Articles By Braden Gall
Athlon Sports has averaged out the four major recruiting services — 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN — and created the SEC consensus team recruiting rankings for 2015. Here is what we learned:
Roll Tide, Roll
According to the 247Sports composite rankings, there were a total of 33 five-star recruits in the entire 2014 class and 35 in the '15 class. Alabama has signed six five-star recruits in each of the last two classes. For 2015, the ACC as a league signed seven five-stars and the Pac-12 signed eight. Bama alone signed four more five-star prospects than the entire Big Ten (1) and Big 12 (1) combined this cycle.
Of those 68 five-star recruits entering college football over the last two cycles, the SEC has signed 37. That’s six more than the other four power conferences combined. The ACC is second with 12 five-star signees over the last two years. The Pac-12 has 11, the Big Ten has five and the Big 12 is last with just three five-star signatures the last two years. The SEC placed 12 teams in the consensus Top 25 classes.
Old recruiting power
Butch Jones and the Vols landed their second consecutive top-five class this cycle — the first time that has happened in school history. Not since 2010 (9th) had Tennessee posted a top-10 class and not since 2007 (3rd) had the Vols landed in the top five. Now, in Jones’ first two full cycles, he’s done it twice. The average national ranking for the Vols the three years prior to Jones taking over full time was 17.
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast Recruiting Special feat. Barton Simmons:
Jim McElwain took over the job at Florida with a recruiting class with less than 10 commitments and ranked dead last in the SEC. After a big National Signing Day with a pair of five- and four-star signees, the Gators snuck into the Top 25 and jumped four teams in the league to finish 10th in the SEC.
According to Rivals.com (and including Texas A&M and Missouri), the ’15 class is Dan Mullen’s best at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have finished better than 11th in the SEC only once under Mullen and that was 10th in 2012. Finishing seventh in the league, ahead of teams that normally recruit at a higher level — like Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Arkansas — is a huge statement for HailState.
Expectations still high
According to 247Sports, LSU signed another top-five class. In fact, it marks the sixth time in seven years Les Miles has landed a class ranked in the top seven nationally, giving LSU one of the best rosters of talent in the nation. Yet, LSU has gone from first to fifth in the SEC West over the last four seasons. With another elite class of players, Miles once again must manage the usual high expectations in Baton Rouge.
Athlon Sports has averaged out the four major recruiting services team rankings for the ACC — 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN — and created the ACC consensus team recruiting rankings for 2015. Here is what we learned:
Florida State, Clemson and everybody else
It’s clear who the class of the ACC was in 2015 recruiting. The Seminoles and Tigers were ranked in the top five nationally by both Rivals and ESPN and the top eight by 247. No one else in the ACC was even close and North Carolina finished third with an average ranking just outside of the top 25. That said, for whatever reason, Scout didn’t agree, ranking both Clemson and Florida State outside of the top 10 nationally (take it up with them, fans).
Louisville and Bobby Petrino just completed their first full cycle as a member of the ACC and it appears the Cardinals will do just fine in their new league. The Cards ranked no lower than 32nd nationally by any service and finished solidly in the top half of the league. The same cannot be said about Pitt and Syracuse, who signed the worst two classes in the ACC this fall (mostly due to size for the Panthers).
Florida State and Clemson signed all seven five-star recruits that the ACC landed this cycle. Those two programs, as expected, signed 19 of the 42 four-star recruits as well. Who didn’t sign a single five- or four-star recruit in the ACC? Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse were the only ACC teams that didn’t land a four-star recruit this year.
Middle of the pACCk
The middle of the ACC pack needs to show improvement. Miami was one of the National Signing Day losers after missing out a bunch of quality players and falling outside of the top 25. ESPN and Rivals barely snuck Virginia Tech into the Top 25 and North Carolina was 24th by Scout and ESPN. But those three programs are the next best recruiting brands in the league and have history of competing at a high level in the ACC. So if the league wants to be considered on the same playing field as the SEC or Pac-12 nationally, these three programs need to start threatening top-10 classes on the recruiting trail.
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast Recruiting Special feat. Barton Simmons:
Positive signs in Winston-Salem?
Using Rivals.com team rankings — because they date back the farthest — Wake Forest signed its best class of the modern era this year. Three of the four sites ranked the Demon Deacons 53rd or better, making it the highest-rated class for Wake Forest since Rivals began tracking team rankings in 2002. ESPN ranked the Deacs an exciting 42nd in the nation — ahead of quality programs like Maryland, BYU, Cal, Utah, Iowa and others. Things could be looking up for Dave Clawson.
2015 ACC Consensus Team Recruiting Rankings:
The league’s coordinator carousel this offseason is another example of how things are just different down South. When it comes to coaching, there is no league in the nation more cutthroat than the SEC.
The SEC has hired 14 new coordinators since the end of the season. Six of them have coached in the SEC within the last two years, five were on staff last season and four of them are making the switch to a new SEC school in 2015.
Here are the winners and losers from the SEC’s ’15 coordinator carousel:
The Tigers went from Ellis Johnson to Will Muschamp and the former Florida coach’s impact was felt immediately. Auburn dominated headlines on Signing Day and Muschamp will undoubtly dominate offensive lines for as long as he stays on the Plains. Guschamp is as good an offense-defense tandem as there is in the nation.
It was costly but landing John Chavis in exchange for Mark Snyder was a big win for Kevin Sumlin. Chavis has a long track record of success in the SEC and for the Aggies to not only secure his services but also steal him from a division rival — one who had shut them down in two meetings — can’t be overrated.
Doug Nussmeier is a solid hire but Jim McElwain will likely control the majority of the offense. However, luring Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State and back to Gainesville was a big win for McElwain. His defensive hire was going to be significantly more important than his offensive move and Coach Juice Points was a home run.
Part of what gives Missouri the ability to “overachieve” is the coaching staff’s continuity. So losing Dave Steckel to Missouri State after 14 excellent years of service was a big blow to Gary Pinkel’s staff stability. He couldn’t have landed a better replacement, however, in Barry Odom. He played and coached at Mizzou under Pinkel (2003-11) and did fantastic work turning around Memphis’ defense in three short years.
Going from John Chavis to Kevin Steele can only be considered a major step down. Steele is a great recruiter but that isn’t what LSU needs. The last two years he was in charge of a defense, his unit allowed a pathetic 5.6 yards per play for Clemson in both 2011 and ’12 — ranking 71st and 69th nationally. And technically, Alabama’s defense, while still really good in 2014, was the “worst” it has been since '08. Just ask Urban Meyer. Les Miles did salvage the offseason somewhat by landing ace recruiter and elite D-line coach Ed Orgeron.
Mike DeBord is maybe the most fascinating hire in the SEC this year. He hasn’t coached any football since 2012, hasn’t been relevant in college football since leaving Michigan in '07 and hasn’t been a QB coach since '86. He knows Butch Jones extremely well, brings continuity to the offense and maybe even adds a much-needed power running element. And Michigan did go to two Rose Bowls during his last stint in Ann Arbor. But the game has changed dramatically since then, and normally, there is a reason someone hasn’t held a meaningful position in nearly a decade. DeBord is extremely experienced but there are reasonable questions about his upside, ability to develop young talent and knowledge of the way today's SEC works.
There should always be concerns when hiring a top assistant from a coaching staff where the head coach is really the offensive architect. Shannon Dawson posted some big numbers on offense for West Virginia last year but didn’t really design the offense and didn’t call the plays either. Dawson can only be considered a step back from a young rising offensive mind like Neal Brown.
On the plus side, Brian Schottenheimer will give Mark Richt the exact offensive style he wants, his NFL pedigree suggests that the industry’s best respect him and he knows the SEC from his playing days at Florida. However, his offenses in The League have been far from solid (despite some injuries) ranking 25th, 23rd, 30th and 28th in the NFL in total offense over the last four seasons. Generally speaking, coaches don’t leave a high-ranking NFL job for a coordinator job in college and, many times, NFL offenses are too complex for the college game. This is a step down from Mike Bobo.
Wait and See:
Being able to lure a current head coach away to become a coordinator is no small feat but Dan Enos didn’t exactly set Mount Pleasant on fire during his five-year stint at Central Michigan. He meshes very well with Bret Bielema’s offensive philosophy so odds are this will be a win for the Hogs. But Enos is still very much of an unknown in the SEC.
Andy Ludwig will bring a power offense that has been extremely successful and his ability to coach quarterbacks is a huge need. Derek Mason’s decision to coach the defense is both a win and loss simultaneously. No one can coach, manage and call that defense better than him (win) but it’s nearly impossible to manage every aspect of the game in such a demanding league when you are so focused on one side of the ball (loss). The jury is still very much out on the Dores' moves but there is no doubt they upgraded these two positions from a year ago.
The similarities between DeBord and Jon Hoke are bizarrely similar with a few small twists. Both have deep connections with their new head coaches and haven’t coached in college for a long time. The slight difference is Hoke has been coaching at a high level in the NFL while DeBord has been out of the game for three years. Another difference is Hoke is almost guaranteed to be an upgrade over Lorenzo Ward and is going to call the plays while DeBord could be a step down from Mike Bajakian and will have much less influence than Hoke.
Manny Diaz knows Mississippi State very well having coached there under Dan Mullen in 2010. He was solid for MTSU prior to coming to Starkville and was solid for the Bulldogs, but his track record is a mixed bag since. He did great work last year at Louisiana Tech, taking a unit ranked 70th nationally in total defense the year prior to 35th in '14. However, he also is partly responsible for two of the worst defenses in Texas Longhorns history, giving up over 400 yards per game in 2012-13 in Austin.
Alabama: Lane Kiffin, OC and Kirby Smart, DC
Ole Miss: Matt Luke/Dan Werner, OC and Jason Jones/Dave Wommack, DC
Don’t be that guy.
Don’t be the old, stodgy curmudgeon who refuses to acknowledge that society moves forward.
Don’t ignore facts, research and statistical data because of some longing for the days of the Wing-T and leather helmets. Don’t let an anecdotal stat about the Super Bowl starting lineups, lazy reporting on the NFL Draft or an undefeated season from Boise State blind you to the truth.
Recruiting matters and so do the rankings. More importantly, this isn’t an opinion.
It’s a fact.
Does it take great coaching, quality development, a conglomerate of hard-working support staffers and even a bit of luck to win a championship? Are recruiting rankings an inexact science filled with busts?
Of course, but to win championships in college football, it takes great players. In general, teams with better players according to the recruiting rankings win more games and players who have more stars are more likely to get drafted.
Again, those aren’t opinions.
The 2014 College Football Playoff featured three of the top four rosters according to the recruiting rankings. Based on the last five classes, Alabama had the No. 1 roster in the nation in ‘14, Florida State was No. 2 and Ohio State was No. 4 nationally. Oregon wasn’t far behind with the 14th-ranked roster in America.
Both Florida State (No. 5) and Auburn (No. 10) had two of the top 10 rosters in the nation a year earlier based on the same criteria and they met in the ’13 BCS title game. In 2011, Alabama and LSU were two of the top three rosters in the nation based on the previous five recruiting classes. They met in the BCS title game that year and only lost to each other. Notre Dame vs. Alabama? Yup, both top-10 rosters.
Additionally, signing the No. 1 class in the nation has historically produced national titles.
Since 2002 (as far back as Rivals.com team rankings go), nearly every team that landed a No. 1 class in the nation eventually won a national championship. Texas signed the top class in 2002 and won a title three years later. LSU signed the top class in 2003 and won two titles with those players. USC inked the top class in 2004 and played in back-to-back title games. Florida won the recruiting championship in 2007 and the BCS championship in '08. Alabama claimed three national championships after winning four recruiting titles in between 2008-12.
Further, every single BCS national champion had at least two top-10 classes in the four years leading up to its championship season.
Still need more?
The good folks at SB Nation — Matt Hinton and Bud Elliott — have done marvelous work breaking down the statistics as it relates to recruiting rankings. I suggest reading the articles, but the gist of their research reveals two telling and undeniable truths: 1) Teams with better recruiting classes win more games and 2) players with more stars are more likely to be drafted.
Working with the top 75 teams in the nation — the six “BCS” leagues, Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU — Hinton plotted out where those teams ranked in recruiting and what happened when they played each other. In nearly 1,500 matchups between 2010-13, the “higher-ranked team according to the recruiting rankings won roughly two-thirds of the time” and the larger the talent differential, the easier it was to predict wins and losses. To quote the author, "it's a landslide."
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast Recruiting Special feat. Barton Simmons:
Essentially, in a world where it’s nearly impossible to predict outcomes, picking games based purely on star rankings is actually your best bet.
There are roughly 4,500 scholarships signed each National Signing Day with about 30 prospects receiving the heralded five-star ranking. An additional 400 will get four stars while the other 4,000 check in as three- or two-star prospects. So when a stat says only 16 five-stars were drafted against 71 two-stars (like in 2014), it’s utterly lazy reporting.
Elliott provides the real data. The ratios indicate that four- and five-star recruits are 995 percent more likely to be drafted in the first round than a three- or two-star prospect. Additionally, based on the 2014 NFL Draft, a five-star recruit has a 60 percent chance of getting drafted (16 of 27) and a four-star has a 20 percent opportunity (77 of 395). Meanwhile, three-star recruits have just a 5.5 percent chance (92 of 1644) and two-stars/unranked players have less than a three-percent likelihood of getting drafted (71 of 2,434).
I’m no mathematician but 60 is significantly larger than 2.9.
Three of the best four rosters in the sport, according to the rankings, eventually filled playoff spots this year. Landing the top class has led directly to competing for a national title over the last 10 years. Higher ranked recruiting classes regularly defeat lower ranked classes at nearly a 70 percent clip. And higher ranked prospects are significantly more likely to get drafted by the NFL than lower ranked ones.
Recruiting at an elite level doesn’t guarantee success. Bad coaches underachieve with great players all the time. But no one has won a national title without elite talent.
So if you don’t like glorifying teenagers or pompous announcement ceremonies, that’s fair and totally acceptable. But don’t lie to yourself about the value of the rankings.
Remember, facts not opinions.
It's starting to get boring — although, the 2015 recruiting national championship race was closer than it has been in years.
Steve Sarkisian and USC made a valiant push, landing big name after big name over the final 48 hours of the '15 cycle. When the last fax came through, however, it wasn't enough to overcome Saban. In fact, both Rivals and Scout actually rank USC's class No. 1 in the land. However, ESPN's list ultimately gave the consensus top class to Alabama by having USC at No. 3. It marks the fifth straight No. 1 class in the nation for Alabama.
Most seemed to agree that the Trojans and Tide boasted the best two collections of talent, but there were major disagreements when the rankings move beyond the top two slots. Scout, for example, ranked No. 3 Florida State (11th) and No. 7 Clemson (15th) the lowest of the four major recruiting services by a wide margin. ESPN and Rivals didn't think nearly as highly of the UCLA Bruins class as Scout or 247. There were major disagreements on LSU, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and TCU as well.
Very rarely, as was the case with Nebraska or Louisville, the four services were in complete harmony.
This is why 247Sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN's 2015 team recruiting rankings have been combined to give fans a consensus class order.
