Articles By David Fox
The SEC leads college football in many things, but one of the strangest categories may be former head coach reclamation projects.
Not all assistants are cut out to be head coaches, but the five aforementioned programs clearly see strengths that didn’t translate into being program CEOs. Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and LSU all hired previously fired head coaches to work on some of their biggest deficiencies.
That’s not a surprise, of course, even guys like Ellis Johnson and Joker Phillips were doing something right to be named head coaches in the first place.
The SEC isn’t alone, but it was the most prominent example of a league recycling former head coaching on its staffs. Here are 12 former head coaches hired as assistants for the 2013 season.
Former head coach at: Minnesota
Now: Florida State tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator
After all the changes on Florida State’s coaching staff, Brewster gives Jimbo Fisher a coach who has been around the block, most recently the wide receivers coach at Mississippi State. Brewster was a standout recruiter for Mack Brown at North Carolina and Texas and gives the coaching staff the bit of frenetic energy it needed to replace when James Coley left for Miami.
Former head coach at: Miami Dolphins, Indiana
Now: LSU offensive coordinator
Cameron returns to his first college head coaching job since he went 18-37 at Indiana from 1997-2001. LSU intended to hand the offense to another former head coach last season in Steve Kragthorpe before the ex-Louisville coach was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Greg Studrawa led the offense last season, but he has been returned to his former position of coaching the line. Cameron’s job now is to help develop Zach Mettenberger. Cameron has a strong reputation of working with quarterbacks, but LSU has struggled in this area since Matt Flynn led the Tigers to the BCS title in 2007.
Former head coach at: FIU
Now: Alabama offensive line coach
FIU made the puzzling decision to fire the best coach in its brief history, a coach who happened to have deep Miami ties. Alabama scooped him up quickly to coach the team’s greatest weakness on the offensive line. Before becoming a head coach, Cristobal coached tight ends and offensive line with great success at Rutgers (2001-03) and Miami (1998-2000). This may only be a quick stop for Cristobal before his next head coaching opportunity, but for now, he’s one of three former head coaches on Saban’s coaching and support staff — Bobby Williams (Michigan State) coaches tight ends and special teams, and Kevin Steele (Baylor) is the director of player personnel.
Former head coach at: Western Michigan
Now: Illinois wide receiver coach
Offense was rarely an issue during Cubit’s eight seasons at Western Michigan. With the Broncos, Cubit did a good job of developing young quarterbacks (Tim Hiller, Alex Carder) and playing them through their veteran years. At Illinois, Cubit inherits two veterans in Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O’Toole, who have started during the last two seasons.
Former head coach at: Arizona State, Idaho, San Francisco 49ers, Oregon State, Seattle Seahawks, Miami, Washington State, Wyoming
Now: Utah co-offensive coordinator
A true football lifer, Erickson can’t stay out of the game. After being fired at Arizona State, Erickson landed at Utah where he’ll make up half of one of the most interesting assistant coach pairings. The Utes’ other co-coordinator is Brian Johnson, who was born the same year as Erickson’s first Pac-10 coaching job in 1987 at Washington State. Utah has ranked 11th and 12th in yards per play since joining the Pac-12. Whether that’s personnel or youth on the coaching staff could be determined with Erickson on board.
Former head coach at: Colorado State
Now: Virginia offensive coordinator
Former head coach: NC State, Boston College
Now: Virginia associate head coach for offense/tight ends coach
Part of a coaching staff overhaul in Charlottesville, O’Brien and Fairchild will try to turn around an offense that ranked ninth in the ACC in yards per pass attempt and eighth in yards per carry. With the background of both — Fairchild was an NFL offensive coordinator before a 16-33 stint at Colorado State, O’Brien ran a balanced offense at NC State and Boston College — Virginia is going to run a traditional pro-style offense. Fairchild will have to settle on a quarterback after the competition between Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims dragged on through last season.
Former head coach at: Southern Miss
Now: Auburn defensive coordinator
Johnson’s first FBS coaching gig could not have been much worse as Southern Miss went 0-11 in his lone season in Hattiesburg. Before that debacle, though, Johnson’s defenses at South Carolina and Mississippi State ranked fifth or better in the SEC in four of five seasons. The 2011 Gamecocks defense ranked third in the country in total defense. In contrast: Auburn hasn’t ranked better than seventh in total defense in the SEC since 2007.
Former head coach at: New Mexico State, Kentucky
Now: SMU passing game coordinator
Do you think SMU wants to throw the ball around a bit in the American Athletic Conference? The Mustangs coaching staff now has the godfather of the Air Raid offense (Mumme) with one of the most successful run-and-shoot coaches (Jones). They’re not exactly the same, but they’re not all that different. As Mumme told CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman: “Air Raid is an attitude, not a playbook.” Worth noting: SMU was merely fourth in Conference USA in pass attempts in the last two seasons.
Former head coach at: Kentucky
Now: Florida wide receivers coach
Florida’s wide receivers coach position has been a revolving door in recent years, so the hope is that Phillips will bring stability. The Gators need it. Florida hasn’t produced a first-team All-SEC receiver in four seasons. Phillips played receiver at Kentucky and was a highly regarded offensive coordinator before his disastrous tenure as the Wildcats’ head coach. He’s also made an impact on the recruiting trail with is eccentric “#ComePlayWRfortheJoker” Twitter posts.
Former head coach at: Memphis
Now: Texas running backs coach
After a 3-21 stint at Memphis, Porter quietly returned to a comfort zone as a running backs coach. He worked with Marion Grice, Cameron Marshall and D.J. Foster at Arizona State last season, helping them become a prolific trio as runners and pass-catchers. He’ll do fine at Texas, but the Longhorns have more pressing issues than running back.
Former head coach at: Kansas State
Now: Rutgers offensive coordinator
Prince has coached two NFL starting quarterbacks in college (Virginia’s Matt Schaub and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman). Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is hoping for that tutelage to work on Gary Nova, who started last season with a steady hand before a late-season turnover binge. After three seasons in the NFL as an offensive assistant, Prince is back in the college ranks for the first time since coaching special teams at Virginia in 2009.
Former had coach at: Miami
Now: Arkansas linebackers coach
Shannon spent only five months as the linebackers coach at TCU before leaving to Arkansas. The Razorbacks can use all the help they can get on defense after regressing in each of the last three seasons. For a program with scant amounts of local talent and a head coach with little experience recruiting in the Southeast, the addition of Shannon and his deep Miami roots could be a major asset.
The NFL’s seventh season of Hard Knocks began yesterday with a second go-round inside training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The series brings all the drama of the NFL preseason with rookies making their way onto rosters, the tough decisions on who to keep and who to cut and players dealing with off-field issues.
The HBO program brings us closer to an NFL team each year, but we think the series would be a little more interesting if there were a college football version — the coaches have bigger personalities, the players are more raw on the field and less familiar with the business angle and professionalism off of it.
Behind-the-scenes access isn’t unheard of during the college football preseason. ESPN gets access from time to time; most major programs share videos through official web sites. But we want an unfiltered, warts-and-all look. Here are the teams we’d like to see:
1. Texas A&M
The Aggies would have been No. 1 before Johnny Manziel’s eligibility was thrown into question Sunday night. What a week ago looked like would be simply the Johnny Football Show now brings added NCAA drama. For better or worse, Hard Knocks: Texas A&M would present a look at the NCAA investigation process and the school’s response as they try to keep Manziel eligible for the Sept. 14 game against Alabama. Kevin Sumlin says he’s in the fact-finding stage, but it would be intriguing to see how he prepares Manziel’s backups for the opener. And for a dose of reality away from all-Manziel, all the time, let’s not forget that A&M players are grieving for the loss of teammate Polo Manukainiu after a car accident claimed his life last week.
What kinds of decisions does a coach make just before a critical season in his career? Lane Kiffin hass already closed regular season practices to the media, though that’s not a decision the average fan will find too intriguing. More than that, Kiffin is overseeing a rare quarterback competition at USC. The last one was four seasons ago when Matt Barkley quickly dispatched Aaron Corp early in the 2009 season. Perhaps more interesting than Kiffin picking between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler would be the reactions of one of the nation’s best receiving duos in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to each QB candidate. If the offensive side of the ball isn’t interesting enough, new coordinator Clancy Pendergast is installing a new 5-2 scheme. And finally, two words: Ed Orgeron.
Les Miles is a character, and that would be enough to carry any Hard Knocks season. But this preseason would be intriguing even if Miles were cut in the mold of deadpan coaches like Mark Dantonio or Kirk Ferentz. LSU’s trademark defense is full of new names and faces. The assumption is that the Tigers will pick up where they left off, but it’s going to be a young group. On offense, Miles recently reinstated his top running back (Jeremy Hill) following to legal issues and has a quarterback (Zach Mettenberger) who has a new coordinator and a spotty history on and off the field.
We’re not sure if “The Process” would be compelling television or a football version of “The Joy of Painting.” The most entertaining part may be watching players interact with a state and fan base basking in Roll Tide euphoria and then returning to a disapproving Nick Saban. And after that, Hard Knocks: Alabama would be a chance to get to know the Alabama coaching staff, which is shut down from media interviews once the season begins. Fans somewhere should have a reason to be excited to hire defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
5. Notre Dame
Hard Knocks: Notre Dame might lose a ratings battle with The Bachelor: Manti Te’o, but we’re still watching the Irish try to navigate their return to national prominence and how Notre Dame deals with the BCS Championship Game embarrassment. Brian Kelly has a quarterback battle on his hands between the veteran Tommy Rees (who the fans aren’t totally excited to see) and Malik Zaire (who the fans didn’t expect to see taking snaps until 2014 or 2015).
6. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is kind of Hardcore SEC Fan Central this season. The Rebels need their top-10 signing class to contribute immediately, both as starters and for depth. We know Robert Nkdemdiche through the recruiting process, but Hard Knocks: Ole Miss will give us the first look at the top freshman in the SEC, playing on the defense as his brother, Denzel, who is a star in his own right. Hugh Freeze has only be a college head coach for two seasons, but his homespun qualities have been a perfect fit in the SEC. He’s a positive guy, but he may have to prepare his team for a rough start to the season thanks to the Rebels’ brutal schedule. Moreover, Ole Miss is one of the rare college teams that still does two-a-day practices in preseason camp, though the Rebels don’t exactly go full speed for those sessions.
7. South Carolina
There’s Steve Spurrier wisecracking and Jadeveon Clowney flipping sleds with teammate Gerald Dixon. And Manziel isn’t the only big-time player dealing with fame and everyone wanting a piece of him: Spurrier closed practices and declared a moratorium on talking about “The Hit.” And beyond the Spurrier/Clowney dynamic, Carolina is trying to win an SEC championship and national championship with a quarterback who missed all of spring practice and portions of last season.
8. Washington State
Mike Leach hasn’t changed in his second season at Washington State — he says he’s working on a book on Geronimo — so that will bring ample entertainment. On the field Washington State went 3-9 last season and may have the same record in 2013. Leach won seven games in each of his first two seasons at Texas Tech and nine in his third, so he’s in uncharted territory in Pullman.
Few teams are under more pressure than Texas. The Big 12 is wide open, but there’s little consensus Texas, one of the most talented teams in the league, can win it. Four seasons removed from their last Big 12 title, the Longhorns have also lost ground to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M, never mind being firmly under the thumb of Oklahoma. How Brown coaches for his job and how Manny Diaz tries to repair one of the nation’s worst run defenses would be intriguing storylines.
James Franklin is cliff diving, and Herb Hand is Tweeting and angling for a spot on Chopped. But meanwhile the Commodores are in the midst of one of the best runs in school history. Although Vanderbilt swiftly dismissed the four players at the center of a campus sex crimes investigation, the program is growing accustomed to people paying attention to what’s going on in Nashville for a change.
A year after being the nation’s most competitive conference at the top, the Big Ten is counting on a handful of new faces to remain so in 2013-14.
Michigan State returns nearly intact, but most of the Big Ten wasn’t so lucky. Indiana is counting on freshmen and a transfer making his third Division I stop to replace NBA Draft lottery picks Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. Michigan also will look to a pair of rookies to take spots vacated by the National Player of the Year and another first-round draft pick.
Wisconsin lost players in its frontcourt, but the Badgers’ biggest new face for 2013-14 is an old one in guard Josh Gasser, who will return from a torn ACL. And Illinois, who was one of the surprise teams of last season, will try to replace its Big Ten veterans with imports from the Missouri Valley Conference.
Turnover — or lack thereof for teams like Michigan State and Ohio State — could play a major role in the Big Ten title chance in 2013-14.
Our look at the transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury last season continues with the Big Ten. Earlier, we’ve profiled the new faces in the ACC, American, Big 12 and Big East.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Indiana lost Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and the bulk of a team that spent a good portion of last season ranked No. 1. The freshman Vonleh, though, means Indiana isn’t going to sink back to the bottom of the Big Ten. At 6-foot-9, he’s a natural power forward with impressive length — he has a 7-4 wingspan. Vonleh recently participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy and held his own despite being one of the youngest players there at age 17.
Josh Gasser, Wisconsin
Returning from injury
Wisconsin’s season looked like it would go south when Gasser, the projected starting point guard, sustained a season-ending knee injury in October. But this is Wisconsin, and consistency is the Badgers’ forte. Recovery from the ligament tears has been slow, but Gasser still expects to be ready for the start of the season. As a shooting guard for his first two seasons, Gasser still had a 1.95 assist-to-turnover ratio. He also picked up the first triple-double in Wisconsin history with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against Northwestern in 2010-11.
Derrick Walton, Michigan
Walton may be the captain of the All-Shoes-to-Fill team as he takes over at point guard for National Player of the Year Trey Burke. Walton was committed to Michigan for two years, so he had plenty of time to study Burke’s style of play. He has a few similarities with Burke — he and his predecessor both stand at 6-feet and have excellent court vision, but Walton comes to the program with higher expectations after reaching last season’s national title game.
Zak Irvin, Michigan
Irvin can play both shooting guard and small forward, but Michigan coach John Beilein may have to find ways to get him in the lineup. Glenn Robinson III plays the 3 and stretch 4, and Michigan has options at the two guard with Nik Staustaks, who was a sharpshooter last season, plus sophomore Caris LeVert.
