Articles By Steven Lassan

All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
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Art Briles’ tenure at Baylor ended on Thursday, as the 60-year-old coach was fired as a result of the findings from the Pepper Hamilton investigation into football program and athletic department. With Briles out, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will serve as the program’s head coach for the 2016 season. While Bennett has previous head coaching experience and is a veteran assistant, it’s unlikely the program will keep this current staff in place after this season. Instead, a full house cleaning of the staff is likely in order.

 

Who might take over as Baylor’s coach for 2017 and beyond? Here are a few names to watch as the 2016 season progresses.

 

Five Potential Candidates for Baylor in 2017

 

Sonny Dykes, head coach, California

Dykes is 14-23 at California, but the Golden Bears have made significant progress under his watch. After a 1-11 mark in 2013, California improved to 5-7 in 2014 and 8-5 in 2015. Prior to taking over in Berkeley, Dykes went 22-15 at Louisiana Tech and also worked as an assistant at Arizona, Texas Tech and Kentucky. Despite a contract extension after the 2015 season, an opportunity to coach back in his home state of Texas could be appealing to Dykes. 

 

Willie Fritz, head coach, Tulane

Fritz is entering his first year at Tulane, but the Kansas native has ties to the state of Texas from a stint as an assistant at Sam Houston State and later as the program’s head coach from 2010-13. Fritz went 97-47 at Central Missouri from 1997-09 and guided Sam Houston State to a 40-15 mark over four years, which included back-to-back trips to the FCS Championship. Fritz helped Georgia Southern transition to the FBS level in 2014 and went 17-7 over the last two years with the Eagles.

 

Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie, Co-Offensive Coordinators, TCU

TCU’s offense has made significant progress under Meacham and Cumbie, averaging over 40 points in each of the last two years. Meacham is the team’s play-caller, but both coaches are rising stars after helping the Horned Frogs’ offense emerge as one of the best in the Big 12. Prior to his stint at TCU, Meacham also has previous experience in the Big 12 after a stop at Oklahoma State (2005-12). The one downside: Neither coach has FBS head coaching experience.

 

Chad Morris, head coach, SMU

Morris is another rising star to watch in the coaching ranks and has deep ties to the state of Texas. The Dallas native worked from 1994-09 as a high school head coach at five different Texas high schools and later spent one season at Tulsa (2010) as the team’s offensive coordinator. After four years at Clemson, Morris was hired at SMU and went 2-10 in his debut. He’s one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should move up the FBS coaching ladder over the next few years.

 

Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma

Riley’s arrival at Oklahoma sparked immediate improvement for the Sooners’ offense in 2015, and it’s only a matter of time before the Texas native gets a chance to run his own program. Under Riley's direction, the Sooners averaged 43.5 points a game last season. Prior to taking over in Norman as the play-caller, Riley worked for five years at East Carolina and also had a stint at Texas Tech (2007-09) under Mike Leach.

Teaser:
5 Coaching Candidates to Replace Art Briles at Baylor in 2017
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 13:26
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/12-college-football-playoff-sleeper-teams-2016
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Defining a “sleeper team” for the College Football Playoff isn’t easy. The definition of a “sleeper team” can vary among fanbases, and each preseason prediction or ranking has different views on the upcoming season. While certain teams on this list may not be sleepers to everyone, Athlon Sports has tried to identify 12 teams who could make a surprising run to the College Football Playoff. The usual suspects – Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame – will be in the mix for a spot in the top four. However, the 12 teams mentioned below are ones who could steal the headlines throughout the year in the midweek rankings, pull an upset or two that impacts the top four or rates in December as a potential surprise in the final results. 

 

College Football's Playoff Sleepers for 2016

 

Georgia

Florida was the SEC’s biggest surprise last season by winning the East Division in Jim McElwain’s first year. Could the Bulldogs get a similar bump in 2016? While Mark Richt won a lot of games in Athens, a fresh start and a new coaching staff isn’t necessarily a bad thing for this program. Kirby Smart has a lot to prove in his first year as the head coach, but he hired a standout staff and managed to keep five-star freshman quarterback Jacob Eason in the fold. Eason’s development, the health of running back Nick Chubb and the improvement of the offensive line under Sam Pittman are three areas to watch on offense this season. The defense returns only five starters and features a revamped front seven. However, there’s no shortage of talent waiting to emerge. The schedule is also in Georgia’s favor. Tennessee has to visit Athens, and the Bulldogs have a bye before playing Florida in Jacksonville.

 

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Houston

Tom Herman set the bar high in his first season, guiding the Cougars to a 13-1 finish and a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. However, an even better season could be in store for Houston in 2016. The Cougars return 11 starters, including dynamic quarterback Greg Ward and transfers Duke Catalon (RB) and Ra’Shaad Samples (WR) add firepower at the skill positions. The defense allowed only 20.7 points a game in 2015 and returns a strong core of talent in the front seven. A plus-21 turnover margin won’t be easy to replicate, but Houston should be favored in at least 10 of its regular season games. The only two matchups it could be an underdog? Oklahoma in the opener in Houston and the Nov. 17 showdown against Louisville. Making the playoff as a Group of 5 team isn’t easy, but the Cougars already have an advantage by starting 2016 high in the polls and there’s two huge opportunities on the schedule to build a playoff resume. Houston needs to finish the regular season 13-0 to have a shot at the playoff in 2016.

 

Iowa

The Hawkeyes were a goal-line stand away from winning the Big Ten title and a playoff spot last season. And with 13 returning starters back for 2016, another run at the top four isn’t out of the question. Coordinator Greg Davis needs to find a few playmakers at receiver for quarterback C.J. Beathard, but the offensive line is one of the best in the Big Ten, and there’s a solid trio of backs leading the way on the ground. The defense is loaded with eight returning starters, including standout cornerback Desmond King and linebacker Josey Jewell. Another reason to like the Hawkeyes? The schedule. Iowa does not play Ohio State or Michigan State in crossover play and catches key conference matchups against Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin in Iowa City.

 

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Louisville

Clemson and Florida State are projected to be playoff teams in most preseason polls, but if there’s a team that could derail the Tigers or Seminoles in the ACC – it’s Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals. Louisville won six out of its last seven games last season and three of its five losses in 2015 came by seven points or less. Dynamic sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of college football’s rising stars and is due for a breakout year after a full offseason to work under Petrino. The Cardinals also return a host of proven skill players, and the offensive line should improve with three starters back. The defense has ranked among the ACC’s best in each of the last two seasons and should be strong once again with eight returning starters. Devonte Fields and Keith Kelsey could be the best linebacker duo in the nation. If Louisville wants to challenge for a playoff bid, it should know where it stacks up by Oct. 2. The Cardinals host Florida State on Sept. 17 and travel to Clemson on Oct. 1. 

 

North Carolina

Larry Fedora’s fourth season in Chapel Hill resulted in a breakout year. The Tar Heels won the ACC’s Coastal Division with an 11-3 record and a perfect 8-0 mark in the regular season in conference play. The No. 15 ranking in the Associated Press poll was the program’s first finish in the top 25 since 1997. North Carolina should open 2016 as the favorite in the Coastal, but there are a few roadblocks to a repeat. The schedule is tougher this season, and the Tar Heels still need more improvement out of their defense. While there are question marks, there is reason to believe North Carolina could be a better team in 2016 than it was last year. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a rising star in the ACC, and running back Elijah Hood returns after rushing for 1,463 yards last season. Additionally, four starters are back on the offensive line, and the receiving corps is among the best in college football. Question marks remain about the front seven, but the secondary boasts a talented cornerback duo in M.J. Stewart and Des Lawrence. As mentioned above, there’s little doubt the schedule is tougher. North Carolina has to play Georgia in non-conference play and catches Florida State in a crossover game with the Atlantic. However, those games offer an opportunity for the Tar Heels to pick up marquee wins and play their way into the playoff conversation.

 

Oregon

Most preseason rankings indicate the Pac-12 is on the outside of the College Football Playoff picture for 2016. However, there’s plenty of time for a playoff contender to emerge. Oregon has won at least 10 games in seven out of the last eight seasons and just missed hitting the double-digit mark in 2015 with three losses by one score. Despite the departure of coordinator Scott Frost to UCF and a new quarterback taking over, the Ducks will have a high-powered offense once again. Running back Royce Freeman headlines a deep backfield, and there’s no shortage of playmakers at receiver. Shoring up the offensive line and deciding on a quarterback – FCS transfer Dakota Prukop or Travis Jonsen – are the biggest question marks for coach Mark Helfrich. The addition of Brady Hoke as the defensive coordinator should help a unit that surrendered 37.5 points a game last year. While the Ducks have road trips to Utah, USC and Washington State in league play, Stanford and Washington have to visit Eugene.

 

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TCU

Oklahoma is widely considered the favorite in the Big 12, but a repeat trip to the College Football Playoff could be derailed by TCU. The Horned Frogs have won 23 games over the last two seasons and will be anchored by a standout defense and a talented group of skill players for 2016. Quarterback Trevone Boykin leaves big shoes to fill, but Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill and sophomore Foster Sawyer are talented options and should keep the offense performing at a high level. Even if TCU’s offense doesn’t match its scoring average from 2015 (42.1 ppg), the defense could carry this team to 10 wins. Seven starters are back from a unit that improved throughout 2015, while end James McFarland, cornerback Ranthony Texada, safety Kenny Iloka and linebacker Sammy Douglas are back from injury. With Oklahoma and Oklahoma State visiting Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs will have a chance to surprise in the Big 12.  

 

UCLA

USC might have more overall talent than UCLA, but coach Jim Mora’s team has a few significant advantages over their crosstown rival. The Bruins return the Pac-12's most-talented quarterback (Josh Rosen), have a better coaching situation and feature a more favorable schedule. Rosen had a standout debut as a true freshman last fall and should be even better as a sophomore in 2016. Mora is tweaking the offense to help Rosen’s development, and the Bruins’ supporting cast is anchored by sophomore running back Soso Jamabo and standout left tackle Conor McDermott. Stopping the run was a challenge for the defense last season, but there’s hope for improvement with eight starters back, and the return of Eddie Vanderdoes from injury. UCLA will have a chance to prove right away it belongs in the playoff conversation. The Bruins play at Texas A&M to start the 2016 season and also play at BYU and host Stanford in the month of September. But the schedule gets a little lighter after that stretch, with Utah and USC visiting Pasadena in the second half of the season.

 

Washington

Entering Chris Petersen’s third season at the helm, expectations are rising for the Huskies. After an 8-6 record in Petersen’s debut (2014), Washington finished 7-6 last season. While seven wins may not seem like much, the Huskies were considered a top 25 team in advanced metrics. It’s easy to see where Washington could saw marked improvement this fall, as 17 starters are back, including talented sophomores Jake Browning (QB) and Myles Gaskin (RB). Browning was impressive as a true freshman last season, and the return of big-play receiver John Ross from a knee injury should bolster the passing attack. Despite losing a couple of key players from the 2014 unit, Washington’s defense led the Pac-12 in fewest points allowed (18.8 ppg). This unit could be even better in 2016, anchored by a secondary that features All-America candidates Sidney Jones (CB) and Budda Baker (FS). The schedule isn’t overly daunting, but the Oct. 8 trip to Oregon could play a huge role in deciding the winner of the Pac-12 North. Petersen’s rebuilding plan is on track entering year three. The Huskies are poised for a big jump in the win column – and the national polls.

 

Three Longshots

 

BYU

A lot would have to go right for a team outside of Notre Dame or a Power 5 conference to make the College Football Playoff. However, BYU is a team to watch in 2016. The Cougars have a challenging schedule with six Power 5 opponents, including games at Michigan State, Utah and a home matchup against UCLA. New coach Kalani Sitake has personnel concerns to address on both sides of the ball this offseason, but two proven quarterbacks – Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill – are back to lead the offense. If BYU finishes 12-0 with its 2016 schedule, it has to earn consideration for the playoff.

 

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Nebraska

Nebraska’s 6-7 record in coach Mike Riley’s first season was a disappointment, but final victory tally wasn’t as bad as it seemed. The Cornhuskers had bad luck on their side with a minus-12 turnover margin, which played a huge role in the team’s six losses by eight points or less. Bad luck usually turns around into good fortune the next season, so Nebraska could pick up a couple of wins just by showing some improvement in turnover margin. But that’s not the only reason to like the Cornhuskers in 2016. The offense returns six starters, including quarterback Tommy Armstrong and one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. The schedule isn’t too daunting, and Nebraska hosts Oregon in a key non-conference game, with road trips to Ohio State and Iowa on tap. Reloading on both lines of scrimmage will be critical if the Cornhuskers want to challenge the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West Division.

 

Utah

UCLA and USC are the preseason favorites in the Pac-12 South, but don’t overlook Kyle Whittingham’s team in 2016. The Utes are coming off their best season (10-3) since joining the Pac-12 and inked the No. 37 recruiting class by the 247Sports Composite in Feburary. That’s the program’s highest finish on the recruiting trail since 2012. It’s no secret the strength of Utah rests with its ground attack and defense. The Utes lose standout running back Devontae Booker, but senior Joe Williams is a capable replacement, and the offensive line is one of the best in the Pac-12. Both starting linebackers must be replaced, but the defensive line and secondary are among the best in the nation. Improving the offense is a must if Utah wants to challenge for the South Division title. Junior college quarterback Troy Williams and freshman Tyler Huntley will push Brandon Cox for the starting job in the fall. The Utes have to play at UCLA this season, but USC, BYU, Washington and Oregon all visit Salt Lake City.  

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12 College Football Playoff Sleeper Teams for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-american-athletic-conferences-college-football-coaches-2016
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Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the American Athletic Conference:

 

Ranking the AAC's Football Coaches for 2016
 

1. Tom Herman, Houston

The H-Town Takeover for Herman and Houston’s football program is officially underway. In Herman’s first season, the Cougars won the American Athletic Conference, finished with a 13-1 record and defeated Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. And with a strong core of talent returning for 2016, Herman has Houston positioned as the top Group of 5 program once again this season. Herman was regarded as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches prior to his hire with the Cougars. Herman worked as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer from 2012-14 and was an instrumental part of the Buckeyes’ 2014 championship team. Herman also has stops as a play-caller at Iowa State, Texas State and Rice. Herman is the top coach from the Group of 5 ranks.

 

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2. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Navy embarked on a new era for its football program in 2015 by joining the American Athletic Conference. However, the change from being a FBS independent to a conference member didn’t have any impact on the Midshipmen. Niumatalolo guided Navy to a school-record 11 wins last season and finished No. 18 in the final Associated Press poll. Under Niumatalolo’s direction, the Midshipmen are 68-37 since the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl and have only one season of fewer than eight wins.

 

3. Willie Fritz, Tulane

Tulane made one of the offseason’s best coaching hires by bringing Fritz to New Orleans after a successful two-year stint at Georgia Southern. From 2014-15 with the Eagles, Fritz went 17-7 and helped the program complete a successful transition to the FBS level. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz guided Sam Houston State to 40 wins from 2010-13 and back-to-back appearances in the FCS Championship (2011-12). He also coached at Central Missouri from 1997-09, recording a 97-47 mark in that span. Fritz has been a winner at each coaching stop and should continue that track record at Tulane over the next few years.

 

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4. Willie Taggart, South Florida

Taggart was feeling the pressure to produce after a 6-18 start to his tenure at South Florida. But Taggart certainly eased concerns about the direction of the program with an 8-5 mark and a trip to the Miami Beach Bowl last year. The 8-5 record improved Taggart’s overall mark at USF to 14-23, and the Bulls should start out 2016 as the favorite to win the American Athletic East Division. Prior to taking over at USF, Taggart went 16-20 in three years at WKU, which included back-to-back 7-5 campaigns. After a slow start to his tenure, Taggart seems to have this program trending up for 2016 and beyond.

 

5. Matt Rhule, Temple

Rhule delivered a breakout season for Temple in 2015, as the Owls tied a program record with 10 victories. Temple finished 10-4 overall last year and claimed the American Athletic East Division title. Rhule is no stranger to success at Temple, as he worked as an assistant under Al Golden from 2006-10 and again for one year with Steve Addazio (2011). Rhule also has one season of experience in the NFL, working with the Giants’ offensive line in 2012. After three years at Temple, it’s clear Rhule is one of the top coaches in the Group of 5 ranks.

 

6. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

After back-to-back 9-4 seasons, Tuberville slipped to 7-6 in his third year at Cincinnati. The win total regression was largely due bad luck with a minus-19 turnover margin. A quick rebound to nine wins again wouldn’t be a surprise for the Bearcats, as there’s a track record of success for Tuberville. He went 20-17 at Texas Tech from 2010-12, 85-40 at Auburn from 1999-08 and 25-20 at Ole Miss from 1995-98. In Tuberville’s 20-year coaching career, he’s had only four seasons with losing records. 

 

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7. Bob Diaco, UConn

Offense seems to be the focal point for a league that features coaches like Houston’s Tom Herman, SMU’s Chad Morris and Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery. However, defense leads the way at UConn with Diaco in charge. The New Jersey native was regarded as one of the nation’s top assistants during a stint as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator (2010-13) and helped the Fighting Irish reach the national championship game in 2012. Diaco went 2-10 in his debut (2014), but the Huskies showed improvement in 2015 by finishing with a 6-7 record. Diaco is building a stellar defense in Storrs, and with a little improvement by the offense in 2016, UConn could push for seven or eight wins this fall.

 

8. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

Chad Morris and Tom Herman garnered most of the offseason attention among the coaching hires in the American Athletic Conference last year, but Montgomery quietly pieced together an impressive debut. Tulsa went 6-7 last season, which represented a four-game improvement from 2014. Prior to taking over as Tulsa’s head coach, Montgomery worked as an assistant under Art Briles at Houston (2003-07) and again at Baylor from 2008-14. Montgomery is a sharp offensive mind and should have Tulsa back in contention for a bowl trip in 2016.

 

9. Chad Morris, SMU

Expect to Morris move up this list in future seasons. The Texas native took over at SMU after spending four years guiding Clemson’s offense (2011-14). The Tigers’ offense emerged as one of the nation’s most-explosive attacks under Morris’ direction, including back-to-back seasons (2012-13) by averaging over 40 points a game. SMU finished 2-10 in Morris’ first season on the job, but the Mustangs should take a step forward in 2016. Prior to Clemson, Morris worked at Tulsa for one year (2010) and was a high school coach at five different stops from 1994-2009.

 

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10. Mike Norvell, Memphis

Justin Fuente leaves big shoes to fill at Memphis after a 19-6 record over the last two seasons. However, Mike Norvell was one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks and should keep this program trending up for 2016 and beyond. Norvell worked as an assistant under Todd Graham at Tulsa (2007-10), at Pittsburgh (2011) and from 2012-15 at Arizona State. Norvell called the plays all four seasons for the Sun Devils, guiding the offense to an average of at least 34 points every year. Fuente set the bar high, but Norvell is an outstanding hire for this program.

 

11. Scott Frost, UCF

After a winless 2015 campaign, a new regime and direction should be a huge positive for UCF. There’s no shortage of potential for this program, and Frost’s background on offense and history with Oregon should attract plenty of recruits to Orlando. Frost arrives at UCF after spending seven seasons with the Ducks. He spent the last three years there as the team’s play-caller, guiding the offense to a top-10 finish in scoring each season. This is Frost’s first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level, but there’s a lot to like about this hire for UCF.

 

12. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

Montgomery has been on a fast rise through the assistant ranks and lands at one of the better jobs in the American Athletic Conference for his first FBS coaching opportunity. The North Carolina native started his coaching career under David Cutcliffe at Duke from 2006-09 as a wide receivers coach and later spent three years (2010-12) with the Steelers in the same capacity. Montgomery returned to Duke in 2013, spending one year as a receivers coach before a promotion to offensive coordinator in 2014. This is Montgomery’s first head coaching opportunity, but he’s learned under one of the top FBS coaches (Cutcliffe) and his background on offense should be a good fit at East Carolina. 

Teaser:
Ranking the American Athletic Conference's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-mountain-wests-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the Mountain West:

 

Ranking the Mountain West's Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

Air Force has been a consistent winner under Calhoun’s watch, and the program is coming off its first trip to the Mountain West Conference title game. The Falcons won the Mountain Division last year and lost by three points on the road at San Diego State in the conference title game. Calhoun has recorded a 67-50 mark since replacing Fisher DeBerry in 2007. Air Force also has eight bowl appearances under Calhoun and just one season of fewer than six wins. Calhoun is also the Mountain West’s longest-tenured coach and the 18 victories over the last two years is the best mark by the program since posting 22 from 1997-98.