2015 Team Recruiting Rankings
National Signing Day 2015 is (mostly) over and Alabama is once again the champion of the recruiting trail, according to ESPN and 247Sports. In fact, it's almost boring how good Nick Saban and Alabama has been at luring talent to Tuscaloosa, landing their fifth consecutive recruiting championship.
Programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Clemson all signed elite top 10 classes but were mostly inactive on National Signing Day. That wasn't the case in the state of Florida, out West in the Pac-12 or down on the Plains.
NSD '15 Winners:
No one won National Signing Day more than Guschamp at Auburn. Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp have formed one of the nastiest recruiting duos in college football and it showed on NSD. Auburn landed five-star Byron Cowart and four-stars Jeff Holland, Ryan Davis and Carlton Davis on NSD to with Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. the night before. Guschamp also flipped four-star Darius Slayton (Georgia) and three-star Mike Horton (Florida) from SEC East powers on NSD as well.
UCLA dominated the headlines early on NSD, pulling elite talent to Los Angeles from all over the country. USC rallied in the afternoon, scoring elite-level talents like Iman Marshall, Rasheem Green and John Houston from instate. Both programs surged through Signing Day and secured top 10 classes. USC finished No. 2 in the rankings while the Bruins jumped 12 spots on NSD to No. 7.
Early in the day it appeared Jim McElwain and the Gators would be in the "losers" category for NSD '15. But as the day went along, Florida kept gaining momentum and McElwain was able to secure a top 20 class. This comes after taking over the worst-ranked class in the SEC. Florida jumped nearly 50 spots in the team ranks to 21st after landing two five-star prospects in Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson as well as four-star recruits D'Anfernee McGriff and Jordan Cronkrite.
SEC defensive lines
Five of the top seven players left on the board entering National Signing Day were five-star defensive lineman. Four of them signed with four different SEC schools. Cowart (eventually) signed with Auburn, Daylon Mack re-upped with Texas A&M and McElwain desperately needed to land Jefferson. More important, Missouri inked instate stud Terry Beckner in emotional fashion. The lone D-Line outside of the SEC to score a five-star on NSD was USC when it got tackle Rasheem Green. Additionally, Georgia signed the No. 1 player in the nation in defensive lineman Trent Thompson, Tennessee signed the No. 6 player in the nation in nose tackle Kahlil McKenzie and Bama got their own five-star D-Liner in Daron Payne.
Some (mostly older) fans don't enjoy NSD or the flamboyant nature of the event. But for most, NSD is a day of crazy plotlines, bizarre twists and creative announcements. Tennessee's Preston Williams won the day with his ensemble while Biggie Marshall won the day by announcing his commitment to USC in a way no one has ever seen before. Never change, National Signing Day. Never.
NSD '15 Losers:
Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Oregon State, Pitt and Kansas were the seven Power 5 teams that changed head coaches this year. Only Jim McElwain was able to build a top 25 recruiting class in that group. In fact, no class other than Florida even finished in the top 30. Oregon State, Kansas and Pitt — who dropped 15 spots in the team rankings on NSD — didn't finish in the top 60 nationally.
McElwain was able to salvage his class with a wild but successful NSD. Harbaugh did some good work down the stretch and all signs point to domination in 2016, but the Wolverines should not be satisfied with the 36th ranked class in the nation. The haul is small (14) and the Maize and Blue signed just three of the top 50 players in Michigan. Harbaugh had to take some players "Michigan University Wolverines" wouldn't normally take in order to fill the class.
The Big 12
Charlie Strong and Texas had the best class in the league but the 11th best class in the nation would only be good for sixth in the SEC. Oklahoma was also solidly ranked in the top 20. But as a league, the Big 12 once again should be concerned about landing elite level talent as those are the only two classes ranked in the Top 30. Additionally, in 2014, the Big 12 signed just six of the Top 100 players in the nation while the SEC signed 47. This year wasn't much better as the Big 12 scored just eight of the top 100 players in the nation.
The Horned Frogs were having one of the best classes of the Gary Patterson era when NSD began with a top 30 class. But after losing the best players in the class to Texas Tech (JF Thomas), TCU dropped 11 spots in the team rankings to outside of the top 40. Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and West Virginia all jumped TCU in the Big 12 team rankings.
They might have been a long shot, but Miami was in the mix with seven four- or five-star prospects on NSD. Al Golden and the Canes didn't win one battle among those seven, losing players to Florida, Florida State and Auburn among others. Golden has a young team and the '15 class is solid within the ACC. However, Miami didn't finish well, dropping six spots out of the Top 25.
Literally every single recruiting class was a huge success, loaded with future stars and will carry [insert school of choice] to a conference championship. At least, that's what every head football coach will tell you. Just once I'd like to hear a coach say something like "we missed on a lot of guys we wanted" or "this is a group that might get me fired in two years." National Signing Day is the purest form of coach speak.
Athlon Sports keeps college football fans updated throughout National Signing Day with every important announcement — with a little Crystal Ball help from the good folks at 247Sports.com. Below is the list of every four- or five-star recruit set to announce, where they are projected to go and when it will take place on NSD (based on 247Sports Composite rankings).
NSD '15 Announcement Watchlist:
No. 2: Martez Ivey, OT
Apoopka (Fla.) High (11:35 a.m. ET)
No. 3: Byron Cowart, SDE
Seffner (Fla.) Armwood (9:10 a.m.)
No. 4: Iman Marshall, CB
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly (4:05 p.m.)
No. 7: CeCe Jefferson, SDE
Glen St. Mary (Fla.) Baker County (2:05 p.m.)
No. 13: Terry Beckner Jr., DT
East St. Louis (Ill.) High (10:45 a.m.)
No. 14: Daylon Mack, DT
Gladewater (Texas) High (12:35 p.m.)
No. 23: Rasheem Green, DT
Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra (2:15 p.m.)
No. 32: Soso Jamabo, RB
Plano (Texas) West (9:20 a.m.)
No. 42: Damarkus Lodge, WR
Cedar Hill (Texas) High (12:05 p.m.)
No. 47: Roquan Smith, OLB
Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County (11:20 a.m.)
No. 49: John Houston, ILB
Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra (2:20 p.m.)
No. 55: Drew Richmond, OT
Memphis (Tenn.) University School (10:20 a.m.)
No. 63: Leo Lewis, ILB
Brookhaven (Miss.) High (11:30 a.m.)
No. 77: Chris Warren, RB
Rockwall (Texas) High (9 a.m.)
No. 85: Chris Clark, TE
Avon (Conn.) Old Farms (8:35 a.m.)
No. 87: Joseph Wicker, SDE
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly (4:10 p.m.)
No. 90: Daylon Charlot, WR
Patterson (La.) High (9:30)
No. 94: Dexter Williams, RB
Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange (11 a.m.)
No. 103: Josh Wariboko, OG
Oklahoma City (Okla.) Casady School (11:05 a.m.)
No. 104: Toby Weathersby, OT
Houston (Texas) Westfield (9:15 a.m.)
No. 105: Isaiah Prince, OT
Greenbelt (Md.) Roosevelt (9:30 a.m.)
No. 116: Jeffery Holland, OLB
Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian (10:30 a.m.)
No. 144: Rico McGraw, CB
Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth (10:15 a.m.)
No. 152: K.J. Hill, WR
North Little Rock (Ark.) High (TBD)
No. 160: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Anaheim (Calif.) Servite (3:15 p.m.)
No. 187: Ryan Davis, WR
St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood (10 a.m.)
No. 213: Patrick Allen, OT
Reisterstown (Md.) Franklin (8:45 a.m.)
No. 222: Cordell Broadus, WR
Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman (2:35 p.m.)
No. 242: Kanya Bell, WR
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly (TBD)
No. 256: Quarvez Boulware, OG
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Academy (TBD)
No. 266: Kyahva Tezino, OLB
Los Angeles (Calif.) Bishop Mora Salesian (TBD)
No. 268: Jordan Cronkrite, ATH
Miami (Fla.) Westminster Christian (1:15)
No. 269: Jaylinn Hawkins, WR
Buena Park (Calif.) High (TBD)
No. 273: D'Anfernee McGriff, RB
Tallahassee (Fla.) Leon (TBD)
No. 286: Arrington Farrar, S
Atlanta (Ga.) Woodward Academy (3:45 p.m.)
No. 312: Tyrone Wheatley Jr., TE
Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius (3:15 p.m.)
No. 313: Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB
Nashville (Tenn.) Pearl Cohn (TBD)
No. 325: Kendrell McFadden, S
Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar (TBD)
No. 338: Carlton Davis, CB
Miami (Fla.) Norland (TBD)
No. 340: Jaylon Lane, CB
Nacogdoches (Texas) High (TBD)
Use the phrase “Greatest of All-Time” in any argument and it’s bound to escalate quickly.
But other than Jerry Rice or Michael Jordan, there are no clear answers to the eternal G.O.A.T question in sports. But after Tom Brady led his Patriots to a fourth Super Bowl championship on Sunday, the debate immediately became who is the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time?
In an effort to answer this unanswerable question, I’ve taken what many consider to be the five greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and compared them using the criteria we believe makes up “G.O.A.T.”
The criteria are as follows: 1) team success, winning and championships 2) statistical production and records 3) overall athletic ability 4) throwing talent 5) supporting cast and 6) longevity. The five names in discussion are Peyton Manning, John Elway, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Tom Brady.
The winner will be decided based on a points system.
Disclaimer: There are many other deserving candidates like Dan Marino and Johnny Unitas, but we had to draw the line somewhere. No disrespect intended.
1. Winning and Championships
Winning is really all that matters in sports at the end of the day. Championships or bust is how we measure most elite-level athletes and quarterbacks. That considered, this category will get twice as many points as the other criteria. Montana and Brady stand above the rest with four championships, Elway checks in with two wins and five total trips with just one title each for Manning and Favre — who are a combined 2-4 in Super Bowls. But Manning leads NFL history with 52 game-winning drives (GWD) and 41 fourth-quarter comebacks (4QC) and Favre is the winningest QB in history (186). Here are the numbers below.
Note: All-time NFL rank in parentheses
|Name||SB Record||Win/Loss (%)||Playoff W/L||GWD||4QC|
|Tom Brady||4-2||160-47 (77.3)||21-8 (1st)||46 (3rd)||35 (3rd)|
|Joe Montana||4-0||117-47 (71.3)||16-7 (2nd)||33 (10th)||31 (5th)|
|John Elway||2-3||148-82-1 (64.1)||14-7 (3rd)||46 (3rd)||35 (3rd)|
|Brett Favre||1-1||186-112 (62.4)||13-11 (5th)||45 (5th)||30 (6th)|
|Peyton Manning||1-2||179-77 (69.9)||11-13 (8th)||52 (1st)||41 (1st)|
Points Awarded: Montana 10, Brady 8, Elway 6, Manning 4, Favre 2
2. Statistical Production
Comparing statistics from different eras is extremely difficult and it really only hurts Montana here. That said, Favre and Elway overlapped in a big way and both Manning and Brady played during the same era. And, technically, Montana was playing in an innovative system that changed the game forever (with the GOAT at wide receiver). All of these guys were insanely productive — among the best 10 passers in NFL history in nearly every major category.
Note: All-time NFL rank in parenthesis
|Peyton Manning||69,691 (2nd)||530 (1st)||5,927 (2nd)||673||18|
|Brett Favre||71,838 (1st)||508 (2nd)||6,300 (1st)||1,844||14|
|John Elway||51,475 (6th)||300 (7th)||4,123 (6th)||3,407||33|
|Tom Brady||53,258 (5th)||392 (5th)||4,551 (5th)||823||14|
|Joe Montana||40,551 (13th)||273 (11th)||3,409 (12th)||1,676||20|
Points Awarded: Manning 5, Brady 4, Favre 3, Elway 2, Montana 1
3. Athletic Ability
Recruiting and NFL Draft scouts would call this talent. It normally reigns supreme. The team with the most talent generally wins (although, not always). And from a talent perspective, Elway reigns supreme. From a size, speed, strength and power standpoint, few prospects have ever been as talented as Elway (the rushing comparison above proves that). Favre is a close second as he was also as strong and athletic as any quarterback has even been. And no one can question Favre’s toughness. Montana clearly is third for this exercise with Manning and Brady rounding things out.
Points Awarded: Elway 5, Favre 4, Montana 3, Manning 2, Brady 1
4. Throwing Talent
From an arm strength standpoint, Montana is likely the odd man out here, but his accuracy and ability to protect the football were excellent. Manning has the most accurate completion percentage and highest QB rating of the group. However, Favre had the strongest arm of the group with Elway close behind yet both had the lowest QB rating and completion percentage. Brady and Manning likely had the best release while Elway and Favre excelled at improvising. I’ve broken this into two categories (strength and accuracy) and awarded points for both.
Note: All-time rank in parenthesis
|Name||TD:INT||Comp. %||QB Rat||INT %|
|Peyton Manning||2.26||65.5% (4th)||97.5 (3rd)||2.6 (18th)|
|Tom Brady||2.74||63.5% (12th)||95.9 (5th)||2.0 (2nd)|
|Joe Montana||1.96||63.2 (13th)||92.3 (10th)||2.6 (18th)|
|Brett Favre||1.51||62.0 (18th)||86.0 (20th)||3.3 (59th)|
|John Elway||1.33||56.9 (86th)||79.9 (65th)||3.1 (45th)|
Strength Points: Favre 5, Elway 4, Brady 3, Manning 2, Montana 1
Accuracy Points: Manning 5, Brady 4, Montana 3, Favre 2, Elway 1
5. Supporting Cast
This aspect is much more subjective and much more difficult to analyze. But everyone agrees that Brady and Montana played for two of the greatest coaches in NFL history for two of the best organizations in NFL history. And it’s safe to say that Elway, while he did get support from Terrell Davis in his final two seasons, mostly played for the worst teams and with the least amount of support of this bunch. Manning had some nice weapons on offense but largely did it with average coaches and defenses. Favre had solid coaches, mediocre skill talent around him and better than average defenses.
Points Awarded: Elway 5, Manning 4, Favre 3, Brady 2, Montana 1
This one is a much smaller aspect to evaluating true greatness but being able to show up to work for a long period of time has plenty of value and should be considered. Favre’s consecutive start streak (297) over 20 seasons may be the most impressive record in sports. But all five of these guys played 15 seasons. However, Montana (some not of his doing) had five seasons where he started fewer than 10 games and two others with just 11 starts. Brady missed one full year with an injury and didn’t start as a rookie. Manning missed one full season with an injury as well while and Elway never started fewer than 10 games in 16 seasons.
Points Awarded: Favre 5, Elway 4, Manning 3, Brady 2, Montana 1
Bonus Info: Awards
This one means less and points are reduced. All five guys have earned an MVP trophy and all but Favre have won a Super Bowl MVP trophy as well. Manning leads the group with five MVPs, 14 Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro selections. Both Brady and Montana have two NFL MVPs and three Super Bowl MVPs each. Elway has one of each while Favre has three consecutive NFL MVPs but no big game honor (that went to Desmond Howard). Pro Bowls aren’t always a great gauge and All-Pro is sort of in the same boat but the numbers are interesting.
|Name||MVPs||SB MVP||Pro Bowl||All-Pro|
Points Awarded: Montana 3, Manning 2, Brady 2, Elway 1, Favre 1
So who is the best QB of all-time?
|1. John Elway||6||2||5||5||5||4||1||28|
|2. Peyton Manning||4||5||2||7||4||3||2||27|
|3. Tom Brady||8||4||1||7||2||2||2||26|
|4. Brett Favre||2||3||4||7||3||5||1||25|
|5. Joe Montana||10||1||3||4||1||1||3||23|
*Combination of strength and accuracy rankings above
Teenagers are complicated, fickle, naive creatures who seldom have any perspective on the trappings of adult life or that every action carries a consequence.
