Articles By Steven Lassan

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With the departure of seven all-conference performers and six new assistant coaches, Florida State’s spring practice is all about getting everyone on the same page and acclimated with all of the new faces. Despite the turnover on the roster and coaching staff, the Seminoles are still one of the top-15 teams in the nation and will be Clemson’s biggest threat to an ACC title. The battle to replace EJ Manuel at quarterback will get most of the attention this spring, but Florida State must replace a handful of key contributors on defense, including defensive end Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. With all of the changes, there will be an adjustment period in Tallahassee. However, there’s still plenty of talent returning, which could keep Florida State in contention for 10 wins in 2013.

Florida State Seminoles 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 20-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Clint Trickett, 22 of 34, 272 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Devonta Freeman, 111 car., 660 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Rashad Greene, 57 rec., 741 yards, 6 TDs
Tackles: Christian Jones, 95
Sacks: Demonte McAllister, 3.5
Interceptions: Tyler Hunter, 3

Redshirts to watch: QB Jameis Winston, WR Marvin Bracy, DE Chris Casher, DB Colin Blake, DT Justin Shanks, LB Ukeme Eligwe

Early Enrollees to Watch: LB Freddie Stevenson, DE Demarcus Walker

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DE Desmond Hollin

2013 Schedule

Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 14 Nevada
Sept. 21 Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 28 at Boston College
Oct. 5 Maryland
Oct. 19 at Clemson
Oct. 26 NC State
Nov. 2 Miami
Nov. 9 at Wake Forest
Nov. 16 Syracuse
Nov. 23 Idaho
Nov. 30 at Florida

Offensive Strength: Outside of quarterback, the Seminoles are set on offense. Running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. could be the ACC’s best one-two punch in 2013. Also, five players that caught 20 or more passes are back, and the offensive line returns four starters.

Offensive Weakness: It’s only one area, but it’s a big one: Quarterback. EJ Manuel expired his eligibility after the Orange Bowl, which leaves Jacob Coker, Clint Trickett, Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire to battle for the starting job.

Defensive Strength: The strength of Florida State’s defense last year was clearly the defensive line. With Bjoern Werner leaving early for the NFL and Everett Dawkins and Cornellius Carradine expiring their eligibility, the strength of the defense has shifted to the back seven. The Seminoles should have one of the ACC’s top linebacker and secondary units in 2013.

Defensive Weakness: It’s hard to call Florida State’s defensive line a weakness considering the talent this group possesses. However, the Seminoles will have a drop off in performance at this position with the departure of four key players from last season.

Spring Storylines Facing the Seminoles

1. Who starts at quarterback? The biggest question facing the Seminoles in spring practice is the battle to replace EJ Manuel under center. Although he had his moments of inconsistency, Manuel finished his career with 7,741 yards and 47 touchdowns. Four quarterbacks are vying to replace Manuel, but the battle is most likely between junior Clint Trickett and redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. Trickett has two starts under his belt and has 947 passing yards in his career. Winston was regarded as the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2012 signing class and spent last season learning the ropes as a redshirt. Winston is playing baseball this spring but is not expected to miss any practice time. Considering the talent at the skill positions, Florida State doesn’t need Trickett or Winston to be an All-ACC quarterback. If Winston is ready, he should be the Seminoles’ No. 1 quarterback for the season opener against Pittsburgh.

2. Shuffling on the offensive line? With four starters back, Florida State should have one of the ACC’s best offensive lines in 2013. However, there’s some uncertainty surrounding this group, as Menelik Watson departed early for the NFL and Daniel Glauser expired his eligibility, which completely vacated the depth at right tackle. So who steps into Watson’s starting spot? Junior Bobby Hart is expected to get a chance to claim the right tackle job, and he has 19 games of experience under his belt. If Hart is unable to claim that spot, center Bryan Stork could slide to right tackle. If Stork does slide to the outside, junior Austin Barron would claim the top spot at center. Other options to watch at right tackle will be sophomore Ruben Carter or junior Sterling Lovelady, along with incoming freshman Wilson Bell. The best scenario for Florida State is for Hart to claim the right tackle position, which would keep Stork at center. Depth could be an issue for the Seminoles on this unit, so keeping the five starting linemen healthy will be a priority.

3. Rebuilding the defensive line. Although Florida State must replace ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine and tackles Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud, this unit could still rank among the best in the ACC. Sophomore Mario Edwards is a future star, and sophomore Giorgio Newberry and redshirt freshman Chris Casher were touted recruits coming out of high school. Incoming freshman Demarcus Walker and junior college recruit Desmond Hollin are expected to play a significant role in the rotation in 2013. The tackle position should be set with Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister sliding into the starting lineup, along with the return of Jacobbi McDaniel from a redshirt year. Even with the talent stepping into the lineup, this unit will take a step back. However, if there’s little adjustment from Mark Stoops to Jeremy Pruitt as the coordinator, Florida State’s rush defense should once again rank in the top-10 nationally.

4. Shuffling in the secondary. The Seminoles only have one departure in the secondary, but it’s a big one. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes left early for the NFL after earning first-team All-ACC honors in 2013, and he is expected to be a first-round selection in April. Replacing Rhodes is no easy task, but Florida State has depth in the secondary. Lamarcus Joyner is expected to slide from safety to cornerback in spring practice, and he was a first-team All-ACC pick last year. With Joyner moving to corner, the Seminoles shouldn’t miss a beat in pass defense. The other corner spot has a handful of players competing for time, including Tyler Hunter, Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome, incoming freshman Jalen Ramsey and redshirt freshman Colin Blake. With Hunter, Darby and Waisome out for spring practice, Blake will have a head start on claiming the other corner spot. Regardless of who starts at the other corner spot, Florida State has plenty of options and should be stingy against the pass once again. Expect Terrence Brooks and Karlos Williams to get the starting nod at safety.

5. Replacing Dustin Hopkins at kicker. The departures on offense and defense will get most of the attention in the spring, but Florida State has a huge void to fill on special teams. Kicker Dustin Hopkins set the NCAA career scoring record for kickers and was a Groza Award finalist in 2012. Junior Drew Zloch and redshirt freshman Roberto Aguayo are the only kickers on the spring roster, with Aguayo the likely frontrunner. Hopkins was one of college football’s top kickers during his career at Florida State and will be missed. Will Aguayo ease concerns about Hopkins’ departure this spring? Or will the kicking battle continue into the fall?


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Teaser:
<p> Florida State Seminoles 2013 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 22, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/5-players-watch-pac-12-spring-practice
Body:

With spring practice underway across college football, most of interest will focus on quarterback battles or incoming freshmen that enrolled early to get a jumpstart on making an impact for 2013.

However, there’s always a handful of players – outside of the quarterback position – that fly under the radar that need to have a big spring practice for their team. Whether it’s a running back replacing a 1,000-yard rusher or a lineman stepping into a starting role for an all-conference player, there’s plenty of names that will be under the spotlight this spring.

Athlon continues its spring practice previews with a look at five under-the-radar players to watch in each conference during spring practice. 

5 Players to Watch in Pac-12 Spring Practice

Devon Kennard, DE, USC
Even though USC has a question mark at quarterback, it may not be the biggest issue facing this team in 2013. The defense is undergoing some changes after allowing 394 yards a game last season and finishing eighth in the conference against the run. Monte Kiffin left the coaching staff, so Lane Kiffin hired former California and NFL defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to resurrect the defense. Pendergast’s experience with the Pac-12 should come in handy at USC, but the Trojans will also get a boost from seven starters coming back, along with Kennard’s return from a season-ending injury last year. In three years with USC, Kennard has recorded 135 tackles and four sacks. And after shuffling between defensive end and linebacker in the early part of his career, the Arizona native should be a perfect fit in Pendergast’s defense. Kennard is expected to spend some time on the line of scrimmage but will also drop back into coverage and rush the quarterback similar to a 3-4 linebacker. With Kennard at full strength and back in the lineup, he is expected to be a key component to what should be a much-improved defense in 2013.

Related Content: 2013 USC Spring Preview


Boseko Lokombo, LB, Oregon
The Ducks return seven starters on defense, but the four departing players were among the best in the Pac-12 at their respective positions. End/linebacker Dion Jordan, tackle Isaac Remington and linebackers Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay will be missed. With the front seven in need of repair, coordinator Nick Aliotti will be leaning on Lokombo for leadership in the linebacking corps. In 13 games last season, Lokombo made 12 starts and recorded 39 tackles and two sacks. And in his career, Lokombo has registered 108 stops and four total sacks. With the departures of Alonso and Clay, Lokombo will team with Derrick Malone and Tyson Coleman to help keep Oregon’s defense near the top of the Pac-12.
 

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA
Running backs are usually one of the easiest places to replace production, but UCLA will have its hands full as it tries to fill the big shoes left by Johnathan Franklin. During his four years in Westwood, Franklin rushed for 4,403 yards and 31 touchdowns and caught 58 passes for 517 yards and three scores. With Damien Thigpen recovering from a torn ACL, Jordan James and Malcolm Jones failing to claim the top spot, the door is open for Perkins to win the starting job this spring. The Arizona native was a three-star recruit by Rivals.com in the 2012 signing class and was redshirted by the coaching staff in his first year on campus. Perkins doesn’t have to be Franklin, but he needs to give UCLA’s rushing attack some punch. If Perkins doesn’t claim the job, the Bruins’ backfield situation will be a concern going into fall practice.
 

Richard Smith, WR, Arizona State
With the departure of Jamal Miles and Rashad Ross, Arizona State’s receiving corps will be under the spotlight in spring practice. The Sun Devils have Pac-12 South title aspirations, but new playmakers must be found to help quarterback Taylor Kelly. Tight end Chris Coyle should be among the best in the conference, but no returning receiver had more than 21 catches last year. After catching 14 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns last year, Smith is expected to emerge as one of Arizona State’s top receivers in 2013. The sophomore isn’t the biggest target at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, but he possesses excellent speed and quickness. If Smith steps up this spring, it would go a long way towards easing some of the coaching staff’s concerns about the receiving corps.
 

Khalil Wilkes, C, Stanford
Outside of replacing running back Stepfan Taylor, the biggest task for coach David Shaw this preseason is to fill the void left behind by Sam Schwartzstein at center. Wilkes is the early frontrunner to claim the starting job, but he is locked into a tight battle with Graham Shuler, Conor McFadden and Kevin Danser. The senior made 13 starts last season at left guard but shifting to center would strengthen Stanford’s offensive line, as it would allow sophomore Andrus Peat to crack the lineup at left tackle. Even if Wilkes doesn’t win the starting center spot, he is a valuable swingman to have around, especially since he saw time at tackle and guard last year.

Related Content: 2013 Stanford Spring Preview
 

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Teaser:
<p> 5 Players to Watch in Pac-12 Spring Practice</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 07:22
Path: /college-football/5-players-watch-big-ten-spring-practice
Body:

With spring practice underway across college football, most of interest will focus on quarterback battles or incoming freshmen that enrolled early to get a jumpstart on making an impact for 2013.

However, there’s always a handful of players – outside of the quarterback position – that fly under the radar that need to have a big spring practice for their team. Whether it’s a running back replacing a 1,000-yard rusher or a lineman stepping into a starting role for an all-conference player, there’s plenty of names that will be under the spotlight this spring.

Athlon continues its spring practice previews with a look at five under-the-radar players to watch in each conference during spring practice. 

5 Players to Watch in Big Ten Spring Practice

Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State
A new quarterback and a revamped receiving corps prevented Michigan State’s passing attack from getting off the ground last season. Despite the struggles at quarterback, Burbridge turned in an impressive freshman campaign with 29 receptions for 364 yards and two touchdown catches. His best performance came in a 31-27 win over Indiana, grabbing eight receptions for 134 yards. With another offseason to work under Michigan State’s coaching staff and develop in the weight room, Burbridge is due for an even better sophomore campaign. And if Michigan State can solve its quarterback issues, the Michigan native could push for all-conference honors.

Related Content: 2013 Michigan State Spring Preview
 

Darius Hillary, CB, Wisconsin
New coach Gary Andersen is inheriting a top-25 team, but the Badgers have some major work to do in the secondary. Three starters are gone from last season, including second-team All-Big Ten cornerback Devin Smith. Junior college transfer Donnell Vercher will arrive in the summer to compete, but Hillary and Peniel Jean are the frontrunners to claim the starting cornerback spots. Hillary played in 14 games last season and recorded 23 tackles and two pass breakups. As expected with any freshman, Hillary had his ups and downs in 2012 but should be better with another spring practice under his belt. The Badgers need to find two starting cornerbacks this spring, but some of the coaching staffs concerns about the secondary would be eased if Hillary solidifies a starting job.  

Related Content: 2013 Wisconsin Spring Preview
 

Akeem Hunt, RB, Purdue
Hunt has been mostly a role player in his first two years in West Lafayette. As a freshman in 2011, he rushed for 287 yards and two touchdowns and improved those numbers slightly in 2012, recording 335 yards and two scores on 42 attempts. In addition to his workload on offense, Hunt has contributed on special teams, averaging 22.6 yards per kickoff return. With Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden expiring their eligibility, Hunt is expected to be Purdue’s No. 1 back. At 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, the Georgia native doesn’t have ideal size for a feature back. However, new coach Darrell Hazell used a player (Dri Archer) with similar measurables at Kent State, and Archer finished 2012 with 1,429 rushing yards and 16 scores. Is Hunt going to play a similar all-around role to Archer? Or is Hunt expected to just be the feature back in 2013? Spring practice should give the Boilermakers an idea of what they can expect from Hunt this season.
 

David Santos, LB, Nebraska
As if the late-season struggles weren’t enough to overcome, Nebraska’s defense was gutted by departures. The front seven loses ends Eric Martin and Cameron Meredith and tackle Baker Steinkuhler and linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher. Santos is one of the few proven players returning at linebacker after recording 24 tackles – including 10 against Michigan – in 13 contests last season. The Texas native is expected to have a more prominent role in the defense this year and will need to be a leader for a unit that has very little experience returning. Santos is expected to start at middle linebacker in 2013 for Nebraska.

Related Content: 2013 Nebraska Spring Preview
 

Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
With the departure of all four starters on the defensive line, Ohio State is essentially starting from scratch in the trenches. While the losses on the line will be tough to replace, the Buckeyes have recruited well, and there’s no shortage of talent stepping into the starting lineup. Spence is expected to win one of the starting defensive ends spots this spring and could be the leader for the line in 2013. He recorded 12 tackles and one sack in 11 contests last season. Spence was regarded as one of the top defensive linemen in the 2012 recruiting class and displayed his potential in limited action last year. If the Buckeyes are going to play for a national championship, Spence needs to live up to his recruiting hype and dominate opposing offensive lines in 2013.

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Teaser:
<p> 5 Players to Watch in Big Ten Spring Practice</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-defensive-players-rise-2013
Body:

With spring practice underway for many college football teams, the countdown to the 2013 season has officially started. With preseason predictions right around the corner, it’s never too early to start thinking about which players might be the next breakout stars.

With several of college football’s top defenders from 2012 moving on to the NFL, the door is open for a handful of newcomers to make an impact in 2013. Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins is due for an increase in playing time with the departure of Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, while Florida State’s Mario Edwards is expected to step in for likely first-round pick Bjoern Werner.

Defining who fits the rising star or breakout player label isn’t easy.  Although these 10 players might not be household names in March, it could be a different story by the end of the season.

10 College Football Defensive Players on the Rise for 2013

Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon
Seven starters are back on Oregon’s defense, but the four departing seniors will be tough to replace. Hybrid end/linebacker Dion Jordan and linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso each earned all-conference honors last season, while tackle Isaac Remington was named as a honorable mention. Armstead ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and didn’t disappoint in his first year in Eugene. The California native played in all 13 games, recording 26 tackles and two tackles for a loss. With Jordan and Remington no longer on campus, look for Armstead to become one of the stalwarts on Oregon’s defensive line.


Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
In an offensive-minded league like the Pac-12, it’s not easy for a true freshman to start eight games at cornerback. However, that’s exactly what Carter did last season, playing in all 14 contests with those eight starts, recording 46 tackles and three tackles for a loss. At 6-foot and 204 pounds, the Virginia native has the size and athleticism to match the top receivers in the conference. And with another offseason to get acclimated to Stanford’s nasty 3-4 defense, Carter could emerge as one of the Pac-12’s top cornerbacks.
 

Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State
With the departure of ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, along with tackles Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud, there will be a lot of new faces on Florida State’s defensive line in 2013. The Seminoles have recruited well, so there is talent waiting in the wings. Edwards is the most likely candidate to emerge as a star in 2013, as he was the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and played in 11 games and recorded 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a true freshman last year. With another offseason to work in the weight room and learn from new defensive coaches Jeremy Pruitt and Sal Sunseri, Edwards is poised to have a breakout season and challenge for All-ACC honors.
 

Tracy Howard, CB, Miami
Last season was one to forget for Miami’s defense. The Hurricanes ranked 116th nationally in yards allowed and 102nd against the pass in 2012. That’s the bad news. The good news? Miami has some promising young talent that could take a step forward in 2013. Howard is one of the names the Hurricanes’ coaching staff wants to see claim a starting job this spring, as he played in all 12 games last year and recorded 17 tackles and four pass breakups. Howard made only one start last fall, however, and  he struggled to carve out a consistent role in the secondary. With 2012 behind him, Howard’s potential should turn into production for Miami’s defense in 2013.
 

Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia
The Bulldogs are a slight favorite over South Carolina to represent the East in Atlanta, but winning a third consecutive division championship will rest on a revamped defense. Only three starters return for Todd Grantham’s defense in 2013, and each level of the unit suffered some heavy losses. Defensive lineman John Jenkins and three starters in the secondary won’t be easy to replace, but the linebacking corps was hit hardest by departures, as both Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones chose to enter the NFL Draft. Losing Ogletree and Jones certainly stings, but Georgia has to be excited about Jenkins and the promise he showed last season. In 14 games as a true freshman, he recorded 31 tackles and five sacks, while forcing one fumble. If Jenkins can maintain Georgia’s pass rush off of the edge, the defense may not be in as bad of shape as some may have believed this offseason.


Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
No matter what season it is, LSU always seems to have an All-SEC-caliber defensive lineman ready to step up to replace a departing senior or early entrant into the NFL. This year is no different, as Johnson is expected to ease the blow from losing Bennie Logan and Josh Downs. As a sophomore in 2012, Johnson recorded 30 tackles and 10 tackles for a loss. He also registered three sacks and two quarterback hurries. With LSU losing six key linemen from last season, it’s up to Johnson to keep the Tigers’ defensive line among the best in the SEC.
 

James Ross III, LB, Michigan
With the emergence of Ross, along with the return of Jake Ryan, Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan, Michigan should have one of the Big Ten’s top linebacking corps in 2013. Ross came on strong at the end of the year and finished with 36 stops. His best performance came against Iowa, recording 12 stops in the 42-17 win over the Hawkeyes. Michigan has a good problem to have with a surplus of linebackers for three starting spots. Considering how he played at the end of 2012, Ross will be difficult to keep off of the field in 2013.
 

Geno Smith, CB, Alabama
With Dee Milliner expected to be selected among the first 10 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft, Alabama will have a defensive back taken in the first round in three out of the last four years. So while losing a player of Milliner’s caliber hurts the Crimson Tide’s defense, Nick Saban always has someone waiting in the wings to emerge as the next superstar. Smith was considered one of the top-100 recruits in the 2012 signing class and played in 13 games last year, recording nine tackles and two pass breakups. Deion Belue is expected to man one of Alabama’s starting corner spots this year, but Smith could win the job on the other side. Even if Smith doesn’t beat John Fulton for the starting spot, he will play a ton of snaps in 'Bama's secondary.
 

Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
If there’s one area that will keep coach Urban Meyer and co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Everett Withers awake at night – it’s the defense. The Buckeyes return only four starters on that side of the ball and must replace four key players from the defensive line. Thanks to Meyer’s relentless recruiting efforts, talent isn’t an issue with the new defensive linemen. Spence was one of the most sought-after defenders in last year’s class, ranking No. 4 in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100. In 11 games as a true freshman, the Pennsylvania native recorded 12 tackles and one sack. As with any first-year starter, expect a few ups and downs. However, Spence and fellow sophomore Adolphus Washington also will wreck havoc on opposing offensive lines.

Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina
Despite the departure of end Devin Taylor and tackle Byron Jerideau, South Carolina’s defensive line remains one of the best in college football. Of course, having a player like Jadeveon Clowney makes everyone’s job a little easier, but the Gamecocks have solid depth at the other positions. Sutton is a player that should thrive with Taylor’s departure, as he will slide into a starting role. With Clowney commanding plenty of double teams, Sutton will have an opportunity to easily improve on last season’s totals – 23 tackles, five sacks and seven tackles for a loss. And with just one season left at South Carolina, Sutton needs a big year to jump into consideration as one of the top-10 defensive ends for the 2014 NFL Draft.
 

10 Others to Watch in 2013

Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
Bullard recorded 27 tackles in an impressive freshman season and should see a bigger role in Florida’s defensive line with Sharrif Floyd, Omar Hunter and Lerentee McCray departing.

Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers
Ranked as the No. 7 defensive lineman in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100, Hamilton should slide into the starting lineup to replace Scott Vallone.

Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE/LB, Northwestern
Odenigbo played in one game last season but was forced to redshirt due to a shoulder injury. The four-star recruit should help Northwestern replace departing defensive end Quentin Williams.

Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Playing time wasn’t easy for Goldman to find last year, as Florida State had one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in the nation. With a couple of players departing, Goldman (No. 4 defensive lineman in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100) is due for an increase in snaps.

Ondre Pipkins, DT, Michigan
Pipkins was expected to be one of Michigan’s top freshmen last year but never managed to crack the starting lineup. With the departure of Will Campbell, Pipkins will be counted on for more of a contribution in 2013.

Peter Jinkens, LB, Texas
In addition to developing consistency at quarterback, fixing the defense is the top spring priority for Mack Brown. Jinkens could be one of the answers in the linebacking corps after recording 29 tackles and one sack in 13 games last season.

Kwontie Moore, LB, Virginia
With Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds expiring their eligibility, Moore will be fighting for a starting spot this spring. He played in 12 games and registered four tackles as a true freshman last year.

Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama
Hubbard was Alabama’s top pass-rush threat last season (seven sacks) and is due for an even bigger total in 2013.

Kevin Peterson, CB, Oklahoma State
Peterson was impressive in limited action last season and is expected to replace Brodrick Brown in the starting lineup.

De’Vante Harris, CB, Texas A&M
Harris had a solid freshman season, recording 30 tackles and one interception in 12 games. He should be one of the leaders for Texas A&M’s secondary in 2013.


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Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 10 Defensive Players on the Rise for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 07:24
Path: /college-football/5-players-watch-big-12-spring-practice
Body:

With spring practice underway across college football, most of interest will focus on quarterback battles or incoming freshmen that enrolled early to get a jumpstart on making an impact for 2013.

However, there’s always a handful of players – outside of the quarterback position – that fly under the radar that need to have a big spring practice for their team. Whether it’s a running back replacing a 1,000-yard rusher or a lineman stepping into a starting role for an all-conference player, there’s plenty of names that will be under the spotlight this spring.

Athlon continues its spring practice previews with a look at five under-the-radar players to watch in each conference during spring practice. 

5 Players to Watch in Big 12 Spring Practice

Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Longhorns owned one of the nation’s most disappointing defenses last season, allowing 192.2 rushing yards per game and finishing sixth in the Big 12 in points allowed. Fixing the defense starts in the trenches, especially on the interior where Texas was pushed around last season. Brown was a key part of the rotation at defensive tackle as a true freshman, and he finished 2012 with 25 tackles and two tackles for a loss. With an offseason to work in the weight room and refine his technique, Brown should be ready to take on more snaps in 2013. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, the sophomore has the size to be a nightmare matchup for opposing offensive lines.
 

Brandon Carter, WR, TCU
With Josh Boyce leaving for the NFL and Skye Dawson out of eligibility, the Horned Frogs are searching for a new No. 1 target this spring. Thanks to four consecutive top-50 recruiting classes, the cupboard is far from bare for quarterback Casey Pachall. After catching 59 passes for 942 yards and nine scores, Carter is poised to become TCU’s new go-to weapon. The Trinity High School product was the team’s top deep option last year, as he averaged 16.4 yards per catch. TCU isn’t hurting for athleticism with David Porter, Cam White and LaDarius Brown rounding out the receiving corps, but if Carter can build on his first two years in Fort Worth, look for the junior to be an All-Big 12 performer in 2013.