 

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2. Rocky Long, San Diego State

With a fertile recruiting area in its backyard, San Diego State has been considered a sleeping giant. After having some sporadic success from 1986-2009, this program took a big step forward in 2010 with a 9-4 mark in Brady Hoke’s second year with the Aztecs. After Hoke left for Michigan, Long was promoted to the top spot. Under his watch, San Diego State continues to climb even higher in the Mountain West. The Aztecs have earned four consecutive bowl trips and finished 2015 by tying the school record with 11 victories. Long also worked as New Mexico’s head coach from 1998-08, guiding the program to a 65-69 record with five bowl trips. He’s also regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the Group of 5 conferences and should have San Diego State in contention for 10 (or more) wins in 2016.  

 

3. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

The bar is set high at any program whenever nine wins is considered a disappointing year. That’s the standard set at Boise State, as the Broncos are one of the top Group of 5 programs and should challenge for the bowl spot in the New Year’s Six on an annual basis. Harsin did just that in year one, finishing 12-2 with a victory over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl in 2014. However, the Broncos slipped to 9-4 last year and lost the division title to Air Force. Don’t expect Boise State to be under 10 wins for too long, as Harsin has this program on the verge of a quick rebound in 2016.

 

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4. Matt Wells, Utah State

Last season’s 6-7 record represented Utah State’s first losing mark since 2010. Even though the six victories was a disappointment, this program has progressed significantly after recording zero winning seasons from 1998-2010. Wells is 25-16 over the last three years and has not finished lower than second in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. Additionally, Utah State has played in three consecutive bowl games. Injuries and turnover in the assistant coach ranks have hit the program hard over the last couple of seasons, but the Aggies are still in good shape with Wells on the sidelines.

 

5. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

Bohl is just 6-18 through two years at Wyoming, but there’s no reason to panic. After all, this is the coach that went 104-32 at North Dakota State and won three consecutive national championships from 2011-13. It’s only a matter of time before Bohl has Wyoming back in the mix for winning seasons, and 2015 was clearly a rebuilding year with youth littering the depth chart on both sides of the ball. Progress in the win column could be minimal in 2016, but Bohl is still the right coach for this program.

 

6. Bob Davie, New Mexico

Davie inherited a mess after Mike Locksley’s three-year stint at New Mexico. The Lobos won just three games from 2009-11, but this program showed immediate improvement under Davie’s watch, finishing with a 4-9 mark in 2012. After winning 11 games through the first three seasons, Davie had a breakthrough 2015 campaign. The Lobos finished 7-6 last year and claimed the program’s first bowl trip since 2007. 

 

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7. Brian Polian, Nevada

Following Chris Ault wasn’t easy, but Polian has stabilized the program after a 4-8 debut in 2013. The Wolf Pack have recorded back-to-back 7-6 records and finished 2015 on a high note by beating Colorado State in the Arizona Bowl. Prior to taking over at Nevada, Polian was an assistant from 2005-09 at Notre Dame and at Stanford from 2010-11. He’s regarded as a good recruiter and has the Wolf Pack positioned for improvement with the return of nine starters on offense in 2016.

 

8. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

Bobo had big shoes to fill in Fort Collins last season. In 2014, Jim McElwain guided Colorado State to a 10-3 mark and an appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. But with some key personnel losses to overcome and a tough schedule, the Rams dipped to 7-6 in Bobo’s first season. However, Colorado State wasn’t too far from matching the 2014 win total, as the program lost three games by five points or less, including a three-point defeat against rival Colorado. After spending most of his coaching career at Georgia and as a first-time head coach, Bobo is still learning on the job. However, the future looks bright for Colorado State with Bobo at the helm.

 

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9. Ron Caragher, San Jose State

Caragher hasn’t had the easiest of paths in his two stints as a head coach. He replaced Jim Harbaugh at San Diego but guided the Toreros to a 44-22 mark from 2007-12. Under Caragher’s direction, San Diego recorded at least eight wins in four out of his six seasons. He left San Diego to replace Mike MacIntyre at San Jose State – just one year after the Spartans won a school-record 11 games in 2012. Through three seasons, Caragher has compiled a 15-22 mark at San Jose State but guided the program to a bowl trip last year. With 15 starters returning this fall, Caragher should have his best team since taking over at San Jose State.

 

10. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

DeRuyter appeared to be one of college football’s rising stars in the head coach ranks after a 20-6 start to his tenure at Fresno State. During that two-year run, the Bulldogs claimed a share of the conference title in 2012 and won the league championship outright in 2013. However, replacing Derek Carr has been a challenge. Fresno State is just 9-17 over the last two seasons and slumped to 3-9 in 2015 – only the fourth time since 1969 the program has won fewer than four contests. Can DeRuyter get this program back on track?

 

11. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

Hired from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Sanchez was one of the nation’s most intriguing first-year coaches in 2015. The Rebels finished 3-9 in Sanchez’s debut – a one-game improvement from 2014 – but lost four games by eight points or less, a clear sign the program is trending in the right direction. Sanchez also reeled in the Mountain West’s No. 4 recruiting class in the 2016 247Sports Composite and is positioned to push for a .500 mark in conference play in 2016.

 

12. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

After the disappointing four-year run under Norm Chow, Hawaii’s program is in good hands with Rolovich. The California native has plenty of work to do over the next few seasons, but there’s not a better coach to rebuild the Rainbow Warriors into a consistent winner. Rolovich played at Hawaii from 2000-01 and also coached in Honolulu as an assistant under Greg McMackin from 2008-11. Since 2011, Rolovich has worked at Nevada as the offensive coordinator. This is Rolovich’s first opportunity to be a head coach and it’s not an easy job. However, the Rainbow Warriors should show improvement over the next few seasons.

Teaser:
Ranking the Mountain West's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-conference-usas-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for Conference USA:

 

Ranking C-USA's College Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Jeff Brohm, WKU

In just two seasons at WKU, Brohm has quickly emerged as the No. 1 coach in Conference USA. Brohm was promoted to head coach in 2014 after Bobby Petrino left to return to Louisville. The Hilltoppers finished 8-5 in Brohm’s first year but claimed the Conference USA title with a 12-2 mark in 2015. Additionally, Brohm has emerged as one of the top offensive minds in the Group of 5 ranks. WKU has ranked inside of the top 10 nationally in scoring offense over the last two seasons and finished third nationally by averaging 7.23 yards a play in 2015. Even with quarterback Brandon Doughty off to the NFL, WKU’s program is in good hands with Brohm leading the way.

 

Related:

 

2. Doc Holliday, Marshall

Holliday is known for his recruiting prowess, but he’s doing more than just winning on signing day for the Thundering Herd. Holliday is 50-28 in six seasons and has guided Marshall to three consecutive years of at least 10 wins. The Thundering Herd won the 2014 Conference USA title and finished No. 23 nationally in the Associated Press poll. Additionally, Marshall is 4-0 in bowl games under Holliday’s watch. 

 

3. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech

Holtz’s three-year run at South Florida ended after a 16-21 record, but the rest of his resume as a head coach features plenty of highlights. After a four-year stint as an assistant at Notre Dame from 1990-93, Holtz was hired as UConn’s head coach and recorded a 34-23 mark in five seasons. With a chance to work under his father Lou Holtz, Skip returned to the assistant ranks in 1999 at South Carolina and remained with the Gamecocks until 2004. Holtz took over East Carolina’s program in 2005 and guided the Pirates to a 38-27 record and four consecutive bowl trips. While the stint at USF was a disappointment, Holtz is back on track with a 22-17 mark in three years at Louisiana Tech.

 

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4. Rick Stockstill, MTSU

Consistent. That’s the best way to describe Stockstill’s tenure at MTSU. Since taking over the program in 2006, Stockstill has guided the Blue Raiders to a 64-61 record and has four bowl appearances over the last seven years. MTSU has a winning mark in league play over the last four seasons and has only one year of fewer than six wins since 2009. With one of the league’s top quarterback-receiver combinations (Brent Stockstill to Richie James) in place, 2016 could be the perfect opportunity for Stockstill to break through and win the Conference USA East title.

 

5. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion

Old Dominion is a program with a lot of potential, and Wilder has the Monarchs poised to challenge for a bowl bid in their third season at the FBS level. Wilder is the first coach at Old Dominion since the program returned to the gridiron in 2009. The Monarchs went 9-2 in their first season, followed by an 8-3 mark in 2010. Wilder led the program to an 21-5 record from 2011-12, which included back-to-back trips to the FCS playoffs. After finishing 8-4 in a transition year to the FBS level, Old Dominion is 11-12 over the last two seasons and just missed on a bowl appearance last year. Wilder should have the Monarchs in contention for a winning record this fall.

 

6. David Bailiff, Rice

With its tough academic standards, Rice is one of the toughest jobs in the Group of 5 ranks. While Bailiff has experienced his share of ups and downs since taking over in 2007, the program has won 53 games in nine years and made four bowl trips. Additionally, the Owls won the 2013 Conference USA title and have recorded two winning marks in league play over the last three seasons. After a 5-7 record last year, Bailiff will be looking to guide Rice to its fourth bowl in five years in 2016.

 

7. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

Hopson is stepping into one of the most favorable roster situations of any first-year coach in 2016. Southern Miss returns 12 starters – including star quarterback Nick Mullens – from last season’s 9-5 team that claimed the Conference USA West Division title. Hopson has several stops as an assistant on his resume, including stints at Marshall, Ole Miss, Michigan, Memphis and Southern Miss. The Mississippi native was hired as Alcorn State’s head coach in 2012 and guided the Braves to a 32-17 mark in four seasons. With previous experience at Southern Miss, success in his only head coaching stop and ties to the state, Hopson looks like a good fit in Hattiesburg.

 

Related:

 

8. Sean Kugler, UTEP

Injuries hit UTEP hard last season, including an early season-ending ailment to standout running back Aaron Jones. As a result, the Miners slipped to 5-7 in Kugler’s third year on the job. However, UTEP is just one season removed from a 7-6 mark and a bowl appearance in 2014, and a quick rebound should be anticipated for 2016. Kugler is 14-23 in three seasons with the Miners.

 

9. Ron Turner, FIU

Turner wasn’t the most popular hire after Mario Cristobal’s firing, but FIU has increased its win total in back-to-back years after a 1-11 mark in 2013. The Panthers finished 4-8 in 2014 and nearly qualified for a bowl with a 5-7 mark last season. Turner also has prior stints as a head coach from stops at San Jose State (1992) and Illinois (1997-04). His all-time record as a coach is 52-87, but he did lead the Fighting Illini to a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2001. With 13 starters back, Turner has a good chance to lead FIU to a bowl game in 2016.

 

10. Charlie Partridge, FAU

Partridge was known for his recruiting connections in the state of Florida when he was hired as FAU’s head coach in 2014. As expected, the Owls have recruited well over the last three classes, and there’s a strong core of promising players in place for 2016. The on-field results have been slow for Partridge, as he’s posted back-to-back 3-9 campaigns to start his tenure. Prior to taking over at FAU, Partridge was an assistant under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas and also had a stint at Pittsburgh from 2003-07. This is his first opportunity to be a head coach, so it’s no surprise Patridge is still learning on the job entering year three.

 

11. Brad Lambert, Charlotte

Building a program from scratch isn’t easy. And it’s even harder to accomplish that goal by transitioning from the FCS to the FBS level. That’s the challenge facing Lambert at Charlotte, as the 49ers are 12-22 over the last three seasons, including a 2-10 mark in their first year at the FBS level in 2015. Prior to taking over as Charlotte’s head coach, Lambert worked from 2001-10 under Jim Grobe at Wake Forest. The fourth-year coach seems to have this program trending in the right direction.

 

Related:

 

12. Seth Littrell, North Texas

Littrell looks like a good fit at North Texas, but he inherited a team in need of a lot of help after a 1-11 record in 2015. Littrell comes to Denton after two seasons at North Carolina, working under coach Larry Fedora as the program’s offensive coordinator. Prior to North Carolina, Littrell worked as an assistant at Indiana, Arizona and Texas Tech. The Oklahoma native’s background with the Air Raid offense should help North Texas attract plenty of offensive talent into the program.

 

13. Frank Wilson, UTSA

Wilson is regarded as an ace recruiter, and his ability to attract talent to a program should be a huge benefit to UTSA. There’s no shortage of talent in San Antonio and the surrounding area, but the first-year coach has to prove he’s more than just a recruiter. Wilson has never worked as a head coach or a coordinator at the FBS level. His only experience as a head coach came in high school, leading O.P. Walker High School from 2000-03. 

 

(Photos of Jeff Brohm courtesy of )

Teaser:
Ranking Conference USA's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Related: 

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 leagues. Here are the results for the Big 12:

 

Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

There’s very little separation among the top three coaches in the Big 12. Stoops returns the No. 1 spot in Athlon’s rankings after slipping down the list last season. After an 8-5 record in 2014, Stoops hit the reset button on offense and made significant changes to his staff. The moves paid off in a big way for Oklahoma, as the Sooners finished 11-2, won the Big 12 title and played in the College Football Playoff. The eight-win season in 2014 was only the fourth time in Stoops’ 17-year tenure Oklahoma won fewer than 10 games. Maintaining a high level of success at any program for nearly 20 years isn’t easy. But Stoops continues to push the right buttons and should have the Sooners in the mix to earn another trip to the playoffs in 2016.

 

Related:

 

2. Gary Patterson, TCU

As mentioned with Bob Stoops, there’s very little separation among the top three coaches – Stoops, Patterson and Snyder – in the Big 12. With that in mind, we wouldn’t disagree with a ranking that listed Patterson as the No. 1 coach from the Big 12. Patterson has been instrumental in TCU’s rise into a Big 12 title contender, recording a 143-47 record since becoming the program’s coach at the end of the 2000 season. The Horned Frogs have shifted conferences three times under Patterson but appear to be fully entrenched in the Big 12 after winning 23 games over the last two years. Not only is Patterson one of the nation’s top coaches, he’s also one of the best at developing talent and gameplans on defense. 

 

Related:

 

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

An argument could be made for Snyder as the top Big 12 coach in Athlon’s 2016 rankings. The Wildcats are always a dangerous opponent with Snyder on the sidelines, and the 76-year-old coach has completely changed the outlook of this program. Prior to Snyder’s arrival in 1989, Kansas State had only two winning seasons since 1955 and just one bowl appearance in program history. After a 1-10 mark in 1989, Snyder went 5-6 in his second year and has won at least four games in every season since his debut. Snyder had a brief retirement in 2006, but he returned to the sidelines in 2009 and has guided Kansas State to six straight bowl appearances and recorded 21 wins from 2011-12. Considering how difficult of a job Kansas State is and the lack of success prior to 1989, it’s a strong testament to Snyder’s coaching ability for this program to have 193 wins under his watch.

 

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State has emerged as an annual threat to win the Big 12 title under Gundy’s watch, and last year’s 10-3 mark represented the Cowboys fourth double-digit win season over the last six years. The 10-win season was capped by an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, giving Gundy 10 consecutive bowl trips. In 11 years guiding his alma mater, Gundy is 94-47 and is already the winningest coach in program history. The Cowboys finished No. 3 nationally in 2011 and have not experienced a losing season since 2005. 

 

5. Charlie Strong, Texas

With an 11-14 record through two seasons in Austin, the pressure is starting to build on Strong to turn things around. While Strong didn’t inherit a roster filled with talent, Texas is one of college football’s best jobs and the expectation level is certainly higher than six wins. After a 6-7 record in his first year, Strong went 5-7 last season and the losing mark prompted changes. Five new assistants were hired, including Sterlin Gilbert as the team’s play-caller on offense to bring a new spread, up-tempo approach to Texas. Strong has a track record of turning around programs, as evidenced by his 37-15 mark in four years at Louisville (2010-13). Assuming Texas continues to recruit at a high level and the offense improves in 2016, the future still looks bright for Strong’s long-term outlook in Austin.

 

Related:

 

6. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Holgorsen enters 2016 in an interesting position. Last season, the Mountaineers recorded their highest win total (eight) since joining the Big 12 in 2012. However, contract negotiations between Holgorsen and athletic director Shane Lyons ended earlier this spring. Holgorsen is not signed beyond 2017, so there’s some uncertainty about his future in Morgantown. Under Holgorsen’s watch, West Virginia is 36-28 overall and has played in four bowl games over the last five years.

 

7. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury is known as one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches and has Texas Tech trending up after a 7-6 mark in 2015. The Red Raiders went 8-5 in Kingsbury’s debut (2013) but regressed to 4-8 in 2014. However, Texas Tech had a solid rebound year last season and could challenge for a winning mark in Big 12 play in 2016. Prior to taking over as the head coach in Lubbock, Kingsbury engineered some of the nation’s top offenses at Houston and Texas A&M. At 36 years old, Kingsbury is still learning on the job and could move up this list in future seasons.

 

8. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Campbell was an outstanding hire for Iowa State and easily one of the best coaching moves of the 2015-16 carousel. The 36-year-old coach comes to Ames after four full seasons (and one bowl game in 2011), earning a 35-15 record with the Rockets. Toledo did not have a losing season under Campbell’s watch and recorded bowl trips in three out of four years. Campbell has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks and played his college ball at the ultra-successful Mount Union program. Iowa State is a tough job, so Campbell will find it tough to match is win total from Toledo on an annual basis. However, the Cyclones should take a step forward under Campbell’s direction and contend for bowl games on a consistent basis.

 

9. Jim Grobe, Baylor

Turmoil has surrounded Baylor’s football program this offseason and continued with the dismissal of coach Art Briles in late May. Instead of promoting from within, the Bears are turning to Grobe as the program’s head coach for the 2016 season. Grobe has been out of coaching since the end of the 2013 season, but he should be a stabilizing force for Baylor. Grobe coached at Ohio from 1995-00 and accumulated a 33-33-1 record with two winning seasons. He was hired at Wake Forest in 2001 and brought significant improvement to one of the ACC’s toughest jobs. Grobe went 77-82 from 2001-13 in Winston-Salem, which included an ACC title and an Orange Bowl appearance in 2006. Grobe isn’t the long-term answer at Baylor, but he’s a good one-year solution. 

 

10. David Beaty, Kansas

Beaty inherited a program in need of a massive overhaul and finished his debut in Lawrence with an 0-12 record. The lack of success in 2015 was no surprise, as Beaty needs another recruiting class (or two) just to get this program competitive on an annual basis in the Big 12. In an effort to spark improvement on offense, Beaty is taking over the play-calling duties for the offense in 2016. However, the Jayhawks are likely staring at another double-digit loss season. Beaty is known as a good recruiter and his ties to the state of Texas should help in upgrading the program’s overall talent level over the next few years. Beaty still has plenty to prove in his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level and has to show he can build a program – not just recruit talent to Lawrence.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the Pac-12:

 

Ranking the Pac-12's Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. David Shaw, Stanford

Stanford’s rigid academic standards are no secret, but the tough admissions and smaller prospect pool hasn’t stopped Shaw from transforming this program into a top 10-15 team nationally on an annual basis. Over the last five seasons, Shaw has guided Stanford to a 54-14 record, and the Cardinal finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll last year. Additionally, Stanford has claimed three out of the last four Pac-12 titles and has only one season (2014) of fewer than 11 wins under Shaw’s direction. Despite losing several key pieces from last year’s 12-2 team, Shaw’s leadership should ensure the Cardinal won’t slip too far in the national rankings.

 

Related:

 

2. Chris Petersen, Washington

Petersen’s record through two seasons in Seattle is only 15-12, but there are plenty of signs this program is on the right path. The Huskies went 8-6 in Petersen’s first year (2014) and finished 7-6 last season. Despite the slight decrease in wins, Washington was considered a . The seven-win 2015 campaign featured a handful of underclassmen in key roles and an additional year of experience should allow the Huskies to push for a breakout year and contend for the Pac-12 title. Prior to Washington, Petersen went 92-12 and claimed two BCS bowl victories in eight seasons at Boise State. Although it’s a small sample size, Petersen has already emerged one of the Pac-12’s top coaches.

 

3. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Whittingham’s stock continues to rise among Pac-12 coaches after leading Utah to a 10-3 record last season – the program’s best mark since joining the league in 2011. Additionally, the Utes have back-to-back finishes (2014-15) in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 2008-09. Whittingham has only two losing seasons in his Utah tenure and has four years of at least 10 wins, including a perfect 13-0 mark in 2008. Utah doesn’t recruit on the same level as South Division rivals UCLA or USC, but the Utes will always be a factor in the Pac-12 with Whittingham leading the way.

 

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4. Mike Leach, Washington State

Entering his fifth year in Pullman, Leach seems to have Washington State poised to challenge for eight or nine wins on a consistent basis. After a surprising loss to Portland State in Week 1 last season, the Cougars rebounded by winning nine games and finished 6-3 in league play – the program’s first winning mark in Pac-12 action since 2003. Under Leach’s watch, Washington State is 21-29 overall and has played in two bowl games over the last four years. Success is nothing new to Leach, as he went 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-09. Leach is one of college football’s top offensive-minded coaches and returns one of the nation’s top quarterbacks for 2016 in Luke Falk. 

