Articles By Steven Lassan

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USC is limited on scholarships due to NCAA sanctions, but coach Lane Kiffin didn’t take any shortcuts on his receiving corps. The Trojans have the nation’s No. 1 receiver in junior Marqise Lee, while sophomore Nelson Agholor is due for a breakout year. But Alabama isn't too far behind USC, especially with the emergence of Amari Cooper last season.

Ranking the receiving corps in college football is no easy task. Having a clear No. 1 certainly helps to rank high on this list, but overall depth could be more important.

How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2013 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, having a different quarterback or a change of scheme can make a huge difference.

They’re the teams within the team — those cohesive little units bound together by their shared responsibilities within the larger team context. 

Whether it’s the offensive linemen firing off time after time into those familiar blocking sleds, or the defensive linemen drilling repeatedly on how to shed blockers, or the defensive backs breaking on ball after ball — these teams in miniature hone their tasks on the practice field until those tasks become second nature. 
 
Whether or not these units function as one can make the difference between winning and losing, and a single unit can carry a team to New Year’s Day — or beyond.
 
It’s entirely fitting, then, for us to honor the best of the best at each position with our 13th annual Athlon Awards. 

Ranking the Top 25 Wide Receiver/Tight End Units for 2013

1. USC
Whether it’s Max Wittek or Cody Kessler, USC’s new starting quarterback has plenty of weapons. Junior Marqise Lee ranked second nationally in receptions per game (9.1) and receiving yards per game (132.4) last season, winning the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver. Sophomore Nelson Agholor averaged 17.9 yards per catch in 2012 and is due for a breakout year. Victor Blackwell and Darreus Rogers were touted recruits and are ready to step into prominent roles. Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer could form the nation’s top tight end duo.


2. Alabama 
The Crimson Tide receivers may not have huge stats, but it’s hard to find a group that’s deeper than the one in Tuscaloosa. Amari Cooper is the top target for AJ McCarron after catching 59 passes as a true freshman. Kevin Norwood (29 catches in 2012), Christion Jones and Kenny Bell are back as key contributors. But the name to watch this fall is redshirt freshman Chris Black, who missed 2012 due to a shoulder injury. Freshman O.J. Howard could be Alabama’s answer at tight end.

3. Georgia 
With Malcolm Mitchell moving back to receiver on a full-time basis, along with the return of Michael Bennett from a knee injury, quarterback Aaron Murray will have one of the nation’s top receiving corps at his disposal. Chris Conley averaged 17.1 yards per catch last year, and his big-play ability will help ease the loss of Tavarres King. Tight end Arthur Lynch is a rising star after grabbing 24 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. Jay Rome caught 11 passes as a true freshman and should secure the No. 2 tight end spot.

4. Oklahoma State 
The emergence of Josh Stewart, along with a healthy Tracy Moore (45 receptions in 2011) should propel Oklahoma State’s receiving corps into a spot among the top five nationally. Stewart averaged only 12 yards per catch but had 101 receptions last year. Charlie Moore is back after averaging 15.5 yards per reception in 2012, and hybrid receiver/tight end Blake Jackson could be featured more after catching 30 passes last year. Touted true freshmen Marcell Ateman and Ra’Shaad Samples add to Oklahoma State’s depth in the receiving corps.

5. Florida State 
The Seminoles have three receivers with at least 25 receptions or more returning in 2013, and tight end Nick O’Leary is back after a solid sophomore campaign (21 receptions). Rashad Greene was the go-to target for Florida State last year, catching 57 passes for 741 yards. Kelvin Benjamin caught 30 passes as a redshirt freshman, and at 6'5", has the potential to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Freshmen Levonte Whitfield, Isaiah Jones and Bobo Wilson won’t start but are too talented to redshirt this year.

6. Clemson
The Tigers will miss DeAndre Hopkins, but there’s not much reason to panic at Clemson. Sammy Watkins had a disappointing year after a standout freshman season, but all signs point to a bounce-back campaign in 2013. Watkins should be the ACC’s top wide receiver and a candidate to earn All-American honors. Replacing Hopkins’ production will likely fall on the shoulders of Charone Peake and Adam Humphries. Peake has shown flashes of promise, while Humphries has 56 receptions in his first two years on campus. Freshmen Germone Hopper and Mike Williams, along with junior Martavis Bryant will be expected to contribute as well. Tight end is a concern, as Sam Cooper suffered a torn ACL in the spring game.


7. Louisville
Helping quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s Heisman campaign is the American Athletic Conference’s best receiving corps. DeVante Parker averaged 18.6 yards per catch last season and has 16 touchdown catches over the last two years. Senior Damian Copeland led the Cardinals with 50 receptions in 2012, while Eli Rogers returns after grabbing 46 catches. This group will be even deeper in 2013, as Louisville is gaining the services of a couple of transfers – tight end Gerald Christian and receiver Robert Clark. Freshman James Quick is expected to play some snaps at receiver and will help on returns.

8. Oklahoma
The Sooners won’t throw as much as they have in recent years due to the departure of quarterback Landry Jones, but there’s plenty of capable targets for new passer Blake Bell. Kenny Stills and Justin Brown are gone after leading Oklahoma in receptions last year. However, Jalen Saunders caught 26 passes over the final three games and is set to emerge as the No. 1 option. Sophomores Trey Metoyer and Sterling Shepard are due for breakout years, while Derrick Woods, Durron Neal and Jaz Reynolds round out the depth chart.


9. Fresno State
The Bulldogs averaged 325.6 passing yards per game last year and could be even tougher to stop in 2013. Davante Adams had a monster freshman season in 2012, recording 102 receptions for 1,312 yards and 14 scores. He is an Athlon Sports third-team All-American for 2013. Adams is joined by senior Isaiah Burse (57 catches), converted quarterback Greg Watson (nine receptions) and dependable tight end Marcel Jensen (20 catches). Josh Harper missed most of last season due to an injury and but is due for a huge season with quarterback Derek Carr leading the way.

10. Washington
Can the Huskies’ offense get back on track this year? Even though Washington has offensive line question marks, quarterback Keith Price returns, and the Huskies have a deep group of receivers. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the nation’s top tight end, but he may miss some time early in the season due to a fractured pinkie. Kasen Williams is the team’s top receiver after catching 77 passes for 878 yards and six scores last year. Sophomore Jaydon Mickens, junior DiAndre Campbell and incoming freshmen Damore’ea Stringfellow and John Ross will round out the receiving corps.


11. Texas
With eight returning starters, the Longhorns are expected to show progress on offense this year. Of course, that all depends on how quarterback David Ash develops this offseason. Senior Mike Davis and junior Jaxon Shipley headline the receiving corps, with both players expected to be in the mix for all-conference honors. Sophomores Kendall Sanders and Daje Johnson are suited for the No. 3 and No. 4 roles, with M.J. McFarland expected to start at tight end.

12. BYU
After finishing 64th nationally in scoring offense last season, coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to overhaul his offensive staff, with Robert Anae returning to Provo to call the plays. Sophomore Taysom Hill is a promising quarterback, and he will be throwing to a deep group of receivers in 2013. Senior Cody Hoffman is in the mix for All-American honors after catching 100 passes for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Junior Ross Apo and seniors Skyler Ridley and JD Falslev will round out the key contributors at receiver. Tight end Kaneakua Friel was a steady option last year, catching 30 passes for 308 yards and five touchdowns.


13. Miami
Thanks to the emergence of quarterback Stephen Morris and a solid offensive line, the Hurricanes averaged 35.4 points a game in ACC play last season. Miami should be strong on offense once again in 2013, as eight starters are back and the receiving corps is stocked with weapons for Morris. Junior Phillip Dorsett should be the No. 1 target after catching 58 passes last year. Senior Allen Hurns and junior Rashawn Scott combined for 63 receptions in 2012, while sophomore Herb Waters averaged 22.7 yards per catch last year. True freshman Stacy Coley will also factor into the rotation. Tight end should be set with Clive Walford and Beau Sandland battling for time.

14. Vanderbilt
The Commodores aren’t particularly flush with depth at receiver, but it’s hard to find a better one-two combination in the SEC. Jordan Matthews turned down a chance to enter the NFL for one more year at Vanderbilt. The senior enters 2013 with 150 career receptions, 2,282 yards and 17 touchdowns. Matthews led all SEC receivers with 94 catches in 2012. Chris Boyd is back after catching 50 passes for 774 yards and five scores last year. And Jonathan Krause is slated to fill the No. 3 role after recording nine receptions in 2012. Freshmen Jordan Cunningham and Carlos Burse will provide depth. The Commodores have question marks at tight end.


15. Oregon
The Ducks have an underrated group of receivers, and with running back Kenjon Barner out of eligibility, new coach Mark Helfrich is expected to lean more on the pass in 2013. Josh Huff caught 32 passes for 493 yards and seven scores last season and is expected to remain the go-to target for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Tight end Colt Lyerla is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, while junior Keanon Lowe, senior Daryle Hawkins and sophomore B.J. Kelley provide depth. Sophomore Bralon Addison is due for a breakout year.

