Articles By Braden Gall

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

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

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

Defense is king in the Southeast. But it’s not just great defensive ends and tackles that have made the SEC’s defenses so dominant during the BCS Era. The defensive backs have been among the best in the nation as well. In no other league were there so many All-American defensive backs left out of the top 10 than the SEC.

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

1. Eric Berry, Tennessee (2007-09)
It didn’t take long for Berry to make his name known as an SEC defender. In 2007, he posted a school record with 222 INT return yards on five picks, led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He then returned seven interceptions for 265 yards as a sophomore en route to his first of two unanimous All-American seasons. He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year that year. As a junior, Berry returned to win the Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards and ended his collegiate career with the the most interception return yards in SEC history. Used on offense and special teams as well, Berry’s superior athletic ability made him the fifth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. For his career, Berry finished with 245 tackles, 17.5 for loss and 14 interceptions.

2. Patrick Peterson, LSU (2008-10)
The supremely gifted Peterson played in every game as a true freshman for the defending BCS champs. One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

3. Morris Claiborne, LSU (2009-11)
One of the best pure covermen in the history of the SEC, Claiborne was a lock-down corner for LSU in his two full seasons as the starter. He developed a reputation as a sophomore with five picks and 37 tackles en route to All-SEC honors. After that, no one threw at him. Despite teams staying away from him and a teammate getting more Heisman hype, Claiborne was named the nation’s top defensive back in 2011 as the recipient of the Thorpe Award and was a unanimous All-American. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 regular-season mark, an SEC title, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year as his Tigers earned a berth in the BCS national title game. He was taken sixth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

4. Champ Bailey, Georgia (1996-98)
From a versatility standpoint, few have ever been as explosive and dynamic as Champ Bailey. He was a lockdown cornerback, an elite return man and a dangerous wide receiver. His senior season — the only year he played during the BCS Era — Bailey posted 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 47 passes for 744 yards and five scores on offense. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and won the Nagurski Trophy in 1998 as the nation’s top defensive player. The consensus All-American finished seventh in the Heisman voting in '98 and he was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

5. Mark Barron, Alabama (2008-11)
The superstar safety was a three-time All-SEC pick, two-time All-American and helped the Crimson Tide win two BCS National Championships. (2009, '11). After three straight seasons with at least 68 tackles, Barron finished his career with 235 tackles, 13.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks, 12 interceptions and 34 passes defended. Many coaches called him the best player in the SEC in 2011 on what many consider the best defense of the BCS Era. The hard-hitting Alabama safety was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

6. Carlos Rogers, Auburn (2001-04)
The Tigers coverman started 10 games as a freshman, earning Freshman All-American honors. He was a mainstay on the outside of Auburn’s defense for four years and it culminated in a historic 2004 campaign. Rogers started 44 games, registered 182 tackles and picked-off seven passes in his career. Rogers was named the Thorpe Award winner, an All-American and helped Auburn to a perfect 13-0 record, SEC and Sugar Bowl championship. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

7. LaRon Landry, LSU (2003-05)
The LSU safety might be the most physically imposing defensive back of the BCS Era. He started 10 games as a true freshman for Nick Saban and the 2003 BCS National Championship squad. He made 80, 92 and 70 total tackles respectively during his three-year career and was a two-time All-SEC pick. Landry earned consensus All-American honors in 2006 before leaving early for the NFL. The thumper was the sixth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

8. Joe Haden, Florida (2007-09)
Haden was the first true freshman cornerback to ever start opening day for the Gators. He helped lead Florida to the BCS National Championship in 2008 and was named National Defensive Player of the Year in '09. He also was a unanimous All-American that year and went seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

9. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State (2009-12)
An excellent all-around football player, Banks was just as good a leader and tackler as he was pure coverman. He was a first-team All-American and Thorpe Award winner for the Bulldogs in his final season when he made 63 tackles and intercepted four passes. He helped lead State to three straight bowl games and finished his career with 221 tackles, 11.5 for loss, four sacks and returned 15 interceptions for 321 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned punts in his final two seasons and was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

10. Reggie Nelson, Florida (2005-06)
After playing at the junior college level, Nelson stepped right into Gainesville and started 25 games in two years. The hard-hitting safety patrolled center field for the BCS National Champions in 2006 with six interceptions and 51 tackles. He was a consensus All-American and Tatum Trophy winner that year as well. Nelson was taken in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Corey Webster, LSU (2001-04)
Coming to LSU as a wide receiver, Webster moved to defense and blossomed as a star as a three-year starter. He earned All-SEC honors three times and All-American honors twice while leading LSU to the BCS National Championship in 2003. He finished with 115 tackles and 16 interceptions in 29 starts and 50 career games. He was a second-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

12. Lito Sheppard, Florida (1999-2001)
Playing for Steve Spurrier in his final three years in Gainesville, Sheppard was a mainstay for the Gators' secondary. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and an All-American in 2001. He started 23 of 36 career games with eight interceptions and helped lead Florida to an SEC championship in 2000. He was a first-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

13. Eric Reid, LSU (2010-12)
As physically gifted as any player in any league at any position during the BCS Era, Reid played in all 13 games as a true freshman. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 record and SEC title as a sophomore and made the signature interception against Bama in the 9-6 overtime throwdown in Tuscaloosa. Reid finished with 199 tackles in his career and the 49ers traded up into the first round to draft Reid in 2013.

14. Deon Grant, Tennessee (1997-99)
One of the most important defensive players on the 1998 BCS National Champs, Grant was as big a name for the Vols as any of the elite defensive linemen. Grant was a consensus All-American after leading the nation in interceptions with nine in ’99. Grant made huge plays (SEE: Florida in 1998) for three seasons in Knoxville and was a second-round pick in 2000.

15. Thomas Davis, Georgia (2002-04)
Sort of a hybrid outside linebacker and safety at Georgia, Davis was one of the most physically imposing defensive backs in SEC history. He posted 272 career tackles, 18.0 for loss, 10.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and three interceptions. He was an All-American and two-time All-SEC pick before starring at OLB for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL.

16. Dee Milliner, Alabama (2010-12)
He played in 38 games at Alabama and got 29 starts in just three years. He helped win two BCS National Championships and was a big part of what many believe was the best defense of the BCS Era in 2011. A unanimous All-American his final season, Milliner posted 133 tackles, 9.0 for loss, six interceptions, 40 passed defended in his Crimson Tide career and was taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Jets.

17. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (2010-11)
The Honey Badger won the Bednarik Award, was an All-American, made impact plays and was a Heisman finalist. However, he also was suspended multiple times, eventually kicked off the team — costing himself two full seasons — and was abused in the 2011 BCS National Championship game by Game MVP AJ McCarron. It makes him one of the most difficult players of the BCS Era to evaluate. He posted 133 tackles, 16.0 for loss, four interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his two-year career.

18. Craig Steltz, LSU (2004-07)
The hard-hitting safety played center field as well as any safety in league history. He started 20 times, played in 40 games and won a BCS national title as a senior All-American. Steltz finished with 184 tackles and 11 interceptions before getting drafted in the fourth round by the Bears.

19. Keiwan Ratliff, Florida (2000-03)
The dynamic playmaker finished his All-American Gators career with school records for interceptions (9) and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by some outlets. The two-time All-SEC pick was a second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft.

20. Jason Allen, Tennessee (2002-05)
Starting at both corner and safety during his career, Allen is one of the more versatile players to come through the SEC. He was an All-American in 2004 when he led the team in tackles with 123 stops during his junior year. Allen would be even higher on this list had his final season not ended early due to his severe hip injury.

Best of the rest:

21. Ko Simpson, South Carolina (2004-06)
22. Fred Smoot, Mississippi State (1997-2000)
23. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (2011-13)
24. D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (2006-08)
25. Johnathan Joseph, South Carolina (2004-05)
26. Javier Arenas, Alabama (2006-09)
27. Greg Blue, Georgia (2002-05)
28. Casey Heyward, Vanderbilt (2008-11)
29. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (2009-11)
30. Captain Munnerlyn, South Carolina (2006-08)

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-defensive-backs-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

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

1. Dre Bly, North Carolina (1996-98)
Not only one of the coolest names in college football but one of the coolest customers on an island all by himself. Bly set the ACC single-season record with 11 interceptions in 1996 and left school with an ACC record 20 INTs in his career (both since broken). He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and sophomore (one of few in NCAA history to accomplish the feat) and was a second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

2. Anthony Poindexter, Virginia (1995-98)
He was a leader and one of the hardest-hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American. He was the only defensive back in the ACC to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors during the BCS Era. The three-time, first-team All-ACC pick finished his career with 12 interceptions.

3. Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech (2002-05)
Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior while leading Tech to an ACC championship with a league-leading five interceptions and 19 passes defensed. In 2005, Williams was a unanimous All-American and Jack Tatum Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

4. Antrel Rolle, Miami 2001-04)
He only played one season in the ACC but it was a good one. Along with Sean Taylor, Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004 as a senior. He played safety in the NFL after being selected eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was an elite college cornerback, shutting down names like Larry Fitzgerald (3 rec., 26 yds) and Calvin Johnson (2 rec., 10 yds) during his career.

5. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest (2005-08)
The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick led the ACC in interceptions and passes defended in both 2007 and '08. He totaled 15 picks and 38 passes broken up over that span. He was a consensus All-American as a senior and his 21 career interceptions is an ACC all-time record. Additionally, he scored on four INT returns, tying Randy Neal of Virginia for the all-time ACC record. 

6. David Amerson, NC State (2010-12)
When it comes to interceptions, few have been better in the ACC than Amerson. The Wolfpack coverman set an ACC record and led the nation with 13 interceptions in his 2011 sophomore season. His 18 career picks rank third all-time and his 287 return yards are fourth all-time in ACC history. Amerson won the Jack Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back and was a first-team All-American as well. He finished with 177 tackles and three INT touchdown returns for his career. Amerson was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

7. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State (2009-13)
There wasn't much that Joyner didn't accomplish while at Florida State. The five-star recruit played 55 career games, won two ACC titles and a BCS National Championship while earning back-to-back first-team All-ACC honors. Joyner finished with 197 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks, eight interceptions and 1,260 return yards.

8. Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech (2004-07)
One of best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL, Flowers started the final 27 games of his career before leaving early for the NFL Draft in 2008. He played on two ACC championship teams and was an All-American in 2007. He finished his career with 157 tackles, 17.0 for loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and 40 passes defensed in three seasons on the field before Kansas City took him in the second round.

9. Robert Carswell, Clemson (1997-2000)
A leader both on and off the field, Carswell is one of the Tigers' greatest players. He was named to the first-team All-ACC squad twice, started 41 consecutive games and is the all-time tackle leader for any defensive back in Clemson history with over 373 stops.

10. Victor Harris, Virginia Tech (2005-08)
The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick helped lead Tech to back-to-back ACC championships during his junior and senior seasons. His 15 career interceptions are a school record and good for 15th all-time in ACC history. His 278 return yards are tied for fifth all-time in ACC history. Harris posted 128 total tackles and scored on five return touchdowns.

Just missed the cut:

11. Tay Cody, Florida State (1996-2000)
Cody played on three consecutive teams that made it to the BCS national title game and was a consensus All-American on the 2000 squad that lost to Oklahoma. He finished his career with 12 career interceptions and was a third-round NFL Draft pick.

12. Tye Hill, Clemson (2002-05)
After playing running back as a freshman, Hill switched to cornerback and excelled for three seasons on defense. He eventually earned All-ACC honors and was a consensus All-American and Thorpe Finalist in his final season at Clemson. He had 114 total tackles in three full seasons as a starter.

13. Ross Cockrell, Duke (2010-13)
As one of the senior leaders for the Blue Devils, Cockrell helped his program reach unprecedented levels of success on the field. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick on the only back-to-back bowl teams in Duke history. He posted 233 tackles and 12 interceptions during his career, but he will always be remembered for being a key part of the first 10-win in school history.

14. Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
Few players can match the raw talent of the current Packers' starting safety. He was a three-year performer for Tech and posted 235 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 32 passes deflected and 14 interceptions before leaving early for the NFL Draft in 2010.

15. John Talley, Duke (2003-06)
Talley was a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick and is the ACC’s all-time leader with 395 interception return yards. His 18 career interceptions rank third all-time in ACC history and he earned All-American honors following a senior campaign that included an ACC-leading seven INTs along with 42 tackles (5.5 for loss).

16. Chase Minnifield, Virginia (2008-11)
After playing all 36 games in his first three seasons for bad UVa teams, Minnifield helped return the Cavaliers to their only bowl game in the last six seasons. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and finished his career with 151 tackles, 12.0 for loss, 13 interceptions, 30 passes defensed and nearly 1,200 return yards.

17. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (2009-11)
He played in all 39 games of his career, starting for two full seasons and earning first-team All-ACC honors as a sophomore. His nine interceptions that year are a Tech single-season record and are fourth all-time in ACC history. He also sits 15th all-time in the ACC with 815 punt return yards. Hosley posted 109 tackles and 12 INTs in his three-year career.

18. Jamie Silva, Boston College (2004-07)
One of only a handful of consensus All-Americans from the ACC at DB, Silva earned that honor with a league-leading eight interceptions in his final season. He was a three-year starter in ACC play (one year in the Big East) and had 269 tackles, 15.0 for loss and 13 interceptions in three ACC seasons.

19. Terrence Holt, NC State (1999-02)
A three-year starter and special teams force, Holt was a two-time All-ACC first-teamer and had a unique knack for blocking kicks. He posted 12 career blocks — eight field goals and four punts — and collected 307 career tackles.

20. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (2007-10)
The troubled Clemson defensive back was a freshman All-ACC pick in 2007 and a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick as a junior and senior. Despite major off-the-field issues, McDaniel finished with 275 tackles, 20.0 for loss and 15 interceptions.

Best of the rest:

21. Dexter Reid, North Carolina (2000-03)
22. Lloyd Harrison, NC State (1996-99)
23. Kelly Jennings, Miami (2002-05)
24. Josh Gattis, Wake Forest (2003-06)
25. Chris Hope, Florida State (1999-2001)
26. Kenny Phillips, Miami (2005-07)
27. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (2010-12)
28. Brandon Harris Miami (2008-10)
29. Antwan Edwards, Clemson (1995-98)
30. Stanford Samuels, Florida State (2000-03)

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-defensive-backs-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

Maybe it’s the elite coaching or Hall of Fame quarterbacks and the electric offensive skill players, but the Pac-12 (Pac-10 until 2012) hasn’t had a long list of decorated defensive backs. There have been plenty of great players but this league boasts just seven consensus All-Americans, only one Thorpe Award winner during the BCS Era and only two defensive backs were named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Here are the best DBs the West Coast has to offer.