 

5. Todd Graham, Arizona State

High expectations surrounded Arizona State last season, but the Sun Devils finished with their lowest win total (six) in Todd Graham’s four years in Tempe. The 6-7 record last season was just the second losing mark in Graham’s 10-year career as a FBS head coach. However, it’s safe to assume Graham won’t allow Arizona State to be down for long. Graham has a strong track record of success at the FBS level, leading Rice to a six-game improvement in the win column in his only year with the Owls (2006), finishing 36-17 at Tulsa from 2007-10 and leading Pittsburgh to a 6-6 mark in one season (2011) with the Panthers.

 

6. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

A year after a Pac-12 South title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, Arizona took a step back in the win column with a 7-6 overall mark and a 3-6 record in league play. The seven wins in 2015 were the fewest by Arizona under Rodriguez’s watch, but despite injuries to key players on offense, the Wildcats earned their fourth consecutive winning record. Rodriguez is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should get this program back on track over the next two seasons. Scoring points won’t be a problem for the Wildcats, but the defense has to improve. Rodriguez took steps to fix this unit in the offseason, hiring new play-caller Marcel Yates to highlight a revamped staff. Prior to taking over in Tucson, Rodriguez went 60-26 at West Virginia from 2001-07 and 15-22 in three years at Michigan.  

 

7. Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Life after Marcus Mariota wasn’t going to be easy, but Oregon’s 2015 season was hindered by an early-season injury to quarterback Vernon Adams. After a 3-3 start, Helfrich guided the Ducks to a 9-4 final record in 2015, which included road wins at Washington, Arizona State and Stanford. The nine-win season elevated Helfrich to 33-8 in three years at Oregon and an impressive 22-5 mark in Pac-12 play. Helfrich faces a couple of challenges in 2016, as the Ducks need to improve on defense and find a quarterback to replace Adams. The hire of Brady Hoke as the team’s new defensive coordinator should help, and Helfrich seems to have two capable quarterbacks in Dakota Prukop and Travis Jonsen. 

 

Related:

 

8. Jim Mora, UCLA

The Pac-12 has one of the nation’s deepest collections of coaches. Need evidence? Mora ranks eighth on this list, but a strong argument could be made for the UCLA head coach to rank higher after a 37-16 mark over the last four seasons. Under Mora’s watch, the Bruins have won at least eight games every year and claimed the Pac-12 South title in 2012. UCLA has some key players to replace from its 2015 team, but a favorable schedule and the development of sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen has this program poised to enter the 2016 season as the favorite in the South Division.

 

9. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

Andersen’s decision to leave Wisconsin for Oregon State came as a surprise. In his two seasons with the Badgers, Andersen went 19-7 and guided the program to a Big Ten West Division title in 2014. And prior to Wisconsin, Andersen went 26-24 at Utah State and finished his tenure in Logan with back-to-back bowl appearances. While Andersen’s hire came as a surprise, Oregon State’s 2015 performance was not. The Beavers were in clear rebuild mode last year and struggled to a 2-10 finish. Andersen has a track record of success but it’s going to take some time to get the Beavers back in contention for winning seasons.

 

Related:

 

10. Sonny Dykes, California

Coming off his best season at California (8-5 in 2015), Dykes has momentum and a contract extension on his side. The Golden Bears went 1-11 in Dykes’ first year with the program but improved to 5-7 in 2014 and recorded their first winning season since 2011 with a solid 8-5 campaign in 2015. Additionally, quarterback Jared Goff went No. 1 in the NFL Draft, which certainly doesn’t hurt Dykes on the recruiting trail. The Golden Bears also received good news in mid-May, as transfer quarterback Davis Webb is headed to California instead of Colorado. Repeating last year’s 8-5 mark will be tough, but Dykes has this program trending in the right direction.

 

11. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

MacIntyre inherited a mess and a program that went 4-21 from 2011-12 under former coach Jon Embree. There were no quick fixes in MacIntyre’s rebuilding effort, and the former San Jose State coach has made some progress over the last three seasons. The Buffaloes finished 4-8 in MacIntyre’s first year (2013), regressed to 2-10 in 2014 but finished 4-9 last season. While Colorado has been more competitive under MacIntyre’s watch, this program still has only two Pac-12 wins over the last three seasons. Prior to Colorado, MacIntyre went 16-21 in three years at San Jose State, including a 10-2 record in 2012.

 

12. Clay Helton, USC

Helton enters 2016 with plenty to prove and no shortage of pressure. After filling in as an interim coach for the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl and again last year after Steve Sarkisian was dismissed, Helton was promoted to the full-time job at the end of the 2015 regular season. Helton is 6-4 in his limited stint as the program’s head coach and guided USC to the Pac-12 South title last year. However, this is his first opportunity to be a head coach on a full-time basis – and he’s doing it at one of the nation’s top programs. Helton wasted no time putting his stamp on the program by overhauling the staff and finished strong on the recruiting trail by signing the No. 8 class in the nation in February. Helton doesn’t have the big-time name recognition that Lane Kiffin or Sarkisian brought to the program when they were hired. Could that be a good thing for USC? Only time will tell how this hire will work out.

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the Big Ten:

 

Ranking the Big Ten's Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

With 50 wins, a national championship and three top-five finishes in the Associated Press poll in the last four years, Meyer continues to set the bar high for success in the Big Ten. Ohio State is 50-4 overall under Meyer’s watch and has lost only one regular season league contest over the last four years. Success at a high level is something Meyer has experienced at each stop in his coaching career. In two years at Bowling Green, Meyer guided the Falcons to a 17-6 record and went 22-2 in two seasons at Utah. At Florida, Meyer won 65 games in six years and claimed two national titles (2006 and 2008). Despite heavy personnel losses in 2016, Meyer won’t allow Ohio State to slip too far in the win column, which should allow the Buckeyes to compete for another playoff bid this fall.

 

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2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

As expected, it didn’t take long for Harbaugh to return Michigan back among the nation's best. The Wolverines finished 10-3 in Harbaugh’s first season – a five-game improvement from the previous year. Additionally, the 10 wins last season nearly matched the program’s combined victory total from 2013-14 (12). And the expectation level is high going into 2016, as the Wolverines are picked among the favorites to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Prior to Michigan, Harbaugh won 44 games in four seasons with the 49ers, transformed Stanford into a top-five team over four years and also went 29-6 at San Diego. Winning at a high level (and right away) is nothing knew for Harbaugh.

 

3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Dantonio has elevated Michigan State to new heights and the Spartans have emerged as an annual contender for the Big Ten title. Under Dantonio’s watch, Michigan State is 87-33 since 2007 and claimed the conference title for the second time in three seasons in 2015. Additionally, last year’s 12-win campaign resulted in a trip to the College Football Playoff. Dantonio has guided the program to at least 11 victories in five out of the last six seasons and has only one losing record (2009) in his tenure in East Lansing. The Spartans lose a handful of key players from last year’s playoff team, but Dantonio should keep Michigan State among the top 10-15 teams in the nation.

 

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4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa seemed to be at a crossroads entering 2015. After an 11-2 finish in 2009, the Hawkeyes failed to win more than eight games in a season over the next five years, which included a 4-8 mark in 2012. And after a 7-6 record in 2014, Ferentz’s seat was starting to warm. However, Ferentz and Iowa responded with a school-record 12 wins, fell just short of winning the Big Ten title and made the program’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1990. Since taking over in 1999, Ferentz has recorded a 127-87 record and has only one losing season since 2001.

 

5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

A quick peek at Northwestern’s year-by-year history provides plenty of insight into why Fitzgerald deserves a spot among the Big Ten’s top coaches. The Wildcats have made 12 bowl trips in program history, with six coming under Fitzgerald’s watch. Additionally, two of the program’s four double-digit win seasons occurred in Fitzgerald’s tenure. Overall, the former Northwestern linebacker has guided his alma mater to a 70-56 record and two top 25 finishes in the Associated Press poll. Winning at Northwestern isn’t easy, but Fitzgerald has transformed this program into a consistent bowl team.

 

6. James Franklin, Penn State

After a 24-15 three-year stint at Vanderbilt, high expectations surrounded Franklin’s arrival at Penn State. However, improvement has been tough to come by for the Nittany Lions over the last two seasons. Penn State has posted back-to-back 7-6 records under Franklin, but the program was still digging out from recent NCAA sanctions. Entering 2016, Penn State’s overall depth has improved with back-to-back top 20 signing classes, and Franklin is attempting to fix the offensive woes by hiring Joe Moorhead as the program’s new play-caller. Franklin didn’t have the instant success most predicted at Penn State, but there’s still plenty of time for the third-year coach to get the Nittany Lions closer to Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten East pecking order.

 

7. Mike Riley, Nebraska

A 6-7 record in his first season at Nebraska certainly isn’t what Riley had in mind. However, a deeper look at the Cornhuskers’ 2015 season shows this team wasn’t far from eight or nine wins. Six of Nebraska’s seven losses came by eight points or less, with the close defeats largely fueled by a minus-12 turnover margin. With small improvement in the turnover department, the Cornhuskers should be able to rebound back into the right side of the winning column in 2016. Prior to Nebraska, Riley went 93-80 at Oregon State – one of the Pac-12’s toughest jobs – and also spent time in the NFL as a head coach with the Chargers. And here’s another positive sign for Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are off to a great start on the recruiting trail for the 2017 signing class. Riley didn’t inherit a team stocked with depth and was hit by some bad luck last year. 2016 should provide some better insight into the direction of this program under Riley’s watch. 

 

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8. Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Things are looking up for Indiana after the Hoosiers reached the postseason for the first time in Kevin Wilson’s tenure. After a 1-11 debut in 2011, Indiana has made progress under Wilson’s watch, finishing with at least four wins in each of the last four seasons. That may seem like a small feat, but this job is the toughest in the Big Ten East and has only two bowl appearances since 1994. Indiana has been more competitive under Wilson, and he was rewarded with a contract extension at the end of the 2015 season. Additionally, the program is investing more into facilities and stepped up in assistant salaries to hire Tom Allen as the program’s new defensive coordinator. The Big Ten East isn’t forgiving, but Indiana will be a tough out for the rest of the division with Wilson continuing to push this program to improve over the next few years. 

 

9. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Chryst had a solid debut in his return to Madison, as the Badgers finished 10-3 and capped the 2015 season with a victory over USC in the Holiday Bowl. Chryst is entrenched in the program, as he’s a Madison native, played his college ball with the Badgers and spent time as an assistant at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez in 2005 and with Bret Bielema from 2006-11. However, Chryst will be tested in 2016, as Wisconsin takes on a brutal schedule, including a non-conference game versus LSU and crossover matchups in Big Ten play against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Prior to taking over for Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, Chryst went 19-19 in three years at Pittsburgh. So far, so good for Chryst at his alma mater.

 

10. D.J. Durkin, Maryland

Durkin was considered one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks over the last few seasons and lands at a program (Maryland) with some upside. The Ohio native comes to College Park after one season at Michigan, where he coordinated a Wolverine defense that ranked third in the Big Ten in fewest points allowed. Prior to Michigan, Durkin worked for five seasons at Florida and also spent time at Stanford (2007-09) and Bowling Green (2005-06). Durkin has a lot of work ahead in 2016 after Maryland finished 3-9 last year. However, Durkin hired a good staff and should be able to utilize his experience as an assistant under two of the nation’s best coaches – Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh – to help Maryland improve over the next few seasons.

 

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11. Lovie Smith, Illinois

Even though the timing (March) was unusual, new athletic director Josh Whitman wasted no time putting his stamp on the program. On his first official day on the job, Whitman fired Bill Cubit and made a standout hire by bringing Smith to Champaign. While Smith hasn’t coached in college since 1995, he brings plenty of name value to Illinois, which should add credibility on the recruiting trail. In 11 seasons as a head coach in the NFL, Smith went 89-87 and guided the Bears to a Super Bowl appearance in 2006. It may take a year for Smith to adjust to the collegiate ranks, and he’s already getting a late start due to the March hire. However, he hired a good staff to ease the transition and there’s plenty of potential for this program to improve in the Big Ten West.

 

12. Chris Ash, Rutgers

The Big Ten East Division is one of college football’s toughest divisions, and Rutgers is facing an uphill battle to compete with Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State on an annual basis. But after making more headlines for off-field news than actual on-field results in 2015, this program took a step in the right direction by cleaning house in the athletic department. New athletic director Patrick Hobbs picked Ash as Kyle Flood’s replacement, and the Iowa native seems to be the right fit for the Scarlet Knights. Ash is well versed in the division after spending the last two years at Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator and he also has a prior stop in the Big Ten from three seasons at Wisconsin (2010-12). Ash also has stops on his resume from stints at Arkansas (2013), Iowa State and San Diego State. This is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level, but Ash has worked for one of the nation’s best coaches (Urban Meyer) and seems to have the right blueprint and long-term vision to help this program.

 

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12. Tracy Claeys, Minnesota

Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement was a setback for a Minnesota program that enters 2016 with four consecutive bowl trips. But the Golden Gophers are hoping to continue Kill’s success with one of his long-time assistants – Tracy Claeys. The Kansas native worked under Kill for 20 years and also served as the program’s interim coach in 2013 and once again in 2015. Under Claeys’ watch, Minnesota finished 2-4 over its final six games last season, including a 21-14 victory over Central Michigan. However, the Golden Gophers were competitive against Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin. Claeys has big shoes to fill in replace his mentor, but Minnesota returns 14 starters and has a favorable schedule that should allow the program to reach at least six wins in 2016.

 

14. Darrell Hazell, Purdue

Purdue is a tough job, but Hazell looked like the right coach to help this program take a step forward when he was hired in 2013. Prior to becoming the head coach for the Boilermakers, Hazell worked at Ohio State under Jim Tressel as an assistant from 2004-10 and went 16-10 at Kent State (2011-12), including an impressive 11-3 season in 2012. But success at Purdue has been tough to come by for Hazell. The Boilermakers are just 6-30 over the last three years and have only two Big Ten wins in that span. Hazell is on the hot seat entering 2016, but there’s some optimism with 16 returning starters and new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

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Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Coaches for 2016
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In a popular move among its fanbase, Pittsburgh is turning back the clock and making the move to its “Pitt” script as its full-time logo for 2016. One of the final pieces to the puzzle in the logo transition are new uniforms for its teams, including the football program for the upcoming year.

 

On Wednesday night, Pitt unveiled its new uniforms for 2016, with coach Pat Narduzzi .

 

Here’s a look at the Panthers new uniforms for 2016:

 

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Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 leagues. Here are the results for the SEC:

 

Ranking the ’s Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

With three national championships over the last five years, the rest of college football is chasing Alabama and Nick Saban. Under Saban’s direction, the Crimson Tide have won 105 games since 2007 and are the only team to make the College Football Playoff in back-to-back seasons. Alabama has only lost more than one game in SEC play once since 2008 and has not finished outside of the Associated Press top 10 since 2007. There’s no question the bar is set high at Alabama and maintaining this level of success isn’t easy for any program. However, Saban is the unquestioned No. 1 coach in the nation and continues to reel in elite talent every year.

 

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2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Over the last few seasons, no team in the West has improved its standing nationally more than Ole Miss. Freeze is a big reason for the improvement, as he came to Oxford with a track record of success. Freeze went 20-5 in two seasons at Lambuth and finished 10-2 in his only year at Arkansas State (2011). It didn’t take long for Freeze to generate improvement at Ole Miss, as the Rebels increased their win total by five games in his first year. And after an 8-5 finish in 2013, Ole Miss continued its rise with a 9-4 record in 2014, followed by a 10-3 mark in 2015. The program has recorded back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl appearances and finished No. 10 in the Associated Press poll last year. While three NFL first-round picks must be replaced in 2016, Ole Miss is equipped to handle the transition with four straight top-20 recruiting classes.

 

3. Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Bielema inherited a program in need of repair after a 4-8 mark under John L. Smith in 2012. Establishing a foundation for success took a year, as the Razorbacks went 3-9 in Bielema’s debut, but there were signs of progress late in the 2013 season. Arkansas used that momentum to finish 7-6 in 2014, which included a 31-7 Texas Bowl blowout over Texas. And the Razorbacks took another step forward in 2015, finishing 8-5 and 5-3 in conference play and just outside of the top 25 in the final Associated Press poll. Considering how difficult the SEC West is, going from 0-8 in conference play (2013) to 5-3 (2015) is quite an accomplishment for Bielema. Entering 2016, it’s clear Bielema has this program trending up and on stable ground.

 

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4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Mississippi State is the toughest job in the SEC West, but the program has made steady progress under Dan Mullen’s watch. The Bulldogs have recorded six consecutive winning seasons and set a school record with 19 victories over the last two years. Additionally, Mullen has guided Mississippi State to six straight bowl games after the program recorded just one postseason trip from 2001-09. The Bulldogs also spent time as the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff committee rankings in 2014. Despite losing quarterback Dak Prescott and a couple of other key contributors in 2016, Mullen won’t let Mississippi State slide too far in the SEC West.  

 

5. Butch Jones, Tennessee

Tennessee has made steady progress over the last three seasons and is poised to win the SEC East in 2016. Jones is the driving force behind the improvement, as the Volunteers have increased their win total by two games in each of the last two years. Tennessee went 5-7 in Jones’ first season (2013) but rebounded to 7-6 in 2014 and finished 9-4 in 2015. Last year’s nine wins were the most for this program since a 10-win season in 2007. The Volunteers are also recruiting at a higher level, inking three consecutive top-15 classes after recording a No. 24 finish in 2013 and a No. 20 rank in 2012. Tennessee isn’t the first successful coaching stop for Jones, as he went 27-13 in three years at Central Michigan (2007-10) and finished 23-14 in three seasons at Cincinnati (2010-12).

 

6. Les Miles, LSU

Miles might be the toughest coach to rank in the SEC. He’s won 112 games in 11 seasons, guided LSU to the 2007 national championship and a No. 2 finish in 2011. However, Miles was nearly fired at the end of 2015 and the Tigers have not finished higher than No. 13 in the Associated Press poll over the last four years. That’s not ideal for a program that has the No. 4 roster in the nation and averages a over the last five seasons. Additionally, LSU is just 14-10 in SEC play in the last three years. With Leonard Fournette and a strong defense returning, the Tigers could win it all in 2016. However, after last year’s bizarre coaching drama and recent finishes, LSU – just like its coach – is one of the hardest teams to figure out this offseason.

 

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7. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Malzahn’s tenure at Auburn started on a high note with a 12-2 record and an appearance in the national championship. The Tigers fell short of winning it all in 2013, but all signs seemed to point to this program as one on the rise. However, that hasn’t been the case. Over the last two seasons, Auburn is just 15-11 and needed a win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl to avoid a losing record (7-6). Additionally, the 2-6 mark in SEC play last year was the program’s lowest win total in conference action since 2012. Another problem spot for Malzahn was his side of the ball - the offense. The Tigers averaged 5.4 yards per play – the lowest of Malzahn’s tenure as head coach. With a declining win total in each of the last two seasons, 2016 is shaping up to be a critical year for Malzahn.

 

8. Jim McElwain, Florida

An argument could be made for McElwain to rank higher on this list after leading the Gators to a SEC East title and a 10-4 record in his first season in Gainesville. McElwain’s first year came with its share of obstacles, as Florida lost starting quarterback Will Grier to a midseason suspension and struggled on offense in the second half of 2015. Despite the offensive woes, the Gators still managed to hold onto the East title and head into 2016 as a projected top 25 team. Prior to Florida, McElwain went 22-16 at Colorado State, increasing his win total each year after a 4-8 debut in 2012. One area for McElwain to work on - recruiting. Florida has ranked No. 13 (2016) and No. 21 (2015) after three top-10 finishes from 2012-14.

 

9. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Sumlin has slipped on this list over the last few seasons, and 2016 will be an important year for the fifth-year coach. After an 11-2 finish in 2012, Texas A&M went 9-4 in 2013 and recorded back-to-back 8-5 campaigns. Additionally, the Aggies are just 11-13 in SEC play over the last three seasons and have not finished in the top 25 over the last two years. Sumlin’s program also suffered a setback with the departure of two talented quarterbacks – Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen – prior to last season’s bowl game. Graduate transfer Trevor Knight alleviates some of the concern under center, but the Aggies are also breaking in a new offense behind coordinator Noel Mazzone. Sumlin took a step forward by hiring John Chavis to coordinate the defense last year, and now it’s up to Mazzone to provide stability on offense.