16. LSU
With quarterback Zach Mettenberger under center, and Cam Cameron calling the plays, LSU coach Les Miles expects improvement from his offense. There's no shortage of skill players, as the Tigers return four receivers with at least 18 catches last year. Jarvis Landry led the team with 56 receptions in 2012, but Odell Beckham was the unit’s top playmaker, averaging 16.6 yards per catch. Seniors Kadron Boone and James Wright combined for 44 catches in 2012 and will anchor the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the receiving corps. However, redshirt freshman Travin Dural and junior college recruit Quantavius Leslie will push for snaps. LSU could feature the tight end more under Cameron, and junior college recruit Logan Stokes could step into the starting role over sophomore Dillon Gordon.


17. Ole Miss
Feed Moncrief became the mantra for the Ole Miss offense last season, which showed marked improvement from the 2011 squad. Sophomore Donte Moncrief emerged as one of the SEC’s top receivers last year, nabbing 66 receptions for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns. Junior Vince Sanders and senior Ja-Mes Logan combined for 82 receptions last season and will flank Moncrief as the No. 2 and No. 3 options. Sanders will be slowed early in the year due to a collarbone injury suffered in fall practice. The receiving corps got deeper over the offseason, as freshman Laquon Treadwell could earn some playing time this fall too. Treadwell ranked as the No. 1 receiver in the nation by Rivals.com in the 2013 signing class.

18. Texas Tech
Darrin Moore is gone, but the Red Raiders return Eric Ward (82 receptions in 2012) and tight end Jace Amaro (25 catches in seven games). Ward could be even more dangerous under the watchful eye of coach Kliff Kingsbury, while Amaro is clearly the league’s best tight end. Sophomore Jakeem Grant is only 5-foot-6, but the sophomore has outstanding speed. Junior Bradley Marquez is back after missing most of last season with an injury.


19. Indiana
After leading the Big Ten in passing offense in 2012, the pieces are in place for the Hoosiers to be even better in 2013. Quarterback Tre Roberson is back from injury, and the receiving corps returns two potential All-Big Ten selections in Shane Wynn and Cody Latimer. Latimer averaged 15.8 yards per reception last year, and Wynn led the team with 68 catches. Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson are also back after each caught more than 20 passes in 2012. Tight end Ted Bolser is an Athlon Sports third-team All-Big Ten selection for 2013.

20. Nebraska
The Cornhuskers return their top three wide receivers from last year, including second-team All-Big Ten selection Kenny Bell. He caught 50 passes for 863 yards and eight scores, while averaging 17.3 yards per reception. Quincy Enunwa is a physical 6-foot-2 option for quarterback Taylor Martinez, and junior Jamal Turner is always a threat to score with the ball in his hands. There’s not much in the way of proven depth at receiver behind Bell, Enunwa and Turner, so there’s a lot of pressure on freshmen Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore to step up this fall. The Cornhuskers are starting over at tight end with the departure of Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton.


21. Texas A&M
Mike Evans headlines Texas A&M’s receiving corps after grabbing 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five scores in 2012. Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu are gone, but juniors LeKendrick Williams and Malcome Kennedy, along with senior Derel Walker are experienced and capable targets. Talented freshmen Ricky Seals-Jones, Sebastian Larue and LaQuvionte Gonzalez will factor into the rotation early in the year and could push for a starting job by September.

22. Baylor
Terrance Williams is gone, but Baylor still has plenty of weapons for new quarterback Bryce Petty. Speedster Tevin Reese is the team’s top returning receiver (53 receptions) and averaged 18.1 yards per catch last season. Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood are proven options, and youngsters Jay Lee, Robbie Rhodes and Corey Coleman will be a factor. Tight end Jordan Najvar is a steady option over the middle for Petty.


23. TCU
With Casey Pachall back at quarterback, TCU should be able to stretch the field more in 2013. Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson are gone at receiver, but Brandon Carter is a potential All-Big 12 player after averaging 16.4 yards per reception on 36 catches last season. LaDarius Brown and Cam White combined for 48 receptions and return for an even bigger role in the offense 2013. Transfers Ja’Juan Story (Florida) and Josh Doctson (Wyoming) are names to watch this year.

 

24. Ohio State
The Buckeyes need a few more playmakers to emerge, but the receiving corps has made considerable progress over the last two years. Senior Corey Brown led the team with 60 catches for 669 yards and three scores last year. Junior Devin Smith was the unit’s top playmaker, averaging 20.6 yards per catch and turning six of his 30 receptions into scores. Junior Evan Spencer and sophomore Michael Thomas began fall practice with an edge for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the receiving corps, but freshmen Dontre Wilson - a potentially dangerous all-purpose threat - and Jalin Marshall will push for time. Jordan Hall played in only seven contests last year due to injury, but he is expected to play in a similar role to that of Percy Harvin under Urban Meyer at Florida and could see time at running back with Carlos Hyde suspended for the first three games.


25. Penn State
The Nittany Lions were thin on proven receivers going into last year, but this unit emerged as a strength under the watchful eye of head coach Bill O’Brien and receivers coach Stan Hixon. Allen Robinson was the only Big Ten receiver to record over 1,000 receiving yards, and he led the conference with 77 receptions through 12 games. Senior Brandon Moseby-Felder, junior Alex Kenney and redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis are expected to flank Robinson as key targets at receiver for Penn State’s quarterback. The Nittany Lions have a deep group of tight ends at their disposal, including returning first-team All-Big Ten selection Kyle Carter, along with true freshman Adam Breneman — the No. 44 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100. Carter is the headliner, but sophomore Jesse James (15 receptions) and senior Matt Lehman (24 catches) shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/texas-football-game-game-predictions-2013
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Texas is one of college football’s most intriguing teams to watch in 2013. The Longhorns have not won double-digit games since 2009, and there’s no question the program has slipped over the last few years.

However, with a wide-open Big 12 title picture, Texas could rebound with a conference title in 2013. The Longhorns have the Big 12’s most-talented roster and return 17 starters.

Quarterback David Ash still has a lot to prove, but coordinator Major Applewhite has one of the nation’s deepest backfields at his disposal, along with two standout receivers in Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis.

The biggest question mark for Texas is a defense that allowed 404.2 yards per game last season and ranked eighth in the Big 12 against the run. The return of end Jackson Jeffcoat and linebacker Jordan Hicks should help the Longhorns show some improvement on that side of the ball. However, safety Kenny Vaccaro and end Alex Okafor will be missed.

What will Texas' record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Texas' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
David
Fox
Mark
Ross
Dave
Bartoo
8/31 New Mexico State
9/7 at BYU
9/14 Ole Miss
9/21 Kansas State
10/3 at Iowa State
10/12 Oklahoma (Dallas)
10/26 at TCU
11/2 Kansas
11/9 at West Virginia
11/16 Oklahoma State
11/28 Texas Tech
12/7 at Baylor
Final Projection9-310-29-39-39-3

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Since finishing with a 5-7 record in 2010, the Longhorns have rebounded to some extent with a 17-9 mark over the last two years. Of course, this is Texas and the expectation is to contend for a Big 12 title every season. Even though progress has been made, coach Mack Brown is on the hot seat, and 2013 could be a make-or-break season. The good news for Brown? The Longhorns have enough talent on both sides of the ball to win the Big 12 title. The offense has a deep stable of running backs and a solid line to lean on, and quarterback David Ash showed some progress last season. The defense was a major disappointment in 2012, but the return of linebacker Jordan Hicks and end Jackson Jeffcoat should help. The schedule sets up favorably for a run at the league title for Texas. There’s the annual matchup with Oklahoma in Dallas and road trips to TCU and Baylor, but Oklahoma State and Kansas State must travel to Austin. Although the Longhorns have the most talented roster in the Big 12, I think they fall short of winning the conference title. It’s a wide-open year in the Big 12, so nothing would come as a surprise. But the quarterback uncertainty and blowout losses to Oklahoma in back-to-back years shows this team still has a ways to go. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is the most talented team in the league and it may not be close. The question still remains in Austin about the level of development this roster is getting from its coaching staff. The schedule isn't easy but important games with non-conference foe Ole Miss, Achilles' Heel Kansas State, Big 12 front-runner Oklahoma State will come on the 40 Acres. Watch out for upset alerts in Provo and Ames, however, as this team is prone to upsets. Should the historically bad defense improve (which it should) and David Ash continues his development (which he should), then Texas should win the league and play in the Fiesta Bowl at season's end — although, it won't be the national title conversation like some believe.

Mark Ross
Everything is bigger in Texas, including expectations for the Lone Star State's marquee college football team. Mack Brown's Longhorns have been mediocre over the last three seasons, going 22-16 overall and just 11-15 in Big 12 games. This year's team is one of the most experienced in the conference, so it's time to either put up or take a long, hard look at the state of the program.

The offense must get more production from its quarterback, who will have weapons at his disposal in both the backfield and on the outside. The defense has only way to go, up, following last year's record-setting breakdown (most yards allowed in school history), and it should be a different unit with several key players coming back from injury. The schedule isn't easy with non-conference tilts at BYU and against Ole Miss setting the stage for Big 12 action, but there's no reason for this Texas team to finish no worse than third in the conference. While a third-place showing may not exactly be a typical Texas-sized goal for the season, Longhorns fans know that it has been anything but business as usual on the gridiron in recent years.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Texas is tough team to project. The talent is there for a 10-win season or a Big 12 title, but this group has underachieved. Having Jordan Hicks back on defense and one of the few experienced quarterbacks will work in Texas’ favor. The Longhorns should benefit from teams in the Big 12 being down a bit — Kansas State, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Iowa State won’t be as good as we’ve seen in recent years. While Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will challenge for the league title, neither appear to be as good as they were two years ago. That’s a window Texas must climb through. I’ve picked the Longhorns to have mixed success with losses against Oklahoma and Baylor in the league. The BYU game is a bit of a leap on my part, but I like the Cougars’ defense and home-field advantage against Texas.
 

