.

 

Other crossovers to watch:

Miami has two tough crossovers (more on that in a second) and both are must-see TV against Florida State and Clemson. Like the Noles, the Tigers also have to face the Yellow Jackets (home) and Hurricanes (road) in crossover. NC State has two interesting tests with rival North Carolina at home in the season finale and a road trip to Virginia Tech in early October.

 

Coastal’s toughest schedule: Miami

The Hurricanes play both Florida State (road) and Clemson (home) from the Atlantic and will have to face Nebraska (home) and Cincinnati (road) in non-conference action. Toss in road trips to North Carolina, Duke and Pitt as well as home games with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and Miami has the toughest slate of any Coastal contender. The Cavaliers have an equally tough slate but miss both the Noles and Tigers in crossover.

 

Coastal’s easiest schedule: Duke

Northwestern is the toughest non-conference game in a division with Notre Dame, Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio State and UCLA also on the slate. The Blue Devils' Atlantic foes this season are Boston College at home and a road trip to Wake Forest. And both Georgia Tech and Miami have to come to Durham. 

 

Atlantic’s toughest schedule: Wake Forest

First, the Deacons don’t get to play the Deacons, so that makes their schedule tougher than almost everyone else in the division. Second, they play at North Carolina and Duke at home in crossover action. Finally, Wake Forest travels to Notre Dame and Army as well as hosting Indiana in non-conference play. Don’t forget games with Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, NC State and Boston College.

 

Atlantic’s easiest schedule: Florida State

Crossover play is tough with Miami (home) and Georgia Tech (road) as well as a non-conference trip to Florida. But the rest of the schedule is one game: At Clemson (Louisville visits Doak Campbell and will be a heavy underdog). Not having to face Florida State almost guarantees the Noles the easiest path to the title game every year.

 

Top 10 Non-conference games:

 

 AwayHomeDate
1.Oct. 3
2.Nov. 28
3.Sept. 19
4.Sept. 5*
5.Nov. 28
6.Sept. 7
7.Nov. 28
8.Sept. 19
9.Sept. 3*
10.Nov. 7

* - neutral site

Teaser:
2015 ACC Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-2015-big-12-early-preview
Body:

 

Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan go in-depth with an early 2015 Big 12 conference preview.

 

The guys debate TCU vs. Baylor at the top of the league. Who should be the frontrunner? Who has more coming back? Which team has bigger holes to fill?

 

Can Oklahoma or Texas return to prominence? Is this a vintage Sooners team and can Charlie Strong get anything from his QB?

 

Will Oklahoma State or Texas Tech improve enough to challenge? What should fans make of the middle of this league? Are Kansas State and West Virginia the exact same team? What do we make of the new coach at Kansas?

 

The fellas touch on every team and how the predictions might shake out in the Big 12 in 2015.


Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: 2015 Big 12 Early Preview
Post date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 16:25
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/demarco-murray-lesean-mccoy-adrian-peterson-are-not-worth-money
Body:

The sky isn’t falling.

 

When it comes to running backs, however, that certainly feels like the case in Philadelphia, Dallas and Minnesota.

 

The NFL’s silly season is underway now that teams are “legally” negotiating free agent contracts and here are the running backs stealing the headlines.

 

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

 

One of the first big waves to ripple through the NFL was Chip Kelly’s decision to jettison Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for rising star linebacker Kiko Alonso.

 

The city of Philadelphia was stunned. How could he give up our best player for a linebacker who didn’t play a down in 2015? After looking at McCoy’s new deal with the Bills, it should be easy to figure it out.

 

McCoy’s five-year, $40 million contract reportedly includes $26.5 million in guaranteed money. Buffalo will supposedly pay the seven-year veteran $16 million this year.

 

For a 5-foot-10, 210-pounder who plays the most abusive position in the league, has touched the ball 706 times in the last two seasons and only started two full years due to nagging injuries? No, thanks. Especially, for one who doesn’t get along with the head coach.

 

Kelly knows what he is doing. It’s a foolish move to invest huge chunks of cap space in an aging running back — no matter how talented.

 

DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson aren’t any different. Murray is coming off a breakout season for the Cowboys but Jerry Jones is making the smart move by letting his tailback test the free agent waters. Let someone else pay for his ’14 season.

 

Murray is one of just 10 players in NFL history to top 390 carries in a season and the disturbing track record for repeat success is enough to keep even Jones from making a football-crazed decision. Other than freak of nature Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, who did it twice and lived to tell about it, a 390-carry season all but ensures the end is near for ball carriers.

 

NameYearAtt.Next Year 
Larry Johnson2006416158 att., 559 yds., 3 TD 
Jamal Anderson199841019 att., 59 yds., 0 TD 
James Wilder1984407365 att., 1,300 yds., 10 TD 
Eddie George2000403315 att., 939 yds., 5 TD 
Gerald Riggs1985397343 att., 1,327 yds., 9 TD 
Demarco Murray2014392-- 
Terrell Davis199839267 att., 211 yds., 2 TD 
Ricky Williams2003392168 att., 743 yds., 6 TD 
Barry Foster1992390177 att., 711 yds., 8 TD 

Note: Dickerson carried 390 times as a rookie in 1983 and 404 times in '86.

 

Including Dickerson, only three players managed to even top 1,000 yards the following year, but even that success was short-lived. Both Gerald Riggs and James Wilder were never the same despite solid encore showings. Riggs started just 28 games in five seasons after his high-water marks in 1984-85 and Wilder scored just three times and never topped 704 yards in his five final seasons after his two breakout campaign.

 

No running back since Dickerson in 1986 has carried over 390 times and returned to that same level of production. Not only is NFL history against Murray but so is his own past. This is a player who constantly dealt with injuries at Oklahoma and has managed just one full season in four tries for the Cowboys.

 

In no way is signing Murray to an absurd free agent contract a smart idea. Jones, shockingly, is allowing someone else to make the foolish decision this time.

 

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Vikings brass is working through a bizarre but familiar situation with Adrian Peterson. Sure, head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are pitching A.D. on returning to the Twin Cities by taking recruiting visits to his Houston-area home.

 

But it shouldn’t be the rocky relationship or bad off-the-field publicity that leads the Vikings to punt their star tailback. It’s simply good business.

 

Peterson is set to make roughly $42 million over the next three seasons with a cap number over $47 million. Peterson is the best running back of this generation, but there is no way to justify paying that amount money for a running back in his 30s who has carried the ball (and been hit hard) over 2,000 times.

 

It may be tough to swallow because fans bond quicker with running backs than anyone else on the field except the quarterback. But Dallas, Philadelphia and Minnesota are better off parting ways with their beloved star runners in an effort to invest in other areas.

 

There is a reason no running back has gone in the first round in two consecutive drafts.

Teaser:
Demarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson are not worth the money
Post date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/ranking-national-league-ballparks-2015-expert-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports has polled 10 experts from around Major League Baseball in an effort to find the best place to watch a game.

 

Based on criteria like fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tradition, surrounding area, facilities, gameday atmosphere and more, our 10 experts have ranked all 15 National League parks for 2015.


Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

The Voters:

 

Tyler Kepner, NY Times

Andy Baggarly, AndrewBaggarly.com

Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

John Tomase, WEEI

Juan Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun Times

Bill Plunkett, Orange County Register

C. Trent Rosencrans, Cincinnati Enquirer

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jack Magruder, FoxSportsArizona.com

 

The Results:

 

Scoring: A first-place vote is worth one point, a second-place vote is worth two points and a 15th-place vote is worth 15 points. The lowest score is voted the best stadium in the National League.

 

 ParkTeamPoints (1st)
1.AT&T Park14 (7)
2.PNC Park32 (1)
3.Dodger Stadium48 (1)
4.Wrigley Field48
5.Coors Field60 (1)
6.Petco Park68
7.Citizens Bank Park75
8.Busch Stadium78
9.Miller Park85
10.Marlins Park103
11.Citi Field104
12.Nationals Park107
13.Great American Ballpark111
14.Turner Field133
15.Chase Field134

 

The Analysis:

 

Still Champions

Much like Fenway in the American League, the clear-cut best place to watch a game in the National League is AT&T Park where the defending World Series champion Giants play ball. A beautiful setting, competitive teams and normally comfortable summers make this West Coast shrine a must-see. San Francisco’s home park got seven of the 10 first-place votes.

 

 

Best in the West

The Giants were voted the best park in the NL but Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine also got a first-place vote and finished third. Coors Field in Denver got a first-place vote as well, finishing fifth overall. Not to be outdone, Petco Park in San Diego ranked sixth, giving the West Division four of the top six stadiums in the National League. Which brings us to…

 

Chase for last place

It wasn’t ranked as poorly as The Trop or O.co Coliseum in the American League, but Arizona’s Chase Field was voted the worst place to watch a game on the senior circuit. It finished just behind Atlanta’s Turner Field — which, of course, is getting replaced by a new stadium on the North side of town very soon. Interestingly enough, the worst two stadiums in the National League are two of the biggest in the majors. The Braves park is fourth with a capacity of 49,586 while the Diamondbacks' home field is seventh at 48,633.