 

10. Kirby Smart, Georgia

Smart patiently waited for his first opportunity to be a head coach, and the former Georgia defensive back lands at his alma mater after nine seasons at Alabama. While Smart is back at his alma mater, there’s plenty of pressure to win right away. After all, he’s replacing a coach (Mark Richt) who won 145 games in 15 seasons. The challenge for Smart is simple: Elevate Georgia into contention for playoff berths and be a consistent SEC title contender. That’s something that has eluded the Bulldogs in recent years, as the program’s last SEC title was in 2005. Smart certainly has the right background and experience to win big. However, this is his first opportunity to be a head coach and it comes at one of top 10 jobs in the nation.

 

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11. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Muschamp was fired at Florida after a 28-21 four-year stint from 2011-14, but he’s getting a second chance in the SEC. After one season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator, Muschamp was hired at South Carolina to replace Steve Spurrier. While Muschamp is certainly familiar with life in the SEC, he’s inheriting a program that needs major repair after a 3-9 2015 campaign. And it’s no secret the challenges of winning at Florida and South Carolina are different. Muschamp hired a good staff and is known as a good recruiter, but the access to talent is different at South Carolina. Muschamp will be better in his second stint as a head coach in the SEC. However, this job is more challenging than the one in Gainesville. 

 

12. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Stoops is making progress at Kentucky, as the Wildcats have recorded back-to-back 5-7 finishes after a 2-10 record in 2013. However, while 2016 isn’t necessarily a make-or-break year for Stoops, getting to a bowl game is a reasonable expectation. The roster talent has improved over the last four years, with Kentucky recording four straight top-40 signing classes. Additionally, Stoops upgraded his staff with the addition of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. With three winnable SEC games in Lexington, getting to 6-6 isn’t out of the question for Stoops in 2016. The fourth-year coach isn’t on the hot seat, but the pressure is starting to build.

 

13. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

After a rough 3-9 debut in 2014, Vanderbilt showed improvement in Mason’s second season with a 4-8 finish. The Commodores also went 2-6 in SEC play after a winless conference record in 2014. Mason’s decision to assume play-calling duties on defense helped to spur the improvement in the win column, as Vanderbilt limited opponents to 21 points a game and 5.2 yards per play. With the defense on track, Mason’s next goal is to generate more improvement out of an offense that managed only 15.2 points a game last season. If the offense takes a step forward, Vanderbilt could push for a bowl game in 2016.

 

14. Barry Odom, Missouri

Odom has the tough assignment of following Gary Pinkel at Missouri. Pinkel finished his career in Columbia with a school-record 118 victories and guided the program through a transition to the SEC. While Odom has big shoes to fill, he’s certainly up to the task. He’s a former Missouri player (1996-99) and later worked in Columbia as an off-field assistant with Pinkel from 2003-08, before coaching safeties from 2009-11. In 2012, Odom was hired at Memphis as the defensive coordinator and helped the Tigers engineer significant improvement on that side of the ball. Odom was hired as Missouri’s defensive signal-caller last year and led this unit to a No. 2 finish in the SEC in scoring defense. There’s no question about Odom’s ability to coordinate a defense. However, this is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level.  

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Ranking the SEC's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 09:00
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Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Related:

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 leagues. Here are the results for the ACC:

 

Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Fisher has returned Florida State to a spot among the nation’s elite. In six seasons under Fisher, the Seminoles are 68-14 and have won at least 10 games in five of those years. Additionally, Florida State won the 2013 national championship, made the College Football Playoff in 2014 and played in a New Year’s Six Bowl (Peach) last season. Fisher is not only a strong recruiter and a sharp offensive mind, he’s got an eye for identifying talent and moving players from one side of the ball to another or to a different position to find the best fit for their skill set. After winning 10 games in a rebuilding year, Fisher has Florida State poised to contend for a playoff spot and a national title in 2016.

 

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Swinney continues to raise expectations at Clemson. The Tigers fell just short in their quest to win the national title last season and are loaded for another run in 2016. Under Swinney’s watch, Clemson has shed its underachieving label. The Tigers have won at least 10 games in each of the last five seasons and claimed the 2011 and 2015 ACC Championships. Swinney has surrounded himself with a good staff of assistants, including one of the nation’s top defensive minds in Brent Venables. Clemson’s recruiting is also trending up. The Tigers average a 13.2 finish nationally over the last five seasons, which is second in the ACC to Florida State (4.6).

 

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3. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

If this list was just based on the X’s and O’s ability of a coach, Petrino would be ranked No. 2 in the ACC over Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. In his second stint with the Cardinals, Petrino – regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches – is 17-9 over the last two seasons and has Louisville projected to for 2016. Petrino also has stops on his resume from Arkansas (2008-11) and WKU (2013), with a four-year run at Louisville from 2003-06. Entering 2016, Petrino has the program on stable ground and poised to be a consistent top 25 team over the next few seasons.

 

4. David Cutcliffe, Duke

Thanks to Cutcliffe’s nine-year run with the Blue Devils, Duke is no longer an easy pick to finish in the cellar of the ACC Coastal. Prior to Cutcliffe’s arrival in 2008, the Blue Devils recorded 13 consecutive losing seasons. Cutcliffe guided the program to 15 wins in his first four years, before leading Duke to a 6-7 mark and a bowl trip in 2012. Since 2012, the Blue Devils are 27-13 and have played in three consecutive bowls, with an ACC Coastal title in 2013.

 

5. Mark Richt, Miami

Despite winning 145 games in 15 seasons at Georgia, Richt was dismissed at the 2015 regular season. While Richt won plenty of games at Georgia, a change of scenery (for both parties) and a return to his alma mater isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Richt seems to be energized by transition to Miami, and his return to Coral Gables should help this program take a step forward. The Hurricanes are still looking for their first trip to the ACC title game, and Richt should be the right coach to get this team back in contention for division titles and top 25 finishes. Another bonus for Miami in the coaching transition: Richt plans on calling the plays in 2016.

 

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6. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Fuente has big shoes to fill in replacing Virginia Tech coaching legend Frank Beamer. However, as Fuente’s four-year run at Memphis showed, he’s certainly capable of keeping Virginia Tech near the top of the ACC. Fuente inherited a Memphis program that was in disarray and won three games in the two years prior to his arrival. The Tigers showed steady improvement under his watch, winning four games in 2012 and transitioned to the American Athletic Conference in 2013. Memphis went 3-9 in the tougher AAC but finished 19-6 from 2014-15. The Tigers’ 10-win season in 2014 set a new program high for wins and also resulted in Memphis’ first top 25 finish in the Associated Press poll. Fuente is also regarded for his work with quarterbacks and played a key role in Andy Dalton’s development at TCU during his stint as the offensive coordinator from 2009-11.

 

7. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Fedora delivered a breakout year in his fourth season in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels finished 11-3, won the Coastal Division and finished No. 15 nationally in the Associated Press poll. The 11-win season was a huge boost for Fedora after 6-7 mark in 2014. Fedora has a solid 32-20 record over the last four years and has never finished below .500 in ACC play. Prior to North Carolina, Fedora had a successful stint at Southern Miss, recording a 34-19 mark in four seasons. The Tar Heels face a tougher schedule and have a few key personnel question marks to address, but Fedora’s team opens 2016 as the favorite in the ACC Coastal. 

 

8. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

A case could be made for Johnson to rank higher among his ACC counterparts here, but the Yellow Jackets are coming off their worst season (3-9) since a 1-10 mark in 1994. Despite the disappointing 2015 campaign, Georgia Tech is 61-44 under Johnson’s direction and is just one year removed from winning 11 games and the Orange Bowl in 2014. Additionally, the Yellow Jackets have just one losing season (2015) in ACC play under Johnson. A quick turnaround in 2016 wouldn’t be a surprise with Johnson’s track record, as he went 62-10 in five seasons at Georgia Southern (1997-01) and 45-29 at Navy (2002-07) before landing at Georgia Tech in 2008.

 

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9. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

Narduzzi ranks ninth among his ACC counterparts for 2016, but the second-year coach should move up this list in future seasons. In his first year in the Steel City, Narduzzi led Pittsburgh to an 8-5 overall record and a second-place finish in the ACC’s Coastal Division. Three of the five losses last season were by a touchdown or less, with the other two defeats coming at the hands of Notre Dame and Navy (in its home stadium in the Military Bowl). Narduzzi has Pittsburgh trending in the right direction and should have this team positioned for another run at eight or nine wins in 2016.

 

10. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Mendenhall might be one of the nation’s most intriguing coaches to watch in 2016. Virginia’s decision to hire Mendenhall to replace Mike London was arguably the biggest surprise of the offseason coaching carousel. Mendenhall has spent most of his career out west, including stops as an assistant at Oregon State, Northern Arizona, New Mexico and BYU. Mendenhall was promoted to head coach at BYU in 2005 and led the Cougars to 99 wins over the last 11 years. Mendenhall has a strong track record of success and is regarded for his work with defenses. However, the schedule will be tough on annual basis and adapting to a new recruiting area and conference opponents will require a transition period.

 

11. Dino Babers, Syracuse

Babers is one of the top coaching hires in the 2015-16 coaching carousel and comes to Syracuse after a successful two-year stint at Bowling Green. The Orange needed to get this hire right, as the program can’t afford to fall too far behind in the top-heavy ACC Atlantic. Under Babers’ watch, the Falcons won back-to-back MAC East titles and finished 18-9 from 2014-15. Prior to Bowling Green, Babers went 19-7 in two seasons at Eastern Illinois (2012-13) and also made stops as an assistant at Baylor, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Arizona. Babers’ four-year stint at Baylor as an assistant under Art Briles proved to be one of the most influential stops in his career and helped the California native emerge as one of the nation’s top offensive minds. Babers led Bowling Green’s offense to an average of 42.2 points a game last season and also developed Jimmy Garoppolo into a NFL draft pick while at Eastern Illinois. Hiring Babers should help get Syracuse moving back in the right direction.

 

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12. Steve Addazio, Boston College

After starting his tenure at Boston College with back-to-back 7-6 records, the Eagles regressed with a 3-9 mark in 2015. However, it’s unfair to penalize Addazio too much for last year’s record, as the Eagles were hit hard by injuries on offense and averaged only 9.1 points in ACC contests. Can Addazio quickly get Boston College back on track? The defense ranked among the nation’s best last year and still returns enough of a core (six starters) to prevent a huge drop in production. Additionally, the addition of transfer quarterback Patrick Towles should provide some stability to the offense. Prior to Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two years at Temple and also worked as an assistant at Florida, Indiana and Notre Dame.

 

13. Dave Doeren, NC State

Doeren replaced Tom O’Brien at NC State after a successful two-year stint at Northern Illinois and has made steady progress over the last three seasons in Raleigh. The Wolfpack went 3-9 in Doeren’s debut but rebounded with an 8-5 mark in 2014 and finished 7-6 last year. Additionally, NC State has recorded back-to-back bowl trips and has inked three consecutive top 50 recruiting classes. While there are signs of progress, Doeren is just 6-18 in conference play and has yet to defeat a Power 5 opponent that finished a season with a winning record. The 2016 schedule is challenging, and the Wolfpack have to break in a new quarterback with Jacoby Brissett out of eligibility. This fall should provide good insight into just how far this program has developed under Doeren’s watch.

 

14. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Clawson wasn’t going to be able to immediately turn around Wake Forest in his first two seasons, but there have been signs of improvement. The Demon Deacons are 6-18 under Clawson’s direction and have recorded back-to-back 1-7 records in ACC play. But the program’s depth and talent level is improving, as evidenced by four losses coming by eight points or less in 2015. Clawson is a proven winner from three prior stops – Bowling Green, Richmond and Fordham – and has a blueprint for getting Wake Forest back in contention for winning seasons. With a favorable schedule ahead in 2016, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Demon Deacons hit the six-win mark.

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 10:30
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Kickoff for the 2016 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about rankings, predictions and previews for the upcoming year. For most college football fans, one of the annual traditions each summer is the trip to the newsstand to pick up a preview magazine. The good news? The wait is almost over. The 2016 Athlon Sports College Football Preview magazines officially hit the newsstands on May 24, but all five regional and the national editions are .

 

But that’s not the only bit of good news for college football fans. After studying depth charts, recruiting classes, schedules, stats and coaching hires or assistant movement, Athlon Sports will release its previews and rankings for the projected top 25 teams for 2016 on Monday.

 

Predictions for any conference and all 128 teams are an inexact science. And some teams are just a bigger mystery or a hard program to get a read on for the upcoming year. Which teams are the biggest wild cards and the toughest to rank for 2016? Here are 15 candidates:

 

15 Biggest Wild Card College Football Teams in 2016

 

Baylor

Just how far has Baylor progressed under coach Art Briles? The Bears suffered massive losses in the trenches, as the offensive and defensive lines each have to replace four starters from last year. Despite the personnel turnover up front, Baylor has all of the pieces in place to be a top 10 team in 2016. Quarterback Seth Russell returns after missing the second half of 2015 with a neck injury, while the Bears are loaded with talent at the skill positions. How quickly can Briles find the right answers on the line of scrimmage?

 

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Florida

The Gators were one of the SEC’s biggest surprises last season. In coach Jim McElwain’s first year, Florida overcame a midseason suspension to starting quarterback Will Grier to claim the East Division title and earn a 10-4 final record. While the Gators won the East, the offense struggled mightily without Grier under center. Florida failed to score more than 24 points in a game over the team’s final six contests and finished the year by averaging only 5.11 yards per play. The offense is once again a concern, as Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback, and McElwain still has work to do on the offensive line. Even though cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, safety Keanu Neal, end Jonathan Bullard and linebacker Antonio Morrison will be missed, there’s a strong foundation in place on defense to prevent a drop in production. Florida’s place in the SEC East will be determined by how fast its offense develops. 

 

Florida State

Only two teams – Ohio State and Alabama – have recruited at a higher level than Florida State over the last five seasons. With a roster stocked with talent and 15 returning starters from last year’s 10-win team, the Seminoles are poised to rebound back into national title contention. Quarterback play is coach Jimbo Fisher’s biggest concern, but redshirt freshman Deondre Francois was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2015 signing class and should be an upgrade over last year’s starters. And Francois’ transition to the starting role can be eased by the return of dynamic running back Dalvin Cook, a talented group of receivers and a defense that should be the best in the ACC. There’s no question Florida State has the talent to win it all in 2016. However, how quickly will Francois settle into the starting role? There’s also the schedule to contend with. The Seminoles play Ole Miss and Florida in non-conference play, travel to Louisville and Miami in ACC action and host Clemson on Oct. 29 in a game that should decide the winner of the Atlantic Division.

 

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Georgia

A new era begins at Georgia this fall, as Kirby Smart replaces Mark Richt after his 15-year tenure ended in November. Smart, a former Georgia defensive back, is no stranger to life in the SEC and has plenty of pressure to win right away. The Bulldogs recruited well under Richt’s watch, but Smart inherits a roster with question marks under center, on the offensive line and in the front seven on defense. True freshman Jacob Eason is a future star at quarterback, and it’s only a matter of time before he replaces Greyson Lambert under center. The other big question mark surrounding the offense surrounds the health of running back Nick Chubb after a serious knee injury in 2015. Chubb is expected to play in 2016, but how quickly will he return to his pre-injury form? If Eason quickly lives up to the hype, Chubb returns to 100 percent and the defense finds the right answers in the front seven, could Georgia challenge Tennessee for the SEC East title? 

 

LSU

On paper, LSU has the roster talent and returning personnel to win it all in 2016. However, a familiar theme surrounds the Tigers once again this offseason. The defense and rushing attack are strong, but LSU won’t push Alabama in the SEC West or contend for a playoff spot without improvement from its passing attack. In his first full year as the starter, Brandon Harris threw for 2,158 yards and 13 scores. However, he completed only 53.6 percent of his passes and ranked near the bottom of the SEC in yards per attempt (conference-only games – 6.8). With running back Leonard Fournette returning, and a defense that should rank among the nation’s best behind new coordinator Dave Aranda, LSU won’t need Harris to be drastically better to win the SEC. 

 

Miami

According to recruiting rankings, Miami has the roster over the last five seasons. However, the Hurricanes are just 21-19 in conference play in that span and are still looking for their first trip to the ACC title game. Are Miami’s fortunes about to change? The program took a step forward this offseason by hiring Mark Richt to replace Al Golden. Richt plans on calling the plays on offense and is tasked with helping quarterback Brad Kaaya elevate his game to the next level. The Hurricanes should be among the ACC’s best on offense, but question marks remain on defense. This unit surrendered 6.01 yards per play in league games and needs to retool in the back seven. This unit must get tougher against the run after giving up 200.6 rushing yards per game last year. Miami has the talent to win the Coastal in 2016. What type of impact will Richt have on this team?

 

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Nebraska

The Cornhuskers had their share of bad luck in Mike Riley’s first season. Nebraska finished 2015 with a minus-12 turnover margin, which fueled the program’s six losses by eight points or less. After watching the bounces and good fortune go against the Cornhuskers last year, Riley’s team could see a quick turnaround by just eliminating some of the turnovers. There’s also a lot to like on offense, as quarterback Tommy Armstrong leads an attack that averaged 32.8 points a game in 2015 and returns one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. However, the Cornhuskers have to rebuild the offensive line and suffered huge losses on the defensive front, including standout tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine leaving early for the NFL. Road trips to Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State are challenging, but better luck in close games could result in Nebraska improving to 8-4 or even 9-3 in 2016.

 

Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish were just a few plays away from a trip to the College Football Playoff last season. While this team has a few significant personnel concerns to address and may not be as talented as the 2015 version, the schedule is manageable enough for Brian Kelly’s team to push for at least 10 wins. The quarterback battle between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will draw most of the offseason headlines, but the bigger question marks for Kelly on offense rest on the line and in the receiving corps. The defense surrendered 5.6 yards per play last season and must replace standouts Jaylon Smith (LB), Joe Schmidt (LB), Sheldon Day (DL) and KeiVarae Russell (CB). Can the talents of Kizer and Zaire overcome the concerns on defense? 

 

Ohio State

Ohio State’s six returning starters are the fewest among Power 5 teams for 2016. Returning starters isn’t necessarily the best gauge of success for any team, but it’s no secret the Buckeyes were hit hard by early departures to the NFL. However, replacing elite talent is nothing new for coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State has averaged a 4.2 finish nationally in the last five recruiting classes, so the drop off should be minimal. Additionally, there’s no quarterback controversy in Columbus this offseason, and quarterback J.T. Barrett should benefit from a full year to work as the starter. With emerging stars like Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard on the defensive line, along with standout linebacker Raekwon McMillan, new co-coordinator Greg Schiano should have no trouble keeping this defense at the top of the Big Ten. Overcoming the personnel losses is one thing, but Ohio State still has to contend with a schedule that features road trips to Michigan State and Oklahoma.

 

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Stanford/Oregon/Washington

Let’s group all three Pac-12 North teams into one section. Stanford will be picked by most as the preseason favorite in this division, but the Cardinal have some big question marks outside of running back Christian McCaffrey. Is Keller Chryst ready to step up at quarterback? And how quickly will the offensive and defensive lines develop? Washington is poised for a breakthrough year under coach Chris Petersen. However, is it one year too early for the Huskies? Oregon’s streak of consecutive double-digit win seasons was snapped at seven last year. The Ducks aren’t hurting for skill talent, but Mark Helfrich’s team needs to make significant improvement on defense, and there’s uncertainty under center with FCS transfer Dakota Prukop holding an edge over redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen.

 

TCU

Oklahoma is a heavy favorite to win the Big 12 once again in 2016, with Baylor and Oklahoma State and TCU in the second tier. Out of that trio in the second tier, the Horned Frogs seem to have the most potential to surprise in 2016. After injuries and personnel departures hindered the defense early in 2015, this unit played better in the second half of the season and returns four key players from injury. TCU’s defense could be the best in the Big 12, which is critical with an offense returning only one starter and replacing quarterback Trevone Boykin. New quarterback (and Texas A&M transfer) Kenny Hill could hold the keys to the season. If Hill provides stability under center, the Horned Frogs could easily exceed their preseason projections.

 

Texas

The pressure is building on Charlie Strong after a 5-7 record last season, but some of the pieces are starting to fall into place for the third-year coach. New coordinator Sterlin Gilbert provides much-needed direction on offense, and true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele delivered a promising performance in the spring game. It’s no secret improving the offense is a must after Texas has ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in back-to-back seasons. But until Buechele is settled under center, Gilbert can build an offense around talented running backs Chris Warren and D’Onta Foreman. Strong’s specialty is defense, and there’s room to improve after giving up 5.63 yards per play in 2015. While the line is thin on numbers, the back seven is headlined by a handful of promising sophomores, including linebacker Malik Jefferson and cornerbacks Holton Hill and Davante Davis. Texas isn’t ready to challenge for the Big 12 title, but there are signs this program is moving back in the right direction. How much improvement can the Longhorns make in 2016?