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Teaser:
Texas Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-14
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One day closer to the start of the season.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, August 14th

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is ready to open up the offense in 2013.

Saturday Down South takes a look at seven captivating BCS Championship possibilities. And how far do SEC fans have to travel to games in 2013? 

Mr. SEC takes a look at the recruiting base for the 14 teams in the SEC.

Alabama is dealing with an injury to receiver Amari Cooper and a suspension to linebacker Trey DePriest.

Brandon Mitchell appears to be pulling away in the race to win NC State's quarterback battle.

Bruce Feldman talks to David Ridpath - an expert on NCAA compliance issues - about Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel.

Pittsburgh has named Tom Savage as its starting quarterback for the season opener against Florida State.

Some good insight into Northwestern from the guys at the Big Ten Network.

Arizona has landed Texas transfer Cayleb Jones.

A South Florida receiver has decided to leave the team.

Western Kentucky and Vanderbilt have agreed to a three-game series.

Oregon running back Thomas Tyner was injured in practice on Tuesday. 

Penn State's tight ends are game changers for coach Bill O'Brien.

Examining Iowa's defensive line for 2013. Can the Hawkeyes improve in the trenches this year?

Miami defensive lineman Jalen Grimble has decided to leave the team.

Speaking of defensive lines, Penn State is searching for more depth in the trenches this fall.

Rutgers' running back stable appears to be building depth this fall.

Bucky's 5th Quarter found this awesome picture of Bret Bielema.

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: August 14
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 15:59
Path: /college-football/washingtons-austin-seferian-jenkins-breaks-pinkie-out-indefinitely
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The Washington-Boise State non-conference game in Week 1 is one of the most-anticipated games of the 2013 college football season. Unfortunately, the Huskies could be shorthanded for that contest.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins suffered a fracture in his right pinkie in practice on Monday. The junior will have to have surgery and his status for Week 1 is uncertain.

Not having Seferian-Jenkins in the lineup would be a huge setback for Washington’s offense. The Huskies still have quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey and receiver Kasen Williams, but Seferian-Jenkins is the nation’s top tight end and would be a difficult matchup for Boise State’s defense. In the Las Vegas Bowl against the Broncos last year, Seferian-Jenkins caught six passes for 61 yards and one touchdown.

The season opener for Washington is a huge contest, especially since it will feature the rebuilt Husky Stadium and should give some insight into just how far this program has progressed under coach Steve Sarkisian. Needless to say, beating Boise State and getting off to a good start would relieve some of the pressure on this coaching staff.

 

Teaser:
Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins Breaks Pinkie; Out Indefinitely
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 14:58
Path: /college-football/usfs-willie-taggart-wants-everyone-get-bus
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South Florida made one of the offseason’s top coaching moves, hiring Western Kentucky’s Willie Taggart to replace Skip Holtz.

The Bulls’ first-year coach already had an interesting offseason, showing up to practice in a mechanic shirt to promote a blue-collar approach. But things got even better this week.

Check out this video of Taggart driving South Florida’s bus – with a few cameos by Jon Gruden, Dick Vitale and Joe Maddon.

Teaser:
USF's Willie Taggart Wants Everyone to Get on the Bus
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 11:31
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-running-back-units-2013
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The committee approach at running back has become more prevalent in college football over the last five years, so it’s no surprise most teams have two or three players that could start each week for their offense.

The SEC is loaded at running back in 2013, with Georgia and Alabama taking the top two spots in Athlon’s top 25 backfields. But the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs aren't the only ones from the SEC in the rankings, as Texas A&M checks in at No. 5 and LSU is No. 14.

How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2013 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams like Miami and Arizona are ranked largely due to one player, teams like Texas A&M, USC and Stanford may not have a superstar this year but have no shortage of depth.

They’re the teams within the team — those cohesive little units bound together by their shared responsibilities within the larger team context. 

Whether it’s the offensive linemen firing off time after time into those familiar blocking sleds, or the defensive linemen drilling repeatedly on how to shed blockers, or the defensive backs breaking on ball after ball — these teams in miniature hone their tasks on the practice field until those tasks become second nature. 
 
Whether or not these units function as one can make the difference between winning and losing, and a single unit can carry a team to New Year’s Day — or beyond.
 
It’s entirely fitting, then, for us to honor the best of the best at each position with our 13th annual Athlon Awards. 

Ranking the Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013

1. Georgia
The Bulldogs lack depth in the backfield, but the Todd Gurley-Keith Marshall duo is the best in college
football. Gurley and Marshall combined for 2,144 of Georgia’s 2,556 rushing yards last year and scored 19 touchdowns. Gurley ranked second in the SEC by averaging 98.2 rushing yards per game in conference play. Both players could rush for 1,000 yards in 2013, as Georgia’s coaching staff plans to get Marshall
more involved in the offense this year.
 

2. Alabama 
Eddie Lacy is gone, but the Crimson Tide still have a deep stable of options. Leading the way is sophomore T.J. Yeldon, who rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 scores as a true freshman. Yeldon is an Athlon Sports second-team preseason All-American. At 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, sophomore Kenyan Drake is a change-of-pace option, but he will face competition for carries from touted freshman Derrick Henry, junior Jalston Fowler and sophomore Dee Hart.
 

3. Texas 
The Longhorns return three running backs who have rushed for at least 500 yards in a season during their careers. Sophomore Johnathan Gray is the headliner after rushing for 701 yards as a true freshman in 2012. Joe Bergeron scored 16 touchdowns last season, and Malcolm Brown (742 yards in 2011) returns to full strength after missing most of 2012 due to injuries.


4. Oregon 
Despite losing Kenjon Barner, the Ducks are in good shape at running back. De’Anthony Thomas is one of college football’s most explosive players and is expected to handle more carries in 2013. Byron Marshall is also due for an increased workload after averaging 5.1 yards per carry in 2012. True freshman Thomas Tyner is one of the top running backs in the 2013 signing class and will be difficult for new Oregon coach Mark Helfrich to keep on the sidelines.
 

5. Texas A&M 
The Aggies likely won’t have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013, but this unit has assembled plenty of depth thanks to the arrival of transfers Tra Carson (Oregon) and Brandon Williams (Oklahoma). Senior Ben Malena rushed for 808 yards and eight scores last season and has surprising power for a 5'8" running back. Talented sophomore Trey Williams is due for a bigger role in the offense after rushing for 376 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.


6. Wisconsin
Despite losing Montee Ball, the Badgers are in great shape at running back. Senior James White has 2,571 yards and 32 touchdowns in his career, while sophomore Melvin Gordon is a future star in the Big Ten. True freshman Corey Clement could be Wisconsin’s No. 3 option this season.
 

7. Baylor
Lache Seastrunk finished 2012 on a tear, averaging 138.5 yards per game over his final six contests. Seastrunk is expected to be one of the Big 12’s top rushers in 2013. Senior Glasco Martin is a punishing runner and scored 15 touchdowns on 179 attempts last year.
 

8. Ohio State
Yes, Carlos Hyde is suspended for at least three games, but Ohio State still has a wealth of options in the backfield. Junior Rod Smith, senior Jordan Hall, sophomore Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt freshman Warren Ball will shoulder the workload while Hyde is suspended and each could start for a handful of teams in college football. True freshmen Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott will also figure into the mix.
 

9. Nebraska
Ameer Abdullah filled in admirably when Rex Burkhead suffered a knee injury early last season, finishing 2012 with 1,137 yards and eight scores. Abdullah is set to build on those totals in 2013, but sophomore Imani Cross (324 yards last year) will push for playing time.
 

10. Arizona
Ka’Deem Carey thrived in coach Rich Rodriguez’s system, leading the nation with an average of 148.4 yards per game in 2012. The junior may not top last year’s 1,929 yards, but he is in for another big year. Daniel Jenkins considered a transfer to Washington State but returned to Tucson this summer. Jenkins and Pierre Cormier will compete for the No. 2 role.
 

11. Florida State
After rushing for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, James Wilder Jr. is set to emerge as one of the ACC’s top backs in 2013. Junior Devonta Freeman has 1,239 yards over the last two years and will serve as Florida State’s No. 2 option. Redshirt freshman Mario Pender is a player to watch.


12. Arizona State
Even though Cameron Marshall has finished his eligibility, Arizona State’s rushing attack is in good shape with the return of Marion Grice and DJ Foster. Grice averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season and scored 19 overall touchdowns. Foster recorded 1,026 total yards in 2012.
 

13. Oklahoma
Damien Williams was solid in his first year in Norman, rushing for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns on 176 attempts. He will headline a talented backfield, which includes the nation’s top fullback in Trey Millard and experienced options in Roy Finch (5.2 yards per carry) and Brennan Clay. The future of Oklahoma’s rushing attack is in good hands with freshmen Keith Ford and Alex Ross.
 