Related Content: TCU 2013 Spring Preview
 

Tyler Johnson, DE, Oklahoma State
The biggest area of concern this spring for new Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has to be at defensive end. The Cowboys are losing Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas and Ryan Robinson, leaving Tyler Johnson as the team’s most experienced option. Johnson is a former walk-on but has developed into a solid player over the last three years. After recording 29 tackles in nine games in 2011, Johnson made 27 stops and registered five sacks in 2012. The Oklahoma native also had a standout performance in the bowl game, recording six tackles and two sacks against the Boilermakers. All signs point to Johnson winning one of the end spots, but he needs a big spring to ease the concerns of the coaching staff about this position. Even with Johnson’s emergence, Oklahoma State needs another end to emerge, which could be junior college recruit Sam Wren.

Related Content: 2013 Oklahoma State Spring Preview


Gabe Lynn, DB, Oklahoma
The Sooners were hit hard by departures on defense, as end David King, tackle Jamarkus McFarland, linebacker Tom Wort, cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris won’t be back for 2013. Just four starters return to Norman this year, and the defensive line is a major issue with very little depth returning. While the line is a concern, the back seven of the defense is in a little better shape. Aaron Colvin was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season and should be the anchor for this group. Lynn has been a solid player during his career but hasn’t quite lived up to his recruiting hype. In three years with the Sooners, Lynn has recorded 56 tackles and no interceptions. To help ease the blow from the departure of Jefferson and Harris, Lynn is expected to slide to safety. However, he’s not guaranteed a starting spot, as incoming freshman Hatari Byrd could win the job in the fall. Can this former top recruit reach his potential in 2013? If he can, Lynn would help keep Oklahoma’s secondary among the best in the Big 12.

Related Content: 2013 Oklahoma Spring Preview
 

Jordan Thompson, WR, West Virginia
The Mountaineers are essentially starting from scratch on offense this spring. Quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are gone, leaving a handful of inexperienced players stepping into key roles. Not only must West Virginia find a new quarterback, but it needs to find four new starting receivers. Thompson played in all 13 games last season and caught 13 passes for 85 yards. At 5-foot-7, the Texas native isn’t going to be a physical presence on the outside, but he should thrive in one of the inside spots. The Mountaineers won’t ask Thompson to be Tavon Austin. However, he needs to be a key piece of the receiving puzzle this spring.

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B
ig 12 2013 Spring Storylines

Teaser:
<p> 5 Players to Watch in Big 12 Spring Practice</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/5-players-watch-big-east-spring-practice
Body:

With spring practice underway across college football, most of interest will focus on quarterback battles or incoming freshmen that enrolled early to get a jumpstart on making an impact for 2013.

However, there’s always a handful of players – outside of the quarterback position – that fly under the radar that need to have a big spring practice for their team. Whether it’s a running back replacing a 1,000-yard rusher or a lineman stepping into a starting role for an all-conference player, there’s plenty of names that will be under the spotlight this spring.

Athlon continues its spring practice previews with a look at five under-the-radar players to watch in each conference during spring practice. 

5 Players to Watch in Big East Spring Practice

Ralph David Abernathy IV, RB, Cincinnati
The Bearcats have a streak of three consecutive seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher, but that run could be in jeopardy in 2013. With George Winn expiring his eligibility, there’s uncertainty surrounding who will be the new Bearcats’ No. 1 back in 2013. Abernathy is the team’s leading returning rusher after recording 366 yards and three touchdowns last season. But at 5-foot-7 and 161 pounds, does he have the size be an every-down back? While Abernathy can certainly handle more than his carry total from last season (69), he doesn’t need to record 250 attempts. So if Abernathy is best-suited for an all-purpose type of role, who steps up at running back? Is it Deionte Buckley, Tion Green or incoming junior college recruits Rodriguez Moore or Hosey Williams? Settling on which position Abernathy will play in 2013 will help Cincinnati solidify the backfield pecking order.


Abraham “Nacho” Garcia, OT, Louisville
Keeping quarterback Teddy Bridgewater away from opposing defensive ends and off the ground is the top priority for Louisville for 2013. The Cardinals have some work to do on the offensive line this spring, as this unit must replace second-team All-Big East tackle Alex Kupper and first-team All-Big East center Mario Benavides. The Cardinals have three starters returning, so the offensive line isn’t going to be starting from scratch. However, Kupper and Benavides were clearly the unit’s best players in 2012. Garcia has the inside track to replace Kupper at left tackle, and the 6-foot-5 Florida native certainly has the size to be an imposing force on the edge. Garcia played in seven games last season as a true freshman, which should give him plenty of confidence going into spring ball.


Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers
Huggins was widely considered one of the top running backs in the 2011 signing class but has yet to reach his potential in two seasons with the Scarlet Knights. In nine games in 2011, Huggins rushed for 146 yards and 56 attempts. Last season, he rushed for 410 yards and two touchdowns on 119 carries, including 179 yards in a 10-3 win over Cincinnati. With Jawan Jamison early departure to the NFL, Rutgers is counting on Huggins to carry the workload in 2013. The former top recruit has all of the talent necessary to be a star in the Big East and should contend for the conference lead in rushing yards in 2013.


Jesse Joseph, DE, Connecticut
Injuries have prematurely ended Joseph’s playing time in each of the last two years. However, when he’s healthy, he can be one of the top defensive linemen in the Big East. In 25 games during his first two years in Storrs, Joseph recorded 11 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss, while also forcing two fumbles. And in 12 contests from 2011-12, he managed just two sacks and 41 tackles. Recovering from a torn Achilles and getting back to 100 percent in one year is no easy task. However, that’s the assignment facing Joseph this spring, especially as the Huskies have to replace Trevardo Williams and Ryan Wirth from last season’s line. Joseph will be limited in spring practice as he continues to recover. However, just having him back in the mix as a leader will be crucial for Connecticut’s defense in 2013.
 

Thomas Niles, DE, UCF
Of the four new teams joining the Big East this year, UCF will likely have the most success in 2013. The Knights return six starters on offense, but the defense needs attention in spring practice with just four returning starters. Defensive end is a huge concern, especially since Troy Davis and Cam Henderson expired their eligibility, and Victor Gray retired in March due to injury. Niles played in 13 games at defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman last season and recorded 30 tackles, five sacks and seven tackles for a loss. Due to the losses at end, UCF is planning to move Niles to the outside. After a strong debut as a freshman last year, the Knights need Niles to build on his performance and become a key cog in the defense in 2013. 

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Teaser:
<p> 5 Players to Watch in Big East Spring Practice</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 07:19
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Alabama opens spring practice as a heavy favorite to win the 2013 national championship. And with 14 starters back, there’s not much for the Crimson Tide to be concerned about heading into spring workouts. However, Nick Saban is always looking for ways for his team to get better, so Alabama isn’t going to cruise through spring workouts. With three starters departing, the offensive line should receive the most attention in preseason practice. The defense brings back eight starters, but cornerback Dee Milliner must be replaced. Make no mistake: There’s no shortage of talent in Tuscaloosa. The task for Saban and his staff is to get the new faces blended with the veterans to keep the Crimson Tide on top in 2013.

Alabama Crimson Tide 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 13-1 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 16-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: AJ McCarron, 211 of 314, 2,933 yards, 30 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: T.J. Yeldon, 175 car., 1,108 yards, 12 TDs
Receiving: Amari Cooper, 59 rec., 1,000 yards, 11 TDs
Tackles: C.J. Mosley, 107
Sacks: Adrian Hubbard, 7
Interceptions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, 5

Redshirts to watch: WR Chris Black, OL Alphonse Taylor, OL Brandon Greene, LB Ryan Anderson, DL Korren Kirven, DL Dalvin Tomlinson

Early Enrollees to Watch: QB Cooper Bateman, OL Leon Brown (JC), WR Raheem Falkins, RB Derrick Henry, TE O.J. Howard, QB Parker McLeod

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Leon Brown

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Virginia Tech (Atlanta)
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 at Texas A&M
Sept. 21 Colorado State
Sept. 28 Ole Miss
Oct. 5 Georgia State
Oct. 12 at Kentucky
Oct. 19 Arkansas
Oct. 26 Tennessee
Nov. 9 LSU
Nov. 16 at Mississippi State
Nov. 23 Chattanooga
Nov. 30 at Auburn

Offensive Strength: Even with the departure of three of the nation’s best linemen, Alabama’s offense could be even better in 2013. Quarterback AJ McCarron is one of the best in the nation, the backfield is loaded with talent, and the receiving corps should rank near the top of the SEC.

Offensive Weakness: There’s no question the offensive line is the biggest issue for Alabama to address this spring. Two starters are back, but the Crimson Tide must replace three standouts in guard Chance Warmack, center Barrett Jones and tackle D.J. Fluker.

Defensive Strength: With six starters back, Alabama should once again have one of the best defenses in college football. The linebacking corps could be the best in the nation, and even though the secondary must replace Dee Milliner, there is no shortage of talent ready to step in.

Defensive Weakness: If there are any weaknesses on Alabama’s defense, the secondary and defensive line might be the place to look. The secondary loses standout cornerback Dee Milliner and safety Robert Lester. The defensive line must replace Damion Square, Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial. Neither unit is a huge weakness, but there are new faces stepping into the starting lineup.

Spring Storylines Facing the Crimson Tide

1. Replacing three starters on the offensive line. If Alabama wants to repeat as national champs, restocking the offensive line is the team’s top offseason priority. Replacing the production of Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker will be nearly impossible, but the Crimson Tide should still have one of the top lines in the SEC. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is ready for a breakout season, while guard Anthony Steen has 25 career starts. Ryan Kelly is expected to replace Jones at center, and he was impressive in limited action last season. The other two spots on the line are up for grabs, and new line coach Mario Cristobal would like to get an extended look at junior college recruit Leon Brown and incoming freshman Brandon Hill this spring. In addition to the spring newcomers, Arie Kouandjio, redshirt freshman Brandon Greene, juniors Austin Shepherd and Chad Lindsay and senior Kellen Williams will have an opportunity to fight for the two open spots. There’s no shortage of talent ready to step into the starting lineup for Alabama. However, can this unit quickly find its starting five and jell before a key early-season matchup against Texas A&M?

2. T.J. Yeldon’s backup. With Eddie Lacy moving onto the NFL, T.J. Yeldon is primed for a monster sophomore season. He rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and caught 11 passes for 131 yards and one score. While Yeldon is one of the nation’s top backs, Alabama heads into spring practice looking for a No. 2 option. Dee Hart has suffered season-ending knee injuries in back-to-back years and is working at cornerback this spring. Kenyan Drake is expected to see an increase in carries after rushing for 281 yards last season, but the Crimson Tide is bringing in an impressive collection of running backs from their 2013 recruiting class. Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny are expected to push for playing time this preseason and could give Alabama the deepest running back corps in the nation. Talent isn't an issue, but the Crimson Tide just need to settle on a pecking order to keep Yeldon fresh in 2013.

3. Who replaces Dee Milliner at cornerback? Alabama has ranked in the top 10 nationally in pass defense in back-to-back seasons, and even with the departure of Milliner, it should have the No. 1 secondary in the SEC in 2013. Milliner and safety Robert Lester will be missed, but talent isn’t an issue in Tuscaloosa. Junior college transfer Deion Belue had his share of ups and downs in his first season on campus but finished the year with 40 tackles and two interceptions. He should start at one of the corner spots, while sophomore Geno Smith and senior John Fulton will likely compete for the other job. Incoming freshman Maurice Smith, along with converted running back Dee Hart and receivers Cyrus Jones and Christion Jones are names to watch this preseason. The secondary should get a boost from the return of Jarrick Williams, who missed all of last season due to injury. Alabama doesn’t have a shutdown corner like Milliner on the roster, but the emergence of Smith and Fulton should help ease the loss of an All-American performer.

4. Who steps up on the defensive line? In a 3-4 scheme, defensive linemen aren’t going to post huge numbers. However, the Crimson Tide has three players to replace up front, including second-team All-SEC performer in nose guard Jesse Williams. Just as with every unit, Alabama may have losses, but there is talent waiting in the wings. Ed Stinson is an underrated player and recorded three sacks last year. Jeoffrey Pagan and Brandon Ivory are two players to watch in spring practice, as both could be breakout performers in 2013. Even if Stinson, Pagan and Ivory easily replace Williams, Damion Square and Quinton Dial, Alabama needs a couple of other bodies to emerge for depth.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Alabama Crimson Tide 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-rebels-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Coming off a seven-win season and a top-five recruiting class, Ole Miss heads into spring practice with momentum on its side. The Rebels return 15 starters, including quarterback Bo Wallace, linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and receiver Donte Moncrief. Wallace is out for spring practice due to shoulder surgery, but the Rebels are working with an experienced backup in Barry Brunetti. Coach Hugh Freeze clearly has Ole Miss pointed in the right direction, and with the combination of returning talent and the incoming recruiting class, the Rebels could push for a top-25 spot in some preseason polls.

Ole Miss Rebels 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (3-5)

Spring practice dates: March 17-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Bo Wallace, 235 of 368, 2,994 yards, 22 TDs, 17 INTs
Rushing: Jeff Scott, 197 car., 846 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving: Donte Moncrief, 66 rec., 979 yards, 10 TDs
Tackles: Denzel Nkemdiche, 82
Sacks: C.J. Johnson, 6.5
Interceptions: Three players tied with 3

Redshirts to Watch: OL Robert Conyers, DL Temario Strong, OL Darone Bailey

JUCO Transfers to Watch: ATH Nick Brassell, DT Lavon Hooks, ATH Quadarias Mireles

2013 Schedule

Aug. 29 at Vanderbilt
Sept. 7 SEMO
Sept. 14 at Texas
Sept. 28 at Alabama
Oct. 5 at Auburn
Oct. 12 Texas A&M
Oct. 19 LSU
Oct. 26 Idaho
Nov. 9 Arkansas
Nov. 16 Troy
Nov. 23 Missouri
Nov. 30 at Mississippi State

Offensive Strength: With eight starters back, the Rebels are in good shape on each level of the offense. Quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 2,994 yards last season, while the receiving corps should be one of the best in the SEC. The offensive line returns four starters.

Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to find a glaring weakness for Ole Miss, but guard A.J. Hawkins and two tight ends (Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen) must be replaced. The line has room to improve after allowing 2.6 sacks a game last season.

Defensive Strength: The linebacking corps should be the strength of the Rebels’ defense in 2013, as Denzel Nkemdiche is back after a standout freshman season, and Mike Marry returns after recording 78 stops in 2012.

Defensive Weakness: Ole Miss fielded an improved defense in Hugh Freeze’s first season, but the Rebels still have a long ways to go on this side of the ball. The secondary has to get better after allowing 246.5 passing yards a game last season. Ole Miss ranked seventh in yards allowed in conference play in 2012.

Spring Storylines Facing the Rebels

1. The health of quarterback Bo Wallace. After a solid debut season in Oxford, there’s a lot of concern surrounding Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace this spring. Wallace threw for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns, while adding 390 yards and eight scores on the ground in 2012. Wallace had offseason shoulder surgery and will miss all of spring practice. With Wallace sidelined, Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller are expected to take a majority of the snaps under center, and the development of both players is crucial for Ole Miss. While Wallace is expected to return to 100 percent, the slow shoulder surgery recovery of Missouri’s James Franklin last year and Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson in 2010 has to give Rebels’ head coach Hugh Freeze some nervous thoughts this spring. Having an experienced backup like Brunetti has to ease some of the concern, but Wallace is clearly Ole Miss’ best quarterback. And the Rebels can’t move up the SEC West pecking order if Wallace isn’t 100 percent this year.

2. Replacing A.J. Hawkins on the offensive line. With running back Jeff Scott and receiver Donte Moncrief returning, the Rebels have plenty of talented at the skill positions to keep the offense performing at a high level. And the offensive line is in relatively good shape with four starters back from last season. However, this unit has room to grow after allowing 2.6 sacks a game last year, and guard A.J. Hawkins departs after starting all 13 games. Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton are back to anchor the tackle spots, but both players will be pushed by incoming freshmen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson. There’s no clear replacement for Hawkins on the roster, although tackle Patrick Junen is expected to slide to guard this spring. If Junen doesn’t secure the job, the Rebels may turn to Justin Bell or could look at sliding another tackle to guard. For the Rebels to take the next step on offense, the line has to play with more consistency in 2013.

3. Reloading the defensive line. The Rebels finished 2012 ranked 25th nationally against the run and recorded 2.9 sacks a game last year. The line loses four contributors from last season, but help is on the way from one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. End Robert Nkemdiche ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and has the size and talent to make an immediate impact. In addition to Nkemdiche, junior college recruit Lavon Hooks is expected to play a lot of snaps in the interior this year. Ends C.J. Johnson and Channing Ward are a good foundation to build around, while nose tackle Issac Gross needs a little more help on the interior with the departure of Gilbert Pena and Uriah Grant.

4. Settling on a starting group in the secondary. The weakness of Ole Miss’ defense last season was the secondary. The Rebels ranked 80th nationally against the pass, and quarterbacks completed 61.6 percent of their throws against this secondary. The cupboard isn’t bare, but the Rebels need to find the right mix for 2013 this spring. Charles Sawyer shifted from safety to cornerback last season and should be better in his second year at the position. Nick Brassell is back on campus after a year at junior college, and he could start on the other side. If Brassell isn’t the answer, Senquez Golson, Dehendret Collins or Quintavius Burdette and Anthony Standifer will all get a chance to win the job. The starting spots at safety will likely go to Trae Elston and Cody Prewitt, but true freshman Antonio Conner will be difficult to keep off the field.

 

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Teaser:
<p> Ole Miss Rebels 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 07:50
Path: /college-football/5-players-watch-acc-spring-practice
Body:

With spring practice underway across college football, most of interest will focus on quarterback battles or incoming freshmen that enrolled early to get a jumpstart on making an impact for 2013.

However, there’s always a handful of players – outside of the quarterback position – that fly under the radar that need to have a big spring practice for their team. Whether it’s a running back replacing a 1,000-yard rusher or a lineman stepping into a starting role for an all-conference player, there’s plenty of names that will be under the spotlight this spring.

Athlon continues its spring practice previews with a look at five under-the-radar players to watch in each conference during spring practice. 

5 Players to Watch in ACC Spring Practice

J.C. Coleman, RB, Virginia Tech
Each unit in Virginia Tech’s offense is in need of major repair, but the rushing attack may be the aspect most under the microscope this spring. The Hokies managed just 145.9 yards rushing per game last season, with quarterback Logan Thomas leading the team with 524 yards on the ground. This marked the first year since 1992 that Virginia Tech’s top rusher had less than 600 yards. Coleman averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season but finished with just 492 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 109 attempts. Although quarterback Logan Thomas needs to play better, the Hokies have to generate more on the ground in 2013. Coleman was a four-star recruit by Rivals.com coming out of high school, and the pressure is on the sophomore to win the top backfield spot, while giving Virginia Tech a much-needed boost on the ground.
 

Roderick McDowell, RB, Clemson
Andre Ellington was one of the nation’s most underrated players during his career, rushing for 3,436 yards and 33 touchdowns and catching 59 passes for 505 yards and two scores. Ellington expired his eligibility after the bowl game, leaving Clemson with a trio of options battling for the top spot this spring. McDowell is the likely frontrunner to replace Ellington, as he rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns last season. McDowell posted two performances of 83 yards rushing last year and averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 83 attempts. The South Carolina native has patiently waited for his opportunity behind Ellington, and 2013 should be a breakout year for the senior if he holds off sophomore Zac Brooks and junior D.J. Howard.

Related: 2013 Clemson Tigers Spring Preview
 

Andre Monroe, DE, Maryland
With the departure of six key starters from last season’s defense, the Terrapins are banking on the return of Monroe to keep this unit near the top of the ACC. As a freshman in 2011, he recorded 18 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks. However, Monroe suffered a knee injury in fall practice last year and was forced to sit out the 2012 season. The junior has been limited in spring practice, and considering how important he will be in replacing standout lineman Joe Vellano, the Maryland coaching staff doesn’t want to rush Monroe’s recovery. Even if he doesn’t participate much this spring, just having Monroe back on the field is a good sign for the Terrapins’ defense in 2013.
 

Curtis Porter, DT, Miami
Injuries have hindered Porter’s career at Miami, as he has yet to play a full season. In 2012, Porter played in only four games and finished the year with four tackles. Considering he has only 24 career tackles and 15 games of experience, why is Porter so important to Miami’s defense? Consider this: The Hurricanes allowed 217.9 rushing yards and 30.5 points per game last season. Fixing the defense starts in the trenches this year, which is why Porter needs to be on the field all year. Assuming the senior can stay in the lineup, his presence should help ends Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green see fewer double teams, while providing some help against the run. Porter may not be an all-conference performer, but he can provide some needed support for Miami’s struggling defense.

Related: 2013 Miami Hurricanes Spring Preview
 

Landon Turner, OG, North Carolina
With the departure of three offensive line starters, North Carolina has a huge rebuilding project ahead this spring. Guard Jonathan Cooper was one of the best linemen in the nation last year, so replacing his presence in the trenches isn’t going to be easy. The Tar Heels have a good foundation to start their rebuilding task, as center Russell Bodine made all 12 starts last season, while tackle James Hurst received second-team All-ACC honors. Turner is expected to earn one of the starting spots at guard after starting the final four games in 2012. The Virginia native ranked as one of the top 150 prospects in the 2011 signing class by Rivals.com and has big shoes to fill with the departure of Cooper.

Related: North Carolina Tar Heels 2013 Spring Preview
 

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Teaser:
<p> 5 Players to Watch in ACC Spring Practice</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Reloading or rebuilding? That's the big question in Baton Rouge this spring. With a 34-6 record from 2010-12, LSU has been one of college football’s top programs in recent years. However, the Tigers will be hard pressed to win 10 or more games in 2013, as the team returns only 10 starters from last season. Coach Les Miles has recruited plenty of talent to Baton Rouge, but LSU will be young on defense and needs quarterback Zach Mettenberger to take a big step in his development. With road games against Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama in 2013, getting to 9-3 with a revamped starting lineup should be considered a good season for LSU.

LSU Tigers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 14-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 3

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Zach Mettenberger, 207 of 352, 2,609 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Jeremy Hill, 142 car., 755 yards, 12 TDs
Receiving: Jarvis Landry, 56 rec., 573 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Lamin Barrow, 104
Sacks: Micah Eugene, 3.5
Interceptions: Craig Loston, 3

Redshirts to Watch: OL Derek Edinburgh, OL Jerald Hawkins, LB Lorenzo Phillips

Early Enrollees to Watch: WR John Diarse, OL Fehoko Fanaika, QB Anthony Jennings, WR Avery Johnson, DT Christian LaCouture, OL Ethan Pocic, QB Hayden Rettig

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Fehoko Fanaika, WR Quantavius Leslie, TE Logan Stokes

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 TCU (Arlington)
Sept. 7 UAB
Sept. 14 Kent State
Sept. 21 Auburn
Sept. 28 at Georgia
Oct. 5 at Mississippi State
Oct. 12 Florida
Oct. 19 at Ole Miss
Oct. 26 Furman
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 at Alabama
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Texas A&M
Nov. 30 Arkansas

Offensive Strength: Even though Michael Ford and Spencer Ware left Baton Rouge for the NFL, the Tigers are set in the backfield. Jeremy Hill should be one of the SEC’s top running backs in 2013, while Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard return after combining for 734 yards in 2012.

Offensive Weakness: With the departure of Josh Dworaczyk, Chris Faulk and center P.J. Lonergan, LSU’s offensive line is a concern going into spring practice. There are options returning to fill the voids, but the Tigers need to mix and match to find the right lineup.

Defensive Strength: Despite some losses, the back seven of LSU’s defense should be solid. Lamin Barrow will slide to middle linebacker to replace Kevin Minter, while Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins is a solid duo at cornerback.

Defensive Weakness: Churning out top defensive linemen isn’t an issue at LSU, but that notion will be put to the test this spring. The Tigers must replace six key players in last season’s rotation.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers

1. Can Zach Mettenberger take the next step? As expected, Mettenberger’s first season as LSU’s starting quarterback had its share of ups and downs. He threw for 298 yards and one touchdown against Alabama on Nov. 3 but threw just five passing scores in SEC play. With a strong rushing attack and one of the SEC’s top defenses, Mettenberger wasn’t asked to carry the team. However, with LSU losing significant contributors on both sides of the ball, the passing attack has to step up in 2013. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has a wealth of experience and should help Mettenberger continue to refine his game this spring, along with developing more consistency in SEC games.