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
Returning from injury
Crawford considered a transfer, and he would have been eligible immediately as a graduate student. Instead, he’ll return to Northwestern, where he missed all but 10 games last season with a shoulder injury. A season earlier in 2011-12, Crawford was a third-team All-Big Ten selection who averaged 16.1 points per game.
Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
Transfer from Drake
Illinois coach John Groce won’t shy away from putting a ton of responsibility on his backcourt. With Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson gone, that puts some of the onus on Rice, who transferred back home to Champaign from Drake. Former Illinois coach Bruce Weber overlooked Rice even though the guard was the state’s Mr. Basketball, but Rice returned when John Groce was hired. At Drake, Rice used the sleight to fuel him on the way to 15.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds in two seasons at Drake. The 6-4, 240-pound junior could lead Illinois in scoring.
Tim Frazier, Penn State
Returning from injury
Frazier was a first-team All-Big Ten selection two seasons ago when he averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists, but he missed all of last season with a left Achilles injury. His return moves D.J. Newbill (16.3 ppg) to his more comfortable position at the two guard. That’s the good news. The bad news is Jermaine Marshall elected to transfer to Arizona State, leaving Penn State with one fewer Big Ten-caliber player in the starting lineup.
Evan Gordon, Indiana
Transfer from Arizona State
The brother of former Hoosiers one-and-done Eric Gordon, Evan Gordon has landed at Indiana after playing for Liberty and Arizona State. Gordon is looking to grab the starting off guard spot along rising sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell. What Gordon lacks in size (6-1, 187), he’ll make up for it in experience on a young Hoosiers team. Gordon has averaged 12.1 points per game in his three-season career.
Jon Ekey, Illinois
Transfer from Illinois State
Ekey, who started 75 games in three seasons at Illinois State, will be one of the top newcomers on an Illinois team full of them. Ekey led the Missouri Valley in blocks as a freshman (52), but the 6-7, 220-pound forward can also step out to knock down the 3-point shot. He hit 90 of 234 (38.5 percent) shots from 3-point range in his final two seasons in the Valley before becoming immediately eligible at Illinois as a graduate student.
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Transfer from Wisconsin
Uthoff hasn’t played in a game since his senior season at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Jefferson in 2011 after redshirting his first season at Wisconsin and then sitting out a year at Iowa. Uthoff also became a lightning rod in the debate over NCAA transfer rules when he elected to pay his own way to play for Iowa after the Badgers restricted his transfer to play for the Hawkeyes. Finally able to play, Uthoff is a 6-9 versatile forward who can play inside and out.
Malik Smith, Minnesota
Transfer from FIU
Smith followed his coach, Richard Pitino, from FIU to Minnesota. The guard averaged 14.1 points per game at FIU, but he’ll have to fight his way through a crowded backcourt that includes Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins (no relation).
Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Transfer from Texas Tech
Petteway gives Nebraska versatility and a secondary scoring option the Cornhuskers lacked last season. A 6-6 wing, Petteway can rebound and play point guard, if needed, but Nebraska also signed New Zealand freshman Tai Webster to help at the point.
Other new faces to watch in 2013-14:
Marc Loving and Kameron Williams, Ohio State
Ohio State doesn’t struggle to bring in top recruits, but the Buckeyes are a veteran team with only two newcomers. The power forward Loving needs to develop a physical game while Williams may be a role player as an outside shooter.
Walter Pitchford and Lelee Smith, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers had trouble re-stocking a frontcourt that lost its top two players. At least Pitchford, an athletic forward who sat out last season after his transfer from Florida, will be eligible this season. Smith is a strong 6-8 forward who started his career at SMU before transferring to junior college. This pair will have make up a new-look Nebraska frontcourt.
Luke Fischer, Indiana
He won’t replace Zeller’s ability to run the floor, but Fischer could give the Hoosiers a true center to allow Vonleh to play power forward.
Bryson Scott, Purdue
Scott is a standout combo guard from Fort Wayne who should play his way into the rotation immediately.
Allen Roberts, Penn State
Transfer from Miami (Ohio)
Roberts averaged 12.3 points last season for the RedHawks and will be eligible in December.
The start of the college football season is less than a month away and the offseason didn’t contain any new realignment or any coach motorcycle/coed scandals (fingers crossed).
That doesn’t mean it was a quiet offseason, certainly not for the sports most visible player down in College Station.
The offseason is long and new falls through the cracks. Here’s everything you need to know to get caught up.
1. Johnny Manziel: The important stuff
Johnny Manziel’s offseason activities are well-established, and we’re still not sure if any of it really matters to the product on the field. If anything is going to jeopardize Manziel's season, it may be the news that broke Sunday evening. The NCAA is investigating if Manziel was paid for signing autographs and memorabilia during a trip to South Florida in January. If the NCAA finds a violation, Manziel could be ineligible for all or part of the 2013 season. Before that, the Texas A&M quarterback faced the media barrage at SEC Media Days where he was neither apologetic nor defiant about being a 20-year-old Heisman winner with (parental) money in his pocket. Also, ESPN’s Wright Thompson gave us the definitive profile of what it’s like within the Manziel family right now as the family and the player attempt to cope with the pressures of being a college football superstar. And for the one bit of Manziel news that actually entered the legal system, Manziel pleaded guilty for failing to identify himself to police following a dispute prior to the 2012 season when he was still anonymous enough to do such things.
2. Running backs on the move
As if Louisville didn’t need another edge over its American Athletic Conference opponents, the Cardinals added a former five-star running back and BCS Championship Game MVP. Bringing in Michael Dyer (right) isn’t without risk, though. He hasn’t played football since 2011 when he left Auburn amid a drug suspension. He was also dismissed by Arkansas State before landing at Arkansas Baptist College where he was mentored by former San Jose State coach Fitz Hill. ... In a less controversial move, West Virginia added former Houston running back Charles Sims, who will be eligible immediately. Sims gives Dana Holgorsen an intriguing new toy: Sims has accounted for 1,672 rushing yards, 948 receiving yards and 27 total touchdowns in 22 games. West Virginia also added Rushel Shell, one of Pittsburgh’s top signees before last season. Shell visited UCLA and asked about returning to Pittsburgh, but landed in Morgantown.
3. Quarterback transfers
There will be more quarterback transfers after training camp starts to determine starters and backups, but two already felt the squeeze. Connor Brewer left Texas for Arizona, and Wes Lunt left Oklahoma State for Illinois. The latter drew attention after Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy forbade his 2012 opening day starter from transferring to the SEC, Pac-12, Central Michigan or Southern Miss in addition to the Big 12. Both will be eligible in 2014.
4. The Eddie Vanderdoes saga ends
Notre Dame has had most of the summer to prepare for a 2013 season without starting quarterback Everett Golson, but he’s not the only key personnel departure. Freshman defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, expected to play a major role for the Irish this season, had a change of heart after signing to play in South Bend, but coach Brian Kelly attempted to block the lineman from leaving and playing immediately for UCLA. The NCAA appeals process favored Vanderdoes, and he’ll suit up for the Bruins.
5. Suspension season
Two of the top games in the first week of the season will be impacted by suspensions. TCU defensive end Devonte Fields (10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss) is suspended for the first two games, knocking him out of the LSU game (and Southeastern Louisiana). ... Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended in the opener against pass-happy Clemson. ... Florida suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison, a potential breakout player, for the first two games (Toledo, at Miami) even though charges for resisting arrest were dismissed for reasons evident on the police dashcam video. ... Ohio State suspended running back Carlos Hyde for at least the first three games (Buffalo, San Diego State, at Cal) for his role in an altercation in a Columbus night club, though he won’t face charges. Star cornerback Bradley Roby is also facing a suspension following misdemeanor battery charges.
6. Also around the police blotter
Potential starting Virginia Tech running back Michael Holmes was “permanently separated” from the university after he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery. ... Four Vanderbilt players, none starters, were dismissed and banned from campus amid a sex crimes investigation. ... Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett and safety Floyd Raven were charged with misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief after an apartment altercation, but coach Kevin Sumlin has not announced any disciplinary action. ... LSU's top running back, Jeremy Hill, was reinstated thanks to a convenient team vote to bring him back despite his second arrest as a Tiger. ... Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a Mackey Award contender, pleaded guilty to a DUI in July, but he may not be suspended for the opener against Boise State.
7. Tragedy at Texas A&M, Utah
Three football communities were devastated when Texas A&M’s Polo Manukainiu, Utah’s Gaius Vaenuku and Euless (Texas) Trinity High’s Lolo Uhatafe were killed in a rollover crash in New Mexico. Manukainiu and Vaenuku were Trinity graduates. Two other passengers — Utah signee Salesi Uhatafe and his father — survived the crash. Manukainiu’s final Tweet before his death indicated he was driving back to Texas on “no sleep.”
8. Oregon gets NCAA closure, Miami does not
The most serious penalty Oregon faced as a result of the Willie Lyles scandal impacted the coach who’s gone to the NFL anyway. Chip Kelly (right) was slapped for a an 18-month show cause, making him unhirable in the college ranks during that time. Also making him unhirable: Coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. Oregon got off light despite paying $25,000 for Lyles’ quesitonable scouting services — no bowl ban and only the loss of one scholarship in each of the next three seasons. ... Miami hasn’t been quite as lucky. The Hurricanes are starting their third season with the cloud of NCAA sanctions over the program, self-imposing bowl bans the last two seasons in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
9. And behind the scenes...
Gordon Gee stuck one foot too many in his mouth. The Ohio State president, who once joked he hoped Jim Tressel wouldn’t fire him, retired after comments about Notre Dame and Catholics. “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week ... You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday,” Gee said during a meeting of Ohio State’s athletic council. ... Elsewhere, Colorado hired Rick George as its new athletic director. For a program needing a lift, the Buffaloes looked outside the box by hiring George, the president of business operations for the Texas Rangers. ... Florida State is also in the market for a new athletic director after Randy Spetman stepped down in June.
10. Active players join O'Bannon lawsuit
Six active players agreed to join former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of athletes' names and likenesses in video games. Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer, Arizona kicker Jake Smith, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and Minnesota wide receiver Victor Keise all joined O'Bannon's class action lawsuit. The NCAA also ended its contract with EA Sports effective after the NCAA Football 2014 video game, though the move effectively turned licensing to the Collegiate Licensing Company and individual schools and conferences for future video games.
11. The Summer of Stoops
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was one of the most vocal coaches during the offseason. He told The Sporting News he didn’t think players should be paid. He said the perception of SEC dominance is based on “propaganda.” He complained about Northern Illinois going to the BCS instead of Oklahoma. And just so we’re clear that he didn’t spend the entire summer as a cranky football coach, he tried to quietly participate in tornado cleanup in Moore, Okla. It took about 30 minutes before he was recognized.
12. And finally, FIU is the gift that keeps on giving
FIU, the school that hired Isiah Thomas to coach its basketball team, fired Mario Cristobal from coaching its football team and replaced him with one of the worst coaches in Illinois history, gave us the best press release of the offseason:
Early this morning, our football team had a workout and barbecue on Crandon Park Beach to conclude our summer conditioning program under the supervision of our strength and conditioning staff. Following the workout, some of our athletes went to rinse off at a designated public shower area and a few of them made a poor decision and changed their clothes in public. I want to apologize to the community and anyone who was at the beach this morning for this unfortunate incident. We are committed to helping our student athletes grow as gentlemen while preparing them for their careers. We are looking into this incident, and if appropriate, will take disciplinary action.
Head Football Coach
FIU also dismissed it starting running back for discharging a weapon on school property earlier that week.
The SEC rules the recruiting rankings, but three big-time Big Ten signees from the last two seasons could play major roles in how the league is decided.
Michigan and Ohio State are both plugging in five-star signees from the class of 2012 in redshirt freshman guard Kyle Kalis and sophomore defensive end Noah Spence. And although Penn State can’t go to to the postseason, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg could determine the Big Ten race as the Nittany Lions face Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Those names aren’t the only ones who could determine the Big Ten title. We’ve picked six players from six Big Ten contenders who may be pivotal to league or division titles.
As a refresher, our criteria for pivotal players is:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.
We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, and finally we turn our eye to the Big Ten.
Zaire Anderson, LB, Nebraska
Nebraska played four games where the Cornhuskers allowed more than six yards per play, and lost all five (UCLA, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Georgia). Linebacker will be a major question as the Cornhuskers rebuild with only four returning starters on the defense. Anderson started at one point early last season before missing most of the year following knee surgery. While recovering, he gained 22 pounds without losing speed, and he’s drawn comparisons to another prominent junior college transfer linebacker, Lavonte David.
Riley Bullough, RB, Michigan State
Le’Veon Bell accounted for 78.6 percent of Michigan State’s rush attempts and 91.9 percent of the Spartans’ yards on the ground. Unless Michigan State is turning to the Air Raid, Mark Dantonio needs to find production at running back to replace Bell. If Bullough has a familiar name, it’s because his brother Max is a starting linebacker. There may be a familiar style of play from Riley, though on the opposite side of the ball. A former linebacker, Riley is a bruiser. The redshirt freshman Riley will be the lead back in a committee approach to the position.
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The transfer of Steven Bench left Penn State without experience at quarterback, so the assumption is that the Hackenberg era will begin immediately. While Penn State doesn’t exactly begin the season with a gauntlet, the Nittany Lions face Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J., and two teams that can score in UCF and Kent State. Hackenberg’s importance to the program is a long-term storyline, especially as sanctions will cut deeper in his upperclassman seasons. But how he performs early as a rookie will determine momentum for his first season in Happy Valley.
Darius Hillary, CB, Wisconsin
Don’t be too concerned with a backfield that loses Montee Ball and must decide on a quarterback. Wisconsin’s defensive backfield is a major concern. Three starters were gone last season, and two key players the Badgers expected to start won’t be on campus (Reggie Mitchell and Donnell Vercher). Hillary played in every game last season as a redshirt freshman, recording 23 tackles, mostly early in the season. Hillary and Peniel Jean are further on the spot to solidify the cornerback position in a secondary that includes one sure thing in safety Dezmen Southward.