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

1. Troy Polamalu, USC (1999-2002)
The big-play machine was a three-year starter for the West Coast powerhouse. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a consensus All-American and stuffed the stat sheet his entire career. The big hitter finished with 278 tackles, 29.0 for loss, six interceptions and four blocked punts in 36 career starts for the Men of Troy. Polamalu led USC back to prominence with a league title and trip to the Orange Bowl before being taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

2. Antoine Cason, Arizona (2004-07)
The California native was a four-year contributor for Arizona, playing in 46 career games in Tucson. He burst onto the scene in his first collegiate game by winning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week. He went on to win Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He was named first-team all-league twice as an upperclassman and is the only player form the Pac-12 to win the Thorpe Award during the BCS Era (2007). He scored four times (two INTs, two punt returns), intercepted five passes and made 71 tackles as a senior. He finished with 253 tackles, 14.0 for loss, 15 interceptions and five total touchdowns. Cason was the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

3. Deltha O’Neal, Cal (1996-99)
The Golden Bear great is one of the most decorated defensive backs from the Pac-12 during the BCS Era. He is one of just two players to win conference Defensive Player of the Year when he set an NCAA record by returning four interceptions for touchdowns in his senior year. He also won the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teamer and the Pop Warner Award as the most valuable player on the West Coast —  one of only six Pac-12 players to do so and one of only two Pac-12 defensive players. He was a consensus All-American and first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

4. Daymeion Hughes, Cal (2003-06)
The shutdown corner started at least one game in each of his four years, capping his Cal tenure with the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which recognizes a college defender for his achievements and success both on and off of the field. He also landed Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors, being just one of only two defensive backs to win this award during the BCS Era. Hughes was a two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 honoree and a consensus All-American in 2006 with 72 tackles, eight interceptions and 19 passes broken up. He was a third-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

5. Chris McAlister, Arizona (1996-98)
He only played three seasons in Tucson after attending Mt. San Antonio College yet still made a major impact at Arizona. He was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection in all three seasons and a consensus All-American in his final season. He became the first player in school history to return a kick, punt and interception for a touchdown and his 18 career interceptions rank third in school history. McAlister won the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teams player. He was the 10th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

6. Taylor Mays, USC (2006-09)
A five-star recruit coming into college, Mays helped lead USC to three consecutive conference championships and a 34-5 record in his first three seasons. He was a rare three-time All-American from 2007-09 and was a freshman All-American in '06. Mays finished his career with 276 tackles, 21 pass breakups and five interceptions. He was a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

7. Marcus Trufant, Washington State (1999-2002)
He started all four seasons for the Cougars and helped lead Washington State back to the Rose Bowl in 2002 as a senior. Trufant is one of the best pure cover corners to ever play the game, as he didn’t allow a single touchdown in his last two seasons. He was a freshman All-American in his first year, twice earned All-Pac-10 honors and was a second team All-American in 2002. Trufant was taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

8. Jordan Poyer, Oregon State (2009-12)
He played in all 13 games as true freshman. He had 34 tackles and 1,109 all-purpose yards on 44 returns as a sophomore. As a junior, Poyer led the Pac-12 in interceptions. In his final season, he earned consensus All-American honors and was arguably the top cover corner in the nation. He finished his career with 153 tackles, 23 pass breakups, 13 interceptions, four return touchdowns and over 2,000 yards in punt (316) and kick returns (1,711).

9. Ricky Manning, UCLA (1999-2002)
The Fresno native was a stalwart in the defensive backfield for the Bruins. He started 45 consecutive games, the second longest streak in UCLA history. He also was a rare three-time, first-team all-conference selection from 2000-02. His finished his career with 13 interceptions and was a third-round pick of the Panthers in the 2003 NFL Draft.

10. Ed Reynolds, Stanford (2011-13)
As just a sophomore, Reynolds made his presence felt on what many considered the best defense in the nation. He posted 47 tackles, six interceptions and scored three touchdowns on defense en route to All-Pac-12 honors and the Jack Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back. He led Stanford to back-to-back Pac-12 championships and was a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 pick and two-time All-American. Had he stayed for his senior season, Reynolds could have become one of the league’s all-time greats.

Just missed the cut:

11. Lamont Thompson, Washington State (1998-2001)
When it comes to making big plays on opposing quarterbacks, Thompson is statistically the best the Pac-12 has ever seen. He tied a Pac-12 record with four interceptions in one game against UCLA in 2001 and is the league’s all-time leader with 24 interceptions during his career.

12. Rahim Moore, UCLA (2008-10)
A heralded big-time recruit, Moore stepped right into the starting lineup and started all 37 games of his career. He led the nation with 10 interceptions as a sophomore and was a two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection before leaving early for the NFL. Moore finished with 186 tackles and 14 interceptions.

13. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (2011-present)
In just three seasons on the field, Ekpre-Olomu has established himself as one of the Ducks' greatest defensive backs. He is already a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 pick and received some All-American consideration. Oregon is 35-5 with IEO on the field and position coach John Neal has stated he is the best player he’s ever coached. In just three years, he already has 181 tackles, 30 PBUs and seven interceptions.

14. Syd’Quan Thompson, Cal (2006-09)
He played in 52 games during his excellent college career, making plays all over the field. Thompson was simply a playmaker. He had 258 tackles, 20.0 for loss, 36 PBUs, seven interceptions and scored on both a fumble and punt return during his career. He was s two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 pick.

15. Patrick Chung, Oregon (2005-08)
Chung started at “rover” as a true freshman and posted 91 total tackles, earning freshman All-American honors in the process. He registered 384 career tackles, 19.0 for loss, nine interceptions and two return touchdowns. Chung was a two-time, first-team all-league pick and was taken in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Best of the rest:

16. Kevin Ellison, USC (2005-08)
17. T.J. Ward, Oregon (2007-09)
18. Tank Williams, Stanford (1998-2001)
19. Darnell Bing, USC (2003-05)
20. Desmond Trufant, Washington (2009-12)
21. Sabby Piscitelli, Oregon State (2003-06)
22. Jairus Byrd, Oregon (2006-08)
23. Alterraun Verner, UCLA (2006-09)
24. Dennis Weathersby, Oregon State (1999-2002)
25. T.J. McDonald, USC (2010-13)
26. Nnamdi Asomugha, Cal (1999-2002)
27. O.J. Atogwe, Stanford (2001-04)
28. Terrell Thomas, USC (2004-07)
29. Matt Giordano, Cal (2001-04)
30. Dashon Goldson, Washington (2003-06)

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/2014-heisman-trophy-position-position-spring-primer
Body:

With all due respect to Johnny Football, Jameis Winston had the best debut season in college football history. Johnny Manziel’s Heisman-winning season in 2013 was special — he obliterated the SEC’s all-time single-season total offense record.

But it wasn’t as special as Winston was a year ago. He set NCAA passing records, never lost a game, won the final BCS National Championship in dramatic fashion and claimed the Heisman Trophy. He proved once again that it is nearly impossible to repeat as the Heisman winner.

Matt Leinart couldn’t do it. Neither could Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram, the great Tim Tebow or the electric Manziel. So even though Florida State returns to a conference apt for the taking loaded with an elite collection of five-star athletes, Winston still shouldn’t be considered the favorite if only because he won the award last season.

Coming out of nowhere has almost become a requirement to win the Heisman. Captivating the nation has to be on the resume (SEE Manziel) and Winston has already done that.

So while he is still obviously a top contender to win the award, someone else is all but certain to take home the coveted bronze statue in 2014. As spring football gets started across the nation here is our position-by-position breakdown of the 2014 Heisman Trophy race.

The Signal-Callers:

A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy four years in a row and 12 of the last 13. Dating back to Andre Ware in 1989, a signal-caller has won the stiff-armed trophy 17 times in 23 years. This award has become a quarterback’s award and with the way offenses have evolved, the super quarterback — Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, for example — has become nearly impossible to stop when it comes to the Heisman. And the first year of the college football playoff shouldn’t be any different as the top handful of Heisman contenders in 2014 should be quarterbacks.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon (Jr.)
'13 Stats: 3,665 yds, 31 TDs, 4 INTs, 63.5%, 715 yds, 9 TDs

A sprained knee kept Mariota from finishing what was turning into one of the greatest single seasons ever by a Pac-12 quarterback. Over the first eight games, Mariota posted 511 of his 715 yards rushing and all nine rushing touchdowns. Poor games against Stanford and Arizona cost Oregon the Pac-12 title and Mariota a trip to New York after his knee injury. When healthy, the Ducks' signal-caller is one of the most naturally gifted players in the nation and he orchestrates one of the most explosive offenses in the country. He is 23-3 overall in two seasons under center and is poised for a run at the Heisman and first College Football Playoff National Championship.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State (Sr.)
’13 Stats: 2,094 yds, 24 TDs, 7 INTs, 63.5%, 1,068 yds, 12 TDs

From an electricity standpoint, few players in the nation can match Miller’s dual-threat talents. His first step is explosive and his ability to pick up big chunks of yards on the ground is unprecedented in Columbus. He posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard season on the ground and second consecutive unbeaten regular season in 2013 while showing marked improvement as a passer. Should Ohio State make a run at one of the playoff spots, as expected, then Miller should find himself in New York at season’s end.

Brett Hundley, UCLA (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 3,071 yds, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, 66.8%, 748 yds, 11 TDs

After two stellar years under center, the Bruins enter 2014 as the potential frontrunner in the Pac-12 South due in large part to Hundley. He has nearly 8,000 yards of total offense and 73 touchdowns in his first two seasons so expectations are through the roof for this fall. The only real question mark surrounding Hundley is the talent around him as his 2012 supporting cast was likely the best he’s had.

Bryce Petty, Baylor (Sr.)
’13 Stats: 4,200 yds, 32 TDs, 3 INTs, 62.0%, 209 yds, 14 TDs

The level of efficiency Petty exhibited in Waco this past season was astounding. He accounted for 46 total touchdowns (32 pass, 14 rush) while only throwing three interceptions and finishing second nationally to only Jameis Winston in passing efficiency (174.29). Petty led his team to its first-ever Big 12 championship, BCS bowl and 11-win season in one fell swoop. His omission from New York last season was laughable and that won’t happen again in 2014 should he return Baylor to the top of the Big 12 mountain.

Jameis Winston, Florida State (So.)
’13 Stats: 4,057 yds, 40 TDs, 10 INTs, 66.9%, 219 yds, 4 TDs

The reigning Heisman winner gets the nod based solely on his accomplishments in 2013. He is one of just four Heisman winners to cap his stiff-armed season with a win in the BCS title game and is one of just six players in college football history to go unbeaten, win the Heisman and claim the national championship. He set an NCAA record for freshmen with 40 touchdown passes and was the nation’s No. 1-rated passer (184.85). The odds of him winning the award for a second straight season are stacked convincingly against him, however, Florida State will likely be the preseason No. 1 team and again faces a weak ACC schedule.

Other QBs to Watch: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State; Nick Marshall, Auburn; Taysom Hill, BYU; Keenan Reynolds, Navy; Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

The Workhorses

From 1950 to 1983, a ball carrier won the Heisman Trophy 26 times. This included a stretch from Johnny Rodgers in 1972 to Mike Rozier in '83 where a running back won the Heisman 12 consecutive times. Since Bo Jackson won the award in 1985, however, only five running backs have won the most prestigious award in sports. Rashaan Salaam, Eddie George, Ricky Williams, Ron Dayne and Mark Ingram — the only non-QBs to win the Heisman since 1999 — are the only backs to be awarded the stiff-armed trophy. The ’14 class of backs isn’t as deep as the group that produced three top-10 vote-getters a year ago (Andre Williams, Tre Mason, Ka’Deem Carey) but there are still plenty of talented Heisman options at this position.

Todd Gurley, Georgia (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 165 att., 989 yds, 10 TDs, 37 rec., 441 yds, 6 TDs

The most talented running back in the nation is back as the focal point of an offense known for churning out great ball carriers. The 230-pounder averaged 6.0 yards per carry on just 165 attempts last year, missing big chunks of time due to injury. When healthy, however, no one in the nation is more physically gifted than the Dawgs' tailback. Despite missing three full games, he finished with 1,430 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns on 202 offensive touches. Imagine what he could do with, say, 375 touches — a number that led the nation last year (Ka’Deem Carey).

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 206 att., 1,609 yds, 12 TDs, 1 rec., 10 yds

Gordon averaged an absurd 7.8 yards per carry on 206 attempts and scored 12 times while sharing the ball with senior James White. With White now out of the picture and quarterback Joel Stave entering his third season as the starter, the explosive and powerful Gordon could be in for a monster season. At a school with names like Dayne, Bennett, Calhoun, Moss, Hill, Clay and Ball, it’s Gordon who might be the most physically gifted of the bunch and, as usual, he will be running behind one of the most talented and experienced offensive lines in the nation.

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 207 att., 1,235 yds, 14 TDs, 20 rec., 183 yds

With AJ McCarron gone, Nick Saban will turn to Yeldon and rising sophomore Derrick Henry to carry the workload in Tuscaloosa this fall. The offensive line will be excellent despite losing a couple starters and Yeldon enters his junior season after back-to-back seasons with at least 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. With just 382 carries in his first two seasons, Yeldon still has plenty of tread left on the tires and should be even more of a featured weapon on offense with McCarron off to the NFL.

Mike Davis, South Carolina (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 203 att., 1,183 yds, 11 TDs, 34 rec., 352 yds

Another SEC super sophomore, Davis was the best back in the league over the first few months of the season. Injuries and scheduling eventually slowed Davis, but the Gamecocks' workhorse finished with an impressive 1,535 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns. With Connor Shaw gone, one has to think that a healthy Davis becomes the focal point of Steve Spurrier’s offense — especially one that returns all five starters along the offensive line.