14. LSU
If Jeremy Hill isn’t suspended for a significant chunk of the season, LSU could rank higher on this list. But even with Hill’s long-term status for 2013 uncertain, the Tigers have plenty of depth. Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard are proven options, and fullback J.C. Copeland is an underrated player.
 

15. USC
With a new quarterback taking over, expect the Trojans to lean more on the ground attack in 2013. Silas Redd rushed for 905 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season in Los Angeles. But the backfield just isn’t Redd, as true freshman Justin Davis and Ty Isaac ranked among the top-15 running backs in the 2013 signing class, and D.J. Morgan, Tre Madden and Javorius Allen are all capable options for coach Lane Kiffin.
 

16. Kent State
Dri Archer and Trayion Durham form the nation’s top non-BCS running back duo. Archer was one of college football’s best all-purpose players in 2012, recording 1,429 rushing yards and 39 catches for 561 yards last season. Durham rushed for 1,316 yards and 14 scores.
 

17. Miami
Duke Johnson turned plenty of heads as a true freshman last year, rushing for 947 yards and 10 scores, while catching 27 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. Johnson also made a huge impact on special teams by averaging 33 yards per kick return. Although Johnson is ACC’s premier running back, depth is an issue. The Hurricanes need Eduardo Clements, Dallas Crawford or Gus Edwards to emerge as a reliable No. 2 option to take some of the pressure off of Johnson.
 

18. Kansas
The rushing attack was the lone bright spot in Lawrence last year. James Sims is one of the nation’s most underrated players, rushing for 1,013 yards and nine scores in 2012. He will be joined by Tony Pierson (760 yards last year), Taylor Cox (464) and talented sophomore Darrian Miller in the backfield this season.
 

19. Northwestern
Senior Venric Mark is one of the nation’s top all-purpose running backs. He recorded 1,366 rushing yards and 12 scores last season, while catching 20 passes and taking three returns for scores. Mark is only 5-foot-8, so it’s important for Northwestern to utilize its backups to spell the Texas native throughout the year. Senior Mike Trumpy is expected to serve as the top backup, and he has 1,061 yards in his career.
 

20. Washington
Bishop Sankey emerged as Washington’s go-to back in 2012, recording 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns on 289 attempts. While Sankey is one of the Pac-12’s top rushers, the Huskies are looking to address the depth this fall. Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper are talented but have struggled to stay healthy.
 

21. Stanford
Stepfan Taylor is gone, but Stanford’s rushing attack isn't in dire straits. Anthony Wilkerson rushed for 224 yards and one score in a backup role last season and has 914 yards and seven touchdowns in his career. Tyler Gaffney is back after spending a year playing minor league baseball, while redshirt freshman Barry Sanders will make his anticipated debut in 2013.
 

22. Western Kentucky
Even though new coach Bobby Petrino likes to spread the ball around through the air, his previous stops at Louisville and Arkansas showed he won’t forget about the rushing attack. Antonio Andrews recorded 3,161 all-purpose yards last year, which ranked second in NCAA history behind Barry Sanders. Leon Allen showed promise in his freshman campaign last year and will serve as backup. Fullback Kadeem Jones is an underrated player.
 

23. West Virginia
With Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey now in the NFL, the Mountaineers will rely more on their rushing attack this year. Andrew Buie is the team’s leading returning rusher (851 yards), but he will be pushed for time from Dustin Garrison and junior college transfer Dreamius Smith. Houston transfer Charles Sims will help in an all-purpose role and is a threat to score each time he touches the ball.
 

24. Oklahoma State
Joseph Randle will be missed, but thanks to some good recruiting by coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State should have a 1,000-yard rusher for the seventh consecutive season. Jeremy Smith has shined in a part-time role the last few years, recording 1,439 yards and 25 scores in 39 appearances. Smith will start, but expect to see plenty of Desmond Roland (301 yards in 2012).
 

25. Mississippi State
LaDarius Perkins quietly rushed for 1,024 yards and eight scores last season. The senior headlines Mississippi State’s ground attack, with talented sophomores Derrick Milton and Josh Robinson vying for the No. 2 role. Junior Nick Griffin (223 yards in 2012) suffered a torn ACL in December and his status for 2013 is uncertain.

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Teaser:
College Football's Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/northwestern-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Northwestern has never recorded back-to-back seasons of double-digit win totals in its program history. But coming off a 10-3 record, which included the Wildcats’ first bowl victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl, coach Pat Fitzgerald’s team is poised for even bigger and better things in 2013.

15 starters return for Fitzgerald, including quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. The defense brings back seven starters, and there’s All-Big Ten talent at each level of the unit. Northwestern won three out of its final games last year, including a 34-20 victory over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl and a 23-20 win in East Lansing against Michigan State.

The Wildcats were just a play or two away from beating Michigan and Nebraska last year. If this team can address its pass defense and find a way to make a few more plays in close games, Northwestern could represent the Legends Division in Indianapolis this December.

What will Northwestern's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Northwestern's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Brent
Yarina
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
Kevin
McGuire
8/31 at California
9/7 Syracuse
9/14 Western Michigan
9/21 Maine
10/5 Ohio State
10/12 at Wisconsin
10/19 Minnesota
10/26 at Iowa
11/2 at Nebraska
11/16 Michigan
11/23 Michigan State
11/30 at Illinois
Final Projection9-310-29-310-28-4

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Northwestern faces a challenging schedule this year but should be in the thick of the Legends Division race. Last season, the Wildcats finished 10-3 and were just a couple of plays away from a 12-1 mark. If Northwestern can improve its pass defense and continue to average just over 30 points a game, coach Pat Fitzgerald’s team will post a double-digit win total once again. Despite three new starters on the line, the offense will remain dangerous with the return of quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. The defense has to get better against the pass, but three starters are back – including likely All-Big Ten cornerback Nick VanHoose – giving hope to coordinator Mike Hankwitz for a quick turnaround. Northwestern has a brutal crossover with the Leaders Division, catching Wisconsin and Ohio State in early October. But the Wildcats have a favorable road in Legends Division play, hosting Michigan and Michigan State. Beating the Wolverines or Cornhuskers for the division title won’t be easy, but Northwestern will be a tough out this year and should be a top-25 team on the national level.

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
10-2?! With this grueling schedule?! Yeah, I must be chugging the Purple Kool-Aid. Fact is, I love this Northwestern team. Not only are the Wildcats fresh off a momentum-building 10-3 season, highlighted by the program’s first bowl win since 1949, they return 15 starters (8 offense; 7 defense) from a team that could have won all its games. Even better, Northwestern welcomes back its biggest names, from Kain Colter, Venric Mark and Brandon Vitabile on offense, to Chi Chi Ariguzo, Ibraheim Campbell and Tyler Scott on defense, to Jeff Budzien and the aforementioned Mark on special teams. This team is fast, it’s athletic, it’s balanced (only Ohio State figures to boast a better offense-defense combo), and it’s confident. The only real question is the offensive line, which replaces three starters. That’s a big deal, no doubt, however the anchor (Vitabile) is back and Colter and Mark’s improved health should help offset the inexperience up front.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The schedule is downright nasty for Northwestern and that is what keeps this team from taking a huge next step into the Big Ten championship game. Getting Ohio State and it's reworked defensive line early and at home give the Wildcats a huge chance at a program-defining win. But the back half of the schedule isn't friendly. Road games with Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa over a four-game span following the Ohio State game will be a trying and defining portion of the 2013 schedule. Home games with key division rivals Michigan and Michigan State are also very tough tests. Pat Fitzgerald has assembled the most talented team in Northwestern history, but can it withstand one of the Big Ten's toughest schedules?

Mark Ross
Pat Fitzgerald has been building a consistent winner at Northwestern during his tenure and this fall could be the time it all comes together. The Wildcats return a total of 15 starters, including one of the Big Ten's most explosive players in all-purpose dynamo Venric Mark. Fitzgerald also has two reliable options to call on at quarterback and is pretty deep in pass-catchers. Not to be left out, the defense took a step forward last season and returns experience on each level.

Schedule-wise, Northwestern opens up Big Ten play against Legends division favorite and national title contender Ohio State, but these Wildcats are talented and experienced enough to compete with any team in the league, both at home and on the road. Trips to Madison, Wis., and Lincoln, Neb., won't be easy, but the Wildcats get to host Michigan and Michigan State on their home turf. The pieces are in place for Northwestern to be just as good as it was last season, if not better. That is especially the case if the offensive line jells, the key players stay healthy and the entire team doesn't settle for what it accomplished in 2012.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
Last year was a fantastic ride for the gritty and determined Northwestern program. Ten wins was the result of a growing program continuing to build a winning foundation under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who continues to produce more with less overall talent than many of his counterparts. But that's not to suggest Northwestern is lacking talent, because that is certainly not the case. Venric Mark rushed for over 1,000 yards and emerged as one of the Big Ten's top offensive players who could also do damage on special teams. The Wildcats also have one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten in Kain Colter, but the offensive line could be a concern. With some holes to plug on the line, keeping Colter protected and giving Mark room to work with could be more of an issue this season.