2. Finding the right mix on the offensive line. Although the line is a weakness going into spring practice, the coaching staff has to be optimistic about the returning talent. Guard La’el Collins was an honorable mention All-SEC selection last season and will slide to left tackle this spring. Josh Williford missed most of 2012 due to a concussion but is expected to replace Collins at left guard. Sophomores Elliott Porter, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander will likely fill out the remaining spots on the line. Junior college recruit Fehoko Fanaika and redshirt freshmen Derek Edinburgh and Jerald Hawkins will have an opportunity to work their way into the mix if any of the projected starters struggle this spring.

3. Rebuilding the defensive line. Developing talent on the defensive line hasn’t been an issue for LSU, but line coach Brick Haley and coordinator John Chavis will have their hands full this spring. The Tigers must replace six key players from last season’s unit, including dynamic ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs will also be missed. There’s very little in the way of proven experience at end returning, as junior Jermauria Rasco and sophomore Danielle Hunter are expected to start spring practice as the top options. Rasco and Hunter combined for 22 tackles last season. The situation at tackle is slightly better, as Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are poised to have a breakout year. Incoming freshmen Tashawn Bower, Maquedius Bain, Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Christian LaCouture, Lewis Neal and Michael Patterson will provide depth and should see plenty of snaps with the way LSU likes to rotate its defensive linemen.

4. Filling the holes on the back seven. The defensive line wasn’t the only area of LSU’s defense that will need to be overhauled. The situation in the back seven is just as desperate, as the Tigers must replace first-team All-SEC linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid. Lamin Barrow is expected to slide into middle linebacker to replace Minter, and the Tigers will look for Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis, Deion Jones and Ronnie Feist to improve in their second year on campus. Tahj Jones is a player to watch after making just one appearance last season and recording four tackles and one sack in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson. Losing Reid and Simon is a big loss in the secondary, but LSU has pieces to build around in cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, while Craig Loston, Corey Thompson, Micah Eugene and Ronald Martin is a solid foundation at secondary. There’s plenty of talent in the back seven, but LSU needs to blend all of the new faces into the starting lineup this spring.

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Teaser:
<p> LSU Tigers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 12:20
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-transfers-watch-2013
Body:

Transfers are a big part of any college football season, and 2013 is no exception. There’s a handful of talented quarterbacks making the move to a new school, including Jake Heaps at Kansas, Tom Savage at Pittsburgh and Jameill Showers at UTEP. While that trio of programs is unlikely to win a national championship in 2013, landing a player with the caliber of Heaps or Savage should provide a boost for the offense.

Outside of the quarterback position, South Florida defensive end Aaron Lynch could be the top impact transfer for 2013. While running back also has a few names to watch, including Texas A&M's Brandon Williams and TCU’s Aaron Green.

Here’s a look at some of the key transfers to watch for 2013, as well as an early list for 2014:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2013

Quarterbacks

Top Impact Transfers:

Jake Heaps, Kansas (from BYU)
Heaps was the No. 1 quarterback in the 2010 signing class and started 16 games during his two seasons at BYU. As a freshman, he threw for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns but failed to build on those numbers in 2011, as he was benched in favor of Riley Nelson. There’s no question Heaps should be an upgrade over Kansas’ quarterbacks from last season (Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings), but it’s unrealistic to expect him to contend for All-Big 12 honors. The Jayhawks also need to upgrade the weapons around Heaps for him to succeed in 2013.

Tom Savage, Pittsburgh (from Rutgers)
It’s been a while since Savage’s name has popped up on the college football radar. From 2009-10, Savage threw for 2,732 yards and 16 touchdowns at Rutgers but left for Arizona after the 2010 season. With Rich Rodriguez’s arrival in Tucson, Savage wasn’t going to play much in the spread offense, which prompted a transfer to Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-5 passer hasn’t played in two years but was one of the nation’s top quarterbacks coming out of high school. Considering coach Paul Chryst’s background on developing quarterbacks, if Savage can hold off redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, he could have a solid senior year in Pittsburgh’s ACC debut.

Jesse Scroggins, Arizona (from USC)
Scroggins didn’t transfer directly from Arizona to USC, as he spent 2012 at El Camino College. However, considering Scroggins’ background and time at USC, he’s worth a mention in this section. The California native was considered a top-10 quarterback in the 2010 signing class but failed to throw a pass in his two seasons with the Trojans. Scroggins threw for 1,148 yards in eight games during junior college play last season and is expected to challenge for Arizona’s starting job in fall practice.

Jameill Showers, UTEP (from Texas A&M)
With Johnny Manziel entrenched as Texas A&M’s No. 1 quarterback, it was clear Showers wasn’t going to get much playing time in 2013. New UTEP coach Sean Kugler landed his biggest recruit of the offseason by getting Showers to play in El Paso, which should give the Miners a chance to push for a winning record in 2013. Showers was impressive during limited work in his career, completing 31 of 49 throws for 359 yards and two scores. The junior has yet to make his first career start, but all signs point to Showers being one of Conference USA’s top quarterbacks in 2013.

Pete Thomas, NC State (from Colorado State)
With Mike Glennon expiring his eligibility after the Music City Bowl, Thomas has a chance to start for NC State in 2013. The California native threw for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns in two years with the Rams, completing better than 63 percent of his passes. Moving to the ACC is a step up in competition, but a solid receiving corps and a pair of solid running backs in Tony Creecy and Shadrach Thornton should give Thomas plenty of help. The junior will battle sophomore Manny Stocker for the top spot on the depth chart this spring.

The Next Tier

Drew Allen, ? (from Oklahoma)
Allen plans to graduate this summer and transfer to a FBS school for his final season of eligibility.

Brock Berglund, North Texas (from Kansas)
Ranked as one of the top-15 dual-threat quarterbacks coming out of high school but has yet to play a down of college football.

Taylor Graham, Hawaii (from Ohio State)
Son of former NFL quarterback Kent Graham could be the answer for Hawaii’s woeful offense.

Taylor Reed, Arkansas (from Memphis)
Threw for 1,690 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman for Memphis in 2011. Expected to be in the mix to start but is likely behind Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell on the depth chart.

DaMarcus Smith, Western Kentucky (from UCF)
Ranked as a four-star recruit coming out of high school and will have an opportunity to start for new coach Bobby Petrino this spring.

Ricardo Young, Maryland (from New Mexico)
Young is on his third school after making previous stops at Virginia Tech and New Mexico. Will work as Maryland’s No. 1 quarterback this spring but C.J. Brown is expected to reclaim the starting job once he returns from a torn ACL.

Scotty Young, Louisiana Tech (from Texas Tech)
Former Texas Gatorade Player of the Year should be a good fit in Louisiana Tech’s spread offense.

Others to Watch:

Allan Bridgford, ? (from California)
Tim Byerly, Georgia Tech (from MTSU)
Daxx Garman, Oklahoma State (from Arizona)
Nick Isham, Arizona (from Louisiana Tech)

 

Running Backs

Top Impact Transfers

Tra Carson, Texas A&M (from Oregon)
In his only season with the Ducks, Carson showed promise in limited work, rushing for 254 yards and one touchdown on 45 carries. However, with a crowded backfield in Oregon, transferring to Texas A&M should allow the Texas native a chance to play more in 2013. Carson is a power back at 6-foot and 227 pounds, likely giving him an opportunity to be Texas A&M’s No. 1 back around the goal line.

Aaron Green, TCU (from Nebraska)
After finishing eighth in the Big 12 in rushing offense last season, the Horned Frogs are counting on Green to provide the ground attack with an instant boost. The San Antonio native played one season at Nebraska and rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Green ranked as a top-15 prospect by ESPN in the 2011 signing class and is expected to battle Waymon James and B.J. Catalon for the starting spot this fall. Even if Green doesn’t earn the No. 1 spot, he should see plenty of opportunities for carries.   

Josh Quezada, Fresno State (from BYU)
With Robbie Rouse expiring his eligibility after the Hawaii Bowl, Fresno State’s search for a new No. 1 back will begin this spring. Quezada is the likely frontrunner to replace Rouse, as he rushed for 803 yards and six touchdowns from 2010-11 at BYU. His best performance came against New Mexico in 2010, rushing for 107 yards and one touchdown on 15 attempts. Assuming Quezada picks up where he left off at BYU, with Derek Carr returning at quarterback, Fresno State should have one of college football’s top offenses in 2013.

Brandon Williams, Texas A&M (from Oklahoma)
With the arrival of Williams and Carson to a backfield that already features Ben Malena and sophomore Trey Williams, Texas A&M quietly has one of the nation’s deepest running back corps. Williams was a five-star recruit by Rivals.com out of high school and rushed for 219 yards on 46 attempts as a freshman with Oklahoma in 2011. With a handful of talented running backs, it will be hard for one player to rush for 1,000 yards at Texas A&M this year. Expect Williams to see plenty of opportunities with the Aggies in 2013, and his arrival only adds more firepower to a loaded offense.

The Next Tier:

Ronnie Daniels, San Diego State (from Texas Tech)
Rushed for 44 yards on nine attempts with the Red Raiders in 2011. Should be a solid complement back to starter Adam Muema.

Daniel Jenkins, Washington State (from Arizona)
Only rushed for 495 yards in three seasons with Arizona but should help improve a Washington State rushing attack that managed just 29.1 yards per game in 2012.

Jeremy Wright, ? (from Louisville)
Decided to transfer after junior year with 824 rushing yards and 10 scores. Since he graduated in December, Wright could transfer to another FBS program and play in 2013.

Others to Watch:

Jakhari Gore, FIU (from LSU)
Reggie Pegram, North Texas (from Purdue)
Adonis Smith, UNLV (from Northwestern)

 

Wide Receivers

Top Impact Transfers

Robert Clark, Louisville (from Florida)
With DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland and Eli Rogers returning for Louisville in 2013, Clark may not make a huge impact for the Cardinals this season. The Florida transfer spent two years in Gainesville and caught only seven passes for 69 yards and one touchdown. Clark may not be a game-changer this season, but he should add depth to one of the nation’s top-15 receiving corps.

Deon Long, Maryland (from New Mexico)
Just like Jesse Scroggins, Long didn’t go directly from New Mexico to Maryland, as he made a stop at Iowa Western Community College and led the NJCAA with 100 receptions in 2012. If Long can translate his production from the JUCO ranks to the FBS level, Maryland should have one of the ACC’s top receiver duos with Stefon Diggs and Long.

Justin McCay, Kansas (from Oklahoma)
McCay was labeled a four-star recruit by Rivals.com but never made an impact during his first two years at Oklahoma. The Missouri native was a valuable pickup for Kansas, as the Jayhawks are incredibly thin at receiver. Andrew Turzilli is the top returning receiver with just 17 catches, and the Jayhawks lack a No. 1 go-to threat. If McCay lives up his recruiting hype, he should be new quarterback Jake Heaps’ favorite target in 2013.

Ja’Juan Story, TCU (from Florida)
With Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson departing, TCU’s receiving corps will be searching for new go-to targets in 2013. Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown are likely the top two options, but Story should figure prominently into the passing attack. The Florida native redshirted in his only season with the Gators but ranked as a Top 150 recruit by ESPN in 2011. At 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, Story has the size and speed to be a significant contributor in TCU’s receiving corps this year.

Darius White, Missouri (from Texas)
White was one of the nation’s top high school prospects in 2010 but caught only six passes during his first two years in Austin. The Texas native is listed behind L’Damian Washington and Jaleel Clark on Missouri’s pre-spring depth chart, so he has some ground to make up in preseason workouts. The Tigers expect a big year from sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas returns after catching 46 passes in 2012, so White is likely relegated to being a No. 3 or No. 4 target this year.

The Next Tier

Josh Doctson, TCU (from Wyoming)
Caught 35 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman at Wyoming in 2011.

Ricky Johnson, Louisiana-Lafayette (from Tulsa)
Caught 44 passes in three years at Tulsa. Will be an instant contributor for one of the Sun Belt’s top teams in 2013.

Shawney Kersey, Marshall (from Penn State)
Intriguing talent but only caught 12 passes for 154 yards in three seasons with Penn State. Should thrive at Marshall, especially with All-C-USA quarterback Rakeem Cato back for 2013.

Matt Milton, Louisville (from Tennessee)
Big target (6-foot-5) will help Louisville in the red zone but caught only one pass in two years at Tennessee.

Devon Smith, Marshall (from Penn State)
At 5-foot-7, 147 pounds, Smith isn’t the biggest receiver, but his speed and quickness will be tough to keep off of the field at Marshall. In three seasons with Penn State, Smith caught 56 passes for 795 yards and three scores.

Others to Watch

Quinta Funderburk, Syracuse (from Arkansas)
Marcus Grant, Boston College (from Iowa)
Maudrecus Humphrey, UAB (from Arkansas)
Vince Sanders, North Texas (from Baylor)
Darius Terrell, North Texas (from Texas)
Kane Whitehurst, South Carolina (from Arkansas)
Peyton Williams, Texas Tech (from Colorado)

 

Tight Ends

Top Impact Transfers

Gerald Christian, Louisville (from Florida)
Even though Christian caught only four passes for 72 yards and one score during his Florida career, he could be a breakout performer for Louisville in 2013. The Cardinals don’t target the tight ends frequently, but Nate Nord and Ryan Hubbell combined for 27 catches last year. Christian was a four-star prospect by Rivals.com out of high school and his athletic ability could be a nightmare matchup for opposing Big East defenses in 2013.

Zeke Pike, Louisville (from Auburn)
Don’t adjust your vision: This is the same Zeke Pike that committed to Auburn as a quarterback. However, Pike never played a down with the Tigers and transferred to Louisville where Charlie Strong and Shawn Watson decided to move him to tight end. Pike probably won’t play a ton with Gerald Christian also in the mix, but he will be an interesting story to watch over the next few years.

Others to Watch

Daniel Adams, Maryland (from New Mexico)
Manasseh Garner, Pittsburgh (from Wisconsin)


Offensive Linemen

Top Impact Transfers

Brian Bobek, Minnesota (from Ohio State)
Bobek ranked as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com coming out of high school and will figure into the Minnesota offensive line mix this spring. The junior did not make a start at Ohio State and even if he doesn’t start, he is likely to see time as a valuable swing option at guard or center.

Max Garcia, Florida (from Maryland)
With the departure of tackle Xavier Nixon and guard James Wilson, the Gators will have a revamped offensive line in 2013. Garcia started 12 games for Maryland in 2011 and played in two contests in 2010. Expect the junior to start at tackle or guard for Florida this season.

Tyler Moore, Florida (from Nebraska)
As mentioned a couple of times in the transfer article, Moore wasn’t a direct transfer from Nebraska to Florida. However, as a four-star recruit, he’s too high profile not to mention in this space. Moore played in nine games in 2011 at Nebraska, which included starts in the first four contests. The sophomore is expected to push for playing time at tackle this spring.

Matt Patchan, Boston College (from Florida)
With Boston College losing both starting tackles, Patchan’s arrival couldn’t come at a better time. The Tampa native missed the 2010 and 2012 seasons due to injury but played in 12 contests in 2011. Patchan made eight starts during his career and should be familiar with Boston College coach Steve Addazio, as he played under him at Florida. Patchan doesn’t have to be an all-conference performer but just having him available will help Boston College’s line ease the transition into a new offense, along with replacing two starters from last season.

The Next Tier

Thomas O’Reilly, Georgia Tech (from Auburn)
O’Reilly was rated as a top-10 guard by ESPN coming out of high school and could push for a starting job with the Yellow Jackets looking to replace Omoregie Uzzi.

Jordan Prestwood, UCF (from Notre Dame)
Prestwood was a top-150 recruit by ESPN in the 2011 signing class and signed with Florida State. However, he transferred to Notre Dame before the 2011 season and never played a down with the Fighting Irish. Prestwood will have three years of eligibility remaining with UCF.

Others to Watch

Travis Bodenstein, Arkansas State (from Kansas)
James Elliott, South Alabama (from Kentucky)
Mitch Hall, Missouri (from Ole Miss)
David Keller, Oregon State (from Fresno State)
Johnathon Ragoo, FAU (from Minnesota)

 

Defensive Linemen

Top Impact Transfers

Aaron Lynch, South Florida (from Notre Dame)
Lynch was well on his way to being one of the nation’s best defensive ends when he decided to transfer from Notre Dame before the 2012 season. In one year in South Bend, Lynch recorded 33 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. With another offseason to work in the weight room, the sophomore is due to have a monster season. Lynch could be one of the Big East’s top defenders in 2013 and should be a preseason first-team all-conference selection.

The Next Tier

Darious Cummings, Florida (from Florida State/JUCO)
Cummings is another player that transferred from a four-year school with a short stop in the JUCO ranks. He recorded 26 tackles and three sacks in 10 games at East Mississippi Community College.

Chris Davenport, Tulane (from LSU)
Davenport never lived up to his recruiting hype at LSU but could be a key addition for Tulane’s struggling defense.

Rashad Frazier, Ohio State (from Purdue)
Frazier never played at Purdue and is unlikely to see major snaps for Ohio State in 2013.

Lonnie Gosha, Troy (from Arkansas)
Gosha could be a key pick up for Troy’s defensive line, as he played in four games as a freshman at Arkansas in 2011.

Donald Hopkins, Texas State (from Houston)
Hopkins was a top-20 defensive tackle in the 2012 signing class at Houston but transferred before playing a down. He will team with TCU transfer D.J. Yendrey to give the Bobcats some much-needed depth on their line.

C.J. James, Akron (from Colorado State)
Steady performer in three years with the Rams who recorded five sacks in 2011. James could be in the mix for All-MAC honors in 2013.

Shawn Oakman, Baylor (from Penn State)
With Gary Mason Jr. and Nick Johnson departing, coordinator Phil Bennett is counting on Oakman to have an impact in 2013. The Pennsylvania native did not play in one season at Penn State but was picked as one of the top 200 recruits in the nation by Rivals.com in 2011.

Zeke Riser, Texas (from Houston)
Won’t make a huge impact at Texas but should be a key piece of the rotation after recording 38 tackles and three sacks at Houston in 2012.

D.J. Yendrey, Texas State (from TCU)
Yendrey was an honorable mention All-Mountain West selection in back-to-back seasons but was dismissed from TCU before the start of the 2012 season. If he can knock off the rust quickly, Yendrey could be an All-Sun Belt performer in 2013.

Others to Watch

Nermin Derlic, Georgia State (from Kentucky)
David Durham, Pittsburgh (from Ohio State)
Kingsley Ike, Texas State (from Purdue)
Willie Mobley, New Mexico State (from Arizona)
Matt Ramondo, New Mexico State (from Michigan State)
John Raymon, Syracuse (from Iowa)
Robert Singletary, UTSA (from Baylor)

 

Linebackers

Top Impact Transfers

Kellen Jones, Clemson (from Oklahoma)
With coordinator Brent Venables returning for his second season at Clemson, the Tigers expect to show more improvement on defense in 2013. Jones could be a key piece to the puzzle, as he played under Venables at Oklahoma and recorded 10 tackles in 12 games as a freshman. Even if Jones doesn’t start, he will likely play a lot of snaps for Clemson in 2013.

Jeff Luc, Cincinnati (from Florida State)
Luc never had a chance to live up to his recruiting hype at Florida State, playing in 19 games with 23 tackles. Cincinnati is a good landing spot for the Florida native, as he isn’t pressured to nail down a starting spot with Greg Blair and Nick Temple returning to anchor the linebacking corps.

Mike Orakpo, Texas State (from Colorado State)
Before his dismissal at Colorado State, Orakpo was one of the Mountain West’s top linebackers. Expect the junior to emerge as one of Texas State’s top defenders in 2013.  

Trevon Randle, Houston (from LSU)
Randle has yet to play a down of college ball but will be counted on by new Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs to replace departing standouts Phillip Steward and Everett Daniels.

Graham Stewart, Connecticut (from Florida)
Stewart was considered the No. 1 player in Connecticut in the 2011 signing class and played in 12 games with the Gators in his freshman season. After sitting out 2012, Stewart’s play will be crucial to replacing Sio Moore and Jory Johnson.

Others to Watch

Trajuan Briggs, New Mexico (from California)
C.J. Mizell, Akron (from Washington State)

 

Defensive Backs

Vernon Davis, West Virginia (from Miami)
After finishing 118th nationally in pass defense last year, West Virginia will take all of the secondary help it can find. Davis – a former three-star recruit – should have a chance to work his way into some playing time this spring.

Travell Dixon, Washington (from Alabama)
Dixon spent last spring at Alabama but transferred in August to Washington. The Miami native was a first-team NJCAA All-American in 2011 and could be a major factor as the Huskies look to replace cornerback Desmond Trufant.

David Jenkins, TCU (from LSU)
In an offensive-minded conference like the Big 12, TCU can never have enough depth in the secondary. Jenkins was a four-star recruit coming out of high school but never played a down at LSU. Look for the sophomore to see some playing time for the Horned Frogs this year.

Cortez Johnson, Oklahoma (from Arizona)
Johnson followed Mike Stoops from Arizona to Oklahoma after recording 16 tackles in eight appearances in 2011. The Louisiana native is expected to factor into the starting mix, as the Sooners must replace cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris this spring.

Marlon Pollard, Arizona State (from Eastern Michigan)
Pollard has earned some frequent-flyer miles in his career, as he started at UCLA and transferred to Eastern Michigan. In 2011, Pollard recorded 54 stops with the Eagles but was injured early in 2012. The senior should help an Arizona State secondary that must replace cornerback Deveron Carr and safety Keelan Johnson.

Jonathan Rose, Nebraska (from Auburn)
The addition of Rose should only strengthen Nebraska’s secondary, which is the best unit on the defense. The former Auburn cornerback played in nine games in 2011 and recorded two tackles. Rose played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a high school senior and finished in the top five for Alabama Mr. Football voting.

Sheldon Royster, Rutgers (from South Carolina)
Royster was considered one of the top 200 high school players in the class of 2011, and with Rutgers losing Duron Harmon, look for the sophomore to factor into the mix this spring.

Others to Watch

Lloyd Carrington, Arizona State (from Pittsburgh)
Zach Dancel, Maryland (from New Mexico)
Zed Evans, North Texas (from Louisville)
Bennett Okutcha, UTSA (from Oklahoma)
Drew Reilly, BYU (from Colorado State)
Michael Wadsworth, BYU (from Hawaii)


Special Teams Transfers to Watch

K Kip Smith, Oklahoma State (from UCLA)
P Alex Wulfreck, Notre Dame (from Wake Forest)


Early Transfers to Watch for 2014

QB Anthony Alford, Ole Miss (from Southern Miss)
QB Jacoby Brissett, NC State (from Florida)
QB Gunner Kiel, ? (from Notre Dame)
RB Mike Blakely, ? (from Auburn)
RB Braylon Heard, ? (from Nebraska)
WR Travares Copeland, NC State (from West Virginia)
OL Christian Westerman, Arizona State (from Auburn)
DT Chase Rome, ? (from Nebraska)
LB A.J. Hilliard, Texas A&M (from TCU)


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Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2013-schedule-analysis
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The start of the 2013 college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about preseason predictions and some of the top games to watch in each conference.

Since the Big 12 has yet to expand back to 12 teams, each program has an unbalanced home or away slate in the conference schedule. While it’s not a huge deal, playing five home conference games could be the difference for a team that’s trying to get bowl eligible. And with no clear favorite for 2013, the schedules could play an even bigger role in helping to determine which teams emerge near the top.

Oklahoma State and Texas have two of the Big 12’s best schedules, while West Virginia catches an unfortunate break with a road trip to Oklahoma in Week 2. Athlon details some of the early trends and games to watch with its Big 12 schedule analysis for 2013.  

Big 12 Schedule Analysis for 2013

Baylor

Aug. 31 Wofford
Sept. 7 Buffalo
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 UL Monroe
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 West Virginia
Oct. 12 at Kansas State
Oct. 19 Iowa State
Oct. 26 at Kansas
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 Oklahoma
Nov. 16 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 30 at TCU
Dec. 7 Texas

Related Content: 2013 Baylor Spring Preview

* With Baylor set to move into a new facility in 2014, home games against Oklahoma and Texas is quite a curtain call for Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears have four conference home games, with one neutral site affair against Texas Tech.

* Even though ULM gave Baylor all it could handle last season, the Bears should head into Big 12 play with a 3-0 mark. Playing Wofford, Buffalo and ULM should allow Baylor a chance to get new starting quarterback Bryce Petty comfortable with the supporting cast.