Few 16-year-old kids in this country know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Hell, many adults still struggle with this question.
It’s why uniforms, shoes, weather, license plates and even a coin flip have been used to select a university in the recent past. And I don’t expect National Signing Day 2015 to be much different. Here are some of our favorites from over the years:
What Fred Wanna to do?
My personal favorite came from Florida State Class of 2005 five-star signee Fred Rouse. On our national radio show on Sirius, he was asked, where are you going to college? And Rouse responded with “You know, a lot of people want me to go here or there. But I had to think, you know, what Fred wanna do? And Fred want to go to Florida State.” I think I have replayed that clip a thousand times since. The first-person, verbally illiterate announcement was absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately for everyone involved, his career wasn’t nearly as entertaining on the football field as it was on radio airwaves.
The Imaginary Scholarship
Nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story — no, not the 5-foot-4 comedian. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman at Fernley (Nev.) High wanted to play college football so badly that he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On Feb. 1, 2008, Hart held a historic announcement at his high school in which he picked Cal over Oregon.
“Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement. There was only one problem. Jeff Tedford had never spoken to, visited or contacted Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.
The Forged Signature
In 2011, Reserve (La.) East St. John defensive back Floyd Raven had decided that Texas A&M was the right school for him. There was only one issue, however, his letter of intent had already been sent to Ole Miss. The Rebels' admissions department couldn’t read the signature and asked for a second copy. Raven’s mother wanted him to go to Ole Miss so badly, that she had forged the signature and sent it to Oxford without her son’s knowledge. Eventually, Floyd learned of his mother’s “betrayal” and sent the appropriately signed paperwork to Texas A&M.
Lone Star Identity Theft
The Ron Weaver saga wasn’t really a huge story on National Signing Day since he completely duped an entire university with identity fraud in 1996. In fact, it is the last documented case of identity fraud in major college football. Ron Weaver signed with Texas and played every game of the regular season in the 1996 season under coach John Mackovic as a 23-year-old defensive back. There was only one problem. Weaver was actually a 30-year-old by the name of Ron McKelvey who had used up his collegiate eligibility when he played at Sacramento State back in 1989. He duped Mackovic, the University of Texas at Austin and the NCAA — which later found no wrongdoing in the case by the school. Weaver was suspended the day before the Longhorns lost to the Hokies in the Sugar Bowl.
The Coin Flip
It takes thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars to recruit athletes at the highest level. But in 2009, Atco (N.J.) Winslow Township linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud trimmed the entire process to a few cents. After taking five, school-funded official visits, Glaud had narrowed his list to West Virginia and Rutgers. But the linebacker was still so torn he couldn’t make up his mind. So naturally, he decided to let chance decide his fate as he literally flipped a coin between the two programs. Heads he goes to WVU, tails he goes to Rutgers. He has posted 47 total tackles in three seasons for the Scarlet Knights.
Flip-flops happen in recruiting all the time – especially, as National Signing Day draws near. Cyrus Kouandjio, the nation’s No. 2 player in 2011, however, made heads spin in record time. An offensive tackle from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha, Kouandjio's older brother, Arie, was already at Alabama. Yet Cyrus announced on ESPN that he would be attending Auburn. No more than five minutes after the bright TV lights had gone out, however, the younger Kouandjio recanted his pledge to the Tigers. He never sent in his letter of intent to Auburn and three days later it was revealed he had officially signed with Alabama via Twitter. Longtime commitments are snaked away at the last minute every season, but never has a kid committed on national television only to decide to sign with someone else five minutes later.
The Case of the Stolen LOI
Arkansas’ Alex Collins, a four-star running back from Miami, was one of the biggest stories on NSD ’13. He announced he was signing with Arkansas but it was reported that his mother, Andrea McDonald, had absconded with her son’s Letter of Intent and went into hiding. She wanted him to stay close to home and play for the University of Miami and made sure everyone knew about it. So Collins had to have a second ceremony where he signed another LOI, this time with his father’s approval. While this was going on, it was reported that McDonald hired an attorney to “represent the family’s interests.” Her efforts ultimately fell on deaf ears and Collins, wearing, of course, a camouflage suit, signed with Bret Bielema and Arkansas where he became SEC Freshman of the Year.
The Announcement Props
I am not one who enjoys recruiting announcements. They are filled with superfluous rhetoric from coaches, analysts and handlers. Every now and then, however, if done with style, an announcement can be fun – or infuriating. Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell made fans coo when he pulled out an actual Bulldog puppy to signify his decision to play for Mark Richt in Athens. Andre Smith sent the Crimson Tiders into hysterics when he pulled out the houndstooth hat at his announcement for Alabama.
But Antonio Logan-El’s live announcement back in 2006 was met with a slightly harsher response. The Forestville (Md.) High offensive lineman had been committed to Maryland for the better part of a year. While dressed in Maryland red in front of a Terps crowd at the ESPN Sportszone in Maryland — including head coach Ralph Friedgen’s wife — Logan-El first pulled out a Florida hat before tossing it to the ground. He then pulled out a Tennessee hat. That, too, was tossed aside before picking up the Terps black and red headgear. After a few nice words, Logan-El threw his Maryland hat to the ground and held up a picture of Joe Paterno and announced he would be heading to Penn State. The decision was met with screams of “traitor” and violence nearly resulted.
Who is Brian Butler and why do we care?
The most recent and bizarre trend for elite recruits is to wait until after National Signing Day to make a decision. Terrelle Pryor, Orson Charles, Latwan Anderson, Vidal Hazelton, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio and 2011's top prospect Jadeveon Clowney all signed their LOIs well past NSD. But Wichita (Kan.) East running back Bryce Brown, and his handler/mentor/coach/agent/leech Brian Butler, set a new low for recruiting sludge back in 2009.
Brown had been committed to the Hurricanes from the early stages. He did not sign on NSD and instead took a couple of extra visits to Tennessee and LSU after Signing Day. The calendar flipped to March without a decision, and Butler, who was a convicted felon and fledgling rapper, set up a website in order to charge $9.99 per month for recruiting updates on his protégé/meal ticket. Eventually, Miami (and others) stopped recruiting the troubled tailback until halfway through March, when Brown got “a sign from god” to go to Tennessee.
Bryce lasted one year in Knoxville before transferring back home to Kansas State. He played in two games in 2011, got three carries and comically declared for the 2012 NFL Draft where he was a seventh-round pick of the Eagles.
Many believe National Signing Day to be the end of a long, arduous process after months of evaluations, official visits and message-boarding. To me, Signing Day is just the beginning of the process as thousands of new star athletes take the first steps in their collegiate careers by officially picking a school.
Don’t confuse me with a stodgy old man whose crotchety, antiquated beliefs about football lead them to believe that recruiting rankings don’t matter. To win in college football, you must recruit at a high level. But my interest in recruiting begins and ends with team rankings and, of course, the sensational Hollywood-esque horror stories that usually headline National Signing Day.
Be it a legal guardian forging a signature, a recruit accepting a scholarship that doesn’t exist or the use of live animals during an announcement, NSD is always loaded with tales of the weird.
Here are the headlines I’m wishing for on NSD ’15:
No. 1 in the nation will sign his Letter of Intent
Terrelle Pryor, Bryce Brown, Seantrel Henderson and Jadeveon Clowney all refused to sign their letter of intent on National Signing Day. So it could be considered a mild upset when the No. 1 player in the nation in the Class of 2015 boringly inks his name in ordinary and timely fashion. Albany (Ga.) Westover defensive tackle Trent Thompson has been committed to Georgia since mid-August and will sign on Wednesday.
“Strong v. Sumlin” in UFC-Lone Star Match for Kyler Murray
The bizarre recruitment of talented, do-everything athlete Kyler Murray will finally come to an end when Texas’ Charlie Strong and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin meet in a steel cage UFC bout in Lincoln, Texas, (look it up) for the right to sign the Allen High School quarterback. Sumlin and the Aggies are the favorites to sign Murray (because he said so) but every penny I own would be on Strong in the ring.
Fax Machine Wardrobe Malfunctions
Alabama has their famous Fax Cam Girl. Joy Riddle became famous two years ago for her work as Tennessee’s fax cam girl/lingerie model during Signing Day. So the only logical next step is some sort of wardrobe malfunction a la Janet Jackson. Talk about unexpected entertainment for those staring at Internet video of an outdated office machine for 13 hours on Signing Day. Best bets would be West Virginia, Texas A&M or Florida.
Live alligator ransacks NSD announcement
Living creatures are always a fun addition to Signing Day, just ask Isaiah Crowell and his bulldog puppy. But with three five-star recruits from Florida (a state known for ridiculous behavior concerning live gators) set to announce on NSD, there is bound to be some live animal shenanigans. Either Martez Ivery, Byron Cowart or CeCe Jefferson will use a living baby alligator to commemorate his signing and chaos will ensue. Let’s just hope they don’t bring a baby tiger to the ceremony either or else a bizarre Auburn-Florida recruiting battle will end in bloodshed.
Nation’s top QB decommits because of radio host
Josh Rosen is the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation and he’s currently enrolled at UCLA. However, Pac-12 Network and SiriusXM Radio analyst Rick Neuheisel will convince Rosen to decommit and sign elsewhere on NSD (despite it being against NCAA rules). Why? Because Slick Rick wants his son, Jerry Neuheisel, to start at UCLA next season. Overzealous dads and moms always create headlines on Signing Day.
Tom Luginbill will say something he regrets to Mack Brown
...over the value of recruiting rankings - a hot topic of debate this time of year. Clearly, Brown isn't one who believes in recruiting rankings or evaluation of prospects in general. But Luginbill has made his living analyzing and ranking prospects. So on The Mothership's National Signing Day coverage, Luginbill and Brown will get into a verbal sparring match over the value of recruiting rankings. And with Brown's spotty track record of recruiting, the low hanging fruit will be too much for Luginbill to avoid.
Gators finish last in the SEC
Jim McElwain hasn’t exactly scorched the earth since taking over as head coach at Florida. He has one verbal commitment since taking the post with boatloads of five-star talents still left on his board. Yet, if Florida misses on names like Martez Ivey, Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson, Florida will do the unthinkable and finish dead last in the SEC in recruiting.
Michigan signs worst class in the Big Ten
Not to be outdone, Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines will enter Signing Day ranked dead last in the Big Ten in recruiting. Michigan has done better in a shorter period of time than Florida under their new coach but it still hasn’t been good enough to pass recruiting powerhouses like Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern in the B1G ranks.
The "modern" recruiting era is tied directly to the online recruiting websites.
Rivals and Scout began the explosion around 2001 and ESPN and 247Sports have powerfully entered the market since. The rankings databases only go back 10 or 11 years, so it is difficult to evaluate historic recruiting classes. But since the turn of the millennium, fans and analysts alike have a tremendous amount of data to evaluate recruiting rankings, talent development and scouting evaluations.
Here are the top 10 recruiting classes of the modern era:
Note: All team ranks by 247Sports Composite
1. Alabama, 2008
Rank: 3rd (33 signees)
Key Players: Mark Barron, Julio Jones, Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus, Dont'a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Courtney Upshaw, Damion Square, Michael Williams, Robert Lester, Brad Smelley
Nick Saban began his domination of the recruiting trail back in 2008 when he signed a top three class in his first full cycle. This monstrous haul was a huge part of the 2009 national championship run and obviously featured upperclass stars in the ’11 and ’12 title runs. This group includes five first-round picks and countless other draft selections. It’s hard to argue with a group that won three BCS titles as the best collection of talent ever signed in the modern era.
2. USC, 2003
Rank: 2nd (26 signees)
Key Players: Reggie Bush, Sam Baker, Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson, Ryan Kalil, Terrell Thomas, Steve Smith, LenDale White, Fili Moala, John David Booty, Eric Wright, Brandon Ting, Ryan Ting, Drean Rucker, Chauncey Washington
Much like the ’08 Alabama group, this team experienced three national championship runs. Only two ended in victory — lost to Texas in 2005, but more on that in a second — but this class was the foundation of USC's Pac-10 dynasty. Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy and is one of four first-round picks from this class. This class began USC's dominance in what is now the Pac-12.
3. Florida, 2006
Rank: 2nd (24 signees)
Key Players: Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Maurice Hurt, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon James, Marcus Gilbert, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, Dustin Doe, AJ Jones, Carl Johnson
At one point or another, 16 of the 24 recruits in this class went on to start a game for the Gators. But this class was led at the top by elite superstars Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes. Jermaine Cunningham and Spikes were second-rounders while Maurice Hurt and Riley Cooper went later in the draft. Tebow alone makes this class a gem for Florida and it led directly to two BCS national championships.
4. Alabama, 2009
Rank: 2nd (28 signees)
Key Players: AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, Eddie Lacy, Quinton Dial, Nico Johnson, Ed Stinson, Anthony Steen, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick
This group was a big part of three national championships at the Capstone and played a much bigger role in the 2011-12 titles than the '08 haul. This class produced six first-round picks among those who were taken in the NFL Draft. An interesting thing to note about this class is the offensive line. It was the best OL in the nation in 2012 and three-fifths of the starters signed in this class.
5. Texas, 2002
Rank: 1st (26 signees)
Key Players: Vince Young, Kasey Studdard, Rod Wright, Brian Robison, Aaron Ross, Chase Pittman, Justin Blalock, Aaron Harris, David Thomas, Selvin Young
This group was the core of the 2005 national championship run led by superstar quarterback and five-star recruit Vince Young. He was the gem of the nation’s No. 1 class that eventually featured numerous NFL Draft picks. Ross, Studdard, Wright, Robison, Pittman, Thomas and Blalock were all huge pieces to Mack Brown’s championship puzzle and several of them made a mark in the NFL too.
6. Oklahoma, 2006
Rank: 8th (28 signees)
Key Players: Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Trent Williams, Demarco Murray, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter, Chris Brown, Dominique Franks, Mossis Madu, Tim Johnson, Brandon Caleb, Malcolm Williams, Chase Beeler
All four Sooners who went in first round of the 2010 NFL Draft signed with Bob Stoops in this class and all four NFL draft picks from Oklahoma in the '11 draft came from this class too. Sam Bradford set all types of records, won the Heisman Trophy and led this team to the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. Even a guy who ended up transferring (Beeler) went on to star at his second school (Stanford).
7. Ohio State, 2002
Rank: 4th (24 signees)
Key Players: A.J. Hawk, Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold, Troy Smith, Maurice Clarett, Bobby Carpenter, Mike D’Andrea, Doug Datish, Quinn Pitcock, Nate Salley, Roy Hall
This class was a big part of the 2002 national championship run as freshmen, with Maurice Clarett playing the biggest role. This group features elite offensive firepower and Troy Smith, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who led his team to the national title game in 2006. This group provided four first-round picks in the 2006 NFL Draft and included six other picks from the 2005-07 drafts as well. This group won three Big Ten titles in five years.