 

 

Wrigley Field

It doesn’t boast the same charm as Fenway, which finished as the No. 1 place to see a game in the AL, but it still is well respected at No. 4 in the NL. This is likely due to the age and much-needed renovations that Wrigley is currently undergoing (Fenway has already gone through its facelift). All I know is, as a Mets fan, I went to Wrigley last summer for the first time as a 32-year-old and nearly cried when I first walked under the marquee.

 

East Division

While the West Division appears to be loaded with great places to watch baseball, the East Division seems to be lacking. The Mets, Marlins, Nationals and Braves all saw their home parks ranked in the bottom six. Only Philadelphia was even moderately respected, finishing seventh in the NL. So much for East Coast bias.

Teaser:
Ranking the National League Ballparks in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Monday, March 9, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-north-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

After claiming a Heisman Trophy and reaching the national championship game, the Oregon Ducks likely enter the season as the Pac-12 North Division favorites. But it's not nearly as clear-cut as years' past, as Cal, Stanford and Washington could all be improved from a year ago. Oregon State and Washington State don't appear to be particularly scary with new quarterbacks but both coaches are among the most respected in the country.

 

Pac-12 North Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

1. Oregon

2014 Record: 13-2 (8-1 Pac-12)
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 5

 

Ducks' Spring Priorities


1. How good is Vernon Adams?
Some may not like the transfer trend but no one can deny it won’t be fascinating to watch a player who dominated his level try to run the most exciting offense in the sport. Vernon Adams posted huge numbers for Eastern Washington but replacing Marcus Mariota is a different task altogether. Adams won't practice with Oregon this spring, which means Jeff Lockie and Morgan Mahalak will get the majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense. Although the job is considered to be open, Lockie and Mahalak are keeping the No. 1 spot warm until Adams arrives.

2. Find some defensive backs

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Troy Hill and Erick Dargan were all selected to either the first- or second-team All-Pac-12 team a year ago. All three are gone and Mark Helfrich needs to find capable replacements. Reggie Daniels and Tyree Robinson are extremely talented but the depth chart needs to be developed around the two safeties.


3. Support DeForest Buckner

The defensive line and front seven also is replacing plenty of star power. DeForest Buckner returns as the most experienced player on the line but he needs a supporting cast. The good news is Oregon’s style of substitutions lends itself to replacing bodies easily. Can Tui Talia, Alex Balducci, Joe Walker and Rodney Hardrick step into starring roles this spring?

 

2. Stanford

2014 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Returning Starters: Offense - 8, Defense - 4

 

Cardinal's Spring Priorities


1. Reorder the defensive line
Last year, Stanford lost its defensive guru in Derek Mason. This year, it loses all three defensive line starters, including two All-Pac-12 picks in Henry Anderson and David Parry. The Cardinal always have bodies and are always coaching them up, but Luke Kaumatule, Harrison Phillips, Aziz Shittu (out this spring due to injury), Solomon Thomas and Nate Lohn need to settle into a rotation.

2. Find some defensive backs
Much like the defensive line, the secondary was hit hard by departures. Two All-Pac-12 picks in Jordan Richards and Alex Carter are gone as well as Wayne Lyons and Kyle Olugbode. That means Stanford is replacing four of the top five tacklers in the secondary. Zach Hoffpauir is an excellent player to build around but could depart in favor of baseball. David Shaw needs to find capable bodies for the back end of his defense.

3. Get Kevin Hogan to the next level

Losing wide receiver Ty Montgomery and left tackle Andrus Peat is going to hurt, but this offense is in great shape. The O-line could be one of the nation’s best, the backfield and tight end position are stacked (sound familiar?) and Hogan is entering his 112th season as the starter. Hogan has sneaky good athletic ability and generally protects the football. However, he has never taken the final step in his development. If he can do that this spring and become a star under center, Stanford could return to the Rose Bowl.

 

3. Washington

2014 Record: 8-6 (4-5)
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4


Huskies' Spring Priorities


1. Find playmakers in the front seven
This unit was hit as hard as any in the league with the departure of All-Pac-12 picks Danny Shelton, Hau’oli Kikaha, Shaq Thompson and John Timu. Few teams in the nation could sustain losses like those and maintain the same level of production but that is what Chris Petersen needs to do this spring up front on defense. Good luck.

2. Replace the pivot and tackles
The offensive line will lose starters at both right and left tackle as well as two guys who combined for 18 starts at center and guard (Colin Tanigawa, Mike Criste). Needless to say, this group needs some work this spring. Dexter Charles, Siosifa Tufunga and Coleman Shelton combined for 20 starts last season (mostly at guard) and are quality pieces to build around. However, the two tackles and center are more important positions and all three must be replaced.

3. Continue to develop Cyler Miles

Miles entered the starting lineup with lofty expectations last fall. While he didn’t turn the ball over (four INTs) and was fairly efficient (66.6 percent), Miles never seemed to take control of the game. He showed promise with his legs too but for Washington to survive the personnel losses this offseason, Miles must become a bigger star in the offense. If not, keep an eye on K.J. Carta-Samuels or true freshman Jake Browning. 

 

4. Cal

2014 Record: 5-7 (3-6)
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:
Brandon Jones (OL), Jacob Peeler (WR)


Golden Bears' Spring Priorities


1. Continue to build defensive depth chart
This sounds overly simple, especially for a team returning the majority of its defensive two-deep, but this unit was so bad — 121st in total defense — that no one area is an overriding concern. It's the whole thing. The entire unit needs an extreme makeover with the capable Art Kaufman overseeing the process.

2. Restock the secondary
Three safeties departed in Michael Lowe, Bryce McGovern and Avery Sebastian. Stefan McClure and Griffin Piatt both return, but in a league known for throwing the football, developing depth at the back end should be a primary area of focus for the Bears.


3. Plug holes up the middle
This offense returns a near-4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and half-a-dozen talented pass-catchers. It also returns three-fifths of the offensive line too. The only real holes that need plugging are at center and right guard. This offense should only continue to improve once the O-line settles into position. 

 

 

5. Oregon State

2014 Record: 5-7 (2-7)
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 2

Key Coaching Changes:
Gary Andersen (HC), Kalani Sitake (DC), Dave Baldwin (OC)


Beavers' Spring Priorities


1. Replace Sean Mannion
The only quarterback on the roster who attempted a pass for the Beavers last year was rising sophomore Luke Del Rio. He will get the first chance to replace the ultra-productive, but sometimes maddening, Sean Mannion. Seven different players are likely to take snaps this spring but the former Alabama walk-on and son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is the odds on front-runner.

2. Organize the defensive front
Three starters and four of the top six defensive linemen have departed, so the first line of defense clearly needs to be rebuilt. Lavonte Barnett and Jaswha James return but totaled just 34 tackles combined in 2014. At linebacker, the three leading tacklers are gone as well. Look for Gary Andersen and company to focus on the front seven on defense this spring. Losing six out of seven starters is extremely difficult to overcome.

3. Get to know your depth chart

This may sound like a cop out but Andersen’s primary order of business this spring is to learn what he has on his roster. Learn the players' strengths and weaknesses and determine how they fit into his system. It’s a simple concept but one that cannot be overlooked for a new head coach.

 

6. Washington State

2014 Record: 3-9 (2-7)

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 2

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Alex Grinch (Defensive Coordinator)
 

Cougars’ Spring Priorities


1. Decide if Luke Falk is the answer
Connor Halliday had his weaknesses but he also posted huge numbers and fit the Air Raid attack extremely well. Luke Falk got plenty of reps a year ago when Halliday got hurt (243 att.) and should be the obvious front-runner to take over. However, don’t expect Mike Leach to show his cards until he has to.

2. Find a No. 1
The team’s top two receivers, Vince Mayle and Isiah Myers, are gone. There are plenty of names returning who got plenty of snaps and Leach churns out productive pass-catchers like he does history books. Still, this offense needs to find a No. 1 go-to target on the outside. It could be River Cracraft, Dom Williams, Robert Lewis, Gabe Marks, Tyler Baker or Calvin Green. You get the point.

3. Find playmakers on defense

There is a lot returning on the defensive side of the ball for Wazzu, as Leach played a lot of bodies on this side of the ball last year. That said, the unit wasn’t overly productive — ranking 97th nationally in total defense. Worse is the inability to get the ball back, as WSU forced an NCAA-worst eight total takeaways. Leach needs to find defenders who can make big plays on defense.