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (Sr.)
’13 Stats: 281 att., 1,690 yds, 9 TDs, 26 rec., 232 yds, 2 TDs

Quickly, name the Big Ten’s leading rusher? It was Abdullah and he did it with little support from the passing game for most of the year. He posted 11 100-yard efforts in 13 games while also playing a big role as a receiver. The explosive back is one of the hardest workers in college football and will once again be the focal point of the Nebraska offense in 2014. A few more trips to paydirt this fall could get him into Heisman conversations fairly easily.

Other RBs to Watch: Duke Johnson, Miami; Jeremy Langford, Michigan State; Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State; Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, Oregon; D.J. Foster, Arizona State; Alex Collins, Arkansas

The Pass-Catchers

There are a lot of great wide receivers leaving college football. Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, Mike Evans, Jeremy Gallon, Kelvin Benjamin and more departed for the NFL this year. But here is the thing about the Heisman Trophy and wide receivers: They don’t win it. Tim Brown (1987) and Desmond Howard ('91) are the only true wideouts to ever win the award and, during the BCS Era, only four players even finished in the top five of Heisman voting. Larry Fitzgerald (2nd, 2003), Marqise Lee (4th, '12), Michael Crabtree (5th, '008) and Justin Blackmon (5th, '10). Needless to say, it’s a long shot for a wideout to win the stiff-armed trophy.

Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 59 rec., 883 yds, 12 TDs

A physical specimen, DGB will be one of the nation’s best — if he can stay on the field. Off the field issues have gotten him into trouble of late but he is a first-round pick waiting to happen on the field. In a Gary Pinkel offense with Maty Mauk throwing passes, the sky is the limit for what should be Green-Beckham’s final year in college.

Nelson Agholor, USC (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 56 rec., 918 yds, 6 TD, 2 punt return TDs

A do-everything dynamo for USC, Agholor proved a year ago that he could be the go-to target when Marqise Lee was injured. The Florida native has all the moves to produce like Lee and Robert Woods did before him. He is one of the top return men in the nation already and with a developing passing game, Agholor should be one of the nation’s best receivers.

Stefon Diggs, Maryland (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 34 rec., 587 yds, 3 TDs

Cut from the same mold as Agholor, Diggs does a bit of everything for Randy Edsall and Maryland. His breakout sophomore season was cut short to only seven games due to a foot injury but all signs point to his triumphant return this summer. Should he stay healthy, Diggs might be the top playmaker in the nation regardless of position.

Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (So.)
’13 Stats: 72 rec., 608 yds, 5 TDs

As just a true freshman, Treadwell showed the SEC why he was considered as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation. He has a veteran QB returning in Bo Wallace and an offensive system that ran more plays in 2013 than any other offense in the league. With Donte Moncrief gone, Treadwell could easily become the top target in the SEC.

Jaelen Strong, Arizona State (Jr.)
’13 Stats: 75 rec., 1,122 yds, 7 TDs

With Taylor Kelly returning, Strong figures to have another monster season in the desert. In just his first year, Strong proved to be a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. He is more of a prototypical wideout and his overall production could make him an All-American in ’14.

Other WRs to Watch: Rashad Greene, Florida State; Tyler Boyd, Pitt; Antwan Goodley, Baylor; Amari Cooper, Alabama; Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

The Defensive Stars:

Defensive players don’t win the Heisman. It’s a travesty but it’s the truth. Charles Woodson is really the only true defensive player to win the award and he excelled on special teams. But is that trend changing? From 1998 to 2008, not one defensive player finished in the Heisman top five and only nine players even cracked the top 10 and even those were future NFL Hall of Famers like Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney and Champ Bailey. A.J. Hawk (6th, 2005) was the highest vote-getting defensive player until Ndamukong Suh came along and finished fourth in 2009. Since then, three more players have finished in the top six, including a second-place finish for Manti Te’o in ’12 (table below). Three of the last five years has featured a defensive player as a finalist in New York and there is tons of talent left in college for that trend to continue in ’14.

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (So.)
Played both ways as a freshman, possesses rare and unique physical talents.

Landon Collins, S, Alabama (Sr.)
Heavy-hitting safety may have to become the QB of the defense for Nick Saban.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (Sr.)
All-purpose dynamo and a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 honoree.

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State (Jr.)
Monster defensive end on Big Ten champs. Will get a lot of attention from O-lines.

Dante Fowler, DE/LB, Florida (Jr.)
Beast of an edge player who could have a huge season in opposing backfield.

Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State (So.)
Heady true sophomore started every game for BCS champs as a true freshman.

A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee (Sr.)
Used on offense two years ago and will need to go both ways to get into the mix.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington (Jr.)
Five-star safety turned LB has topped 70 tackles in each of first two seasons.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU (So.)
After missing all but three games a year ago, Fields should be back to form in ’14.

A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama (So.)
Led the Tide in sacks a year ago as a true freshman.

Just for fun, here are the 14 defensive players who finished in the top 10 of Heisman balloting during the BCS Era:

NameTeamPos.PlaceYear
Champ BaileyGeorgiaCB8th1998
Roy WilliamsOklahomaS7th2001
Dwight FreeneySyracuseDE9th2001
Julius PeppersNorth CarolinaDE10th2001
AJ HawkOhio StateLB6th2005
Elvis DumervilLouisvilleDE10th2005
Glenn DorseyLSUDT9th2007
Chris LongVirginiaDE10th2007
Rey MaualugaUSCLB9th2008
Ndamukong SuhNebraskaDT4th2009
Tyrann MathieuLSUDB5th2011
Manti Te'oNotre DameLB2nd2012
Jadeveon ClowneySouth CarolinaDE6th2012
Jarvis JonesGeorgiaLB10th2012

 

Teaser:
2014 Heisman Trophy Position-by-Position Spring Primer
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-2014-spring-football-preview
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Gary Andersen stepped into a well-oiled machine in Madison as the Badgers were a three-time defending conference champion when he got to town last year.

There was nowhere to go but down for Andersen in his first season, and, other than one glaringly bad performance against Penn State to end the year, it was an excellent debut from the new coaching staff.

He will have his work cut out for himself in year two, however. Wisconsin loses 26 seniors to graduation as the roster is going through major turnover. The defense, built around an elite front seven, has major holes to fill up front while the offense is lacking in the playmaker department. And now the Big Ten is two teams bigger and the Badgers are in a totally new division.

With only eight total returning starters (but lots of upside) and a tough schedule, Andersen knows this spring might be the most important spring camp of his seven-year head coaching career.

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

Wisconsin Badgers 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 9-4 (6-2 Big Ten)

Spring Practice Opens: March 5

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 3

Three Things to Watch in Wisconsin's 2014 Spring Practice

Find playmakers on offense
The Badgers' offensive line returns largely intact with the exception of All-Big Ten left guard Ryan Groy and should be one of the best in the nation once again. But senior leader James White and his 4,685 yards from scrimmage are gone. Star wideout Jared Abbrederis and his 4,818 all-purpose yards are gone as well. So too is All-Big Ten tight end Jacob Pedersen. While Melvin Gordon returns as a Heisman candidate at running back (who isn’t allowed to be tackled this spring), quarterback Joel Stave needs to find playmakers or defenses will completely stack the box to stop the running game. Kenzel Doe, Jordan Fredrick, Alex Erickson and Robert Wheelwright caught a total of 28 passes last year and one of them will have to step into a much bigger role. And, frankly, Stave needs to be more productive at getting the ball down the field in his own right. Rob Havenstein should have a chance to become the next in a long line of great UW tight ends and Sam Arneson will also see plenty of playing time. With an elite O-line and stud tailback coming back, finding some weapons to make plays in open space will be the focus of Andersen’s offense in his second spring camp.

Fill glaring holes in the front seven
Wisconsin is losing three All-Big Ten players in end Pat Muldoon, nose guard Beau Allen and all-world linebacker and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Chris Borland. On top of that, linebackers Ethan Armstrong (51 tackles), Conor O’Neill (41) and Brendan Kelly (35) are gone as well as D-line contributors Ethan Hemer and Tyler Dippel. Obviously, replacing a player like Borland is virtually impossible but talented backups Vince Biegel, Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter and Joe Schobert will give it their best shot. As will Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring along the line. The linebacking corps appears to be in better shape than the D-line but both positions have quality backups returning. Developing these players into every-week starters will be the focus of the defensive coaching staff in Madison this spring.

Stabilize the safety position
All-Big Ten safety Dezmen Southward has expired his eligibility and Tanner McEvoy is playing quarterback. This leaves only Nate Hammon with any starting experience at the safety position this spring. This pass defense was outstanding a year ago thanks to a great front seven and the emergence of Sojourn Shelton at cornerback. But if this unit wants to be anywhere near the No. 17-rated pass defense in the nation again, Andersen and his staff will have to find capable bodies to plug in at safety. With holes in the middle of the defensive line and at middle linebacker, Wisconsin can ill afford to have any glaring weaknesses at safety.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10
The 2014 season was business as usual for the Badgers. They ran the ball with vengeance, played physical defense and won nine games. Like clockwork. But in his second season at the helm, Andersen will be faced with a much bigger challenge. Finding offensive weapons and rebuilding the front seven aren't the only issues for this team. For example, it’s no secret that Andersen wants more production from his quarterback and passing game in ’14. That said, fans in MadTown shouldn’t be worried. Andersen has a tremendous track record of developing talent and implementing his system. As the Big Ten adds two teams and moves into the playoff era, Wisconsin finds itself yet again as a conference contender — albeit in a new division.

Teaser:
Wisconsin Badgers 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/maryland-terrapins-2014-spring-football-preview
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Randy Edsall won just two games in his first year in College Park. He won four games in his second season at Maryland — with his fifth-string quarterback. So a seven-win, bowl season in his third year was a clear sign of continued growth and development a year ago.

Now, the Terrapins move to a new league for the first time since 1953 as they prepare to enter the Big Ten this fall. And in the same division with Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State, Edsall knows his team will have a steep learning curve in the new league.

The good news is Maryland returns largely intact on both sides of the ball. Only two starters depart the defense and only four leave on offense while both specialists return to campus. Edsall has slowly rebuilt the overall roster talent and depth in his three years but the first season of the College Football Playoffs era could be a tricky one to navigate for the Big Ten newbie.

Especially, if this team deals with major injury issues again.

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

Maryland Terrapins 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 7-6 (3-5 ACC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 1

Spring Game: April 11

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 9

Three Things to Watch in Maryland's 2014 Spring Practice

Keep the stars on the field
It may sound cliché but on a roster loaded with returning experience, Edsall has to keep his star players healthy. Quarterback C.J. Brown had a breakout season a year ago but has dealt with injuries his entire career. Elite wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are future NFL players but both are already out this spring due to injuries — which could be misconstrued as a good thing. Additionally, former star tailback Wes Brown returns from his semester-long suspension stemming from an off the field run-in with the police. Brown returns to compete with a mix of very capable backs vying for carries this spring. This team could have lots of weapons on offense but Edsall and coordinator Mike Locksley need to make sure that they’re all on the field together come August.

Plug the holes up front on offense
Two starters depart the offensive line along with tight end Dave Stinebaugh. Filling the gaps along the offensive front might be the only area of concern for this side of the ball other than health. The tight end position might be the least experienced on the entire roster and Edsall needs to find a new left side of the line. Ryan Doyle, Michael Dunn and Moise Larose return with some experience at tackle and Sal Conaboy and Andrew Zeller return with some experience up the middle. There is a host of talented incoming freshmen who will show up on campus this summer so this month is the time for the incumbents to prove they belong in the starting lineup. Locksley’s top priority in his third spring with Maryland will be to settle the O-line depth chart and find some capable bodies at tight end.

Find depth on defense
Only linebacker Marcus Whitfield and cornerback Isaac Goins depart the starting 11 on defense. Finding depth at every position is the key this spring, as Edsall and new defensive line coach Chad Wilt look to continue to develop the ever-evolving Terps roster. This includes finding a pass rusher to fill the void left by Whitfield and a coverman who can play opposite William Likely. There are plenty of bodies returning at safety and linebacker but not all of them will be on the field this spring and this group struggled on the field a year ago. Injuries to linebackers Alex Twine and Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil make developing depth even more imperative this spring. Finding depth at all three levels of the defense will be a focus for the Terrapins this offseason.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 7-9
Maryland has gone from two to four to seven wins in Edsall’s tenure in College Park and there is no reason to think this overall trend won’t continue. Does it mean that the Terps can win more than seven games in their first romp through a new and more difficult division? Maybe not but a bowl bid in year one with a schedule that includes road trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan and has both Ohio State and Michigan State coming to town, would be a sign that Maryland won’t have too much difficulty making the transition to the Big Ten. Getting used to road trips from College Park to Minneapolis is, however, an entirely different discussion.

Teaser:
Maryland Terrapins 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-defensive-backs-bcs-era
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The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

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

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

The Big Ten is known for power running games, hard-hitting linebackers and big hog mollies along the offensive line. However, the conference also claims five Thorpe Award winners — given to the nation's top defensive back — on four different teams during the 16-year BCS Era. 

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

1. Antoine Winfield, Ohio State (1995-98)
Winfield might be the most underrated defensive back in the history of all levels of football. The consensus All-American helped Ohio State win 43 games in four years and nearly (or should have) played in the first BCS National Championship Game in 1998. He was given the Thorpe and Tatum honors as a senior as the nation’s top defensive back before being selected 23rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.

2. Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000)
The Badgers’ coverman has as complete a resume as any during the BCS Era. He was a two-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection. He helped Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships and was the only Big Ten defensive back of the BCS Era to be named the outright Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He holds UW’s all-time record with 21 interceptions and was named the nation’s top defensive back with the Thorpe and Tatum Trophies as a senior in 2000. He was a first-round pick in 2001.

3. Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002)
The Buckeyes safety was a rare three-time All-American, three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick and was named co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 for the BCS National Champions. Doss started 40 of 50 possible career games and was named the 2002 Fiesta Bowl MVP. He finished his career with 331 career tackles, eight interceptions, eight fumbles recovered and 6.0 sacks. He was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

4. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (2005-08)
The Ohio State Buckeyes have a long tradition of great defensive backs and Jenkins is one of the most decorated. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick, including twice as a starter for two unbeaten regular-season teams that made it to the BCS National Championship Game in both 2006 and ’07. He was a two-time All-American, Jim Thorpe winner and was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

5. Bob Sanders, Iowa (2000-03)
One of the hardest hitting players to ever suit up, Sanders made big plays all over the field during his time in Iowa City. He helped lead Iowa to the Orange Bowl in 2002 and was an All-American as a senior in '03. He finished his career with 348 tackles, 16.0 for loss, four sacks, seven interceptions and 13 forced fumbles (he led the nation in FF with six as a senior). The Colts took him in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft and he went on to two Pro Bowls and also won a Super Bowl.