8. Florida State, 2011
Rank: 2nd (29 signees)
Key Players: Kelvin Benjamin, Nick O'Leary, Timmy Jernigan, Terrance Smith, Tank Carradine, Rashad Greene, Karlos Williams, Bobby Hart, Devonta Freeman, Josue Matias, Tre Jackson, Nile Lawrence-Stample, Nick Waisome
This group already has proven itself, as one of the deepest hauls in history led directly to a BCS national championship. This group, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Athlon Sports in 2011, featured over a dozen starters on the '13 title team and has already delivered three ACC titles as well. This class produced three draft picks last year, including first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin, with more to come this May.
9. Alabama, 2010
Rank: 5th (25 signees)
Key Players: C.J. Mosley, Dee Milliner, Blake Sims, Brandon Ivory, Jalston Fowler, Arie Kouandjio, Chad Lindsay, Austin Shepherd, DeAndrew White, Adrian Hubbard, Brian Vogler, Nick Perry, Jarrick Williams, Deion Belue
This unit featured six offensive starters on the ’14 SEC championship and playoff squad while both Mosley and Milliner were stars for the ’12 BCS title team and first-round picks. This group has star power at the top and tremendous depth that produced two BCS titles and nearly made a third trip to the title game.
10. LSU, 2009
Rank: 1st (25 signees)
Key Players: Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Kevin Minter, Rueben Randle, Chris Faulk, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Chris Davenport, Bennie Logan, Michael Ford, Craig Loston, Josh Downs, Stavion Lowe, Lamin Barrow, Russell Shepard
This group was the foundation of the 13-0 regular season run to the title game in 2011. And had it finished the job against Alabama, it might be considered the better group. The potential of this class is astounding. It features three first-round picks in Morris Claiborne, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo and three others were selected in ’14 NFL Draft as well. The star power is obvious but the supporting cast is impressive in its own right.
Best of the Rest:
11. Oregon, 2008
Rank: 23rd (24 signees)
Key Players: LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Darron Thomas, Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, John Boyett, Nick Cody, Hamani Stevens, LeGarrette Blount, Josh Kaddu, DeWitt Stuckey, Jeremiah Masoli
12. LSU, 2004
Rank: 3rd (25 signees)
Key Players: Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Jacob Hester, Early Doucet, Chevis Jackson, Herman Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Craig Steltz, Claude Wroten, Tremaine Johnson, Curtis Taylor, Brett Helms, Lavelle Hawkins
13. Michigan State, 2010
Rank: 21st (22 signees)
Key Players: Max Bullough, William Gholston, Kurtis Drummond, Darqueze Dennard, Le'Veon Bell, Jeremy Langford, Marcus Rush, Isaiah Lewis, Nick Hill, Keith Mumphrey, Tony Lippett
14. Auburn, 2010
Rank: 6th (32 signees)
Key Players: Cam Newton, Jake Holland, Jonathon Mincy, Chad Slade, Michael Dyer, Chris Davis, Corey Lemonier, Ryan Smith, LaDarius Owens, Jeffrey Whitaker, Trovon Reed, Shon Coleman
15. Oregon, 2011
Rank: 11th (26 signees)
Key Players: Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jake Fisher, Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena, Tyson Coleman, Christian French, Colt Lyerla, Tacoi Sumler, Anthony Wallace, Devon Blackmon
16. Stanford, 2009
Rank: 18th (23 signees)
Key Players: Shayne Skov, Stepfan Taylor, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner, Tyler Gaffney, Zach Ertz, Khalil Wilkes, Levine Toilolo, Josh Mauro, Taysom Hill
17. Ohio State, 2013
Rank: 2nd (26 signees)
Key Players: Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, Jalin Marshall, Eli Apple, Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson, J.T. Barrett, Darron Lee
18. Notre Dame, 2009
Rank: 15th (21 signees)
Key Players: Manti Te'o, Zack Martin, Tyler Eifert, Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, Zeke Motta, Chris Watt, Alex Bullard, Jake Golic, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Tyler Stockton
19. Alabama, 2012
Rank: 1st (25 signees)
Key Players: Amari Cooper, Landon Collins, T.J. Yeldon, Reggie Ragland, Kenyan Drake, Denzel Devall, Eddie Williams, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Anderson, Geno Smith
20. Florida, 2007
Rank: 1st (29 signees)
Key Players: Ahmad Black, Carlos Dunlap, Joe Haden, Chas Henry, Aaron Hernandez, Cam Newton, Chris Rainey, Maurkice Pouncey, Michael Pouncey, Major Wright, John Brantley
21. Georgia, 2009
Rank: 5th (21 signees)
Key Players: Aaron Murray, Arthur Lynch, Branden Smith, Shawn Williams, Chris Burnette, Marlon Brown, Austin Long, Dallas Lee, Kwame Geathers, Orson Charles, Rantavious Wooten, Zach Mettenberger, Abry Jones
22. Florida State, 2012
Rank: 3rd (19 signees)
Key Players: Jameis Winston, Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby, Reggie Northrup, Robert Aguayo, Chris Casher
23. Texas, 2005
Rank: 13th (15 signees)
Key Players: Colt McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Roddrick Muckelroy, Henry Melton, Jermichael Finley, Quan Cosby, Chris Brown, Aaron Lewis, Roy Miller
24. USC, 2005
Rank: 1st (19 signees)
Key Players: Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, Mark Sanchez, Kevin Ellison, Charles Brown, Patrick Turner, Kyle Moore, Kaluka Maiava, Will Harris, Cary Harris
25. Notre Dame, 2008
Rank: 1st (23 signees)
Key Players: Kyle Rudolph, Michael Floyd, Braxton Cave, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Jamoris Slaughter, Mike Golic, Robert Blanton, Darius Fleming, John Goodman, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Steven Filer, Sean Cwynar, Dayne Crist, Ethan Johnson
26. LSU, 2003
Rank: 3rd (28 signees)
Key Players: LaRon Landry, Will Arnold, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Matt Flynn, Alley Broussard, Anthony Hill, JaMarcus Russell, Jonathon Zenon, Justin Vincent
27. Wisconsin, 2009
Rank: 44th (21 signees)
Key Players: Montee Ball, Chris Borland, Travis Frederick, Jacob Pedersen, Ryan Groy, Dezmen Southward, Jordan Kohout, David Gilbert, Tyler Dippell, Conor O'Neill, Pat Muldoon
28. Georgia, 2006
Rank: 3rd (26 signees)
Key Players: Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford, Geno Atkins, Shaun Chapas, Akeem Dent, Kris Durham, Akeem Hebron, Reshad Jones, Asher Allen, Kiante Tripp, Clifton Geathers, Prince Miller
29. Mississippi State, 2009
Rank: 20th (32 signees)
Key Players: Fletcher Cox, Gabe Jackson, Chad Bumphis, LaDarius Perkins, Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay, Josh Boyd, Tyler Russell, Cameron Lawrence
30. Ohio State, 2008
Rank: 8th (20 signees)
Key Players: Mike Adams, Terrelle Pryor, Travis Howard, DeVier Posey, Michael Brewster, Nathan Williams, Garrett Goebel, Etienne Sabino, J.B. Shurgarts, Andrew Sweat
Recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is the lifeblood of the sport. But recruiting, just like the NFL Draft, is an inexact science. Five-star prospects have a significantly better shot at landing on All-American teams or getting drafted than two-star prospects. But busts and overlooked talents are a natural and inherent part of the process — just like the NFL Draft.
1. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Outside Linebacker No. 44, No. 567 nationally
Possibly the best pure tackler of this generation, Kuechly signed with BC as a mid-level recruit out of Ohio. He won all sorts of awards, broke all sorts of records and has quickly proven to be the best young linebacker in the NFL. Who was No. 1: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Barton Simmons’ Take: “He came from one of the top programs in Ohio, he was big, he was productive, he was a high academic kid. Kuechly was one that the recruiting industry should have hit on.”
2. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Inside Linebacker No. 1, No. 4 nationally
The most decorated player in NCAA history also helped return Notre Dame to national relevance with a trip to the BCS national title game. He was a second-round pick of the Chargers and a five-star stud coming out of high school. Who was No. 2: Bryce Brown, RB, Tennessee
Simmons’ Take: “An extremely athletic linebacker out of Hawaii, Te'o's instincts and playmaking ability were evident in high school. He was a can't-miss guy.”
3. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Offensive Tackle No. 12, No. 155 nationally
Lewan was a two-time All-American, two-time Big Ten lineman of the year, a first-round pick and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick. His personality is as big as his massive 6-foot-7, 310-pound frame. Who was No. 3: Russell Shepard, WR, LSU
Simmons’ Take: “Lewan's talent was undeniable. He was long and athletic but light. We knew he was going to be special with some added weight and strength.”
4. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Pro-style QB No. 2, No. 18 nationally
Despite always getting knocked for being undersized, all Murray did was become the SEC’s all-time leading passer in both yards and touchdowns. He was also five yards away from leading Georgia to the BCS national title game as a junior. Who was No. 4: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Simmons’ Take: “Murray's high school profile was similar to his college profile: not ideal size but fantastic productivity and leadership.”
5. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Dual-threat QB No. 3, No. 31 nationally
Like Murray, Boyd was highly recruited and developed into one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history. He owns most of the major ACC passing records and led Clemson to its only BCS bowl win. Who was No. 5: Jacobbi McDaniel, DT, Florida State
Simmons’ Take: “As a high schooler, Boyd was a productive QB that did a lot of things really well but wasn't spectacular in any one area. We knew he had an 'it' factor to him though.”
6. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Running Back No. 2, No. 6 nationally
A rare blend of power and speed, T-Rich helped Bama to two BCS titles during his three seasons. He backed up Heisman winner Mark Ingram for two seasons before finishing third in the Heisman voting and claiming the Doak Walker in his lone season as the starter (1,679 yards, 21 TD). Who was No. 6: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Simmons’ Take: “I saw Trent rush for 419 yards and 6 touchdowns on 29 carries against Milton HS as a senior. He was so physical that it really wasn't fair. “
7. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker No. 4, No. 49 nationally
Jones was a monster sack artist off the edge but he took a long route to becoming a two-time All-American. After one year at USC, Jones wasn’t cleared medically to play and transferred back home to the Peach State where he terrorized SEC offensive lines for two seasons before landing in Pittsburgh as the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Who was No. 7: Jelani Jenkins
Simmons’ Take: “Jones was a beast out of Columbus (Ga.) Carver and a tackling machine. Would he be a defensive end or a linebacker in college? That was about the only question mark.”
8. Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Inside Linebacker No. 122, No. 2233 nationally
Everyone missed on the Fort Pierce, Fla., prospect — recruiting services and head coaches alike. Mack was a three-time, first-team All-MAC player, an All-American and was the fifth pick in the most recent NFL Draft. He is in the running for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors this season. Who was No. 8: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
Simmons’ Take: “A total unknown, Mack had a hoops background and didn't have any film until his senior year.”
9. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Offensive Guard No. 26, No. 461 nationally
Warmack was a part of three BCS national championship squads and was a unanimous All-American his final season. He paved the way for some of Alabama’s greatest offenses and was the No. 10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Who was No. 9: Craig Loston, S, LSU
Simmons’ Take: “Chance was just overweight as a high school kid and a little sloppy but he was physical and clearly the talent was there.”
10. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Athlete No. 31, No. 541 nationally
In a secondary loaded with talent — Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu — Claiborne was the least touted recruit but the most decorated college player. He won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while going unbeaten and playing in the BCS title game. Who was No. 10: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Simmons’ Take: “A classic sleeper, Claiborne was an athlete playing QB on a sub-.500 team who LSU dug up late in the process.”
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Best of the Rest:
* - indicates five-star prospects, Pos. Rk = position rank
|Player||Pos.||Team||Pos. Rk||National Rk|
|Will Sutton||DT||No. 47 DT||No. 582|
|Fletcher Cox||DT||No. 11 DT||No. 142|
|Matt Barkley*||QB||No. 1 QB||No. 1|
|Cyril Richardson||OT||No. 64 OT||No. 861|
|Tavon Austin||WR||No. 22 WR||No. 163|
|Chris Borland||LB||No. 78 ATH||No. 1,245|
|D.J. Fluker*||OT||No. 3 OT||No. 28|
|Kyle Van Noy||LB||No. 11 ATH||No. 228|
|Johnthan Banks||CB||No. 41 S||No. 538|
|Montee Ball||RB||No. 40 RB||No. 419|
|Eddie Lacy||RB||No. 13 RB||No. 124|
|Alshon Jeffery||WR||No. 12 WR||No. 107|
|Sheldon Richardson*||DT||No. 5 DT||No. 30|
|Gabe Jackson||OL||No. 61 OG||No. 909|
|John Simon||DE||No. 14 DT||No. 167|
There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to Marshawn Lynch’s refusal to speak with the media.
One side of the debate is media members livid at the audacity of an athlete who makes a mockery of those covering him. It’s a cheap, pathetic stunt that reveals his character in a way that simply speaking to the media couldn’t even provide. It’s an unacceptable slap in the face.
We should boycott Skittles!
Marshawn Lynch's tired sphinx act masks the hard truth that without the media NFL players would be playing in a parking lot for $8 an hour— Brian Murphy (@murphPPress) January 28, 2015
The other side of the debate believes its a violation of personal freedom to simply ask Marshawn Lynch for more than one sentence of commentary. Who are these elitists who think they have the right to force one guy to serve up clichés on a platter so they can get clicks?
MARSHAWN LYNCH IS MAKING A MOCKERY OF THE MEDIA! Now if you'll excuse me, Rex Ryan is on SportsCenter talking about Pizza Hut stuffed crust.— Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) January 29, 2015
I don’t side with either because both sides appear to be fraught with immaturity. Even Lynch himself would admit that even he is being immature.
The reality of the situation, like most truths, lies somewhere in the middle.
If Lynch doesn’t like being in front of the camera, speaking to millions of people, who really cares if he doesn’t want to give lectures after running into a brick wall for 60 minutes. For 16 weeks each year, Lynch works one of the most physically demanding jobs this country has to offer. If he wants to skip interviews and pay the fine, who are we to judge?
But this is one of the most influential men in the industry at the world’s biggest sporting event and answering a few questions isn't a big deal either. This is the Super Bowl and everyone, including both Lynch and the media, should be held to a higher standard.
Although I am in complete disagreement with Murphy, these athletes are paid extremely well and part of their job description is to be available to the fans. The media is merely a conduit to season ticket holders and kids everywhere who worship Lynch and their beloved Seahawks. It’s the fans — and their much smaller paychecks — who drive interest and create massive television contracts and sponsorship deals that pay salaries for NFL players.
“When you sign up to play in the NFL, part of your responsibility as a player is to communicate with the media so that your fans can hear you,” former NFL star Rodney Harrison told The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday. “That’s part of your job. I think what he’s doing is selfish. It’s immature. For years, black people didn’t have a voice in this world. And you finally have an opportunity to have a voice and you make a mockery of it like it’s a joke?"