Teaser:
Pac-12 North 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-south-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

The Pac-12 South Division was viewed by some as the best in college football a year ago. At this stage of the year, it's not unreasonable to predict five of the six teams to be ranked in the preseason. A legit case could be made for any of the top four — USC, Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona — to win the division. Buckle up, it's going to be a fun year out West.

 

Pac-12 South Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

1. Arizona State

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-3)
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

 

Sun Devils' Spring Priorities


1. Replace both tackles
Jamil Douglas and Tyler Sulka started all 13 games at both left and right tackle respectively last year. Both have moved on and will need to be replaced this spring. The rest of the offensive line is in excellent shape but filling voids on the edge will be critical for Todd Graham and company. There are no concerns about Mike Bercovici under center so keeping him upright is imperative.

2. Find a true No. 1 receiver

Jaelen Strong was a beast for the Sun Devils on the outside and his size and production will need to be replaced somehow. Expect D.J. Foster to play more of hybrid role again with names like Cameron Smith, Eric Lauderdale, Frederick Gammage, Ellis Jefferson and Gary Chambers looking to step into more prominent roles on the offense. The emergence of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage should help push Foster into open space.


3. Fill specific gaps on defense

A year removed from replacing nine All-Pac-12 defensive players in one offseason, Graham now has the luxury of returning most of his defense. With the exception of first-team, all-league safety Damarious Randall and honorable mention, all-league end Marcus Hardison, this unit is intact. If Graham is able to fill those two gaps this could be one of the best defenses in the league.

 

2. USC

2014 Record: 9-4 (6-3)
Returning Starters: Offense - 7, Defense - 7

 

Coaching Changes:

Bob Connelly (OL)

 

Trojans' Spring Priorities


1. Rebuild the front seven
The Trojans lose three All-Pac-12 players from their front seven in Leonard Williams, Hayes Pullard and J.R. Tavai. Like always with USC, the returning depth chart is impressively talented but is lacking in developed star power. Can Anthony Sarao or Delvon Simmons develop into All-Americans? Steve Sarkisian should consider this part of his roster a top priority — especially, for a team still lacking in overall depth.

2. Develop the playmakers on offense
The talent in the receiving corps is painfully obvious but will still be young. And the backfield is now missing Buck Allen. Coach Sark needs to continue to develop Adoree Jackson and JuJu Smith on the outside while Justin Davis, Tre Madden and James Toland IV battle for carries. USC also is replacing All-Pac-12 tight end Randall Telfer. This offense needs to identify a go-to playmaker.


3. Keep Cody Kessler healthy

Keeping your star quarterback upright is always important but in this case it cannot be overstated. In fact, Kessler, possibly the most underrated player in the nation, represents a bigger issue for the Trojans. This unit is still not operating with full scholarship capacity, so keeping Kessler (and every other possible contributing member) healthy is critical for the Men of Troy. Maybe, take it easy this spring, Coach Sark?

 

3. UCLA

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-3)
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

Coaching Changes:

Tom Bradley (DC)


Bruins' Spring Priorities


1. Settle on a quarterback
Brett Hundley is gone leaving a gaping void under center on an offense severely lacking in star power. Jerry Neuheisel is the incumbent who played well against Texas and has been around campus for years. He will have to hold off the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation in true freshman Josh Rosen. Rosen is already enrolled and will battle Neuheisel for the starting gig all spring.

2. Reconstruct the front seven
Eric Kendricks is gone from the linebacking corps but Myles Jack is back. Owa Odighizuwa and Ellis McCarthy are gone from the D-line but Eddie Vanderdoes is back. Those two are potential superstars but the rest of the front seven is lacking in experience. Jim Mora needs guys like Kenny Clark and Deon Hollins to take the next step forward up front on defense.

3. Continue to cultivate offensive playmakers

One of UCLA’s biggest issues during Hundley’s tenure under center was the lack of supporting star power on offense. Paul Perkins and Jordan Payton took a big step last year, showing signs of becoming stars on offense. With either a freshman or career backup taking the reins at QB this year, Mora really needs someone else to step up and emerge. Is Perkins and/or Payton up to the task?

 

4. Arizona

2014 Record: 10-4 (7-2)
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5


Wildcats' Spring Priorities


1. Find two tackles and a pivot
Center Steven Gurrola started 13 games last year. Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele both started all 14 games at left and right tackle respectively. All three are gone and Rich Rodriguez is charged with rebuilding his offensive line. Not one player returns to the line that started all 14 games last year up front. Cayman Bundrage started 12 games at left guard and Jacob Alsadek started 11 times on the right side.

2. Plug holes in the secondary
Arizona uses a lot of defensive backs in its 3-3-5 alignment. But this group must replace a trio of safeties who totaled 284 tackles last year as well as the top cornerback. There are plenty of bodies coming back to Tucson but someone needs to step into a leadership role. William Parks could be that guy, as he is the most experienced returning defensive back.

3. Keep the young stars on offense focused

It was almost too easy for Arizona’s offense last year. Anu Solomon, Nick Wilson and Cayleb Jones formed an incredible trio of young offensive stars. But this group struggled to reach the finish line and was handled easily in the Pac-12 title game. Repeating as division champs won’t be nearly as easy, especially behind a rebuilt O-line. This group must stay focused and hungry or it could fall three or four spots in the standings.

 

 

5. Utah

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-4)
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5

Coaching Changes:
Aaron Roderick/Jim Harding (OC), John Pease (DC), Justin Ena (LB)


Utes' Spring Priorities


1. Find out what you have under center
Quarterback Travis Wilson is the incumbent but he’s dealt with major injuries for much of his career. Kendal Thompson battled Wilson throughout much of the ’14 campaign, only relinquishing control of the starting job after a season-ending injury. They have similar skill sets but are totally different players and Kyle Whittingham needs to know what he has in each this spring.

2. Plug holes at safety and end
This one is pretty straightforward, as both Brian Blechen and Eric Rowe are gone after honorable mention All-Pac-12 seasons last year. Marcus Williams returns after posting 59 tackles last year along with Tevin Carter, Andre Godfrey and others. Nate Orchard is the bigger loss at end but a deep and talented collection of D-linemen return to Salt Lake City. Hunter Dimick and Lowell Lotulelei are poised for breakout seasons.

3. Replace the best to pass-catchers

Devontae Booker and a loaded offensive line return to Utah so the running game should be one of the best in the league. However, with the two biggest playmakers gone in Dres Anderson and Kaelin Clay, the staff needs to find some receivers to help out the QB situation. Kenneth Scott will get every shot to make plays but this group as a whole needs to step up this spring.

 

6. Colorado

2014 Record: 2-10 (0-9)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 9

 

Coaching Changes:

 

Jim Leavitt (Defensive Coordinator)
 

Buffaloes’ Spring Priorities


1. Continue to build depth on defense
For bad teams, it’s hard to pinpoint one specific area of concern on defense. With most of the two-deep returning for Colorado, improving overall is the key. This team was terrible at pressuring the quarterback, didn’t force turnovers (125th nationally) and was mediocre on third downs. Star power needs to develop on every level because linebacker Addison Gillam can’t do everything.

2. Replace both guards
Left guard Kaiwi Crabb started 11 times last year and right guard Daniel Munyer started all 12 games. Both have moved on and need to be replaced on the interior of the offensive line. The good news is both tackles and the center are back for Mike MacIntyre. 

3. Make an effort to run the ball

The Buffs finished last in the division in rushing offense, ninth in the Pac-12 and 77th nationally. With a developing star at QB and Nelson Spruce back to catch passes, the passing game isn’t a concern in Boulder. But either Christian Powell or Michael Adkins II need to step into a more prominent role in the backfield to help the quarterback. Some balance in this unit would help quarterback Sefo Liufau continue to progress.

Teaser:
Big 12 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/big-12-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

Baylor and TCU return to the top of the preseason heap in the Big 12 after both barely missed a shot at the College Football Playoff. Both teams are loaded with experience, but have some holes to plug at key positions.

 

Meanwhile, power programs Texas and Oklahoma are looking to return to Big 12 glory with rebuilt rosters and coaching staffs, respectively. And watch out for a developing Oklahoma State and an always underrated Kansas State.

 

Big 12 Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

1. TCU

2014 Record: 12-1 (8-1)
Returning Starters: Offense – 10, Defense – 5

Key Coaching Changes:

Chad Glasgow/DeMontie Cross (co-DC), Dan Sharp (DL), Paul Gonzales (CB)

 

Horned Frogs' Spring Priorities


1. Replace the star power in the front seven
Gary Patterson is known for his defensive prowess but he will have his work cut out for him this spring. Chucky Hunter and Paul Dawson were as good a front-seven tandem as any team in the nation had last year and both are gone. The rest of the linebacking corps needs reworking as well. The situation at end looks promising but the rest of the front seven needs to be settled.