6. Tyrone Carter, Minnesota (1996-99)
The Florida native was a tackling machine for the Golden Gophers, finishing his career with an NCAA-record 584 total tackles and 414 solo stops He was a two-time, first-team All-American and won the 1999 Thorpe Award and Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back. Carter also was a return specialist, totaling over 1,800 combined punt and kick return yards. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. The Gophers increased their win total every year of his four-year, 46-game career.

7. Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin (2001-04)
A cult hero walk-on in Madison, Leonhard was a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick before even earning his first collegiate scholarship before his senior season. He went on to a third first-team All-Big Ten selection and All-American honors in his final season. He led the nation with a Big Ten single-season record 11 interceptions as a sophomore and broke the Big Ten record for punt return yardage with 1,347 yards (since broken). He played every game of his career, starting 39 times and registering 281 tackles and a Wisconsin-record 21 career interceptions (tied with Fletcher) — which is good for fourth all-time in Big Ten history and the most by any B1G player during the BCS Era.

8. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (2010-13)
Dennard was the nation’s best cover corner on a team that won a school-record 13 games, the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl. Dennard posted 62 tackles and four interceptions en route to winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. He was obviously named the Tatum-Woodson B1G DB of the Year and finished his four-year career with 167 tackles, 10.0 for loss, 10 INTs, 26 passes defended and, most importantly, 42 wins.

9. Leon Hall, Michigan (2003-06)
He never missed a game in his four-year, 50-game career and led Michigan to three Rose Bowl appearances. He is Michigan’s all-time leader with 43 passes broken up and also picked off 12 career passes. Hall was honorable mention All-Big Ten as a sophomore, second-team All-Big Ten as a junior and a consensus All-American and Thorpe Award finalist as a senior. The Michigan great was the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

10. Vontae Davis, Illinois (2006-08)
A three-year player for Illinois, Davis was a freshman All-American in his first season. He started all 12 games, making 56 tackles and earning first-team All-Big Ten honors while leading the Illini back to the Rose Bowl. He made 78 tackles as a junior and earned first-team Big Ten honors a second time. Davis was a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Donte Whitner, Ohio State (2003-05)
Donte “Hitner” was a big hitter before getting to the NFL. He contributed as a true freshman but entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He posted 143 tackles in two seasons as the starter, including All-American and All-Big Ten honors as a junior. He departed early for the NFL and was the eighth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

12. Marlin Jackson, Michigan (2001-04)
A hybrid safety-cornerback, Jackson was an All-American and senior captain for the Wolverines in 2004. He is second all-time in school history in passes broken up and was a first-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

13. Tracy Porter, Indiana (2004-07)
Arguably the best defensive back in school history, Porter is No. 2 in Indiana history with 16 interceptions and No. 1 with 413 return yards (third all-time in B1G history). He is the only player in IU history to return a punt, interception and fumble for a touchdown. He posted 212 tackles, was a first-team All-Big Ten pick and was taken in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

14. Chris Gamble, Ohio State (2001-03)
He played three ways for the undefeated BCS champs in 2002, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors in the process. He played in 38 career games, starting 18 on defense and 12 on offense and was one of the most explosive players to play in the Big Ten. He left school early and was a first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

15. Nate Clements, Ohio State (1998-2000)
The top flight coverman started 24 of his possible 36 career games at Ohio State, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior. He posted 177 tackles, seven interceptions and was a first-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft after leaving school early.

16. Stuart Schweigert, Purdue (2000-03)
He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year for the Big Ten champs in his first season. He set the Purdue interception record with 17 and was a two-time, first-ream All-Big Ten pick as well as a two-time, second-team selection. He posted 360 career tackles and went to four bowl games.

17. Will Allen, Ohio State (2000-03)
Sitting behind Doss most of career, Allen only got one year to showcase his ability. He was a big member of the 2002 BCS title team but played mostly in nickel packages. In his one year as a starter, he earned consensus All-American honors and was a fourth-round pick.

18. Bernard Pollard, Purdue (2003-05)
The Bonecrusher was a great player but didn’t always get along with Joe Tiller. He posted 254 tackles in three years and set a school record with five blocked kicks. Had he played four years and not constantly been at odds with Tiller, he could have been one of the B1G’s greats.

19. Kurt Coleman, Ohio State (2006-09)
He was a three-year starter at safety for two teams that went unbeaten in the regular season and played for the BCS national title. He was an All-American, team MVP and first-team All-Big Ten pick.

20. Micah Hyde, Iowa (2009-12)
Playing both cornerback and safety, Hyde won the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten DB of the Year award as a senior. He was also an excellent return man, being named first-team All-Big Ten in 2012.

Best of the rest:

21. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska (2008-11)
22. Ernest Shazor, Michigan (2002-04)
23. CJ. Barnett, Ohio State (2009-13)
23. Ahmad Plummer, Ohio State (1997-99)
24. Ricardo Allen, Purdue (2010-13)
25. Mike Echols, Wisconsin (1998-2001)
26. Ashton Youboty, Ohio State (2003-05)
27. Eugene Wilson, Illinois (1999-2002)
28. Calvin Lowry, Penn State (2002-05)
29. Brian Peters, Northwestern (2008-11)
30. Willie Middlebrooks, Minnesota (1998-2001)

Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Defensive Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

Having dissected every season of every major conference from the BCS Era, I think I can safely say that the Big 12 had the best quarterbacks. Four Heisman Trophy winners, seven BCS National Championship Game appearances from six different signal-callers and two national titles say as much — and that’s just the top 10 in this league. The Big 12 also boasts who I believe is the best player regardless of position in college football over the last 16 seasons.

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

1. Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Stats: 6,040 yds, 44 TDs, 28 INTs, 61.8%, 3,127 yds, 37 TDs

The Texas quarterback was the most unstoppable single force of the BCS Era. Just ask Kansas. Or Colorado. Or USC even. He earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. The Longhorns' offense averaged more than 50 points per game, he was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin.

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (2008-11)
Stats: 10,366 yds, 78 TDs, 17 INTs, 67.1%, 2,254 yds, 33 TDs

Right alongside Andrew Luck will always be RG3, as the duo will forever be linked in football history. Griffin III beat out the Cardinal signal-caller to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy while leading Baylor to back-to-back bowl games. He led the NCAA in passing efficiency (189.5) — a Big 12 single-season record — and posted the fourth-best season in terms of total offense in conference history (4,992 yards, the most by any non-Texas Tech quarterback). He was a consensus All-American and won the Davey O'Brien and Manning Awards to go with his stiff-armed trophy. In fact, few players at any position in any league have meant more to their school than Griffin III. His impact on Baylor Bears football is immeasurable and could continue for decades. Had he been healthy for his entire career — he missed nine games in 2009 — his numbers might have been the best the BCS Era has ever seen.

3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2007-09)
Stats: 8,403 yds, 88 TDs, 16 INTs, 67.6%, 5 rush TDs

It didn't take long for the three-star recruit to establish himself as one of Oklahoma's best of all-time. He set a school record for yards in a half in the first half of his career and broke another school record for consecutive completions the next game (22) — still a Big 12 record and two shy of the NCAA mark (Tee Martin). By season's end, Bradford owned the NCAA's all-time freshman passing touchdowns record (since broken) with 36. He also won the Big 12 championship. The following season, Bradford led the Sooners to the BCS title game against Florida and beat out Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy for the Heisman Trophy. He won Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien honors as well. Bradford owns the NCAA record for career quarterback efficiency at 175.6 making him the most efficient quarterback in the history of the game. He also owns the NCAA mark for yards per play (8.7) and 86 of his 88 career touchdown passes came in just two seasons.

4. Colt McCoy, Texas (2006-09)
Stats: 13,253 yds, 112 TDs, 45 INTs, 70.3%, 1,571 yds, 20 TDs

Few players got more out of their abilities than McCoy. He was a two-time consensus All-American as a junior and senior, finishing second in the Heisman as a junior and third as a senior. McCoy was the 2009 Big 12 Player of the Year and claimed the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Manning, Unitas and Davey O'Brien Awards over his last two seasons. En route to the 2009 BCS National Championship Game, he produced 30 touchdowns and over 3,900 yards of total offense on the unbeaten Big 12 champs. He left school with more wins than any quarterback in NCAA history (since broken), owns the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage (76.7) and is the most efficient passer in Big 12 history (70.3 percent). 

5. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (1999-2000)
Stats: 7,242 yds, 53 TDs, 30 INTs, 63.8%, 43 yds, 12 TDs

He wasn't the most talented quarterback to play in Norman but he might have the best understanding of the position. He won AP Player of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American, earned the Walter Camp Trophy, finished second in the Heisman and led the NCAA in completion percentage (64.7) in 2000. More importantly, he led Oklahoma to arguably the biggest win in program history over Florida State in the BCS championship game in 2000. He posted back-to-back seasons of at least 3,400 yards passing and 27 total touchdowns.

6. Brad Smith, Missouri (2002-05)
Stats: 8,799 yds, 56 TDs, 33 INTs, 56.3%, 4,289 yds, 45 TDs

Smith is one of only five players in the 6,000-4,000 club after becoming the first player to accomplish the feat back in 2005. He is arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the history of the program and was nearly unstoppable in the backfield. His 799 rushing attempts are fifth all-time in Big 12 history and his 4,289 yards rushing are fourth while his 45 touchdowns rank ninth all-time. All of this on the ground from a guy who also ranks ninth all-time in passing yards, sixth in attempts (1,484) and seventh in completions (835).

7. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (2008-11)
Stats: 9,260 yds, 75 TDs, 27 INTs, 69.5%, 1 rush TD

The Pokes quarterback set all the important school passing records in 2011 and then returned to Stillwater in '12 and surpassed his previous benchmarks. His 4,742 yards passing in 2011 is the best single-season by a Big 12 quarterback not from Texas Tech. He led Oklahoma State to its first-ever Big 12 title and first-ever BCS bowl win. His 69.5 percent completion rate is third all-time in Big 12 history and he ranks eighth in league history in passing yards and ninth in touchdowns in just two seasons as a starter. Weeden went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Browns in the 2012 NFL Draft.

8. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (1998-2001)
Stats: 4,481 yds, 29 TDs, 25 INTs, 51.5%, 3,434 yds, 59 TDs

The Nebraska signal-caller continued the long run of elite running quarterbacks in Lincoln with a Heisman Trophy season that ended with a trip to the BCS title game against Miami. The two-time Big 12 Player of the Year also claimed Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp honors and led the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns three consecutive seasons. The four-year starter won three straight Big 12 North titles as well as the most recent conference title of any kind for Nebraska (’99). His 59 rushing touchdowns are a record for any QB in NCAA history and are third all-time in the Big 12 record books.

9. Jason White, Oklahoma (1999-2004)
Stats: 7,922 yds, 81 TDs, 24 INTs,  63.3%, 2 rush TDs

The list of awards and accomplishments is long for White. He was AP National Player of the Year, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, the Unitas, Davey O’Brien and Maxwell winner and claimed the 2003 Heisman Trophy. He led his team to two BCS National Championship Games and a perfect 13-0 Big 12 title in 2004 (before getting hammered by USC). He finished third in the Heisman voting in his senior season. White had over 7,000 yards passing and 75 touchdown passes in two seasons as the starter.

10. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (2005-08)
Stats: 15,611 yds, 134 TDs, 34 INTs, 69.8%, 12 rush TDs

No player in Big 12 history has thrown for more touchdowns than Harrell and only two players in NCAA history (Case Keenum, Kellen Moore) can top his 134 scoring strikes. The Red Raiders QB has two of the top three passing seasons in Big 12 history and three of the top nine. His career completion percentage of 69.8 is second all-time in league history behind only McCoy and no one has completed more passes in NCAA history than his 1,403 connections. Before ending his career, Harrell was awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy in 2007 and the Unitas Golden Arm Award in '08 when he nearly led Tech to what would have been its only Big 12 title game appearance to date.

Just missed the cut:

11. Chase Daniel, Missouri (2005-08)
Stats: 12,515 yds, 101 TDs, 41 INTs, 68.0%, 971 yds, 10 TDs

Like many names on this list, Daniel was more than just big stats and awards. He elevated his program to a new level of competition. Missouri won a school-record 12 games (since tied) during Daniel’s Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Heisman finalist (4th) season of 2007. He then won 10 games in ’08, posting two of the three double-digit win seasons in school history at the time. He also led Mizzou to its only two Big 12 title game appearances while setting every major school passing record along the way. Daniel is fourth all-time in passing yards and one of only four players with 100-plus TD passes in Big 12 history.

12. Todd Reesing, Kansas (2006-09)
Stats: 11,194 yds, 90 TDs, 33 INTs, 63.8%, 646 yds, 15 TDs

Exactly like Daniel, Reesing carried his program to levels never before seen in Lawrence. Before Reesing arrived, Kansas had won 10 games just twice in more than a century of football (1905, '95). In just his first season, the Kansas signal-caller threw for 3,486 yards, 33 TDs and only seven interceptions en route to a school-record 12 wins. The Orange Bowl victory that year was the only appearance the Jayhawks made in any BCS bowl during its 16-year run. Reesing had three straight seasons with at least 3,400 yards passing and is sixth all-time in league history in both yards and touchdown passes.

13. Collin Klein, Kansas State (2009-2012)
Stats: 4,724 yds, 30 TDs, 15 INTs, 61.3%, 2,485 yds, 56 TDs

He certainly isn’t a conventional quarterback but he was equally effective and just as successful as any of the pro-style pocket passers on this list. Klein tied a Big 12 record with 27 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and is fourth all-time in Big 12 history with a total of 56 — just three shy of the NCAA record. He literally carried Kansas State to a Big 12 championship, was named Big 12 Player of the Year, won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award and finished third in the Heisman voting in his final season on campus.