Tony Jones, WR, Northwestern
Tony Jones has deep-threat capabilities, but he averaged only 11.6 yards per catch last season. Sure, much of this will be on starting quarterback Kain Colter’s ability to get the ball downfield as much as Jones’ play, but averaging better than six yards per pass will be critical if Northwestern is going to challenge for a Legends Division title.
Kyle Kalis, OG, Michigan
All three of the Wolverines’ starting interior offensive linemen are gone, so any could be pivotal to Michigan’s hopes of winning the Big Ten for the first time since 2004. We’ll point to right guard Kyle Kalis, who was a top-three guard in the class of 2012. Michigan tailbacks averaged only 72.8 rushing yards last season, but the Wolverines think they can turn that around with more consistency from Fitz Touissaint and the arrival of freshman Derrick Green. Kalis delivering on his immense talent could go along way to reestablishing the run at Michigan.
Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
Urban Meyer went to great lengths to get Spence out of Pennsylvania during his first recruiting cycle, and now the defensive end should be ready to deliver. Spence has all-conference honors or more in his future, but it may need to happen now as the Buckeyes replenish their entire starting defensive line. He’s a pivotal player, but also one of the breakout candidates in the league.
The conventional thinking in the Big 12 may be that the team whose quarterback takes the reins will win the league.
Indeed, only one of the top six passers, Texas’ David Ash, in the Big 12 returns for 2013.
But in our exercise in picking the pivotal players to a Big 12 championship, we tended to look more toward the defensive side of the ball, and specifically the front seven. Part of that is intentional: It’s clear teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State won’t have a chance at the conference title if their new starting quarterbacks don’t perform.
What may be overlooked, though, is that four of the top six teams in the Big 12 need a player in the front seven to adjust to a full-time job, return from an injury or simply clear academic hurdles to help their teams to a Big 12 title.
Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.
We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American and SEC, and now we turn our eye to the Big 12.
Joel Hasley, LB, TCU
It’s tough to imagine TCU going back-to-back seasons where linebacker is an issue, but the Horned Frogs enter another year where this is the primary concern. Hasley was second on the team with 79 tackles, but the guy ahead of him, Kenny Cain, is gone. With the stable of quality running backs in the Big 12 (plus LSU in the opener), it’s tough to see the Horned Frogs competing for a conference title if its linebackers struggle for a second consecutive season. Hasley is under pressure with converted safety Jonathan Anderson competing for his spot at middle linebacker. Despite linebackers being a weak link, TCU allowed 3.3 yards per carry last season, best in the Big 12.
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Texas waited and waited for Hicks to return after he went down in the third game of the season, but the outside linebacker never returned. The Longhorns run defense unravelled in Big 12 play, allowing 215 rushing yards per game in conference play. Hicks is back for 2013, and Mack Brown hopes his run defense will be back, too.
Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
The easy answer for Kansas State’s pivotal player is either Daniel Sams or Jake Waters replacing quarterback Collin Klein. Nearly as critical is rolling with the changes in the front seven. All four starting defensive linemen are gone, including ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis (who combined for 16.5 sacks). Mueller showed flashes as a pass rusher, but the junior has never been a full-time player.
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Around this time last season, no one projected much out of Nick Florence, and he passed for a school-record 4,309 yards. Petty has far less experience than Florence did when he took over as the starter last season, but Petty also has the running back duo of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin in tow. Petty, a junior with 14 career pass attempts, will have time to grow into his role before the Bears’ critical stretch in November and December.
Quincy Russell, DT, Oklahoma
For most pivotal players in this series, performance and health are the most pressing concerns. For Russell, it’s if he’ll be around to make an impact. The junior college transfer is still waiting to be cleared academically. Whether or not he’s available, defensive line is Oklahoma’s most pressing question other than quarterback. At 6-4, 315 pounds, Russell is one of the biggest bodies on the offensive line, especially considering his linemate at tackle is converted defensive end Chuka Ndulue.
Jeremy Smith, RB, Oklahoma State
The potential stability at quarterback — provided Clint Chelf starts all season — will be a change for the Cowboys. But we’re watching the change at running back where Joseph Randle hands the baton to Jeremy Smith. Oklahoma State has had a 1,200-yard running back for six consecutive seasons. Smith has averaged 6.2 yards per carry during his career, but he’s deal with nagging injuries through his career. His durability could determine if Oklahoma State has the balanced offense it craves.
One thing is pretty clear about the new Big East: Projecting the league is going to be difficult.
Georgetown and Marquette tied for the Big East title in the old conference, but both teams lose key players. Villanova, which defeated Georgetown and Marquette late last season, brings back most of its key players. Creighton won the Missouri Valley and has most of its roster intact, including the top player in the league.
And those are just the top teams. The league pecking order could be determined by a hodgepodge of newcomers — five-star freshmen, junior college players, transfers from teams as different as UCLA and Rice.
Our look at the transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury last season continues with a look at the Big East after we’ve profiled the ACC, American and Big 12.
Josh Smith, Georgetown
Transfer from UCLA
At UCLA, Smith’s weight was a more pressing issue than his play on the court. Smith averaged 10.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman in 2010-11, but his playing time dwindled to 13.5 minutes per game before he left the Bruins early last season. Smith routinely weighed more than 300 pounds at UCLA. He’ll be eligible in December with hopes that a move East will give him a fresh start.
Jameel McKay, Marquette
Junior college transfer
Buzz Williams, a JUCO product himself, has a soft spot for junior college transfers. McKay is yet another to follow Williams to Marquette. He’s a 6-8, 205-pound forward who will bolster Marquette’s frontcourt, which is expected to be the strength of the team in 2013-14. A high-energy player, McKay was a two-time first-team All-American at Indiana Hills Community College after playing high school ball in Milwaukee.
Duane Wilson, Marquette
Wilson could take over the point guard spot and give Marquette a scoring punch there. He can knock down 3s, hit free throws and get to the rim. Like McKay, Wilson is a hometown product from Milwaukee.
Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s
St. John’s returns better than 90 percent of its scoring, but Jordan will have plenty of opportunities to play minutes immediately. D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene IV played point guard last season, but Jordan may be the best option there. Provided he’s not suspended as he was at the end of last season, Harrison is better suited for shooting guard.
Carson Desrosiers, Providence
Transfer from Wake Forest
Ed Cooley laid the groundwork for reviving Providence on the recruiting trail, but transfers will also play a role if the Friars are going to make an NCAA Tournament run in 2013-14. Desrosiers is a seven-foot, 235-pound transfer who started 38 games in two seasons at Wake Forest. He’s a standout shot blocker (1.8 per game), but he can also step outside and make 15-footers.
Jaren Sina, Seton Hall
Landing Sina, a former commitment for Northwestern and Alabama, was something of a coup for the Pirates. Problems at point guard sunk Seton Hall a year ago, and the hope is that Sina can eventually stabilize the position.
Brandon Austin, Providence
Austin is yet another high-profile freshman Cooley has signed, joining Kris Dunn (who will be his starting point guard) and Ricky Ledo (who left for the draft after never playing for the Friars). Austin is a versatile guard who could be one of PC’s top scorers.
Dylan Ennis, Villanova
Transfer from Rice
The brother of Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, Dylan will back up budding star point guard Ryan Arcidacono, but he has the versatility to contribute at three different spots. Ennis averaged 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a freshman at Rice in 2011-12.
Matt Stainbrook, Xavier
Transfer from Western Michigan
Stainbrook will give Xavier a key body in the frontcourt after shedding more than 50 pounds during his redshirt season. He suffered a knee injury in February, but he’s still expected to be major contributor. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in two seasons at Western Michigan.
Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall
Transfer from Texas
Gibbs averaged only 7.5 minutes per game at Texas but transferred back home to New Jersey after only one season in Austin. The brother of former Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs could join Sina in solidifying Seton Hall’s point guard spot.
Other new faces to watch:
God’sgift Achiuwa, St. John’s
The all-name teamer redshirted last season but averaged 9.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds in 18 starts in 2011-12.
Elijah Brown, Butler
The son of former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is capable of playing both guard spots and the wing.
Tyler Harris, Providence
Transfer from NC State
Harris was caught in a crunch for playing time at NC State, but Providence believes he can contribute quality minutes. He’s a 6-9 forward who can shoot like a guard.
Jalen Reynolds, Xavier
Ineligible last season
Reynolds was tabbed as a hidden gem after winning a one-on-one battle with Mitch McGary, but the forward was ineligible last season.
Reggie Coleman, Georgetown
The top-100 freshman small forward should boost the Hoyas from 3-point range.
USC is used to having prolific quarterbacks. Stanford is used to big-time tight ends. UCLA is used to productive running backs. And Oregon State can usually count on its defensive tackle position to hold its own.
In 2013, all four of those positions are in question. Key players at those position groups could help determine if their teams win their division or more.
In our ongoing series of pivotal players we took a look at four key players from those schools, plus three others who are in Pac-12 contention.
As a refresher, our criteria for pivotal players is:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.
We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, Big 12 and SEC, and now we turn our eye to the Pac-12.
Tyson Coleman, LB, Oregon
The biggest question on the Ducks' defense is replacing inside linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. Coleman appeared slated to start on the outside at one point, but necessity forced him to move to the inside. His teammates voted him the most improved player last year as a redshirt freshman, but the inside presents new challenges, especially considering some of Oregon’s top opponents this season — Washington, Stanford and Oregon — should all have above-average run games.
Luke Kaumatule, TE, Stanford
Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are gone, and beyond that, the top returning receiver Ty Montgomery averaged only 8.2 yards per catch on 26 receptions. Kaumatule played nine game last season, but didn’t catch a pass. Still, the 6-7, 260-pound Hawaiian is already on the Mackey Award watch list, thanks to Stanford’s recent reputation. Kaumatule played defensive end and wide receiver in high school, and now he’s expected to be one of the breakout players in Stanford’s passing game.
Edwin Delva, DT, Oregon State
Any one of four defensive tackles could be Oregon State’s pivotal player after starters Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai left. For this spot, though, we’ll pick Delva, the junior college transfer originally from Miami. His fellow JUCO transfer slated to start, Siale Hautau, missed part of the spring with a broken hand. Good thing the Beavers’ new defensive tackle tandem faces only one top-40 rushing team (San Diego State) in the first seven games.
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Let’s assume returning starting quarterback Keith Price will be better this season with more stability on the offensive line. The next major question in defensive tackle, particularly against the run. Shelton is a returning starter at tackle, but he hasn’t shown much consistency. The junior accounted for four tackles for a loss last season, half of them coming against USC.
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Arizona State’s wide receivers were barely a factor last season. Only one wide receiver was among the Sun Devils’ top four pass-catchers, and Rashad Ross is gone. That has to gnaw at Todd Graham, who’d like to run a more dynamic pass offense. Graham signed five receivers, but two junior college transfers — Strong and Joe Morris — need to contribute immediately if Arizona State is going to win the Pac-12 South.
Max Wittek or Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Few times in the last decade has USC had a legitimate quarterback competition. If Lane Kiffin has an inkling of which quarterback he’ll start, he’s not telling anyone. Wittek was Matt Barkley’s backup last year and started in his place late in the season, but Kessler outperformed Wittek during the spring. Someone will need to get the ball to elite receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor if the Trojans are going to have a chance at the division.
Malcolm Jones, RB, UCLA
Jones is the most interesting name in a group of running backs looking to replace Johnathan Franklin. Jones signed under Rick Neuheisel, left the program under Jim L. Mora and returned as a walk-on later in the season. In losses last season, UCLA averaged 3.7 yards per carry (down from 4.8 in wins) and 118 yards per game (down from 231.2 in wins).
The Oregon football uniforms are now the second-most garish thing about Oregon football. GoDucks.com released a slideshow for the Football Performance Center where the Ducks will move this season.
You know how Google or other Silicon Valley giants have over-the-top offices full of amenities? The Oregon Football Performance Center would make them blush.
Keep in mind, this facility was once reported to have a hot tub video room. After looking at the slideshow, we’re wondering why not.
This place needs a name, and we have some suggestions:
• Duckingham Palace
• The Battlestar Quacklactica
• The Knight House
• The Duck Star
• Castle Duckskull
• The Quack Mahal
• The Fortress of Duckitutde
• The Webbed Foot Locker
• The House Rich Brooks Built
• New Quack City
• The Neverland Pond
Among the key captions from Oregon's slideshow:
• The 145,000-square-foot facility features black glass to signify stealth and 40-foot cantilevers that illustrate the various building blocks necessary to build a successful program.
• Many of the high-profile trophies won by Oregon are housed in the lobby's trophy case. Others are featured elsewhere in the building. (Ed. note: You cannot find a Heisman here)
• The lobby's ring room is not to be missed, with LED lighting and 3D sound enhancing the presentation of Oregon's bowl and championship rings. (Ed. note: You cannot find a national championship trophy here)
• Yes, among the stalls in the locker room is one designated for 'Uncle Phil.'
• Just off the locker room is a barber shop, which will over on-site haircuts at student rates.
• Press conferences and postgame interviews will take place in a new media room that features theater-style seating, and four 'confessional' booths for one-on-one interactions.
• The War Room sits 22 around a grand table, has six 80-inch monitors and, like much of the rest of the facility, black magnetic walls that are also writable/erasable.
• The sixth-floor skybridge features a flock of ducks representing Oregon's NFL draftees, identified by their initials on each individual duck.
• Just inside the player lounge's outdoor deck are a pool table crafted in Portland and two foosball tables, each with one 11-player team in green and yellow and the other representing the rest of the Pac-12.
The difference between the SEC and other conferences, at least on the field, is often the play on the offensive and defensive lines. Recent national championship programs at Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida all had standout line play.
Then perhaps it’s no surprise that of the six players we’ve tabbed as pivotal to a conference or division title, five play offensive and defensive line. Three are pass rushers, one is a nose guard and one is an offensive tackle. Teams like Alabama, Georgia and LSU seem to be stocked in linemen every year, but there’s always an element of mystery when the new names take the field.
Some of our picks for pivotal players are obvious, such as Alabama’s offensive line, other are not — why does South Carolina need another defensive end? — but we feel all six are critical for a trip to Atlanta.
Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.