 

USC

The Trojans have the , return a rising star at running back in Ronald Jones and the nation’s best receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, while cornerback Adoree’ Jackson is one of college football’s best all-purpose players. So why is there doubt about USC in 2016? This is the program’s first full season under Clay Helton’s watch, and new offensive coordinator Tee Martin has never called plays for a full year. The Trojans also have to develop an answer at quarterback – expected to be talented junior Max Browne – and retool a defensive line that was hit hard by departures. As if the question marks at quarterback and on the defensive line weren’t enough to add doubt to this team’s potential,

Teaser:
15 Biggest Wild Card College Football Teams in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-quarterbacks-2016
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The Big 12 is home to some of the nation’s top quarterbacks in 2016. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Baylor’s Seth Russell and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph headline a top-heavy group of signal-callers in the conference, with West Virginia’s Skyler Howard and TCU’s Kenny Hill in the next tier. This group of quarterbacks could get deeper if Texas freshman Shane Buechele continues to develop after a strong performance in the spring game. 

 

How do the new starters in the Big 12 project with Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes? Athlon has ranked all 10 starters for 2016.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2016.

 

Ranking the Big 12's Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

The combination of Mayfield and new coordinator Lincoln Riley provided a much-needed spark for Oklahoma’s offense last season. The Sooners averaged 43.5 points a game in 2015, which was their highest mark since 2008 (51.1 ppg). Additionally, Oklahoma led all Big 12 teams in scoring for conference-only matchups (47.2 ppg) last year. Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 36 scores but also showcased his ability to improvise and create plays with his legs by recording 405 yards and seven touchdowns on 141 rushing attempts. Mayfield won’t have standout receiver Sterling Shepard at his disposal this fall, but Oklahoma’s offense is still one of the best in the nation, and the senior quarterback returns to Norman as one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.

 

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2. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

The Big 12 got an early glimpse of Mahomes’ talent in a late-season stint as Texas Tech’s starter at the end of 2014. Mahomes tossed 14 scores over the final three games that year and torched Baylor for 598 passing yards in the season finale. Mahomes carried that momentum into 2015 and delivered a monster statistical year for coach Kliff Kingsbury. Mahomes led all Big 12 quarterbacks by throwing for 4,653 yards and tied for first in the league with 36 touchdown tosses. He also rushed for 456 yards and 10 scores on 131 attempts. Texas Tech has to fill a couple of key voids on the offensive line, while running back DeAndre Washington and receiver Jakeem Grant have expired their eligibility. However, that shouldn’t slow Mahomes this fall, as the junior should be one of the nation’s top 10 quarterbacks for 2016.

 

3. Seth Russell, Baylor

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Russell was on pace for a monster statistical year in his first season as Baylor’s starting quarterback, but a neck injury against Iowa State in late October sidelined the Texas native for the rest of 2015. Through seven games, Russell threw for 2,104 yards and 29 scores and tossed only six picks on 200 attempts. He was limited in spring practice but is expected to be fully cleared for contact by fall drills. If Russell returns back to full strength as expected, he should push Patrick Mahomes for the No. 2 spot on this list. And if Russell has any setbacks, Baylor’s quarterback position is in good hands with sophomore Jarrett Stidham. 

 

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4. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Putting Rudolph at No. 4 among Big 12 quarterbacks for 2016 shows just how deep this conference is at the top in terms of talent under center. In his first full season as Oklahoma State’s starter in 2015, Rudolph threw for 3,770 yards and 21 scores and completed 62.3 percent of his passes. Additionally, Rudolph ranked second among Big 12 quarterbacks with 16 passing plays of 40 yards or more. A late-season foot injury slowed Rudolph in Oklahoma State’s final two games, but the junior is expected to return to 100 percent for 2016. Rudolph should challenge for a spot among the nation’s top 10 quarterbacks this season.

 

5. Kenny Hill, TCU

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Trevone Boykin leaves big shoes to fill in Fort Worth for the Horned Frogs. Co-coordinator Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie should keep TCU’s offense performing at a high level, but matching last year’s 11 wins will be tough unless Kenny Hill or Foster Sawyer provides stability under center. Hill is the favorite to start after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. In two seasons at Texas A&M, Hill threw for 2,832 yards and 24 scores and showcased his dual-threat capability by adding 193 rushing yards on 59 attempts. Hill is a good fit for TCU’s offense and has a deep group of skill players at his disposal. However, Hill has to prove his second-half struggles with the Aggies in 2014 are a thing of the past, as well as hold off Sawyer for the No. 1 spot in the fall.

 

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6. Skyler Howard, West Virginia

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

In his first full season as West Virginia’s starter, Howard had his share of ups and downs directing Dana Holgorsen’s high-powered attack. In 13 appearances, Howard threw for 3,145 yards and 26 touchdowns and added 502 yards and six scores on the ground. However, Howard only completed 54.8 percent of his passes and tossed 14 interceptions. Those numbers need to improve for Howard to climb on this list in 2016. The senior does have momentum on his side this fall, as he closed out the 2015 season by torching Arizona State for 532 yards and five scores. Is Howard poised to take the next step in 2016?

 

7. Shane Buechele, Texas

2016 Year of Eligibility: Freshman

 

The quarterback battle in Austin between Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes is expected to continue into the fall. However, while spring game performances aren’t necessarily the best indicator of where any quarterback competition stands, it will be tough to keep Buechele on the sidelines after his performance on April 16. In Texas’ spring game, Buechele threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 22 completions. It’s a small sample size, but Buechele looks ready to be the No. 1 quarterback.

 

8. Joel Lanning, Iowa State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

New coach Matt Campbell has a good foundation in place on offense, as the Cyclones return two All-Big 12 candidates in running back Mike Warren and receiver Allen Lazard, while quarterback Joel Lanning returns after starting the final five games of 2015. Under Lanning’s direction, Iowa State recorded back-to-back 30-point performances against Oklahoma State and Kansas State, while defeating Texas 24-0 on Oct. 31. Lanning finished the season with 1,246 passing yards and 10 scores and added 330 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Campbell has a strong track record of success on offense at Toledo and should help Lanning’s development in 2016.

 

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9. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Ertz was the victim of bad luck last year, as his 2015 season ended on Kansas State’s first offensive play from scrimmage against South Dakota. On a five-yard run, Ertz suffered a torn ACL and was sidelined the rest of the season. Joe Hubener and Kody Cook filled in admirably at quarterback in Ertz’s absence, but the Wildcats finished seventh in the Big 12 in scoring. Ertz is the frontrunner to start in 2016, with Hubener, redshirt freshman Alex Delton and true freshman Skylar Thompson also in the mix for snaps.

 

10. Ryan Willis, Kansas

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Willis was tossed into the fire as a true freshman last season and showed promise for coach David Beaty. In 10 games, Willis threw for 1,719 yards and nine scores. His best performance of the season came against Texas Tech, as Willis nearly led the Jayhawks to an upset win by completing 35 of 50 passes for 330 yards and two scores. With a full offseason to work under Beaty and coordinator Rob Likens, as well as the addition of transfer receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Willis should show improvement in his second year as the starter. 

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-quarterbacks-2016
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The Pac-12 is known for producing its share of high-scoring offenses and standout quarterbacks. And the conference certainly isn’t hurting for talent under center in 2016, as Washington State’s Luke Falk and UCLA’s Josh Rosen return as the league’s top options. Falk will produce huge numbers in coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, while Rosen has all of the physical tools to be a first-round pick. The next group of quarterbacks in the Pac-12 features Washington’s Jake Browning, Arizona’s Anu Solomon, USC’s Max Browne and Oregon’s Dakota Prukop. 

 

How do the new starters in the Pac-12 project with UCLA's Josh Rosen and Washington State's Luke Falk? Athlon has ranked all 12 starters for 2016.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Pac-12 for 2016.

 

Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. Josh Rosen, UCLA

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

It’s a close call for the No. 1 spot in our Pac-12 quarterback rankings for 2016. Do you go with overall talent (Rosen)? Or do you go with production (Luke Falk)? There’s no wrong answer, but for now, let’s give the nod to overall talent and Rosen. As a true freshman last season, Rosen threw for 3,669 yards and 23 scores and completed 60 percent of his passes.

 

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2. Luke Falk, Washington State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

As mentioned above, it’s a close call between UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Falk for the top spot on this list. With Rosen at No. 1, Falk is really 1B in Athlon’s early Pac-12 quarterback rankings for 2016. In his first full season as a starter in 2015, Falk shredded opposing defenses for 4,561 yards and 38 scores. Additionally, Falk completed 69.4 percent of his passes and shared first-team All-Pac-12 honors with California’s Jared Goff last year.

 

3. Jake Browning, Washington

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Browning is one of college football’s top quarterbacks on the rise for 2016. The California native started 12 games in a promising true freshman season in 2015 and threw for 2,955 yards and 16 scores. Browning also finished the year on a high note, connecting on 23 of 34 throws for 284 yards in Washington’s bowl victory over Southern Miss. With a full offseason to work as the starter, along with the return of big-play threat John Ross at receiver, Browning should develop into one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks.

 

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4. Davis Webb, California

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

The Golden Bears had an extended quarterback battle in the spring to find a replacement for No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. However, coach Sonny Dykes and coordinator Jake Spavital found their quarterback in May, as Webb committed to California as a graduate transfer for the 2016 season. The senior transfers to Berkeley after three years at Texas Tech. During his three seasons with the Red Raiders, Webb threw for 5,557 yards and 46 scores. Webb should make a seamless transition from Texas Tech to California and is one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks for 2016.

 

5. Dakota Prukop, Oregon

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Oregon is tapping into the FCS ranks in hopes of finding a starting quarterback for the second year in a row. And after Vernon Adams had a successful one-year stint in Eugene, the Ducks are hoping to get similar production out of Prukop. The Montana State graduate transfer earned first-team FCS All-America honors by the Associated Press last year after accounting 3,822 total yards and 39 overall scores. While Prukop is the favorite to take the first snap of 2016, his place at the top of the depth chart isn’t set in stone after a good showing in the spring by redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen.

 

6. Anu Solomon, Arizona

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

After a breakout freshman season, Solomon’s development was slowed by injuries in 2015. In 11 appearances last year, Solomon threw for 2,667 yards and 20 scores and added 198 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Those totals were a step back from his 2014 numbers, which saw Solomon throw for 3,793 yards and 28 scores and rush for 291 yards and two scores. While the offseason should allow Solomon to get back to full strength, he’s also facing a push for the starting job from talented sophomore Brandon Dawkins.

 

7. Max Browne, USC

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Cody Kessler leaves big shoes to fill in Los Angeles, but new coach Clay Helton has two promising options to choose from at quarterback for 2016. Browne left spring with a slight edge over Sam Darnold for the starting job, and the former five-star prospect appears poised for a breakout year. Over the last two years as Kessler’s backup, Browne played in nine games and completed 11 of 19 passes for 143 yards. Helping Browne’s transition into the starting role will be a deep group of skill players, including All-America receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

 

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8. Sefo Liufau, Colorado

2016 Year of Eligibility: senior

 

Liufau is a tough quarterback to rank for 2016. While Liufau has showed flashes of promise and threw for 3,200 yards and 28 scores in 2014, he suffered a Lisfranc injury against USC last year and is still working to return to 100 percent by this fall. A redshirt season was a possibility, but with Davis Webb going to California, Liufau seems likely to return by the start of 2016.

 

9. Keller Chryst, Stanford

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Kevin Hogan’s leadership and overall impact on Stanford’s offense won’t be easy to replace in 2016. However, the cupboard at quarterback is far from bare for coach David Shaw. Three four-star prospects – Keller Chryst, K.J. Costello and Ryan Burns – are competing for the starting job, with Chryst holding an edge over Burns exiting spring practice. After a redshirt year in 2014, Chryst worked as Hogan’s backup last season and completed 5 of 9 passes for 59 yards and one score. Costello is likely to redshirt in his first year on campus.

 

10. Darell Garretson, Oregon State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Second-year coach Gary Andersen is looking for a spark on offense after the Beavers managed only 19 points a game in 2015. Garretson is eligible in 2016 after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. In two years at Utah State, Garretson threw for 2,586 yards and 18 scores and completed 63.1 percent of his passes. He’s the favorite exiting spring practice for the starting job, with true freshman Mason Moran and sophomore Marcus McMaryion just behind on the depth chart. Last season’s starter at quarterback – Seth Collins – is slated to move into an all-purpose role for 2016.

 

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11. Manny Wilkins, Arizona State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Arizona State’s quarterback situation is still a mystery at the end of spring practice. While the Sun Devils may not have a clear No. 1 quarterback, coach Todd Graham has three talented options competing for the starting job. Wilkins – a four-star recruit in the 2014 signing class – worked as Mike Bercovici’s backup last season and appeared in four games, rushing for 55 yards on seven attempts. He’s considered the favorite, but redshirt freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins are also in the mix. Regardless of which quarterback emerges as the starter, the Sun Devils should be fine at this position.

 

12. Troy Williams, Utah

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Williams is back in the Pac-12 after one standout season at Santa Monica College. The California native originally signed with Washington out of high school and spent two years with the Huskies. In 2014, Williams played in five games at Washington and threw for 176 passing yards on 23 completions. After transferring to Santa Monica College in search of more playing time, Williams torched opposing defenses for 2,750 yards and 31 scores in 2015. Williams ranked as a four-star junior college prospect by the 247Sports Composite but missed part of spring practice due to a sore arm.

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-quarterbacks-2016
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The quarterback position in the is filled with uncertainty in 2016. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Iowa’s C.J. Beathard are easily the league’s top options, but the question marks begin at No. 3. Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong takes the third spot in Athlon's early rankings for 2016, with Illinois’ Wes Lunt checking in at No. 4. Armstrong and Lunt have the potential to finish the end of the season in the top four, but it won’t be easy to hold off Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor, Michigan’s John O’Korn or Wilton Speight, Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. 

 

How do the new starters in the Big Ten project with Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett and Iowa's C.J. Beathard? Athlon has ranked all 14 starters for 2016.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big Ten for 2016.

 

Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Ohio State’s offense struggled to find its rhythm at times last season, but this unit took a step forward in the final two games, scoring 42 points against Michigan and 44 against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. A big reason for the late-season improvement was Barrett’s return to the starting lineup over Cardale Jones. Barrett finished the year by recording 559 total yards in Ohio State’s last two games, giving him 1,674 total yards and 22 scores for the season. With Barrett a full year removed from his season-ending leg injury from 2014, and no quarterback controversy this spring, the junior should resemble the player that accumulated 3,772 total yards and 45 scores as a freshman.

 

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2. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Beathard was one of the Big Ten’s breakout players last season and a big reason why Iowa nearly won the conference title and claimed a College Football Playoff berth. In his first full year as the starter, Beathard threw for 2,809 yards and 17 touchdowns and added 237 yards and six scores on the ground. The Tennessee native was efficient (61.2 percent) but also connected on his share of big plays, completing eight passes of 40 yards or more.

 

3. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Armstrong had his share of ups and downs in his first season under Mike Riley. In 12 appearances last year, Armstrong threw for 3,030 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 400 yards and seven scores. However, Armstrong needs to do a better job of eliminating turnovers and mistakes after tossing 16 interceptions last season. Additionally, increasing his completion percentage (55.2) would also help Nebraska’s offense take a step forward. Armstrong is one of the Big Ten’s most experienced quarterbacks returning in 2016 and is surrounded by one of the conference’s top receiving corps. 

 

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4. Wes Lunt, Illinois

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

New coach Lovie Smith has plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball to get Illinois into a bowl this year. But the first-year coach has a good foundation in place on offense with the return of Lunt under center. Lunt played in all 12 games last season after missing time due to a leg injury in 2014. In 12 games in 2015, Lunt threw for 2,761 yards and 14 scores and completed 56.1 percent of his passes. New coordinator Garrick McGee should help Lunt take a step forward in his last season in Champaign, but the offense suffered a setback when receiver Mike Dudek was lost for the year again to a torn ACL.

 

5. Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Connor Cook leaves big shoes to fill in East Lansing, but the Spartans have two capable candidates competing for the starting job in Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry. This duo has already emerged in a tough spot for coach Mark Dantonio, as O’Connor and Terry shared snaps in Michigan State’s upset 17-14 win over Ohio State last year. O’Connor has completed 34 of 54 passes for 374 yards and four scores in his career and also possesses good mobility to add a running dimension under center. O’Connor is the favorite to start, but it’s also safe to assume Terry will see snaps in 2016.

 

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6. John O’Korn, Michigan

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

O’Korn is penciled in here, but Wilton Speight made a push for the starting job at the end of spring. The battle to replace Jake Rudock under center for coach Jim Harbaugh is expected to continue deep into fall practice. O’Korn is eligible in 2016 after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. In two seasons at Houston, O’Korn threw for 4,068 yards and 34 scores. After a strong freshman campaign (3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns), O’Korn was benched after a slow start in his sophomore year and decided to transfer after the 2014 season.

 

7. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

A foot injury limited Leidner in spring practice, but all signs point to the senior returning to full strength for fall workouts. The Minnesota native enters 2016 with 29 career starts and will be working under new play-caller Jay Johnson. Leidner posted career-best numbers in passing yards (2,701) and touchdowns (14) last season and added 270 yards and six scores on the ground. The senior has improved over the last three years and should have his best overall season in 2016.

 

8. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

As expected, Thorson had his share of ups and downs in his first year as Northwestern’s starter. The redshirt freshman started all 13 games for the Wildcats and threw for 1,522 yards and seven scores, while adding 397 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Thorson was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and has the talent to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks over the next few years. The sophomore is a good runner but needs to take a step forward as a passer (50.8 completion percentage in 2015) to move higher on this list in 2016.

 

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9. Trace McSorley, Penn State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Penn State got an early glimpse of McSorley’s talent in the loss to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl last season. After Christian Hackenberg was sidelined due to injury, McSorley completed 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards and two scores and ran for 31 yards on seven attempts against the Bulldogs. McSorley has never started a game and has only 40 career pass attempts entering 2016. He’s also working under new coordinator Joe Moorhead but is surrounded by a solid group of skill players, including running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Chris Godwin.

 

10. Bart Houston, Wisconsin

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Houston waited his turn behind Joel Stave and is the favorite to take the first snap for the Badgers in 2016. The California native has barely played over the last three seasons but saw extended action against Illinois in 2015, completing 22 of 33 passes for 232 yards and two scores. While Houston has the edge in experience, he will be pushed for snaps by redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. The battle between Houston and Hornibrook is expected to continue into the fall.

 

11. Richard Lagow, Indiana

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Lagow has big shoes to fill in replacing Nate Sudfeld in 2016. Sudfeld finished his Indiana career with the school record in passing yards and touchdowns and guided the program to a bowl trip last year. This will be Lagow’s third stop at a FBS program after starting his career at UConn, followed by a short stop at Oklahoma State before attending Cisco Community College. The 6-foot-6 passer has a transition period ahead as he adapts to the Big Ten. However, under Kevin Wilson’s watch, Indiana should find a way to get consistent production from its quarterbacks. 

 

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12. David Blough, Purdue

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

How’s this for uncertainty? A different quarterback has led Purdue in passing yards in each of the last eight years. Can Blough provide stability under center? After taking over the starting job from Austin Appleby last season, Blough threw for 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns. Blough should show improvement as a sophomore, but he will face a challenge for the starting job from redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar.

 

13. Chris Laviano, Rutgers

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

New coach Chris Ash made one of the to coordinate the offense in 2016. While Mehringer’s overall direction and scheme should benefit the Scarlet Knights, this unit won’t improve without better play from its quarterbacks. Laviano played in all 12 games (11 starts) last season and threw for 2,247 yards and 16 scores. However, he also tossed 12 picks and failed to eclipse more than 165 passing yards in five out of the last five games. Chase Rettig will push Laviano for the starting job once again in the fall.

 

14. Perry Hills, Maryland

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Maryland quarterbacks tossed a whopping 29 interceptions and posted a dismal 47.2 completion percentage last year. Improvement should be noticeable under new coordinator Walt Bell in 2016, but can the Terrapins find a clear answer under center? Hills is the favorite to start after throwing for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns and recording 535 yards and three scores on the ground. Maryland might not have an All-Big Ten quarterbacks this year, but Bell and the new coaching staff should get the offense moving in the right direction.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-coordinator-tandems-2016
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Hiring a good staff of assistants and two coordinators capable of controlling their side of the ball in player development and scheme implementation is critical for any FBS head coach. While the head coach hire is the biggest and most important move for any program, good assistant coaches are often the unsung heroes in the overall success for every team.

 

With that in mind, Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the 2016 season with a look at some of the top coordinator tandems in the nation. The Big 12 features a couple of rising stars in the offensive coordinator ranks, including Baylor’s Kendal Briles and TCU’s Doug Meacham. On defense, West Virginia’s Tony Gibson and Texas Tech’s David Gibbs are two names to watch in 2016.