14. Michael Bishop, Kansas State (1997-98)
Stats: 4,401 yds, 36 TDs, 13 INTs, 1,314 yds, 23 TDs

Any place that Klein is mentioned in Kansas State or Big 12 lore, Bishop needs to be right alongside. Both were dual-threat talents who carried their Wildcats to the Big 12 championship game during an award-winning senior season. Bishop was a consensus All-American, Davey O’Brien Award winner and finished second in the Heisman voting when he posted this season: 2,844 yards, 23 TDs, 5 INTs, 748 yards rushing, 14 TDs.

15. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State (2006-09)
Stats: 8,317 yds, 66 TDs, 31 INTs, 1,858 yds, 22 TDs

One of the more underrated players in league history, Robinson took a four-win team the year before he arrived and led the Pokes to four winning seasons. He started the last three of those seasons and capped his career with back-to-back nine-win campaigns. His ability to make plays with his legs is often forgotten as his 10,175 yards of total offense rank ninth all-time (ahead of Vince Young). 

16. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (2009-12)
Stats: 16,646 yds, 123 TDs, 52 INTs, 63.6%,  3 rush TDs

Very few players in history have four 3,000-yard seasons on their resume but Jones is one of them. Jones is No. 3 in NCAA history in passing yards and No. 5 in touchdown passes, but also threw more interceptions than any player in Big 12 history (52). He won 40 games in his career, including one outright conference championship in 2010, but never took Oklahoma to the national title level.

17. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (1999-02)
Stats: 12,423 yds, 95 TDs, 40 INTs, 5 rush TDs

Kingsbury led the nation in completions for three consecutive seasons and owns the Big 12 record for completions in a game (49). He capped his career by leading the nation in passing yards and touchdowns with 5,017 yards and 45 in 2002. His is one of just three players in Big 12 history to top 5,000 yards and is one of just 10 players in NCAA history to reach 5K passing. And let’s face it, the ladies love them some Kingsbury.

18. Major Applewhite, Texas (1998-01)
Stats: 8,353 yds, 60 TDs, 28 INTs, 57.4%, 3 rush TDs

A cult hero in Austin, Applewhite battled blue-chip, NFL offspring Chris Simms for playing time most of his career. Starting as a sophomore, Applewhite threw for 3,357 yards and 21 scores en route to being named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. He left school as the record holder for passing yards in a career and season (since broken) as well as consecutive games with a TD pass (19).

19. Bryce Petty, Baylor (2011-present)
Stats: 4,340 yds, 33 TDs, 3 INTs, 62.4%, 237 yds, 15 TDs

This is really just a starting point for a player who could quickly rise in the Big 12 QB ranks with another huge season in 2014. In just one year, however, Petty led Baylor to its only Big 12 championship, its only BCS bowl bid and he won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. He was responsible for 46 total touchdowns, rolled up 4,409 yards of offense and threw only three interceptions in ’13.

20. Geno Smith, West Virginia (2009-12)
Stats: 11,662 yds, 98 TDs, 21 INTs, 342 yds, 4 TDs

He only played one season in the Big 12 but it was a monster season. He threw for 4,205 yards and an NCAA-best 42 touchdowns. His overall career numbers stack up with most of the Big 12’s best and he led WVU to an Orange Bowl romp over Clemson. He owns the Big 12 record for consecutive completions without an interception (273), the Big 12 single-game TD record (8) and the Big 12 single-game total offense record (687). Smith was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Best of the rest:

21. B.J. Symons, Texas Tech (2000-03): 6,378 yds, 59 TDs, 25 INTs, 64.4%, 208 yds, 6 TDs
22. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri (2008-10): 6,822 yds, 40 TDs, 18 INTs, 60.9%, 458 yds, 8 TDs
23. Bret Meyer, Iowa State (2004-07): 9,499 yds, 50 TDs, 41 INTs, 58.0%, 923 yds, 12 TDs
24. Nick Florence, Baylor (2009-12): 6,301 yds, 41 TDs, 22 INTs, 61.8%, 651 yds, 14 TDs
25. Zac Taylor, Nebraska (2005-06): 5,853 yds, 45 TDs, 20 INTs, 57.3%, 2 rush TDs
26. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (2009-12): 8,636 yds, 69 TDs, 26 INTs, 69.0%, 54 yds, 6 TDs
27. Ell Roberson, Kansas State (2000-03): 5,099 yds, 37 TDs, 26 INTs, 48.9%, 2,818 yds, 40 TDs
28. Seneca Wallace, Iowa State (2001-02): 5,289 yds, 26 TDs, 27 INTs, 57.7%, 912 yds, 15 TDs
29. Josh Freeman, Kansas State (2006-08): 8,078 yds, 44 TDs, 34 INTs, 59.1%, 343 yds, 20 TDs
30. Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M (2002-05): 6,992 yds, 44 TDs, 23 INTs, 54.6%, 1,889 yds, 15 TDs

Teaser:
Top 10 Big 12 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

Tennessee has posted three consecutive 5-7 seasons and has lost at least seven games in five of the last six years. In the standings, few things have changed in Knoxville despite the hiring of a fourth coach in six years.

However, things could not be more different now that Butch Jones is in charge. Entering his second spring practice, Jones has already accomplished more than his predecessor. He has a win over a top-15 opponent, produced more rushing yards in a season than any Tennessee team since 2004, signed a top-10 recruiting class, moved Tennessee from adidas to Nike apparel and has retained his entire coaching staff.

He also has converted a culture of losing into one with lofty expectations and championship aspirations. Jones talks of “building our identity,” improving “football intelligence,” creating “team brotherhood” and using a “consistent approach each and every day.”

All of that coach speak is important and relevant, especially for a team with 41 losses in the last six years. But behind closed doors, fans can bet his goals for his second spring camp are more specific. Tennessee must find pass rushers, rebuild the offensive line, work in more than a dozen early enrollees and, most importantly, settle on a quarterback.

These objectives are more concrete than “taking pride in the fundamentals” and will go a long way in setting up the Vols for their first bowl game since 2010.

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

Tennessee Volunteers 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 7

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 5

Three Things to Watch in Tennessee's 2014 Spring Practice

Settle on a signal-caller
No one expects this battle to be over when spring camp ends, however, Jones and coordinator Mike Bajakian would feel a lot better about the future of their offense should they break camp with a clear(-er) pecking order under center. Justin Worley has the most experience. Joshua Dobbs has the most athletic ability. And Riley Ferguson, a redshirt freshman who didn’t play last year, might be the most gifted passer of the bunch. Nathan Peterman also is in the mix but appears like a distant fourth in the race for the starting job. Worley isn’t overly talented but has lots of snaps under his belt while Dobbs acquitted himself fairly well as just a true freshman a year ago with his ability to make plays with his legs. Ferguson is the wild card and many believe he might have the inside track on the starting job if he can prove to the coaches that he is ready to step into an SEC huddle. This battle should rage on into the fall but Jones and his staff would sleep better if they can establish at least the framework for a quarterback depth chart this spring.

Find answers in the trenches
All five offensive lineman are gone on offense and essentially the entire defensive line is gone as well. Restocking the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is imperative for success in the SEC. There is a host of young players on defense who will step into bigger roles (Jordan Williams, Corey Vereen) and a few who will eventually return from injury (Jaylen Miller, Trevarris Saulsberry) along the defensive front. And there are probably more than a few fans who would like to see what linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin would look like flying off the edge in blitz packages. So finding pass rushers on defense (ideally) shouldn’t be as difficult as replacing multiple All-SEC blockers up front on offense. Very little starting experience returns at this position for the Vols with Mack Crowder — and his one start — the only player with any starting experience. Crowder, Marcus Jackson and Kyler Kerbyson should get first crack at earning spots but other names will need to develop quickly if Tennessee wants to improve the 102nd-ranked total offense in college football. Going the junior college route is a slippery slope and can be extremely volatile but can also pay off in a big way (SEE: Cordarrelle Patterson). So keep an eye on JUCO early enrollees Dontavius Blair (OL) and Owen Williams (DL). It won’t matter who is under center if Jones and Bajakian can’t stabilize the front line... on either side of the ball.

Find playmakers and work in the youth
With 14 early enrollees, Jones has what amounts to an entirely new roster heading into his second spring camp. And he has repeatedly talked about finding playmakers on both sides of the ball. With Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson returning to the linebacking corps, that shouldn’t be a huge undertaking on defense. However, on offense, Tennessee is in much worse shape and will likely turn to more than one freshman to help create big plays with Pig Howard, Drae Bowles and Brendan Downs not participating in spring camp. Five-star wideout Josh Malone and five-star athlete Jalen Hurd, be it at running back or elsewhere, have elite upside but need to get acclimated quickly to college life if they want to contribute in the fall. The same can be said about junior college wideout Von Pearson and early enrollee freshmen tight ends Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf. Jones and Bajakian have a lot of new toys to play with and figuring out how all of those pieces fit together is much easier in the spring than en route to Norman, Okla.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 5-7
Things are finally pointed in the right direction for Big Orange Nation. While the results on the field are yet to come, Jones has established a winning culture within the halls of the luxurious Anderson Training Center. He has overhauled his roster, improved team speed, gotten stronger and now has a young roster he can mold into a winner. There is a lot of work left to be done before the Vols are competing for SEC titles again — in particular, with a schedule that includes road trips to Oklahoma, Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — but the overall trajectory of the program appears to be very positive for the first time in nearly a decade.  

Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

The Gamecocks are coming off of the best three-year run in program history.

South Carolina has posted three consecutive 11-win seasons — the only three 11-win seasons in school history. The year before that, it played in its only SEC Championship Game after winning its only East Division title since joining the conference in 1992.

Needless to say, Steve Spurrier has built a giant in Columbia. But despite all of the success his team has brought fans over the last half-decade, it still hasn't produced a championship. This program is nationally relevant for the first time in its long history and an SEC title is the only thing left for the Ol’ Ball Coach to accomplish at South Carolina.

With a deep and talented depth chart returning to campus and a coaching staff that stayed intact, there is no reason why the Cocks can’t be a major contender for a playoff spot in 2014.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 28
Sept. 6
Sept. 13
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27
Oct. 4at
Oct. 11Bye Week
Oct. 18Furman
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15at 
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 

South Carolina 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 4

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 6

Three Things to Watch in South Carolina's 2014 Spring Practice

Thompson’s Time
Connor Shaw was one of the most underrated players to ever play in the SEC. His graduation leaves a gaping void under center and in the leadership department. The good news is Dylan Thompson has loads of experience and a big arm to stretch the field. His starting experience should help the redshirt senior assume the role as Commander-in-Chief of Spurrier’s huddle. He will have plenty of talent on the outside to work with, as names like Pharoh Cooper, Shaq Roland, Nick Jones and Rory Anderson highlight the receiving corps. The offensive line also returns largely intact with only one starter gone from last year’s unit. So if Thompson can settle into his role as “the guy” quickly this spring, there is no reason to think that this offense won’t be one of the best in the SEC.

Rebuild the defensive line
The defensive side of the ball has much bigger voids to fill, especially along the line of scrimmage. There is no substitute for Jadeveon Clowney but having to find suitable replacements for first-team All-SEC tackle Kelcy Quarles and end Chaz Sutton makes the chore even more difficult. Spurrier has recruited at an extremely high level nationally and should have plenty of bodies lined up for playing time. This coaching staff just needs to figure out which players fit where this spring. Darius English, Gerald Dixon, J.T. Surratt and Phillip Dukes all return with experience but organizing the D-line depth chart has to be a priority for the Cocks’ coaching staff this spring. What can JUCO defensive lineman Abu Lamin and converted linebacker Cedrick Cooper bring to the table?

Find cover corners
Victor Hampton was a second-team All-SEC pick and one of the most talented athletes on the roster a year ago. He and fellow starting cornerback Jimmy Legree have both departed Columbia, leaving Spurrier’s defense lacking in outside covermen. This might be the biggest area of concern in spring camp because there are only four scholarship cornerbacks slated to participate. Rico McWilliams has two career starts and he is the most experienced player in the group by a wide margin. There will be reinforcements coming when the bulk of the heralded 2014 signing class gets to campus in the summer, but for the spring time, depth is a major issue on the outside. Finding players who can matchup outside with big wide receivers will be the focus, but keeping an already thin depth chart healthy will be equally important.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
Spurrier is on a roll right now. He owns the Palmetto State in recruiting and on the field, he’s won 33 games in three years and has his entire coaching staff back intact. Both specialists and 13 (of 22) starters return along with three consecutive top-20 recruiting classes. So while expectation levels are rightfully sky high, this roster also is capable of competing despite the loss of Clowney and Shaw. The schedule sets up nicely too. Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee will all come to Columbia while there is no Alabama or LSU and Johnny Manziel-less Texas A&M in crossover play from the West. Key second-half road trips to Auburn and Florida look like the toughest tests in the SEC for South Carolina. With this roster, this coach and this schedule, an SEC East title is well within reach. 

Teaser:
South Carolina Gamecocks 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

There certainly have been greats that graced the SEC stage during the BCS Era. Every program in this powerhouse league, at one time or another, has had an elite signal-caller — even Kentucky (Tim Couch, Andre Woodson) and Vanderbilt (Jay Cutler). But one name stands above the rest in the SEC when it comes to quarterback play and the BCS Era.

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

1. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-09)
Stats: 9,285 yds, 88 TDs, 16 INTs, 66.4%, 2,947 yds, 57 TDs

Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns (145), rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Awards when he set an NCAA record with 55 total touchdowns and 4,181 yards of total offense (since broken). He won the SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year in which he led Florida to its second national championship in three years. Tebow is one of only five players in SEC history to rush for 20 TDs in a season and his 57 career rushing touchdowns are an SEC record. He fell one game shy in 2009 of playing in — and likely winning — three national titles in four years. His speech following the loss to Ole Miss in '08 has been immortalized in Gator football lore and his cult following has only grown since leaving Gainesville.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (2012-13)
Stats: 7,820 yds, 63 TDs, 22 INTs, 68.9%, 2,169 yds, 30 TD
s

Manziel was one of the most unstoppable forces with the ball in his hands. He set the SEC single-season total offense record (5,116) by a large margin during his Heisman Trophy redshirt freshman campaign. His encore performance of 4,873 yards in his second season gives him the two most productive seasons in SEC history. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won the Manning and Davey O’Brien Awards and earned two bowl MVP trophies in the Cotton and Chick-fil-A Bowls. In just two seasons, his 9,989 yards tied Eli Manning exactly for eighth all-time in league history for total offense and his 93 total touchdowns rank fifth all-time. He is the all-time SEC leader in completion percentage (68.9 percent) and is one of only two players in league history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season (Tim Couch). Six conference losses and some injuries slowed the end of his short career, but Manziel’s excitement, improvisational skills, production and big-play ability are second to none in the storied history of SEC football. Few players ever burst onto the SEC scene quite like Johnny Manziel — despite the horrendous nickname — and few enjoyed the spotlight more.