We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, the Big 12 and Pac-12. Now we turn our eye to the SEC.
Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
The Aggies must replace offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, and receiving mainstay Ryan Swope. But another major loss will be on the defensive side of the ball in Damontre Moore. Obioha started throughout the regular season opposite Moore before a back injury knocked him out of the bowl game. He isn’t the only question on A&M’s defensive front, but the Aggies need much more than his 1.5 tackles for a loss from last season. The 6-4, 255-pound sophomore from New Orleans will be put on the spot on Sept. 14 against the green Alabama offensive line.
Jermauria Rasco, DE, LSU
Rasco is the latest in an endless pool of elite defensive linemen in Baton Rouge. Names like Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are already getting thrown around in comparison to the junior from Shreveport. Three LSU defensive ends were drafted in the first five rounds last season, but Rasco is one of the reasons the SEC expects LSU to continue to field one of the league’s best defenses.
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Mike Gillislee is a major loss, but Matt Jones and others should give the Gators a productive ground game. Instead, we’ll focus on receiver. The Gators have had a drought at the position in recent seasons, failing to produce an all-league wideout in the last four years. Robinson, a freshman, is a sign of hope after an impressive spring practice. The Gators need someone to break out at receiver, and Robinson is the best candidate to come around so far.
Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama
Ryan Kelly (center) and Arie Kouandjio (left guard) have all but locked down vacant positions on the Tide’s offensive line, leaving right tackle as the most hotly contested position. Shepherd is a veteran backup, but he’s being pushed by junior college transfer Leon Brown.
Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina
South Carolina has bigger questions in the back end of its defense, but Jadeveon Clowney’s linemate may be the most important position on the field. Sutton replaces Devin Taylor, who had 18.5 career sacks. Sutton had three sacks last season, but if he can’t keep opponents honest, they’ll do everything they can to neutralize Clowney. Sutton, who had three sacks last season, may be the key if Clowney is going to flourish in 2013.
Mike Thornton, NT, Georgia
Georgia’s season could take a major swing based on the first two games against Clemson and South Carolina. In the Tigers and Gamecocks, Georgia faces two offensive lines that return every starter except their center. That puts the focus on the Bulldogs’ nose guard situation with John Jenkins. The Bulldogs expect a rotation at the position, but Thornton is the leading candidate despite being smaller than the other nose tackles on the roster (6-1, 302).
Rutgers will retire the jersey number of defensive lineman Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in 2010 while making a tackle. The school, which played in the first college football game in history in 1869, has never retired a number until now.
Rutgers will honor LeGrand by retiring his No. 52 during a ceremony at halftime during the Eastern Michigan game.
Scarlet Knights sports information director Jason Baum tweeted: “Once Eric walks again, his No. 52 will be issued again on special occasions.”
With one school claiming the top three returning scorers in the Big 12, the rest of the league will depend on newcomers to challenge Oklahoma State’s veteran roster.
Nowhere is that more clear than at Kansas where the Jayhawks’ outlook changed in an instant when super-freshman Andrew Wiggins signed to play for Bill Self. He’s not the only big-time newcomer going to Lawrence, but he might be the most important new face for any team in the country.
Beyond Kansas and Oklahoma State, the league’s two frontrunners, other teams are counting on transfers to keep them in NCAA contention (Iowa State) or to return them to the field after a rare one-year drought (West Virginia, Texas).
Our series has looked at the key transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury in the ACC and the American. Now we take a look at the new faces in the Big 12.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Before March 3, Kansas’ streak of nine seasons with at least a share of the Big 12 title was in question. After March 3, the Jayhawks became an instant top-10 contender with the signing of Wiggins. He’s the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he’s already predicted to be the next Kevin Durant in the college game. Like Durant, Wiggins is a long forward who can play all over the court. The bar is high — Durant averaged 25.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds in one season at Texas — but Wiggins can reach it.
DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Few teams have had more success in the transfer market than Iowa State. The Cyclones have added Royce White and Will Clyburn for NCAA Tournament runs, and now Iowa State adds Kane. Kane was a major recruit to sign with Marshall, but the Thundering Herd never made the NCAA Tournament despite Kane’s 15.6 points per game average in three seasons. The statsheet stuffer averaged 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, including seven helpers per game last season.
Tarik Black, Kansas
Black wasn’t the top player on a Memphis team that lost in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t make him any less of a coveted transfer after the season. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Tigers, but Kansas believes he can provide a physical presence for the Jayhawks’ frontcourt. After Kansas lost all five starters, Black's experience will be an asset.
Kenny Chery, Baylor
Junior college transfer
With center Isaiah Austin returning, Baylor’s biggest hole to fill was left by point guard Pierre Jackson. The Bears will fill it with Chery, a productive point guard from the junior college ranks. He averaged 16.4 points per game at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., but he’s going to have to be a distributor with Baylor’s talent in the frontcourt plus long-range shooter Brady Heslip.
Jonathan Holton, West Virginia
Junior college transfer
Bob Huggins will try his hand at another Atlantic 10 product in the frontcourt after La Salle’s Aaric Murray flamed out in Morgantown this past season. Holton averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds at Rhode Island in 2011-12 before going to junior college. In 2013-14, he could be West Virginia’s top player, but he also has off-court issues in his past. Holton pleaded no contest to charges of voyeurism in May and was placed on probation.
Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp and Joel Embiid, Kansas
Wiggins and Black were the latest additions to Kansas’ group of newcomers, but it would be foolish to overlook the rest of the No. 2 signing class in the country after Kentucky. Selden will see plenty of minutes with his ability to play point guard and shooting guard, especially if Naadir Tharpe can’t hold down the point. Embiid is raw but an outstanding shot-blocker, while Greene and Frankamp will give KU a presence from 3-point range.
Kendal Yancy-Harris, Texas
Texas is looking for any answer it can find after collapsing to 16-18 overall and 7-11 in the Big 12 last season. Yancy-Harris is ready to contribute immediately, but the Longhorns have not had the best recent track record with highly touted guards, from Avery Bradley to Cory Joseph to Myck Kabongo.
Karviar Shepherd, TCU
Shepherd's season was in limbo until the weekend, when he was declared academically eligible to play for the Frogs. The 6-10, 225-pound center is a top-100 recruit leading a freshman class the Frogs hope will turn around the program in the Big 12.
Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma
Spangler averaged only 6.6 minutes per game in his time at Gonzaga, but he’s being asked to fill the shoes of All-Big 12 performer Romero Osby with the Sooners. Osby has given Spangler, who starred in high school at Blanchard (Okla.) Bridge Creek, a resounding seal of approval.
Devin Williams, West Virginia
The Mountaineers' top signee comes from Huggins’ old stomping grounds in Cincinnati and could be a key building block as West Virginia tries to regain its footing in the Big 12. The 6-8 power forward also considered Ohio State and Memphis, but he could be a force in the paint for West Virginia as a rookie.
Amric Fields, TCU
Returning from injury
TCU is going to struggle, but the outlook is better with Shepherd and Fields available. TCU is looking to Fields to make a full recovery from a knee injury that knocked him out after the third week of the season. Before his injury, the 6-9, 220-pound Fields had played in 69 consecutive games, averaging 9.6 points per game as a sophomore.
Other new faces to watch:
Ishmael Wainright, Baylor
Baylor’s top recruit could fill a spot immediately on the wing. The Bears also added Denver transfer Royce O’Neal (11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg last season) to boost depth at small forward.
Stevie Clark, Oklahoma State
Clark may become a big-time scorer, but for now he’s backing up Marcus Smart at the point.
Gary Gaskins, Oklahoma State
Junior college transfer
The Cowboys have a handful of athletic forwards starting with Mike Cobbins and Kamari Murphy, but the 6-10 Gaskins will offer more help off the bench.
Trey Zeigler, TCU
The former top-100 recruit has bounced from Central Michigan to Pittsburgh to TCU.
Aaron Ross, Texas Tech
Redshirt freshman/returning from injury
The Red Raiders had to wait a year for one of their top prospects when Ross went down with a torn ACL last season. Ross is a 6-8, 235-pound forward with a nice outside shot.
Believe it or not, Louisville has not been crowned the American Athletic Conference champions quite yet.
The Cardinals are the presumptive favorite in the league and one of a handful teams in the country capable of going undefeated during the regular season. But Louisville does have holes. The Cards ranked last in the Big East in sacks and tackles for a loss last season, contributing to a run defense that ranked sixth.
Moreover, Louisville’s opponents don’t want to see the Cardinals win a league title in their final season in the league. A Sugar Bowl dismantling of Florida may have built momentum for Louisville for 2013, but many AAC opponents remember Louisville losing to Syracuse in convincing fashion and to bowl no-show Connecticut.
Our pivotal players for the American pinpoints a player Louisville needs to assert its dominance in the league, plus three other players other AAC contenders will need to step up in order to challenge Louisville.
Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.
We continue our look at pivotal players with the American after we profiled the ACC yesterday:
Ralph David Abernathy IV, RB, Cincinnati
Cincinnati made things work last season despite changing quarterbacks from Munchie Legaux to Brendon Kay largely because of workhorse back George Winn, who rushed for 1,334 yards on 243 carries last season. Abernathy is a about 60 pounds lighter than Winn, so expecting another 200 carries from him may be a bit optimistic. Still, Abernathy has been a multi-faceted offensive threat, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 69 attempts and 12.1 yards on 28 catches last season. Junior college transfers Rodriguez Moore and Hosey Williams will take some of the pressure off his workload at tailback, but Abernathy needs to be a breakaway threat.
Demetris Anderson, DT, UCF
UCF isthe only Conference USA import ready to compete for an American Athletic Conference title this season. And after Louisville’s Teddy Bridgwater, UCF’s Blake Bortles is the top quarterback in the league. UCF had one of the better defenses in Conference USA, but that unit returns only four starters. One of the key new faces will be the defensive tackle Anderson, who was recruited by Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois before grayshirting with the Knights.
Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers
A nationally prominent recruit in 2011 who elected to stay in New Jersey, Huggins has yet to break out with Rutgers. He’s shown flashes, most notably a 179-yard effort against Cincinnati last season, but Huggins has yet to play a full season. With Jawan Jamison gone, now is the time for Huggins to deliver on his potential.
Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, Louisville
The Cardinals had 19 sacks during the regular season and nine of those came in a two-game span against Pittsburgh and USF. They mustered only two in the losses against Syracuse and UConn. Even though Louisville loses standout cornerback Adrian Bushell, the pass rush and run defense has to be one of the most worrisome parts of the Cardinals team. Mauldin led the way up front on defense in the wins over Pitt and USF, so he’ll be closely watched in 2013.
Despite what coaches have said at media days in the last two weeks, not all position battles and breakout players are equal. Some will be more pressing than others.
That’s why Athlon Sports is taking a look at what we’re calling “pivotal players.” We took a look at teams that are a piece or two away from a conference or division title and the players those teams need to perform in order to win big.
Last season in the ACC we tabbed Florida State offensive tackle Cameron Erving as a pivotal player to the Seminoles’ ACC title hopes. Erving didn’t earn All-ACC honors, but he started all season for the conference championship-winning Seminoles.
We also picked Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland as a pivotal player for the Tigers, who needed to improve play on the back end of the defense. Breeland struggled with injuries, and Clemson shows up here again looking for someone to step up in a leaky secondary.
In other words, a pivotal player can go either way and be the difference in a title-winning season.
Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.
We begin our look at pivotal players with the ACC with other conferences to follow:
Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami
Chickillo’s sophomore slump wasn’t the only reason the Hurricanes slipped in sacks (from 2 per game to 1.1) and tackles for a loss (from 6.2 to 4.4). His fellow starting end didn’t have a sack all season. Still, Miami needs Chickillo to return to his form from his freshman season to contend for an ACC title. The 6-4, 269-pound defensive end led Miami with four sacks last season, which is a pretty clear indictment of the Hurricanes’ pass rush. As the the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, Chickillo had eight tackles for a loss and five sacks in 2011.
Trey Edmunds, RB, Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas didn’t play like the first-round draft pick he was projected to be, but the Hokies’ running game didn’t produce last season, either. The 3.7 yards per carry was their worst since 2007. With Michael Holmes dismissed, Virginia Tech’s numbers at a position of weakness are already down. The redshirt freshman Edmunds could solidify the position if he can improve ball security. He’s shown nice potential, and he has the frame at 6-1, 215 pounds to take a pounding. That’s good news since projected starter J.C. Coleman stands at 5-8, 177 pounds.
Caleb Peterson, OG, North Carolina
Left guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft, was the Tar Heels’ top offensive player last season. He’ll be replaced by a redshirt freshman in Peterson on a team that has aspirations of reaching the ACC title game. A strength last season, the Heels’ offensive line returns only two starters (left tackle James Hurst and center Russell Bodine). North Carolina has ample skill position talent, so Peterson’s development on the offensive line could be a key to the Heels’ success in the ACC.
Darius Robinson, CB, Clemson
Clemson’s pass defense was pressing issue before the 2012 season and never really got fixed, even though the Tigers went 11-2. Clemson allowed 7.3 yards per pass attempt (ninth in the ACC) and 23 touchdowns through the air (tied for eighth). Robinson missed the final six games last season, but he’ll be one of the Tigers’ DBs front and center in the opener against Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. If Robinson can’t solidify the Clemson secondary, the Tigers have promising freshman Mackensie Alexander waiting in the wings.
Darren Waller, WR, Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets would like to be able to take advantage of Vad Lee’s ability as a passer, but Georgia Tech needs a receiver to emerge. Waller has only eight career catches, but the 6-5, 228-pound receiver has a size and speed mix reminiscent of Damaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill.
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Expectations for the redshirt freshman Winston are already high for Winston, who is slated to be Florida State’s first rookie starting quarterback since Drew Weatherford in 2005. FSU’s skill talent on offense hasn’t been bad — the last two Seminoles starting quarterbacks were first-round draft picks — but the Noles haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn, a first-team All-ACC receiver since Craphonso Thorpe or a first-team All-ACC quarterback since Chris Weinke. That's a crazy drought for a Florida State team used to swimming in top talent. Winston, the freshman at quarterback from Hueytown (Ala.), is the key to Florida State’s long-term plans, but he’ll be put on the spot early when he tries to keep up with Clemson’s high-powered offense on the road on Oct. 19.