* For the second consecutive season, Baylor will open Big 12 play against West Virginia. Last season, these two teams combined to score 133 points in a 70-63 Mountaineers’ victory.

* Baylor and Kansas State have played only 10 times, but the Bears are 0-7 in Manhattan.

* After losing 15 consecutive games against Texas Tech from 1996-2010, the Bears have won back-to-back games against the Red Raiders. The last four games in this series have been played at a neutral site, and the 2013 matchup will take place in Arlington, Texas.

* It doesn’t quite rival back-to-back trips to Alabama and Texas A&M or Alabama and LSU, but Baylor’s late-November stretch against Oklahoma State and TCU might be one of the toughest in the nation. The Cowboys and Horned Frogs are the two early frontrunners to win the Big 12 in 2013.

* Considering how difficult conference play is, Baylor catches a bad break in scheduling with two bye weeks in September. The Bears will play five consecutive opponents without a break in November, including likely top-25 teams in Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State.

* And with a difficult late-season schedule in mind, if the Bears want to go bowling in 2013, it could depend on getting to six wins before November. Outside of a road trip to Kansas State, Baylor is likely to be favored in six out of the first seven games.
 

Iowa State

Aug. 31 Northern Iowa
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 Iowa
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 26 at Tulsa (Thur.)
Oct. 5 Texas
Oct. 12 at Texas Tech
Oct. 19 at Baylor
Oct. 26 Oklahoma State
Nov. 2 at Kansas State
Nov. 9 TCU
Nov. 16 at Oklahoma
Nov. 23 Kansas
Nov. 30 at West Virginia
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* Iowa State may struggle to find rhythm early in the season as two bye weeks will fall in the first four weeks. Additionally, the Cyclones won’t leave the state, or play anyone from out of Iowa, until a trip to Tulsa on a Thursday night.

* Beginning with Tulsa, Paul Rhoads bunch will play four out of six games on the road. Trips to outposts like Lubbock, Manhattan and Waco will not be easy considering the two homes games during that stretch will be against conference frontrunners Texas and Oklahoma State.

* Following the second bye week in Week 4, the Cyclones will play 10 straight weekends. The only good news is ISU will get an extra few days to prepare for Texas following a Thursday night game with Tulsa.

* Finishing up with Kansas and West Virginia isn’t all that difficult. A trip to a third straight bowl game — and fourth in five seasons — could hang in the balance in the season finale against the Mountaineers in Morgantown.

* ISU will play five Big 12 road games and four conference home games in 2012. The third bye week is wasted in the final weekend of the regular season. 


Kansas

Aug. 31 Bye Week
Sept. 7 South Dakota
Sept. 14 at Rice
Sept. 21 Louisiana Tech
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Texas Tech
Oct. 12 at TCU
Oct. 19 Oklahoma
Oct. 26 Baylor
Nov. 2 at Texas
Nov. 9 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 16 West Virginia
Nov. 23 at Iowa State
Nov. 30 Kansas State
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* After back-to-back seasons with no wins in Big 12 play, Kansas starts 2013 with the worst possible opponent: Bye Week. Even though the extra time will give coach Charlie Weis an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming non-conference slate, there’s only so much scouting a team can do by playing itself.

* Kansas enters 2013 riding an 11-game losing streak, but the Jayhawks should have no trouble starting 1-0 with South Dakota (1-10 in 2012) coming to Lawrence.

* Even though it’s not a gauntlet of schedules, the Jayhawks need to win at Rice and beat Louisiana Tech in non-conference play. If Kansas can sweep its first three games, it should allow the Jayhawks to build some momentum for conference play. And a 3-0 start would also help bolster Charlie Weis’ efforts on the recruiting trail.

* With TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the first portion of Big 12 play, Kansas will have a hard time finding a victory in conference action until late November. The Jayhawks play West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State in November, which seem to be the most likely opportunities for a Big 12 victory in 2013.

* Kansas and Texas have met 12 times, but the Jayhawks have never won in Austin. And making matters worse for the Jayhawks is none of the matchups at Texas have been decided by 10 points or less.

* With Kansas unlikely to make a bowl game in 2013, this team has a chance to play spoiler late in the season against rival Kansas State. The Jayhawks have lost four consecutive matchups to the Wildcats, with the last three games decided by a whopping 38 points or more. 


Kansas State

Aug. 30 North Dakota State (Fri.)
Sept. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette
Sept. 14 UMass
Sept. 21 at Texas
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 12 Baylor
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 West Virginia
Nov. 2 Iowa State
Nov. 9 at Texas Tech
Nov. 16 TCU
Nov. 23 Oklahoma
Nov. 30 at Kansas
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* Kansas State opens the 2013 season with a dangerous FCS opponent. North Dakota State has won back-to-back FCS titles and has 28 victories in the last two seasons. With the Wildcats breaking in a new quarterback and a handful of starters on defense, NDSU could pull off the upset in Manhattan.

* And the Wildcats don’t catch a break in Week 2 with Louisiana-Lafayette coming to Manhattan. The Ragin’ Cajuns will be picked near the top of the Sun Belt in 2013 and have a potent offense, led by quarterback Terrance Broadway. Could K-State start 0-2? It’s certainty a possibility.

* Kansas State opens Big 12 play on Sept. 21 with a home date against Texas. The Wildcats have won five consecutive games over the Longhorns, including the last two matchups in Austin.

* The Wildcats have not won at Oklahoma State since 1999. Kansas State is also just 2-4 in its last six matchups against the Cowboys.

* Kansas State’s Big 12 title hopes could be decided in mid-November, as the Wildcats host TCU and Oklahoma in back-to-back games. The Wildcats beat both opponents on the road last season and the timing of these two matchups are crucial, especially as Kansas State will have plenty of time to fill the voids left behind by its departing seniors on defense and settle on a quarterback.

* Can Kansas State continue its dominance over in-state rival Kansas? The Wildcats have won four consecutive games over the Jayhawks and have scored at least 56 points in each of the last three meetings. Additionally, Kansas State has won the last three games against Kansas by at least 30 points. 


Oklahoma

Aug. 31 ULM
Sept. 7 West Virginia
Sept. 14 Tulsa
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Notre Dame
Oct. 5 TCU
Oct. 12 Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 19 at Kansas
Oct. 26 Texas Tech
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 at Baylor (Thur.)
Nov. 16 Iowa State
Nov. 23 at Kansas State
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 at Oklahoma State

Related Content: 2013 Oklahoma Sooners Spring Preview

* Oklahoma gets three straight home games to start the 2013 season. The Sooners should start 3-0, but all three matchups provide interesting tests for a rebuilt defense — one that struggled mightily to stop opponents last year. Having to face Dana Holgerson in Week 2 in Big 12 play could be tricky.

* The first off weekend of the year comes at a perfect time before a road trip to Notre Dame. Seeking revenge from last year’s defeat, Oklahoma needs to play well in South Bend because the trip North begins one of the nastiest and most important three-week stretches in the Big 12. Bob Stoops’ team will face TCU at home and Texas in the Cotton Bowl immediately following the battle with the Irish. This portion of the schedule will determine if OU is a national contender or not.

* Should Oklahoma begin 6-0, watch out. The next four games will be against Kansas, Texas Tech, Baylor and Iowa State with a bye week directly in the middle. Oklahoma should be heavy favorites in all four games and could easily push the Sooners to 10-0.

* The final three weeks of the season will be bittersweet for OU faithful. The season ends with road trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Series. The Wildcats are replacing a lot on defense and under center but will only get better as the season progresses. And the season finale with the rival Cowboys on the road could carry with it a trip to a BCS bowl game. The good news is Stoops’ team gets a bye week between the two nasty road trips.
 

Oklahoma State

Aug. 31 Mississippi State (Houston)
Sept. 7 at UTSA
Sept. 14 Lamar
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at West Virginia
Oct. 5 Kansas State
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 TCU
Oct. 26 at Iowa State
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech
Nov. 9 Kansas
Nov. 16 at Texas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 Oklahoma

Related Content: 2013 Oklahoma State Spring Preview

* Oklahoma State and Mississippi State will meet for the first time since 1999 with a neutral site affair in Houston. These two teams have split their four previous meetings, with Mississippi State winning the last matchup 29-11 in Starkville in 1999. The last time Oklahoma State played a SEC team in a non-conference matchup was Sept. 5, 2009 against Georgia.

* With the first two games of the season in Texas, Oklahoma State has a good opportunity to showcase the program in two valuable recruiting markets – Houston and San Antonio.

* The Cowboys have one of the Big 12’s best conference schedules, starting with the opener against West Virginia. With the Mountaineers rebuilding on offense and defense, Oklahoma State should have no trouble winning in Morgantown. The Cowboys have not played at West Virginia since 1928.

* Could the Oct. 19 matchup between Oklahoma State and TCU decide the Big 12 title? Considering both teams are predicted by most to finish in the top four of the Big 12 standings, this game is a huge opportunity for one team to take an early edge in the title race.

* Due to conference realignment, the 2013 meeting between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be the third matchup in four years in Stillwater. The Sooners own a 3-1 series edge in that span, but the Cowboys won 44-10 in 2011 and nearly won in Norman last season. With a potential conference title on the line this year, the Bedlam Series should have plenty of intrigue when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State kick off on Dec. 7.

* Oklahoma State’s bye weeks seem to come at the right time in 2013. After playing their first two conference games, the Cowboys will have a bye week on Oct. 12 and an off date on Nov. 30 before playing Oklahoma.

* Three out of Oklahoma State’s last four games are at home.
 

TCU

Aug. 31 LSU
Sept. 7 Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 12 at Texas Tech (Thur.)
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 SMU
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma
Oct. 12 Kansas
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26 Texas
Nov. 2 West Virginia
Nov. 9 at Iowa State
Nov. 16 at Kansas State
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Baylor
Dec. 7 Bye Week

Related Content: 2013 TCU Horned Frogs Spring Preview

* TCU could be in for a special season in Fort Worth, but the opening weekend could be a bloodbath. The Frogs have an excellent front seven on defense but will be put to the test physically by LSU’s powerful running game.

* Things get much easier for a month following the semi-home, semi-road trip to Cowboys Stadium. A Thursday night road trip to Lubbock will be tricky but it will give TCU 16 days off before The Battle for the Iron Skillet with SMU. A 3-1 record would be a quality start for the Frogs, because…

* Things will get very interesting in Week 5 when TCU heads north to Oklahoma. A win for TCU puts this team on the map nationally, while a Sooners victory puts them securely in the Big 12 driver’s seat.

* A breather against Kansas at home, ideally, will prepare TCU for a nasty five-game stretch as the calendar changes from October to November. Road trips to Stillwater, Ames and Manhattan sandwich a pair of key home games with Texas and West Virginia. This is as tough a stretch as there will be in the Big 12 in 2013.

* Gary Patterson’s group was unlucky in that two of its three off weekends come in the final three weeks, including the wasted Dec. 7 bye week. If the season finale home game against Baylor carries Big 12 title implications (which is easily could) then at least the first bye will help tremendously.

* TCU will play five Big 12 road games, including three of the top four conference contenders (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State). Trips to Ames and Lubbock are no joke either. 
 

Texas

Aug. 31 New Mexico State
Sept. 7 at BYU
Sept. 14 Ole Miss
Sept. 21 Kansas State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 3 at Iowa State (Thur.)
Oct. 12 Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at TCU
Nov. 2 Kansas
Nov. 9 at West Virginia
Nov. 16 Oklahoma State
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 28 Texas Tech (Thur.)
Dec. 7 at Baylor

Related Content: 2013 Texas Longhorns Spring Preview

* A critical 2013 season will get underway for Mack Brown with some seriously intriguing non-conference tilts. A road trip to BYU in Week 2 will test David Ash and the struggling Longhorns offense. The following week, a visit from a red-hot Ole Miss program will test Manny Diaz’ reeling rushing defense. To top off a very interesting first month, arch-nemesis Bill Snyder and Kansas State comes to town in Week 4.

* Fans in Austin may know all they need to about the future of Brown as head coach entering the bye week in Week 5. This team could easily be teetering at 2-2 (or worse), but it could also have the most impressive 4-0 resume in the nation. Brown has long pointed to 2013 as his year to get back into the national picture and the nation will know if he was right after just one month of play.

* A road trip to Ames isn’t all that intriguing but playing a primetime Big 12 conference game on a Thursday night gives Iowa State a national stage to pull the upset. Most importantly, a win over ISU gives Texas two extra days to prepare for the Red River Shootout that Stoops and Co. won’t be afforded.

* Texas will get another off week following the battle in the Cotton Bowl. It’s a good thing, too, because the next month will be brutal. Trips to Big 12 newbies TCU and West Virginia as well as a visit from Oklahoma State over a four-week span will be tough for the Longhorns.

* Texas will head into their third bye week before the final two weeks of the regular season. This might be the easiest three-week span and could be a confirmation of sorts for Brown — be it a national championship contender or potential swan song on the Burnt Orange sideline.


Texas Tech

Aug. 30 at SMU
Sept. 7 Stephen F. Austin
Sept. 14 TCU
Sept. 21 Texas State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Kansas
Oct. 12 Iowa State
Oct. 19 at West Virginia
Oct. 26 at Oklahoma
Nov. 2 Oklahoma State
Nov. 9 Kansas State
Nov. 16 Baylor (Arlington)
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 28 at Texas
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* With a new quarterback and coaching staff taking over, it’s a good thing Texas Tech has three very winnable games in its first four matchups. SMU, Texas State and Stephen F. Austin should be victories for the Red Raiders, with a tough date against TCU sandwiched between non-conference games on Sept. 14.

* Speaking of the TCU-Texas Tech matchup, this will be the first meeting between these two teams in Lubbock since 2004. The Red Raiders and Horned Frogs have split the last two meetings, with Texas Tech winning a 56-53 three-overtime game in 2012.

* With Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia on the October slate, Texas Tech has an opportunity to start 6-1 before a difficult stretch against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas. Considering the second-half schedule, getting to a bowl game could rest with what happens before November.

* Texas Tech’s Oct. 19 trip to Morgantown is its first road game at West Virginia in school history. The Red Raiders played the Mountaineers just two previous times, with both games won by Texas Tech.

* The Red Raiders are 2-2 in their last four matchups against Oklahoma. Texas Tech upset the Sooners 41-38 in Norman in 2011 but lost 41-20 in Lubbock last season. The Red Raiders are just 2-8 in 10 previous games at Oklahoma.

* Texas Tech will play Texas on Thanksgiving night this season. The Red Raiders have not won in Austin since 1997.

* In a scheduling quirk, Texas Tech will play without a bye week from Oct. 5 to Nov. 23. And the Red Raiders have an off date the week before playing Texas, which allows Kliff Kingsbury’s team some extra time to prepare on a short week for the Thursday night game.

* For the fourth consecutive season, Texas Tech and Baylor will meet at a neutral site. The 2009 and 2011-12 matchups were held in Arlington, while the 2010 game was played at the Cotton Bowl.
 

West Virginia

Aug. 31 William & Mary
Sept. 7 at Oklahoma
Sept. 14 Georgia State
Sep. 21 Maryland (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 Oklahoma State
Oct. 5 at Baylor
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 Texas Tech
Oct. 26 at Kansas State
Nov. 2 at TCU
Nov. 9 Texas
Nov. 16 at Kansas
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Iowa State
Dec. 7 Bye Week

Related Content: 2013 West Virginia Spring Preview

* Considering the new faces on offense and concerns on defense, West Virginia’s opener against William & Mary is the perfect way to start the 2013. This game should allow the Mountaineers a chance to work out some of the kinks before Big 12 play.

* However, there’s not much breathing room between the opener and Big 12 play, as West Virginia travels to Oklahoma on Sept. 7. Needless to say, coach Dana Holgorsen should have a good idea about his team after the road trip to Norman.

* West Virginia should have an easy win over Georgia State on Sept. 14, but the toughest non-conference game of its 2013 is the neutral site affair against Maryland. The Mountaineers have won the last seven games against the Terrapins and oddly enough, have scored 31 points in four out of the last six matchups in this series.

* The Mountaineers will host Oklahoma State in Morgantown for the first time since 1928 on Sept. 28. The Cowboys won 55-34 in 2012, but the overall series is tied 2-2.

* Kansas State and West Virginia will meet for only the fourth time in school history on Oct. 26. The Wildcats have won the last two matchups in the series, with the Mountaineers’ only victory coming in 1930.

* The Mountaineers will host Texas for the first time in school history on Nov. 9. West Virginia won 48-45 in Austin last season and owns a 2-0 edge in the overall series between these two teams.

* West Virginia has the unbalanced road/home game conference schedule for 2013. The Mountaineers play four home games in Big 12 play but also has five contests on the road. West Virginia plays four potential top-25 teams on the road – Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma – and travels to Kansas on Nov. 16.


Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


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Teaser:
<p> Big 12 Football 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

After a 5-0 start last season, West Virginia was poised to be a contender for the Big 12 title, while quarterback Geno Smith was an early Heisman favorite. However, the season started to crumble after a 49-14 defeat at Texas Tech, which threw the Mountaineers into a five-game losing streak. Even though West Virginia rebounded with wins against Iowa State and Kansas to close the regular season, finishing 7-6 was a disappointment for a team loaded with offensive talent. Moving to the Big 12 was a step up in competition, but the defense was the primary culprit for the struggles. Fixing that side of the ball, along with reloading the offense are the top spring priorities for coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers will be picked near the bottom of the Big 12 in 2013, and this spring is crucial to finding the right answers on both sides of the ball.

West Virginia Mountaineers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 10-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Paul Millard, 9 of 19, 87 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Andrew Buie, 179 car., 851 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Andrew Buie, 28 rec., 318 yards, 0 TD
Tackles: Karl Joseph, 104
Sacks: Kyle Rose and Shaq Petteway, 1.5
Interceptions: Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, 2

Redshirts to watch: QB Ford Childress, OL Tyler Orlosky, OL Tony Matteo, DL Noble Nwachukwu, WR Devonte Mathis, CB Brandon Napoleon

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Hodari Christian, S Malik Greaves, QB Chavas Rawlins, WR Daikiel Shorts, RB Wendell Smallwood, RB Dreamius Smith, WR Kevin White

JUCO Transfers to Watch: WR Mario Alford, WR Ronald Carswell, LB Brandon Golson, LB d’Vante Henry, DE Dontrill Hyman, P Nick O’Toole, RB Dreamius Smith, OL Stone Underwood, WR Kevin White

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 William & Mary
Sept. 7 at Oklahoma
Sept. 14 Georgia State
Sept. 21 Maryland (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 Oklahoma State
Oct. 5 at Baylor
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 Texas Tech
Oct. 26 at Kansas State
Nov. 2 at TCU
Nov. 9 Texas
Nov. 16 at Kansas
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 29 Iowa State

Offensive Strength: With just three starters returning, it’s hard to call any unit of West Virginia’s offense a strength. However, there’s some promising talent returning at running back, led by Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison. Junior college transfer (and all-name team selection) Dreamius Smith will also figure into the mix.

Offensive Weakness: After averaging 502 yards per game last season, West Virginia has some major question marks to answer in spring ball. Quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin won’t be easy to replace, while the offensive line loses three starters.

Defensive Strength: You have to look really hard to find a strength on West Virginia’s defense after a miserable 2012 season. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the play of youngsters Isaiah Bruce (LB) and Karl Joseph (S) last season. As sophomores in 2013, the Mountaineers need both players to be even better. 

Defensive Weakness: Everywhere. West Virginia’s defense allowed 40 or more points six times in Big 12 play and finished near the bottom nationally in pass defense.

Spring Storylines Facing the Mountaineers

1. Is Ford Childress the answer at quarterback? West Virginia opens spring practice with four quarterbacks vying for time under center, but the battle is expected to come down to sophomore Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress. Millard has thrown 34 passes in his career but does not have a start under his belt. Childress was regarded as one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the 2012 signing class and should be a good fit for West Virginia’s offense. Although Millard has the edge in experience, the redshirt freshman has more talent and should claim the No. 1 job. As with any new quarterback, there will be some ups and downs. However, Childress has the talent to post huge numbers in Dana Holgorsen’s offense.

2. Restocking the receiving corps. Losing Geno Smith is a huge blow to West Virginia’s offense, but that isn’t the only loss on this side of the ball. Gone are receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, J.D. Woods and Ryan Nehlen. Running back Andrew Buie is the team’s top returner in terms of catches, with the top receiver being Jordan Thompson at just 13 receptions. The Mountaineers are counting on Thompson to become one of the top playmakers in this offense, while junior college recruits Kevin White, Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell need to emerge as impact players. Redshirt freshman Devonte Mathis and true freshman Shelton Gibson are other names to watch this preseason, as West Virginia will likely spend a lot of time mixing and matching to find the best four starting options for Childress or Millard.  

3. Fixing the defense. Depending on how you view returning starters, West Virginia’s defense is in either good or bad shape. The Mountaineers return seven starters on that side of the ball, but this unit was horrendous last year. West Virginia ranked last in the Big 12 in points allowed, 118th nationally in pass defense and 108th in yards allowed. Ouch. Keith Patterson will call the plays on defense this season, and needless to say, he will have his hands full in spring practice. The Mountaineers need help at each level of the defense, but the secondary needs extra attention with the departure of cornerback Pat Miller and linebacker/safety Terence Garvin. Considering the passing offenses in the Big 12, West Virginia cannot afford to have a leaky secondary all year once again. Establishing a better pass rush is also crucial to addressing some of the holes in pass defense. Three junior college transfers will help add some competition to the defense, but the Mountaineers need some of their younger players, along with the returning starters to step it up in 2013.


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Teaser:
<p> West Virginia Mountaineers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Coming off a 12-1 season and the departure of a couple of key players, an 8-5 record in 2012 was about what most expected from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys finished with five victories in Big 12 play, with three of their four losses coming by a touchdown or less. With 12 starters back for 2013, Mike Gundy’s team is positioned for a run at the Big 12 title. There’s a new coordinator on offense (Mike Yurcich), but Oklahoma State shouldn’t miss a beat on that side of the ball. With a schedule that features home matchups against TCU, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma, the Cowboys have everything in place to make a run at 10 victories and a conference title. 

Oklahoma State Cowboys 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: March 11-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Clint Chelf, 119 of 197, 1,588 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Jeremy Smith, 70 car., 371 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Josh Stewart, 101 rec., 1,210 yards, 7 TDs
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe, 75
Sacks: Tyler Johnson, 4
Interceptions: Three players tied with 2

Redshirts to watch: OL Michael Wilson, LB Jeremiah Tshimanga, LB Seth Jacobs, WR C.J. Curry, DE Eric Davis, DE Victor Irokansi, OL Zac Veatch

Early Enrollees to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DE Naim Mustafaa

JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DT Ofa Hautau, DE Sam Wren

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Mississippi State (Houston)
Sept. 7 at UTSA
Sept. 14 Lamar
Sept. 28 at West Virginia
Oct. 5 Kansas State
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 TCU
Oct. 26 at Iowa State
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech
Nov. 9 Kansas
Nov. 16 at Texas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 Oklahoma

Offensive Strength: Where should we start? The Cowboys have three proven quarterbacks, and one of the Big 12’s top running back duos in Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland. The receiving corps is one of the best in the conference, as Josh Stewart leads the way after catching 101 passes in 2012.

Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to find a weakness on the Cowboys offense, but the line must replace three starters, including first-team All-Big 12 performer Lane Taylor.

Defensive Strength: Despite losing Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State has to feel good about its linebacking corps for 2013. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last season, while there’s plenty of depth to replace Elkins with Lyndell Johnson, Joe Mitchell and Ryan Simmons returning.

Defensive Weakness: As mentioned above with the offense, it’s hard to find a glaring weakness for Oklahoma State’s defense. Sure, the Cowboys can play better than they did in 2012, but this unit returns seven starters, and the promotion of Glenn Spencer to coordinator assures continuity. Depth at defensive end and upgrading the performance in the secondary are two key areas to watch in spring practice.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cowboys

1. Who wins the quarterback battle? Having more than one starting quarterback is generally considered a bad thing. However, Oklahoma State has three proven options that could lead it to a Big 12 title this season. Wes Lunt began the year as the starter but suffered a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and was forced to sit out the next three games. J.W. Walsh replaced Lunt and recorded three performances of at least 300 passing yards, while leading Oklahoma State to a 2-1 record. However, Walsh suffered a knee injury against Iowa State, which gave the job back to Lunt. And after Lunt was forced to leave the Kansas State game due to injury, Clint Chelf started the final five games and finished the season with 1,588 yards and 15 touchdown tosses. The Cowboys can win with any of the three quarterbacks under center, but they need to pick a No. 1 option. If Chelf is the starter, Walsh could play some time in a change-of-pace role. And considering Lunt is a true sophomore, he still has a redshirt season available. With the options and uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma State this spring, this is one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the nation.