3. AJ McCarron, Alabama (2010-13)
Stats: 9,019 yds, 77 TDs, 15 INTs, 66.9%, 3 rush TDs

He gets knocked for his vanilla offensive system, extraordinary head coach and talented supporting cast but McCarron is Alabama’s greatest quarterback and is arguably the most successful player in SEC history this side of Tebow (who also had a great coach and elite supporting cast). He earned three BCS National Championships rings — two as the starting quarterback — and is the most prolific passer in school history. He earned BCS title game MVP honors as a sophomore before leading the nation in passing efficiency and winning another title as a junior (175.3). His 77-to-15 TD-to-INT ratio is one of the best in NCAA history as he finished as the No. 4-most efficient passer in SEC history (162.5). McCarron was a Heisman Trophy runner-up, the Maxwell and Unitas Award winner and finished 36-4 as a starter in his career — never missing a game in his four-year, 53-game career. Having Katherine Webb on the resume doesn’t hurt either.

4. Cam Newton, Florida/Auburn (2008, '10)
Stats: 2,908 yds, 30 TDs, 7 INTs, 65.4%, 1,586 yds, 24 TDs

Newton's career is an intriguing one that could have been one of the greatest of all-time had he played more than just one season at Auburn. He was essentially kicked out of school, intertwined with a recruiting scandal and left early for the NFL. Yet, his one season in 2010 was one of the best in history. He single-handedly carried Auburn to a BCS title, won the Heisman Trophy as well as Davey O'Brien, Archie Manning, Maxwell, Walter Camp and AP Player of the Year honors. He set (since broken) the SEC’s single-season record for total offense with 4,327 yards and is one of just five players ever to rush for 20 TDs in an SEC season. Had he played more than one season, Newton could have challenged Tebow as arguably the best player to play in the SEC during the BCS Era.

5. Aaron Murray, Georgia (2010-13)
Stats: 13,166 yds, 121 TDs, 41 INTs, 62.3%, 396 yds, 16 TDs

When it comes to statistics, no SEC player in history was more productive than Murray. He owns the SEC record for passing yards and touchdown passes. His 137 total touchdowns trail only Tebow and his 13,562 yards of total offense bested Tebow’s record by a large margin (12,232). He is one of only three Georgia quarterbacks to beat Florida in three straight seasons and he posted at least 3,000 yards passing in four consecutive seasons. He is No. 1 all-time in SEC history with 921 completions and is No. 2 all-time with 1,478 attempts. He started 52 consecutive games, missing only the final two games of his senior season. His final record was 35-17 with two SEC East titles and the lack of a conference championship is the only missing piece to Murray’s otherwise sterling resume.

6. Eli Manning, Ole Miss (2000-03)
Stats: 10,119 yds, 81 TDs, 35 INTs, 60.8%, 5 rush TDs

The third and final Manning to play quarterback in the SEC elevated Ole Miss to its highest levels of success during the BCS Era. He claimed the Unitas and Maxwell Awards, along with SEC Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003. He owns the Ole Miss single-season records for yards (3,600) and touchdowns (31) and is eighth all-time in SEC history with over 10,000 yards passing. He is clearly one of this generation's greatest talents and of all the other greats to play in the SEC, Manning might have had the least talented supporting cast. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

7. David Greene, Georgia (2001-04)
Stats: 11,528 yds, 72 TDs, 32 INTs, 59.0%, 5 rush TDs

Greene helped restore the winning ways in Athens and it started in his first season as the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2001. He led the Dawgs to their first SEC title in two decades as a sophomore and was named an All-SEC passer in each of his upperclass seasons. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time winningest quarterback with 42 wins in his career. He was the SEC’s all-time leading passer until Murray broke his record in 2013.

8. Tim Couch, Kentucky (1996-98)
Stats: 8,435 yds, 74 TDs, 35 INTs, 4 rush TDs

The consensus All-American and No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft brags two of the top four passing seasons in SEC history. He and Manziel are the only two players to top 4,000 yards passing in any season and his 4,275 yards in his junior season in the first year of the BCS system are still an SEC single-season record. His 37 touchdown passes in 1997 are tied for third all-time and his 36 scoring strikes the following year are tied for fifth.

9. Rex Grossman, Florida (2000-02)
Stats: 9,164 yds, 77 TDs, 36 INTs, 61.0%, 6 rush TDs

Grossman was a consensus All-American, SEC Player of the Year, AP Player of the Year nationally and finished second in the Heisman voting in 2001. His 3,896 yards passing in 2001 are a Florida school record and sit at No. 3 all-time in SEC history (Couch, Manziel). His 77 TD passes in just three years are ninth all-time and he was a first-round pick of the Bears in 2003. He led the Gators to two BCS bowls and his 146.8 passer rating is 10th all-time in SEC history.

10. Chris Leak, Florida (2003-06)
Stats: 11,213 yds, 88 TDs, 42 INTs, 61.4%, 137 yds, 13 TDs

Leak is third all-time in SEC history for passing yards and was the all-time leader in completions (895) until Murray came along. He started as a freshman and set SEC freshman passing records before three consecutive seasons with at least 2,600 yards and 20 TDs. As a senior he earned BCS Championship Game MVP honors after dismantling the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2006 title game. Florida won 37 games and went to four bowl games during his time in Gainesville. Leak won’t ever be confused with the most talented to ever play the game but his resume is as complete as any in the history of the sport.

Just missed the cut:

11. Andre Woodson, Kentucky (2004-07)
Stats: 9,360 yds, 79 TDs, 25 INTs, 61.9%, 5 rush TDs

From 1985-2005, Kentucky went to three bowl games. Woodson led the Wildcats to bowl wins in 2006 and '07 while setting several SEC single-season records in the process. He is the only SEC quarterback to ever throw 40 touchdown passes in a season (40) and his 79 career TD passes rank seventh all-time in league history. Woodson is one of four SEC quarterbacks with two seasons of at least 3,500 yards (Manziel, Couch, Ryan Mallett). Woodson owns the SEC record for consecutive attempts without an interception at 325.

12. Jason Campbell, Auburn (2001-04)
Stats: 7,299 yds, 45 TDs, 24 INTs, 64.6%, 307 yds, 9 TDs

He never threw for 3,000 yards but Campbell was extremely efficient and led his team to an SEC championship and unbeaten season as a senior in 2004. He won SEC Player of the Year and SEC title game MVP honors and finished seventh in the Heisman voting after 2,700 yards passing and 23 total touchdowns.

13. Greg McElroy, Alabama (2007-10)
Stats: 5,691 yds, 39 TDs, 10 INTs, 71 yds, 2 TDs

Signing with Nick Saban’s first class, McElroy and his elite football IQ was a huge part of returning Alabama to the mountain top in 2009. He led the Tide to their first national championship since 1992 with an excellent 2,508-yard, 17-TD, 4-INT season and SEC title game MVP award as a junior. He came back and set the school record with 2,987 yards as a senior before getting drafted by the Jets. 

14. Tee Martin, Tennessee (1996-99)
Stats: 4,592 yds, 32 TDs, 16 INTs, 55.4%, 614 yds, 16 TDs

Peyton Manning is the greatest Tennessee quarterback of all-time but Martin did what Manning couldn’t when he led the Vols to the first national championship of the BCS Era. Martin set the NCAA record for consecutive completions at 24 during that historic run at the SEC and BCS titles. Martin led Tennessee to another BCS bowl as a senior and finished 8-0 as a starter against Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Kentucky.

15. Connor Shaw, South Carolina (2010-13)
Stats: 6,074 yds, 56 TDs, 16 INTs, 65.6%, 1,683 yds, 17 TDs

His passing numbers will never be confused with either of Manning boys, but Shaw presided over the greatest era of Gamecocks football. He led three straight 11-win seasons in Columbia — the only three 11-win seasons in school history — and did it with elite toughness and efficiency. His career passer rating of 155.9 is sixth all-time in SEC history and his 56-to-16 TD-to-INT ratio is among the best in SEC history. He also ran the ball at least 130 times in each of his three seasons as the starter. Simply put, he was a winner — a school-record 27 of them overall, all 17 at home and three in a row over Clemson.

16. Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt (2002-05)
Stats: 8,697 yds, 59 TDs, 36 INTs, 57.2%, 1,256 yds, 17 TDs

Cutler played on three straight two-win teams before leading Vanderbilt to five wins and earning SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior. He is the Dores' all-time leading passer in most every category and is clearly the most physically talented player to ever quarterback the program. He was a first-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

17. Ryan Mallet, Michigan/Arkansas (2007, 2009-10)
Stats: 8,385 yds, 69 TDs, 24 INTs, 57.8%, 7 rush TDs

Mallett is one of only four SEC signal-callers in history with two 3,500-yard seasons on his resume. He set an Arkansas record with 3,624 yards passing in his first season in the SEC and then broke his own record with 3,869 the following year. His 32 TD passes in 2010 are a school record as well while his passer rating of 158.1 is fifth all-time in SEC history behind only Tebow, Manziel, Danny Wuerffel and McCarron. The Hogs went 18-8 during his span, earned their only BCS bowl berth of the era while posting 10 wins (2010) for only the second time since 1989.

18. Matthew Stafford, Georgia (2006-08)
Stats: 7,731 yds, 51 TDs, 33 INTs, 57.1%, 213 yds, 6 TD
s

From a talent standpoint, few players in SEC history can match the raw physical ability of Stafford. He struggled as a freshman but eventually improved greatly over his three seasons, eventually throwing for 3,459 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. Georgia won 30 games in three years with Stafford on the team and he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

19. Casey Clausen, Tennessee (2000-03)
Stats: 9,707 yds, 75 TDs, 31 INTs, 61.0%, 6 rush TDs

The eldest of three Clausen brothers to play college football, Casey entered the starting lineup for Tennessee as a freshman against Alabama. He went on to start 44 of 47 games, finishing with a 34-10 record overall. He posted two seasons with at least 2,900 yards passing and trails only Peyton Manning in the Tennessee record books in this category.

20. Matt Mauck, LSU (2001-03)
Stats: 3,831 yds, 37 TDs, 18 INTs, 58.6%, 345 yds, 5 TDs

He didn’t have big stats but he came up big when it mattered the most. He entered the 2001 SEC title game against Tennessee after starter Rohan Davey got hurt and led LSU to its first SEC title since 1988. He then helped LSU claim the BCS National Championship in 2003, the Tigers' first national title since 1958. He threw for 2,825 yards and 28 scores on 64 percent passing that historic season. Mauck also had streaks of 17 straight completions (5th all-time in SEC history) and 16 straight (9th all-time) in the ‘03 season.

Best of the rest:

21. Nick Marshall, Auburn (2013-present): 1,976 yds, 14 TDs, 6 INTs, 59.4%, 1,068 yds, 12 TDs
22. Matt Jones, Arkansas (2001-04): 5,857 yds, 53 TDs, 30 INTs, 55.2%, 2,535 yds, 24 TDs
23. D.J. Shockley, Georgia (2002-05): 3,555 yds, 34 TDs, 9 INTs, 643 yds, 7 TDs
24. Jared Lorenzen, Kentucky (2000-03): 10,354 yds, 78 TDs, 41 INTs, 56.9%, 283 yds, 12 TDs
25. Erik Ainge, Tennessee (2004-07): 8,700 yds, 72 TDs, 35 INTs, 60.6%, Rush TD
26. Rohan Davey, LSU (1998-2001): 4,415 yds, 29 TDs, 15 INTs, 59.8%, 77 yds
27. Matt Flynn, LSU (2004-07): 3,096 yds, 31 TDs, 13 INTs, 56.1%, 340 yds, 5 TDs
28. JaMarcus Russell, LSU (2004-06): 6,625 yds, 52 TDs, 21 INTs, 61.9%, 79 yds, 4 TDs
29. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (2012-present): 6,340 yds, 40 TDs, 27 INTs, 64.3%, 745 yds, 14 TDs
30. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (2008-12): 7,765 yds, 52 TDs, 26 INTs, 62.6%, 4 rush TDs 

Teaser:
Top 10 SEC Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

Things started with a bang for Michigan in 2013. Devin Gardner carried his team to victory with a Heisman Trophy-esque performance against archrival Notre Dame en route to a 5-0 start to the season.

Then the wheels fell off the Wolverines' offense.

Gardner turned the ball over too much, the offense never really got on track and Michigan lost five of its last six games. The Maize and Blue were held below 200 yards of offense on three separate occasions and held to negative rushing yards twice.

The same offense that rolled up a record 751 yards against Indiana.

Needless to say, consistency was a major issue and changes needed to be made to the 87th-rated offense. Not only will Michigan now be playing in a tougher Big Ten Division but they will be doing so with a new name calling plays on the offense.

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

Michigan 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten)

Spring Practice Opens: Feb. 25

Spring Game: April 5

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 8

Three Things to Watch in Michigan's 2014 Spring Practice

Doug Nussmeier, meet Devin Gardner
Hoke hired former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier in early January. The timing was strange and the way Al Borges was put out to pasture was equally bizarre. But Hoke got his guy and Wolverines fans will be anxious to see how Coach Nuss works with embattled but extremely talented quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner at one point last year was leading the world in turnovers but also set a Michigan single-game record with 584 yards of total offense. Protecting the football and working on becoming a more efficient passer will be the focus of the new offensive duo in Ann Arbor. There were a lot things wrong with the Michigan offense last year but it begins and ends with Gardner’s play. Of course, if Hoke can provide some sort of running game for his QB, that might help…

Rebuild the line and develop a workhorse
Taylor Lewan is gone. So is Michael Schofield. So the best two players are gone from an offensive line that finished 102nd in the nation in rushing and 109th in sacks allowed. The quickest way to ensure success for Gardner in the passing game is to provide balance on the ground. To do that, Nussmeier will have to reverse a very disturbing trend in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s rushing offense has gone from 238.5 yards per game in 2010 to 221.8 in ’11, 183.8 in ’12 and just 125.7 yards per game last year. Replacing those stars up front on the O-line and developing a true workhorse (paging Derrick Green) has to be atop the offensive priority list for the new coordinator. Additionally, figuring out a way to maximize Gardner’s athletic ability in space could help to open up more traditional running lanes for Green.