Most coaches would envy Rick Pitino. Louisville won the national championship and returns every key player other than Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng. Those are major losses, for sure, but the Cardinals may start the season ranked in the top three.
The determining factor in Louisville’s ability to repeat may be a handful of new key players. Junior college transfer Chris Jones takes over Siva’s point guard spot. Freshman Terry Rozier will bolster backcourt depth. Redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang isn’t the veteran Dieng was, but he could be a solid shotblocker.
The Cardinals will be the overwhelming favorite in the first season of the American, but how newcomers perform elsewhere in the conference may determine how much the other teams in the league challenge Louisville. Memphis, as usual, has highly touted freshmen. So does Connecticut. SMU has a slew of transfers ready to make the Mustangs relevant.
Our series on new faces started earlier this week with the ACC. We continue today with the American.
Chris Jones, Louisville
Junior college transfer
Few newcomers have bigger shoes to fill. Point guard Peyton Siva is one of the few departures from the national title winners, and more than that, he was one of Rick Pitino’s all-time favorite players. Jones was a junior college All-American who committed to Tennessee out of high school but took a detour since then. He’s a relentless defender who will be a good fit in the Cardinals’ press.
Terry Rozier, Louisville
Freshman (Hargrave Military Academy)
Another addition to the Louisville backcourt, Rozier adds a scoring touch with his ability to attack the rim. That was pretty evident in January when Rozier scored a Hargrave-record 68 points in a double-overtime game on 19-of-37 shooting and 22-of-24 free throws.
Jermaine Lawrence, Cincinnati
Cincinnati scored fewer than half its points from 2-point range last season (49.6 percent, ranked 247th nationally). Adding the 6-9 power forward Lawrence, a top-25 recruit, should help the Bearcats in the low post. From Sparta, N.J., Lawrence is another big-time prospect Mick Cronin has pulled from the New York/New Jersey area, joining Lance Stephenson and Sean Kilpatrick.
Austin Nichols, Memphis
With Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson and Shaq Goodwin, Memphis has a strong backcourt despite a pair of player transfers and an NBA Draft early entry. Memphis needs Nichols, the Tigers’ top recruit and a local product from Briarcrest Christian, to step into the frontcourt right away. The Tigers also signed two other 6-9 top-50 forwards Kuran Iverson and Dominic Woodson.
Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah, Connecticut
The Huskies got little production out of their frontcourt last season, so this pair of freshman will have the opportunity to push veterans DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander. Facey is a good rebounder while Brimah is a lanky shot-blocker.
Lasan Kromah, Connecticut
George Washington transfer
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright return to lead the UConn backcourt, but adding Kromah gives the Huskies some nice depth on the perimeter. Kromah averaged 11 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in three seasons at George Washington.
Keith Frazier, SMU
SMU has decided it’s serious about basketball, hiring Larry Brown, renovating its arena and signing a local McDonald’s All-American in Frazier. On a team that returns all five starters, the 6-5 shooting guard Frazier could end up the top scorer on a team that hopes to make a splash in its first season in the American Athletic Conference.
Nic Moore, SMU
Illinois State transfer
Moore followed his coach at Illinois State, SMU’s head coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich, to Dallas. The Mustangs didn’t have a true point guard last season — SMU ranked 11th in Conference USA in assist-to-turnover ratio — so Moore will have a chance to take over point guard duties immediately. Moore had a 1.71 assist-to-turnover ratio and 135 assists as a freshman at Illinois State in 2011-12.
Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, Houston
Ineligible last season
Knowles was the rare top-100 recruit to sign at Houston, but the 6-10 power forward was ineligible last season. Houston is also hoping former Baylor guard L.J. Rose will receive a waiver to be eligible immediately. If both are ready to play this season, Houston will be competitive in its new league. Without them, Houston went 7-9 in a bad Conference USA — and that was before leading scorer Joseph Young transferred.
Josh Brown, Temple
Brown, a graduate of the St. Anthony program coached by the legendary Bob Hurley, committed twice to Temple, both before and after his junior season breakout. He could be the Owls' best perimeter scorer only a year after Temple lost the backcourt duo of Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo.
Greg Lewis, Rutgers
Rutgers has brought in a handful of transfers to help ease the roster turnover from the Mike Rice era, but Kerwin Okoro (Iowa State) and J.J. Moore (Pittsburgh) are still seeking immediate eligibility. Lewis is a big body at 6-9, 240 pounds who missed last season with a knee injury.
Others of Note
John Egbunu, USF
The Bulls signed Egbunu, a top-100 center, but coach Stan Heath may sweat a bit. USF is pushing back his enrollment a semester as an academic precaution.
Yanic Moreira and Markus Kennedy, SMU
Moreira transferred from junior college and Kennedy transferred from Villanova to bolster SMU’s frontcourt.
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
Cashmere Wright was a fixture at point guard for Cincinnati, and now the Bearcats turn to a freshman to run the position. He’ll have every chance to take over there to set up Sean Kilpatrick.
Mangok Mathiang, Louisville
The 6-10 center still needs to develop offensively, but he’s ready to contribute now as a shotblocker.
Mark Williams, Temple
The Owls are doing some major rebuilding in the frontcourt, so the 6-8, 230-pound Williams will play immediately. He’ll be a big body inside.
Nothing swings a season in college football like a close game.
Every time a national championship contender wins by a touchdown or a field goal over a lesser opponent, like clockwork the talking heads say every champion has a game like that through the season, mainly because it’s true. Notre Dame had five of them leading into the national championship game. Alabama gutted out wins over LSU and Georgia and lost a close one to Texas A&M.
On the other side, a sure-fire way to lose a job as a head coach is to lose a string of close games. Jeff Tedford’s Cal teams lost five games decided by one score in a row. Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson finished his tenure going 3-13 in one-score games over his final four seasons. Skip Holtz lost eight of his last 10 at USF before being shown the door.
Indeed, the heartbreaking loss or out-of-nowhere upset make up the fabric of college football. They influence athletic directors’ decision-making and fan and perception. Here, though, are the raw numbers. We decided to look at every major conference program, their coaches and how they’ve fared in close games over the last five seasons.
A few things to consider:
1. Close games are considered to be one-score games (i.e. games decided by eight points or fewer).
2. Unless noted, all records are from the last five seasons (since 2008).
3. Our research focused on teams in the six major conferences and active coaches at those programs.
4. We didn’t spend much time considering why the game was close — did a lesser team put a scare in a more highly ranked team? Did an elite team play down to an opponent? Over the span of five seasons, these close games more or less balanced out.
Here’s what we learned:
|BEST WIN PERCENTAGE|
|1. Kansas State||19-5||.792|
|T4. Oklahoma State||10-5||.667|
|T4. Penn State||8-4||.667|
|WORST WIN PERCENTAGE|
|1. Arizona State||4-15||.211|
|2. Ole Miss||4-13||.235|
|FEWEST CLOSE GAMES|
|MOST CLOSE GAMES|
|MOST CLOSE WINS|
|MOST CLOSE LOSSES|
|ACTIVE COACHES (min. 10 games)|
|1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State||17-4||.810|
|2. Brian Kelly, Cincy/Notre Dame||19-5||.791|
|3. David Shaw, Stanford||10-3||.769|
|4. Dave Doeren, NIU/NC State||9-3||.750|
|5. Kyle Whittingham, Utah||14-5||.737|
|6. Urban Meyer, Florida/Ohio State||8-3||.727|
|T7. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU||14-6||.700|
|T7. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia||7-3||.700|
|9. Les Miles, LSU||19-9||.679|
|T10. Steve Sarkisian, Washington||12-6||.667|
|T10. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State||10-5||.667|
|T10. Nick Saban, Alabama||8-4||.667|
|WORST WIN PERCENTAGE|
|1. Kevin Wilson, Indiana||2-8||.200|
|2. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame/Kansas||7-14||.333|
|3. George O'Leary, UCF||9-16||.360|
|4. David Cutcliffe, Duke||8-14||.364|
|5. Jerry Kill, NIU/Minnesota||11-16||.407|
|6. Todd Graham, Tulsa/Pitt/ASU||9-13||.409|
|7. Brady Hoke, Ball St/SDSU/Michigan||7-10||.412|
|T8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa||12-16||.429|
|T8. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest||12-16||.429|
|T8. Paul Pasqualoni, UConn||4-8||.429|
• Brian Kelly’s 4-0 record in one-score games at Notre Dame last season was no fluke. The Notre Dame coach is 19-5 in games decided by eight points or less in the last five seasons, dating to his days at Cincinnati. And once Kelly is entrenched, the better success rate he has. Notre Dame has won eight of its last nine one-score games, and Cincinnati won nine in a row before Kelly left for South Bend.
• At what point should Lucky Les Miles shed the “lucky” tag? There has to be a skill to winning close games, right? LSU is 19-9 in one-score games in the last five seasons. Miles’ 11-4 mark in 2009-10 alone included more close games than Alabama has played in five seasons (8-4). The opponent who has played LSU the closest hasn’t been Alabama or Auburn as one might expect: LSU has split its four one-score games against Arkansas the last five years.
• Kansas State’s record in close games is staggering. The Wildcats are 19-5 in one-score games in the last five seasons for a 79.2 win percentage, by far the best in the major conferences. Kansas State has gone 17-4 in those games under Bill Snyder. But the Collin Klein era was another level: With Klein as the starting quarterback in 2011-12, Kansas State went 10-1 in one-score games.
• Arizona State is the anti-Kansas State. The Sun Devils are 4-15 in one-score games over the last five seasons. Dennis Erickson may have won two national titles at Miami, but he was 3-13 in close games in his final four seasons at Arizona State. That was more than enough to cost Erickson his job. The Sun Devils hired Todd Graham, whose record is a bit better, but not great: 9-13 in the last five seasons at Tulsa, Pittsburgh at ASU.
• The biggest surprise among teams on the right side of the ledger in close games is Utah. Aside from K-State, the Utes are the only other team to win more than 70 percent of their one-score games. Utah is 14-5 in close games the last five seasons, doing most of that damage as a Mountain West member at 10-2.
• Jim Harbaugh built Stanford into a contender, but David Shaw knows how to win the tight games. Shaw is 10-3 in one-score games as the Stanford coach; Harbaugh finished his tenure on a 6-7 note.
• Washington fans may be getting bored with seven win seasons, but Steve Sarkisian is winning when his back is against he wall. The Huskies won 10 one-score games before back-to-back losses to end the 2012 season (31-29 to Washington State, 28-26 to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl).
• Looking for another Brian Kelly, whose close game turnaround indicates a big season? Try Al Golden and Charlie Strong. In his final three seasons at Temple, Golden in close games went 2-5, 3-1 and 4-1. In that case, the last two seasons should be a bellwether for Golden at Miami. The Hurricanes went 2-6 in close games in 2011 and 3-2 in 2012. Meanwhile, Louisville went 5-11 under Strong in such games early. The Cardinals went 6-1 with their backs against the wall last season.
• If you’re looking for other teams trending in the right direction, Florida has won five of six one-score games dating back to the 2011 Gator Bowl against Ohio State. And further illustrating the point that opponents in close games even themselves out, two of those close games in 2012 were against Texas A&M and LSU; the others were Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette. Another impressive turnaround has been Nebraska: The Huskers went 5-10 in close games in the first four seasons under Bo Pelini before going 4-1 last year.
• Wisconsin is 14-14 overall in close games in the last five seasons, but the Badgers have lost 10 of 13 dating back to the 2011 Rose Bowl against TCU. Wisconsin, though, hired a coach in Gary Andersen who won eight of his last 10 one-score games at Utah State, one of those loses coming in Camp Randall.
• Michigan State and Iowa get the most attention for playing close games in the Big Ten. But they don’t play the most, and they don’t have the best success rate. That belongs to Northwestern, which is 19-16 in one-score games the last five seasons (albeit 0-3 in bowl games). Michigan State is 16-11, padded by an 8-1 mark in 2011. Iowa is 12-16 with a 6-12 mark the last three seasons.
• Bob Stoops is taking his lumps at Oklahoma, but the Sooners are 11-4 in one-score games since the 2009 Sun Bowl win over Stanford.
• Let’s give credit to Dabo Swinney for being able to avoid the heartbreakers. Tommy Bowden finished on a 1-7 skid in one-score games at Clemson. Swinney has won has last five one-score games.
• TCU is a strange case, aided by the Horned Frogs defensive dominance of the Mountain West. The Frogs have played only 16 one-score games in the last five seasons. Five have come in bowl games (TCU is 3-2), six came in the first year in the Big 12 (3-3).
• BYU is 14-6 in close games, which is mighty impressive. But consider that Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars won 14 consecutive one score games from 2007-10.
• New Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz is a strange case. He went 10-4 in one-score games in his last two seasons at East Carolina in 2008-09. Then, he won six of his first nine close games at USF. But the Bulls squandered second-half lead after second-half lead to lose eight of their last 10 close games in 2011-12. That skid doomed Holtz at USF, but he’s still 18-15 overall in one-score games in the last five seasons.
• With its triple option offense, it’s not shocking Navy has played more close games than most, going 18-12 under Ken Niumatalolo in those games. Niumatololo’s predecessor, Paul Johnson, has gone 15-12 in one-score games at Georgia Tech, also running the option.
The ACC will be defined by new faces more than most: Primarily the arrival of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame for 2013-14.
Beyond the arrival of one basketball power and two consistent Big East programs, the ACC will have a handful of key new players who could determine the league race in the upcoming season.
Freshmen, transfers, redshirted players and key guys returning from injury can define a season. Today, we start our series highlighting the impact new faces for each league, starting with the ACC.
Fans didn’t see a much from these players this past season, if they saw anything at all. In 2013-14, they could define a season.
Rodney Hood, Duke
Mississippi State transfer
Hood will be one of two forwards asked to fill a handful of spots on the court. The 6-8 sophomore displayed his versatility as a freshman at Mississippi State, where he averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists before the coaching change. Hood suffered an Achilles injury before the World University Games, but he’s expected to be healthy enough to contribute at shooting guard and both forward spots when he’s back.