2. Restocking the offensive line. Considering line coach Joe Wickline is one of the best in the nation, Oklahoma State isn’t too worried about replacing three starters up front. Gone are center Evan Epstein and guards Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush. Taylor is the biggest loss out of the trio, as he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. The tackle spots should be in good shape with Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig, while Brandon Webb started the final five games at left guard last season. Jake Jenkins will get the first crack at replacing Epstein at center, while the coaching staff wants to get an extended look at tackle Devin Davis and junior college transfer Brandon Garrett.

3. Reloading at defensive end. Outside of replacing cornerback Brodrick Brown, the Cowboys biggest priority in spring practice will be finding contributors at defensive end. Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas and Ryan Robinson all expired their eligibility after the bowl game, leaving Tyler Johnson (27 tackles) as the team’s top defensive end. Outside of Johnson, there’s very little in the way of depth. Sophomores Trace Clark and Jimmy Bean, along with three redshirt freshmen are under the spotlight to perform this spring. Junior college recruit Sam Wren and Naim Mustafaa will also figure into the mix and could jump to the top of the depth chart if the Clark, Bean or any of the redshirt freshmen fail to seize a starting spot. There’s a lot of names here, but Oklahoma State needs to settle on its starters, while figuring out its backup rotation for fall practice.

4. Cornerback question marks? Even though Oklahoma State’s secondary may not have lived up to its potential in 2012, replacing a three-year starter in Brodrick Brown is no easy task. Justin Gilbert will slide into the No. 1 cornerback role, while sophomore Kevin Peterson is expected to replace Brown. Peterson was solid in limited action last season, recording 20 tackles and two pass breakups in 13 games. While Gilbert and Peterson should be a solid duo, proven depth is a question mark. Cornerback coach Jason Jones left for Ole Miss in early March, so coordinator Glenn Spencer and new assistant Tim Duffie will be watching this unit closely in spring practice.

5. Who replaces Quinn Sharp? Kicker/punter Quinn Sharp was one of the best in the nation during his career at Oklahoma State and filling his shoes won’t be easy in 2013. Three kickers will vie for the starting gig in spring practice, including UCLA transfer Kip Smith, while senior Michael Reichenstein is the only punter listed on the roster. Incoming freshman Ben Grogan won’t compete until the fall, but he could be an answer at kicker or punter. Considering Sharp was the Big 12’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Year last season, replacing his production is no easy task. 


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Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma State Cowboys 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:27
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Even though Oklahoma finished 10-3 and made an appearance in the Cotton Bowl last year, coach Bob Stoops wasn’t satisfied. As a result, the Sooners had a shakeup on the coaching staff, with three new faces coming aboard for 2013. Bill Bedenbaugh was hired away from West Virginia to coach the offensive line, Jay Boulware was brought in to coach tight ends and special teams, while Jerry Montgomery comes from Michigan to coach the defensive line. With the new coaches coming aboard and the loss of a handful of key contributors, this spring is all about getting everyone on the same page. And with a wide-open Big 12 title picture in 2013, Oklahoma is still positioned to be a factor in the conference championship.

Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (8-1)

Spring practice dates: March 9-April 16

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Blake Bell, 9 of 16, 107 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Receiving: Damien Williams, 176 car., 946 yards, 11 TDs
Receiving: Jalen Saunders, 62 rec., 829 yards, 3 TDs
Tackles: Aaron Colvin, 61
Sacks: Chuka Ndulue, 5
Interceptions: Aaron Colvin, 4

Redshirts to watch: DL Jordan Wade, RB Alex Ross, DL Charles Tapper, WR Derrick Woods, TE Taylor McNamara, QB Trevor Knight

Early Enrollees to watch: P Jed Barnett (JC), WR Dannon Cavil, S Ahmad Thomas, DE D.J. Ward

JUCO Transfers to watch: P Jed Barnett, DT Quincy Russell, OL Dionte Savage, OL Josiah St. John

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 UL Monroe
Sept. 7 West Virginia
Sept. 14 Tulsa
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Notre Dame
Oct. 5 TCU
Oct. 12 Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 19 at Kansas
Oct. 26 Texas Tech
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 at Baylor
Nov. 16 Iowa State
Nov. 23 at Kansas State
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 at Oklahoma State

Offensive Strength: Outside of finding a new quarterback, there’s not much for the Sooners to be concerned about on offense. The backfield is deep and talented, led by Damien Williams and fullback Trey Millard. Jalen Saunders, Sterling Shepard and Trey Metoyer are a capable trio at receiver, while the offensive line returns four starters. 

Offensive Weakness: It’s only one position, but it’s a big one: Quarterback. Is Blake Bell the answer under center? We’ll find out this spring.

Defensive Strength: With only four returning starters on defense, the Sooners don’t have a glaring strength. Even with the loss of cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, the secondary should rank in the top half of the Big 12 next season.

Defensive Weakness: The front seven is easily the biggest concern for Oklahoma in 2013. There’s very little in the way of proven depth on the line, and Tom Wort must be replaced at linebacker.

Spring Storylines Facing the Sooners

1. The quarterback battle. All eyes in Norman will be on the Sooners’ quarterback battle this spring, as Blake Bell hopes to hold off Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson for the top spot. Bell has shown promise in limited work but most of his snaps have come on running plays. Can Bell consistently beat defenses with his arm? The Sooners have one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps returning for 2013, so if Bell proves he can be the No. 1 quarterback, this offense will be dangerous once again.

2. Who replaces Lane Johnson at left tackle? Oklahoma’s offensive line allowed just 1.2 sacks per game last season and led the way for rushers to average 4.8 yards per carry. With four starters back, this unit is in good shape for 2013. However, the one departure is left tackle Lane Johnson, a likely top-15 pick in the NFL Draft. The Sooners could turn to a couple of different players to replace Johnson, with junior college recruit Josiah St. John likely to get a long look from new line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. If St. John isn’t the answer on the left side, Tyrus Thompson, Daryl Williams or Derek Farniok will compete for the open job. Even though center Gabe Ikard suffered a hand injury in spring practice, Oklahoma isn’t worried about the interior of the line, especially with Tyler Evans returning from a torn ACL that caused him to miss all of 2012.

3. Restocking the defensive line. Just how thin is Oklahoma’s line this spring? Just three defensive tackles will participate in practice, and with more 3-4 looks likely to be implemented this spring, there will be an adjustment period for this unit. Chuka Ndulue is a solid end, but who will fill the voids at tackle? Is junior college recruit Quincy Russell one of the answers? How about redshirt freshman Jordan Wade? If the Sooners struggle to sort out the line, stopping the run could be an issue in 2013.

4. Addressing the holes in the secondary. In an offensive-minded league like the Big 12, it’s not easy to rank inside of the top 30 in pass defense. But that’s exactly what Oklahoma accomplished last season, finishing second in the conference in pass defense and 12th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The secondary suffered some hard hits through the draft and graduation, as cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris all depart. Aaron Colvin will be the leader of the secondary after earning first-team All-Big 12 honors last season, but this unit needs a big year from Gabe Lynn, Kass Everett, Julian Wilson and Quentin Hayes. This unit isn’t as dire of a concern as the defensive line, but there could be some growing pains early in the year as the Sooners mix and match to find the right combination at cornerback and safety.

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Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 13:55
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-5-wide-receivers-rise-2013
Body:

With spring practice underway for many college football teams, the countdown to the 2013 season has officially started. With preseason predictions right around the corner, it’s never too early to start thinking about which players might be the next breakout stars.

While the final NCAA statistics featured plenty of familiar names atop the leaderboard, players like Arizona’s Austin Hill, New Mexico State’s Austin Franklin, Fresno State’s Davante Adams and Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart came off the radar to place inside of the top 20 in receiving yards per game.

Who will be those stars in 2013? TCU’s Brandon Carter, North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, Notre Dame’s DaVaris Daniels, Louisville’s DeVante Parker and Washington’s Kasen Williams are Athlon’s early picks to be a rising star at receiver this season.

Defining who fits the rising star or breakout player label isn’t easy.  Although these five players might not be household names in March, it could be a different story by the end of the season.

College Football’s Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Rise for 2013

Brandon Carter, TCU
Due to Casey Pachall’s suspension, TCU’s passing attack never reached its potential last year. Trevone Boykin was a capable fill-in, but Pachall allows the Horned Frogs to stretch the field more. With Pachall expected back under center, TCU’s passing game is due to take off this year. Carter was regarded as one of the top athletes in Texas in the 2011 signing class and hasn’t disappointed in his first two years on campus. After catching 23 passes as a freshman, Carter recorded 36 receptions for 590 yards and six scores last season. The Trinity High School product has provided plenty of big plays during his two years at TCU, catching an 80-yard touchdown pass against Oklahoma and a 68-yard score against Virginia. And with Pachall firing passes in his direction in 2013, Carter is due to see an increase in catches and touchdowns.
 

DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
With Everett Golson dealing with the ups and downs in his first year as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, the Fighting Irish averaged only 222.7 passing yards per game in 2012. Expect those numbers to change in 2013, as Golson got better in the second half of the season and will improve with another spring practice to work as the starter. Despite missing two games due to injury, Daniels caught 31 passes for 490 yards and averaged 15.8 yards per catch. With the departure of tight end Tyler Eifert to the NFL, expect Golson to be looking more in Daniels’ direction in 2013.
 

Quinshad Davis, North Carolina
Davis was one of the top recruits in North Carolina's 2012 recruiting class and didn’t disappoint in his first year on campus. He played in all 12 games, recording 61 receptions for 776 yards and five touchdowns. Davis averaged only 12.7 yards per reception but had his best performances at the end of the year. The South Carolina native caught seven passes for 104 yards and one touchdown against Georgia Tech, followed by a monster 16 catches in a 37-13 victory over Virginia. Davis capped off the season with nine catches and two scores against Maryland. With quarterback Bryn Renner returning, and the Tar Heels having another offseason to pick up Larry Fedora’s offense, Davis’ numbers are sure to increase. And with tight end Eric Ebron returning, the Tar Heels will have one of the top receiving corps and passing attacks in the ACC for 2013.
 

DeVante Parker, Louisville
With Teddy Bridgewater back under center, Louisville is the heavy favorite to win the Big East in 2013. While Bridgewater gets most of the publicity, Parker has quietly emerged as one of college football’s top deep threats. As a freshman, he caught 18 passes for 291 yards and six touchdowns and improved those totals to 40 receptions for 744 yards and 10 scores in 2012. For his career, Parker is averaging 17.8 yards per catch. After earning first-team All-Big East honors in 2012, with another big season in Louisville, Parker could be an All-American candidate at the end of 2013.
 

Kasen Williams, Washington
Considering Williams earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season, he’s not a complete unknown to most around the Pac-12. However, the rest of the nation needs to take notice in 2013. After catching 36 passes as a freshman, Williams grabbed 77 receptions (third in Washington single-season history) for 878 yards and six scores in 2012. His best performance came in Washington’s upset win over Stanford, recording 10 catches for 129 yards and one touchdown. Williams also finished the year on fire, catching at least six passes in each of his final four games. The top spring priority for Washington is to get quarterback Keith Price back on track after a down 2012 season. If Price regains his 2011 form, Williams could have a monster year, which could be enough for him to make an early jump to the NFL.


Others to Watch in 2013

Nelson Agholor, USC
With Robert Woods leaving early for the NFL, Agholor is set to become USC’s No. 2 receiver. As a freshman last season, he caught 19 passes for 340 yards and two scores. Agholor’s best performance came against Oregon, which was his only 100-yard game of 2012. Even though USC has an unsettled quarterback situation, Agholor is a rising star and is due for a breakout year.
 

Michael Bennett, Georgia
A torn ACL ended Bennett’s 2012 season prematurely, as he finished with 24 receptions for 345 yards and four scores. Assuming he can quickly find his pre-injury form, Bennett will be a major factor in Georgia’s passing attack.
 

Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
If the Spartans can sort out their quarterback issues, Burbridge could have a breakout season after catching 29 passes in 2012.


Damiere Byrd/Shaq Roland, South Carolina
With Ace Sanders leaving early for the NFL, the Gamecocks are looking for a new No. 1 target. Bruce Ellington caught 40 passes last season, but Byrd or Roland will figure prominently into the passing attack in 2013.
 

Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
With James Franklin at less than full strength last season, Missouri’s passing attack never managed to get on track. Green-Beckham finished the year with 28 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns and the five-star recruit should be even better in 2013 – provided Franklin finds his 2011 form. 
 

Deontay Greenberry, Houston
Greenberry was a huge catch on the recruiting trail for Houston and finished 2012 with 47 receptions for 569 yards and three scores. If the Cougars can get consistent quarterback play in 2013, Greenberry could be an All-Big East receiver.
 

Chris Harper, California
With Keenan Allen off to the NFL, California will have a new No. 1 receiver in 2013. And with the coaching change, the Golden Bears are expected to throw more, which should help Harper easily surpass last season’s totals – 41 receptions for 544 yards.
 

Robert Herron, Wyoming
Herron was a big-play threat for the Cowboys last season, averaging 21.2 yards per reception on 31 catches. With quarterback Brett Smith returning, Herron should build on his standout 2012 season and figures to be an All-Mountain West receiver in 2013.
 

Cody Latimer, Indiana
Led by Latimer and Shane Wynn, the Hoosiers quietly have one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. Latimer caught 51 passes for 805 yards and six scores last season, and with more stability under center in 2013, the Ohio native could make a run at first-team All-Big Ten honors.
 

Trey Metoyer, Oklahoma
Big things were expected of Metoyer in 2012, but he finished with just 17 receptions for 148 yards. With Kenny Stills off to the NFL, Metoyer could have his breakout season.


Charone Peake, Clemson
DeAndre Hopkins left early for the NFL, leaving the Tigers without a No. 2 target to pair with Sammy Watkins. Peake could be that receiver after catching 25 passes for 172 yards as a sophomore in 2012.
 

Jordan Thompson, West Virginia
With the Mountaineers’ top three receivers and quarterback Geno Smith gone from last season, West Virginia’s offense is essentially starting from scratch. However, Dana Holgorsen will keep the Mountaineers among the best offenses in the Big 12, even with a new quarterback under center. Thompson is expected to be one of the favorite targets for the new passer and should easily surpass last season’s totals – 13 receptions for 85 yards. 


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Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Rise for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 13:32
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Coming off an 11-2 season with a victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, optimism is running high at Clemson. The Tigers are the early favorite to win the ACC in 2013 and will likely be a top-10 team in most preseason polls. With quarterback Tajh Boyd returning to campus for his senior year, Clemson will have one of college football’s top offenses. The Tigers averaged 41 points a game last season, and despite the departure of receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the NFL, this offense can keep that pace going in 2013. While the offense is one of the best in the nation, the defense is still a work in progress. Clemson made some gains in the first season under coordinator Brent Venables, but the Tigers still have some work to do in 2013.

Clemson Tigers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 6-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Tajh Boyd, 287 of 427, 3,896 yards, 36 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Tajh Boyd, 186 car., 514 yards, 10 TDs
Receiving: Sammy Watkins, 57 rec., 708 yards, 3 TDs
Tackles: Spencer Shuey, 93
Sacks: Vic Beasley, 8
Interceptions: Five players tied with 1

Redshirts to Watch: QB Chad Kelly, WR Germone Hopper, C Jay Guillermo, OL Patrick Destefano

Early Enrollees to Watch: DB Jadar Johnson, DE Shaq Lawson, TE Jordan Leggett, DE Ebenezer Ogundeko

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Georgia
Sept. 7 South Carolina State
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 19 at NC State
Sept. 28 Wake Forest
Oct. 5 at Syracuse
Oct. 12 Boston College
Oct. 19 Florida State
Oct. 26 at Maryland
Nov. 2 at Virginia
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 14 Georgia Tech
Nov. 23 Citadel
Nov. 30 at South Carolina

Related Content: 2013 ACC Schedule Analysis

Offensive Strength: The unquestioned strength of Clemson’s offense is quarterback Tajh Boyd and one of the ACC’s top receiving corps. Boyd is the ACC’s No. 1 quarterback for 2013 and should be in the mix for All-American honors.

Offensive Weakness: The Tigers have few weaknesses on offense, but they must find replacements for running back Andre Ellington and center Dalton Freeman.

Defensive Strength: Even though the Tigers will miss defensive end Malliciah Goodman, there’s a lot to like about the front seven. Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes are back at end, while the Tigers have a handful of contributors ready at tackle. The linebacking corps should be solid, especially if Stephone Anthony can live up to his recruiting hype in 2013.

Defensive Weakness: There’s plenty of room to grow on the defense, but the secondary probably needs the most attention in spring practice. Defensive backs Rashard Hall, Jonathan Meeks and Xavier Brewer are gone, which leaves a void in the secondary. Getting Martin Jenkins back after missing all of 2012 due to an injury will help this unit.  

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers

1. Get Sammy Watkins back on track. After a standout freshman season, Watkins was a major disappointment in 2012. Watkins caught 82 passes in 2011 but watched his numbers dip to just 57 receptions in 2012. An illness and an off-the-field incident played a huge role in Watkins’ struggles last season, and with all of that behind him in spring practice, the junior is ready to rebound back to All-American status. Getting Boyd and Watkins back on the same page will be crucial for Clemson’s passing attack in 2013.

2. Replace Andre Ellington at running back. The Tigers seem to have some capable replacements for Ellington, but a pecking order needs to be established. Roderick McDowell rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns last season and is the likely frontrunner to lead Clemson in yards this season. McDowell had a couple of impressive performances late in 2012, rushing for 83 yards against Duke and NC State, along with 47 yards against South Carolina. Also joining in the competition is junior D.J. Howard and sophomore Zac Brooks. If the rotation isn’t settled by fall camp, incoming freshman Tyshon Dye could get an extended look. The Tigers may lack a 1,000-yard back in 2013, but McDowell, Brooks and Howard should be a capable trio.

3. Who backs up Tajh Boyd? Considering Boyd has made every start in his two years as Clemson’s No. 1 quarterback, durability isn’t a question mark. However, Boyd has just one season of eligibility remaining, and the Tigers have to start thinking about 2014. This spring will be the first opportunity for redshirt freshman Chad Kelly and junior Cole Stoudt to stake their claim to the backup spot, which would setup the winner of this battle in a position to build on that lead in spring practice next season.

4. Find the right mix on the offensive line. With three new starters taking over on the line last season, it was no surprise Clemson allowed 2.4 sacks a game in 2012. This unit returns four starters for 2013, including first-team All-ACC tackle Brandon Thomas. Guards Tyler Shatley and David Beasley are back as returning starters, but the unit must replace center Dalton Freeman. Thomas could slide to guard if Isaiah Battle can claim the left tackle spot, while the coaching staff also hopes to see progress from Giff Timothy after making 11 starts in 2012. The pieces are there for Clemson’s offensive line to be one of the best in the ACC. Can the Tigers find the right mix this spring?

5. Finding more improvement on defense. After finishing 2011 ninth in the ACC in yards allowed and 10th in scoring defense, the Tigers showed solid improvement in the first season under coordinator Brent Venables. Clemson ranked third in the ACC in points allowed and registered 2.6 sacks a game last year. The Tigers held five of their last seven opponents under 25 points and allowed just 219 yards to LSU in the bowl game. If Clemson is going to be a factor in the national title picture, the defense has to take another step forward this spring. Seven starters are back for 2013, and linebacker Kellen Jones is eligible after transferring from Oklahoma, while defensive back Martin Jenkins returns after missing all of 2012 due to injury. Even though this unit needs to replace defensive end Malliciah Goodman and safety Rashard Hall, there’s enough returning to expect more improvement on the stat sheet.

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Teaser:
<p> Clemson Tigers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines
Body:

With no clear favorite entering spring practice, the Big 12 should be college football’s most intriguing conference to watch when preseason picks are released for 2013.

Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma and Texas seem to be the early favorites for next season, but Kansas State and Baylor can’t be counted out. The Horned Frogs should be better in their second tour through the Big 12, while the Cowboys will be a dangerous team if they can settle on one quarterback.

It may seem strange to say this for two high-profile programs, but Oklahoma and Texas are the two darkhorse teams to watch in spring practice. The Longhorns have shown some small progress over the last few years and have the talent to win the Big 12. Oklahoma is coming off a 10-3 season but must replace quarterback Landry Jones and rebuild a defense that allowed 398.3 yards per game last year.

The Big 12 had only one head coaching change this offseason, as Kliff Kingsbury returns to Lubbock to take over for Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech. Kingsbury helped to engineer some of the nation’s best offenses at Houston and Texas A&M and should be able to immediately put his stamp on the program in 2013. 

Big 12 Team Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

Baylor

Can the defense continue to make progress?
Baylor’s final defensive numbers certainly weren’t anything to be proud of. The Bears finished 2012 ranked 110th nationally in scoring and 119th in yards allowed. However, there were encouraging signs over the final few games of the year, which included a solid performance against UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Now that coordinator Phil Bennett has been in Waco for two years, the Bears should have a good grasp on his system and more improvement is expected in 2013. And this unit has promising talent returning, including safety Ahmad Dixon, linebacker Bryce Hager and defensive end Terrance Lloyd. With the momentum from the 2012 finish, combined with seven returning starters, Baylor’s defense should show more progress in 2013. Considering the Bears will have a new starter at quarterback, it’s important for the defense to help shoulder more of the burden this year.

Quarterback Battle? Can the Bears continue their recent run of successful quarterbacks? Nick Florence departs after an outstanding year, leaving junior Bryce Petty as the No. 1 passer this spring. Redshirt freshman Seth Russell and true freshman Chris Johnson will get a look this spring, but Petty is expected to be Baylor’s starting quarterback in 2013. 


Iowa State

Finding replacements at linebacker
Quarterback and linebacker seem like they will be the focus almost universally in the Big 12 this spring. Maybe nowhere in the nation, however, is that more apparent than at Iowa State. The Cyclones must replace two All-American-caliber linebackers from a defense that ranked third in the Big 12 in points allowed. A.J. Klein won co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year two years ago and finished his career with 361 tackles. Jake Knott posted 347 stops of his own. Talented tackler Jeremiah George is a good starting point but other names will need to step into more prominent roles at linebacker for the Cyclones to reach the postseason for the third consecutive season. 
 

Kansas

Restocking the offensive line
While the defense is a huge concern, the Jayhawks have to be concerned about their offensive line with the departure of three starters from last season’s unit. Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson was the group’s biggest departure, but center Trevor Marrongelli and guard Duane Zlatnik will also be missed. Considering the only real strength with Kansas last season was the rushing attack, the new pieces on the offensive line have to jell together this spring. The Jayhawks are counting on junior college recruits Mike Smithburg and Ngalu Fuismalohi to fill the gaps at guard, while senior Aslam Sterling should be the starter at right tackle. However, the two most important positions on the line – left tackle and center – are up for grabs. Converted defensive lineman Pat Lewandowski is the frontrunner at left tackle, while sophomore Dylan Admire is listed No. 1 on the spring depth chart at center. Admire played in all 12 games last season but doesn’t have a start under his belt. If this unit struggles, Kansas’ offense will have trouble getting running back Sims on track, along with giving quarterback Jake Heaps time to throw.
 

Kansas State

Rebuild the linebacking corps
Arthur Brown eventually turned into a superstar at Kansas State and was a key factor in the team’s success over the last two years. However, Brown and four other contributors have departed the linebacking position. In fact, the Wildcats boasted seven senior linebackers on the roster in 2012, so Bill Snyder has his work cut out for him this spring. The defensive line and secondary lose a lot as well, so the entire defense needs work, but rebuilding should start in the middle at linebacker. Jonathan Truman, Tre Walker and Mike Moore are the only players returning to the position with any experience at all.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Daniel Sams (SO) vs. Jake Waters (JR)
While Collin Klein will be missed, Kansas State has two solid options to turn to under center this season. Sams was impressive in limited action last year, while Waters threw for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns at Iowa Western Community College in 2012. Considering both quarterbacks have no starts at the FBS level, this battle could extend deep into the fall. 
 