2. Reconstruct the secondary
This unit isn’t in need of reloading or rebuilding, it needs to be totally reconstructed. Three All-Big 12 selections in Kevin White, Sam Carter and Chris Hackett need to be replaced with only Derrick Kindred returning. Patterson and his coaching staff need to find some suitable replacements in the defensive backfield — especially, in a league like the Big 12.


3. Handle expectations and stay healthy
This team will be picked by many to win the Big 12 and TCU needs to stay grounded if it wants to win the league. Handling expectations are as difficult a task as there is for young athletes, so staying focused on and off the field this spring will be key. Keeping all the important puzzle pieces healthy and upright would help too.

 

2. Baylor

2014 Record: 11-2 (8-1)
Returning Starters: Offense - 8, Defense - 9

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Kendal Briles (OC), Tate Wallis (WR), Cris Dishman (S)

 

Bears' Spring Priorities


1. Find out what you have under center
Seth Russell is the incumbent and will be tough to beat out. He threw eight touchdowns and just one interception in 85 attempts behind Bryce Petty last year. While he has the lead heading into spring, look for sophomore Chris Johnson and incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham to press for time.

2. Replace Hager, Brence at linebacker
There are not many holes on this defense with nine starters returning. The only real voids that need to be filled are at linebacker (Bryce Hager) and hybrid nickel/linebacker (Collin Brence). There are plenty of names on the roster but replacing 169 tackles from the middle of the defense will be key.

3. Address the legs on special teams
Second-team All-Big 12 punter Spencer Roth is gone and will need to be replaced. Kicker Chris Callahan was eighth in the Big 12 in field goal kicking percentage (69.2) and needs to improve. Special teams are often overlooked, but on a team with few weaknesses, it could be the difference in the race for a third straight conference championship.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview



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3. Oklahoma

2014 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Lincoln Riley (OC), Dennis Simmons (Outside WR), Kerry Cooks (CB), Diron Reynolds (DL)


Sooners' Spring Priorities


1. Stabilize the sideline
The biggest issue for Bob Stoops this spring might have nothing to do with his players. With an entirely new coaching staff around him, meshing on the sidelines and in meeting rooms is just as important as anything else in Norman. Lincoln Riley brings a new offense from East Carolina and designing the right systems for the roster will be huge for the Sooners.

2. Which QB fits the new system?
Once the staff settles in and finds its rhythm, the first order of business is to pick a starting quarterback. Trevor Knight came into last season with huge expectations only to fall short due to injuries and inconsistency. Cody Thomas has quit baseball to focus on winning the OU starting gig and should prove to be an adequate challenger. Don’t forget about Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield as well. This three-way race should be fun to watch… from the outside.

3. Find some studs up the middle
Departed defensive tackles Jordan Phillips and Chuka Ndulue have left Stoops with a huge void in the middle of his defensive line. There are plenty of linebackers returning and despite issues giving up big plays, the secondary returns plenty of talent too. But those position groups may not matter if OU can’t hold the point of attack. 

 

4. Texas

2014 Record: 6-7 (5-4)
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 5

Key Coaching Changes:
Jay Norvell (WR), Jeff Traylor (TE), Brick Haley (DL)


Longhorns' Spring Priorities


1. Develop Tyrone Swoopes
Charlie Strong likely won’t have a better option under center than Swoopes. The talented athlete had his moments last year but didn’t do much to prove he could be the long-term solution in Austin. But Texas is stuck with him, so getting him as many reps as possible this spring is critical.

2. Rebuild heart of the defense
Malcom Brown was arguably the most dominant defensive player in the league last year. Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks posted 278 total tackles last fall. Mykkele Thompson was a major contributor in the secondary. All are gone as well as end Cedric Reed. The middle of any defense — tackle, middle linebacker, safety — is critical and for Texas, it must be totally reworked.

3. Find stars on the outside
John Harris and Jaxon Shipley were both All-Big 12 picks last year and both need to be replaced at wide receiver. There is no better way to help a struggling quarterback than with star power on the outside in space. This roster has plenty of talented names filling the depth chart and someone needs to step into the No. 1 (and No. 2) role this spring. 

 

 

5. Oklahoma State

2014 Record: 7-6 (4-5)
Returning Starters: Offense – 10, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:
Greg Adkins (OL), Dan Hammerschmidt (CB), Marcus Arroyo (RB), Jason McEndoo (TEs)


Cowboys' Spring Priorities


1. Who to get the ball to?
Tyreek Hill and Desmond Roland are both gone (for different reasons) and Mike Gundy needs to find some playmakers on offense. He has a lot of names returning with some experience — David Glidden, Brandon Sheperd, James Washington, Marcell Ateman and Jhajuan Seales all caught between 18 and 42 passes last year. But finding a go-to playmaker on the outside and in the backfield is key this spring.

2. Finalize the QB depth chart
Mason Rudolph is the youngest name under center for the Pokes but showed the most promise last fall. He excelled down the stretch and has the most upside. He’s the logical choice to start but with J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman also back with starting experience, settling on a specific pecking order leaving spring camp would be wise for Gundy.

3. Rebuild depth along D-Line
Since this roster was so young a year ago, there are very few holes to fill on either side of the ball. But with two defensive tackles and one end leaving the front line, Gundy needs to rebuild the D-line two-deep. Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean are two rising stars but their supporting cast could use some development.

 

6. Kansas State

2014 Record: 9-4 (7-2)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5
 

Wildcats’ Spring Priorities


1. Replace Jake Waters
Somehow Bill Snyder keeps finding gritty leaders to play quarterback. After Collin Klein led the Cats to a Big 12 title, Jake Waters picked up where he left off and led KSU to 15 wins in his last 20 starts. The onus of signal-caller now falls to Joe Hubener — who has just 17 career pass attempts but a similar skill set to that of both Klein and Waters (aka, he likes to run too). Look for Snyder to get his quarterback as ready as possible this spring.

2. Find someone who can catch a pass
Tyler Lockett is one of the greatest to ever suit up for Kansas State. But it's not just the speedy Lockett that KSU must replace. Both Curry Sexton (1,059 yards) and DeMarcus Robinson (437 yards) are gone as well. Be it Kody Cook, Deante Burton or anyone else, someone must step up on the outside this spring and provide quality support to the passing game.

3. Create star power up front on defense

Ryan Mueller, Jonathan Truman and Randall Evans were All-Big 12 selections last year and all three are gone. The secondary has some rising stars in Danzel McDaniel and Dante Barnett, but the traditional strength of the KSU defense — the front seven — needs to find some star power. Travis Britz, for example, has a great opportunity to develop into a star and will be asked to emerge as both a leader and playmaker.

 

 

7. West Virginia

2014 Record: 7-6 (5-4)

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 9

 

Coaching changes:

Bruce Tall (DL)

 

Mountaineers’ Spring Priorities


1. Find out if Skyler Howard is the guy
Skyler Howard threw 110 passes last year in spot duty behind Clint Trickett and is in line to take over under center in Morgantown. But in Dana Holgorsen’s offense, the star of the show has to be the signal-caller. Mountaineers fans want to see Howard separate himself from William Crest and everyone else during the spring

2. Develop pass-catchers
Kevin White and Mario Alford combined for 174 receptions, nearly 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns last year. Both are gone and the best way to break in a new quarterback is to give him some quality options to throw to. Jordan Thompson, Daikiel Shorts, Shelton Gibson and KJ Myers will compete on the outside while Cody Clay and Elijah Wellman need to provide help at tight end.

3. Fill pass-rushing voids up front

The top three sack artists on the team are gone, as four members of the defensive front need to be replaced. Noble Nwachukwu is the leading returning sack master after just 2.0 QB takedowns last year and the linebacking corps is led by Nick Kwiatkoski (103 tackles). Holgorsen needs to find pieces to fit around those two.

 

8. Texas Tech

2014 Record: 4-8 (2-7)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

 

Coaching changes:

David Gibbs (DC), Zac Spavital (LB)

 

Red Raiders’ Spring Priorities


1. Put your passers through the ringer
Kliff Kingsbury has two good options at quarterback in Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes. But only one can play at a time. Webb is much more experienced but Mahomes was efficient and effective in five starts to end the season (try 14 TDs and only two INTs in his final three games). Kingsbury needs to have some order at the position coming out of spring practice.

2. Work on discipline
This is a bigger picture issue for Tech but fixing unforced errors is a must for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech was 117th in the nation and last in the Big 12 with 28 giveaways and was dead last in the country (128th) in penalties per game (9.3). This team must be more disciplined.

3. Find some linebackers
All-Big 12 linebacker Sam Eguavoen and fellow tacklers VJ Fehoko and Austin Stewart combined for 191 tackles last year and all three are gone. Micah Awe is the only linebacker on the roster who returns with more than 10 tackles to his name last year. Find some linebackers this spring, Tech.