Jabari Parker and Semi Ojeleye, Duke
Duke signed an outstanding freshman duo that will keep the Blue Devils in national title contention. Parker is a 6-8 forward who will be one of the top freshmen in the ACC. He’s unselfish, versatile and will be a good complement for the lankier Hood in the frontcourt. Ojeleye is a good defender and rebounder.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
With Michael Carter-Williams gone, Ennis is one of two point guards on the roster, both freshmen. That’s a tough proposition for a Syracuse team heading into its first season in the ACC, but Ennis was the leading scorer for Canada in the Under-19 World Championships.
Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina
North Carolina didn’t start to put its season together until the Tar Heels went to a four-guard lineup into ACC play. After the frontcourt struggled last season, North Carolina added the league’s top freshman power forward (Hicks) and center (Meeks). Adding the 6-9 Hicks and 6-10 Meeks could enable James Michael McAdoo to play in a comfort zone on the perimeter. In other words, don’t expect North Carolina to rely on the small lineup anymore: With Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland gone and P.J. Hairston’s status uncertain, North Carolina will have six players at 6-8 or taller.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
Rathan-Mayes is a friend of super freshman Andrew Wiggins, but that wasn’t enough to lure Wiggins to Florida State. Still, expect Rathan-Mayes to play a major role as a rookie. Michael Snaer is gone, so Florida State is looking for the scoring lift Rathan-Mayes can provide.
Anthony Gill, Virginia
South Carolina transfer
Gill averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman at South Carolina before leaving when Frank Martin took over. He had his fair share of suitors when he transferred, and the year away from game action has appeared to give Gill a chance to refine his skills. Virginia just missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago, so adding the 6-8, 231-pound forward to the top five returning scorers from this past season should put the Cavs in the top half of the ACC.
Angel Rodriguez, Miami
Kansas State transfer (pending NCAA waiver)
Miami loses nearly every key player from last year’s ACC championship season, not least of which was point guard Shane Larkin. Rodriguez will help to fill the void — if he is granted immediate eligibility —after his transfer from Kansas State. Rodriguez went to high school in Miami and wanted to be closer to ailing family members in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 assists for a Wildcats team that tied for the Big 12 lead this past season.
Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
Gbinije’s had a little trouble finding a home. He started at Duke, where the Blue Devils experimented with him at small forward. And at Syracuse during his redshirt year, he tinkered with playing point guard. Practicing at those positions has given him versatility, but he’s probably going to find a home at shooting guard in a new starting backcourt for the Orange.
Mike Young and Detrick Mostella, Pittsburgh
Picking even highly rated freshmen to make major impacts as rookies at Pittsburgh is a tricky proposition (see: Adams, Steve). Young, the top signee in the class, will step in for Adams in the interior. Mostella was a late addition to the class who could end up being a big-time outside shooter.
Cat Barber, NC State
Mark Gottfried has signed McDonald’s All-Americans before, but that (along with a Sweet 16 appearance) only raised expectations the Wolfpack failed to meet. Projections for Barber will be more tempered as he tries to take over the point guard spot.
Roddy Peters, Maryland
The Terrapins’ point guard rotation of Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard produced meager results last year. Maryland ranked 10th in the ACC for assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games last season. Howard is gone, meaning Allen and Peters will man the point, but the freshman missed the second half of his senior year at District Heights (Md.) Suitland with a shoulder injury.
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Brad Brownell’s top signee last season missed all of his freshman year due to a slow recovery from compound leg fracture in May. The 6-7 forward has had two procedures on his leg, so his progress will be watched closely.
Adam Smith, Virginia Tech
UNC Wilmington transfer
A 6-1 guard, Smith averaged 13.7 points per game at UNC Wilmington in 2011-12. Virginia Tech is counting on him to be one of their top scorers, which is probably an indication of how things are going to go for the Hokies this season.
Andre Dawkins, Duke
Dawkins will give Duke a perimeter presence after averaging 8.2 points per game and shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore and junior. He also came of the bench for the 2010 title team. Dawkins, whose sister died in a car accident in 2009, announced in April he is ready to rejoin the team.
Ralston Turner, NC State
Turner averaged 11.2 points per game in two seasons at LSU and will be expected to provide outside shooting on a rebuilding NC State team. Turner, however, shot 36.9 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from 3-point range with the Tigers.
Evan Smotrycz, Maryland
As one would expect from a Michigan signee under John Beilein, Smotrycz is a 6-9 forward who can stretch the floor.
Coron Williams, Wake Forest
Robert Morris transfer
Wake Forest did enough with a 6-12 ACC season to show progress under Jeff Bzdelik, but the heat is still on. Williams is a sharp-shooting 3-point specialist who joins a team that returns the bulk of its key players.
Trae Golden, Georgia Tech
Tennessee transfer (pending NCAA waiver)
Golden announced Saturday he’d return home to Atlanta be closer to his ailing father. He’s seeking an NCAA hardship waiver to play immediately, which would be a boon to Georgia Tech’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Yellow Jackets already return Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter in the frontcourt. Golden was a streaky player last season, who averaged 12.1 points per game.
Senior Day at Kansas must be pretty awkward.
At 1-11 overall in 2012 and riding a 21-game Big 12 losing streak, Kansas isn’t fooling anyone with its place in the college football world.
Coach Charlie Weis isn’t even trying to sugarcoat it on the recruiting trail. Asked for his pitch to high school juniors and seniors, Weis summed it up thusly:
“I said, have you looked at that pile of crap out there?” Weis told reporters. “Have you taken a look at that? So if you don't think you can play here, where do you think you can play? It's a pretty simple approach.”
Before that blunt assessment of his roster, Weis noted the other part of the Kansas pitch — “a great school here, great education, great academic support ... a great strength coach. My trainer is topnotch. All the facilities are on par with everyone else.”
And by Weis’ admission, early playing time is there for the taking.
Naturally, Weis’ candor played well on Twitter. Matt Hinton, a blogger with CBSSports.com, poked fun at one of Weis’ predecessors. Kansas coach Mark Mangino was fired in 2009 amid allegations of mistreatment and verbal abuse of players and staff. Mangino is now an assistant at Youngstown State.
Mangino later Tweeted he understood the joke, "Ok then I accept the tweet as sarcasm! Lol!"
Other gems from the most entertaining media day session with Weis:
Q. Did you take anything positive out of the near-upset of Texas last year?
A. Here’s the thing I took: I was happy for Mack. I was miserable for me. So, no, I took nothing positive for it.
Q. What did you do to shore up the kicking game?
A. Change the kicker. That was a pretty easy one. Thank you.
From the Fun ‘n’ Gun to the Beef ‘n Cheddar, it seems.
Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina contingent stopped at a fast food restaurant on the way back from SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. Thanks to Jadeveon Clowney, we know it happened.
Thanks to Arby’s Twitter account, we know it was an Arby’s.
The EA Sports NCAA Football franchise will end with this season’s edition.
Facing ongoing litigation as a result of the Ed O’Bannon class action lawsuit, the NCAA announced Wednesday it would not renew its contract with EA Sports. The contract expires in June 2014.
NCAA Football 2014 will be the last to include the NCAA’s name and logo, the press release indicates. The end of the contract does not necessarily mean the end a college football video game utilizing school names and mascots, however.
“Member colleges and universities license their own trademarks and other intellectual property for the video game,” the NCAA says. “They will have to independently decide whether to continue those business arrangements in the future.”
The NCAA, EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Committee are co-defendants in a class action lawsuit stating the NCAA Football video games violate antitrust laws by essentially requiring athletes to release their likeness rights for perpetuity.
The end of the contract means, in theory, the CLC, which represents nearly 200 universities, or schools/conferences individually could sign a new contract for a college football video game with EA Sports that does not include the NCAA name or logo.
In mid-March, Mitch McGary and Montrezl Harrell were a pair of freshmen still working through their rookie seasons.
By April 8, they were key big men in the national championship game.
The fortunes for McGary and Harrell took abrupt turns once tournament season began, raising the bar for their sophomore years. In 2013-14, Michigan and Louisville will expect more of what McGary and Harrell delivered during the postseason. The breakout last year will need to become the norm starting in November.
Beyond McGary and Harrell, we’ve pinpointed 10 other highly regarded sophomores who need to break out in 2013-14.
Some, like Kansas’ Perry Ellis, showed flashes of potential a year ago. Others like Indiana’s Jeremy Hollowell and Syracuse’s Jerami Grant played on loaded teams that could afford to allow their star recruits to gain some seasoning on the bench.
In general, we’ve picked 12 sophomores who were not full-time players a year ago as freshmen who will need to become impact, all-conference players as sophomores.
12 SOPHOMORES ON THE SPOT IN 2013-14
Mitch McGary, Michigan
As a freshman: 39 games, eight starts, 19.7 minutes per game, 7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Outlook: How is McGary going to top his production during the NCAA Tournament, when he became the MVP of a team that included the national player of the year? After a pedestrian freshman regular season, McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds as the Wolverines reached the national title game. With Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway gone, he may be expected to average close to that as a sophomore.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
As a freshman: 40 games, three starts, 16.2 minutes per game, 5.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Outlook: Harrell had the “where did that come from” moment of the Big East Tournament when he had 20 points and seven rebounds in the championship game against Syracuse. In the three games leading up to the game against Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, he was a combined 5 of 12 from the field. He went 7 of 13 against the Orange alone. With all of the returning pieces back from the national champions, Louisville doesn’t need that kind of production from Harrell, but he is moving to center to replace first-round NBA Draft pick Gorgui Dieng. At 6-8 and 235 pounds, though, Harrell may be undersized for the move.
Perry Ellis, Kansas
As a freshman: 37 games, three starts, 13.6 minutes per game, 5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Outlook: With the entire starting five gone, Ellis suddenly is a grizzled veteran. Freshman Andrew Wiggins will be the focal point and could have a Kevin Durant-like impact, but Ellis is a key cog. Ellis was a decorated local player at Wichita (Kan.) Heights expecting to make an impact on a senior-laden team, but he struggled on both sides of the court through most of his freshman season. He was a non-factor for stretches during Big 12 season before busting out for 23 points against Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. If Wiggins is a superstar from Day One as predicted, the Jayhawks still need the athletic 6-8 forward to give more than 5.8 points per game against Big 12 competition.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
As a freshman: 29 games, 14 starts, 23.6 minutes per game, 8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Outlook: Cauley-Stein has more experience than most of the names on this list, primarily because he took a larger role when Nerlens Noel was lost for the season. Cauley-Stein, who averaged 10.2 points and 8.4 rebounds over the final eight games with Noel out, will be one of the few veterans on a team that lacked them last season.
Jeremy Hollowell, Indiana
As a freshman: 33 games, 0 starts, 9.7 minutes per game, 2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Outlook: All eyes will be on the point guard Yogi Ferrell — the only returning starter — and the incoming freshman Noah Vonleh. But Hollowell has a chance to lead the Hoosiers in scoring. The 6-foot-8 forward can shoot the 3 and drive to the basket. He’ll also take a bit of pressure off Ferrell with his passing ability.
Jerami Grant, Syracuse
As a freshman: 40 games, nine starts, 14.3 minutes per game, 3.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Outlook: Syracuse has a proven track record of letting long and athletic frontcourt players take a year or two to develop before breaking out as sophomores and juniors — think of C.J. Fair and James Southerland. Grant flourished (8.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) when Southerland was suspended midseason, but Syracuse will expect that and more from Grant this year. Also fitting into the sophomore on-the-spot category for Syracuse is center Dajuan Coleman, whose playing time diminished after a midseason knee injury.
Winston Shepard, San Diego State
As a freshman: 31 games, two starts, 20.3 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Outlook: The top recruit in school history looked more like a long-term project last season than the last big-time recruit San Diego State signed, Kawhi Leonard. The Aztecs add a double-double threat in Josh Davis, a transfer from Tulane. But they also need someone to replace the stat-sheet-stuffing versatility of Jamaal Franklin, who led the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. As a recruit, Shepard looked like the kind of player who could offer that skill set. As a freshman, Shepard shot only 42.7 percent from inside the arc.
Shaquille Cleare, Maryland
As a freshman: 37 games, eight starts, 12 minutes per game, 3.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Outlook: The presence of Alex Len meant Cleare was expendable as a freshman. That won’t be the case with Cleare a sophomore and Len off to the NBA Draft as the No. 5 overall pick. The 6-9 Cleare won’t match Len’s height, but Mark Turgeon has been impressed with Cleare’s ability to shed 15-20 pounds during the offseason.
Kris Dunn, Providence
As a freshman: 25 games, 18 starts, 27.2 minutes per game, 5.7 ppg, 3.1 apg
Outlook: Dunn was part of a one-two punch Providence coach Ed Cooley signed out of the class of 2012. Ricky Ledo never played for the Friars, sitting out as a partial qualifier before going to the the NBA Draft. Dunn played a limited role behind Vincent Council last season, but he’ll run the point for a team hoping to reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2004.
Kellen Dunham, Butler
As a freshman: 35 games, 13 starts, 26.1 minutes per game, 9.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg
Outlook: Rotnei Clarke helped return Butler to the NCAA Tournament after his transfer from Arkansas. Dunham, a major recruit for the Bulldogs, was Butler’s second-best shooter from long range last season by a wide margin behind Clarke. If he’s going to shoot at a high volume, he’ll have to do better than 34.5 percent from 3-point range and 37.5 overall from the field.
Ron Baker, Wichita State
As a freshman: 18 games, 15 starts, 26.1 minutes per game, 8.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Outlook: For all intents and purposes, Baker was a full-time starter for Wichita State, but the guard missed 21 games of his redshirt freshman season with a stress fracture in his right foot. He gave Wichita State the 3-point threat it needed during the Shockers’ Final Four run, shooting 4 of 6 from long range in the upset of No. 1 seed Gonzaga. If Baker can stay healthy, he’ll be part of a new-look sophomore backcourt with Fred VanVleet (4.3 ppg last season) running the point.