Harrison raises an even deeper and much more serious point. One that is interesting and important for obvious reasons. But it’s getting lost in the immaturity.
Lynch’s decision not to speak has created a fascinating debate that should be intelligently discussed and analyzed. But neither side is exactly acting their age. Both the media and Lynch have taken it to a new level of silly in Arizona this week. If an extremely well-paid NFL athlete doesn’t want to speak to the media, let him pay the heavy fines.
Just as long as he understands that he’s avoided a platform afforded to very few individuals that would allow him to make his point directly to the fans who revere him the most.
Not every recruiting class is created equal.
Depending on the state, region or position, each recruiting cycle offers different areas of strengths or weaknesses. A quick examination of the most important position on the field during the modern era of football recruiting (2002) makes this painfully obvious.
Every team needs a quality signal-caller to compete for championships but not every year can provide an answer under center. Here are the last 13 quarterback classes and how they stack up against one another:
1. Class of 2006
The Stars: Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick,
Best of the Rest: Case Keenum, Jake Locker, Greg McElroy, Todd Reesing, Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder, Nate Davis, Juice Williams, Thaddeus Lewis, T.J. Yates, Ricky Stanzi
This group features six first-round picks, including two No. 1 overall selections, and two second-rounders. It registered two Heisman Trophies, three BCS national championships and featured the most prolific passer in NCAA history. And Colin Kaepernick, who was a statistical juggernaut at Nevada and led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. Additionally, Yates, Stafford and Dalton have all started NFL playoff games while Ponder led the Vikings to an improbable playoff berth early in his career.
2. Class of 2011
The Stars: Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Dak Prescott, Trevone Boykin, Braxton Miller
Best of the Rest: Cody Kessler, Connor Cook, Chuckie Keeton, Rakeem Cato, Cardale Jones, Marquise Williams, Everett Golson, Kevin Hogan
Manziel and Mariota have Heisman Trophies, numerous records and a trip to the national title game. Bridgewater, Hundley, Prescott and Boykin have taken their programs to unprecedented heights (with more to come potentially for Prescott and/or Boykin). Miller is a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and still has one more year of eligibility, while his teammate Jones has a conference and national championship victory under his belt. Hogan and Cook also are conference champs and Rose Bowl participants. Cato broke numerous NCAA records. And Kessler might be the most underrated player in the country in 2015. With another huge year, this group could jump the ’06 class.
3. Class of 2008
The Stars: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Collin Klein, EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor
Best of the Rest: Landry Jones, Darron Thomas, Blaine Gabbert, Mike Glennon, Seth Doege, Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib, Zac Dysert
When all is said and done, Luck will be the best player in any class since John Elway signed with Stanford while Griffin claims a Heisman and is Baylor’s career MVP. Jones was one of the most prolific passers in Big 12 history while Klein, Thomas, and Pryor were electric athletes who used their legs. Manuel and Gabbert were both first-round NFL Draft picks as well. In all, this group claims four first-round picks, one Heisman Trophy, a bunch of conference championships, and numerous BCS bowl games but doesn't have the overall depth to match '06 or '11.
4. Class of 2009
The Stars: AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Tajh Boyd
Best of the Rest: Geno Smith, Derek Carr, Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch, Logan Thomas, Taylor Martinez, Bryn Renner, Keith Price, Zach Mettenberger, Brock Osweiler, Kolton Browning
There is no elite, No. 1 overall type of talent in this class but there are some huge numbers. And athletes. Boyd, Barkley and Murray left school as the most prolific passes in ACC, Pac-12 and SEC history respectively while Smith owns numerous passing records and Carr’s numbers would have broken Mountain West records had Fresno State been in the league longer. And then there are two BCS national championship rings courtesy of McCarron. Robinson and Lynch are the top two rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history with a combined 8,838 yards and 90 TDs.
5. Class of 2007
The Stars: Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Kellen Moore
Best of the Rest: Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Lindley, Josh Nesbitt, Jimmy Clausen
One guy gives this class a Heisman Trophy, a BCS national title and a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. But the rest of the group is underrated as well. Wilson and Weeden broke all kinds of NCAA records and Wilson has already led his team to two Super Bowls, with one win and a chance at a repeat Sunday. Moore is the winningest QB in history and is second only to Keenum in terms of career passing stats. Cousins is an extremely underrated leader and is the best QB in Michigan State history while Mallett, Lindley and Tannehill are all NFL players. Taylor and Nesbitt give this group plenty of athleticism as well.
6. Class of 2003
The Stars: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Leak, Paul Smith, Dennis Dixon
Best of the Rest: Brady Quinn, Andre Woodson, Matt Flynn, Kevin Kolb, John Beck, John David Booty, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Tate
Ryan and Flacco are elite NFL passers but both were mid-level recruits and Flacco had to transfer to a FCS school (Delaware) before eventually getting taken in the first round of the 2008 draft. But both are Pro Bowl-caliber talents and Flacco has already claimed a Super Bowl MVP award. In all, there are four first-round picks, two BCS national championships and a host of players who would be among their school's greatest of all-time — Woodson, Smith, Kolb and Dixon.
7. Class of 2002
The Stars: Vince Young, Troy Smith, Colt Brennan
Best of the Rest: Drew Stanton, Omar Jacobs, Trent Edwards, John Stocco, Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, Drew Olson
At the top, this class had an elite trio. Young is the most unstoppable player I’ve ever seen on a college gridiron and carried Texas to a national title. Smith also led his team to the national title game and claimed Ohio State’s seventh Heisman Trophy. Brennan posted huge numbers at Hawaii in getting the Warriors to their one and only BCS bowl game. Stanton and Stocco were excellent Big Ten players but the depth of the class, or lack thereof, is what keeps it from being ranked higher.
8. Class of 2004
The Stars: Brian Brohm, Pat White, Brian Johnson, Graham Harrell
Best of the Rest: Chad Henne, Curtis Painter, Brian Hoyer, Max Hall, Stephen McGee, John Parker Wilson, Erik Ainge, Rudy Carpenter
None of these names ever turned out to be NFL stars but there are some elite college players in this class. Brohm, White and Johnson all led their teams to historic seasons, conference crowns and BCS bowl wins. Harrell posted elite passing statistics while Hall, Henne, Painter and Wilson all started for at least three seasons at four of the most historic quarterback programs in the nation (BYU, Michigan, Purdue, Alabama).
9. Class of 2010
The Stars: Bryce Petty, Blake Bortles, Taylor Kelly, Connor Shaw
Best of the Rest: Sean Mannion, Brandon Doughty, James Franklin, Connor Halliday, Cody Fajardo, Shane Carden, Tyler Bray
Shaw is the arguably the most underrated SEC QB of all-time and is South Carolina's best signal-caller... ever. The same can be said for Bortles for UCF. Kelly and Petty just finished two historically productive seasons for their programs. Franklin rebounded from injury to prove he was an elite player for Mizzou. Halliday, Mannion and Doughty are three of the most prolific passes in NCAA history while Carden and Fajardo meant a lot to their programs.
10. Class of 2005
The Stars: Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez, Dan LeFevour
Best of the Rest: Daryll Clark, Zac Robinson, Tony Pike, Mike Kafka, Matt Grothe, Riley Skinner, Joe Webb, Sean Canfield
The top five were great players for their schools but that is about all this class has to offer. Yes, Canfield, Kafka, Webb and Pike were NFL Draft picks but all are bench players. McCoy is the real star, finishing his career with more wins than anyone in history (until Kellen Moore) and leading Texas to the championship game. Sanchez had a great team at USC and was a top pick but has very little experience. Robinson and Daniel were, at the time of graduation, likely the top quarterbacks in program history. LeFevour is a big reason why Brian Kelly and Butch Jones are currently coaching at Notre Dame and Tennessee respectively.
11. Class of 2012
The Stars: Jameis Winston, Maty Mauk, Taysom Hill, Justin Thomas
Best of the Rest: Gunner Kiel, Patrick Towles, Chad Voytik, Nate Sudfeld, Cyler Miles, Tommy Armstrong, Trevor Knight, Travis Wilson
This group already claims a Heisman winner and a BCS national title as well as three emerging stars at Mizzou, BYU and Georgia Tech. Additionally, expectation levels are high for a handful of other big-time talents like Kiel at Cincinnati, Miles at Washington, Voytik at Pitt, Towles at Kentucky and Sudfeld at Indiana.
12. Class of 2013
The Stars: Christian Hackenberg, J.T. Barrett, Anu Solomon, Josh Dobbs, Jared Goff
Best of the Rest: Sefo Liufau, Jeremy Johnson, Davis Webb, Malik Zaire, John O'Korn,
Nothing is really known about this class as of yet. However, names like Hackenberg, Goff, Barrett, Solomon and Dobbs have already set a solid benchmark with big-time production in their first few seasons. Names that could easily find their way into the "Stars" or "Best of the Rest" category in 2014 include Jeremy Johnson at Auburn and Malik Zaire at Notre Dame.
13. Class of 2014
The Stars: Brad Kaaya, Deshaun Watson, Kyle Allen, Mason Rudolph
Best of the Rest: ???
It's way too early and too much is unknown about this class to rank it any higher than last. But after just one year, this group is off to a good start with Kaaya, Watson, Allen and Rudolph looking the part of long-term starters for Miami, Clemson, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State respectively. Others like Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) and John Wolford (Wake Forest) made a quick impact as well.
Recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is the lifeblood of the sport. But recruiting, just like the NFL Draft, is an inexact science. Five-star prospects have a significantly better shot at landing on All-American teams or getting drafted than two-star prospects. But busts and overlooked talents are a natural and inherent part of the process — just like the NFL Draft.
1. Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
Defensive Tackle No. 25, No. 299 nationally
Donald accomplished everything an individual can in college, winning more awards in his final season than most anyone else in history not named Manti Te’o. The Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik winner, as well as the ACC Player of the Year and All-American also was the 13th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He made the Pro Bowl for the Rams as a rookie this season. Who was No. 1: Ronald Powell, DE, Florida
Barton Simmons’ Take: “Donald was an industry miss and should have been ranked higher but those violent hands were definitely there all the way back in high school.”
2. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Offensive Tackle No. 7, No. 56 nationally
The highly-touted blocker won the Outland Trophy as the best lineman in college football, was the No. 2 overall pick in the ’13 NFL Draft and helped Johnny Manziel win a Heisman Trophy. Who was No. 2: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Simmons’ Take: “Joeckel was just consistently good. He was big but not freakishly big, athletic but not freakishly athletic but he almost never got beat. He was fantastic at the Under Armour All-American game.”
3. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Inside Linebacker No. 3, No. 79 nationally
Mosley was a Top 100 player but sat behind some stars at linebacker named Hightower and Upshaw before becoming the All-American superstar. He was a two-time consensus All-American, the Butkus Award winner, a two-time BCS champion, first-round pick and Pro Bowler as just a rookie. Who was No. 3: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Simmons’ Take: “I remember watching Mosley at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and his athleticism in coverage and ability to play in space was unmatched in that linebacker class.”
4. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Offensive Tackle No. 5, No. 38 nationally
Matthews was ranked slightly higher than Joeckel and was nearly as good as his Outland counterpart. The legacy blocker lived up to the hype, was a two-time All-American and the sixth pick in the ’14 NFL Draft. Who was No. 4: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Simmons’ Take: “Matthews was polished, tough and physical at offensive tackle and he was also really versatile. He was incredibly consistent during his week at the U.S. Army Bowl.”
5. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Pro-Style No. 43, No. 1220 nationally
In a class loaded with busts at quarterback, Bortles was easily the most successful and most productive signal-caller in the class. And one of the most underrated recruits in the modern era of rankings. He led UCF to a league title, a BCS bowl win and was a top-five pick in the NFL Draft. Who was No. 5: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Simmons’ Take: “Bortles was one that slipped through the cracks for sure but if you looked close enough, the talent was obvious. He had a big arm and at 230 pounds as a senior, he had a huge frame as well.”
6. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Safety No. 1, No. 10 nationally
A freakish athlete coming out of high school, Allen is the only name on this list who was ranked in the top 10 as a prospect. He rewrote the Cal receiving record book, but dropped to the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft due to injury. He has put together back-to-back solid seasons as a pro. Who was No. 6: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Simmons’ Take: “The question with Keenan Allen was is he a safety or is he a wide receiver? Most thought he was a safety but he was so big and athletic that he was a clear star at either.”
7. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Athlete No. 7, No. 64 nationally
The former running back took his time getting to the defensive side of the ball but once he did, he dominated the Pac-12. His overall athletic ability was on full display as a recruit and it resulted in a top 70 recruiting ranking. Who was No. 7: Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Simmons’ Take: “Barr was a big running back in high school but most recruiting analysts felt that defense would be his best spot in the future. He eventually figured that out.”
8. Eric Reid, S, LSU
Safety No. 6, No. 57 nationally
Reid was a star at safety for an LSU defense that was one of the best in the land. He was All-SEC all three seasons, played in a BCS title game and the 49ers moved up to take him in the first round two years ago. Who was No. 8: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
Simmons’ Take: “Reid was always a huge kid at the safety position but he could cover at that size and he had ball skills. Beyond that he was an intelligent kid that showed off leadership at every event.”
9. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Tight End No. 22, No. 483 nationally
Beasley would have been a top draft pick last season but returned for his final year and it resulted in a second All-American campaign and ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors. The former tight end was not even the highest-rated Beasley that Clemson signed in 2010 (David). Who was No. 9: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Simmons’ Take: “We knew Vic had an elite frame, he was really athletic but we thought his future would be on offense as a tight end. The upside was always there.”
10. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Offensive Tackle No. 40, No. 579 nationally
It’s tough to pinpoint a prospect’s ability to play a bookend tackle when they are under center in high school. The former quarterback was barely a top 50 prospect at his position entering college. He won the Outland Trophy and will likely be a first-round pick. Who was No. 10: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Simmons’ Take: “An Iowa native, Scherff was actually a quarterback until his junior season so he had some obvious athleticism and a body that he grew into.”
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Best of the Rest:
* - indicates five-star prospects, Pos. Rk = position rank
|Player||Pos.||Team||Pos. Rk||National Rk|
|Eric Kendricks||LB||No. 29 ILB||No. 729|
|Jordan Matthews||WR||No. 182 WR||No. 1442|
|Alec Ogletree*||LB||No. 1 S||No. 19|
|Darqueze Dennard||CB||No. 142 CB||No. 1596|
|David Yankey||G||No. 39 OT||No. 560|
|Andre Williams||RB||No. 58 RB||No. 697|
|Lamarcus Joyner*||DB||No. 2 ATH||No. 12|
|Bjoern Werner||DE||No. 22 SDE||No. 343|
|Jackson Jeffcoat*||DE||No. 1 SDE||No. 5|
|Giovani Bernard||RB||No. 12 RB||No. 166|
|Hroniss Grasu||C||No. 6 C||No. 630|
|Sharrif Floyd*||DT||No. 2 SDE||No. 6|
|Dee Milliner*||CB||No. 1 CB||No. 14|
|Marcus Lattimore*||RB||No. 1 APB||No. 9|
|DeAndre Hopkins||WR||No. 25 WR||No. 193|
Athlon Sports has examined win-loss records, overall talent, statistics, playoff performances and more and come up with our list of the best NFL teams that never reached the Super Bowl:
* - eventual Super Bowl Champion
1. San Francisco 49ers, 1992 (14-2)
Lost: 30-20 to Dallas* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7
Steve Young won the MVP and led a 49ers offense that topped the NFL in scoring (26.9 ppg) and total offense. The defense was third in the NFL in points allowed and 15th in total defense. The only losses came to the defending and would-be AFC champion Bills in Week 2 and on the road against the Cardinals in Week 9. Ricky Waters led the team in rushing while Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones torched secondaries. This defense also was loaded with names like Dave Whitemore, Bill Romanowski, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis and sack leader Tim Harris (17.0).