As was the case last season, Northwestern has a defense that will not quit but the talent is not particularly deep in the secondary. Opposing offenses should be able to expose that often enough to keep Northwestern's defense scrambling at times. The linebackers should be fine to hold their own in the middle of the field, so the pressure will be on Northwestern's defensive line to keep the pressure on consistently. This has been one of the problems in recent years as the line seems to break down physically later in games and in the season. This year's schedule is not exactly favorable either, with road games at Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska. Getting Ohio State at home after a bye week could be cause for an upset alert in early October, but I have the Buckeyes taking care of business. I look for Northwestern to be on the outside looking in on the Big Ten Championship Game, but they should absolutely playa  role in the Big Ten Legends Division picture in November, with key home games against both Michigan schools in consecutive weeks. I call Northwestern a wild card more than a legitimate contender.


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Teaser:
Northwestern Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-13
Body:

One day closer to the start of the season.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, August 13th

Another day, more news about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and autograph signings. What can Manziel learn from former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu?

Who will win the Big Ten's individual player awards in 2013?

Saturday Down South takes a look at how the top 25 players in the SEC ranked as recruits.

Former Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk has some words of advice for Syracuse's Drew Allen.

Joel Stave and Curt Phillips are beginning to separate in Wisconsin's quarterback battle.

Western Michigan receiver Jaime Wilson suffered a broken ankle in practice this week.

Steven Godfrey of SB Nation profiles UL Monroe and coach Todd Berry.

Cincinnati tight end Jake Golic has decided to leave the team due to a back injury.

West Virginia's starting quarterback job is still up for grabs.

The key to TCU's Big 12 title hopes will be its offensive line.

Southern Miss has narrowed its quarterback competition.

Another bowl game? Yes, that's correct. Montgomery, Ala. could be getting a game in the new bowl cycle.

LSU will shuffle its offensive line due to an injury to guard Josh Williford.

BYU has lost a starting cornerback for the season due to a knee injury.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez isn't happy with his offense right now.

Where does Colorado's quarterback battle stand?

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: August 13
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 14:29
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburn-narrows-qb-battle-kiehl-frazier-moves-safety
Body:

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn narrowed the competition to be the Tigers’ starting quarterback.

Four candidates – Kiehl Frazier, Jonathan Wallace, Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall –  began fall practice with a chance to secure the No. 1 spot, but Frazier and Wallace have been eliminated from the competition after the Tigers' weekend scrimmage. Marshall and Johnson are now fighting to start the season opener against Washington State. Wallace will remain at quarterback but is expected to serve as the No. 3 signal-caller in 2013.

In a surprising move, Frazier has been shifted to safety. The junior threw for 753 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Marshall and Johnson were touted recruits, but neither have a snap of FBS experience under center. Marshall started his career at Georgia as a defensive back and tossed 20 interceptions as a starting quarterback on the JUCO level last season. Johnson was rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals in the 2013 signing class.

Marshall is an excellent athlete, so Auburn needs to get his playmaking ability on the field. However, expect to see Johnson this year, especially if Marshall continues to struggle with turnovers.  

Teaser:
Auburn Narrows QB Battle; Kiehl Frazier Moves to Safety
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 10:32
Path: /college-football/tulsa-football-wins-offseason-dog-ambassador
Body:

Not only is Tulsa the favorite to win the Conference USA title in 2013, but the Golden Hurricane clearly take home the offseason title for the best addition to a program.

John Hoover of the Tulsa World runs down Tulsa's plan to implement Goldie – a five-month-old golden retriever - to be the university's athletic ambassador. Goldie will be a bigger part of the football program in 2014, as she is set to retrieve the tee after kickoffs and lead the players onto the field before the game.

Needless to say, this is pretty cool.

Check out the full story here and watch this video of Goldie in action around the team:

 

Teaser:
Tulsa Football Wins the Offseason With Dog Ambassador
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/north-texas-wear-throwbacks-against-idaho
Body:

Throwback uniforms can be hit or miss. Sometimes, the old looks just don’t translate well into 2013.

But let’s give some credit to North Texas. The Mean Green did an excellent job with this throwback uniform, which the team will wear in the season opener against Idaho.
Here's a photo of the helmet, along with a look at the jersey, tweeted by @MeanGreenSports


Teaser:
North Texas to Wear Throwbacks Against Idaho
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/old-dominion-updates-helmets-2013
Body:

Old Dominion is set to transition to the FBS level this year and will play a full Conference USA schedule in 2014.

Under the direction of coach Bobby Wilder, the Monarchs are 38-10 over the last four years and have back-to-back appearances in the FCS playoffs.

Check out these new helmets (which are an excellent design by the way) tweeted by Old Dominion running back coach Zak Kuhr:

Teaser:
Old Dominion Updates Helmets for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburn-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

After a horrendous 3-9 record last year, change is the theme at Auburn this offseason.

Gene Chizik was fired after last season’s debacle, and former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was hired as the Tigers’ new head coach.

Malzahn is regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive minds and his one-year stint as Arkansas State’s head coach resulted in a 9-3 record.

Malzahn’s return should improve an offense that averaged just 18.7 points a game, while the addition of Ellis Johnson on defense should help a unit that has underachieved over the last few years.

Auburn plays road contests against Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Tennessee, so getting back to a bowl game won’t be easy. However, considering how well the Tigers have recruited over the last few seasons, there should be enough pieces in place for Malzahn to get Auburn to 6-6 or 7-5.

What will Auburn's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Auburn's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
SEC
Logo
Mark
Ross
Josh
Ward
8/31 Washington State
9/7 Arkansas State
9/14 Mississippi State
9/21 at LSU
10/5 Ole Miss
10/12 Western Carolina
10/19 at Texas A&M
10/26 FAU
11/2 at Arkansas
11/9 at Tennessee
11/16 Georgia
11/30 Alabama
Final Projection6-65-76-65-76-6


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
After hitting rock bottom last season, Auburn can only go up in 2013. There’s no shortage of talent on the Plains, as the Tigers averaged a top-10 recruiting class from 2008-12, and first-year coach Gus Malzahn inked a group that ranked No. 10 in 2013. Malzahn’s return should spark an offense that was dreadful last season, finishing 14th in the SEC in yards per game (305). Finding a quarterback is the top priority this fall, but until a No. 1 option emerges, the Tigers can lean on a solid running game and an offensive line that returns four starters. New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson was one of the offseason’s top assistant hires and immediate improvement is expected. Auburn has the talent to win eight games, but with the quarterback uncertainty, I think six is more realistic. And six wins with a bowl appearance would be a welcomed sight after a disastrous 3-9 season in 2012.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Auburn can't possibly be as bad as it was a year ago despite an improving SEC around them. Both sides of the ball should be dramatically improved with Gus Malzahn and Ellis Johnson now leading the way on The Plains. The running game and offensive line — both of which were recruited extremely well under Gene Chizik — will help whoever is under center and the defense should be able to force more turnovers. The schedule is downright nasty and how Auburn plays in swing games (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee) will determine if this team returns to the postseason or not.

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
Coming off an embarrassing 3-9 season, and everyone now aboard the Gus Bus, it’s time to make a bowl game. 2012 is a season Auburn would like to erase from the record books giving up the 2nd most YPG in the SEC and gaining the least. Check out these Rivals team recruiting rankings: 2009: 19th, 2010 4th, 2011: 7th, 2012: 8th. They have the talent, and now I feel they have the coach. And to the biggest question, QB.  JUCO QB transfer Nick Marshall threw 19 TDs / 20 INTs last year and rushed for over 1,000 yards. Name to remember: Carl Lawson, DE.

Mark Ross
The good news for Auburn fans - 2013 will be better than 2012. The bad news for Auburn fans - your team is still a long ways from returning to the top of the SEC. Regardless what Gus Malzahn does in his first season back on the Plains, it's probably fair to say that War Eagle nation is just happy it's him and no longer Gene Chizik calling the shots. If anything Malzahn should definitely help turn around an offense that was woefully unproductive last season, while Ellis Johnson returns to the SEC to do the same to the Tigers' defense. The Tigers will be a better team this fall, but that doesn't mean the results will be show up in the win-loss column. A bowl invite is possible, but to get there Auburn must go undefeated in non-conference play and either protect its home turf against the Mississippi schools or steal one on the road in Fayetteville, Ark. The more wins the Tigers can claim early on the better, especially with Georgia and Alabama lined up to close out the season.

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Auburn’s schedule has a somewhat favorable setup with beatable nonconference teams sprinkled into the SEC schedule. That should help the Tigers survive in the brutal SEC Western Division. The Mississippi State game is key for Auburn. If the Tigers win, they will be setup nicely to make a bowl game. Lose to Mississippi State and Auburn will have a difficult uphill climb. I have Ole Miss winning, but Auburn could upset the Rebels at home. Road games at Arkansas and Tennessee are both winnable for Auburn. Coach Gus Malzahn’s biggest focus right now should be finding his quarterback of the future and building the program through recruiting.