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga
As a freshman: 34 games, one start, 10.7 minutes per game, 5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Outlook: It’s probably a little much to expect Karnowski to take a jump like Kelly Olynyk did last season. Olynyk went from 5.8 points and 13.5 minutes in 2010-11 to 17.8 points and 26.4 minutes after a redshirt season. Still, Gonzaga likes the development of its 7-foot-1 Polish center.
Alabama’s trophy case is getting full. Come to think of it, most of the teams that have won national championships in recent years are doubling and tripling up on title trophies and then some.
The last time a team won a national championship for the first time in program history was 1996 when Florida defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
Oregon came close to its first national championship in 2010. Stanford is right there, too. Boise State has gone undefeated. And that Ol’ Ball Coach from Florida has good reason to think national title again, this time at South Carolina.
Alabama is a unanimous preseason pick to win the national championship, its third in four seasons. But what if a new face usurps the Crimson Tide? Which program could it be?
We’ve ranked 10 schools in the likelihood of the program’s ability to win a national title in the next five to 10 seasons, based on recruiting, coaching, resources and program trajectory.
For sake of consistency, we looked only at programs that have not won an Associated Press, coaches’ poll or BCS title since the AP poll began in 1936.
WHICH PROGRAM IS CLOSEST TO ITS FIRST NATIONAL TITLE?
Record since 1936: 425-278-18 (.529)
Closest call: Lost to Auburn in the 2010 BCS Championship Game
A dormant program before Rich Brooks took Oregon to the Rose Bowl in 1994, Oregon has been knocking on the door for its first national title, losing 22-19 to Auburn in the BCS Championship Game in 2010. Auburn’s fortunate call on a run by Michael Dyer in the fourth quarter wasn’t the only time luck went against the Ducks. Oregon was ranked second in the AP and coaches’ polls after the 2001 regular season, but the BCS' computer average and strength of schedule components put No. 2 Nebraska into the Rose Bowl for the title against Miami. The 2007 team was ranked as high No. 2 in the BCS standings until quarterback Dennis Dixon suffered a torn ACL. Each coach since Brooks has kept Oregon in the national title conversation. That bodes well first year-coach Mark Helfrich, who has a title contender in 2013. Especially with minimal sanctions from the NCAA in the Willie Lyles case, the infrastructure is strong for Oregon to win its first title.
Record since 1936: 401-380-22 (.513)
Closest call: No. 4 in the final BCS standings in 2010 and 2011
The thought of Stanford competing for a national championship would have been far-fetched before 2010. Even Ty Willingham’s Rose Bowl team in 1999 finished the regular season 8-3. Few programs have changed their spot in the college football world as dramatically as Stanford in the last five years. David Shaw signed a top-10 recruiting class in 2012 and followed that with a quality-not-quantity 12-man class in 2013. Jim Harbaugh and Shaw proved Stanford can compete for titles despite stringent academic standards.
3. South Carolina
Record since 1936: 406-399-26 (.504)
Closest call: Started 9-0 and ranked as high as No. 2 in 1984, finished 10-2
Under Steve Spurrier, South Carolina has shaken itself out of mediocrity to become a power in the SEC East. The fan support and commitment has been there, but not the football results. Now that both are lockstep, South Carolina can enter the national picture. On top of keeping prospects like Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore in state, South Carolina has been able to recruit into Georgia (to the detriment of Tennessee). Now, all South Carolina needs to do is defeat Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M in the SEC Championship Game.
4. Oklahoma State
Record since 1936: 412-404-22 (.505)
Closest call: Reached No. 2 in the BCS standings in 2011 before a mid-November lost to Iowa State
Before 2011, Oklahoma State hadn’t even won an outright conference title since 1926, so a national conference championship has been out of the question for decades. Thanks to an influx of money from T. Boone Pickens plus stadium and facility upgrades, Oklahoma State looks like a power program. Thanks to recruiting inroads in Texas, Oklahoma State has the talent of a Big 12 power. And thanks to Mike Gundy’s magic touch with hiring offensive coordinators, Oklahoma State has a clear identity. Gundy’s flirtations with Tennessee this offseason, plus any signs of Texas reasserting itself, have to make Oklahoma State fans nervous, however.
Record since 1936: 411-353-12 (.537)
Closest call: A 12-1 season in 2006, the only loss by a field goal to Rutgers
With a men’s basketball team winning the national title, the women’s basketball team playing in the championship game and the baseball team reaching the College World Series, Louisville is having the multi-sport success programs like Ohio State, Florida and Texas usually have. The football program is no exception, entering the 2013 season in the top 10 following a Sugar Bowl rout of Florida. A stadium expansion and robust infrastructure built by athletic director Tom Jurich will keep Louisville an attractive destination for coaches and recruits. And if Charlie Strong stays through his contract extension into 2020, the Cardinals will have one of the nation’s top coaches for years to come. Thanks to a move to the ACC next season, conference alignment shouldn’t be as significant a barrier.
Record since 1936: 419-375-27 (.527)
Closest call: Finished the 1962 season ranked No. 2 before a Rose Bowl loss
Under normal circumstances, we might be tempted to say Wisconsin’s national title window has closed. Bret Bielema, the coach who led the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowls, left for a middle-tier SEC job at Arkansas. Meanwhile, Michigan and Ohio State are poised to be the Big Ten’s one-two punch once again. Gary Andersen, though, could be a slam-dunk hire after he turned Utah State into a back-to-back bowl team and conference champion. Regardless of what’s going on in Columbus or Ann Arbor, Wisconsin should be able to corner the market on offensive line talent, which is always a good championship foundation.
7. Boise State
Record since 1936: 254-72-2 (.777)
Closest call: Started 10-0 in 2010 before losing 34-31 in overtime to Nevada, finished 11-1
Boise State has finished undefeated twice since 2006 but has never finished a season ranked higher than fourth in the AP poll. In 2013, the Broncos are gearing up for potentially a third BCS appearance. Still, perhaps no program will be more happy to see the College Football Playoff arrive than Boise State, assuming the four playoff spots don’t exclusively go to major-conference programs. Regardless, Boise State will need to continue to unearth prospects and focus on superior player development in recruiting to be able to compete with other national powers. The biggest detriment to Boise State’s title hopes may not be the BCS or the Playoff, but the potential departure of Chris Petersen.
8. Virginia Tech
Record since 1936: 473-335-21
Closest call: Lost to Florida State in the national title game following the 1999 season
Virginia Tech won at least 10 games each season from 2004-11, but the Hokies never got closer than when Michael Vick was on campus in 1999 and 2000. Now, there are questions about Virginia Tech's momentum. This will be a telling season for Virginia Tech’s hopes in the next few years as the Hokies recover from a 7-6 season. The next big test will be the retirement of Frank Beamer, the only coach who has won consistently in Blacksburg.
9. Ole Miss
Record since 1936: 479-338-20
Closest call: Ranked No. 2 in the AP poll and finished 10-0-1 in 1960
Ole Miss finished in the top three of the AP poll three times from 1959-62 and was picked No. 1 by the Football Writers Association of America in 1960. The departure of John Vaught brought mediocrity. The Rebels have ample in-state talent to lay the foundation of a title-winning team, but they need to recruit on par with teams like Alabama and LSU just to get out of the SEC West. That’s starting to happen under Hugh Freeze, but consistency has not been Ole Miss’ strong suit.
10. North Carolina
Record since 1936: 436-376-18
Closest call: Ranked as high as No. 4 in 1997, finished 10-1 with 20-3 loss to Florida State
North Carolina deserves sleeping giant mention, especially if the ongoing academic scandal doesn’t cut too deep into the football program. Larry Fedora appears to be the answer after three counterproductive coaching hires following the Mack Brown era. If North Carolina (or NC State, for that matter) can corral in-state recruiting, the Tar Heels could build a good foundation to become a national player.
Others of note:
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have the most wins of any team since 1936 without winning an AP or coaches’ poll title (509). Bobby Petrino left the Razorbacks little to work with, though.
Baylor: Art Briles is one of the nation’s best coaches, and the new stadium will be a palace. But still a big step from nine wins with Robert Griffin III to title contender.
Cal: If Stanford can become a national power, there’s little reason Cal can’t follow. The Bears need to find their footing post-Jeff Tedford first.
Kansas State: The Wildcats were in contention last season, plus other seasons in the late 90s, but we wonder what happens when Bill Snyder retires a second time.
West Virginia: Missed a window with the shocking loss to Pittsburgh in 2007. Now in the Big 12, the Mountaineers need time to consistently challenge programs like Oklahoma and Texas.
Even by recruiting class standards, the top prospects of 2012 ran the gamut.
On one hand, the class produced the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (though fellow freshman Nerlens Noel of Kentucky seemed the more likely pick until draft day). On the other, it produced one bona fide bust in Alabama’s Devonta Pollard, who has already withdrawn from school amid legal issues.
The 2012 class gave us everything in between, including eight early entries to the NBA Draft. All eight early entries were drafted, though two will not receive guaranteed contracts after going in the second round.
For the 2013-14 season, the 2012 recruiting class will have its share of stars like Marcus Smart, a high-profile transfer in Rodney Purvis and a handful of wait-and-see projects.
Now that the draft is complete and teams are starting to look ahead to 2013-14, this is a good time to look back at how Athlon Sports’ top 25 recruits for the class of 2012 fared in the last year.
LOOKING BACK: THE TOP 25 RECRUITS OF 2012-13
1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Freshman recap: Noel was a top candidate to be the national defensive player of the year, averaging 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals. He also crept close to averaging a double double at 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds before a season-ending torn ACL against Florida on Feb. 12. His presence kept Kentucky in NCAA Tournament contention, but the Wildcats lost four of their last five without Noel, including a loss to Robert Morris in the NIT. Despite his injury, Noel was the SEC’s freshman of the year and defensive player of the year.
For 2013-14: Considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, Noel slipped to sixth in the NBA Draft, selected by the New Orleans Pelicans before being traded to Philadelphia.
2. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Freshman recap: Muhammad began his season ineligible as the NCAA investigated impermissible benefits. He finished the season as it was revealed he was a year older than his father had been claiming. In between, Muhammad was named the Pac-12’s co-freshman of the year while averaging 17.9 points per game.
For 2013-14: Muhammad was the final pick in the lottery, drafted 14th overall by Utah before being traded to Minnesota. That’s probably a lower spot than was envisioned for Muhammad out of high school, but he became UCLA’s highest draft pick since Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love went fourth and fifth in 2008.
3. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
Freshman recap: Austin averaged 13 points and 8.3 rebounds for a disappointing Baylor team. The Bears won the NIT, but Baylor was expected to contend for a Big 12 title (Athlon ranked Baylor second in the Big 12 and 17th nationally). Austin, a 7-1 center, was expected to declare for the NBA Draft before surgery to repair a torn labrum meant he would not be able to participate in workouts. Austin instead elected to return to school.
For 2013-14: Hopes will be high again for a talented Baylor team. Austin will team with Cory Jefferson and Ricardo Gathers for one of the nation’s top frontcourts.
4. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Freshman recap: Anderson wasn’t UCLA’s top-scoring freshman (that was Muhammad) or most important freshman (Jordan Adams), but he was the most well-rounded. Anderson averaged 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a rookie, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 second team.
For 2013-14: Muhammad is gone, as is point guard Larry Drew II. New coach Steve Alford will look to Anderson to take the next step from one of the Pac-12’s most versatile players to simply one of the league’s best. The 6-foot-9 Anderson could take over point guard duties with Drew gone. Muhammad and Drew enabled UCLA to run a faster offense, but Alford likely will run things at a slower tempo.
5. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Freshman recap: Pitt coach Jamie Dixon historically hasn’t relied much on freshmen. That was the case even with Adams, one of the most high profile recruits to sign with the Panthers. Adams averaged 7.2 points and a team-leading 6.3 rebounds per game.
For 2013-14: The seven-foot New Zealander shot up draft boards before being selected 12th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
6. Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Freshman recap: Tarczewski started all season, averaging 6.9 points and 6.1 rebounds as a back-to-the-basket center.
For 2013-14: Tarczewski will be a part of a stellar frontcourt on a potential top-five team with the 6-8 star freshman Aaron Gordon and 6-8 sophomore Brandon Ashley. A major progression for the seven-footer could make him an NBA Draft candidate.
7. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
Freshman recap: Like the rest of Kentucky, Poythress endured a disappointing season. His minutes dipped through SEC play, when he averaged 9.8 points per game and 6.2 rebounds.
For 2013-14: Kentucky coach John Calipari would like to see Poythress improve his consistency and maturity as a sophomore. Poythress shot 58.1 percent from the field, but he had his slumps (1 of 9 against Florida, 0 of 3 against Texas A&M, 3 of 9 against Vanderbilt). With a freshman cast capable of contending for a title, Kentucky will need Poythress to be one of the few veteran influences.
8. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Freshman recap: Bennett was in contention for national freshman of the year before inconsistent results in Mountain West play. Bennett averaged 12.1 points in conference games, but failed to score in double figures seven times against MWC competition.
For 2013-14: The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the first shock of the draft when they picked Bennett No. 1 rather than Nerlens Noel or Maryland’s Alex Len.
9. Grant Jerrett, Arizona
Freshman recap: Jerrett turned in a lackluster debut season with 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
For 2013-14: His decision to leave for the NBA Draft was a surprising one, but Jerrett’s gamble resulted in being a second-round pick. Jerrett saw limited playing time as freshman, a trend that may have continued as a sophomore.
10. Brandon Ashley, Arizona
Freshman recap: Like Tarczewski and Jerrett, Ashley’s contributions were limited on a veteran team with Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Nick Johnson. Ashley averaged 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in conference play.
For 2013-14: Part of the reason the Wildcats will be a preseason favorite in the Pac-12 is the predicted improvement in the frontcourt with he and Tarczewski expected to take a major step as sophomores. He struggled in USA Basketball’s Under-19 tryouts, which could either be a motivator for offseason improvements or a troubling sign for his second season.
11. Cameron Ridley, Texas
Freshman recap: Ridley had 14 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to UCLA on Dec. 8 but was rarely a factor for the remainder of the season despite shedding weight when he arrived on campus. That was the last time all season he scored in double figures.
For 2013-14: Texas is in trouble with Myck Kabongo leaving for the Draft and a pair of transfers (Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond) heading out of Austin. The Longhorns can ill-afford a top recruit on the roster who’s struggling to provide 10 minutes per game.
12. Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Freshman recap: Duke didn’t need Sulaimon to carry the Blue Devils, but he proved to be capable enough at times. He scored 21 against Creighton in the NCAA Tournament, 27 against Boston College and 25 against Maryland. He also had his freshman moments, going 0-for-10 in the first game without teammate Ryan Kelly against NC State and 1 of 10 in the Elite Eight against Louisville.
For 2013-14: Sulaimon will continue to be a standout perimeter defender, but Duke will look for him to improve from long distance (37.1 percent from 3-point range).
13. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Freshman recap: Smart was everything Oklahoma State expected him to be, taking a leadership role from Day One and manning the point guard spot. he finished with 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as Oklahoma State returned to the NCAA Tournament before running into a hot Oregon team in the round of 64.
For 2013-14: Smart surprisingly returned for his sophomore season when he could have been the first point guard taken in the NBA Draft. The Cowboys will challenge for a Big 12 title and more with Smart leading a nucleus of Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown and Phil Forte. He’ll be on the short list for National Player of the Year honors when the season begins.
14. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky
Freshman recap: Before the season started, there was talk Goodwin could be Kentucky’s best freshman. That never materialized, but Goodwin still averaged 14.1 points per game. He manned the point guard spot at times but finished with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio while shooting 26.6 percent on 64 3-point attempts for the season.
For 2013-14: Goodwin left school after one season to become the No. 29 pick in the NBA draft, selected by the Thunder and eventually landing with the Suns. He’s already been tapped as possible steal in the draft.
15. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Freshman recap: A rare big-time recruit for Wisconsin, Dekker was in contention for Big Ten freshman of the year for most of the season. He finished with 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while rankings seventh in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage.
For 2013-14: Wisconsin is looking to Dekker to become the Badgers’ next great big man. Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans are all gone, so the spotlight will be on Dekker.
16. Gary Harris, Michigan State
Freshman recap: Like teammate Adreian Payne, Harris dabbled with going to the NBA Draft but elected to return to school to compete for a national title. Harris was one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, making 65-of-158 shots (41.1 percent) from long range.
For 2013-14: Harris played all of last season with a shoulder injury, and Michigan State still went 13-5 in the Big Ten. What can Michigan State do if he’s healthy?
17. Ricky Ledo, Providence
Freshman recap: Ledo sat out his entire freshman season as a partial qualifier.
For 2013-14: Hopes were high Ledo would help lead Providence back to relevance even as he was not eligible to play, but he left for the NBA Draft despite not playing a game. He was a second-round pick.
18. Rodney Purvis, NC State
Freshman recap: A disappointing season for NC State extended to Purvis, who was part of the inconsistency for the Wolfpack last season. Purvis was NC State’s sixth-leading scorer at 8.3 points per game.
For 2013-14: Purvis will sit out the season following his transfer to Connecticut.
19. DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse
Freshman recap: Coleman started the first 20 games of the season but eventually watched his role diminish. He missed eight games following knee surgery in January and played a grand total of 26 minutes after his return.
For 2013-14: Like many rookie big men, Coleman is struggling to find his role, but the Orange have had success in developing centers in their latter years, most recently Fab Melo.
20. Tony Parker, UCLA
Freshman recap: Parker struggled in his season under Ben Howland. A transfer wasn’t out of the question after Parker averaged 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 points.
For 2013-14: Parker elected to stay at UCLA to play for new coach Steve Alford, who will hope the leadership change will help Parker contribute more than 6.3 minutes per game.
21. Amile Jefferson, Duke
Freshman recap: Jefferson watched his role increase dramatically when Ryan Kelly was injured in January. The forward scored in double figures in five of 11 games when he played regular minutes with Kelly out of the lineup.
For 2013-14: Kelly is gone for good, and so is Mason Plumlee. Jefferson has added weight since he arrived on campus with the goal of stabilizing Duke’s post presence.
22. Robert Carter, Georgia Tech
Freshman recap: The hometown prospect helped Georgia Tech’s modest improvement in 2012-13. Carter was second on the Yellow Jackets at 9.9 points per game and 6.7 rebounds.
For 2013-14: With Carter plus Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech should start to contend for a postseason tournament in Brian Gregory’s third season.
23. Kris Dunn, Providence
Freshman recap: A shoulder injury limited Dunn early in the season, and he never quite broke out. The guard finished with 5.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
For 2013-14: Vincent Council is gone, so coach Ed Cooley needs Dunn to assume point guard duties. Providence may be a postseason contender in 2013-14, but the Friars may wonder what could have happened if Ledo remained on the roster.
24. Semaj Christon, Xavier
Freshman recap: Christon wasn’t fully healthy last season and still led Xavier wtih 15.2 points per game and 4.6 assists.
For 2013-14: The Atlantic 10 rookie of the year should keep Xavier in Big East contention even though the Musketeers missed the postseason a year ago. Christon is looking to become a more complete guard, both as a floor general and outside shooter.
25. Devonta Pollard, Alabama
Freshman recap: Pollard averaged 3.9 points and didn’t score in double figures in SEC play or the NIT.
For 2013-14: Pollard withdrew from Alabama after being arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Pollard is accused of serving as the driver and an organizer to aid his mother in the kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl.
Butler’s Brad Stevens pulled off the shocker of shockers when the two time national-runner up coach landed with the Boston Celtics on Wednesday afternoon.
Stevens, who turned Butler from overachieving mid-major to national brand, had been a candidate for some of college basketball’s most high-profile jobs, including UCLA following the 2012-13. The Bulldogs coach has been one of college basketball's most respected coaches after becoming the youngest coach to reach the Final Four since Bob Knight in 1973 and winning more games (166) than any coach in the first six years of his career. Now, the basketball world knows what kind of job it would take to pry the 36-year-old from Butler.
The job won't be easy, though. Stevens takes over for Doc Rivers, who left for the Los Angeles Clippers on June 24. The Celtics are also rebuilding after trading stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Stevens is the another high-profile hire from the college ranks, joining Rick Pitino. After leaving Kentucky in 1997, Pitino endured four losing seasons with the Celtics before returning to the college game.
Here are three key questions we have following Wednesday's move:
Can Stevens turn the trend of college coaches in the NBA?
College coaches have a checkered history in the recent NBA ranks, most of them ending badly: Pitino already failed in Boston. John Calipari, Mike Montgomery, P.J. Carlesimo, Tim Floyd and Jerry Tarkanian all had failed tenures in the pro ranks after leaving college. Stevens is considered one of the brightest minds in the college game, and his cool demeanor may prove an asset. Still, he’s 36 and his recruiting approach and situation in the Horizon League and Atlantic 10 rarely brought in pro-sized egos.
What’s the future for Butler?
Butler has been one of the most successful programs in a mid-major conference thanks to a steady stream of good hires for the last 20 years. Barry Collier, now the athletic director, made Butler a winning program as Thad Matta (24-8 in one season) and Todd Lickliter (two Sweet 16 appearances) continued to build. Butler reached unprecedented heights under Stevens with back-to-back appearances in the national title game. Butler won’t have margin for error as the Bulldogs have moved from the Horizon to A-10 to the restructured Big East. Facing Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova and Xavier on a regular basis will be a new challenge.
Who is Butler’s next coach?
Stevens gave no public signs he intended to leave Butler, so we’ll find out how prepared Collier is to hire a new coach, especially after every vacant college job has been filled for months. Here are some guesses of where he make look:
Matthew Graves, South Alabama. This would be the logical move and the one with the greatest track record — had Stevens left in March. Graves, a former Butler player who had been on the staff since 2001, was hired this offseason as the head coach at South Alabama. The last three Butler coaches — Thad Matta, Todd Lickliter and Stevens — were all promoted from within. Graves played at Butler and has been on the staff since 2001.
Terry Johnson, Butler assistant. The longest tenured remaining assistant at Butler has been on the staff since 2007 and previously served in an administrative post. He played high school basketball in Indiana and coached and played at IPFW.
Brandon Miller, Butler assistant. The Butler alum has served two terms as an assistant at his alma mater, replacing Graves this offseason. Before that, he spent three seasons under Matta at Ohio State.
Jeff Boals, Ohio State assistant. An assistant for Matta at Ohio State, Boals has spent most of his career in the midwest at Robert Morris and Akron before Columbus. He’s ready for his first top job.
LaVall Jordan, Michigan assistant. Another assistant with Butler connections. Jordan started at Butler from 1998-2001 before serving as an assistant and coordinator of operations under Lickliter. He's spent the last four seasons at Michigan working with guards Trey Burke and Darius Morris.
Bryce Drew, Valparaiso. Knows the territory of Indiana basketball and has won two Horizon League regular season titles at his alma mater. Seeing him anywhere other than Valpo would be a strange sight, though.
Todd Lickliter, Marian (NAIA). He led Butler two the Sweet 16 twice in six seasons before a 38-57 tenure at Iowa. If Butler wants to go back to the well, he’s down the street in Indianapolis at Marian of the NAIA after spending last year as an assistant at Miami (Ohio).
College basketball had two coaches who were considered two of the brightest young minds in the minds in the game, a pair atop any list of coaches under 40.
One, though, is now one of the top pro coaches under 40. Butler's Brad Stevens and VCU's Shaka Smart topped the first edition of our list of college basketball coaches under the age of 40, but Stevens' shocking move to the Boston Celtics demanded a revision.
Smart moves up to the top spot, which isn't a surprise as Smart has broken a handful of Stevens' coaching milestones in the early seasons of his career.
Smart was a no-brainer for our list of best college basketball coaches under 40, but the rest of the list may contain surprises. With Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie departing the under-40 club for the 2013-14 season, we dipped into the mid-major ranks to find our young coaches on the rise.
*All ages as of Nov. 1, 2013
COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S BEST COACHES UNDER 40
1. Shaka Smart, VCU
Record: 111-37, 7-3 NCAA Tournament
VCU was up to the challenge by moving up from the Colonial to the Atlantic 10. The Rams have not won fewer than 27 games in four years under Smart and have proven to be a superb postseason team (one Final Four, two rounds of 32 and a CBI championship). Smart’s program has become synonymous with the havoc defense that forces turnovers better than just about any team in the country. With Butler, Xavier and Temple leaving the Atlantic 10, VCU is poised to become the top program in the A-10 as long as Smart is in Richmond.
2. Josh Pastner, Memphis
The energetic Pastner achieved an important milestone in 2013 with Memphis’ first NCAA Tournament win of his tenure thanks to a narrow win over 11th-seeded Saint Mary’s. Signature wins have been lacking under Pastner, but that’s about to change. Memphis trades lackluster Conference USA for Louisville (at least for a year), Connecticut, Cincinnati and Temple in 2013-14. Pastner has kept a string of McDonald’s All-Americans coming to Memphis, so there won't be a talent deficit in the new league. He’ll soon find out if they can keep up with better competition on a more consistent basis after breezing through C-USA last season.
3. Steve Prohm, Murray State
Record: 52-12, 1-1 NCAA Tournament
The Racers’ second season under Prohm wasn’t quite as magical as the first when Isaiah Canaan led Murray to a 31-2 season. Murray State still won 21 games and the West Division of the expanded Ohio Valley. Now it’s time to see what Prohm can do without Canaan.
4. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
Record: 48-20, 0-1 NCAA Tournament
The most famous basketball player in Valpo history has turned out to be a pretty good coach. The son of longtime Crusaders coach Homer Drew took over his father’s program two seasons ago and brought Valpo back to the postseason contention with back-to-back Horizon League regular-season titles. The NCAA bid in 2013 was Valpo’s first since 2004, and the 26 wins were a school record.
5. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
FIU’s second attempt to hire a coach with name recognition fared much better than the first. Isiah Thomas won 14 Sun Belt games in three season at FIU. Pitino went 11-9 in the league in his lone season in Miami. FIU was on the brink of its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1995 before losing 65-63 to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt title game. Minnesota took note and made him the youngest coach in the Big Ten. He has the family name, but his old bosses — Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan — have a good success rate with assistants-turned-head coaches.
6. Mitch Henderson, Princeton
Harvard has won the Ivy League the last two seasons, but Princeton has been right on the Crimson’s heels. The Tigers have finished one game back of Harvard in the Ivy the last two seasons. Like Bryce Drew at Valpo, Henderson is a hometown hero at Princeton who played on the 1996 Tigers team that upset UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. Henderson spent more than a decade on Northwestern’s coaching staff, Big Ten experience that could become relevant.
7. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Though Seton Hall took a major step back last season — from 21 wins and an NIT appearance to 3-15 in the Big East — Willard has a good overall resume. Willard took over an Iona team that went 2-28 the year before he arrived. By the time Willard left, Iona won 21 games in 2010. A Rick Pitino assistant with Celtics and at Louisville, Willard will look to rebound in the new Big East.
8. Andy Toole, Robert Morris
Promoted to head coach before his 30th birthday, Toole delivered the biggest win in Robert Morris history when the Colonials defeated Kentucky in the NIT on their home court in March. That shouldn’t obscure what else he’s accomplished in Moon Township: 50 wins in the last two seasons, an NEC regular season title in 2013 and a 39-15 overall record in the league. A former Mike Rice assistant at Robert Morris before his promotion, Toole might be under the microscope as he’s a candidate for another job.
9. Michael White, Louisiana Tech
The WAC was watered down last season and the schedule was paper thin, but it’s tough to ignore Louisiana Tech’s progress in White’s second season. The Bulldogs improved from 6-8 in conference in his first season to 16-2 in the second. The former Ole Miss assistant led Louisiana Tech to its second-highest win total of 27 victories, second only to Karl Malone’s 29-win team in 1984-85. White is poised to build on last season in Conference USA in 2013-14.
10. Archie Miller, Dayton
Miller has the experience and bloodlines to become a successful Division I coach. He’s the brother of Arizona’s Sean Miller and the son of John Miller, a legendary high school coach in Pennsylvania. He’s already served on staffs at NC State and Arizona State (under his college coach Herb Sendek) plus Ohio State and Arizona. Dayton has yet to break out under Miller, but hopes are high he’ll put his stamp on the program.