2. Dallas Cowboys, 1994 (12-4)
Lost: 38-28 to San Francisco* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7
Dallas and San Francisco went back and forth in the early '90s and this was the best Cowboys team to not finish the deal. This was essentially the same team that won three of four Super Bowls, as the triplets came up just one game short of four straight Super Sundays. The offense was second in the league in scoring (25.9 ppg) while the defense was third in points allowed (15.5 ppg). Charles Haley led the team in sacks, Robert Jones in tackles and Darren Woodson in interceptions.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004 (15-1)
Lost: 41-27 to New England* in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 9
Tommy Maddox started three games in 2004 and was 2-1. Ben Roethlisberger started 13 games and won every start behind the best defense in the NFL. This Steelers team led the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) and total defense en route to a near-perfect record. Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis formed a one-two punch in the backfield while a loaded receiving corps gave Big Ben plenty to work with. What made this team great, however, was the nasty, Pro Bowl-laden defense. The lone regular season loss came in Week 2 against Baltimore.
4. Minnesota Vikings, 1998 (15-1)
Lost: 30-27 (OT) to Atlanta in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 10
This team scored at an alarming rate. Led by Randall Cunningham at quarterback and a trio of playmakers in Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, the Vikings paced the NFL at 34.8 points per game. As well as owning the top offense in the league, Minnesota boasted the No. 6-rated scoring defense and No. 13-rated total defense. One loss to Tampa Bay in the middle of the year was the only regular season blemish and these Vikings came one missed Gary Anderson field goal away from playing in the Super Bowl.
5. San Francisco 49ers, 1990 (14-2)
Lost: 15-13 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5
The defending Super Bowl champs rolled through the regular season led by NFL MVP Joe Montana. This team was No. 2 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense while ranking No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 8 in total offense. Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Bill Romanowski led one of the best 49ers defenses of all-time.
6. Chicago Bears, 1986 (14-2)
Lost: 27-13 to Washington in NFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 7
Walter Payton and Jim McMahon were electric on offense, but the defending Super Bowl champs won 14 games in 1986 because of the defense. The Bears allowed an absurd 11.7 points and 258.1 yards per game on that side of the ball to lead the NFL in both categories. Wilber Marshall, Steve McMichael, Dave Duerson and Mike Singletary were Pro Bowlers while Richard Dent, William Perry and Dan Hampton did not receive invites to Hawaii. Few defenses were as talented as this version of the Monsters of the Midway.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1999 (14-2)
Lost: 33-14 to Tennessee in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7
The Jaguars beat Dan Marino and the Dolphins 62-7 in the Hall of Famer's final game to reach the AFC Championship Game. But Jacksonville and Mark Brunell lost for a third time to the Titans after going 14-0 against every other team in the NFL. The Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, James Stewart, Keenan McCardell, Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy offense was sixth in scoring and seventh in yards, while the defense led the league in points allowed (13.6 ppg) and finished fourth in yards allowed.
8. Green Bay Packers, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 23-20 (OT) to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5
Three teams finished 13-3 in 2007 (Dallas, Indianapolis) but none came as close to unseating the eventual champs than the Packers. On a frigid night at Lambeau Field, the Giants outlasted this stacked Packers team in overtime. This team was second in total offense and 11th in total defense while finishing fourth in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. It was the last time that Brett Favre would ever suit up for Green Bay.
9. Tennessee Titans, 2000 (13-3)
Lost: 24-10 to Baltimore* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 9
Despite six Pro Bowlers on offense, it was the defense that made this team special. The defense led the NFL in yards allowed and was No. 2 in points allowed. After splitting with the Ravens in the regular season, a bizarre Eddie George-Ray Lewis turnover sealed the Titans' fate. An offense that featured franchise bests at quarterback (Steve McNair), running back (George), tight end (Frank Wycheck), wide receiver (Derrick Mason) and offensive tackle (Bruce Matthews) came up just short of defending their AFC crown.
10. Indianapolis Colts, 2005 (14-2)
Lost: 21-18 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 8
Peyton Manning’s best all-around team (that never played in a Super Bowl) wasn’t necessarily his best statistical year. But this team was No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense (15.4 ppg) and No. 2 in scoring offense (27.4 ppg) to lead the league in scoring differential. His offense featured a 1,500-yard rusher in Edgerrin James and four elite pass-catchers in Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney formed an elite pass-rush tandem that combined for 22.5 sacks while Bob Sanders and Cato June led the back seven.
Best of the Rest:
|11.||Pittsburgh||1972||11-3||Miami, 21-17, AFC Championship*|
|12.||Oakland||1974||12-2||Pittsburgh, 24-13, AFC Championship*|
|13.||Minnesota||2009||12-4||New Orleans, 31-28 (OT), NFC Championship*|
|14.||Green Bay||2011||15-1||NY Giants, 37-20, NFC Championship*|
|15.||Indianapolis||2007||13-3||San Diego, 28-24, AFC Divisional|
|16.||Miami||1985||12-4||New England, 31-14, AFC Championship|
|17.||Dallas||1980||12-4||Philadelphia, 20-7, NFC Championship|
|18.||Pittsburgh||2001||13-3||New England, 24-17, AFC Championship*|
|19.||LA Rams||1976||10-3-1||Minnesota, 24-13, NFC Championship|
|20.||Cleveland||1986||12-4||Denver, 23-20, AFC Championship|
Recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is the lifeblood of the sport. But recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is an inexact science. Five-star prospects have a significantly better shot at landing on All-America teams or getting drafted than two-star prospects. But busts and overlooked talents are a natural and inherent part of the process — just like the NFL Draft.
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Dual-Threat No. 22, No. 513 nationally
The Honolulu native accomplished everything an individual can in college football with the exception of a national title. He was a Heisman Trophy winner and went 36-5 as a starter. Yet, coming out of high school, Mariota wasn’t one of the most sought-after stars of the 2011 class. Who was No. 1: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Barton Simmons' Take: “His senior year was Mariota's first year as a starter and hailing as a Hawaii native his exposure was limited, but everyone that saw him up close raved about his ability.”
2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Dual-Threat No. 14, No. 393 nationally
Johnny Football had his issues off the field, but his talent and athleticism on the field was second to only Mariota in this class. He won a Heisman Trophy and was a first-round pick after rewriting the SEC record book. Who was No. 2: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Simmons’ Take: “Undersized, super-athletic but extremely productive, Manziel was impossible to bring pressure on because of his ability to escape and improvise.”
3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Weakside Defensive End No. 1, No. 1 nationally
The freakish consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation was a star right away in Columbia. The decorated and uber-talented player was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Who was No. 3: La’El Collins, OT, LSU
Simmons’ Take: “Clowney was one of the biggest no-brainer freaks that we've ever seen as a high schooler. He was unblockable.”
4. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Defensive Tackle No. 2, No. 11 nationally
The five-star defensive tackle was a monster for the Noles en route to a national championship. Jernigan manned the middle for two ACC title runs, was an All-American and was selected in the second round of the ’14 NFL Draft. Who was No. 4: Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State
Simmons' Take: “Jernigan was really athletic and physical out of Columbia High School but his instincts and ability to sniff out a play from the inside was off the charts.”
5. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Wide Recevier No. 3, No. 20 nationally
A five-star super-recruit coming out of high school, Watkins delivered on his immense talent right away as a freshman. He was the fourth pick in last year’s NFL Draft and delivered in his first season in the NFL the same way he did in college. Who was No. 5: Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Simmons' Take: “Watkins was a pure speed guy that just happened to have phenomenal ball skills as well.”
6. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Dual-Threat No. 5, No. 100 nationally
Bridgewater was one of the most highly touted signal callers in one of the deepest QB classes in recent history. And he lived up to the hype by carrying the Cardinals to a Sugar Bowl and landing in the first round of the ’14 Draft. Who was No. 6: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia
Simmons' Take: “As a high schooler, Teddy was such a cool customer that it was almost to his detriment in the rankings. He would line up at wide receiver for fun, he'd play like he was in a playground. But the dude won in everything he did.”
7. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Offensive Tackle No. 13, No. 121 nationally
Robinson was highly touted, just missing on being a top 100 prospect. But even he exceeded already high expectations with his elite footwork and tremendous overall athletic ability. He was a top five pick in the NFL Draft. Who was No. 7: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Simmons' Take: “Robinson was a huge, barrell-chested kid who was incredibly athletic for a big body. Some college coaches thought he might be a right tackle but everyone knew he was elite.”
8. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Dual-Threat No. 4, No. 69 nationally
Elite quarterback who led UCLA to unprecedented heights in three years as the starter. He rewrote the record Bruins record books and outperformed even the lofty expectations in recruiting. Who was No. 8: George Farmer, WR, USC
Simmons' Take: “The industry was high on Hundley as a guy that could really make plays with his feet but he proved he had big time arm talent at the Under Armour All-Star game too.”
9. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Running Back No. 22, No. 258 nationally
Well-regarded but overlooked, Gordon’s speed and size made him one of the great backs in Big Ten history. His athletic ability and explosiveness makes him one of the most talented to ever play the position at Wisconsin. Who was No. 9: Aaron Lynch, DE, Notre Dame
Simmons' Take: “A physically impressive kid as a running back, some people even thought that Gordon could end up at linebacker.”
10. AJ Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Weakside Defensive End No. 7, No. 124 nationally
The leader of the Vols program during a trying time, all Johnson did was post 425 tackles in 46 career games. He was a highly coveted defensive end whose athleticism allowed him to play all over the field as a star linebacker. Who was No. 10: Christian Westerman, OT, Auburn/Arizona State
Simmons' Take: “Johnson was huge kid that really stated his arrival on the recruiting scene when he was one of the top performers at Florida's prestigious Friday Night Lights event.”
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The Best of the Rest:
* - indicates five-star player, Pos. Rk = position rank
|Player||Pos.||Team||Pos. Rk||National Rk|
|Dak Prescott||QB||No. 17 Dual||No. 430|
|Marqise Lee||WR||No. 3 ATH||No. 45|
|Odell Beckham||WR||No. 21 WR||No. 132|
|Ryan Shazier||LB||No. 5 OLB||No. 107|
|Ha Ha Clinton-Dix*||S||No. 1 S||No. 7|
|Shilique Calhoun||DE||No. 59 SDE||No. 938|
|Reese Dismukes||C||No. 1 C||No. 78|
|Brandin Cooks||WR||No. 56 WR||No. 389|
|Gerod Holliman||S||No. 3 S||No. 89|
|Nick O'Leary*||TE||No. 1 TE||No. 27|
|Ka'Deem Carey||RB||No. 32 RB||No. 351|
|Shawn Oakman||DE||No. 14 TE||No. 209|
|Connor Cook||QB||No. 34 Pro||No. 965|
|Braxton Miller*||QB||No. 2 Dual||No. 30|
|Danny Shelton||DT||No. 23 DT||No. 331|
Don’t listen to the old guard.
Recruiting rankings matter. Landing an elite class isn’t a guarantee of future success, as coaching, development and plenty of luck are all needed to win a national title. But having the best players is the best way to start.
A huge reason why Ohio State rolled through the Big Ten and then Oregon was superior talent. The Buckeyes had great coaching and development but it also had a significantly more talented roster than anyone it faced in league play or their national title game opponent.
Urban Meyer has proven that recruiting matters after stacking top-10 classes upon each other since arriving in Columbus and promptly winning just the third national title for the B1G since 1968.
But where do all these elite players come from? Using the last five recruiting cycles — 2011 through 2015 — it’s easy to accurately project the geographic distribution of high school talent in this country. Using 247Sports' composite rankings, Athlon Sports analyzed the best 1,000 recruits to enter college football over the last five cycles (200 per year) to determine where the nation’s best prospects are being recruited.
The Peach State
The Big Three in recruiting have long been Florida, California and Texas but Georgia has been closing the gap for years and the 2015 class could be one of the deepest in recent memory. The Peach State features four five-star recruits and the consensus No. 1 player in the nation (Trent Thompson) according to 247Sports and a modern state record with 20 players from Georgia landing in the Top 200. There is a reason nearly every SEC and ACC program focuses on Georgia as it closes the gap on the state of Florida.
Big Ten looks East
Population is declining in the Big Ten footprint and that means fewer elite prospects — just look at the projected starters at QB for the Power 5 teams. But while states like Pennsylvania and Michigan continue to drop in terms of overall talent production, the addition of Maryland and Rutgers should begin to pay dividends. New Jersey moved into the top 10 states for talent with the ’15 class and both Maryland and D.C. rank in the top 14 as well. As the Big Ten East Division continues to develop, look for these fertile territories to become a pipeline for B1G talent. Consider: Big Ten states have produced 23 five-star recruits in the last five cycles and 10 of those hail from New Jersey or Maryland.
No. 1 in the Nation
The aforementioned Thompson, an impressive defensive tackle from Albany (Ga.) Westover, is slated to sign with the Georgia Bulldogs on National Signing Day. If that indeed does happen, it would be the sixth consecutive season that the consensus No. 1 player in the nation signed with an SEC school. The Bulldogs also would become the sixth different SEC school to land one of these No. 1 prospects. LSU landed New Orleans’ Leonard Fournette last season. Ole Miss landed Robert Nkemdiche out of Georgia in 2013. Missouri scored in-state star Dorial Green-Beckham in the ’12 class. Steve Spurrier signed Jadeveon Clowney out of Rock Hill, S.C in ’11 and Florida inked Ronald Powell in its ’10 haul. Thompson is the fifth straight No. 1 player in the nation to hail from the SEC’s footprint.
Conference footprint comparisons
The last five recruiting classes have produced 167 five-star recruits. Of which, 128 of them hail from the SEC footprint. Of the top 1,000 players to enter college the last five years, 559 of them played high school football in a state with an SEC program. The ACC footprint is No. 2 with 68 five-star recruits in the last five years. Despite the biggest footprint in college football, the Big Ten is producing the fewest (23) five-star athletes. Here is the complete breakdown:
|States||5-Stars||Top 200||Top 1,000|
There are 11 states that haven’t generated at least one top-200 prospect over the last five years. Many of them are obvious and make sense. We don’t expect elite recruits to hail from less populous states like Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota or Northeast outposts Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island. But it was startling and concerning that neither West Virginia nor Nebraska were able to produce one of the top 200 recruits in the nation. This stresses the job the Huskers need to do in Texas and the work the Mountaineers need to do in Florida.