 

9. Iowa State

2014 Record: 2-10 (0-9)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

 

Cyclones’ Spring Priorities


1. Find some playmakers on offense
All-Big 12 tight end E.J. Bibbs might have been the best player on the team and needs to be replaced. Receiver Jarvis West and tailback Aaron Wimberly are both gone as well, leaving just two of the top five receivers and no starting running back. The good news is youngsters Allen Lazard and D’Vario Montgomery could be a special duo on the outside. Paul Rhoads needs to find some guys to get the ball to.

2. Center and tackles
Center Tom Farniok and right tackle Jacob Cannon, both honorable mention All-Big 12 blockers, need to be replaced in Ames. Guards Daniel Burton and Jamison Lalk started all 12 games and bring experience, but the other three spots on the line need to be filled. Tackles Jake Campos and Brock Dagel return with a combined 15 starts and should serve as the line's foundation.

3. Generate a pass rush

The Cyclones were 116th in the nation and last in the Big 12 in getting to opposing quarterbacks. In fact, end Cory Morrissey posted six of the team’s 15 total sacks and he needs to be replaced. This unit needs to find a way to pressure the quarterback

 

10. Kansas

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-8)

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 4

 

Coaching changes:

David Beaty (HC), Rob Likens (OC), Clint Bowen (DC), Kenny Perry (co-DC)

 

Jayhawks’ Spring Priorities


1. Create overall depth
This seems awfully vague but for a team with just seven returning starters and a mostly new coaching staff, but developing depth across the roster should be priority No. 1. Every position should be an open competition in an effort to field a competitive depth chart. There are a lot of names returning on offense but this unit needs to find some star power.

2. Fill voids in the front seven
At least three starters up front on defense need to be replaced, including the best player on the team in linebacker Ben Heeney. Additionally, holes at end and tackle also need to be filled. Plenty of guys got snaps last season but this group needs to settle into position.

3. Rebuild the secondary

Specifically, one of the units that took the most hits this offseason in Lawrence is the defensive backfield. All-conference performers JaCorey Shepherd and Cassius Sendish need to be replaced, as well as primary contributors Dexter McDonald and Victor Simmons. This staff needs to find players behind returning safeties Isaiah Johnson and Fish Smithson.

Teaser:
Big 12 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/ranking-american-league-ballparks-2015-expert-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports has polled 10 experts from around Major League Baseball in an effort to find the best place to watch a game.

 

Based on criteria like fan support, home field advantage, amenities, tradition, surrounding area, facilities, gameday atmosphere and more, our 10 experts have ranked all 15 American League parks for 2015.


Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

The Voters:

 

Tyler Kepner, NY Times

Andy Baggarly, AndrewBaggarly.com

Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

John Tomase, WEEI

Juan Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun Times

Bill Plunkett, Orange County Register

C. Trent Rosencrans, Cincinnati Enquirer

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jack Magruder, FoxSportsArizona.com

 

The Results:

 

Scoring: A first-place vote is worth one point, a second-place vote is worth two points and a 15th-place vote is worth 15 points. The lowest score is voted the best stadium in the American League.

 

 ParkTeamPoints (1st)
1.Fenway Park14 (7)
2.Safeco Field31 (1)
3.Camden Yards33
4.Target Field50 (1)
5.Yankee Stadium55
6.Kauffman Stadium60 (1)
7.Comerica Park72
8.Angel Stadium80
9.Progressive Field83
10.Minute Maid Park99
11.Globe Life Park106
12.Rogers Centre113
13.U.S. Cellular Field120
14.O.co Coliseum141
15.Tropicana Field143

 

The Analysis:

 

Fenway Park dominates

Four different parks got first place votes but The Green Monster ran away with top billing in the American League. The third-smallest park in the majors seats just 37,499, but brings it strong with character and tradition. The neighborhood is great, the team is constantly competitive (normally) and the fan support is as good as any in the sport.

 

 

Underrated small markets

The other three first-place votes went to “small market” parks Safeco Field, Target Field and Kauffman Stadium. Traditionally, these three teams haven’t won a ton of baseball, but have had their moments (SEE: 2014). But all three scored very high with the experts. In fact, the Mariners' home park ranked No. 2 in the AL while the Twins' new building finished fourth.

 

Polarizing Yankee Stadium

Some love the façade, location and enormity of the new Yankee Stadium — it got six third-place votes. And some hate the cavernous, corporate expanse in the Bronx — it got a 12th- and a 13th-place vote as well. Love it or hate it, it’s still a bucket list item for any baseball fan.

 

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

A tip of the cap to the Orioles' home stadium as it finished third in the AL in our voting. When it was built, it was considered a first of its kind and has led the way in reinventing the way MLB built stadiums. Now, with the team winning, Camden Yards is one of the best spots in the league to catch a game.

 

Trop edges O.co for last

Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay is considered the worst stadium in the AL and has spurned plenty of relocation discussion for the Rays. But it’s only slightly worse than Oakland’s O.co Coliseum. The Trop landed four last-place votes and was ranked no higher than 13th by any voter. O.co got six last-place votes, but scored an 11th- and 12th-place vote, keeping it just barely ahead of Tampa Bay. For me, being outdoors alone makes it better.

 

 

Teaser:
Ranking the American League Ballparks in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kevin-stallings-yells-player-earth-spins-axis
Body:

No one is innocent in the latest edition of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee in-state rivalry.

 

Not Kevin Stallings. Not Wade Baldwin. Not the Vols coaching staff. And especially not the media.

 

Here is the incident in question after Vanderbilt topped Tennessee 73-65 in Knoxville on Thursday night (via ESPN):

 

 

This is a heated rivalry in which tempers can flare easily. It happens from time to time in sports and it happened on Thursday night.

 

But the Earth shouldn’t be spinning off its axis because a hard-nosed coach disciplined his player harshly. Or a player sort of maybe kind of lacked sportsmanship by clapping a few feet away from an opponent he just beat. Or a losing assistant coach tattling on a teenager.

 

And the media should be ashamed of itself for writing headlines that make readers think that Stallings threatened to kill his player.

 

Stallings has apologized. Baldwin is okay with his coach’s actions and has apologized too. The Vols took their medicine in the loss column.

 

 

Can we (the media) stop making this into more than it is and move on, please?

 

Teaser:
Kevin Stallings Yells at a Player, Earth Spins off Axis
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations, here is how the rosters of the Power 5 conferences, American Athletic Conference, BYU and Boise State stack up against one another.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

 Team'15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.111111.048-628-4
2.3410324.448-728-4
3.732564.644-1027-5
4.5261476.841-1223-9
5.21112937.436-1624-12
6.6811857.640-1425-7
7.96131189.431-2115-17
8.21934119.629-2117-15
9.1017172410.031-2121-15
10.1310518911.037-15--
11.81815151013.242-1126-6
12.4724201413.822-277-25
13.151416121314.039-1326-10
14.1159163515.235-1717-16
15.162119131216.248-731-5
16.191620171617.640-1221-11
17.3820462618.831-2018-14
18.271214103319.228-2216-16
19.12197194520.435-1923-13
20.17158462021.226-2511-21
21.24135172223.442-1228-8
22.233023282125.025-2510-22
23.263718232425.631-2219-17
24.292721213626.833-2019-13
25.313522301727.037-1622-10
26.183825223427.432-2015-17
27.282928431929.428-2316-16
28.142430483129.430-2018-14
29.222537333229.842-1225-7
30.402832322531.435-1722-14
31.493229262331.819-3010-22
32.372627274632.640-1226-10
33.334146251832.626-2413-23
34.354839341534.216-339-27
35.414235293035.434-1722-14
36.392234503736.414-344-28
37.202340356536.634-1923-13
38.363631364937.628-2316-18
39.324736452937.839-1322-8
40.253943315739.036-1721-12
41.423144414841.230-2217-19
42.343338653941.839-1623-9
43.556050242743.232-2015-15
44.474526475644.227-2411-21
45.484341385244.420-3010-22
46.446347374046.227-2314-22
47.585358402847.427-2415-17
48.624433425847.825-2714-16
49.303459547249.826-2511-21
50.515142565551.014-346-26
51.636145444351.224-2615-21
52.457049643853.219-316-26
53.534652556253.626-2412-20
54.435476524453.833-2121-11
55.674053536856.214-347-23
56.544961745157.838-1427-9
57.466554586758.016-339-27
58.566755605358.243-1028-5
59.615766595459.425-2613-19
60.696863514759.637-1423-7
61.755548814260.210-382-34
62.505870626360.628-2415-17
63.645073616161.822-2811-19
64.605287714162.220-3012-20
65.715660675962.616-348-28
66.687668396463.010-394-32
67.526267666963.218-3111-21
68.657262497564.617-338-24
69.596664727066.234-18--
70.907456577370.034-1823-10
71.7059811015072.236-1625-7
72.797871686672.421-2915-17
73.917569797177.031-2022-10
74.737185738377.022-2612-19
75.727989927781.819-3013-19
76.9810565708083.615-339-21
77.928982838185.415-3510-22
78.1128079897987.824-2718-14

Conference Breakdowns:

 

No. 1 and it’s not even close

Fans in other regions don’t want to hear it, but the best rosters are in the SEC. It doesn’t mean Ohio State, USC, Texas or Florida State aren’t loaded (because they are). But no league can match the depth of talent of the SEC. Five of the top eight most-talented teams in the nation are from the SEC. Eight of the top 16 and 11 of the top 26 hail from the SEC. Vanderbilt is the least-talented team in the SEC (14th), but would rank eighth in the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten. No other league has more than five teams ranked in the top 26.