Find a go-to weapon on the outside
With a defense ranked in the upper half of the Big Ten and returning eight starters, the focus all spring should stay on the offense. Devin Funchess can be a dangerous weapon in open space but record-setting wideout Jeremy Gallon is gone and dependable target Jake Butt is out with a torn ACL. So other than Funchess at tight end, Michigan won’t have any player returning this spring with more than 15 catches on their resume. Amara Darboh will return to the field after missing all of 2013 and Jehu Chesson and Dennis Norfleet have limited experience. Finding a go-to target on the outside would also go a long way in helping to improve Gardner’s production in the pocket.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 7-9
Despite entering a tougher division in 2014 with a new coordinator calling plays, Michigan fans should have plenty of optimism heading into the spring. Gardner can be a special player when things are going well and Hoke has easily the second-best roster in the Big Ten this season (as usual). Is there a lot of work to be done on the offense? Certainly, but with a manageable early schedule and key swing games coming at home late in the year (Indiana, Maryland), Michigan should find a way to improve on the seven wins from a year ago. Should Nussmeier find a workhorse back and stabilize the offensive line, 10 wins is well within reach.

Teaser:
Michigan Wolverines 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-quarterbacks-bcs-era
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The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

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

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

The ACC has seen some elite signal-callers come through the ranks over the last 16 years. One went on to win a Big Ten title, more than a few were first-round picks and one is the reigning Heisman Trophy and BCS national championship winner. Unfortunately, two of the BCS' greats in Michael Vick and Ken Dorsey don't qualify because Virginia Tech and Miami weren't in the ACC during their collegiate careers.

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

1. Chris Weinke, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 9,839 yds, 79 TDs, 32 INTs, 58.7%, 2 rush TDs

There was little left unaccomplished in Weinke's college career. He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman Trophy as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost two games over that span and one was the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9) and was the conference’s all-time most efficient passer with a 151.15 rating until Tajh Boyd (and possibly Jameis Winston) came along.

2. Philip Rivers, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 13,484 yds, 95 TDs, 34 INTs, 63.5%, 98 yds, 17 TDs

The most productive passer in ACC history, Rivers owns the ACC record for completions (1,087), attempts (1,711), passing yards, total yards and set the record for passing touchdowns and total touchdowns (since broken). He won ACC Player of the Year honors in 2003 and finished seventh in the Heisman balloting. That year he led the nation in completion percent (72.0, an ACC record at the time) and set the ACC single-season passing yards record (since broken). His 18 career 300-yard games were an ACC record (broken). Rivers also is a member of the historic 2004 NFL Draft class that includes fellow quarterbacks Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

3. Jameis Winston, Florida State (2013-present)
Stats: 4,057 yds, 40 TDs, 10 INTs, 66.9%, 219 yds, 4 TDs

No player, especially no freshman, has ever posted a season like Winston in college football history much less in the ACC. His 184.8 passer rating was an ACC record (and would be No. 1 for a career as well), he set an NCAA freshman and all-time ACC single-season record with 40 touchdown passes and his 4,057 yards are fourth all-time in ACC history. Winston won the Heisman Trophy, the BCS national championship, the ACC Player of the Year, the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards as well. He has yet to lose a game on the gridiron and is poised to make another run at all of the above accolades as a sophomore.

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

Not many players own school records for two different programs but Wilson excelled in both the ACC and Big Ten and his overall career must be taken into account when measuring his greatness. The Super Bowl champion posted the single greatest season by a Wisconsin quarterback in history en route to a league crown and near national title berth. He owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38) and the single-season mark for passing efficiency at 191.8. In just three years in the ACC, Wilson finished eighth all-time in total offense (9,628), third in total offense per game (267.5 ypg), third in ACC history with 93 total touchdowns and set the ACC record with 379 consecutive passes without an interception. Imagine if he had stayed his final season in Raleigh.

5. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (2009-13)
Stats: 11,904 yds, 107 TDs, 39 INTs, 64.3%, 1,165 yds, 26 TDs

In just three full seasons as the starter, Boyd set every major Clemson passing record and is the ACC’s all-time leader in total touchdowns (133) and touchdown passes (107). He is No. 2 all-time in yards, won 2012 ACC Player of the Year honors, led Clemson back to an ACC championship in '11 and finished as the league’s most efficient passer in history with a QB rating of 155.2 (topping Weinke). Clemson went 32-8 over his final three years — all three of which he topped 3,800 yards and 33 TD passes. Boyd produced three of the top seven seasons in regards to total offense in league history. His 20 career 300-yard games broke Rivers’ previous ACC record of 18.

6. Matt Ryan, Boston College (2004-07)
Stats: 9,313 yds, 56 TDs, 37 INTs, 60.0%, 39 yds, 11 TDs

Ryan did more for Boston College than any player since Doug Flutie. He won the ACC Player of the Year and led the Eagles to the ACC title game. He was seventh in the Heisman ballot and won the Johnny Unitas and Archie Manning Awards before beginning his elite career in the NFL. Ryan owns the ACC single-season record for passing yards (4,507), completions (388) and attempts (654), all of which were set in 2007, and is second all-time with his 4,509 yards of total offense that year as well. From a raw talent standpoint, few players on this list are better quarterbacks than Matty-Ice.

7. Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech (1996-99)
Stats: 8,882 yds, 65 TDs, 39 INTs, 61.7%, 1,758 yds, 18 TDs

One of the most dynamic players in league history, Hamilton led the Jackets to three straight winning seasons, three straight bowl games and only Tech’s third 10-win season since 1956. Hamilton won ACC Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American, finished second in the Heisman voting and won the Davey O’Brien Award in 1999. He threw for 3,060 yards and 29 scores while running for 734 and eight touchdowns in his final season. The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick is third all-time in total offense and he currently stands as the ACC’s No. 5 most efficient passer with a rating of 148.19.

8. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (2007-10)
Stats: 7,017 yds, 44 TDs, 20 INTs, 57.2%, 2,196 yds, 23 TDs

From a production and success standpoint, its impossible to argue with Tyrod Taylor. He is fourteenth all-time in ACC history for total offense with 9,213 yards. He set and then broke Virginia Tech’s single-season total offense record in his junior and then senior seasons, leading the ACC in passing both years. Tech won three ACC championships and 42 games total during Taylor’s time in Blacksburg, including two titles and two Orange Bowl berths with him under center. He is also fourth all-time in rushing yards by any ACC quarterback.

9. Matt Schaub, Virginia (2000-03)
Stats: 7,502 yds, 56 TDs, 26 INTs, 67.0%, 58 yds, 5 TDs

As a junior, Schaub was the best player in the ACC when he threw for 2,976 yards, 28 touchdowns, only seven interceptions and completed 68.9 percent of his passes. He was named ACC Player of the Year. His career 67.0 percent completion rate is the all-time ACC benchmark and he is the 10th-rated passer in ACC history (138.35).

10. Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson (1998-01)
Stats: 5,634 yds, 36 TDs, 23 INTs, 58.0%, 2,761 yds, 27 TDs

One of the truly remarkable athletes to play quarterback, Dantzler was ahead of his time as a true dual threat. He owns the ACC’s single-game (220) and single-season (1,061) rushing records by a quarterback and has two of only three 1,000-yard rushing seasons by an ACC quarterback. His 2,761 yards rushing are second all-time among all ACC QBs and his 68 total touchdowns rank 13th all-time in league history. Clemson went from a three-win team his freshman season to three straight bowls in his final three.

Just missed the cut:

11. Bryan Randall, Virginia Tech (2001-04)
Stats: 6,508 yds, 48 TDs, 31 INTs, 58.8%, 1,526 yds, 11 TDs

He only played one year in the ACC, but Randall was a star in his new league. Randall was named ACC Player of the Year in 2004 as he lead Tech to the ACC crown in its first season. He won 28 games as a starter in three seasons and helped transition the Hokies from Big East play into a string of eight consecutive 10-win teams in the ACC. The only losses Tech sustained during his final year were to No. 1 national champ USC, unbeaten Auburn in the Sugar Bowl and a one-point upset to NC State.

12. Scott McBrien, West Virginia/Maryland (2000, '02-03)
Stats: 5,924 yds, 37 TDs, 19 INTs, 543 yds, 13 TDs

After one year at West Virginia, McBrien transferred to Maryland and sat out the 2001 season. He started every game after that for two Terps teams that went 21-6 and won both the Gator and Peach Bowls. He helped win Maryland’s first and only ACC title since 1985. He is the 10th-most efficient passer in ACC history as well as the No. 3 left-handed passer in the conference record books.

13. Riley Skinner, Wake Forest (2006-09)
Stats: 9,762 yds, 60 TDs, 37 INTs, 66.9%, 161 yds, 4 TDs

Skinner could have played just his freshman season and gone down in history as one of the greatest Demon Deacons of all-time. The ACC Freshman of the Year quarterbacked Wake Forest to its only title during the BCS Era, only BCS bowl berth and first title of any kind since 1970. He is fifth all-time in ACC history in total yards (9,923) and set the ACC single-season record with a 72.4 percent completion rate in 2007. Skinner is fifth all-time in passing yards, 12th all-time with 60 passing touchdowns and second all-time with 903 completions.

14. EJ Manuel, Florida State (2008-12)
Stats: 7,741 yds, 47 TDs, 28 INTs, 66.9%, 827 yds, 11 TDs

Only two players in NCAA history have started and won four bowl games during their college career and Manuel is one of them (Pat White). The elite recruit led the Noles back to an ACC championship as a senior, the school’s first since 2005, and is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in ACC history. His career 66.9 percent completion rate trails only Schaub as the ACC’s top mark all-time and his 150.13 passer rating trails only Winston, Boyd and Weinke all-time among all ACC signal-callers. Manuel was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

15. Joshua Nesbitt, Georgia Tech (2007-10)
Stats: 3,276 yds, 20 TDs, 16 INTs, 42.9%, 2,806 yds, 35 TDs

The ACC’s all-time leading rusher by a quarterback topped 6,000 yards of total offense running Paul Johnson's triple option attack. Nesbitt led the Jackets to their first outright ACC title since 1990 and has one of only three 1,000-yard rushing seasons by an ACC quarterback in history (Dantzler). His 18 rushing TDs that season are tied for fourth all-time by any player in any one season in ACC history (Ryan Williams, 21).

16. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (2010-13)
Stats: 8,221 yds, 64 TDs, 25 INTs, 66.5%, 4 rush TDs

Renner entered the starting lineup as a sophomore and proceeded to produce back-to-back 3,000-yard, 25-TD seasons for the Tar Heels. He set all the major school passing records in his first year (3,086 yds, 26 TDs) and then broke them all in his junior year (3,356, 28). Had he not been hurt during his senior season, his career stats would be among the league’s best. His 64 TD passes are ninth all-time in ACC history.

17. Mike Glennon, NC State (2009-12)
Stats: 7,411 yds, 63 TDs, 31 INTs, 60.4%, 3 rush TDs

The 6-foot-6 monster posted one of the best two-year runs at QB the ACC has ever seen. After forcing Russell Wilson to transfer in a round about way, Glennon produced back-to-back seasons with 31 touchdown passes and over 7,000 yards passing. Despite starting just two years, he is ninth all-time with 63 TD passes and he is one of just five ACC players ever to top 4,000 yards passing in a season (Ryan, Rivers, Weinke, Winston).

18. Darian Durant, North Carolina (2001-04)
Stats: 8,754 yds, 68 TDs, 38 INTs, 60.5%, 875 yds, 11 TDs

When he left Chapel Hill, Durant had 51 school records under his belt. Most of them have been broken since and North Carolina didn’t win a ton of games (going to only two bowl games during his career). He is eighth all-time in ACC history in total offense (No. 1 at UNC) and is seventh all-time in total touchdowns with 79 (UNC record). He is sixth all-time in ACC history with 68 scoring strikes.

19. Thaddeus Lewis, Duke (2006-09)
Stats: 10,065 yds, 67 TDs, 40 INTs, 58.1%, 9 rush TDs

Lewis has the numbers and the longevity and has to be given some credit for helping to rebuild an ACC doormat. Duke increased its win total in each of Lewis’ four seasons and he finished third all-time in passing yards (Rivers, Boyd), seventh all-time in TD passes, second in attempts (1,510), fourth in completions (877) and once went 206 passes without an INT (sixth-best in ACC history). His 76 total touchdowns are ninth all-time as well.

20. Sean Renfree, Duke (2009-12)
Stats: 9,465 yds, 51 TDs, 40 INTs, 64.7%, 9 rush TDs

Biding his time behind Lewis, Renfree stepped in and started for three full seasons, eventually leading Duke back to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. He had three straight seasons with at least 2,800 yards passing, including two seasons in excess of 3,100 yards. He started 36 games over his final three seasons.

Best of the rest:

21. Christian Ponder, Florida State
22. T.J. Yates, North Carolina
23. Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech
24. Chris Rix, Florida State
25. Reggie Ball, Georgia Tech

Teaser:
Top 10 ACC Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-rebels-2014-spring-football-preview
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Ole Miss went 6-18 overall and 1-15 in the SEC the two years prior to Hugh Freeze taking over as head coach in Oxford.

While Freeze has two losing records in conference play in two years, there is little doubt that he was clearly the right guy for the job. Ole Miss has posted back-to-back winning seasons capped by bowl wins. More importantly, Freeze has totally revamped Ole Miss recruiting and has a roster returning in 2014 that could be the best Rebels' fans have seen in years.

Questions still remain about the rosters, in particular along the offensive line, but the biggest hurdles are those swirling in the dangerous waters of the SEC West. In a division with Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M, can Ole Miss compete for an SEC championship?