 

Ranking the coordinator tandems by conference isn’t easy. Considering there’s often overlap in which coach calls the plays and gets the coordinator designation, Athlon Sports is counting head coaches who control a specific side of the ball for a team. For example, Dana Holgorsen is West Virginia’s play-caller on offense, so he is considered the coordinator for the purpose of this article.

 

Ranking the Big 12's Coordinator Tandems for 2016
Rank Team   Offensive
Coordinator
Defensive
Coordinator
1 TCU

Doug Meacham/

Sonny Cumbie

Chad Glasgow*

(Gary Patterson)

Picking TCU as the top coordinator tandem comes with an asterisk, as this takes into account Gary Patterson’s play-calling and design for the defense. Chad Glasgow is listed as the defensive coordinator, but Patterson is the architect on this side of the ball. Meacham’s hire has provided a huge boost for TCU’s offense. The Horned Frogs have ranked near the top of the Big 12 in scoring after finishing eighth in back-to-back years from 2012-13.

2 Oklahoma Lincoln Riley Mike Stoops

Bob Stoops’ decision to hire Lincoln Riley paid big dividends for Oklahoma’s offense last season. In Big 12-only matchups, the Sooners led the league by averaging 47.2 points a game. Riley’s arrival also bolstered the talents of quarterback Baker Mayfield within the team’s new offense. Mike Stoops returned to Oklahoma in 2012 after spending 2004-11 as Arizona’s head coach. He returned to Norman in 2012 and has called the defensive signals over the last four seasons. The Sooners led the Big 12 by holding opponents to 22 points a game last year. 

3 West Virginia

Joe Wickline*

(Dana Holgorsen)

Tony Gibson

Gibson might be one of the nation’s most underrated coordinators, as he’s played a key role in developing West Virginia’s defense over the last two years. The Mountaineers finished second in the Big 12 in scoring defense in 2015. Wickline is listed as the coordinator, but it’s no secret Dana Holgorsen calls the plays and designs the offensive scheme. Surprisingly, West Virginia has not finished higher than fifth in the Big 12 in scoring offense over the last three seasons.

4 Baylor Kendal Briles Phil Bennett

Briles is one of the rising stars in the assistant coach ranks. Despite injuries to Baylor’s top three quarterbacks last season, the Bears still finished 2015 by averaging 48.1 points a game. Bennett has nearly 40 years of experience at the FBS level and has helped the Bears take a step forward on defense over the last few seasons. Baylor led the Big 12 in fewest yards per play allowed (4.75) in 2013 and ranked third in the conference last year.

5 Oklahoma State Mike Yurcich Glenn Spencer

Spencer doesn’t get enough credit on the national level for his work with Oklahoma State’s defense. The Cowboys may give up some yards, but Spencer is focused on points per possession, forcing turnovers and getting timely stops. Yurcich has experienced his share of ups and downs as the play-caller. However, Oklahoma State is coming off its best season in yards per play (6.39) since 2012.

6 Kansas State

Dana Dimel/

Del Miller

Tom Hayes

Sixth might be a little low for this duo. It may not be pretty at times, but Miller and Dimel find a way to generate production on offense. Hayes is entering his 40th year in the coaching ranks and is regarded for his work with defensive backs. The Wildcats ranked inside of the top three in the Big 12 in scoring defense from 2012-14. 

7 Texas Sterlin Gilbert

Vance Bedford*

(Charlie Strong)

There’s a lot of pressure on Gilbert to turn around a Texas offense that has ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in scoring in coach Charlie Strong’s two seasons. Gilbert did not call the plays at Tulsa last year, but the Texas native has worked under two outstanding offensive minds at previous stops – Art Briles (Baylor) and Dino Babers (Bowling Green). Bedford is listed as the coordinator, but this is Strong’s defense. The Longhorns ranked third in the Big 12 (conference-only games) by giving up 28.1 points a game last year.

8 Texas Tech

Eric Morris*

(Kliff Kingsbury)

David Gibbs

Gibbs was regarded as one of the nation’s top coordinator hires last offseason, but Texas Tech’s defense struggled mightily in 2015, surrendering 43.6 points a game. Most of the blame for last year’s problems aren’t due to Gibbs’ play-calling, and the Red Raiders could take a small step forward on defense this season. Morris is listed as the offensive coordinator, but coach Kliff Kingsbury is the play-caller.

9 Iowa State

Tom Manning/

Jim Hofher

Jon Heacock

Manning worked with new Iowa State coach Matt Campbell at Toledo from 2012-15 and was one of the top Group of 5 offensive line coaches during his stint with the Rockets. However, this is his first opportunity to call plays. Heacock also worked under Campbell at Toledo and made previous stops at Purdue, Indiana, Youngstown State and Kent State. Heacock should be a solid pickup for the Cyclones. 

10 Kansas

Rob Likens*

(David Beaty)

Kenny Perry/

Clint Bowen

Likens called the plays for the offense last season, but head coach David Beaty is taking over those duties for 2016. Bowen has the tough assignment of upgrading a defense that surrendered 46.1 points a game last year. The Jayhawks simply need more talent on that side of the ball.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12 Coordinator Tandems for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-quarterbacks-2016
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Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is the easy pick as the ACC’s best quarterback for 2016, but the conference also features a handful of intriguing names to watch this fall. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Florida State’s Deondre Francois, Syracuse’s Eric Dungey and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky are likely breakout candidates, and Miami’s Brad Kaaya should thrive under new coach Mark Richt. Additionally, Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas is expected to rebound after a disappointing 2015 campaign, and Nathan Peterman returns after a solid debut as Pittsburgh’s starter. 

 

How do the new starters in the ACC project with Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson and rising star Lamar Jackson? Athlon has ranked all 14 starters for 2016.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the ACC for 2016.

 

Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

In his first full season as Clemson’s starter, Watson compiled one of the best individual seasons by a quarterback in recent memory. In 15 games, Watson threw for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns and added 1,105 yards and 12 scores on the ground. Watson finished third in the Heisman voting and was the first player in FBS history to record 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.

 

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2. Brad Kaaya, Miami

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Kaaya already emerged as one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks over the last two seasons, but the junior is poised for a career year with new coach Mark Richt taking over as the play-caller in 2016. Kaaya enters 2016 with 6,436 career passing yards and 42 touchdowns and tossed only five picks on 389 attempts last season. The junior is also generating plenty of buzz among NFL scouts and early draft rankings as a potential first-round pick next April. 

 

3. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Jackson is one of college football’s top quarterbacks on the rise for 2016. As a true freshman last fall, the Florida native started eight games at quarterback last year and finished 2015 with 1,840 yards and 12 passing touchdowns and added 960 yards and 11 scores on the ground. Jackson is still developing as a passer, but he’s a dynamic playmaker with his legs and capable of eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards with a full season of snaps. Additionally, with an offseason to work under coach Bobby Petrino, Jackson should improve as a passer and emerge as one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks for 2016.

 

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4. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

The Tar Heels must replace second-team All-ACC quarterback Marquise Williams, but the offense won’t miss a beat behind Trubisky. The junior has played well in limited action, completing 40 of 47 passes for 555 yards and six touchdowns last season. Trubisky may not be as elusive as Williams in the running game, but he rushed for 101 yards and three scores on 16 attempts last year. North Carolina’s quarterback position is in good hands with Trubisky.  

 

5. Deondre Francois, Florida State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Redshirt Freshman

 

With Sean Maguire sidelined due to an ankle injury, Francois and true freshman Malik Henry staked their claim for the starting job in spring practice. Even though Maguire is technically the returning starter under center, it won't be easy for him to keep the job with two talented passers pushing for the No. 1 spot. Francois ranked as the No. 64 overall prospect in the 2015 signing class and used his first year on campus as a redshirt season. The Florida native concluded spring practice by completing 20 of 33 passes for 246 yards and two scores in the Garnet and Gold Game. If Francois hasn’t already earned the starting nod, he should unseat Maguire for the No. 1 job by the end of fall practice.

 

6. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Thomas earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2014 but struggled to get on track last season. The Alabama native isn’t solely to blame for Georgia Tech’s regression on offense, as a revamped supporting cast and a shaky offensive line played a big role in limiting the Yellow Jackets to just 23.5 points in ACC contests in 2015. In 12 contests last year, Thomas rushed for 488 yards and six touchdowns and passed for 1,345 yards and 13 scores. While Thomas may not rebound to All-ACC status in 2016, the senior should return closer to his 2014 form – 2,805 total yards and 26 overall scores.

 

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7. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Chad Voytik opened 2015 atop the quarterback depth chart for coach Pat Narduzzi, but the job changed hands early in the year, as Peterman emerged as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 quarterback after transferring from Tennessee. Peterman started the final 11 games for the Panthers and ended the season with 2,287 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. The Florida native also ranked second among ACC quarterbacks by completing 61.5 percent of his passes. Peterman should be better in his second year as Pittsburgh’s starter, but the senior must find a new go-to receiver after Tyler Boyd left for the NFL. 

 

8. Eric Dungey, Syracuse

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

New coach Dino Babers should make an immediate impact on Syracuse’s offense. Babers was regarded as one of the top Group of 5 coaches over the last two seasons and produced high-scoring attacks at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. The pairing of Babers and Dungey should be a good match for the Orange over the next couple of years. Dungey showed promise in eight games last season, throwing for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns. Transitioning to a new offense isn’t easy, but Dungey has the talent and coaching behind him to produce big numbers in Babers’ high-powered attack.

 

9. Matt Johns, Virginia

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Even though Johns started all 12 games for Virginia last season, the senior will have to fight for the starting job in the fall. At the conclusion of spring ball, East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert announced his intention to transfer as a graduate student to Virginia for the 2016 season. With Benkert eligible immediately, Johns will face competition for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Johns threw for 2,810 yards and 20 scores for the Cavaliers last year.

 

Related:

 

10. Patrick Towles, Boston College

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

The final statistics on Boston College’s 2015 offensive production wasn’t pretty. The Eagles managed only 9.1 points in ACC contests and averaged 4.4 yards per play over 12 games. Injuries were largely to blame for the lackluster production, but with a healthy depth chart returning, expect this unit to rebound in 2016. Towles transferred to Boston College as a graduate student and is eligible to play immediately. Towles threw for 5,099 yards and 24 scores in three seasons at Kentucky and also showcased his mobility by adding 305 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2014.

 

11. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Even though Virginia Tech enters the season with uncertainty at quarterback, it’s safe to assume new coach Justin Fuente will find the right answer early in the year. Fuente played a key role in developing Andy Dalton at TCU and also transformed Memphis’ Paxton Lynch into a first-round selection in the 2016 draft. Evans was regarded as one of the top junior college quarterbacks in the 2016 signing class and was recruited by Fuente to Blacksburg. He’s the favorite to take the first snap in 2016, with Brenden Motley No. 2 on the depth chart exiting spring ball.

 

12. Jalan McClendon, NC State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Jacoby Brissett leaves big shoes to fill in Raleigh, but the Wolfpack have an intriguing option in McClendon waiting to take over in 2016. McClendon was regarded as a four-star recruit in the 2014 signing class and used his first year on campus as a redshirt season. The Charlotte native worked as Brissett’s backup in 2015 and received only a handful of snaps. In seven games, McClendon completed 8 of 14 throws for 69 yards. McClendon could be one of the ACC’s breakout candidates at quarterback for 2016.

 

13. John Wolford, Wake Forest

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Wolford gets the nod as the starter here, but sophomore Kendall Hinton is also in the mix. Regardless of which quarterback earns the top spot, coach Dave Clawson has two proven options that can help Wake Forest take a step forward in the win column for 2016. Wolford was tossed into the fire as a true freshman in 2014 and has passed for 3,828 yards and 21 scores over the last two years. Hinton brings more mobility to the offense but completed only 52.2 percent of his throws in 10 appearances last season.

 

14. Parker Boehme, Duke

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Let’s put an asterisk by this selection. Duke’s quarterback situation is a mystery going into the summer, as starter Thomas Sirk is recovering from an Achilles injury and may not return in time for the start of the 2016 season. If Sirk doesn’t return, Boehme is slated to become the No. 1 quarterback for coach David Cutcliffe. Boehme played in 10 games last year, throwing for 579 yards and two scores on 43 completions. He also added 181 yards and five rushing touchdowns in 2015. 

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 10:00
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Spring practice has finished for all 14 SEC teams, but the question marks at quarterback for most of the league will continue into the fall. Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs are easily the top returning quarterbacks in the league, with LSU’s Brandon Harris, Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight and Georgia’s Jacob Eason in the next group. Cooper Bateman holds a slight edge at Alabama, but Blake Barnett and David Cornwell will continue to push for the starting job. The question marks under center continue with new starters at Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn and South Carolina. 

 

How do the new starters in the SEC project with proven options like Dobbs and Kelly? Athlon has ranked all 14 starters for 2016.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the SEC for 2016.

 

Ranking the SEC’s Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Uncertainty is the word that comes to mind when ranking the SEC quarterbacks for 2016. However, there’s no doubt which signal-caller ranks No. 1. In his first year with the Rebels, Chad Kelly threw for 4,042 yards and 31 scores and earned second-team All-SEC honors by the Associated Press. Kelly also completed 65.1 percent of his passes and connected on eight plays of 50 yards or more. Even though standout receiver Laquon Treadwell is off to the NFL, Kelly should have another All-SEC caliber season and finish 2016 as the league’s No. 1 quarterback.

 

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2. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

The stock on Dobbs’ career is trending up entering 2016. The Georgia native led all SEC quarterbacks by rushing for 671 yards last season and threw for 2,291 yards and 15 scores in 13 starts. Dobbs also produced one of the SEC’s top individual performances from last season, accounting for 430 total yards and five scores in a 38-31 win over Georgia. Tennessee needs to stretch the field more with its passing attack in 2016, but with an improved group of receivers and Dobbs’ development over the last three years, this offense should easily rank among the best in the SEC.

 

3. Brandon Harris, LSU

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Ranking Harris at No. 3 shows how thin the SEC is at quarterback entering the 2016 season. In his first full season as a starter in 2015, Harris completed 53.6 percent of his throws for 2,158 yards and 13 scores. He also added 226 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Harris quietly connected on seven passes of 50 yards or more, which tied for third among SEC quarterbacks last year. While Harris still has a lot to prove, he’s surrounded by a good supporting cast and now has a full season of starts under his belt. Slight improvement out of the passing game could be enough to help LSU push Alabama in the SEC West.

 

4. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Knight’s decision to transfer to Texas A&M was a huge boost to a program that lost Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen to transfer prior to the Music City Bowl. Knight started 15 games over three years at Oklahoma, accounting for 4,277 total yards and 33 overall scores. The Aggies have a strong supporting cast in place, starting with one of the SEC’s top receiving corps and an intriguing transfer at running back in Keith Ford. Texas A&M doesn’t need Knight to be prolific, but his experience and ability to make plays with his legs should provide stability for the offense.

 

Related:

 

5. Jacob Eason, Georgia

2016 Year of Eligibility: Freshman

 

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Eason rank a few spots higher on this list by the end of 2016. The Washington native ranked as the No. 5 overall prospect in the 2016 247Sports Composite and was regarded as a five-star recruit. Eason enrolled in time to compete in spring workouts and had a strong showing in the G-Day game, completing 19 of 29 passes for 244 yards and one score. Talent certainly isn’t the issue for Eason. However, will coach Kirby Smart start Brice Ramsey or Greyson Lambert early in the year while Eason gains experience?

 

6. Cooper Bateman, Alabama

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

It’s hard to get a good read on Alabama’s quarterback situation, but Bateman seemed to have an edge over David Cornwell and Blake Barnett exiting spring ball. The junior has the most experience of the candidates vying for the starting job and completed 37 of 52 throws for 291 yards and one score last season. Bateman also started one game (Ole Miss) in 2015. Even though there is some uncertainty here as to the projected starter, Alabama should be fine at quarterback. 

 

7. Austin Allen, Arkansas

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Bret Bielema’s decision to hire Dan Enos as the Razorbacks’ coordinator paid huge dividends last season. Arkansas led the SEC (conference-only games) by averaging 34.4 points a game and generated 6.83 yards per play. However, Enos has some renovating to do this offseason, as quarterback Brandon Allen, tight end Hunter Henry, running back Alex Collins and standout linemen Sebastian Tretola and Denver Kirkland must be replaced. Austin Allen – Brandon’s brother – is expected to take over under center in 2016. Austin has attempted only 19 passes over the last two years, but the guess here is Enos and Bielema will get steady play from the Fayetteville native in 2016.

 

Related:

 

8. Luke Del Rio, Florida

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Will Grier’s suspension derailed Florida’s offense last season, as the Gators only eclipsed more than 200 passing yards once over the final seven games. Treon Harris started the final eight contests under center but is expected to move to wide receiver in 2016. With Harris changing positions, Del Rio, Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby and freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask battled for the starting job in spring ball. Del Rio – a transfer from Oregon State – seemed to take control of the No. 1 spot during spring practice and should bring stability to the quarterback position for McElwain.  

 

9. Drew Barker, Kentucky

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

It’s no secret Kentucky’s hopes of reaching a bowl in 2016 could rest on the development of Barker under new coordinator Eddie Gran. Barker was a four-star recruit in the Wildcats’ 2014 class and received his first extended action last season. The Kentucky native completed 35 of 70 passes for 364 yards and one score in five games but never eclipsed more than 130 passing yards in a single contest. Barker was a four-star prospect coming out of high school, and it’s up to Gran to mold the sophomore into a consistent quarterback to improve an offense that managed 17.5 points in SEC games last year.

 

10. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Replacing arguably the best player in school history (Dak Prescott) won’t be easy. However, coach Dan Mullen has some intriguing options vying for the starting job. Damian Williams is back after a redshirt year, while Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley are promising sophomores who gained experience in limited action in 2015. Fitzgerald completed 11 of 14 passes for 235 yards and three scores last season. The 6-foot-5, 227-pound Georgia native is a slight favorite to take the first snap in 2016.

 

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11. Brandon McIlwain, South Carolina

2016 Year of Eligibility: Freshman

 

Will the Gamecocks turn to a former walk-on (Perry Orth) or hand the reins to top recruit Brandon McIlwain? Orth threw for 1,929 yards and 12 scores in 12 appearances last season and was expected to finish spring at the top of the depth chart. However, he missed part of spring practice due to a broken collarbone, allowing McIlwain to state his case for the starting job. The talented freshman completed 19 of 26 passes for 169 yards and two scores in South Carolina’s spring game.

 

12. John Franklin, Auburn

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Franklin is penciled in here, but Sean White and Jeremy Johnson remain in the mix for the starting spot. Regardless of which quarterback gets the nod under center, Auburn needs big-time improvement from its offense. In SEC games last year, the Tigers averaged only 22.1 points a game. Franklin is still developing as a passer, but the former Florida State quarterback is the team’s most-dynamic option under center. At East Mississippi Community College in 2015, Franklin rushed for 451 yards and nine touchdowns, while throwing for 733 yards and seven scores.

 

13. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason removed Shurmur’s redshirt midway through 2015, which allowed the Pennsylvania native to gain valuable experience for 2016. In five appearances, Shurmur threw for 503 yards and five touchdowns and completed 42.7 percent of his passes. While Shurmur has room to improve, he also needs more help from the supporting cast. The good news? Vanderbilt has help coming in the form of lineman Andrew Jelks and receiver C.J. Duncan after both missed 2015 due to injury.

 

14. Drew Lock, Missouri

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Missouri’s offense struggled mightily last season by averaging only 9.1 points in SEC contests. New coordinator Josh Heupel is tasked with improving this unit, but question marks remain at several positions exiting spring ball. Lock was pressed into action as a true freshman last year and threw for 1,332 yards and four scores. He also tossed eight picks and completed only 49 percent of his throws. Lock should be better in his second season as the starter. However, he needs more help from the supporting cast to rank higher on this list.

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Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2016
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Predicting which freshmen will play or make an impact on any given season is no easy assignment. Considering some players aren’t quite ready for the physical nature of college football or may need a year to work on developing within the scheme or playbook, a good chunk of every team’s signing class will take a redshirt season. With the 2016 season just a few months away, it’s never too early to take a look back at some of the recruits from 2015 classes who used last season as a redshirt year. Here are seven potential impact redshirt freshmen to watch in the Big Ten for 2016.

 

5 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the Big Ten West in 2016

 

Avery Anderson, S/Eric Lee, CB, Nebraska

Nebraska’s secondary has room to improve after ranking 78th nationally in pass efficiency defense last season. Most of the unit returns intact for coordinator Mark Banker, which includes likely All-Big Ten performers in safety Nate Gerry and cornerback Joshua Kalu. However, two redshirt freshmen – Avery Anderson and Eric Lee – could earn more playing time as the season progresses. Both players were regarded as four-star recruits in the 2015 signing class and should help a secondary that surrendered eight passing plays of 50 yards or more last season.  