 

SEC's average class ranking: 19.6

 

Defending champs

Ohio State tops the Big Ten charts by a wide margin with a greater disparity than any other league. Michigan is second in the Big Ten at No. 17 nationally (or ninth in the SEC). The Buckeyes would have the best roster in the Pac-12 and Big 12 as well. The message to the rest of the Big Ten is clear: Join the Buckeyes' recruiting party or get left in the dust. There is a reason OSU will likely enter 2015 as the No. 1 team in the nation.

 

Big Ten's average class ranking: 40.6

 

Pac-12 rising

The Pac-12 is the No. 2 league in the nation, closing the gap on the SEC over the last few seasons. It’s done so by hiring a great commissioner, adding a glut of great coaches and major financial investments in facilities and branding. It’s paid off on the field and on the trail. The Pac-12 trails only the SEC with five rosters ranked in the top 25. Additionally, three-fourths of the league is ranked 46th or higher — better than every other league not named the SEC.

 

Pac-12's average class ranking: 35.3

 

Dichotomy in the Big 12

The lack of elite-level talent in the Big 12 should be concerning. The league boasts only two teams (Texas, Oklahoma) inside the top 30 and is signing fewer top-100 players than any other league. The good news is the middle of the conference is fantastically competitive. The Big 12 has five teams ranked between 30th (Oklahoma State) and 38th (West Virginia). While this league may be lacking in elite, five-star talent, the heart of this league is extremely competitive.

 

Big 12's average class ranking: 37.4

 

What to make of the ACC?

Florida State is stacked and a proven commodity. Clemson has long been the second-most talented roster in this league. Miami has elite upside but is still mired in scandal/rebuilding mode. Otherwise, the better recruiting teams in this league have wildly underachieved of late (Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia) and the last two Coastal Division champs have wildly overachieved based on talent (Duke, Georgia Tech). The middle tier of teams, which includes rising power Louisville, needs to elevate itself nationally if the ACC wants to regain national notoriety among its Power 5 brethren.

 

ACC's average class ranking: 40.1

Teaser:
Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2014
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Big 12 rank.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

 Team'15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.1017172410.031-2121-15
2.151416121314.039-1326-10
3.402832322531.435-1722-14
4.372627274632.640-1226-10
5.334146251832.626-2413-23
6.414235293035.434-1722-14
7.363631364937.628-2316-18
8.544961745157.838-1427-9
9.755548814260.210-382-34
10.715660675962.616-348-28

 

Optimism in Austin

Texas regained its toughness under Charlie Strong in year one. On the recruiting trail, it got its mojo back by winning some key battles against the SEC, namely Texas A&M, and the rest of the Big 12. The Horns had the best class in the Big 12 in 2015 and boast the best roster in the league heading into the summer. The Horns are ninth nationally in terms of talent after sneaking back into the top 10 for the first time since the 2012 cycle. Oklahoma is second in the conference and ranks 13th nationally.

 

Big 12 concerns

The stats cannot be mistaken. The Big 12 has a recruiting issue. Texas and Oklahoma are 1-2 in talent in the Big 12 but would be sixth and eighth in the SEC. No other Big 12 team is ranked inside the top 30, the league isn’t sending players to the NFL and isn’t landing as many five-star or top-100 recruits as it’s accustomed to. Oklahoma used to land top-five classes and now they enter the season without a top-10 class on its roster. The Sooners' average rank is 14.0 nationally — which is good enough to compete for national titles (Oregon ranks 15th) but the margin for error is now razor thin for Stoops and company.

 

Power in the middle

The good news for fans in the Big 12 is the middle of the league. It’s extremely competitive and entertaining, and the talent levels indicate nothing will change. Oklahoma State (30th), Baylor (32nd), Texas Tech (33rd), TCU (35th) and West Virginia (38th) have virtually identical levels of talent nationally and their games have been extremely fun to watch on the field. With the fourth-ranked roster in the league, however, questions about Baylor’s staying power after two championships are warranted. Can the sixth-ranked roster (TCU) break through and win a league title? Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch once again.

 

More with less

The Big 12’s “more with less” award goes to Bill Snyder every year and 2015 won’t be any different. Kansas State ranked 56th nationally in terms of talent with an average class ranking of 57.8. According to the rankings, Indiana, Oregon State, Illinois, Northwestern and South Florida have better rosters than the Wildcats. And Snyder couldn’t care less. Like Gary Pinkel in the SEC or Jerry Kill in the Big Ten, Snyder continues to work minor miracles with his personnel.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12 Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Big Ten rank.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

  '15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.732564.644-1027-5
2.3820462618.831-2018-14
3.313522301727.037-1622-10
4.142430483129.430-2018-14
5.222537333229.842-1225-7
6.343338653941.839-1623-9
7.556050242743.232-2015-15
8.484341385244.420-3010-22
9.585358402847.427-2415-17
10.515142565551.014-346-26
11.457049643853.219-316-26
12.534652556253.626-2412-20
13.615766595459.425-2613-19
14.657262497564.617-338-24

 

Simply the best

There is a reason the Buckeyes are entering 2015 as the defending national champions. Urban Meyer promised an SEC blueprint and delivered ahead of schedule by out-recruiting the Big Ten by leaps and bounds. Ohio State is 24-0 over the last three years in league play because it has the best players. (Yes, we know coaching and development counts too.) This is the third-best roster in the nation entering ’15.

 

Harbaugh has work to do

Michigan is accustomed to competing for top-10 classes, Big Ten championships, Rose Bowls and even national titles. But that won’t happen with the 17th-ranked class nationally. Jim Harbaugh needs to get the Wolverines back into the top 10 when it comes to recruiting if the Maize and Blue want to knock off “Ohio” and get back into the national conversation. That said, this is still clearly the No. 2 roster in the league so the turnaround shouldn’t take long at all.

 

Mike Riley’s resources

Nebraska has as much support and tradition as any football program in the nation. Certainly, Mike Riley will have more resources at his disposal than he knows what do with after coaching at Oregon State for more than a decade. That said, Nebraska has seen its stock on the recruiting trail drop over the last 15 years and Riley is charged with reenergizing the brand. With the third-best roster in the league and the best in the West, winning a division title is the minimum expectation every single season in Lincoln.

 

Sparty starting to build

It has taken Mark Dantonio time to build a champion in East Lansing but after four or five years of elite football, the Spartans are starting to see their efforts pay off on the recruiting trail. This is a top 30 roster nationally and has closed the gap on Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan in terms of star power. The ’15 class was the best of the Dantonio era and his classes have improved three years running. The issue is the balance of power in the league, as four of the top five rosters in the league are in the East Division.

 

Eastern expansion

The reasons the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers have been covered ad nauseam. But one that should have fans excited is that both should be able to compete from a talent standpoint. The middle tier of talent in the B1G is Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland and Iowa. Adding the Terps and Knights has bolstered the middle of the league and both appear to have postseason staying power — as long as they get coaching. As a side effect, Kirk Ferentz finds his roster slipping further and further down the league’s hierarchy, now ranked ninth in the conference.

 

More with less

Jerry Kill wins the “more with less” award in the Big Ten as he clearly gets more out of his talent than anyone else in the league. With the 13th-best roster in the league, Kill had the Gophers a couple of touchdowns away from a division title and playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. Like Bill Snyder in the Big 12 or Gary Pinkel in the SEC, Kill works minor miracles in the Big Ten.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Basketball, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-basketball/court-storming-issue-resolved-college-basketball-rules-follow
Body:

If you hate court storming, you are labeled as a grumpy old person who wants to rip the joy from the youth of America.

 

If you love court storming, you have a blatant disregard for human safety and probably don’t understand that actions have consequences.

 

As it does every spring, storming the court has once again become a topic of debate. Kansas State fans mobbed the floor of the Octagon of Doom after beating archrival Kansas. Maryland students stormed the court after knocking off Wisconsin on Tuesday night. And more are sure to follow as conference tournaments begin.