Oklahoma

Find a supporting cast for Aaron Colvin in the secondary
Oklahoma’s defense has major holes to fill at a variety of positions, but three of the starting four defensive backs from 2012 have departed the team. The top four tacklers last season were defensive backs — which should indicate just how much the front seven struggled last year — and three of them are gone, including the team’s most talented player and leading tackler Tony Jefferson. Only Aaron Colvin returns, and Bob Stoops needs to find him support this spring. 

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Blake Bell (JR) vs. Trevor Knight (FR) vs. Kendal Thompson (SO)
While the Sooners are listed as a battle, it’s hard to see Knight or Thompson unseating Bell. The Kansas native needs to show he can be a consistent passer but has scored 24 rushing scores in limited action. The battle between Knight and Thompson for No. 2 could be the bigger storyline to watch, especially since the winner of that competition is in line to start if Bell struggles.


Oklahoma State

Who steps up at defensive end?
The Cowboys don’t have many glaring issues to work on in spring practice, but the defensive end spot is a concern for coordinator Glenn Spencer. Oklahoma State loses three key contributors from last season, as Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas and Ryan Robinson expired their eligibility after the bowl win against Purdue. Tyler Johnson is the most experienced option on the outside and he recorded 27 tackles and four sacks last season. Outside of Johnson, there’s not much in the way of proven options. Sam Wren ranked as the No. 16 junior college prospect by ESPN and could win the other starting end spot. True freshman Naim Mustafaa enrolled early to compete in the spring and figures to play a prominent role in the rotation. However, even if Wren and Mustafaa emerge as solid options, depth is still an issue. Expect the defensive staff to spend a lot of time watching the trenches in spring practice.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Clint Chelf (SR) vs. Wes Lunt (SO) vs. J.W. Walsh (SO)
Despite three quarterbacks making starts for Oklahoma State in 2012, the Cowboys finished third nationally and averaged 547 yards per game. All three passers are back this spring, and Oklahoma State should have one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the nation. Wes Lunt began last season as the starter but lost his job due to an injury. Walsh and Chelf played well in Lunt’s absence, with Chelf finishing the year as the No. 1 quarterback.
 

Texas

Stop the run without Alex Okafor
Getting star front seven players Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks back healthy will obviously go a long way to improving one of the most underachieving units in the nation. Filling holes left by end Alex Okafor and tackle Brandon Moore and stabilizing this unit could be the difference between a conference championship or pink slip for Mack Brown. Manny Diaz needs to figure out a way to improve a defense that allowed 88th nationally in rushing defense. There is a definite sense of urgency with this portion of the depth chart this spring.
 

TCU

Replace two All-Big 12 blockers up front
This team has few weaknesses heading into 2013 and will feature one of the league’s best defenses. Gary Patterson also has two quality options under center as well. Losing guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry, two All-Big 12 performers from a year ago, will hurt the middle of the offensive line. Foltz was the best lineman on the team and the pivot is a critical position, so filling the gaps inside along the line is key for TCU this spring.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Trevone Boykin (SO) vs. Casey Pachall (SR)
Considering the Horned Frogs have the pieces in place to win the Big 12, this offense needs Pachall to return to his 2011 form. Despite missing eight games last season due to an off-the-field incident, Pachall is expected to edge Boykin for the starting job this spring, but Boykin will have some role on the offense in 2013.


Texas Tech

Rebuilding in the secondary
One year after allowing 485.6 yards per game, the Red Raiders were one of the nation’s most-improved defenses. Texas Tech ranked second in the Big 12 by allowing 367.3 yards per game, while finishing first in pass defense. This unit struggled later in the season, but there’s no question the Red Raiders were better on this side of the ball in 2012. In addition to a new coaching staff taking over, Texas Tech has significant question marks in the secondary. Cornerbacks Cornelius Douglas and Eugene Neboh, along with safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson have expired their eligibility, which leaves the Red Raiders with just one returning starter in the defensive backfield. Cornerback Tre’ Porter is a good place to start rebuilding, while Bruce Jones, Jarvis Phillips, Derrick Mays and Ola Falemi return with experience. While there’s at least some depth at cornerback, the safety position is virtually empty. J.J. Gaines and John White are the only returning safeties on the roster, and the duo combined for just nine tackles in 2012. Incoming freshman Jalen Barnes and junior college recruit Martin Hill could be asked to play a lot in 2013, which is particularly bad news in an offensive-minded league like the Big 12.
 

West Virginia

Who will emerge as the top receivers?
All eyes in Morgantown will be focused on the defense in the spring, but the receiving corps shouldn’t be overlooked. Gone are standouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, along with Ryan Nehlen and J.D. Woods. The unit’s top returning receivers are Jordan Thompson (13 catches) and Connor Arlia (7), so it’s easy to see why the coaching staff is bringing in five players in the 2013 recruiting class at the position, including three junior college recruits. True freshman Shelton Gibson is also expected to get into the mix this fall. With a new quarterback and virtually new receiving corps, it may take some time for West Virginia to work out the kinks in the passing game. However, in an offensive-minded league with a questionable defense, the Mountaineers will need to win their share of shootouts in 2013.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Ford Childress (FR) vs. Paul Millard (JR)
Millard has the edge in experience (34 career passes), but the West Virginia coaching staff is excited to see what Childress can do with the No. 1 offense. The Houston native ranked as the No. 18 recruit in the 2012 signing class and spent last season learning the ropes as a redshirt. Even though Millard has the edge in game experience, this is Childress’ job to lose. 

 

Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


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Teaser:
<p> Big 12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines
Body:

Another year brings more changes for the Big East. And if you are having trouble keeping up with the changes, you certainly aren’t alone. West Virginia departed for the Big 12 before the 2012 season, while Pittsburgh and Syracuse are joining the ACC in time for 2013. Louisville and Rutgers will have new homes in 2014, as the Cardinals are joining the ACC, while the Scarlet Knights are joining the Big Ten.

With all of the changes, it has been difficult to keep track of which teams are in the Big East for 2013. Making the jump from Conference USA to the Big East is UCF, Houston, Memphis and SMU, with East Carolina and Tulane coming board in 2014.

While realignment has dominated most of the headlines in the Big East, Louisville has quietly emerged as a top-10 team for 2013. The Cardinals have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks returning (Teddy Bridgewater) and are coming off a huge bowl victory over Florida.

There’s no clear No. 2 team in the Big East for 2013, but Cincinnati, Rutgers and UCF could each make a strong case to claim that spot.

The Big East will welcome two new head coaches for next season, as Willie Taggart takes over at South Florida, and Tommy Tuberville moves from Texas Tech to Cincinnati. Taggart appears to be a perfect fit for the Bulls, while Tuberville has been successful at each of his head coaching stops.

Big East Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

Cincinnati

Replacing running back George Winn
The fans in Cincinnati were accustomed to a spread offense that leaned on the pass under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, but Tommy Tuberville has made his living off pro-style power football. In order to make that switch, the Bearcats need to find a suitable workhorse tailback. Isaiah Pead gave way to George Winn without a hiccup, but Winn is off to the NFL. Ralph David Abernathy IV is a big-time playmaker, but can he handle 25 touches per game? Tion Green, Dionte Buckley and early enrollee Rodriguez Moore will battle for time behind what should be a very solid offensive line.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Brendon Kay (SR) vs. Munchie Legaux (SR)
With a new coaching staff taking over at Cincinnati, all positions are up for grabs this spring. Legaux was replaced in favor of Kay last season, but the new coaching staff plans to open up the competition. However, Kay was clearly the better quarterback last season and should be Cincinnati’s starter in 2013.
 

Connecticut

Figure out a way to score points
The worst scoring offense in the conference a year ago has undergone a dramatic change this offseason. And after scoring just 17.8 points per game, change was desperately needed. Coordinator George DeLeone was demoted to OL coach and former Cincinnati receivers coach T.J. Weist is now calling plays. Finding players on the outside to catch passes will go a long way to helping returning signal caller Chandler Whitmer. After tight end Ryan Griffin and his six touchdowns departed, there are two total receiving touchdowns coming back to the offense.
 

Houston

Can the defense find some answers this spring?
Tony Levine’s first season wasn’t a total disaster, but 2012 wasn’t a good year for Houston. As a result of a 5-7 record, Levine revamped the coaching staff and hired David Gibbs to coordinate the Cougars’ defense. Gibbs has not been a coordinator since 2005 (Auburn) but worked with the Chiefs and Texans as an assistant from 2006-10. Needless to say, he will have his hands full this spring, as the Cougars return only four starters and will be switching to a 3-4 scheme. The linebacking corps needs to be revamped, as Phillip Stewart and Everett Daniels depart after combining for 240 tackles last year. Derrick Matthews and LSU transfer Trevon Randle isn’t a bad place to start rebuilding, but Houston needs a big season from hybrid end/linebacker Eric Eiland. With the Cougars moving to a tougher league, struggling to get any improvement on defense is a good way to equal another losing record.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Billy Cosh (JR) vs. Rex Dausin (FR) vs. D’Juan Hines (FR) vs. Brom Kohlhausen (SO) vs. John O’Korn (FR) vs. David Piland (JR)
Even though the Cougars averaged 328.4 passing yards per game, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Doug Meacham should be an upgrade at offensive coordinator and plans to install a similar system to the one Houston used successfully under Kevin Sumlin. Piland is expected to open spring practice as the starter, but the battle likely won’t begin in earnest until the fall when freshmen John O’Korn and D’Juan Hines arrive.


Louisville

Who replaces center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper?
With nine starters returning on defense, most of Louisville’s offseason concerns rest with the offense. While that seems strange to mention with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater returning, the Cardinals are losing two key offensive linemen, while running back Jeremy Wright decided to leave the team after rushing for 824 yards last season. With Dominique Brown coming off a redshirt year, and Senorise Perry likely to be 100 percent at the season opener from a torn ACL, Louisville’s biggest issue will be the offensive line. Center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper depart after standout 2012 seasons, which leaves the offensive line with some uncertainty heading into spring practice. John Miller and Jake Smith are expected to hold down the guard spots, while Jamon Brown returns after starting all 13 games at right tackle. Sophomore Mike Romano was the backup to Benavides last season but is out for spring practice due to injury. Senior Kamran Joyer and redshirt freshman T.C. Klusman will top the depth chart at center in spring practice. Sophomore Abraham Garcia (6-5, 352 pounds) has the size to be Louisville’s left tackle and played in seven games last year. Keeping Bridgewater upright in the pocket is the Cardinals’ best shot at making a run at a 12-0 regular season mark.
 

Memphis

Can the Tigers continue to build momentum?
While a three-game winning streak over Tulane, UAB and Southern Miss to close the season isn’t the gauntlet of schedules, Memphis was able to use that stretch to build momentum for the offseason and for its first year of Big East play. Justin Fuente had a solid year in his debut, but the Tigers are still behind the rest of the conference in terms of talent. Both sides of the ball enter spring practice with question marks, as the offense needs more from quarterback Jacob Karam, while the defense needs to address a secondary that loses a couple of key players. Memphis is headed in the right direction, so another offseason to find a few answers should help this team as it builds to its first season of Big East play. Even if the Tigers fail to match last year’s four-win mark, Fuente should keep pushing this team in the right direction in 2013.

Related Content: Memphis Tigers 2013 Spring Preview


Rutgers

Filling the voids at linebacker
Khaseem Greene was a star for the Scarlet Knights, leading the defense and earning Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. Steve Beauharnais was a stalwart alongside Greene as well, posting 272 tackles in his esteemed career. Filling the gaping void left by these two dependable tacklers will be paramount this spring. Kyle Flood signed a deep and talented haul of linebackers last year and veterans Nick DePaola, Marcus Thompson and Jamal Merrell will have to hold off the young talent to earn starting spots this spring. 

 

SMU

Who will replace running back Zach Line?
Although June Jones is a pass-first coach, SMU had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last three seasons. However, the Mustangs are starting from scratch this offseason, as Zach Line finished his eligibility after the Hawaii Bowl. Luke Seeker, Rishaad Wimbley, Jared Williams, redshirt freshman Prescott Line and junior college recruit (and former Texas Longhorn) Traylon Shead will get the first crack at replacing Line. Williams missed last season recovering from a broken leg, while Seeker and Wimbley combined for just 87 yards in 2012. Considering Garrett Gilbert has been inconsistent during his starting tenure, generating production from the rushing attack will be crucial for SMU.


South Florida

Develop a secondary that competes
A new coach and a new quarterback will be the focus of the spring, but the defensive backfield also needs attention. This unit got torched all season long as opposing quarterbacks threw for an average of 251.9 yards per game at an alarmingly efficient rate (110th in pass efficiency defense). Opposing quarterbacks threw 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions against the Bulls a year ago — a number that was the worst in the nation.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Bobby Eveld (SR) vs. Matt Floyd (SO) vs. Mike White (FR)
While B.J. Daniels had his share of ups and downs over the last few seasons, he will certainly be missed in 2013. The Bulls have an unsettled quarterback situation and could turn to White once he arrives on campus this summer. Eveld was injured in his only appearance last season, while Floyd tossed zero touchdowns and five interceptions on 110 attempts.
 

Temple

Rebuild the running game
Matt Brown and Montel Harris are both gone from the Owls backfield that averaged over 200 yards rushing per game a season ago. The duo combined for 246 carries, 1,426 yards and 16 of the team’s 21 rushing touchdowns. With a quarterback battle brewing between Chris Coyer, Juice Granger and Kevin Newsome, a sound ground game will go along way to improving the 107th-ranked total offense from a year ago. New coach Matt Rhule’s first order of business is establishing a pecking order in the running game.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Chris Coyer (SR) vs. Juice Granger (SR) vs. Kevin Newsome (SR)
Not only are the Owls losing their top two running backs from last season, but the offense also has a glaring question mark under center. Chris Coyer started the first nine games of last season and was benched in favor of Juice Granger for the final two contests. Coyer finished the year with 946 passing yards, while Granger recorded 370 yards. With a new coaching staff coming in, this battle is expected to extend until the fall. 
 

UCF

Filling the gaps on defense
Could UCF be the biggest challenger to Louisville in the revamped Big East for 2013? It’s certainly possible, especially with Cincinnati and Rutgers losing key pieces from last season’s team. However, the Knights have some key voids to fill, especially on defense where end Troy Davis, linebacker Jonathan Davis, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Kemal Ishmael depart. UCF ranked first in Conference USA in scoring defense last season, so replicating those numbers could be difficult with the personnel losses. Rebuilding the defense will start up front, as the Knights will lean more E.J. Dunston, while Clayton Geathers needs to become the leader in the secondary after recording 117 stops last season. If coordinator Jim Fleming can quickly reload this side of the ball, UCF will be a dangerous team. 

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Teaser:
<p> Big East Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 06:25
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-2013-spring-football-preview
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USC was billed as a national title contender last season but finished with a disappointing 7-6 mark and ended the year with a three-game losing streak. The Trojans are still under NCAA sanctions, so coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t have a full complement of players. However, USC still has plenty of talent, so another 7-5 season could spell the end of Kiffin’s run. The coaching staff was shuffled after the disappointing year, with Mike Ekeler, Clancy Pendergast, Tommie Robinson and Mike Summers all coming aboard. Pendergast is the biggest addition, as he is charged with getting USC’s defense back on track.

USC Trojans 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: March 5-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Max Wittek, 36 of 69, 388 yards, 3 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Silas Redd, 167 car., 905 yards, 9 TDs
Receiving: Marqise Lee, 118 rec., 1,721 yards, 14 TDs
Tackles: Hayes Pullard, 107
Sacks: Morgan Breslin, 13
Interceptions: Dion Bailey, 4

Redshirts to watch: OL Jordan Simmons, LB Scott Starr, OT Zach Banner, CB Devian Shelton

Early Enrollees to watch: DL Kenny Bigelow, QB Max Browne, DB Su’a Cravens, RB Justin Davis, DB Chris Hawkins, DB Leon McQuay III, WR Darreus Rogers

2013 Schedule

Aug. 29 at Hawaii
Sept. 7 Washington State
Sept. 14 Boston College
Sept. 21 Utah State
Sept. 28 at Arizona State
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 10 Arizona
Oct. 19 at Notre Dame
Oct. 26 Utah
Nov. 1 at Oregon State
Nov. 9 at California
Nov. 16 Stanford
Nov. 23 at Colorado
Nov. 30 UCLA

Offensive Strength: Despite the departure of running back Curtis McNeal and receiver Robert Woods, there’s no shortage of skill players for USC. Running back Silas Redd is back for his senior year, while Marqise Lee is the nation’s best receiver heading into 2013.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback Matt Barkley’s late-season shoulder injury allowed Max Wittek to gain valuable experience. But he failed to seize the starting job, so USC will have an open competition this spring. The offensive line struggled at times last year, and center Khaled Holmes expired his eligibility.

Defensive Strength: Going into last season, the defensive line was one of USC’s biggest question marks. This unit quickly became a strength, as junior college recruit Morgan Breslin was a standout performer, and Leonard Williams and George Uko were solid in the middle. The linebacking corps is also one of the best in the Pac-12, led by Hayes Pullard, Lamar Dawson and Dion Bailey.

Defensive Weakness: With cornerback Nickell Robey leaving for the NFL, the Trojans will have only one returning starter in the secondary. Safety T.J. McDonald will also be missed after recording 112 stops last season. This unit ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in pass defense but will need significant contributions from a few young players in 2013.

Spring Storylines Facing the Trojans

1. The quarterback battle. All eyes in Los Angeles will be on the quarterback battle this spring. Max Wittek filled in for Matt Barkley during the final two games of last season and finished the year with 388 yards and three touchdowns. Wittek showed some promise against Notre Dame but struggled in the bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Sophomore Cody Kessler and true freshman Max Browne are expected to push Wittek for playing time, with Browne the most intriguing name to watch. The true freshman ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and is USC’s quarterback of the future. Wittek’s experience should help him in this battle, but it will be difficult to keep Kessler and Browne on the bench if he struggles in spring practice.

2. Replacing Khaled Holmes on the offensive line. The final numbers weren’t awful for USC’s offensive line, as it allowed 1.3 sacks a game and paved the way for rushers to average 5.0 yards per carry. However, this unit struggled to pass block at times, including a game against Stanford, where Barkley was sacked four times. With first-team All-Pac-12 center Khaled Holmes departing, new line coach Mike Summers will have his hands full this spring. John Martinez and Kevin Graf should be set on the right side, but the other three spots are up for grabs. Marcus Martin could slide to center, while Max Tuerk may move to guard if Aundrey Walker or redshirt freshman Zach Banner can claim the left tackle spot. Don’t be surprised if Summers shakes up the starting five and shuffles a few players around this spring, as USC cannot afford to have an inexperienced quarterback struggling to find time to throw.

3. Adjusting to a new defensive scheme. One of the biggest knocks on Monte Kiffin’s career at USC was his inability to stop spread offenses. The Trojans were gashed for 62 points by Oregon in 2012 and 39 against Arizona. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast comes to Los Angeles from California, where his defense ranked 93rd nationally in yards allowed last season. While Pendergast’s numbers weren’t anything special last year, his flexible defensive scheme could be what USC needs to slow down some of the Pac-12’s top offenses. How quickly the Trojans can adjust to Pendergast’s scheme will determine how high this team can climb in the Pac-12 South this year.

4. New starters in the secondary. With only one starter returning in the secondary, it’s a good thing USC’s defensive line returns nearly intact. Wes Horton is the unit’s biggest departure, but Devon Kennard returns after missing all of 2012 due to injury. Pendergast needs his defensive line to get after opposing quarterbacks to limit the amount of time the secondary has to cover this year. Josh Shaw is expected to slide from cornerback to safety, while true freshman Su’a Cravens may also win a starting job this preseason. One wildcard to watch is linebacker Dion Bailey. The junior could move from linebacker to safety in this spring, but a final determination on his position may have to wait until the fall. Cornerback is a biggest question mark, as Torin Harris, Anthony Brown, Kevon Seymour, Ryan Henderson, Devian Shelton and true freshman Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins will all battle for two spots. Considering the quarterback and receiver talent in the Pac-12, USC could be in trouble if it can’t find solidify its starting lineup at cornerback.

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Teaser:
<p> USC Trojans 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

After three consecutive 7-6 seasons, the pressure is starting to build on Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies were expected to take the next step into top 25 contention last season, but they opened 3-4 with a difficult schedule and lost their final two games. Washington has the talent to contend for a spot in the preseason top 25, but Sarkisian has to get quarterback Keith Price back on track after a disappointing year. The defense made significant progress under Justin Wilcox last year, and the Huskies can expect even more improvement with seven starters returning for 2013.

Washington Huskies 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: March 5-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Keith Price, 263 of 432, 2,726 yards, 19 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Bishop Sankey, 289 car., 1,439 yards, 16 TDs
Receiving: Kasen Williams, 77 rec., 878 yards, 6 TDs
Tackles: John Timu, 91
Sacks: Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley, 6.5
Interceptions: Marcus Peters and Shaq Thompson, 3

Redshirts to watch: QB Cyler Miles, QB Jeff Lindquist, OL Cody Fuavai, DB Brandon Beaver, OL Nathan Dean, DB Cleveland Wallace, OL Jake Eldrenkamp, OL Taylor Hindy

Early Enrollees to watch: S Trevor Walker, QB Troy Williams

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Boise State
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 Illinois (Chicago)
Sept. 21 Idaho State
Sept. 28 Arizona
Oct. 5 at Stanford
Oct. 12 Oregon
Oct. 19 at Arizona State
Oct. 26 California
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Colorado
Nov. 15 at UCLA
Nov. 23 at Oregon State
Nov. 29 Washington State

Offensive Strength: Bishop Sankey went from a virtual unknown to one of the Pac-12’s top running backs last season. The Spokane native averaged 110.7 yards per game on the ground and finished with 33 receptions. The Huskies also have no shortage of weapons in the receiving corps, led by Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Offensive Weakness: The biggest reason why Washington failed to take the next step on offense last year was due to subpar play from the offensive line. This unit was hit hard by injuries, which forced nine players to make at least one start last season.

Defensive Strength: Washington made significant progress on this side of the ball last year, and this unit could be one of the Pac-12’s best in 2013. Each level should be solid, but the defensive line returns Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson and Danny Shelton, while the pass rush could get a boost if Hau’oli Jamora returns to full strength after missing 2012 due to a knee injury.

Defensive Weakness: Although Washington made progress in Justin Wilcox’s first season as coordinator, there’s plenty of room to grow. The Huskies need to get better against the run, while the secondary is a concern after Desmond Trufant and safety Justin Glenn expired their eligibility.

Spring Storylines Facing the Huskies

1. Can Keith Price regain his 2011 form? After throwing for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011, most expected Price to be one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks in 2012. Instead of showing progress, Price watched his passing yards (2,726) and touchdowns (19) decrease, while his interceptions rose to 13. Considering the struggles on the offensive line, it’s unfair to pin all of the passing attack’s problems on Price. The senior will be surrounded by one of the conference’s top receiving corps, and the offensive line figures to be better in 2013. If Price can regain his 2011 form, Washington could make a lot of noise in the Pac-12 North. 

2. Sorting out the offensive line. On one hand, it’s bad Washington had so many players start last season. However, the playing time should be valuable experience for this unit, which should give coach Steve Sarkisian hope for 2013. Erik Kohler and Colin Tanigawa are returning from injury, but the Huskies won’t have an idea of how close to 100 percent they are until fall practice. Replacing center Drew Schaefer will be difficult, but Kohler, Tanigawa or junior Mike Criste could fill that void. Addressing who replaces Schaefer should help the Huskies align the other positions, along with developing some chemistry with quarterback Keith Price.

3. Addressing the voids in the secondary. The biggest question mark on defense is the secondary, where the Huskies have to replace two standouts in cornerback Desmond Trufant and safety Justin Glenn. Trufant was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection last season, while Glenn recorded 76 stops and three interceptions. Gregory Ducre, Marcus Peters and Tre Watson are the top returning options, with Peters likely to be Washington’s No. 1 corner in 2013. Depth is a concern with few proven options, so keep an eye on Alabama transfer Travell Dixon, redshirt freshman Brandon Beaver and incoming freshman Jermaine Kelly.

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Teaser:
<p> Washington Huskies 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines
Body:

Coming off a season where eight teams made bowl appearances, along with the rise of Stanford and Oregon into annual top-five status, the arrow on the Pac-12’s future is clearly pointing up.