Here are the top 200 prospects broken down by state over the last five recruiting cycles (number of five-stars listed in parenthesis):
|1.||Florida||36 (10)||32 (5)||28 (7)||30 (5)||27 (9)||153 (36)|
|2.||Texas||27 (4)||27 (5)||28 (5)||22 (5)||28 (5)||132 (24)|
|3.||California||21 (2)||23 (4)||23 (3)||23 (3)||27 (6)||117 (18)|
|4.||Georgia||13 (2)||15 (2)||17 (4)||15 (2)||20 (4)||80 (14)|
|5.||Ohio||10 (2)||12 (1)||10||7||7 (1)||46 (4)|
|6.||Louisiana||10 (3)||3 (1)||7||12 (5)||9 (1)||41 (10)|
|7.||Alabama||6||10 (3)||8 (2)||7 (4)||8 (1)||39 (10)|
|8.||Virginia||6 (1)||6||9 (3)||7 (3)||9 (1)||37 (8)|
|9.||N. Carolina||6||8 (3)||6||9||6||35 (4)|
|10.||New Jersey||8 (1)||4 (1)||7||5 (1)||4 (1)||28 (4)|
|11.||Pennsylvania||5||7 (2)||8 (1)||3||4||27 (4)|
|12.||Illinois||5||3||7 (1)||7 (1)||2 (1)||24 (3)|
|13t.||Michigan||5||5||5||4 (1)||3||22 (1)|
|13t.||Maryland||6 (1)||7 (2)||5 (2)||2 (1)||2||22 (6)|
|15t.||Mississippi||6||4 (1)||4 (2)||3||4||21 (3)|
|15t.||Arizona||5 (1)||4 (1)||3||7 (1)||2 (1)||21 (4)|
|17.||Tennessee||2||2||4 (1)||4||8||20 (1)|
|18.||S. Carolina||5 (1)||2||3||5||2||17 (1)|
|20.||Indiana||2||3 (1)||3 (1)||2||3||13 (2)|
|21.||Missouri||0||5 (1)||1||3||3||12 (1)|
|24t.||Washington||2||3||1 (1)||1||0||7 (1)|
|26.||Utah||0||1||1||2||2 (1)||6 (1)|
|27t.||New York||1 (1)||2||0||2||0||5 (1)|
|27t.||D.C.||0||1 (1)||1||1 (1)||2||5 (2)|
|29t.||Oregon||2||1 (1)||1 (1)||0||0||4 (2)|
|29t.||Hawaii||0||0||1||0||3 (1)||4 (1)|
|35t.||Connecticut||0||0||0||0||2 (1)||2 (1)|
|35t.||New Mexico||1||0||0||0||1||2 (0)|
Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Jameis Winston are gone, leaving massive voids at three power programs. With another year of turnover under center comes another year of new faces in new places.
So Athlon Sports takes its best shot at projecting each of the Power 5 programs starting quarterback for 2015, and most importantly, where they came from.
As National Signing Day approaches, here are some intriguing geographical facts to consider about the projected starting quarterbacks from the top 65 programs in college football (including Notre Dame) for '15.
Bragging about how good your league’s quarterbacks are really is all about conference supremacy. In the ACC, 11 of the 14 starting QBs are from East of the Mississippi and nine are from states touching the Atlantic Ocean. Seven starters from the Big 12 are from Texas and eight are from the Big 12 footprint. Out West, all but one Pac-12 starter is from West of Colorado with 10 coming from within the footprint. The SEC features 10 starters from the conference footprint, two more from border states (OH, NC) and only Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen hailing from outside of the region. Despite having the biggest conference footprint, from both a geographical and population standpoint, the Big Ten is the only league with issues at this position. Only six of 14 projected B1G signal callers hail from the B1G footprint.
Pennsylvania was once a hotbed for Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Jim Kelly, Joe Namath, Johnny Lujack and even Rich Gannon came from the Keystone State. Entering 2015, not one Power 5 team projects to have a starter from Pennsylvania.
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Big Three (or four)
California (10), Texas (10) and Florida (6) have long been the riches recruiting hotbeds and that appears to be the case once again. Of 65 Power 5 teams, 26 feature projected starters from one of these three states. Add in Georgia (6) and basically half of the big school starting QBs hail from four states (32 of 65). The interesting question is what to make of Florida. Six schools will feature a starter from the Sunshine State but only one (Florida) is in-state or considered a national power. The other five programs with starters from Florida? Iowa, Iowa State, NC State, Duke and Wake Forest.
Southeast and East Coast dominate
When it comes to producing talent, it’s hard to argue that the Southeast is where the best prep football is being played. The SEC and Big Ten both brag 11 different states in their footprint but the southeastern footprint is dramatically out-producing the Midwest and Rust Belt. Of the 65 Power 5 starters, 32 hail from the SEC footprint while the B1G footprint produced just nine. Additionally, only two states, not housing a Power 5 team produced a Power 5 quarterback: Delaware (Darius Wade, Boston College) and Nevada (Anu Solomon, Arizona). Here is a breakdown of where starting QBs come from:
* - there is overlap as Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky count as both ACC and SEC. Texas is both Big 12 and SEC.
Kevin Hogan’s journey
Only five of the 65 power programs traveled farther than 2,000 miles to land their starting quarterback. Stanford went the farthest of anyone to land Kevin Hogan, going 2,788 miles from Palo Alto to McLean, Va. In fact, only 16 of 65 Power 5 teams went more than 1,000 miles to get their starter. Here is the list:
|Kevin Hogan||2,788||McLean, VA|
|Hayden Rettig||2,745||Los Angelos, CA|
|Brad Kaaya||2,718||West Hills, CA|
|Nate Sudfeld||2,172||Modesto, CA|
|Tyler Ferguson||2,107||Bakersfield, CA|
|Jake Rudock||1,436||Weston, FL|
|Sam Richardson||1,332||Winter Park, FL|
|Cyler Miles||1,326||Centennial, CO|
|Sefo Liufau||1,284||Tacoma, WA|
|Skyler Howard||1,267||Fort Worth, TX|
|Michael Brewer||1,251||Lake Travis, TX|
|Luke Del Rio||1,163||Highland Ranch, CO|
|J.T. Barrett||1,084||Wichita Falls, TX|
|Mason Rudolph||1,076||Rock Hill, SC|
|Kyle Allen||1,045||Scottsdale, AZ|
|Sean Maguire||1,014||Sparta, NJ|
Here are the projected starters from the Power 5 schools broken up state by state. These are extremely early educated guesses at who will be starting for the biggest programs in college football. And where they came from:
|California||10||Cody Kessler, Brad Kaaya, Jared Goff, Mike Bercovici, Josh Rosen, Travis Wilson, Nate Sudfeld, Jeff Lockie, Tyler Ferguson, Hayden Rettig|
|Texas||10||Trevone Boykin, J.T. Barrett, Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, Seth Russell, Tommy Armstrong, Skyler Howard, Tyrone Swoopes, Michael Cummings, Michael Brewer|
|Florida||6||Jacoby Brissett, Jake Rudock, Treon Harris, Sam Richardson, Thomas Sirk, John Wolford|
|Georgia||6||Deshaun Watson, Josh Dobbs, Anthony Jennings, Brice Ramsey, Johnny McCrary, Greyson Lambert|
|Ohio||4||Connor Cook, Maty Mauk, Malik Zaire, Austin Appleby|
|Alabama||3||Justin Thomas, Jacob Coker, Jeremy Johnson|
|Virginia||2||Christian Hackenberg, Kevin Hogan|
|South Carolina||2||Mason Rudolph, Caleb Rowe|
|North Carolina||2||Marquise Williams, Connor Mitch|
|Colorado||2||Cyler Miles, Luke Del Rio|
|Louisiana||2||Dak Prescott, Zack Oliver|
|New York||2||Terrel Hunt, Chad Kelly|
|New Jersey||1||Sean Maguire|
Super Bowl XLIX features plenty of the game's top players, including New England's Tom Brady, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson. And with a big performance in the Feb. 1 matchup, those players could earn a spot among the best to play on the NFL's biggest stage. Here's a look at Athlon's All-Time Super Bowl team, highlighting the best performance in the big game.
All-time All-Super Bowl Offense:
QB: Joe Montana, SF
With four Super Bowl wins, Montana has a career Big Game passer rating of 127.8, the best ever. Joe Cool tossed 11 touchdown passes to six different receivers with no interceptions. During his Super Bowl career, he threw 28 passes on third down, completing 19 of them for 14 first downs. Honorable Mention: John Elway, DEN
RB: Franco Harris, PIT
There is no shortage of candidates at running back. Harris rushed for 354 yards in Pittsburgh’s four Super wins in the 1970s and had another 114 yards receiving. In the four games, Harris had 18 touches on third down resulting in 10 first downs and three touchdowns. And Harris is the only runner with more than 100 carries in Super Bowl history. HM: Emmitt Smith, DAL
RB: Roger Craig, SF
In three Super Bowls for San Francisco, all wins, Craig amassed 413 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns, including 101 yards receiving in Super Bowl XXIII. HM: Terrell Davis, DEN
WR: Lynn Swann, PIT
Fans who saw him in the Super Bowl probably remember flying, acrobatic catches. But Swann meant more to the Steelers than just a couple of circus catches. He is second all-time with 364 receiving yards, all coming in three Super Bowls. HM: John Stallworth, PIT
WR: Jerry Rice, SF
Rice is another no-brainer. Let’s see: most Super Bowl receptions in a career (33), most yards receiving in a career (589) and game (215), most yards from scrimmage in a career (604), the only player to score three TDs in a game twice. Oh, and he earned an MVP. HM: Isaac Bruce, STL
TE: Jay Novacek, DAL
One of quarterback Troy Aikman’s favorite clutch targets, Novacek scored the first Dallas touchdown in Super Bowls XXVII and XXX. In three wins he totaled 148 yards and two scores on 17 catches. HM: Shannon Sharpe, DEN/BAL
LT: Jon Kolb, PIT
The only constant along the Pittsburgh offensive line during their run of four Super Bowls in the 1970s, Kolb led the way for Franco Harris’ running and protected Terry Bradshaw in the passing game. HM: Mark Tuinei, DAL
LG: Nate Newton, DAL
Emmitt Smith became the all-time leading NFL rusher thanks in large — and we do mean large — part to Newton. In Newton’s three Super Bowls, the Cowboys scored 52, 30 and 27 points. HM: Russ Grimm, WAS
C: Jim Langer, MIA
Langer anchored the line during Miami’s back-to-back titles in the 1970s. In Super Bowl VIII, Miami rushed 53 times for 196 yards, most of it straight up the middle with bruiser Larry Csonka. HM: Ray Mansfield and Mike Webster, PIT
RG: Joe Andruzzi, NE
In three New England wins, the Patriots rushed for 372 yards, and Andruzzi helped protect MVP Tom Brady allowing him to stay comfortable in the pocket. HM: Jerry Kramer, GB
RT: Erik Williams, DAL
The heart and soul of the Cowboys’ offensive machine was the offensive line. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were the beneficiaries of the hard work done by the likes of Williams. HM: Forrest Gregg, GB
All-time All-Super Bowl Defense:
DE: Charles Haley, SF/DAL
Haley was more of an outside linebacker in San Francisco's 3-4 alignment. He is the only player to win five Super Bowls. Honorable Mention: Reggie White, GB
DE: Richard Dent, CHI
The Monsters of the Midway had a stacked roster of defensive stars but Dent won the MVP in Super Bowl XX with 1.5 sacks as the Bears gave up a total of 10 points to New England. HM: Richard Seymour, NE
DT: Joe Greene, PIT
As the heart of the front of the Steel Curtain, Greene intimidated quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen. In four Super wins, opponents averaged less than 100 yards rushing against Pittsburgh as Greene made life miserable for Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton and Vince Ferragamo. HM: Alan Page, MIN
DT: Russell Maryland, DAL
The offense received much of the credit, but Dallas recorded eight interceptions and held teams to less than four yards a carry in their three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s. Maryland was a load up front in all three games. HM: Jethro Pugh, DAL
LB: Jack Lambert, PIT
Lambert was in the middle of all things defensively for the Steelers for 11 seasons, including four trips to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh would not have been 4-0 in the most important game of the season without him. HM: Tedy Bruschi, NE
LB: Ray Lewis, BAL
Lewis is one of two linebackers to win a Super Bowl MVP (XXXV) and nearly a decade later posted seven tackles in winning his second Lombardi Trophy with the Ravens. It was his final game in the NFL. HM: Keena Turner, SF
LB: Chuck Howley, DAL
This Cowboy is one of two at his position to ever win an MVP (V) and is the only player to win an MVP for a losing team in Super Bowl history. He also won a Super Bowl the following year with a big performance (INT, fumble recovery) in Dallas' win over Miami. HM: Mike Vrabel, NE
CB: Herb Adderley, GB/DAL
Adderley was a member of Green Bay’s first two title teams, returning an interception 60 yards for a score in Super Bowl II. He played in two more for Dallas, winning one and losing one. HM: Ty Law, NE
CB: Mel Blount, PIT
Blount played for four winners, and contributed with an interception in Super Bowls IX and XIII. HM: Deion Sanders, SF/DAL
S: Cliff Harris, DAL
One of only 13 players in NFL history, Harris changed the way the free safety positon was played. He won Super Bowl VI and XII. HM: Troy Polamalu, PIT
S: Ronnie Lott, SF
Instrumental in the Niners’ four Super Bowl wins, Lott played corner in the first two before moving to safety. None of his nine postseason interceptions came in the Super Bowl, probably because quarterbacks avoided him. HM: Jake Scott, MIA
RS: Desmond Howard, GB
Earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI with a kick return for a touchdown, but also had two punt returns of more than 30 yards. HM: Jacoby Jones, BAL
K: Adam Vinatieri, K, NE/IND
Never has there been a more clutch kicker in the Super Bowl.
P: Larry Seiple, MIA
Always a threat to take off and run (also played some tight end), Seiple kept the Redskins and Vikings bottled up in Super Bowls VII and VIII.
What defines a great play?
Degree of difficulty? Gravity of the moment? The greatness of the players involved and their place in NFL history? Entertainment factor? How about all of the above.
Game-winning touchdowns, heroic out-of-body experiences, historic moments and even some hilarious gaffes — looking at you Garo Yepremian — all make the Super Bowl the greatest sporting event of the calendar year. Hall of Fame careers are made and broken in the final football game of the season and trying to narrow down nearly 50 years of action to the 15 best individual plays is virtually impossible (but we'd tried anyway).
1. XXXIV: One Yard Short
The Titans and Rams put on a second-half show for the fans in Atlanta. Steve McNair whirled his way down the field to the St. Louis 10-yard line to set up the final play of the game. Mike Jones made the play of his career by tackling Kevin Dyson just 12 inches shy of the game-tying touchdown. It would have been the first and only overtime game in Super Bowl history.
2. XXXII: John Elway’s helicopter run
It was the defining moment of what many believe is the best Super Bowl ever played. It was third-and-six from the Packers' 12-yard line with the game tied 17-17 in the second half. One of the game’s greatest players scrambles right and then dives head-first despite being surrounded by three Green Bay defenders. Elway gives up all regard for his body and wills himself to a first down. Terrell Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later, as Elway goes on to win his first Super Bowl.