 

A student’s shoulder made contact with a Jayhawk player but nothing really of note happened in either case and KSU has apologized. It hasn’t stopped sports talk radio, columnists and the Twittersphere from spewing venom from one side of the isle to the other concerning the issue.

 

Can’t we all just get along? In our seats and on the court?

 

There are plenty of incidents that indicate mixing fans with the people they adore (or hate) isn’t a good idea. It’s why fans are treated so abruptly when they decide to run onto the gridiron, diamond or pitch. This is especially true for drunken young people.

 

However, 99.9 percent of the time in college basketball, these court stormings are totally harmless.

 

So in an effort to meld the old man on the porch with the young whippersnapper in the stands, I’ve created strict guidelines for storming one’s court. From here, it’s on the teams and arenas to maintain order. Penalties should be harsh.

 

Court Storming Rules and Restrictions

The following rules and restrictions indicate when court storming is not allowed.

 

1. College hoops bluebloods

Rule No. 1 is pretty straightforward. College basketball’s bluebloods are NEVER allowed to storm a court in any circumstance, so act like you’ve been there before Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana and Syracuse. This list can change from over time but these programs are basically never allowed to rush the hardwood. Ever.

 

2. Teams ranked in the top 15

If your favorite team is ranked in the top 15, they have no business storming the court. In general, Top 15 teams are No. 4 seeds or better in the NCAA Tournament and those fans have no business streaming out onto the floor after a win.

 

3. Teams ranked higher than the opponent

If your favorite team is ranked higher in the polls or standings than the opponent, invading the court isn’t allowed or appropriate.

 

4. Teams that are favored

If your favorite team is favored in the game in question, why would you have any business running out onto the hardwood after a win? You were supposed to win the game in the first place. C'mon.

 

5. Recent national champions

If your favorite team has won a national title in the last 10-15 years, then storming the court shall not be permitted. National championships indicate the best of the best, so while your team may not be a “blueblood,” it’s still one of the best programs in the nation currently. Therefore, nix the court-storm. Looking at you Louisville, UConn, Michigan State, Maryland and Florida (whose fans can't really storm the court anyway).

 

6. During the NIT

This goes for any tournament game of any kind really — preseason or post — but is only possible in the NIT since games are played on home courts. This is the Clemson Rule after the silly Tigers rushed the floor after an NIT win a few years ago. 

 

Court storming is a generally a fun and harmless expression of joy. So let’s not dilute the fun by rushing the floor every time we want. We are better than that, aren't we?

 

If your favorite teams ends a long — like more than a decade long — losing streak against an archrival or pulls a monumental upset over a top 10 opponent or clinches a championship of some kind, then rushing the floor to celebrate is perfectly acceptable.

 

Otherwise, act like you’ve been there before.

Teaser:
Court Storming Issue Resolved: College Basketball Rules to Follow
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 13:37
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Pac-12 rank.

 

  '15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.21112937.436-1624-12
2.162119131216.248-731-5
3.12197194520.435-1923-13
4.24135172223.442-1228-8
5.263718232425.631-2219-17
6.354839341534.216-339-27
7.202340356536.634-1923-13
8.423144414841.230-2217-19
9.446347374046.227-2314-22
10.636145444351.224-2615-21
11.466554586758.016-339-27
12.687668396463.010-394-32

 

USC surging

Steve Sarkisian landed the No. 2 class in the nation in his first full recruiting cycle at USC, and, enters 2015 with the No. 5-ranked roster in the nation. With scholarship numbers higher than they’ve been since NCAA sanctions, USC will enter Sark’s second season on the field with the best collection of players in the Pac-12. For all of Lane Kiffin’s weaknesses, luring talent to Los Angeles wasn’t one of them. Look for Cody Kessler and Coach Sark to make a strong run at a South Division crown.

 

Tier two talent

Oregon, UCLA, Stanford and Washington form the second tier of talent behind USC and ahead of everyone else. Those four teams rank between 15th and 23rd nationally in terms of talent heading into 2015 and have been four of the best teams in the league over the last four seasons. The Ducks have a slight edge here as the most talented team in the North and the most successful on the field, but the Bruins, Cardinal and Huskies aren’t too far behind. Pop in a tape of January's national championship game to see the difference between "tier one" and "tier two" talent.

 

Tight Wad turnaround

Sonny Dykes showed marked improvement in his second season in Berkeley, taking Cal from one win to five. With a roster ranked in the top half of the league (sixth), the Golden Bears could continue to improve under Dykes. Granted, the Bears aren’t on the same tier as Oregon, UCLA, Stanford or Washington, but California heads up the third tier of talent in the Pac-12.

 

The Grand Canyon State

Much like the state of Mississippi in the SEC, both Arizona schools will enter the season in the bottom half of the league in terms of talent but with high expectations. Both Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez have proven to be miracle workers on the field. Arizona State has won 23 Pac-12 games in the last four years but is 19-8 since Graham took over three years ago. In fact, ASU is one of only three teams in the league have won at least 10 games in each of the last two seasons (Oregon, UCLA). RichRod is coming off of a division crown with a young roster and a proven system for success despite the perceived lack of talent.

 

Stay the course

Kyle Whittingham has done as good a job as should be expected from a coach elevating a program from the Mountain West to the Pac-12. His 14-22 mark in Pac-12 play isn’t near the 73 percent clip he won at in the Mountain West (35-13). But the Utes went from one of the top two rosters in their conference to ninth-best entering 2015 and still managed to win nine games last year. Kudos are well-deserved.

 

Careful what you wish for

Gary Andersen left a top-tier job for a job with major obstacles when he departed Wisconsin for Oregon State. It might fit his personality better, he might like the region better and his family may be happier. But it’s much tougher to win in Corvallis than in Madison. The North Division is stacked with talent (and coaching) and Andersen enters his first season at OSU with a new quarterback, a team that has won just six of its last 18 Pac-12 games and the 10th-best roster in the 12-team league.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the SEC rank.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

  Team'15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.Alabama111111.048-628-4
2.LSU5261476.841-1223-9
3.Georgia6811857.640-1425-7
4.Auburn96131189.431-2115-17
5.Florida21934119.629-2117-15
6.Tennessee4724201413.822-277-25
7.Texas A&M1159163515.235-1717-16
8.South Carolina191620171617.640-1221-11
9.Ole Miss17158462021.226-2511-21
10.Arkansas233023282125.025-2510-22
11.Mississippi St183825223427.432-2015-17
12.Kentucky392234503736.414-344-28
13.Missouri253943315739.036-1721-12
14.Vanderbilt474526475644.227-2411-21

 

SEC dominates recruiting trail

Part of the reason the SEC is the best league in college football is the players. When looking at recruiting rankings from 2011-15, five of the top eight rosters in the nation are from the SEC along with Florida State (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3) and USC (No. 5). The SEC also features eight of the top 16 and 11 of the top 26 units in the nation. Finally, Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in terms of talent but would be eighth in the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten. Eight different SEC teams have landed a top-10 class in the last five cycles.

 

Gary Pinkel and Co.

There may not be any coaching staff in the nation that gets more out of less than the Mizzou Tigers. The Tigers rank 40th in the nation and 13th in the SEC in terms of talent with an average national ranking of 39.0 over the last four seasons. Yet, the Tigers' conference record over that span (21-12) is better than nine other SEC teams and their 14-2 SEC record since entering the league ties Alabama for tops in the league.

 

Les Miles and Mark Richt

Over the last four years, Miles (23-9) and Richt (25-7) are second to only Nick Saban in SEC wins (28-4). Yet, Georgia has no SEC titles to show for it and LSU has just one (2011) and has dropped in the standings every year since. These are two of the top six rosters in the nation and the pressure should be on both staffs to produce in a big way in ’15.

 

What to make of South Carolina

Steve Spurrier has been given the benefit of the doubt for most of his career. And rightly so. But with no star power returning on either side of the ball and a roster ranked eighth in the league (albeit 16th nationally), it's fair to question whether or not the Gamecocks have reached their peak. This team isn’t that far removed from three unprecedented 11-win seasons in a row. But none of those teams played in Atlanta and everyone around them in the East appears to be improving rapidly. This is a huge prove-it season for the Head Ball Coach.

 

Magnolia State

There are plenty of reasons for optimism for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in 2015. But even after two breakthrough seasons, the Rebels (11-21) and Bulldogs (15-17) are a combined 26-38 in SEC play over the last four years. Both programs have surged in the recruiting rankings over the last three years and expectations have followed suit. That said, Ole Miss still ranks just ninth in the SEC in terms of talent and HailState is way back in 11th — or last in the SEC West.