The Cardinal and Ducks have been jockeying for Pac-12 supremacy over the last few years, and with both teams returning most of their core for 2013, the Ducks and Cardinal are the favorites to win the conference once again. And it wouldn’t be a shock to see either team make an appearance in the national title game. Of course, there are a few question marks for both teams to address, as Oregon transitions from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich at head coach, while Stanford must find a way to jump start it’s passing attack.

Outside of Eugene and Palo Alto, hope is running high at Arizona State and UCLA. The Sun Devils won eight games in Todd Graham’s first season in Tempe, while the Bruins have won back-to-back Pac-12 South titles. Arizona is also on the right track behind coach Rich Rodriguez, but a questionable defense and a quarterback battle have the Wildcats likely battling for third or fourth in the South this season. USC is the South Division’s biggest wildcard. The talent is there for Lane Kiffin’s team to make a run at a division title, but quarterback play is a concern.

The Pac-12 will have two new coaches for 2013, as Mike MacIntyre was hired from San Jose State to rebuild Colorado, while Sonny Dykes was picked to replace Jeff Tedford at California. Both hires were two of the best in the nation but success may not be easy in 2013. The Buffaloes have a talent gap to close with the rest of the conference, while the Golden Bears are searching for a No. 1 quarterback.   

Pac-12 Team Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

North Division

California

Switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense
New defensive coordinator Andy Buh has the unenviable task of switching the base 3-4 defense used under former head coach Jeff Tedford to a new 4-3 scheme. Finding the right guys for the right spots quickly will be paramount this spring. The line between outside linebacker and defensive end is blurred and finding explosive edge pass rushers is important for any 3-4 gameplan. Ends become tackles, tackles become ends and linebackers will be changing positions all spring long. The coaching staff is experimenting with linebackers Brennan Scarlett and Chris McCain at end this spring, which should help some speed off the edge. Getting the right guys in the right lines on the depth has to be the primary focus of Cal’s spring practice. (Other than quarerback, of course).

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Kyle Boehm (SO) vs. Allan Bridgford (SR) vs. Jared Goff (FR) vs. Austin Hinder (JR) vs. Zach Kline (FR)
The winner of California’s quarterback battle should put up some big numbers in Tony Franklin and Sonny Dykes’ offense. Bridgford has the most experience, but the winner of this job will likely come down to Kline, Hinder or Goff.

Related Content: California Golden Bears 2013 Spring Preview
 

Oregon

Replace senior leadership in the front seven
The Ducks didn’t just lose its heralded head coach this offseason, they also lost a ton of senior leadership and talent off both sides of the ball. In particular, the defensive front watched end Dion Jordan and linebackers Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay depart this winter. Filling those voids is the primary focus of new coach Mark Helfrich and new defensive line coach Ron Aiken. The time has come for Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner to impose their will on the defensive line. A long list of talented young tacklers will vie for time at linebacker — Tyson Coleman, Joe Walker, Rodney Hardrick and Derrick Malone – to name a few.
 

Oregon State

Continue the defensive line trend
Oregon State ranked dead last in the Pac-12 against the run in 2011 after allowing 196.8 yards per game on the ground (101st nationally). Last season, Mike Riley and coordinator Mark Banker did a remarkable job developing the defensive line and it resulted in the 27th-best rushing defense in the nation, which was good enough to rank third in the Pac-12 (129.5 ypg). Now, both starting defensive tackles have moved on. Scott Crichton is a star to build around, but the reinstated Mona Rosa won’t be available this spring. Finding a supporting cast who can continue the recent and obvious growth along the defensive line is important this spring.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Sean Mannion (JR) vs. Cody Vaz (SR)
The Beavers have two options they can win games with, but the offense needs one quarterback to settle into the No. 1 role. Sean Mannion has more talent, but he lost the starting job to Vaz at the end of the year. Expect this battle to go deep into fall camp.
 

Stanford

Find Kevin Hogan some playmakers
The offensive line has holes, but an elite recruiting class two years ago will help stabilize that position. The same can be the said about the running back position. So finding playmaking pass-catchers for quarterback Kevin Hogan should be the focus this spring. This team has lost a trio of elite tight ends over the last two years and didn’t have a wide receiver catch more than 33 passes last fall. David Shaw has restocked the tight end position with converted fullbacks and a defensive lineman and who is argue? But at wide receiver, only Ty Montgomery returns with more than two catches. Shaw needs to find talent on the outside.

Related Content: 2013 Stanford Cardinal Spring Preview
 

Washington

Keep the offensive line intact
Two years ago, the defense was atrocious and Keith Price threw for school records on offense. Last year, the defense showed marked improvement, while the offensive line dealt with widespread injuries and poor play. The youngsters who were tossed into the fire last year should enter this spring with the confidence of returning starters. Keeping this group healthy and intact will make the difference for Price and the offense in 2013. Does this group benefit from unexpected playing time or are they simply not good enough to compete at a high level? This spring might help answer that question.

Related Content: 2013 Washington Huskies Spring Preview
 

Washington State

Figure out a way to pick up positive yards on the ground
Four times in 2012 Washington State was held to negative yards rushing in a game. Three more times, the Cougars were held below 20 yards rushing. Needless to say, improving the 120th-ranked rushing offense in college football will be key — even for a Mike Leach-coached team. The offensive line also ranked 120th in sacks allowed at nearly five per game (4.75). No matter how complicated and innovative it is, no offense will be successful without pathetic offensive line play. Leach must address this immediately this spring.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Austin Apodaca (FR) vs. Connor Halliday (JR) vs. Tyler Bruggman (FR)
Washington State was one of the most disappointing offenses in college football last season. With the arrival of Mike Leach, most expected the Cougars would be one of the Pac-12’s highest-scoring teams. Every level of the offense has room to grow, but quarterback play will be under the microscope this spring. Halliday has shown promise in his career but will face competition from Apodaca this spring, along with Bruggman when he arrives the fall. 


Pac-12 South

Arizona

Improving the defense
All eyes on Tucson will be situated on the quarterback battle, but if the Wildcats are going to push Arizona State, UCLA or USC for the Pac-12 South title, the defense has to make major strides in 2013. The Wildcats ranked 105th nationally against the run, 117th versus the pass and allowed 499 yards per game last season. Needless to say, those numbers have to decrease if Arizona expects to contend with a first-year quarterback. While last year’s statistics are the bad news, the flipside is the Wildcats bring 11 starters back for 2013. And the defense suffered no significant losses in terms of depth. With another spring practice to work under coordinator Jeff Casteel, the players should have a better grasp on the scheme, which should allow Arizona to show improvement on the stat sheet.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Javelle Allen (FR) vs. B.J. Denker (SR) vs. Jesse Scroggins (JR) vs. Anu Solomon (FR)
With Scroggins nursing a foot injury and Solomon arriving on campus after spring practice, Arizona won’t have much clarity to its quarterback picture. Denker has the most experience after making one start last year, but Allen, Solomon and Scroggins have the talent to unseat him this preseason. 

Related Content: 2013 Arizona Wildcats Spring Preview
 

Arizona State

Finding new receivers for quarterback Taylor Kelly
With a new quarterback and offensive scheme, it was a surprise to see the Sun Devils finish second in the Pac-12 in scoring last season. A big part of last year’s success was the emergence of quarterback Taylor Kelly, along with a backfield that featured three solid running backs. Kelly should be able to build on his 2012 campaign this season, but receivers Jamal Miles and Rashad Ross expired their eligibility after the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Kevin Ozier, Richard Smith and Alonzo Agwuenu are the top three returning receivers but none had more than 21 receptions. Todd Graham and his staff dipped into the junior college ranks for two prospects – Joseph Morris and Jaelen Strong – while true freshman Ellis Jefferson is another name to watch. The Sun Devils have some options and talent at this position but developing a pecking order will be crucial this spring. 
 

Colorado

Finding answers on defense
There’s no sugarcoating it: Colorado’s defense was horrendous in 2012. The Buffaloes ranked 117th nationally in yards allowed and last (120th) in scoring defense. Colorado also allowed 226 rushing yards per game and generated just 1.6 sacks a game. Needless to say, those numbers won’t get it done if the Buffaloes want to win more than one game in 2013. New coordinator Kent Baer has a wealth of experience and did a good job rebuilding San Jose State’s defense during his tenure under Mike MacIntyre. The first order of business for Baer is to rebuild the front seven, which loses defensive lineman Will Pericak and linebackers Jon Major and Doug Rippy. The secondary has a few promising young players, but this unit also needs to show progress after allowing quarterbacks to throw for 39 touchdowns last season. In addition to finding the right personnel, Colorado has to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and force a few more turnovers.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Shane Dillon (FR) vs. Stevie Joe Dorman (FR) vs. Nick Hirschman (JR) vs. Sefo Liufau (FR) vs. Jordan Webb (SR) vs. Connor Wood (JR)
With a new coaching staff, expect a wide-open quarterback battle this spring. Liufau is a good fit for MacIntyre’s offense, but Webb, Wood and Hirschman have the edge in experience. Considering the uncertainty surrounding this position, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Colorado start more than one quarterback in 2013.
 

UCLA

Who replaces Johnathan Franklin?
With 12 starters returning from last season, the Bruins are in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 South for the third consecutive year. Brett Hundley is one of the conference’s best quarterbacks, but the offense needs to find him a go-to running back this spring. Johnathan Franklin expired his eligibility after a standout career at UCLA, which opens the door for Damien Thigpen, Malcolm Jones, Steven Manfro, Jordan James or redshirt freshman Paul Perkins to claim the No. 1 spot. Perkins has generated a lot of buzz this offseason, but Thigpen, James and Jones own an edge in experience. Thigpen is recovering from a late-season knee injury, so the battle for carries could be undecided into fall camp. Whether it’s a committee approach or someone emerges as a No. 1 option, UCLA needs to sort out its running back plans this spring. 
 

USC

Adjusting to Clancy Pendergast’s defense
Regardless of which quarterback starts for USC in 2013, contending for the South Division is likely to rest on improvement from the defense. This unit wasn’t awful statistically last season, as the Trojans finished 41st nationally in total defense and allowed 24.3 points a game. However, USC was torched by Oregon for 62 points, by UCLA for 38 and by Arizona for 39. Defending the spread was a huge problem under former coordinator Monte Kiffin. Pendergast’s defense at California wasn’t any better on the stat sheet in 2012, but he should have a better idea of how to matchup against some of the conference’s top offenses. The defensive line should be USC’s strength on defense, but the secondary needs a lot of attention with just one returning starter.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Max Browne (FR) vs. Cody Kessler (SO) vs. Max Wittek (SO)
With three touted players competing for time, USC’s quarterback battle is one of the top ones to watch this spring. Wittek finished the year as the starter but did not play well in the bowl game against Georgia Tech. Browne ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and will get a chance to win the job this spring. USC’s offense has the pieces to be explosive, but a clear No. 1 needs to emerge for this unit to thrive in 2013.

Related Content: 2013 USC Trojans Spring Preview


Utah

Rebuilding the defensive line
Just like Arizona and USC, the Utes have question marks to address on offense, but the defense is a bigger concern. Utah has to replace standout tackle Star Lotulelei, along with defensive end Joe Kruger and tackle Dave Kruger. With three key members of the line departing, the Utes needed to replenish this group through recruiting, so five new players will join the team this season. Junior college recruit Sese Ianu will be asked to play right away, while freshmen Myron Aiava, Filipo Mokofisi, Sam Tevi and Keio Vaenuku could push for time this preseason. However, the most pressing issue for coach Kyle Whittingham might be where to play Trevor Reilly. The honorable-mention All-Pac-12 selection could slide to defensive end after playing a hybrid end/linebacker role the last few seasons. Without Lotulelei in the middle of the line, Utah’s rush defense may take a step back this season. 
 

Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


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Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 06:25
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines
Body:

With two of its best teams ineligible for a bowl game, 2012 was mostly a year to forget for the Big Ten. Despite having nothing to play for, Ohio State ran the table and finished with a perfect 12-0 record. The Buckeyes were joined by Penn State in NCAA timeout, as the Nittany Lions finished with a solid 8-4 record in Bill O’Brien’s first season. With Ohio State and Penn State out of the picture, only six Big Ten teams qualified for the postseason and none finished inside of the top 15.

The Big Ten’s outlook in 2013 is a little brighter, as Ohio State is eligible to play for the national championship, and the Buckeyes are likely to be a top-five team in most preseason polls. The Nittany Lions are banned from postseason play once again, but the conference should be stronger, as Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Northwestern could all be ranked inside of preseason top-25 polls.

Only two Big Ten teams changed coaches from last season, with Gary Andersen replacing Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, and Darrell Hazell taking over for Danny Hope. Both coaches should be a good fit at their new school, with Hazell having the bigger rebuilding job in 2013.

While Andersen and Hazell have job security for now, Illinois’ Tim Beckman and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz are on the hot seat. Thanks to a big contract, Ferentz isn’t in any real danger of being fired, but the program seems to be trending in the wrong direction. Beckman had a disastrous first season in Champaign and won’t stick around for 2014 if he goes 2-10 once again. 

Big Ten Team Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

Leaders Divsion

Illinois Fighting Illini

Stabilizing the line of scrimmage
The defensive line has been a solid part of the Illini program in recent years, but it will need to replace some big names this spring, as Michael Buchanan, Glenn Foster and Akeem Spence have all moved on. The offensive line was largely ineffective a year ago, ranking 11th in the Big Ten in rushing (97th nationally) and dead last in sacks allowed (111th) on an offense that didn’t even average 17 points per game (119th). Needless to say, Tim Beckman needs young players and new faces to step up in the trenches this spring.

Quarterback Battle? Although Nathan Scheelhaase struggled last season, the Fighting Illini’s problems were more than the quarterback. An inconsistent rushing attack and poor offensive line play were largely to blame for Illinois’ lackluster performance. Assuming Scheelhaase stays healthy, he should be the Fighting Illini’s starting quarterback.
 

Indiana Hoosiers

Figure out a way to stop the run
Kevin Wilson proved in two seasons that he can construct a competitive offense, even without his starting quarterback. But without top defensive linemen Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle, Wilson is entering a key season along the defensive line. This unit allowed a Big Ten worst 231.3 rushing yards per game a year ago, which ranked 116th nationally. The Hoosiers also finished dead last in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense. Reinforcements could arrive in the form of junior college talent this spring, but this unit needs to make big strides if Indiana wants to continue its upward trend.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Cameron Coffman (JR) vs. Tre Roberson (SO) vs. Nate Sudfeld (SO)
Regardless of which quarterback wins the starting job, the Hoosiers should be explosive on offense. Roberson was the starter before suffering a season-ending leg injury, while Coffman and Sudfeld threw for 22 touchdowns in his absence. If healthy, Roberson is likely to open the year as the No. 1 passer.
 

Ohio State Buckeyes

Restocking the defensive line
This is starting to become a trend in the Leaders Division, but Urban Meyer must replace all four starters along his defensive line. Johnathan Hankins, Nathan Williams and John Simon set the entire tone on and off the field and replacing them won’t be easy. The good news is Meyer landed two elite defensive line classes in a row, including the best D-Line haul in the nation in 2012. Look for those big-time recruits — Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt, for example — to flourish this spring in Columbus. A truly elite defensive line might be the only thing that could keep Ohio State from the BCS title game next year.

Related Content: Ohio State Buckeyes 2013 Spring Preview
 

Penn State Nittany Lions

Leadership at linebacker
In 2012, this team went through a unique season in Happy Valley to say the least. But a big part of why it was so successful in the face of heavy-handed NCAA sanctions and an emotional scandal was the leadership of guys like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. Both are gone from a position Penn State has made famous for decades. Mike Hull will have to step into a leadership role and names like Ben Kline and Nyeem Wartman will battle for starting reps. If Bill O’Brien can stabilize this position, the rest of his defense should fall into place.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Steven Bench (SO) vs. Tyler Ferguson (SO) vs. Christian Hackenberg (FR)
After turning Matt McGloin into one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks last season, Bill O’Brien will have his hands full once again. Bench has the most experience of the quarterbacks on the roster, but Ferguson and Hackenberg will get a chance to push him in the preseason. Hackenberg is regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 signing class but won’t arrive until this fall.


Purdue Boilermakers

Establish an identity
This is a major year of turnover for Purdue, both on the sideline and on the field. A new coaching staff has taken over and will face a laundry list of position needs this spring, not the least of which is picking a quarterback. However, this spring should be about implementing the “process” and establishing a business culture. Darrell Hazell has four months to decide who should replace Kawaan Short, but setting the foundation and tone for the entire program has to happen this spring.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Austin Appleby (FR) vs. Danny Etling (FR) vs. Rob Henry (JR) vs. Bilal Marshall (FR)
Darrell Hazell’s first season at Purdue could be a rocky one if a quarterback doesn’t emerge this spring. Three freshmen are in the mix, while Rob Henry already has seven starts under his belt. 


Wisconsin Badgers

Transition to a new regime
The secondary has holes to fill, and the quarterback battle should be rather intriguing (although, Joel Stave should be the starter), but dealing with coaching turnover is an unusual issue in Madison. Wisconsin hadn’t held a legitimate coaching search since the 1980s, until searching for and finding Gary Andersen this winter. Now, in back-to-back seasons — Bret Bielema had to replace all but one assistant last year — UW players will be working with a totally different coaching staff. Much like Purdue, the new regime needs to put its process in place and establish an identity as soon as possible, and this spring will be Andersen’s first time on the field with his new roster.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Bart Houston (FR) vs. Tanner McEvoy (SO) vs. Danny O’Brien (SR) vs. Curt Phillips (SR) vs. Joel Stave (SO)
The Badgers have no shortage of options, as Phillips, Stave and O’Brien have all started in Madison. McEvoy is the most intriguing player to watch this preseason, as he is a good fit for coordinator Andy Ludwig’s offense. Although Phillips finished the season as the starter, Stave could unseat him as the No. 1 quarterback.

 

Legends Division

Iowa

Can the Hawkeyes find some weapons for the new quarterback?
Whether it’s Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol or C.J. Beathard taking snaps as the starting quarterback, the Hawkeyes have to find receivers capable of stretching the field. Only three Iowa players had over 20 catches last season and none averaged more than 12.1 yards per catch. Transitioning to Greg Davis’ offense and playcalling was certainly a challenge for quarterback James Vandenberg and the receiving corps, but another spring practice should help work out some of the kinks for 2013. Kevonte Martin-Manley is the top returning receiver, but the Hawkeyes need to figure out who can be the No. 2, No. 3 and even No. 4 option. Tevaun Smith, Jordan Cotton and Don Shumpert are the top statistical returning leaders, while junior college recruit Damond Powell should get into the mix this preseason. If the Hawkeyes can find a few more playmakers, it will help to reduce the pressure on whichever quarterback wins the job.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Jake Rudock (SO) vs. C.J. Beathard (FR) vs. Cody Sokol (JR)
With injuries taking a toll at running back, and the Hawkeyes trying to adjust to a new coordinator and scheme, James Vandenberg had a senior year to forget. Iowa’s quarterback situation is a virtual unknown heading into 2013, as Sokol redshirted last season and Rudock has yet to throw a pass in his career.
 

Michigan

How quickly can Michigan restock the defensive line?
Going into the 2012 season, the Wolverines had to find three new starters on the defensive line. And while this group wasn’t dominant last season, it’s also hard to call it a weakness. Michigan finished 51st nationally against the run and generated 1.7 sacks a game – both numbers coordinator Greg Mattison wants to improve upon in 2013. This unit suffered two key departures, as Craig Roh and Will Campbell expired their eligibility after the Outback Bowl. Juniors Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer lead the way at end, while Quinton Washington, Jibreel Black and potential breakout star Ondre Pipkins will be asked to man the middle. The cupboard isn’t bare for Mattison, but he needs to solidify replacements for Roh and Campbell, while developing a few more options for depth. Getting tougher against the run and generating more pressure on opposing quarterbacks are also spring priorities for this unit. 
 

Michigan State

Who will replace Le’Veon Bell?
Considering the Spartans averaged only 359.3 yards and 20 points a game last season, spring practice is all about finding a spark on offense. Each unit on the offense has question marks, but Michigan State has to find a new No. 1 running back to help its quarterback. Le’Veon Bell carried the offense last season, averaging 137.9 yards per game and scoring 12 rushing scores. With Bell leaving early for the NFL, the battle for the No. 1 spot in the backfield is wide open. Nick Hill is the team’s top returning rusher and has 163 yards on 51 attempts. Junior Jeremy Langford, redshirt freshman Nick Tompkins and incoming freshmen Gerald Holmes, R.J. Shelton and Delton Williams will all figure in the battle for carries in the preseason. Hill has the early edge due to his experience, but Tompkins was one of Michigan State’s top recruits last season and ranked as a top-15 all-purpose back by Rivals.com. Losing Bell is a huge blow for an offense that struggled mightily last season. Don’t expect one player to assume the workhorse role, but the Spartans have a couple of options to share the load.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Connor Cook (SO), Andre Maxwell (SR), Tyler O’Connor (FR), Damion Terry (FR)
Maxwell had a forgettable debut as Michigan State’s quarterback, completing only 52.5 percent of his throws and averaging just 200.5 yards per game. Cook sparked the offense in the bowl win over TCU, and the coaching staff will give O’Connor and Terry an extended look this preseason. Maxwell has an edge in experience, which should give him the upper hand. However, Cook proved in the bowl game he is capable of being Michigan State’s No. 1 quarterback.
 

Minnesota

Finding replacements in the secondary
The Golden Gophers quietly had one of the Big Ten’s top defensive backfields last season, finishing 12th nationally against the pass and fourth in the conference in pass efficiency defense. Replicating those numbers in 2013 will be difficult, especially with the departure of cornerbacks Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire. There’s plenty of candidates waiting to emerge, including seniors Martez Shabazz (two pass breakups in the Meineke Car Care Bowl) and Jeremy Baltazar (16 tackles last year). The safety position should be in good shape with the return of Derrick Wells and Brock Vereen. And it’s a good thing Wells and Vereen are back, as both players will need to be active in coverage with two new cornerbacks stepping into the starting lineup.

Quarterback Battle? Although the Minnesota coaching staff has promised Philip Nelson won’t be handed the starting job, the sophomore should be the No. 1 quarterback at the end of spring ball. Nelson completed 7 of 16 throws against Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl and should be able to build off that performance for 2013.
 

Nebraska

Bo Pelini’s rebuilding project on defense
The Cornhuskers aren’t starting from scratch on defense this spring, but this unit suffered some heavy losses. Gone are defensive linemen Eric Martin and Baker Steinkuhler, linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher, along with safeties P.J. Smith and Daimion Stafford. Kicker/punter Brett Maher was also a valuable weapon and will be missed. Each level of the defense has key players to replace, but addressing the defensive line should be considered priority No. 1 for Bo Pelini. Jason Ankrah is expected to start at one end spot, while junior college recruit Randy Gregory could nab the other side in the fall. Thad Randle recorded 21 stops last season and needs to anchor the middle with very little experience returning around him. Redshirt freshmen Avery Moss, Vincent Valentine and Greg McMullen should expect to see plenty of snaps this year.

Related Content: Nebraska Cornhuskers 2013 Spring Preview
 

Northwestern

Restocking the offensive line
The offensive line was an underrated part of the Wildcats’ success on offense last season, but three starters must be replaced. Tackle Patrick Ward and guards Brian Mulroe and Jack Deiters are huge losses for the Wildcats, with center Brandon Vitabile and right tackle Jack Konopka opening spring practice as the returning starters. Unfortunately for Northwestern, Konopka, guard Matt Frazier and tackle Paul Jorgensen are out for spring practice, which means this unit may be unsettled heading into the fall. With the loss of three starters and injuries preventing other players from participating this spring, keep an eye on redshirt freshmen Adam DePietro, Kenton Playko and Ian Park.

Related Content: Northwestern Wildcats 2013 Spring Preview


Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


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<p> Big Ten Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
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The start of spring practice for all 125 college football teams is a chance to start fresh and forget the bad results that came along with 2012. For a handful of coaches, spring practice is also the first opportunity to turn around a program and save their job for 2014.

While coaches at Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford and Texas A&M don’t have much to worry about in the way of job security, it’s different story for USC’s Lane Kiffin or Texas’ Mack Brown. USC and Texas are two of college football’s top-five jobs and neither program has met expectations in recent years. The Trojans were considered one of the top national contenders last season but finished with a 7-6 record. The Longhorns won nine games in 2012, but the jury is still out on whether or not Brown can get this team back in the national championship hunt.