3. XXV: Scott Norwood’s wide right
There have been many game-winning field goals in Super Bowl history — but none on the final snap with one team trailing and the chance to win the game. No, Scott Norwood became the only true goat of a Super Bowl when his 47-yard field goal sailed just inches wide right. The miss capped an extraordinary drive that capped an extraordinary game stacked with Hall of Fame players and coaches.
4. XXIII: Joe Montana to John Taylor
The 10-yard pass to Taylor with 39 seconds left wasn’t in and of itself a miraculous play. It wasn’t all that difficult and it wasn’t all that remarkable. But it represents all that Montana was as an NFL Hall of Famer. He got the ball with 3:10 left on the clock down 16-13 on his own eight-yard line and all he can think about is John Candy. This touchdown pass stood as the latest game-winner touchdown in Super Bowl history for nearly 20 years.
5. XLII: Eli Manning to David Tyree
In terms of degree of difficulty, few plays in any game much less the Super Bowl can match this one. Manning's Houdini act in the pocket to avoid getting sacked is nearly as impressive as Tyree’s duct tape and chicken wire helmet catch in traffic 32 yards down the field. Four plays later, Manning floated a 13-yard game-winning touchdown to a wide open Plaxico Burress to give the Patriots their one and only loss of the season.
6. XLIII: Big Ben to Santonio Holmes
Trailing 20-7 to begin the fourth quarter, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals scored 16 straight points to take a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with just over two minutes to play. Ben Roethlisberger then marched his team to the Arizona six-yard line where, with unbelievable accuracy and some magic toes at his disposal, he somehow connects with Holmes with 35 seconds left to play.
7. XVIII: Marcus Allen's 74-yard run
It is likely the most impressive run in Super Bowl history. After twisting and changing directions in the backfield, Allen split the heart of the Washington Redskins defense for the longest run in Super Bowl history (later broken by Willie Parker). The play capped the third quarter and put a fork in the ‘Skins' hopes. Allen finished with 191 yards rushing and was named the MVP.
8. XVII: The Diesel’s fourth-and-one gallop
The Redskins were trailing 17-13 with 10 minutes to go, facing a fourth-and-one on the Miami 43-yard line. Joe Gibbs leaves his offense on the field and calls ’70 chip’ for his star running back John Riggins. The burly runner, nicknamed The Diesel, breaks a tackle, bounces the play off tackle and races 43 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
9. X: Lynn Swann’s Magical Reception
When it comes to acrobatic, spectacular catches, David Tyree might not even be able top the grace of Swann. From deep in his own territory, the eventual game MVP reeled in a 53-yard pass from Terry Bradshaw that changed the game. Mark Washington is in perfect position to make a play on the ball for the Cowboys, but somehow Swann out leaps the defender, bobbles the ball and hauls in the pass as he is falling to the ground. Swann finished with four receptions for 161 yards and the game-winning 64-yard touchdown catch as well.
10. III: Joe Namath’s Finger Wag
It wasn’t technically a play, but Broadway Joe’s guarantee and subsequent finger wag will go down in Super Bowl lore. It was likely the most important Super Bowl ever played. It also was the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. And the moment could have only been made possible by a brash personality like Namath.
11. XLIV: Saints onside kick
Possibly the ballsiest call in Super Bowl history, head coach Sean Payton calls for the onside kick to start the second half. The Saints recover and score on the ensuing drive. The gutsy call sets the tone for New Orleans to dominate Indianapolis 24-7 in the second half to win the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy.
12. XXXVI: Adam Vinatieri Part I
Vinatieri Part I capped Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s coming out party as they upset the heavily favored Rams with a 48-yard game winner.
13. XXXVIII: Adam Vinatieri Part II
One of the more underrated Super Bowls ended with Vinatieri Part II when he broke the 29-29 tie as time expired against the Panthers from 41 yards out.
14. XXVII: Don Beebe chases down Leon Lett
The game wasn’t close and the play didn’t really matter, but no one will ever forget little Beebe embarrassing big Lett at the goal line.
15. I: Max McGee one-hander
A hungover, second-string McGee makes a spectacular one-handed catch (and run) to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.
Best of rest:
16. XIV: Terry Bradshaw to Lance Stallworth for the 73-yard game winning touchdown.
17. XX: William Perry steals Sweetness’ touchdown.
18. XLVI: Eli Manning completes 38-yard sideline fade to Mario Manningham to open eventual game-winning drive agianst New England.
19. XIII: Dallas' Jackie Smith is "the sickest man in America."
20. XXXI: Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return TD.
Hosts Braden Gall, David Fox and Steven Lassan breakdown all 14 new head coaches in FBS college football. The guys rank their favorite (and least favorite) hires and analyze all of the newest trends in coaching in this sideline extravaganza.
Tom Herman vs. Chad Morris? Will Mike Riley win enough at Nebraska? Is Gary Andersen a home run at Oregon State? How many nice things can the guys say about Jim Harbaugh? The is much debate about Jim McElwain at Florida and who is Lance Leipold?
Does "fit" matter when hiring a coach or is it all about winning? Is offense more important than defense? Why aren't defensive coordinators getting jobs and should they be getting more looks? Who is on the hot seat entering 2015?
A headline from a well-respected columnist about the New England Patriots' latest scandal reads: “On scale of 1-10, it’s 11 for Patriots in deflate-gate mess.”
For an organization that once gave a multi-million dollar contract extension to an alleged murderer, I’d say that’s a bit of an overreaction.
Like most, Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel needs to take a deep breath and step back from “ballghazi” for a moment before breathing fire.
Eleven of the 12 official footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game win over Indianapolis were under-inflated by about two pounds — roughly 16 percent of the league minimum.
It’s illegal and Roger Goodell is well within his right to punish Bill Belichick and company with appropriate force. But the hand-wringing and finger-pointing reeks of jealousy.
Should we be quick to criticize and over-analyze an organization with a questionable track record when it comes to the rules of the game? Certainly, but did the Patriots defeat the Colts by more than five touchdowns because the balls were slightly softer? Have the Patriots been the best team in the AFC for more than a decade because of slightly less air in their footballs?
That seems as ludicrous as employing someone accused of multiple homicides.
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, a Super Bowl champion and this season's likely MVP, claims that he prefers an overinflated ball. In fact, before the Packers Week 13 game with New England, the star quarterback casually admitted to Phil Simms that he “likes to push the limits of how much air we can put in the football, even over what they allow you to do.” (Simms was paraphrasing during the broadcast.)
Former Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson admitted to spending $7,500 to “get the balls right” before Super Bowl XXXVII. Again, does anyone really believe that the amount of air in the football caused the Raiders to enter the fourth quarter trailing 34-9 in that game?
Is Rodgers wrong to overinflate? Was Johnson wrong to pay to fix his footballs? Are the Pats technically cheating by deflating footballs?
Yes, yes and yes. But it sounds like, in an extremely competitive multi-billion dollar industry, that everyone pushes the envelope when it comes to pigskin PSI. The more important question is what type of impact did it have on the game and how should they be punished. Offsides is cheating too and that's a five-yard penalty.
Do the Patriots have any benefits of the doubt left in the court of public opinion? Clearly, the answer is and should be no. New England paid a huge price for Spygate and rightly so. There is a competitive advantage to be gained from watching another team practice and the punishment fits the crime — a total of $700,000 and a first-round draft pick.
But the amount of air pressure in the footballs last Sunday had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. The Colts were a clearly inferior team that has no other excuses for why it lost by 38 points.
New England was better and the NFL should react accordingly. Maybe Goodell should take a page from the Sports Pickles’ book:
The ink is barely dry on the 2014 season and Athlon Sports is continuing its too early look at what is assured to be another stellar season of upsets, broken records and historic storylines.
Considering Marcus Mariota became the first preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in more than a decade, here is a quick look at the potential frontrunners for the stiff-armed trophy in 2015:
Championship Signal Callers
Generally, quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. In fact, only twice since Ron Dayne in 1999 has a non-quarterback (aka, running back) won the Heisman Trophy (Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram). Of those 13 signal-callers, nine of them played in the national championship game in the same year. Odds are, the '15 Heisman winner will be in this category.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
'14 Stats: 3,901 yds, 33 TD, 10 INT, 707 rush yds, 8 TD
With revamped play-calling and coaching on offense, the former wide receiver blossomed into one of the nation's most dynamic players. He nearly led TCU into the college football playoff and will return with a team that's expected to be the favorite in the Big 12 next year.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
'14: Stats: 3,449 yds, 27 TD, 11 INT, 986 rush yds, 14 TD
Prescott announced his intentions to return to school in 2015 and has a chance to lead Mississippi State to an SEC West title. He already owns every major school single-season record and could easily be the best player in the best league next fall.
Someone, Ohio State
A quarterback is going to be a Heisman Trophy candidate at Ohio State but who that might be is still up in the air. Cardale Jones just led his team to a national championship, J.T. Barrett set school and Big Ten records before getting hurt and don't forget about Braxton Miller.
Cody Kessler, USC
'14 Stats: 3,826 yds, 39 TD, 5 INT, 2 rush TD
The USC passer quietly posted one of the best seasons in college football and did it surrounded by freshmen and injuries. He plays a premium position at a school known for producing Heisman winners and Trojans could be a playoff team and Pac-12 frontrunner.
Connor Cook, Michigan State
'14 Stats: 3,214 yds, 24 TD, 8 INT, 2 rush TD
The top challenger to Ohio State in the Big Ten in the third-year starter. He's an NFL prospect for a reason. He's efficient, he's a winner and he's a leader. He's 24-3 with 49 total touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in the last two years.
Other QBs to Watch:
Deshaun Watson, Clemson; Anu Solomon, Arizona; Brad Kaaya, Miami; Josh Dobbs, Tennessee; Christian Hackenberg, Penn State; Jared Goff, Cal; Seth Russell, Baylor; Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech; Marquise Williams, North Carolina; Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
Year of the Running Back
The only non-QB to win the Heisman since '99 was Bush in '05 and Ingram in '09 — both of whom played in the national championship game on the best team in the nation. But with one of the greatest freshman running back classes in recent memory — especially, for elite teams — this could be the year a RB takes home the coveted Heisman Trophy. One look at the top returning rushers makes it easy to see why a RB could break through in '15:
Never Appreciated Wide Receivers
Individual Defensive Players
Generally, any championship in any sport is a long, arduous tale of adversity and perseverance filled with unpredictable success and joy.
Ohio State's journey to the first college football national championship via a playoff is improbable and well deserved all at the same time. But the dominating championship in which Ohio State lost the turnover battle (minus-three) but still totally controlled the game didn't just fall into Urban Meyer's lap. It was well earned throughout an entire season of hard work, difficult decisions and brutal injuries.
Had any of the following moments not taken place, who knows, maybe Ohio State wouldn't be the '14 National Champions. Here are the 10 biggest moments of one of the most historic seasons in college football history.
Aug. 18: Braxton Miller is lost for the season
This injury cannot be overstated. Miller was a Heisman Trophy front-runner who had totaled 2,094 yards passing, 1,068 yards rushing, 36 touchdowns and just seven interceptions the year before. Miller and Meyer were 24-0 in the regular season together and the Buckeyes' expected starting QB was lost for the year before it even got started.
Aug. 30: J.T. Barrett's first TD
In his first career start and the season opener for the team many considered the favorite in the Big Ten, J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes were trailing Navy 14-13 with just 4:10 minutes left. But the redshirt freshman then found Devin Smith for an 80-yard, go-ahead touchdown. It was Barrett's first career touchdown and it led to an eventual 34-17 win.
Sept. 6: The Pick-Six
In just his second start behind an offensive line that had yet to gel, Barrett is harassed all night long by the Virginia Tech Hokies. Down by seven with a minute to play, Barrett and the Bucks still had a chance to come back. However, the OSU quarterback was intercepted by Donovan Riley, who returned the pick for a game-clinching touchdown with 46 seconds left. Most (myself included) left the Buckeyes for dead.
Oct. 25: The overtime sack
Joey Bosa, who would go on to win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, made his presence felt with 3.5 sacks against Penn State in front of a sold-out "White Out" home crowd in Happy Valley. With the season hanging in the balance in double overtime, Bosa recorded his third and final sack to clinch the win on the game's final play.
Nov. 8: Barrett's final blow
In the biggest game of the year and with the East Division title hanging in the balance against then-No. 8 Michigan State and one of the best defenses in the land, Barrett put on a show. The QB threw for 300 yards, rushed for 86 yards and scored five touchdowns — the last of which was a seven-yard TD toss early in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach. The Bucks won 49-37.
Nov. 15: Wintry record-breaker
In what appeared to be the slowest 86-yard touchdown run in the history of football, Barrett outran the Minnesota secondary to give the Buckeyes a critical road win over a ranked opponent. It was one of three records Barrett broke in the game — long run by a QB, rushing yards in a game by a QB (189) and most TDs in a season (38). It was OSU's second straight and second overall win over a ranked foe at the time.
Nov. 29: First play of the fourth quarter
An emotional week that featured the tragic loss of teammate Kosta Karageorge ended with a costly victory in "The Game" over archrival Michigan. On the first play of the fourth quarter of a one-score game, Barrett broke his ankle putting an end to his breakout season. Cardale Jones takes his place and in his first full drive as a starter, led OSU to a touchdown when Ezekiel Elliott broke a 44-yard touchdown run on a fourth-down call. The Bucks go on to pull away and easily defeat the school from up North.
Dec. 6: Jones adds a new dimension
Less than two minutes into the Big Ten Championship Game, Jones, making his first career start, connects with Devin Smith for a 39-yard touchdown. The throw shows off Jones' arm and his ability to stretch the field vertically. Ohio State would score 52 more points in the title game rout that would eventually land the Buckeyes in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Jan 1a: Evan Spencer-to-Michael Thomas trickery
After falling behind 21-6 halfway through the second quarter Ohio State made it a one-score game after a short Elliott TD run. Then with 12 seconds left in the half, Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman dialed up the best trick play in the history of the Sugar Bowl. An apparent end-around with an added wrinkle resulted in wide receiver Evan Spencer throwing a dart to Michael Thomas to make the score 21-20 at halftime.
Jan. 1b: Zeke seals the deal
Nursing a scant six-point lead with just over three minutes left in the game on a critical third down, Elliott breaks through a stacked box and rumbles 85 yards to seal a trip to the national title game.
Jan. 12: Final 11:33 of the third quarter
After a solid start to the first drive of the second half, Jones is picked off by Oregon's Danny Mattingly with 11:33 left in the third quarter. The Ducks promptly score on the next play, as Marcus Mariota finds Byron Marshall for a 70-yard score. Six plays into the ensuing drive; Jones does his best Jameis Winston impersonation by gifting the Ducks the football on the OSU 32-yard line. The Ducks use five plays to eventually kick a field goal and cut the lead to 21-20. But Ohio State finishes the heated third quarter with a dominating 12-play, 75-yard, drive that eats up 6:39 on the clock and ends with Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run on the final play of the quarter. The exchange gives Oregon every chance to take control but the Buckeyes survive two turnovers and answer back with a heavy-weight counterpunch.
The rest is history.