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Teaser:
Auburn Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/sec-football-breakout-players-2013
Body:

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

The SEC is college football’s premier conference, and there’s no shortage of new talent ready to step into the spotlight. Alabama receiver Chris Black was poised to play last season, but a shoulder injury forced the Florida native to redshirt. With Black back in the lineup, the Crimson Tide should have one of the nation’s top receiving corps. Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham was the No. 1 overall recruit in the Athlon Consensus 100 in 2012 but failed to make a huge impact. Now that Green-Beckham should be more comfortable in Missouri’s offense, the sophomore is expected to easily surpass last year’s totals. And of course, we can’t forget about the defensive side of the ball. Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins, Alabama’s Geno Smith and Landon Collins and Florida’s Dante Fowler could be household names by the end of the year.

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2013 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar. 

SEC Breakout Players for 2013

Chris Black, WR, Alabama
Amari Cooper emerged as one of the SEC’s top receivers last season, and Alabama’s receiving corps is poised to get another boost in 2013 with the addition of Black. The Jacksonville native was regarded as one of the top receiver prospects in the 2012 signing class and was expected to be a factor in the Crimson Tide’s passing attack last year. However, Black suffered a shoulder injury in August, which forced him to redshirt. The redshirt freshman is now healthy, and his emergence will provide quarterback AJ McCarron with one of the nation’s deepest receiving corps.

Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
Injuries and inconsistent play plagued Missouri’s offensive line last season. The Tigers allowed 2.4 sacks a game and ranked 12th in the SEC in rushing offense. With four starters back, Missouri may have a change of fortune in the trenches in 2013. Boehm was impressive last season, starting all 12 games as a true freshman in the rugged SEC. The sophomore is expected to slide to center this season and should be the anchor for an improved line this fall.

Jonathan Bullard/Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
Even though Florida’s defensive line will miss Sharrif Floyd, there’s no shortage of talent returning in the trenches for coordinator D.J. Durkin. The Gators will get a boost from the return of end/linebacker Ronald Powell from a knee injury, but the development of Bullard and Fowler should keep Florida among the best in the SEC. Bullard recorded 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year, while Fowler chipped in 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Now that both players have had a full offseason in the weight room, coach Will Muschamp is counting on them to lead Florida’s pass rush in 2013.

Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
The Razorbacks ranked last in the SEC in rushing offense last season. But with Bret Bielema taking over in Fayetteville, Arkansas’ offense is expected to focus its attention on establishing the ground attack in 2013. Jonathan Williams is the team’s leading returning rusher (231 yards) and he solidified his place at the top of the depth chart with a solid spring. However, Bielema and coordinator Jim Chaney are excited to get a look at Collins this fall. The true freshman ranked as the No. 6 running back in the 2013 signing class by Athlon Sports and will see plenty of action this year. Collins may not beat out Williams for the No. 1 spot, but this freshman could force a 50-50 split of carries by midseason.

La’el Collins, OT, LSU
LSU fans are certainly familiar with Collins’ ability, but the rest of the nation needs to take notice. The SEC is stocked with talent at tackle, as Jake Matthews, Antonio Richardson and Cyrus Kouandjio are considered the frontrunners for first-team All-American recognition. And Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James and Vanderbilt’s Wesley Johnson are solid players who shouldn’t be overlooked in 2013. Collins earned honorable mention All-SEC accolades last season after starting 13 games at left guard. The Baton Rouge native plans to move to left tackle this year, and at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, Collins certainly has the size to move defenders in the run game or counteract edge rushers on passing downs. 

Landon Collins, S/Geno Smith, CB, Alabama
Despite the loss of cornerback Dee Milliner and safety Robert Lester, Alabama’s secondary isn’t expected to drop too far from its No. 1 rank in pass defense. The sophomore tandem of Collins and Smith is the next wave of stardom for the Crimson Tide secondary, with both players expected to see a significant increase in playing time this year. Collins played in all 14 games and registered 17 stops in 2012, while Smith recorded nine tackles in 13 contests. Smith worked his way into the starting lineup for two games last season and got better as the season progressed. Now that both players have a year of experience under their belt, look for Collins and Smith to emerge as major contributors for Alabama’s defense.

Justin Cox, CB, Mississippi State
With Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks departing, Mississippi State’s secondary will need to find two new corners this offseason. Although both players will be missed, the pass defense may not take too much of a step back. Cox had an outstanding two-year stint at East Mississippi Community College, recording 11 interceptions and 19 pass breakups. He was a four-star junior college recruit by ESPN, and at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, the junior has the size to play safety or cornerback. Adjusting to the talent level in the SEC won’t be easy, but Cox has the talent to emerge as a solid cornerback. 

Sheldon Dawson, CB/Tray Matthews, S, Georgia
The Bulldogs ranked as the No. 2 team in the SEC against the pass last season, but with the departure of cornerback Sanders Commings and safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams, coordinator Todd Grantham has some big holes to fill. Junior Damian Swann is back at corner, and Georgia is counting on the development of Dawson and Matthews to keep the pass defense near the top of the SEC. Dawson played in 13 games and recorded 12 stops last year, while Matthews enrolled early after ranking as a top-100 national recruit in the 2013 signing class. Both players will need some time to adjust to life in the SEC, but Dawson and Matthews look like future stars for Georgia.

Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
New coach Mark Stoops played a key role in turning around Florida State’s defense, and Big Blue Nation hopes he can develop Dupree and junior college transfer Za’Darius Smith into All-SEC ends. Dupree played last season as the rush end in Kentucky’s 3-4 scheme, but he will slide exclusively into one of the end spots in 2013. The Georgia native recorded 91 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season and should continue to develop with a defined role coming off the edge. Double-digit sacks isn’t out of the question for Dupree this year.

Trae Elston, S, Ole Miss
Obviously, all eyes in Oxford are on No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche, but the Rebels have a few non-freshmen ready to emerge in 2013. Elston played extensively (12 games) as a true freshman last year, while recording 61 tackles and one sack. He also led the team with eight pass breakups. Elston started nine games last season and is expected to anchor one of the safety spots in 2013. The sophomore is known as a big hitter, but his continued development will be crucial to Ole Miss improving a pass defense that ranked 11th in the SEC last season.

Justin Garrett, LB/S, Auburn
Considering how well Auburn has recruited over the last five years, it’s surprising to note it has not finished higher than ninth in the SEC in total defense since 2008. But that could change in 2013, as veteran coordinator Ellis Johnson was the right hire for new coach Gus Malzahn, and the Tigers have enough talent to expect considerable improvement on defense. Johnson plans to implement a 4-2-5 scheme, with Garrett serving in a hybrid linebacker/safety role. The Georgia native has played sparingly over the last two years, recording just 21 tackles in his career. However, Garrett was impressive this spring, earning MVP honors on A-Day and drawing praise from the coaching staff. Garrett suffered a foot injury in a recent scrimmage and it’s uncertain how long he will be out of action.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
The nation’s No. 1 recruit in the 2012 signing class had a relatively quiet debut. Green-Beckham was suspended for one game and finished the year with just 28 receptions for 395 yards and five scores. However, Green-Beckham’s performance picked up late in the season, catching 21 passes over the final five games, with a touchdown catch coming in each of the last three contests. With quarterback James Franklin closer to 100 percent after shoulder surgery last year, Missouri’s passing attack is poised to improve in 2013. All signs point to Green-Beckham having a good offseason, which should translate into more production.

Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB/S, Georgia
Georgia’s defense is in rebuild mode this offseason. The Bulldogs return only three starters and suffered key losses at each level of the defense. Harvey-Clemons is expected to be one of the new leaders for Georgia, but he is suspended for the opener against Clemson. The sophomore recorded 14 tackles in 14 contests last season and is slated to fill the Bulldogs’ hybrid linebacker/safety role in 2013. Harvey-Clemons was regarded as a five-star recruit coming out of high school and at 6-foot-5, 212 pounds, he has the size and speed to run like a defensive back, yet packs a punch on hits like a linebacker. The sophomore’s development will be crucial to how well Georgia’s defense performs this year.

Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia
Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree are gone, leaving a huge void in the Georgia linebacker corps for 2013. Talent certainly isn’t an issue for coordinator Todd Grantham, as Jenkins was impressive as a freshman in limited action last year and is poised to be one of the new leaders for Georgia’s defense. In 14 games last season, Jenkins recorded 31 tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble. Replacing Jones’ production on the outside won’t be easy, but Jenkins should easily push for 10 sacks this year.

Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
With Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson departing, Tennessee’s receiving corps is starting over this year. Making matters even more challenging will be a new quarterback, along with a different system under new coach Butch Jones. North is one of the top recruits in the Volunteers’ signing class, ranking as the No. 37 overall recruit by Rivals. At 6-foot-4, North has the size to be a matchup nightmare in the red zone against opposing SEC defenses. The freshman will need to quickly acclimate himself to life in the SEC, but he has all of the tools to be a go-to target for quarterback Justin Worley.

Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
Damontre Moore’s decision to enter the NFL Draft was a huge blow for Texas A&M’s defense. The Aggies need to find another pass rusher to replace Moore, and all signs point to Obioha as the next star for this defense. The New Orleans native started all 12 regular-season games for Texas A&M last year and recorded 25 tackles and one sack. Now that Obioha has spent a full offseason in the weight room and has had plenty of time to learn the defense, look for the sophomore to emerge as the Aggies’ new leader in the trenches.

Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
While Jake Matthews garners all of the attention on Texas A&M’s offensive line, Ogbuehi is quietly ready to emerge as an All-SEC player. The junior has 19 starts under his belt, with 13 coming in 2012 at right guard. With Luke Joeckel leaving for the NFL, the Aggies plan to shift Ogbuehi out to right tackle, which shouldn’t be a problem for the 6-foot-5, 300-pound junior. With a big season, Ogbuehi could be the next Texas A&M lineman to declare early for the NFL Draft.

Jermauria Rasco, DE, LSU
Despite having to replace a handful of key players from last year’s defense, LSU’s defense is expected to remain near the top of the SEC once again. The line will miss Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, but Rasco and Danielle Hunter aren’t short on talent and will be a handful for opposing linemen this season. Rasco was a five-star recruit in the 2011 signing class and has played in 22 games in his first two years at LSU. Although he doesn’t have a start under his belt, Rasco has 27 tackles and two sacks during that span. The junior is expected to anchor one of the end spots for coordinator John Chavis and could earn All-SEC honors at the conclusion of 2013.

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Tigers have an unsettled quarterback situation, which puts plenty of pressure on the rushing attack to carry the offense until the passing game gets on track. The good news for the Tigers is juniors Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne are capable of handling the workload, especially if the offensive line develops into a solid unit. Four starters are back up front for 2013, but this group allowed 3.1 sacks a game last year. Robinson’s development should help the offense, as the 6-foot-5, 320-pound sophomore is expected to anchor the line from his left tackle spot.

Dontavis Sapp, LB, Tennessee
After recording just 42 tackles in his first three seasons on Rocky Top, Sapp is poised to play a significant role in Tennessee’s linebacking corps in 2013. The Georgia native was picked as the team’s most-improved defensive player in the spring and has consistently drawn praise from coach Butch Jones. If Sapp picks up where he left off this spring in September, Tennessee should have one of the SEC’s top linebacker groups, especially with junior A.J. Johnson leading the way.

Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney is likely to see plenty of double teams from opposing offensive lines, leaving Sutton with plenty of opportunities to go after the quarterback. Sutton played behind Devin Taylor and Clowney last year but still managed to record 23 tackles and five sacks. He also forced two fumbles and made seven tackles for a loss. After playing behind some talented other players the first three years of his career, 2013 is Sutton’s chance to showcase his talent and at 6-foot-5 and 263 pounds, the Georgia native certainly has All-SEC potential. 

Vince Taylor, DT, Vanderbilt
The Commodores have upgraded their talent and depth on the defensive line over the last few years, with Taylor and sophomore defensive end Caleb Azubike expected to develop into standouts for coordinator Bob Shoop. Vanderbilt enters 2013 feeling better about its current state at defensive end, while tackle is a little less certain. But that’s where Taylor’s emergence should come into play. The junior has played in 25 career games, recording 26 tackles and one fumble recovery. The Mississippi native has good agility for a 308-pound tackle and is expected to slide into a starting role this year.

Related College Football Content

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Teaser:
SEC Football Breakout Players for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-12
Body:

Plenty of news around the nation after a busy weekend. 

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Monday, August 12th

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron suffered a foot injury in practice, but the senior shouldn't miss much time.

Saturday Down South ranks the SEC players by position. SDS also takes a look at how SEC players performed in NFL preseason games.

Arkansas receiver Mekale McKay has decided to transfer to Cincinnati.

Freshman Dontre Wilson is poised to play a significant role in Ohio State's offense this year.

The NCAA is questioning Mississippi State defensive end Chris Jones about Ole Miss recruiting. 

The SEC has announced its new postseason destinations for the 2014 bowl cycle.

Baylor's next standouts at receiver were on display in a recent scrimmage.

One of Illinois' projected starters underwent knee surgery.

Is Tyrus Thompson the next elite tackle to come out of Oklahoma?

Here's a great story on Minnesota coach Jerry Kill and the battle to gain control of his seizures.

Virginia Tech cornerback Donaldven Manning has decided to transfer.

Pittsburgh is counting on a big season from running back Isaac Bennett.

A receiver at Georgia Tech is making some noise this fall.

Duke linebacker Kelby Brown is getting more comfortable in his recovery from a knee injury.

A couple of freshmen at Rutgers are making noise in fall practice.

Receiver Raheem Mostert has moved to running back at Purdue.

One of the top receivers in Conference USA - UAB's Jackie Williams - has been dismissed from the team.

New Mexico State receiver Austin Franklin is ineligible for 2013.

LSU is working on a solution to the concussion problems.

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: August 12
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 15:38
Path: /college-football/colorado-state-updates-uniforms-2013
Body:

Colorado State showed progress under first-year coach Jim McElwain last season, winning three out of their final five games. The Rams are still in rebuild mode this year, but under McElwain, they should push for five or six victories.

Colorado State’s jerseys haven’t changed much in recent years and this update released for 2013 isn’t a major change.

Check out the school's official site for more photos from the uniform release.

Teaser:
Colorado State Updates Uniforms for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 11:35
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-robert-nkemdiche-looks-sec-ready
Body:

Ole Miss is expecting big things from freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.

And the nation’s No. 1 recruit is certainly showcasing his talents in fall practice in this short video from Jackson Clarion-Ledger writer Hugh Kellenberger:
 

Teaser:
Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche Looks SEC-Ready
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/louisville-unveils-new-jerseys-2013
Body:

The Cardinals enter their last season in the American Athletic Conference as a heavy favorite to win the league title.

And Louisville will try to make a run at the national title with a slightly updated look for 2013:
 

 

Teaser:
Louisville Unveils New Jerseys for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 08:50
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

With a wide-open Big 12 title race ahead, don’t count out Texas Tech from making some noise in 2013.

As evidenced by his stints at Houston and Texas A&M, new coach Kliff Kingsbury is one of the nation’s top minds on offense. And the former Texas Tech quarterback has plenty to build around in 2013, as running back Kenny Williams returns after rushing for 824 yards last year, while receiver Eric Ward is a first-team All-Big 12 selection by Athlon Sports.

The Red Raiders will be on their fifth defensive coordinator in five years and are switching to a 3-4 scheme this season. The front seven took a hit after spring practice, as Delvon Simmons decided to transfer to USC. Although Simmons will be missed, Texas Tech’s line will be in good hands with seniors Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush.

Texas Tech’s early schedule sets up favorably for a 7-0 start, but the slate is considerably tougher late in the year.

What will Texas Tech's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Texas Tech's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven LassanChris LevelMark Ross
8/30 at SMU
9/7 Stephen F. Austin
9/12 TCU
9/21 Texas State
10/5 at Kansas
10/12 Iowa State
10/19 at West Virginia
10/26 at Oklahoma
11/2 Oklahoma State
11/9 Kansas State
11/16 Baylor
11/28 at Texas
Final Projection7-58-46-6


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Texas Tech should be one of college football’s most intriguing teams to watch in 2013. New coach Kliff Kingsbury is a great fit in Lubbock, and the Red Raiders are going to score plenty of points. And in a year when the Big 12 is wide open, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Texas Tech push for a top-five finish in the conference standings, provided the team can address a few personnel issues. The offensive line returns only two starters, the secondary has some holes to fill at cornerback, and there’s some uncertainty under center. Whether it’s Michael Brewer or Davis Webb at quarterback, Texas Tech’s offense should be one of the best in the conference, especially with receiver Eric Ward and underrated running back Kenny Williams leading the way. Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt was a good hire for Kingsbury, but he will have his work cut out for him in 2013. Expect the Red Raiders to pull an upset or two – Oklahoma State? – but 7-5 seems like the most likely regular season outcome.

Chris Level, (@ChrisLevel), RedRaiderSports.com
The Kliff Kingsbury era will provide some freshness to a program that fizzled over the past few seasons. The offense was potent last season, but the explosiveness should be back under the tutelage of Kingsbury. Health will play a big factor in how far this team can go, and they’ll need key players like Jace Amaro, Eric Ward, Le’Raven Clark, Jakeem Grant, and DeAndre Washington in good form to become unstoppable. The defense should come away with more turnovers under a more aggressive havoc wreaking scheme, which will pay dividends throughout the season. Aside from road trips to Norman and Austin, the schedule breaks nicely, and the Red Raiders will have some home field advantage working in their favor in fringe games against TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Kingsbury and his staff will keep the competitive juices flowing on a weekly basis, and fans will see a fearless attitude from their football team. That could be the difference in an extra win or two this season. I may be on the optimistic side of the consensus predictions, but if a few things swing Tech’s way, nine or more wins could be a reality.

Mark Ross
Kliff Kingsbury comes back to Lubbock to take over at his alma mater. It's a great story and I'm sure the former Red Raider star will have his share of success, but it also will take some time for Kingsbury to mold this into his program, especially considering the change in offensive and defensive systems compared to what Tommy Tuberville ran last season. Quarterback play will be key to Texas Tech's success, as there are weapons to work with. The defense has several players in new positions and a secondary that will be doing a lot of on-the-job training. That said, there are opportunities for wins, especially early in the season, and the optimist in me says that Texas Tech will collect at least one signature home win. If said victory also coincides with the clinching or securing of a bowl berth, than I think Red Raider nation will happily signal thumbs up, rather "Guns Up," on Kingsbury's first season back on the South Plains.

 

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Teaser:
Texas Tech Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/byu-changes-jersey-then-reverses-decision
Body:

In most cases, changes to the uniform or helmet are a big hit with the players. But that wasn’t the case with BYU this week.