 

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Carlos Davis/Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska

At the conclusion of spring practice, it was no secret the defensive line was the biggest concern for coach Mike Riley. This unit lost standout tackles Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins early to the NFL, end Greg McMullen decided not to return to the team for 2016, and end Jack Gangwish expired his eligibility. While there’s a lot of turnover here, the Cornhuskers still have talented options in place for new line coach John Parrella. After a redshirt year, twin brothers Carlos and Khalil Davis will be counted upon to make an impact up front. Both players were three-star recruits in the 2015 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. Fellow redshirt freshman Alex Davis is another name to remember up front.

 

Alex Hornibrook, QB, Wisconsin

Bart Houston is considered the favorite to replace Joel Stave under center in 2016, but Hornibrook made a late push in spring practice for the No. 1 job. The redshirt freshman stated his case for the starting spot by completing four of eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Even though it’s tough to read too much into spring game totals, Hornibrook certainly did enough to keep the battle open into the summer and fall workouts. The Pennsylvania native was a three-star recruit in Wisconsin’s 2015 signing class.

 

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Gabe Megginson, OL, Illinois

The pieces are in place for the Fighting Illini to have a solid offensive line in 2016. Tackles Austin Schmidt and Christian DiLauro provide a good foundation on the edges, while center Joe Spencer also returns after starting 12 games last season. Megginson ranked as Illinois’ top recruit in its 2015 signing class, as he was regarded as a four-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite. With both guard spots up for grabs, expect this talented redshirt freshman to claim a spot on the interior. 

 

Elijah Sindelar, QB, Purdue

David Blough showed promise in his first opportunity for snaps with the Boilermakers last season, throwing for 1,574 yards and 10 scores in 10 games. The sophomore is still expected to win the starting job for 2016, but Sindelar is a name to watch if Blough struggles at any point. The Kentucky native was Purdue’s top recruit in the 2015 signing class, ranking as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite. Sindelar capped spring workouts with a solid performance (16 of 30, 248 yards and two touchdowns) in the Gold vs. Black game. 

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7 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the Big Ten West in 2016
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Breakout players and the emergence of new faces are one of college football’s annual traditions. Players can go from a backup position into a starting role to earn all-conference honors or produce a big season. Incoming or redshirt freshmen can also make an impact in their first season on campus. Regardless of how players arrive on campus, it’s no secret a new wave of standouts will emerge next season.

 

With spring practice finished for all 128 teams, this is the first opportunity for coaching staffs to get a look at how their team stacks up for 2016. Additionally, this is also the first chance for players to step up into the spotlight and emerge as a breakout candidate.

 

Who are the names to watch in 2016 as players on the rise in the ACC? Here are 15 names to watch now that spring ball has finished in the conference:

 

ACC's Top 15 Players on the Rise for 2016

 

Andrew Brown, DL, Virginia

Placing Brown in this list is a bit of a gamble. He was a big-time pickup on the recruiting trail in 2014 as a five-star recruit for former coach Mike London. However, over the last two years, Brown has played in only 16 games and has just 10 tackles and one sack on the stat sheet. Despite the minimal production from 2014-15, Brown needs to be a key cog up front on Virginia’s defense under new coach Bronco Mendenhall. With Mendenhall and assistant Ruffin McNeill pushing Brown to improve, the junior should have a breakout performance in 2016.

 

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Geron Christian, OT, Louisville

The offensive line is Louisville’s biggest question mark entering the 2016 season, but there are pieces for coach Bobby Petrino to work with. Christian is one of the players to watch in the trenches, as the Florida native returns after starting all 13 games at left tackle as a true freshman last season. At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, Christian has good size to anchor the left side of the line and will only get better with another year to work in the weight room.

 

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

Mike Rose (10.5 sacks) departs Raleigh, but NC State’s defensive line still has talented pieces in place. Chubb recorded 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in 13 games last season and is poised to take on a bigger role with Rose out of eligibility. The Georgia native is a converted linebacker with good speed off the edge to wreak havoc against opposing offensive linemen.

 

Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse

It’s no secret Dungey was one of the big winners of Syracuse’s coaching change and the hire of Dino Babers. The Orange are shifting their offensive style to more of an up-tempo, wide-open spread attack, which should play well in the Carrier Dome. And there’s a track record of success under Babers, as his offense at Bowling Green in 2015 averaged 42.2 points a game. Dungey showed promise in eight games last year, throwing for 1,298 yards and 11 scores. With a new wide-open offense in place, Dungey should post huge numbers in his first year under Babers.

 

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Duke Ejiofor, DL, Wake Forest

Wake Forest’s defense might have been one of the ACC’s most underrated units last season. The Demon Deacons limited opponents to just 24.6 points a game and ranked second in the ACC in red zone defense. And with a strong core returning in 2016, Wake Forest’s defense should be near the top of the ACC once again. Ejiofor is one of the leaders for coordinator Mike Elko, as he recorded 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss in only seven games last year. With a full season of snaps ahead, Ejiofor should easily surpass those totals and push for All-ACC honors.

 

Dewayne Hendrix, DE, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh already boasts one of the ACC’s top linemen in end Ejuan Price, and the pass rush could get even better with the addition of Hendrix as a transfer from Tennessee. Hendrix ranked as the No. 117 overall recruit in the 2014 signing class and played in seven games during his first year with the Volunteers. After sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Hendrix is poised to claim a starting job opposite of Price and provide another potential standout to Pat Narduzzi’s defense.

 

Derwin James, S, Florida State

James could be too established for this list, but the sophomore is poised for a monster year. The Florida native played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2015 and recorded 91 stops (9.5 for a loss), 4.5 sacks, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. James could be used in a variety of roles for coordinator Charles Kelly, and his versatility will be a huge bonus for a defense that loses Jalen Ramsey.

 

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Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

Boston College’s defense didn’t have much help from its offense last year, yet managed to hold opponents to only 15.3 points a game and finish first nationally in fewest yards per play allowed (4.1). Even though coordinator Don Brown left for Michigan, the Eagles should have one of the ACC’s top defenses in 2016. Landry is one of the building blocks for Brown after a promising sophomore campaign. In 12 contests, Landry recorded 60 tackles (15.5 for a loss), 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Expect Landry to push for first-team All-ACC honors in 2016.

 

Travon McMillian, RB, Virginia Tech

McMillian recorded Virginia Tech’s first 1,000-yard season in three years by rushing for 1,042 yards and seven scores last season. He emerged as the Hokies’ go-to option in the second half of 2015 and rushed for at least 80 yards in each of the team’s last eight games. McMillian also recorded three consecutive 100-yard performances late in the year and rushed for 82 yards on 16 attempts against Tulsa in the Independence Bowl. With a full season to work as the starter, another 1,000-yard campaign is certainly within reach for McMillian.

 

Brant Mitchell, LB, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s defense surrendered 31.3 points in ACC contests last season, and with a revamped secondary in place for 2016, improvement on this unit has to start up front. The good news for the Yellow Jackets? There’s talent in the front seven, headlined by end KeShun Freeman, tackle Patrick Gamble and linebacker P.J. Davis. Another player likely to join the list of standouts on defense in 2016 should be Mitchell. In 12 appearances as a true freshman last season, Mitchell impressed by recording 36 tackles (2.5 for a loss), one sack and two interceptions. 

 

Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami

New line coach Craig Kuligowski was regarded as one of the best in the nation at Missouri, and his arrival in Coral Gables should provide a good boost to Miami’s defensive line. Muhammad flashed potential late last year, recording two sacks over the final three games. The New Jersey native finished 2015 with 54 overall stops (8.5 for a loss), five sacks and one pass breakup. Look for Muhammad to emerge as one of the ACC’s top defensive linemen in 2016.

 

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Marquies Price, DE, Duke

Price’s contribution to the stat sheet was minimal last year. In 10 appearances, the Georgia native recorded 11 tackles (3.5 tackles for a loss) and 1.5 sacks. However, the sophomore is expected to have a breakout campaign for Duke’s defense in 2016. The Blue Devils are replacing a handful of key performers in the trenches from last year’s unit, including tackle Carlos Wray and end Kyler Brown. Expect Price to emerge as a key cog in the front seven for coordinator Jim Knowles.

 

Auden Tate, WR, Florida State

Florida State’s receiving corps returns three players with at least 50 receptions, but coach Jimbo Fisher needs more from this unit in 2016. Tate is a name to remember this fall after a huge spring, which was capped by catching six passes for 100 yards and two scores in the Garnet and Gold Game. Even though the Seminoles have proven targets at the top of the receiving corps, why might Tate be an appealing option for more snaps? At 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds, Tate would provide the passing game some much-needed size on the outside.  

 

Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Marquise Williams leaves big shoes to fill after earning second-team All-ACC honors last season, but North Carolina’s quarterback position is in good hands with Trubisky. In limited snaps over the last two seasons, Trubisky has completed 82 of 125 passes for 1,014 yards and 11 scores. The junior may not be as dynamic of a runner as Williams was, but he certainly isn’t a statue in the pocket. Trubisky could push for All-ACC honors in 2016.

 

Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson

For the second consecutive season, coordinator Brent Venables has plenty of work to do in rebuilding Clemson’s defensive front. However, just as the Tigers showed last year, there’s no shortage of talent and the drop off in production should be minimal. Wilkins flashed his talent in 15 appearances last season, recording 33 tackles (4.5 for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble. His versatility is also a huge asset for Venables, as Wilkins could see snaps at end and tackle. A breakout year is coming for Wilkins in a full-time role this fall.

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Another offseason, another busy year in the SEC’s assistant coach carousel. There’s usually no shortage of movement within the league or changes on staffs each offseason, and 2016 brought several moves to the contenders or teams looking to take a step forward in the standings. LSU’s hire of Dave Aranda as the program’s new defensive coordinator is one of the best by any team in the nation this offseason. On the offensive side, Georgia and Texas A&M are turning to veteran hands to direct improvement. The Bulldogs hired Jim Chaney from Pittsburgh to coordinate their attack, while Noel Mazzone left UCLA for College Station to call the plays for the Aggies. Former Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt returns to Tuscaloosa as the defensive coordinator after Kirby Smart left for Georgia.

 

Which assistant coach hires could make the biggest impact in the SEC for 2016? Here’s a look at key coordinator and assistant moves to watch this fall:

 

The SEC's Top 15 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016

 

Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, LSU

LSU’s defense upgraded when coach Les Miles hired Aranda to replace Kevin Steele. Aranda is one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks and comes to Baton Rouge after three successful seasons at Wisconsin. Under Aranda’s watch, the Badgers finished in the top three in the Big Ten in scoring defense from 2013-15 and finished fourth nationally by limiting opponents to 4.4 yards per play last season. Prior to Wisconsin, Aranda called the defensive signals at Utah State for one year (2012) and at Hawaii from 2010-11. LSU’s defense surprisingly finished 10th in the SEC in points allowed last season. However, with Aranda calling the signals, expect this defense to finish near the top of the league in 2016.

 

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Terrell Buckley, Assistant Secondary Coach, Mississippi State

After a standout career in college at Florida State and a 14-year stint in the NFL, Buckley is working his way through the assistant ranks and lands at Mississippi State after a two-year run at Louisville. Prior to Louisville, Buckley worked as Akron’s cornerback coach from 2012-13 and also spent from 2007-11 as an off-field assistant with Florida State. The Mississippi native returns to his home state tasked with coaching the secondary and leading the program’s recruiting efforts.

 

Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator, Georgia

Chaney is a well-traveled assistant, as his stop in Athens with the Bulldogs is his fourth coordinator position in the last eight seasons. As Pittsburgh’s play-caller in 2015, Chaney helped the Panthers average 28.2 points a game and rank fourth in the ACC (conference-only games) in rushing offense. In addition to recent stops at Arkansas, Tennessee and Pittsburgh, Chaney worked in the NFL with the Rams and also coached at Wyoming and Purdue under Joe Tiller. Having a veteran offensive play-caller like Chaney should be critical for Georgia and new coach Kirby Smart, as the Bulldogs look to develop five-star freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. Additionally, Chaney’s background in spread offenses and pro-style, power-run attacks should provide a nice blend of schemes for the Bulldogs.

 

Eddie Gran, Offensive Coordinator, Kentucky

Kentucky is looking for a breakthrough year in coach Mark Stoops’ fourth season. After back-to-back 5-7 seasons, the Wildcats are hoping a favorable schedule could lead to the program’s first bowl trip since 2010. Improving the offense was Stoops’ top priority this offseason, as Kentucky averaged only 17.5 points in SEC games last season. Stoops jettisoned first-year coordinator Shannon Dawson after 2015 and hired Eddie Gran away from Cincinnati to call the plays in 2016. Gran is known as a strong recruiter but also proved his ability as a play-caller over the last three seasons with the Bearcats. Under Gran’s direction, Cincinnati averaged at least 30 points a game from 20013-15 and led the American Athletic Conference in yards per play (6.60) in 2016.

 

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Torrian Gray, Defensive Backs Coach, Florida

Even with Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal leaving early for the NFL, Florida’s secondary should be one of the best in the nation in 2016. Additionally, this unit received a boost with Gray’s arrival from Virginia Tech in early February. Gray is a veteran defensive backs coach, spending from 2006-15 at Virginia Tech and 2004-05 with the Bears. Gray was instrumental in developing a handful of standouts in Blacksburg, including cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Brandon Flowers and Jayron Hosley.

 

Herb Hand, Offensive Line Coach, Auburn

After two seasons at Penn State, Hand is returning to the SEC as Auburn’s new offensive line coach. Hand is also reunited with Gus Malzahn, as the two worked together at Tulsa from 2007-08. Prior to Penn State, Hand worked for three seasons at Vanderbilt (2010-13) and also has stops on his resume from West Virginia (2001-06) and Clemson (1999-00). Not only is Hand a good addition for Auburn’s offensive line, but he’s also one of the best coaches in the nation to .

 

Noel Mazzone, Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Offense has been Texas A&M’s strength since joining the SEC in 2012, but this unit’s scoring average has decreased in each of the last four years. Coach Kevin Sumlin is looking for a spark and is handing the keys to the offense to veteran play-caller Noel Mazzone. The New Mexico native has worked as a coordinator for a handful of teams, including stops at Arizona State, UCLA, Ole Miss, NC State and Auburn. Under Mazzone’s direction at UCLA, the Bruins averaged at least 30 points a game in each of the last four years. Mazzone should be a solid addition to Texas A&M’s staff.

 

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Sam Pittman, Offensive Line Coach, Georgia

Pittman is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches and joins Kirby Smart’s staff at Georgia after three successful years at Arkansas. During his tenure with the Razorbacks, Pittman developed standout groups in the trenches, as Arkansas led the SEC in fewest sacks allowed for three consecutive years (2013-15). Prior to his stint in Fayetteville, Pittman spent one year at Tennessee (2012), worked from 2007-11 at North Carolina and also has stops on his resume from Northern Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

 

Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

Pruitt returns to Tuscaloosa after short stints at Florida State (2013) and Georgia (2014-15). Under Pruitt’s watch, the Seminoles limited opponents to 4.1 yards per play en route to winning the national championship, while the Bulldogs finished third in the SEC in scoring defense last season. Prior to calling the signals for Florida State’s defense in 2013, Pruitt worked as an assistant for Alabama from 2007-12 and was a high school coach from 1998-06. Even though Kirby Smart played a key role in shaping the defense, the Crimson Tide won’t miss a beat with Pruitt calling the signals in 2016.

 

Paul Rhoads, Defensive Backs Coach, Arkansas

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has a track record of hiring good assistant coaches and his 2016 hires of Rhoads might be one of the best positional coach hires of the offseason. Rhoads worked as Iowa State’s head coach from 2009-15, guiding the Cyclones to a 32-55 record over the last seven years. Prior to his stint in Ames, Rhoads was a successful defense coordinator at Auburn (2008) and Pittsburgh (2000-07). The addition of Rhoads is a huge boost for a unit that ranked 103rd nationally in pass efficiency defense last season. Expect Rhoads to make a big-time impact on Arkansas’ secondary this fall.

 

Travaris Robinson, Defensive Coordinator, South Carolina

Robinson has worked under Will Muschamp for the last five years and was one of his first hires at South Carolina this offseason. The Miami native is tasked with helping Muschamp coordinate the defense and is also slated to coach defensive backs. Robinson was instrumental in the development of Florida’s defensive backs from 2011-14 and helped Auburn’s secondary finish No. 31 nationally in efficiency defense in 2015. He’s also regarded for his work on the recruiting trail and should help the Gamecocks upgrade the talent on defense over the next few seasons.

 

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Kurt Roper, Co-Offensive Coordinator, South Carolina

South Carolina’s offense is in need of major improvement after averaging only 21.9 points a game last season. And for the second time in Will Muschamp’s head coaching career, he’s turning to Roper to engineer improvement on this side of the ball. In Roper’s only season at Florida, the Gators showed progress on the stat sheet (30.3 points a game), but the staff was dismissed after a 6-5 regular season mark. Roper also has stops on his resume from stints at Ole Miss, Kentucky, Tennessee and Duke and should mix some of the up-tempo/spread approaches with pro-style principles.

 

Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee

Tennessee’s defense wasn’t bad last season, but this unit should take the next step under new coordinator Bob Shoop. The Pennsylvania native is one of the nation’s most underrated assistant coaches and arrives in Knoxville after two seasons at Penn State. Under Shoop’s watch, the Nittany Lions ranked among the best in the nation in fewest points allowed (2014-15) and led the Big Ten in fewest yards per play allowed in 2014 (4.3). Shoop also worked as Vanderbilt’s defensive play-caller from 2011-13, helping the Commodores finish fifth in the SEC in fewest points allowed (18.7) in 2012.

 

Peter Sirmon, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State

Sirmon’s arrival at Mississippi State is one of the league’s most intriguing offseason hires. After Manny Diaz left for Miami, coach Dan Mullen hired Sirmon after a two-year stint as USC’s linebacker coach and interim defensive coordinator in the 2015 Holiday Bowl. Before his two seasons with the Trojans, Sirmon worked at Washington (2012-13), Tennessee (2010-11) and Oregon (2009). Additionally, Sirmon isn’t too far removed from his playing days, as he spent seven years in the NFL with the Titans (2000-06). Sirmon has accumulated a solid overall resume in just a few seasons as an assistant. However, this will be his first full year as a coordinator. 

 

Jim Turner, Offensive Line Coach, Texas A&M

The overall performance of Texas A&M’s line has slipped since Turner left College Station to work with the Miami Dolphins prior to the 2012 season. But improvement could be on the horizon for the Aggies, as Turner is back at Texas A&M and should play a key role in developing some of the team’s young talent in the trenches. While Texas A&M’s hire of Noel Mazzone is getting most of the attention, Turner’s return is just as critical.

 

Other Key Assistant Hires

 

Kurt Anderson, Offensive Line Coach, Arkansas

Shane Beamer, Tight Ends/Special Teams, Georgia

Dameyune Craig, Wide Receivers Coach, LSU

DeMontie Cross, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Missouri

Karl Dunbar, Defensive Line Coach, Alabama

Glen Elarbee, Offensive Line Coach, Missouri

Shawn Elliott, Offensive Line Coach, South Carolina

Osia Lewis, Outside Linebackers Coach, Vanderbilt

Bryan McClendon, Co-Offensive Coordinator, South Carolina

Kevin Steele, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

Mel Tucker, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia

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The Big Ten’s coaching carousel was an active one in the assistant ranks this offseason, as 12 out of the league’s 14 teams experienced some staff changes for 2016. While head coach hires often have a bigger impact, key assistant hires are just as critical. Michigan and Ohio State were once again the big winners this offseason. The addition of Don Brown (Michigan) and Greg Schiano (Ohio State) should ensure both teams remain at the top of the league in defense. However, Indiana’s hire of Tom Allen from South Florida should be a huge boost for coach Kevin Wilson’s defense. Maryland’s Walt Bell and Penn State’s Joe Moorhead are just two of the offseason’s top hires on the offensive side of the ball.

 

The Big Ten's Top 10 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016

 

Tom Allen, Defensive Coordinator, Indiana

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson took a big step in addressing a struggling defense this offseason. Allen was hired after a successful one-year stint at South Florida and is an instant upgrade for a unit that has ranked 10th or worse in the Big Ten in yards per play allowed since 2008. Under Allen’s watch last year, the Bulls allowed only 22.9 points a game and limited opponents to 5.2 yards per play. Expect Indiana’s defense to take a step forward under Allen’s watch in 2016.