That's something the Rebs haven’t won since 1963.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 28 (Atlanta)
Sept. 6at 
Sept. 13
Sept. 20Bye Week
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8Presbyterian
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

Ole Miss Rebels 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 8-5 (3-5 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 3

Spring Game: April 5

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 9

Three Things to Watch in Ole Miss' 2014 Spring Practice

Develop the offensive line
Playing in the treacherous SEC requires an excellent offensive line. Protecting the quarterback and running the football are even more important against the elite SEC defensive lines. With the loss three full time starters and a key reserve, the offensive line is going to be a major area of concern for Freeze and company this spring. Five-star prospect Laremy Tunsil more than acquitted himself a year ago as a true freshman and fans will look for him to take another step in his development, along with the return of All-SEC-type guard Aaron Morris from his season-ending injury. These two playing at the top of their game this fall is a great place to start. However, other names like Justin Bell (13 starts) need to step into leadership roles to stabilize an offensive line that was 98th in the nation a year ago in allowing sacks. Shoring up the front line is a great way to protect one of the better returning quarterbacks in the conference in Bo Wallace.

Find experience and leadership
There aren’t many glaring holes on this depth chart other than the offensive line. Would Freeze like to find a workhorse back? Would he like to develop depth in his front seven? Certainly, but he isn’t hurting for options at either position, so finding experienced field generals who can lead by example appears to be one of the most important goals of the spring. Jeff Scott and Donte Moncrief, for example, were two veteran leaders on the offense who are no longer around. Replacing their production shouldn’t be difficult with a host of talented players returning to Oxford. However, with five junior college transfers and a handful of redshirt freshmen working their way into the rotation, developing a pecking order on the practice field should be a focus of the staff. Laquon Treadwell, Tunsil, Tony Conner and Channing Ward have elite raw physical talent and upside but this team will go only as far as their leadership and maturity takes them. Speaking of maturity…

Stay focused on and off the field
Both Nkemdiche brothers, Denzel and Robert, have dealt with serious off-the-field issues as have a variety of other members of the Ole Miss roster. Spring practice is a time of learning, development and camaraderie, especially for a roster as young and talented as the one in Oxford. Freeze’s staff needs to be sure his players understand the goal/opportunity at hand for 2014. Winning an SEC title is difficult enough without off the field distractions dragging a team down the standings. The ’14 season could be a special one for the Rebels if things fall right in Oxford, but the margin for error is razor thin. The tiniest issues — be it injuries, arrests or immaturity — can derail a championship run in this conference, especially for a team like Ole Miss that won’t be favored against the big boys on its schedule.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 7-9
Ole Miss is certainly trending in the right direction. Freeze returns 14 of 22 starters, including his quarterback and the majority of his defense. The highly touted freshmen class of 2013 not only lived up to the hype but could develop into one of the great collections of talent ever signed in Oxford. There are few holes on this depth chart other than offensive line. Should leadership develop, a trip to the SEC title game in Atlanta isn’t out of the question. However, the schedule is absolutely brutal with Boise State in the non-conference and a typical run of nasty road SEC games (LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Arkansas) is intertwined with monumental home showdowns against the last two SEC champions in Alabama and Auburn. After improving from seven to eight wins in his first two seasons, improvement to nine or ten seems like a tall order but isn't out of the question should Colonel Reb pull and upset or two.

Teaser:
Ole Miss Rebels 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-quarterbacks-bcs-era
Body:

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

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

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

The Pac-12 is the conference of offense. The systems, the athletes and the coaching have all led to a long, distinguished list of elite college quarterbacks out West. The records, the championships and the pure athletic ability have given the Pac-12 some of the greatest quarterback names of the BCS Era. And one of the most decorated signal-callers in college football history sits atop the rankings.

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


1. Matt Leinart, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 10,693 yds, 99 TDs, 23 INTs, 64.8%, 9 rush TDs

Leinart won two national titles and played for a third in three years starting at powerhouse USC under Pete Carroll. He finished in the top six of Heisman voting in all three seasons, winning the award in 2004, finishing sixth in '03 and third in '05. He also earned AP Player of the Year, Manning, Walter Camp, Unitas and consensus All-American honors during his remarkable Heisman campaign. He capped the season with arguably the second-best performance by a quarterback in a national title game by dissecting Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. He threw for 332 yards and a championship game-record five touchdowns in the most lopsided win in series history. Leinart owns the career conference record with 36 consecutive games with a touchdown pass and his 99 TD passes were a league record until Matt Barkley came along. He also is just one of three players in league history to throw for 3,000 yards in three seasons (Derek Anderson, Andrew Walter).

2. Andrew Luck, Stanford (2009-11)
Stats: 9,430 yds, 82 TDs, 22 INTs, 67.0%, 957 yds, 7 TDs

The best quarterback prospect in over two decades broke all kinds of rookie NFL records in his first trip through the professional ranks. This merely lends credence to his remarkable college career. Few players have meant more to their school in history than Luck at Stanford. He led his program to its first BCS bowl win and set every school passing record en route. The two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year finished second in the Heisman twice (2010, '11) and won the Unitas, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards in 2011. He is the Pac-12's all-time leader in completion percentage, yards per play (8.5) and passing efficiency (162.8). He was 27-4 in his last 31 starts, earned a degree in architecture from Stanford, and is one of just nine players in league history to throw for at least 2,500 yards in three different seasons.

3. Carson Palmer, USC (1998-02)
Stats: 11,668 yds, 72 TDs, 49 INTs, 9 rush TDs

Pete Carroll has always said that if he could design a quarterback from scratch that it would have the physical tools of Palmer. After two middle-of-the-pack seasons as the starter in L.A., Palmer won the Heisman Trophy, Unitas Award and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2002. That year, Palmer threw for 3,942 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading USC to a conference championship and Orange Bowl win over Iowa. He is No. 2 all-time in league history in total offense (11,621) and yards passing (11,818). His 72 touchdown passes rank 10th all-time in Pac-12 history and he is one of nine players to throw for at least 2,500 yards in three seasons. Palmer was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Cal (2003-04)
Stats: 5,469 yds, 43 TDs, 13 INTs, 63.8%, 336 yds, 8 TDs

Clearly one of the greatest players to ever come through the league, Rodgers led Cal back to relevance, finishing 18-8 in two years as the starter and posting 10 wins in a season for the first time since 1991. He scored 51 times in just 25 games with only 13 interceptions, finished ninth in the Heisman voting in 2004, led the NCAA in completion percentage (66.1) and yards-per-attempt in his final season (8.1). Rodgers was a first-round pick of the Packers in the 2005 NFL Draft and is widely considered the best active quarterback on the planet today.

5. Joey Harrington, Oregon (1998-01)
Stats: 6,911 yds, 59 TDs, 23 INTs, 55.2%, 210 yds, 18 TDs

He will always be remembered as the guy on the Times Square billboard and as the third overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. However, during his three-year run at Oregon, few players were ever as productive and successful as Harrington. He went 25-3 as a starter, including an 11-win Pac-10 championship and the program's first-ever BCS bowl appearance and win. He was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in the Heisman voting. He accounted for 63 total touchdowns in his final two seasons in Eugene.

6. Cade McNown, UCLA (1995-99)
Stats: 10,708 yds, 68 TDs, 41 INTs, 55.2%, 577 yds, 16 TDs

Although small in stature, McNown was one of the league's biggest stars early in the BCS Era. He nearly led his team to the inaugural BCS title game in '98 and helped UCLA claim its last outright conference championship. He earned Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm honors and was a consensus All-American. He is third all-time with 11,285 total yards of offense and was the 12th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

7. Matt Barkley, USC (2009-12)
Stats: 12,327 yds, 116 TDs, 48 INTs, 64.1%, 6 rush TDs

When it comes to records, no one stands above Barkley. He is the all-time leader by a wide margin in Pac-12 history as the only player with 12,000 yards as well as 100 touchdown passes. He also is the only player in league history with four seasons of at least 2,500 yards passing and set the Pac-12 single-season record with 39 touchdown strikes in 2011. Amidst heavy NCAA sanctions, Barkley started 47 games, winning 34 of them. He also opened and closed his collegiate career with bowl appearances in the only two bowl-eligible seasons while he was a Trojan. His 10-win, record-breaking junior season is arguably the best season by a Pac-12 quarterback in history.

8. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (2012-present)
Stats: 6,342 yds, 63 TDs, 10 INTs, 65.8%, 1,467 yds, 14 TDs

It's only been two seasons but Mariota has already established himself as one of the league's greats. He set a freshman NCAA record by completing 68.5 percent of his passes and set a Pac-12 freshman record with 32 touchdown passes. Mariota set the league record for most consecutive passes without an interception (353) and should own every major Oregon statistical record by the end of his junior season. He is 23-3 as a starter and has accounted for 77 total touchdowns and nearly 8,000 yards of total offense — and he isn't even an upperclassman yet.

9. Marques Tuiasosopo, Washington (1997-00)
Stats: 5,501 yds, 31 TDs, 28 INTs, 54.9%, 1,374 yds, 20 TDs

He was the Huskies' first true freshman to ever start at quarterback when he took the reins from injured Brock Huard in 1997. By his junior year under a new coaching staff, Tuiasosopo earned the starting nod at QB in Seattle. He eventually led Washington back to the Rose Bowl as Pac-10 champions in 2000. He was named Offensive Player of the Year, finished eighth in the Heisman voting and Rose Bowl MVP in his final season. Tui was taken in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

10. Darron Thomas, Oregon (2008-11)
Stats:  5,910 yds, 66 TDs, 17 INTs, 719 yds, 9 TDs

A slightly less talented version of Mariota, Thomas helped lead Oregon to its only BCS National Championship Game and undefeated regular season in 2010. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 2,700 yards passing and 30 touchdowns in the only two seasons he started. Thomas won two Pac-12 titles and went 24-3 in his two seasons under center. He did everything he could in his the title game, throwing for 363 yards in the three-point loss to Auburn. Had Oregon won, he would undoubtedly be the most important Duck of the BCS Era.

Just missed the cut:

11. Dennis Dixon, Oregon (2004-07)
Stats: 5,129 yds, 38 TDs, 21 INTs, 63.9%, 1,208 yds, 12 TDs

After a stellar first season running Mike Bellotti's offense as a junior, Dixon began his final season with high hopes. And after eight wins in nine games, the Heisman frontrunner's knee buckled just two weeks after initially injuring his knee against Arizona State. Dixon earned All-Pac-10 recognition twice and was a finalist for many national awards but couldn't finish his final season. In just over nine games, he had accumulated 2,136 yards passing and 20 TDs on 67.7 percent passing and just four interceptions along with 583 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on the ground. He was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year despite the injury.

12. Andrew Walter, Arizona State (2001-04)
Stats: 10,617 yds, 85 TDs, 36 INTs, 54.9%

When he left school, the case could be made that Walter was the most productive signal-caller in the Pac-12's long and storied history. His 85 touchdowns were an all-time record and he had thrown for more yards in a game than anyone in history (536). He is one of only three players in history to have three 3,000-yard passing seasons and threw for at least 24 touchdowns in each of those seasons. In the conference record books, he is currently eighth all-time in passing yards and tied for third all-time in touchdown passes. He played in 48 games and as a senior (2004) helped lead ASU to nine wins for the first time since 1997.

13. Brett Hundley, UCLA (2012-present)
Stats: 6,811 yds, 53 TDs, 20 INTs, 66.7%, 1,103 yds, 20 TDs

With the possible exception of Mariota, few players have stepped onto the national scene with more gusto than Hundley. He has nearly 8,000 yards of total offense in his first two seasons on the field. He enters his junior year with a shot to break nearly every UCLA record should he continue his torrid pace. He's already led the Bruins to 19 wins, two bowl berths and a South Division title.

14. Akili Smith, Oregon (1997-98)
Stats: 5,148 yds, 45 TDs, 15 INTs, 56.6%, 367 yds, 6 TDs

He only played two seasons in big-time college football but his '98 campaign was one of the Pac-12's best. He won Offensive Player of the Year by throwing for 3,763 yards and 32 touchdowns against only eight interceptions while scoring four times on the ground. He was the third overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

15. Jason Gesser, Washington State (1999-02)
Stats: 8,830 yds, 70 TDs, 39 INTs, 54.7%, 177 yds, 4 TDs

Earning his way into the lineup as a sophomore, Gesser posted back-to-back seasons with at least 3,000 yards passing and exactly 28 total touchdowns for the Cougars. He won 10 games in both of those seasons, leading Wazzu to its last Rose Bowl appearance and winning Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior. 

Best of the rest:

16. Jake Locker, Washington (2007-10)
Stats: 7,639 yds, 53 TDs, 35 INTs, 54.0%, 1,939 yds, 29 TDs

17. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State (2011-present)
Stats: 6,705 yds, 57 TDs, 21 INTs, 64.6%, 1,148 yds, 10 TDs

18. Mark Sanchez, USC (2006-08)
Stats: 3,965 yds, 41 TDs, 16 INTs, 64.3%, 33 yds, 4 TDs

19. Cody Pickett, Washington (1999-03)
Stats: 9,916 yds, 53 TDs, 42 INTs, 57.7%, 11 rush TDs

20. Drew Olson, UCLA (2002-05)
Stats: 8,532 yds, 67 TDs, 32 INTs, 57.8%, 2 rush TD

21. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State (1998-01)
Stats: 9,375 yds, 52 TDs, 29 INTs, 50.3%, 4 rush TDs

22. Nick Foles, Arizona (2009-11)
Stats: 9,986 yds, 67 TDs, 33 INTs, 4 rush TDs

23. Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State (2005-08)
Stats: 10,491 yds, 85 TDs, 35 INTs, 61.0%, 2 rush TDs

24. Derek Anderson, Oregon State (2001-04)
Stats: 11,249 yds, 79 TDs, 57 INTs, 50.7%, 8 rush TDs

25. Sean Mannion, Oregon State (2011-present)
Stats: 10,436 yds, 68 TDs, 46 INTs, 65.3%, Rush TD

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly likely welcomed the turn of the calendar this New Year.

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

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

And Kelly will do so with two new coordinators.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 9-4

Spring Practice Opens: March 3

Spring Game: April 12

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

Returning Starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are the biggest overachievers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are the biggest underachievers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did we learn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

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

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

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

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

Things are getting serious out West.

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

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

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

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

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

What did we learn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did we learn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12 Football Rosters for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
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The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just missed the cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the rest:

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

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 07:15

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