 

Big Orange rising

This one isn't rocket science. Expectations in Knoxville are beginning to soar. This roster is 12th in the nation in terms of talent and third in the SEC East after back-to-back elite classes. This is still a team that hasn’t won more than three SEC games since Lane Kiffin was in charge in 2009 and is extremely young. The 7-25 SEC record is better than only Kentucky over the last four years but that should soon change under Jones’ leadership.

 

Watch out for them Aggies

Kevin Sumlin has lit the recruiting trail on fire since Texas A&M moved to the SEC, landing three straight classes in the top 11. Expectations were unreasonably high entering last season but should be warranted this fall. The Aggies are one year ahead of Tennessee in terms of building a championship roster and should be more of a breakout candidate than the Vols. 

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the ACC rank.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

 Team'15'14'13'12'11AvgW/LConf.
1.3410324.448-728-4
2.81815151013.242-1126-6
3.271214103319.228-2216-16
4.292721213626.833-2019-13
5.282928431929.428-2316-16
6.493229262331.819-3010-22
7.324736452937.839-1322-8
8.624433425847.825-2714-16
9.303459547249.826-2511-21
10.435476524453.833-2121-11
11.505870626360.628-2415-17
12.645073616161.822-2811-19
13.605287714162.220-3012-20
14.526267666963.218-3111-21

 

What did we learn?

 

Noles aren't going anywhere

Florida State is one of only two teams in major college football to have lost four or fewer conference games over the last four seasons. The other is Alabama. Heading into 2015, things don’t appear to be changing much as the Noles enter with far and away the best roster in the ACC and one of the top two units in college football. The 4.4 average rank for FSU is second only to Alabama's 1.0 average.

 

It's on you, Clemson

Clemson has long been No. 2 in the ACC in terms of talent, outrecruiting everyone in the league not named Florida State. The Tigers have landed two top-10 classes in the last five years, and other than FSU, no other team in the ACC even has one. If someone is going to end the Noles 24-game ACC winning streak, it might have to be Clemson. Only one other team has even averaged a top 25 class over the last five years.

 

Urgency in South Florida

And that team is Miami. Al Golden could watch as many as six players get drafted in the early rounds of the NFL Draft this spring. It’s no secret this program has underachieved, not all of which is Golden’s fault. But with a top-20 roster nationally — clearly the most gifted in the Coastal Division — Miami needs to start winning more games. A 16-16 record in league play over the last four years isn’t acceptable.

 

Time to win

Miami isn’t the only team that needs to take strides in 2015. Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia have three of the better rosters in the league and have underachieved significantly over the last few seasons. The Hokies, Tar Heels and Cavaliers are fourth, fifth and sixth in the league in terms of talent and have lost 51 times in ACC play the last four years combined. This is also unacceptable.

 

More with less

Paul Johnson continues to work minor miracles in Atlanta. He doesn’t have one of the best 50 rosters in the nation but has won more ACC games (21) over the last four years than anyone else in the league expect Florida State (28) and Clemson (26). He enters 2015 trying to defend his Coastal Division crown with the 54th best roster in the nation — which is sixth in the division.

 

First full cycle

Bobby-P and the Cardinals are in that transitional phase after elevating from the AAC to the ACC. But that one letter is a big one. Ranked as the 39th best roster entering 2015 after landing the No. 32-ranked class, Louisville is smack in the middle of the league in terms of talent (7th) on their own tier. Should they continue to improve recruiting, the Cards should be the next recruiting challenger in the ACC.

 

Bottom of the barrel

The bottom of the league needs some help on the recruiting trail. The ACC has more teams ranked outside of the top 60 in terms of talent than any other league. In fact, the ACC has as many teams ranked 60th or worse than the Big Ten (1), Big 12 (2) and Pac-12 (1) combined. That said, Duke moved from 13th or 11th in the ACC after two of the better classes in school history.

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL, News
Path: /college-football/nfl-combine-complete-waste-my-time
Body:

The television ratings for the NFL Network's broadcast of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine were up 60 percent compared to 2010.

 

In fact, the 2015 rendition will start a day earlier — Friday through Monday — in an effort to continue ratings growth.

 

People love the underwear Olympics, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why. 

 

Maybe it's football withdrawal, maybe it's fantasy uber-nerds trying to get a leg up on drafts that are six months away or maybe it's simply being able to see a favorite player's face sans gladiator helmet.

 

But I still can't comprehend what value is gleaned this made-for-TV event. In particular, for NFL decision-makers.

 

Unless Amari Cooper runs a six-second 40-yard dash or Leonard Williams benches 225 pounds three times or Marcus Mariota can't complete a single pass against air, there won't be any redeeming value to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

 

Not on the field, at least. In fact, more times than not, the on-field evaluations at Lucas Oil Stadium actually muddy the scouting waters rather than clarify them. Scouts too often value what a prospect does in spandex running in a straight line over three or four seasons' worth of actual football games.

 

There is tremendous value for head coaches, general managers and scouts who get to sit down and get to know future employees face-to-face. These job interviews are the only aspect of the NFL Combine with any substantial meaning, and, of course, this is the only part of the circus that isn't televised.

 

Every year the draft is littered with guys who weren't good players in college but impressed at the Combine only to go on to fail miserably in the NFL.

 

J.J. Watt is a huge dude who is really strong and can run fast, jump high and works really hard. Julio Jones has a massive wing span, tremendous ball skills and elite explosiveness. Aaron Donald has superhuman strength, hands and quickness for a guy of his size.

 

It doesn't take an expert of NFL scouting to know those guys were elite players and belonged at the top of the draft. No, all you need is two eyeballs and a TV set on Saturdays.

 

The funny thing about great football players is that they are, well, great. But that doesn't stop NFL franchises — ones that spend a considerable amount of money scouting and drafting players — from making bone-headed decisions in the draft based on how guys perform in their skivvies.

 

Someone is going to draft Oregon's Arik Armstead in the first round this year.

 

The former five-star recruit is a 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive end who projects as a high first-round pick because he's going to look really pretty in shorts and a t-shirt in Indianapolis. Otherwise, there is no reason he should be considered a first-rounder.

 

The Ducks D-lineman played in 39 games in his three-year career in Eugene and never finished higher than sixth on the team in sacks or 10th in tackles. His career production for one of the best teams in college football: 87 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, 4.0 sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. 

 

Watt posted 61 tackles, 20.5 for a loss, 7.0 sacks, seven passes broken up, three forced fumbles and three blocked kicks in his final season alone at Wisconsin. Armstead is projected to be a top-10 pick — which is higher than Watt was taken in 2011 when Houston made him the 11th overall selection. That's insane.

 

Armstead is just the next in a long line of combine-induced, head-scratching first-round draft selections.

 

USC's R. Jay Soward was a first-round pick of the Jaguars in 2000 after glistening with potential at the Combine despite a mediocre college career. He lasted 13 games and caught 14 career passes in the NFL. The Jags also drafted quarterback-turned-wide receiver Matt Jones a few years later only to have that blow up in their face as well. How about John McCargo of the Bills in 2006? He was the third-best member of his own defensive line at NC State and Buffalo traded up to draft a player who would go on to start one NFL game. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Troy Williamson were top-10 picks in 2009 and '05 after speedy 40 times only to prove unworthy of their lofty draft status.

 

Quickly, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft that the Saints traded two first-round picks to acquire? Yup, Johnathan Sullivan. He had 1.5 sacks in three NFL seasons.

 

LSU has featured more than a few first-round Combine busts. JaMarcus Russell is a poster child for why Combine or Pro Day workouts should be taken with a grain of salt. He's literally the biggest bust in NFL history after only one quality season at LSU. That same year, Craig Davis landed in the first round because of his overall speed and quickness. Yet, Davis didn't even start at LSU until his senior year and caught seven career touchdowns in college. He hauled in two career NFL touchdowns in two career NFL starts. Tyson Jackson and Barkevious Mingo largely underachieved in college, dominated the Combine and haven't even proven they can be NFL starters.

 

Despite not being a first-round pick, my favorite Combine workout warrior is Chris Henry. The Arizona Wildcats running back started three games in college, rushing for 892 yards in four years at a clip of just 3.3 yards per carry. Yet, his freakish combine led the Tennessee Titans to draft Henry 50th overall early in the second round in 2007. 

 

He rushed for 122 yards on 32 career carries in his four-year NFL career.

 

Related: Worst 18 NFL combine busts of the modern era

 

The lesson should be don't overvalue what takes place this week in Indianapolis. How a player looks in tight shorts or how fast he runs in a straight line or how high/far he can jump standing still in a t-shirt should not supersede how a prospect plays the game.

 

Again, the funny thing about great players is they are great. You know, on the field, between the lines when the ball is snapped.

Teaser:
The NFL Combine: A Complete Waste of My Time
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 09:00

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