 

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Walt Bell, Offensive Coordinator, Maryland

New coach D.J. Durkin wasn’t afraid to aim high for his coaching staff, and the first-year coach landed an impressive collection of assistants on both sides of the ball. Bell is one of the rising stars at offensive coordinator, as he lands in College Park after coordinating an Arkansas State offense that averaged 40 points a game in 2015. Maryland averaged only 24.7 points a contest last year, but Bell’s arrival is the first step in fixing the struggling attack.

 

Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan

Michigan’s defense was already one of the Big Ten’s standout units under former coordinator D.J. Durkin. And after Durkin left for Maryland, coach Jim Harbaugh made arguably the top coordinator hire of the offseason by bringing Don Brown to Ann Arbor from Boston College. Under Brown’s watch last season, the Eagles allowed only 15.3 points a game and led the nation by holding opponents to 4.1 yards per play. The veteran assistant has a long track record of success from other stops at UConn, Maryland and UMass and should engineer one of the nation’s best defenses this fall.

 

Mike London, Defensive Line/Pete Lembo, Special Teams, Maryland

Having two proven assistants like Mike London and Pete Lembo should be a huge asset for new Maryland coach D.J. Durkin. London comes to College Park after a six-year run as Virginia’s head coach, while Lembo left his position as Ball State’s head coach to coordinate Maryland’s special teams and coach tight ends. Expect both coaches to make an impact and provide a veteran sounding board for Durkin over the next few seasons with the Terrapins.

 

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Garrick McGee, Offensive Coordinator, Illinois

Considering Lovie Smith hasn’t coached in college since 1995, hiring a staff with strong collegiate ties was essential. McGee was arguably the top hire for Smith, as the Oklahoma native has a wealth of experience at the FBS level, including stops as an assistant at Louisville, Arkansas and Northwestern. Additionally, McGee worked for two seasons as UAB’s head coach from 2012-13. McGee is regarded as a good recruiter and his versatile background on offense should be a huge plus for the Fighting Illini.   

 

Drew Mehringer, Offensive Coordinator, Rutgers

Mehringer has been on a fast track through the coaching ranks and is a critical hire for new coach Chris Ash at Rutgers. The Texas native started his coaching career at Rice as a student assistant in 2007 and eventually made his way to Ohio State in 2012 as a graduate assistant. After two years with the Buckeyes, Mehringer went to James Madison as the co-offensive coordinator before reuniting with Tom Herman at Houston in 2015. Mehringer helped James Madison’s offense average 35.7 points a game in 2014 and should be one of the nation’s youngest coordinators (28) with the Scarlet Knights.

 

Joe Moorhead, Offensive Coordinator, Penn State

James Franklin is hitting the reset button on Penn State’s offense. The Nittany Lions have struggled to find consistent production from this group over the last two seasons and enter 2016 with question marks at quarterback and on the offensive line. Moorhead comes to Happy Valley after four seasons at Fordham and plans to overhaul the offense from more of a pro-style attack to an up-tempo spread. Prior to a 38-13 stint at Fordham, Moorhead worked at the FBS level as an offensive coordinator at Connecticut and Akron.

 

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John Parrella, Defensive Line, Nebraska

Parrella was a standout player for the Cornhuskers from 1990-92 and returns to Lincoln tasked with rebuilding a defensive line that loses standout tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine and defensive ends Greg McMullen and Jack Gangwish. Parrella’s experience on the collegiate level is limited, but as a former Cornhusker and NFL player, his addition should pay dividends for the defense in 2016. Parrella spent the last two years working at Northern Michigan and also made one stop at Chabot College in 2013.

 

Greg Schiano, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Replacing assistant coaches is nothing new to Urban Meyer. After Chris Ash left the Buckeye defensive staff to be the head coach at Rutgers, Meyer brought aboard Schiano to work with Luke Fickell as the team’s co-defensive coordinators. Schiano was let go by Tampa Bay after two seasons as the head coach in 2013. Since then, Schiano has been out of football for two years, but there’s a strong track record of success on the defensive side for the New Jersey native. Even with significant personnel losses for Ohio State in 2016, Schiano should ensure the defense doesn’t slip too much in overall performance.

 

Justin Wilcox, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin

Wilcox has big shoes to fill in replacing Dave Aranda as the defensive coordinator in Madison. Aranda was one of the nation’s top assistant coaches and left for LSU after Wisconsin’s bowl win over USC. This will be Wilcox’s fifth coordinator job at the FBS level, with prior stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington and USC. While Wilcox was let go after his two-year run with the Trojans, Washington’s defense showed marked improvement under his watch, and his 2011 group at Tennessee only gave up 22.6 points a game.

 

Other Key Assistant Hires in the Big Ten

 

Mark Hagen, Defensive Line Coach, Indiana

Jay Johnson, Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota

Jim Leonhard, Defensive Backs Coach, Wisconsin

Bart Miller, Offensive Line, Minnesota

Hardy Nickerson, Defensive Coordinator, Illinois

Brent Pry, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Penn State

Teaser:
The Big Ten's Top 10 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-2016-returning-starters-analysis
Body:

Returning starter data in college football preseason charts or magazine pages isn’t an exact science. The numbers and data can vary among different websites, magazines or other resources. However, even if there’s some disagreement on the numbers, the data is an interesting early look at how teams are shaping up for the upcoming season.

 

The Big Ten features one of the nation’s most intriguing races for the league title in 2016. Ohio State and Michigan are picked in most preseason polls as neck-and-neck for the top spot in the East and for the No. 1 overall designation in the conference. While the Buckeyes and Wolverines are considered playoff contenders, there’s plenty of depth in this league with Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin. Additionally, Nebraska should take a step forward in coach Mike Riley’s second season in Lincoln, and Penn State has the talent for a breakthrough year under coach James Franklin.

 

With spring practice underway across the Big Ten, it’s never too early to start looking at the depth charts and returning starters for all 14 teams in the league. In preparation for the 2016 College Football Preview magazine, Athlon Sports determines the returning starters for every team. A simple criteria is used as a baseline for returning starters. A player must start seven overall games or the last six of any season. However, that is not a hard-line rule for returning starters, and there’s plenty of flexibility (snaps or overall playing time as a backup, injuries or scheme) when taking into account the actual number. 

 

East Division
Team Offense Defense
Indiana 6 7
Maryland 4 5
Michigan 8 6
Michigan State 4 5
Ohio State 3 3
Penn State 9 5
Rutgers 8 7

* Ohio State’s six returning starters are the fewest by any Big Ten team for 2016. While the Buckeyes are thin on proven talent, the six returning starters could feature three preseason All-Americans – quarterback J.T. Barrett, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and center Pat Elflein.

 

* Look for Michigan’s offensive line to take a significant step forward in 2016. The Wolverines return four starters, and Mason Cole is expected to slide from left tackle to center to replace Graham Glasgow. Jim Harbaugh has to break in a new quarterback, but Michigan returns three of the Big Ten’s top playmakers at receiver and running back De’Veon Smith.

 

* Despite losing two starters, Michigan’s defensive line could one of the best in college football in 2016.

 

* Rebuilding in the trenches is a priority for Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans lose three starters on the offensive side, and tackle Malik McDowell is the only returning starter in the defensive trenches.

 

* Expect Michigan State’s linebacking corps to be among the best in the Big Ten. The Spartans return Riley Bullough and Jon Reschke, while Ed Davis – a likely all-conference performer – is back after missing all of 2015 due to injury.

 

* First-year coach Chris Ash inherits plenty of personnel concerns at Rutgers, but the defensive line should be a strength. The Scarlet Knights return three starters, and tackle Darius Hamilton is back after missing most of 2015 due to injury.

 

* New Indiana defensive coordinator Tom Allen inherits a unit with four new starters up front, but the Hoosiers return seven starters on the back end. Safety Jonathan Crawford, cornerback Rashard Fant and linebacker Tegray Scales are just a few of the promising players returning for Allen in 2016.

 

* Penn State’s nine returning starters on offense are the most by any team in the Big Ten. And with new coordinator Joe Moorhead calling the plays, is this the year the Nittany Lions have a breakout performance on offense?

 

* Maryland cornerback William Likely is one of the Big Ten’s top defenders, but he’s the only returning starter for new coach D.J. Durkin in the secondary.

 

West Division
Team Offense Defense
Illinois 5 4
Iowa 5 8
Minnesota 7 7
Nebraska 6 6
Northwestern 7 6
Purdue 7 9
Wisconsin 6 5

* Nebraska had plenty of bad fortune last season, but the Cornhuskers should get a few bounces to go their way in 2016. The official tally lists 12 starters returning for coach Mike Riley, which is only one behind West Division frontrunner Iowa.

 

* The biggest question mark for Riley is the trenches. Nebraska loses three starters up front on offense and must replace three on defense. The departures on defense are a bigger issue, as tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine won’t be easy to replace in 2016.

 

* Keep an eye on Nebraska’s receiving corps. The above criteria suggests there’s only one returning starter at receiver, but the Cornhuskers return their top eight statistical options from last season. Additionally, dynamic playmaker De’Mornay Pierson-El is slated to return from injury.

 

* Illinois has the fewest amount of returning starters (nine) in the Big Ten West. New coach Lovie Smith also inherits a defense that returns only one starter in the back seven.

 

* Iowa’s eight returning starters on defense are the second-highest total by a Big Ten team for 2016.

 

* The Hawkeyes return only five starters on offense, but one of those players is quarterback C.J. Beathard – the best signal-caller in the Big Ten West Division.

 

* Purdue’s 16 returning starters are the highest total for any Big Ten team in 2016. But will that translate into improvement for a program that’s 6-30 over the last three years?

 

* Minnesota’s secondary was arguably one of the most underrated groups in the Big Ten over the last couple of seasons. This unit loses three starters, but Damarius Travis returns after playing in only one game due to injury in 2015.

 

* Northwestern ranked sixth in the Big Ten in sacks (31) generated last season. However, two starters – Deonte Gibson and Dean Lowry – depart after accounting for 12 of those sacks last year.

 

* Standout left tackle Tyler Marz must be replaced, but the Badgers have to be optimistic about their offensive line. Four starters are back for coach Paul Chryst, with sophomore Michael Deiter one of the conference’s rising stars in the trenches.

 

* The Badgers return only one starter in the secondary.

Teaser:
Big Ten Football 2016 Returning Starters Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 8, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/pac-12s-top-15-players-rise-2016
Body:

Breakout players and the emergence of new faces are one of college football’s annual traditions. Players can go from a backup position into a starting role to earn all-conference honors or produce a big season. Incoming or redshirt freshmen can also make an impact in their first season on campus. Regardless of how players arrive on campus, it’s no secret a new wave of standouts will emerge next season.

 

With spring practice underway across the nation, this is the first opportunity for coaching staffs to get a look at how their team stacks up for 2016. Additionally, this is also the first chance for players to step up into the spotlight and emerge as a breakout candidate.

 

Who are the names to watch in 2016 as players on the rise in the Pac-12? Here are 15 names to watch this spring:

 

Pac-12's Top 15 Players on the Rise for 2016

 

Jacob Alsadek, OL, Arizona

The offense is once again the clear strength for coach Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats must replace receiver Cayleb Jones, but quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson are back to anchor the offense. Rodriguez must replace two starters up front, but Alsadek’s return is a bright spot for this group. After starting 11 games in 2014, Alsadek started 12 games at right guard last year. He should be the anchor for Arizona’s line in 2016.

 

Jake Browning, QB, Washington

Washington returns 17 starters from last year’s team and should be in the mix to win the Pac-12 title in 2016. Browning’s development is another reason to believe the Huskies are poised for a big step forward after finishing 7-6 in a rebuilding year. Browning started 12 games as a true freshman in 2015 and threw for 2,955 yards and 16 touchdowns on 233 completions. He will be one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks this fall.

 

Related:

 

Soso Jamabo, RB, UCLA

Paul Perkins jumped to the NFL after recording back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but the Bruins are still in great shape at running back. Jamabo was a five-star recruit in the 2015 signing class and recorded 403 yards and four touchdowns on just 66 attempts. He should push for 1,000 yards this fall as UCLA’s go-to back.

 

Ronald Jones, RB, USC

New coach Clay Helton wants to build USC’s offense around its ground attack in 2016, and the Trojans should have one of the Pac-12’s top one-two punches in the backfield. Justin Davis returns after rushing for 902 yards last year and will be joined by a rising star in Ronald Jones. As a true freshman last season, Jones led USC with 987 yards and eight scores. The sophomore is one of the Pac-12’s most-talented runners and will take a big step forward in 2016.

 

Canton Kaumatule, DL, Oregon

New coordinator Brady Hoke plans on switching Oregon’s defense from a 3-4 look to a 4-3 approach. However, the Ducks need new standouts to emerge with the departure of six starters in the front seven. Kaumatule was a five-star recruit in the 2015 signing class and played sparingly in eight games. The Hawaii native recorded only two tackles last year, but he’s expected to take on a bigger role up front in 2016.

 

Related:

 

Derek McCartney, DL/LB, Colorado

Colorado’s defense quietly showed marked improvement last season. The Buffaloes limited opponents to 5.7 yards per play in 2015, which marked a healthy decrease from the 6.55 total from 2014. McCartney has been a key cog in the front seven over the last two seasons and should push for All-Pac-12 honors in 2016. McCartney ranked second on the team with 11.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks last year.

 

Darrien Molton, CB, Washington State

It’s not easy playing cornerback as a true freshman in any FBS league. However, the task is even tougher in the Pac-12 with the amount of high-powered offenses in the conference. Molton certainly wasn’t fazed by anything as a true freshman, as the California native started 11 games and recorded 44 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups.

 

Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State

The Beavers ranked ninth in the Pac-12 (conference-only games) in rushing offense last season. But there’s reason for optimism in 2016 after Nall’s late-season emergence. After recording only 19 carries through the first six games, Nall rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries against Colorado and finished the year by gashing Oregon for 174 yards on 19 attempts. The sophomore will be a bigger part of Oregon State’s ground game in 2016.

 

Kareem Orr, DB, Arizona State

Arizona State’s pass defense had its share of ups and downs last year. The Sun Devils surrendered 35 passing touchdowns in 2015 and must replace three full-time starters. But Orr’s return provides a solid foundation for coach Todd Graham to start the rebuilding process. As a true freshman last fall, Orr recorded 38 tackles, two pass breakups and six interceptions. Orr’s six interceptions were the most by any Pac-12 player in 2015.

 

Related:

 

Dakota Prukop, QB, Oregon

For the second year in a row, the Ducks are tapping into the FCS graduate transfer ranks for an answer at quarterback. Vernon Adams was a huge addition for Oregon’s offense last season, and Prukop could have a similar impact. The Texas native earned first-team FCS All-America honors at Montana State in 2015 after throwing for 3,025 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushing for 797 yards and 11 scores. Prukop now inherits the controls of Oregon’s high-powered offense.

 

Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford

Stanford has developed its share of standouts at tight end in recent years, and all signs point to Schultz as the next star. After a redshirt season in 2014, Schultz backed up Austin Hooper in 2015 and caught 10 passes for 121 yards and one score. Hooper left early for the NFL, which leaves Schultz as the clear starter at tight end this fall.

 

Cameron Smith, LB, USC

Smith was an impact freshman for the Trojans last season but an ACL tear ended his year prematurely. In 10 games, Smith recorded 78 tackles (one for a loss), one sack, three pass breakups and three interceptions. All three of Smith’s interceptions came in a standout performance against Utah, and the California native was a first-team selection to Athlon Sports’ 2015 postseason all-freshman team. All signs point to Smith returning to full strength and performing at a high level in 2016.

 

Related:

 

Carlos Strickland/Melquise Stovall, WR, California

California’s receiving corps is facing a massive overhaul in 2016. The Golden Bears lose their top six statistical options from last season, with Chad Hansen (19 catches) the top returning receiver. While the receiving corps will be inexperienced for coach Sonny Dykes, there’s promising talent on the way. Strickland was a four-star recruit in the 2015 signing class and used a redshirt year last fall. Stovall was an early enrollee and has already earned a starting spot on the team’s spring depth chart.

 

Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford

The line is arguably the biggest concern on defense for coach David Shaw. However, the question marks about this unit could be alleviated if Harrison Phillips returns at full strength from a knee injury, and Thomas emerges as an All-Pac-12 player. In his first year of snaps with the Cardinal, Thomas played in all 14 games and recorded 39 tackles (10.5 for a loss) and 3.5 sacks.

 

Joe Williams, RB, Utah

A strong offensive line and ground attack is critical for coach Kyle Whittingham with uncertainty at quarterback and receiver. Devontae Booker will be missed at running back, but Williams showed he was capable of handling 25-30 carries a game late last year. Williams rushed for 399 yards and three touchdowns over the final three games of 2015 and is slated to headline the Utes’ rushing attack next fall.

Teaser:
Pac-12's Top 15 Players on the Rise for 2016
Post date: Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2016-returning-starters-analysis
Body:

Returning starter data in college football preseason charts or magazine pages isn’t an exact science. The numbers and data can vary among different websites, magazines or other resources. However, even if there’s some disagreement on the numbers, the data is an interesting early look at how teams are shaping up for the upcoming season.

 

The ACC had a busy 2015 season, as Clemson was on the doorstep of winning the national championship, Florida State won 10 games in a rebuilding year, and the conference as a whole improved with the offseason hires of Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Dino Babers (Syracuse), Mark Richt (Miami) and Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia). All four new coaches should have a positive impact on their team in 2016.

 

With spring practice underway across the ACC, it’s never too early to start looking at the depth charts and returning starters for all 14 teams in the league. In preparation for the 2016 College Football Preview magazine, Athlon Sports determines the returning starters for every team. A simple criteria is used as a baseline for returning starters. A player must start seven overall games or the last six of any season. However, that is not a hard-line rule for returning starters, and there’s plenty of flexibility (snaps or overall playing time as a backup, injuries or scheme) when taking into account the actual number. 

 

ACC Football 2016 Returning Starters Analysis

 

Atlantic Division
Team Offense Defense
Boston College 6 6
Clemson 8 4
Florida State 10 6
Louisville 9 8
NC State 6 8
Syracuse 8 7
Wake Forest 8 7

* Louisville returns the most starters (17) of any ACC team. However, that number could dip by one if linebacker Trevon Young does not recover from a hip injury suffered in the bowl game in time for the 2016 season.

 

* Clemson’s four returning starters on defense are the fewest in the ACC. However, three of those – linebacker Ben Boulware, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and defensive lineman Carlos Watkins – were All-ACC selections last season.

 

* The only position not counted as a returning starter on Florida State’s offense is at quarterback. Sean Maguire started five games last season and is being pushed for the job by redshirt freshman Deondre Francois.

 

* Louisville returns all four starters in the secondary.

 

* NC State returns five of its six starters in the front six, but the one departure – end Mike Rose – is a big loss.

 

* The line of scrimmage is the biggest concern for new coach Dino Babers. The Orange must replace three starters from an offensive line that held opponents to 21 sacks last year. On defense, three starters are gone up front. Syracuse is thin on proven defensive ends.

 

* Four full-time starters depart, but there’s plenty of optimism for Wake Forest’s defense with five starters back in the front seven and standout cornerback Brad Watson.

 

* Boston College only returns 12 starters by the above criteria, but the Eagles get a couple of key players back from injury – running back Jon Hilliman and quarterback Darius Wade. Also, Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles should provide plenty of competition under center.

 

Coastal Division
Team Offense Defense
Duke 5 5
Georgia Tech 6 5
Miami 9 7
North Carolina 7 6
Pittsburgh 8 8
Virginia 5 5
Virginia Tech 8 6

* Duke and Virginia are tied for the fewest amount of returning starters for an ACC team in 2016.

 

* Duke’s number on offense could dip to four if quarterback Thomas Sirk does not return in time for the 2016 season (Achilles injury).

 

* Georgia Tech loses all four starters in the secondary.

 

* Miami’s offensive line enters the year with its share of question marks, but all five starters are back for coach Mark Richt.

 

* The Hurricanes have some retooling in the secondary to do with the departures of Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Artie Burns and Dallas Crawford.

 

* North Carolina loses standout guard Landon Turner, but there’s a good foundation in place with four returning starters on the offensive line.

 

* Stopping the run was an issue for the Tar Heels last season and three starters depart in the front six.

 

* Virginia Tech must replace three starters on the defensive line. End Ken Ekanem is the only returning starter up front.

 

* The back seven should be the strength of Virginia’s defense under new coach Bronco Mendenhall. The Cavaliers return five full-time starters in the back seven, including standout safety Quin Blanding.

 

* Pittsburgh returns four starters on the offensive line. Additionally, tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith is back after missing all of 2015 due to injury. The Panthers should have one of the top offensive lines in the ACC next year. 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 10:30

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