Even though the 2013 season is still months away, it’s never too early to start thinking about which jobs might come open in December. Here’s a look at the top 20 coaches on the hot seat for 2013: 

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013: Spring Practice Edition

1. Lane Kiffin, USC
Record at USC: 25-13

USC’s 2012 season has to be one of the most disappointing years from a BCS team in recent memory. The Trojans had national title aspirations but were physically dominated by Stanford in Week 3 and finished the year with losses in five out of their final six games. USC is still dealing with scholarship limitations from NCAA sanctions, so Kiffin doesn’t have a full complement of players and had to scale back tackling in practice to prevent injuries. And after last year’s disappointing mark, Kiffin shuffled the coaching staff, with Clancy Pendergast coming over from California to coordinate the defense. Despite the scholarship limitations, the pressure is still high on Kiffin to produce. The Trojans have enough talent to push UCLA and Arizona State for the Pac-12 South title in 2013. However, another 7-6 record could spell the end of Kiffin’s tenure in Los Angeles.
 

2. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Record at UNLV: 6-32

Hauck was a successful FCS coach at Montana, recording an 80-17 mark in seven seasons. Unfortunately for UNLV, that success hasn’t followed him to Sin City. The Rebels have won just three games in each of Hauck’s three seasons and lost to a FCS team in both 2011 and '12. As a program, UNLV has struggled to maintain success, but the Rebels have made little progress over the last few years. Hauck hired two new coordinators for 2013 and 16 returning starters are back, so there’s plenty of pressure to make a run at a winning record this fall.
 

3. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Record at Connecticut: 10-14

Pasqualoni was a strange hire and has done little to suggest he’s a long-term answer in Storrs. The Huskies had winning records in each of Randy Edsall’s last four years at Connecticut but have slipped to back-to-back 5-7 records. Considering the talent Pasqualoni inherited on defense, this program should not have missed a bowl in both seasons. However, a bad offense has been the primary culprit for this team’s struggles, as the Huskies have ranked 108th or worse nationally in Pasqualoni’s two seasons in offensive yards per game. Connecticut also has had its share of bad losses recently, losing to Western Michigan in back-to-back seasons, along with an overtime defeat to a rebuilding Temple team in 2012.
 

4. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
Record at Eastern Michigan: 10-38

Coaching in Ypsilanti is one of the toughest jobs in college football. Eastern Michigan has just one winning season since 1990, and the program has won two or fewer games seven times during that span. English is a respected coach, but the Eagles haven’t made much progress under his watch. Eastern Michigan peaked with a 6-6 mark in 2011 but won a total of just four games in English’s three other years combined.
 

5. Mack Brown, Texas
Record at Texas: 150-43

Texas is arguably the No. 1 job in college football, so three consecutive seasons of less than 10 victories isn’t acceptable in Austin. Under Brown’s watch, the Longhorns had at least 10 wins in every season from 2001-09, which included two national championship appearances. The program seems to have slipped in recent years, and Texas A&M’s rise in the SEC certainly hasn’t helped Texas feel too good about its 22-16 mark the last three years. Brown has built some goodwill with his run in the early 2000s, but a losing season or 7-6 record this fall could force the Longhorns to make a change.
 

6. Mike London, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 16-21

Just one season ago, London was considered one of the rising stars in the ACC. The Cavaliers were coming off of an 8-5 season and made an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn. What a difference one year can make. Virginia was one of the ACC’s biggest disappointments last year, finishing 4-8 and just 2-6 in conference play. London revamped his coaching staff for 2013, which now includes veteran assistants in former NC State head coach Tom O’Brien and defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. The Cavaliers have a challenging schedule in 2013, which features non-conference games against BYU and Oregon, along with road trips to Miami, North Carolina and Pittsburgh in conference play. London isn’t necessarily facing a make-or-break season but another 4-8 record certainly wouldn’t sit well.
 

7. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 100-74

Thanks to his hefty contract, Ferentz isn’t in any real danger of getting fired. However, that doesn’t preclude him from a top-10 spot on the hot seat. Iowa has watched its win total decline in every season since 2009, and it missed out on a bowl appearance last season for the first time since 2007. Ferentz also made a strange decision to hire Greg Davis as his offensive coordinator, which ended up as a disaster on the final stat sheet (111th-ranked scoring offense). Iowa has surprised when under the radar in previous years, but the Hawkeyes have a lot of question marks entering 2013, so Ferentz won’t get any relief from the fan base if he has another losing record.
 

8. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 2-10

Disaster is really the only way to sum up Beckman’s debut at Illinois. After a successful stint at Toledo, Beckman appeared to be the right coach to elevate the program after Ron Zook’s tenure. Instead of moving forward, the Fighting Illini took a huge step back. Illinois’ only victories came against Western Michigan and Charleston Southern and seven of its losses were by 20 or more points. As if those numbers weren’t bad enough, the Fighting Illini failed to win a conference game for the first time since 2005, and the school had to report a secondary violation to the NCAA after Beckman was caught chewing tobacco on the sidelines during a game. Beckman hit the JUCO ranks to upgrade Illinois’ talent level, but the Fighting Illini could have trouble escaping the Big Ten cellar in 2013.  
 

9. Tony Levine, Houston
Record at Houston: 6-7

With no head coaching or coordinator experience on his resume, Levine was a strange hire for Houston. His career started off on a high note, as Houston blasted Penn State 30-14 in the TicketCity Bowl. But the Cougars opened 2013 with an 0-3 record, including a loss to FBS newcomer Texas State. Houston rebounded to finish with a 5-7 mark, but Levine’s first year fell short of expectations. The Cougars have moved from Conference USA to the Big East, so there’s an increase in competition. Combine the tougher schedule with a new on-campus stadium opening in 2014, and it’s easy to see why Levine needs to build some momentum and show the program is on track this fall.
 

10. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Record at Missouri: 90-61

Pinkel led Missouri to three seasons of 10 or more wins from 2007-10, so it may seem strange to even place his name on the hot seat. However, with Missouri’s move to the SEC, the pressure on Pinkel is even greater than it was before. The Tigers have gone from a top-five program in the Big 12 to fighting with Vanderbilt and Tennessee for fourth place in the SEC East. Considering the Tigers had injuries to quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey last season, it’s unfair to judge Pinkel and his staff based upon one year in college football’s No. 1 conference. However, if Missouri fails to get into a bowl game in 2013, a coaching change wouldn’t come as a complete shock. The Tigers simply can’t afford to fall too far behind in the SEC.
 

11. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Record at Buffalo: 9-27

Has Buffalo turned a corner under Quinn? The Bulls have increased their win total by one game in each of the last three years and finished 2012 by winning three out of their final four games. Buffalo also had a good showing in the loss to Georgia in the season opener, while it lost to Connecticut by just a touchdown and Pittsburgh by 13 points. With 15 returning starters and some momentum from the 2012 finish, the Bulls are poised to make a run at a winning record. If Quinn can get Buffalo to 4-8 or 5-7, he should be safe for another year.
 

12. Doc Holliday, Marshall
Record at Marshall: 17-20

After recording 11 seasons of 10 or more wins from 1991-2002, Marshall has not won more than eight games since 2003. The Thundering Herd has struggled to become a consistent contender in Conference USA, although there were signs of promise after Holliday led the program to a 7-6 mark in 2011. However, outside of 2011, Marshall has two 5-7 seasons under Holliday’s watch, and the Thundering Herd fielded a defense that allowed 43.1 points a game last year. Holliday has upgraded Marshall’s talent level but needs to produce on the field. With 15 starters back – including first-team All-C-USA quarterback Rakeem Cato – the Thundering Herd should be one of the top contenders this year in the revamped 14-team Conference USA.
 

13. Rich Ellerson, Army
Record at Army: 17-31

Ellerson seemed like the perfect fit at Army when he was hired prior to the 2009 season, and the Black Knights went 12-13 in his first two years. However, Army is just 5-18 over the last two seasons, and the program does not have a win over Navy since 2001. It’s hard to place the blame squarely on Ellerson’s shoulders, especially when Army has only four winning records since 1990. The 2013 schedule isn’t easy, but the Black Knights should be able to push for four victories, which is probably enough for Ellerson to stick around for another season.
 

14. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Record at Central Michigan: 13-24

The good: Central Michigan returned to the postseason after a two-year absence, beating Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The bad: While the victory at Iowa was impressive, the Chippewas' other regular-season wins came at the expense of Akron, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and UMass – teams that went a combined 8-40 in 2012. Enos was rewarded with a contract extension, but the schedule is more challenging in 2013, and he needs to prove he can lead Central Michigan to wins against some of the top teams in the MAC on a consistent basis.
 

15. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Record at Kansas:
1-11

Weis didn’t inherit a great situation at Kansas, so he deserves some time to turn things around in Lawrence. However, he wasn’t the most popular hire and had a mediocre 35-27 mark during five seasons at Notre Dame. Weis hit the JUCO ranks hard this offseason and landed a couple of key transfers, including former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, which should provide Kansas some hope for a quick turnaround. The Jayhawks haven’t won a Big 12 game in two years, so winning one conference matchup would help bolster Weis’ rebuilding project.
 

16. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
Record at Wyoming:
22-27

The Cowboys have alternated winning and losing seasons during Christensen’s first four years, so if that trend holds true, Wyoming should be in line for a bowl game in 2013. While Christensen has two winning records and a 1-1 record in bowls at Wyoming, the Cowboys slipped to 4-8 last season and he was suspended for one game after an embarrassing postgame confrontation with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. Christensen is a good coach and has the pieces in place to have a winning record in 2013. However, another losing season, especially after how 2012 transpired, could mark the end of his tenure in Laramie.
 

17. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Record at Washington: 26-25

Sarkisian arrived at Washington with a lot of promise, but the Huskies opened his tenure with a 5-7 record and have recorded three consecutive 7-6 seasons. There’s no question Sarkisian and his staff has done a good job at elevating the talent level, but the Huskies need to turn the success on the recruiting trail into wins. With a schedule that features games against Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State in 2013, winning more than eight games will be a challenge for Washington.
 

18. Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio)
Record at Miami (Ohio): 8-16

As a former Miami player and assistant coach, Treadwell certainly knows what it takes to win in Oxford. Despite his background and experience with the school, the RedHawks are just 8-16 in Treadwell’s two seasons. Miami was 4-4 heading into the final month of last season, but closed with a four-game losing streak. The RedHawks’ cupboard isn’t bare for 2013, but quarterback Zac Dysert must be replaced. Even if Treadwell goes 4-8 again, he will probably return for 2014. However, with Marshall, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Illinois to open the 2013 season, Treadwell could start 0-4, which obviously won’t sit well in Oxford.
 

19. Norm Chow, Hawaii
Record at Hawaii: 3-9

Chow is just coming off of his first season at Hawaii and isn’t really in danger of losing his job this fall. While job security isn’t something Chow has to worry much about, he does need to show Hawaii is moving in the right direction. The Warriors lost by 30 or more points six times last season and scored victories over Lamar (FCS) and UNLV and South Alabama – who went a combined 4-22.
 

20. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Record at Maryland: 6-18

After a disastrous debut, Edsall seems to have Maryland moving in the right direction. Despite a rash of quarterback injuries, the Terrapins went 4-8 last season, which doubled their win total from 2011. Edsall still has a lot of work to do, as Maryland needs to rebuild its defense in 2013, along with finding a No. 1 running back. Making a bowl game is a realistic expectation for Edsall and the Terrapins this fall.


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ACC 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines

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<p> College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013: Spring Practice Edition</p>
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Thanks to seven consecutive national championships, the rest of college football is looking up at the SEC. And while there are some worthy challengers ready to make a push in 2013, there appears to be no end in sight to the SEC’s recent string of dominance.

Alabama defeated Notre Dame in January to earn its second consecutive national championship, and Nick Saban’s team is the overwhelming favorite for 2013. The Crimson Tide has a few holes to fill, but quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper are good enough to makeup for the losses on the offensive line and on defense. Chasing Alabama in the SEC West is Texas A&M. The Aggies return defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but the defense and offensive line need some work this spring. Texas A&M hosts Alabama in September, which could go a long ways to deciding the SEC West champion. Outside of the Aggies and Crimson Tide, LSU has to reload with the departure of 12 starters, while Ole Miss is counting on a top-five recruiting class to contend for a top-25 spot in 2013.

While the SEC West is set with Alabama at No. 1, the East is up for grabs. Georgia, South Carolina and Florida each have a case to make to be the top team. The Bulldogs are Athlon’s very early pick to win the East, but the Gamecocks could take the top spot if they can find a few playmakers around quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson.

New coaches will be under pressure at Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky. Butch Jones was hired away from Cincinnati to replace Derek Dooley on Rocky Top, and Jones will have his hands full this spring, especially since the Volunteers lost quarterback Tyler Bray and two receivers to the NFL Draft. Auburn (Gus Malzahn) and Arkansas (Bret Bielema) both hope to rebound after disappointing 2012 seasons, and both teams have enough returning talent to get back to a bowl game under their new coach. Mark Stoops has the biggest rebuilding project at Kentucky, but the first-year coach is already off to a good start thanks to a solid recruiting class.

SEC Spring Team Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch 

SEC East

Florida

Who will be the Gators’ next star?
Florida has a dearth of star power on both sides of the ball. That’s not a huge shock for an offensive group that sputtered throughout the season, but the Gators are reloading a bit on defense. Safety Matt Elam, defensive lineman Shariff Floyd and linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are all gone. Defensive end Dominique Easley and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy could become the backbone of the defense, but offense may be more difficult. The Gators leaned heavily on Mike Gillislee last season, but he’s gone along with tight end Jordan Reed. Florida has been without a 50-catch receiver for three seasons and without a true superstar at the position since Percy Harvin left.
 

Georgia

Todd Grantham's rebuilding project on defense
Georgia lost its two best linebackers, its four best defensive backs, 700 pounds of defensive tackle and a host of other contributors on the defense. There is tremendous depth and talent waiting in the wings, especially in the way of upside players like end Ray Drew, linebacker Jordan Jenkins, cornerback Damian Swann and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. The talented youngsters will have to take the next step in their development this spring. The Bulldogs are never hurting for talent, but Grantham will have his hands full replacing nearly his entire defense in 2013.

Related Content: 2013 Georgia Bulldogs Spring Preview


Kentucky

Find playmakers on offense
Kentucky wasn’t good at much of anything last season, but the Wildcats’ inability to move the ball was glaring. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who brings a pass-oriented spread offense from Texas Tech, will need to locate receivers in a hurry, but the numbers may not be on his side until the fall. La’Rod King was the only receiver to top 30 catches and 300 yards (he had 48 and 488), and he’s gone. Only four wide receivers who caught a pass last season return, and the leader of that group, Demarco Robinson, caught a total of three passes in the last three games. Four freshman receivers will arrive in the fall hungry for playing time, so the veterans will have one more chance to make a statement.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Maxwell Smith (JR) vs. Patrick Towles (SO) vs. Jalen Whitlow (SO)
The Wildcats have three potential starting options, but Smith or Towles will likely edge Whitlow for the starting gig. Smith and Towles are better fits for Kentucky’s new offense, with Smith owning an edge in experience.
 

Missouri

Rebuild the front seven
Keeping quarterback James Franklin healthy all season will be a major focus for Missouri, but Gary Pinkel also has reason to be concerned about his defense. In the final six games Missouri surrendered 500 yards four times, although one game was a quadruple overtime loss to Tennessee. And that was with NFL Draft hopefuls Sheldon Richardson, a possible first-rounder, and Zaviar Gooden. Missouri may be about to learn how difficult it is to win in the SEC with a lackluster front seven.

Quarterback Battle? James Franklin didn’t have the best of seasons in 2012, so the pressure is on the senior to play better this spring. The coaching staff wants to get a good look at redshirt freshman Maty Mauk and sophomore Corbin Berkstresser, but Franklin should be Missouri’s starting quarterback.
 

South Carolina

Developing playmakers on offense
The line of scrimmage is stacked on both sides of the ball, and Steve Spurrier has two talented options returning at quarterback. But he needs to see playmakers develop this spring on offense. The top two rushers from a year ago are gone (Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles), while dynamic receiver Ace Sanders unexpectedly left early for the NFL. Sophomore Mike Davis heads a trio of unproven backs, with Brandon Wilds and Kendric Salley all vying for carries in the backfield. Speedy wideouts Damiere Byrd and Bruce Ellington are both back but neither is a go-to target on the outside. Look for Nick Jones and Shaq Roland to get plenty of reps this spring.

Quarterback Battle? Stop us if you have heard this before: South Carolina has a quarterback controversy. Well, sort of. Steve Spurrier plans to use Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson this season, so it’s more of a two-quarterback system.

Related Content: 2013 South Carolina Gamecocks Spring Preview
 

Tennessee

Can the new coaching staff build a dependable secondary?
Few teams have as many question marks on the sidelines and under center, but Tennessee’s spring concerns don’t end there. This defense was historically bad a year ago and it will be featuring a new scheme for the third time in as many years. That said, there is some talent to work with at linebacker and on the defensive line. Needless to say, the secondary could be the key to the defense. This team was 111th nationally in passing defense a year ago after allowing over 282 yards per game through the air. It allowed at least 37 points in seven of eight SEC games and close losses to Mizzou, South Carolina and Mississippi State, for example, happened because the secondary couldn’t stop opposing quarterbacks.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Joshua Dobbs (FR) vs. Riley Ferguson (FR) vs. Nathan Peterman (FR) vs. Justin Worley (JR)
Not only is Tennessee losing quarterback Tyler Bray, but the Volunteers must also replace their top two wide receivers from last season and tight end Mychal Rivera. Worley has the edge in experience and threw for 291 yards in a start against MTSU in 2011. Dobbs is the wildcard to watch this fall, as he is the best fit for Tennessee’s new offense.
 

Vanderbilt

How do the Commodores handle the pressure?
The media coverage on West End is at an all-time high. And that is just the way James Franklin and company want it at Vanderbilt. With a deep backfield set to take over for Zac Stacy, a dynamic duo at wide receiver and both lines of scrimmage improving every day, the Dores will have sky-high expectations for 2013. Franklin has built a cult following in Nashville by constructing a brand and marketing it to anyone who will listen. Now, the nation is listening and he has to keep a traditional bottom feeder achieving at unprecedented levels by keeping his team focused and grounded.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Austyn Carta-Samuels (RS) vs. Johnny McCrary (FR) vs. Patton Robinette (FR)
Carta-Samuels was a starter for two years at Wyoming and made one start for the Commodores in 2012. Robinette was Tennessee’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a high school senior and impressed during his redshirt year. McCrary is the wildcard, as he has the potential to win the job as a true freshman.


SEC West

Alabama

Who steps up on the offensive line?
With 14 starters back from last season’s team, Alabama is widely considered the No. 1 team for 2013. The only thing that could derail the Crimson Tide from the top spot? The offensive line. Three first-team All-SEC starters (Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack) are gone from last season’s line. Alabama has recruited as well as anyone in the country, so there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings. However, with a new coach (Mario Cristobal), it will take some time for this unit to jell. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio should be in the mix for All-American honors in 2013, while Anthony Steen returns after starting all 14 games in 2012. With Jones leaving, look for promising sophomore Ryan Kelly to fill the void at center. Junior college recruit Leon Brown and early enrollee Brandon Hill will also figure into the mix, but Alphonse Taylor, Austin Shepherd, Chad Lindsay and Arie Kouandjio have an early edge thanks to their experience last season. This unit should be fine in the long run, but Alabama will have some kinks to work out early in the year.
 

Arkansas

Is Jonathan Williams the answer at running back?
The Razorbacks were the SEC’s worst rushing attack last season, averaging just 118.7 yards per game. And the cupboard is looking a little bare for spring practice, as Knile Davis left for the NFL and Dennis Johnson finished his eligibility. Jonathan Williams is expected to work as the No. 1 back this spring and is still largely an unknown after recording 45 carries last year. The sophomore did show promise in limited work but needs to have a strong showing this spring, especially with touted freshman Alex Collins arriving this summer. With a new quarterback taking over, along with Bret Bielema’s run-first mentality, the spotlight is on Williams to show he can be a No. 1 back. 
 

Auburn

Can the defense make significant progress?
With Gus Malzahn coming to back to Auburn, the Tigers should be able to find a spark on offense. And while there are concerns on that side of the ball, Auburn’s quest to get to a winning record will likely depend heavily on its defense. Despite having three top-15 recruiting classes from 2010-12, the Tigers finished 13th in the SEC in total defense and allowed 28.3 points a game. Considering nine starters were back from 2011, those numbers are simply unacceptable. New coordinator Ellis Johnson is well-versed in the SEC and was one of the league’s top assistants at South Carolina. His first priority is to find a replacement for defensive end Corey Lemonier, but the linebacking corps and secondary also need significant attention. Expect Auburn’s defense to be a work in progress early in the year, and Johnson could move a few players to different positions to get the best 11 on the field.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Kiehl Frazier (JR) vs. Jeremy Johnson (FR) vs. Nick Marshall (JR) vs. Jason Smith (FR) vs. Jonathan Wallace (SO)
Under Gus Malzahn’s watch this year, expect Auburn to have one of the SEC’s most-improved offenses. Frazier was recruited to run Malzahn’s system, so he should have an edge on the other candidates. Marshall is the most intriguing option, as he started his career at Georgia as a defensive back and played at a junior college for one season at quarterback.
 

LSU

How quickly can John Chavis restock the defense?
It seems like a broken record every season, but LSU usually has one of the best front sevens in the SEC. However, with the loss of defensive linemen Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Bennie Logan, Josh Downs and Lavar Edwards, the Tigers are essentially replacing an entire two-deep up front. The story isn’t much better at linebacker, as Kevin Minter left early for the NFL. The secondary also lost cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid to the NFL, which means only three starters on defense return next season for Chavis. Although LSU has recruited well, it’s going to take some time to get the eight new starters all on the same page. The line has promising players like Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson ready to emerge, but there’s no clear pass-rush threat to scare opposing offensive lines. The Tigers will eventually find the right answers on defense but how far they come this spring could determine whether or not LSU can push Texas A&M or Alabama in the SEC West.
 

Mississippi State

Which receivers are ready to step up?
If Mississippi State wants to make a push for a finish in the top four of the SEC West, it has to get quarterback Tyler Russell back on track. The junior finished the year with 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns but threw six interceptions over his final two games. In order to get Russell back on track, Mississippi State needs to find more weapons at receiver. Gone are receivers Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Arceto Clark and tight end Marcus Green, leaving Robert Johnson (17 receptions) and tight end Malcolm Johnson (10 receptions) as the top two targets in spring ball. Sophomore Joe Morrow is a promising player but caught only five balls last year. Incoming junior college recruit Jeremey Chappelle and true freshmen Shelby Christy, Donald Gray, B.J. Hammond, Fred Ross and De’Runnya Wilson could all figure into the mix. Developing a pecking order and getting Russell comfortable with the new receivers is one of Dan Mullen’s top spring priorities.
 

Ole Miss

The development of quarterback Barry Brunetti
With Bo Wallace undergoing shoulder surgery, Ole Miss can’t take for granted he will return at full strength. As evidenced by James Franklin’s 2012 season at Missouri, quarterbacks can take a while to get back to 100 percent after shoulder surgery, so it’s important for the Rebels to get Brunetti comfortable in case he has to start. Wallace is a better passer than Brunetti, but the Memphis native brings a little more mobility to the offense. In addition to Brunetti, the Rebels need to get an extended look at sophomore Maikhail Miller before true freshman Devante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan arrive on campus this summer. While Wallace’s absence in spring practice is a huge loss, this allows Brunetti and Miller to get ready just in case they are needed for an extended stint during the year.


Texas A&M

Can the defense make progress in 2013?
Texas A&M’s defense certainly wasn’t awful last year, but the Aggies have plenty of room to grow. Mark Snyder’s defense ranked ninth in the conference in yards allowed but held opponents to 21.8 points a game. Replicating or improving those numbers in 2013 will be a challenge, especially with the departure of end Damonte Moore and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart. Cornerback Dustin Harris and safety Steven Terrell will also be missed. The Aggies are bringing in an outstanding recruiting class, so some of the youth could be asked to contribute right away. Replacing Moore’s playmaking ability off the edge will be crucial, especially since the Aggies ranked 86th nationally against the pass last season. With a high-powered offense leading the way for Texas A&M, the defense won’t be asked to be a shutdown group. However, the Aggies will need this unit to deliver stops, especially in a key early-season showdown against Alabama.

Related Content: Texas A&M 2013 Spring Preview


Writeups compiled by David Fox (@DavidFox615), Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 06:20

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