Instead of leaving the last names on the jerseys, three words – tradition, spirit and honor – were set to become what the Cougars wore on the back this season.

The changes drew some complaints from players:

 

Teaser:
BYU Changes Jersey, Then Reverses Decision
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 11:35
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-breakout-players-2013
Body:

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

The Pac-12 is filled with talent on both sides of the ball. But there's always room for another superstar or two from each team to emerge. USC receiver Nelson Agholor is off to a good start this fall and should fill the void left behind by Robert Woods. Three candidates are competing for time at California, but redshirt freshman Zach Kline should emerge as the team's top option.

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2013 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar. 

Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2013

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
With running back Kenjon Barner out of eligibility, and quarterback Marcus Mariota returning for his sophomore season, the Ducks may look to pass more in 2013. Oregon has no shortage of options at receiver, including senior Josh Huff and tight end Colt Lyerla. But the player to watch is Addison, especially after he caught 22 passes for 243 yards and three scores as a true freshman last year. Addison will also factor into the mix on returns, giving Oregon another dynamic playmaker on special teams. With the Ducks taking to the air, Addison, Huff and Lyerla are all in for big seasons.

Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
There’s no question that USC will miss Robert Woods, but the Trojans still have one of the nation’s top receiving corps. Marqise Lee is an Athlon Sports first-team All-American for 2013, and Agholor is poised to push for all-conference honors this year as well. As a true freshman last season, Agholor caught 19 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 17.9 yards per catch. The Tampa native had his best performance against Oregon, recording six catches for 162 yards and one score. With defenses aiming to stop Lee, look for Agholor to see more passes in his direction this year.

Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Injuries have hindered Bigelow throughout his career, but if can stay healthy, the junior is a threat to rush for 1,000 yards in coach Sonny Dykes’ wide-open offense. On 44 attempts last year, Bigelow recorded 431 yards and three scores. He also averaged 23 yards per kickoff return and caught seven passes for 92 yards and one touchdown. Bigelow is a dynamic playmaker when he has the ball in his hands, so expect Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin to get him at least 20 touches a game – provided he can avoid the pesky injury bug.

Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
In an offensive-minded league like the Pac-12, it’s not easy for any true freshman to step onto the field at cornerback. However, Carter did just that last year, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in the process. In 14 games (with eight starts), the Virginia native recorded 46 tackles and three forced fumbles. With another offseason under his belt, Carter should continue to develop into one of the Pac-12’s top cornerbacks this season.

Tyson Coleman, LB, Oregon
The linebacking corps is Oregon’s biggest concern on defense, as Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso will be missed. But the cupboard is far from bare for coordinator Nick Aliotti. Coleman recorded 34 tackles in 13 contests last season and is poised to develop into the Ducks’ top linebacker in 2013. The sophomore suffered a foot injury in spring practice but is expected to be at full strength once the season begins. Coleman isn’t the only Oregon defender that could breakout, as sophomore lineman Arik Armstead is another player to watch this fall.

Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
Arizona State had three running backs record over 100 carries last season, but with Cameron Marshall expiring his eligibility, Grice is due for an increase in touches. In his first year after transferring in from a junior college, Grice rushed for 679 yards and 11 scores and caught 41 passes for 425 yards and eight touchdowns. The Texas native came on strong at the end of the year, gashing Arizona for 156 yards and three scores and Navy for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Although DJ Foster will see plenty of work, Grice should be Arizona State’s leading rusher and could push for All-Pac-12 recognition in 2013.

Jaxon Hood, DT, Arizona State
Will Sutton is one of college football’s premier defensive players, but the Sun Devils had another player turn some heads on the interior last season. Hood played in all 13 of Arizona State’s games as a true freshman, recording 26 tackles and three sacks. At 6-foot and 287 pounds, the Arizona native isn’t the biggest defensive tackle in the conference. However, his quickness off the ball is tough for opposing offensive linemen to match, and the sophomore will benefit from all of the attention Sutton will get from offenses.

Zach Kline, QB, California
It’s a new era in Berkeley in 2013. Jeff Tedford was fired after 11 seasons at California, and he was replaced by another offensive guru – Sonny Dykes. The Golden Bears struggled to get consistent quarterback play in recent years, but that should change under Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin. Under their watch, Louisiana Tech led the nation with an average of 51.5 points a game last season. Can California replicate that total in 2013? Probably not. However, the Golden Bears should see improvement on offense, especially at the quarterback spot. Kline holds a slight edge over Jared Goff and Austin Hinder for the starting spot, and the winner of this battle will have a chance to post big numbers in this scheme. Kline ranked as the Pac-12’s No. 9 recruit by Athlon Sports in the 2012 signing class, and while the California native may have a few ups and downs, expect the redshirt freshman to emerge as a strength by the end of 2013.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
No, Mannion certainly isn’t a mystery or unknown product to most around the Pac-12. However, after throwing for 3,328 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011, Mannion took a step back in the production department last year. Mannion threw for 2,446 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012 and struggled to hold off Cody Vaz for the top spot on the depth chart. Mannion has all of the talent necessary to keep Oregon State’s offense averaging over 300 yards through the air each week. But can he cut down on the interceptions and hold off Vaz this fall?

Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon
Replacing Kenjon Barner is likely to be a three-man task in Oregon’s backfield. Junior De’Anthony Thomas is a dynamic all-around threat but won’t handle 25-30 carries a week. True freshman Thomas Tyner will see plenty of time, but the Ducks’ workhorse could be Marshall. As a true freshman last season, he recorded 447 yards and four touchdowns. Marshall had one 100-yard effort in 2012, gashing Tennessee Tech for 125 yards on 13 attempts. Expect the California native to factor prominently into Oregon’s ground attack this year.

Ellis McCarthy, DT, UCLA
With the departure of Datone Jones and Owamagbe Odighizuwa sidelined by a hip injury for 2013, UCLA’s front seven will require some remodeling this offseason. Senior Cassius Marsh is a good place to start the rebuilding effort, but the Bruins would like to see a standout year from McCarthy. The California native ranked as the No. 17 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and recorded 10 tackles and one sack in nine appearances last year. McCarthy will help anchor the interior of the line, and his continued development is crucial to UCLA’s defensive success.

Terrence Miller/Garic Wharton, WR, Arizona
The Arizona offense suffered a huge setback when Austin Hill was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the spring. With the Wildcats missing one of their key offensive weapons from last season, there’s pressure on Miller and Wharton to fill the void as the go-to target. Miller has played in 34 games in his career but was granted an extra season after participating in just four contests in 2012. Miller has 55 receptions in his career and his 6-foot-4 frame will be valuable for the new quarterback, while Wharton’s speed off the edge will help Arizona stretch the field.

Darryl Monroe, LB, Washington State
Yes, that’s correct. A defensive player gets the nod for Washington State’s breakout candidate even though the Cougars have one of the league’s top offensive-minded coaches. Monroe suffered an Achilles injury in 2011 but rebounded with 80 tackles and three sacks last year. With an offseason to continue building strength in the weight room, Monroe figures to be even more prepared for the rigors of defending Pac-12 offenses. If the sophomore builds on a successful freshman campaign, he should be in the mix for all-conference honors.

Ryan Murphy, S, Oregon State
Jordan Poyer expired his eligibility at the end of last season, but Oregon State’s secondary is still in good shape. Senior Rashaad Reynolds is the headliner, and junior college transfer Steven Nelson will team with Sean Martin to form a solid duo at cornerback. And the safety position should be solid for coordinator Mark Banker, as Tyrequek Zimmerman and Murphy are back. Murphy finished third on the team last season with 67 stops and two picks. The Pac-12 has a solid group of safeties returning, but the junior from California should work his way into all-conference contention.

Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA
Quarterback Brett Hundley is poised to become one of the nation’s best signal callers in 2013, and the sophomore has no shortage of weapons to utilize in the passing attack. Senior Shaquelle Evans is one of the Pac-12’s top receivers, while coordinator Noel Mazzone is hoping for a big season from Payton and fellow sophomore Devin Fuller. Payton ranked as the No. 19 receiver in the 2012 signing class by Athlon Sports and caught 18 passes for 202 yards and one score. With tight end Joseph Fauria and running back Johnathan Franklin moving on, Payton is expected to see a larger role in the UCLA offense.

Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
With four starters returning, Stanford’s offensive line is expected to be one of the best in college football in 2013. But what’s even scarier for the opposition: This unit still has room to improve, especially at left tackle. There’s where Peat comes into play. As a freshman in 2012, the Arizona native didn’t make a start but played in 13 games. With David Yankey sliding back to guard, Peat is poised to step into the lineup and solidify Stanford’s left tackle position.

Jeremiah Poutasi, OT, Utah
The Utes have a tradition of developing players on both the offensive and defensive lines in recent years, and Poutasi could be Utah’s next standout in the trenches. The Las Vegas native had a standout freshman season, starting the final 10 games at right tackle. Poutasi earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors and is expected to be even better in 2013 with a chance to work in the weight room for a full season. Poutasi will slide from the right side to anchor the left tackle spot this year.

Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Richardson was well on his way to becoming one of the Pac-12’s top receivers prior to a knee injury suffered in spring practice last year. After sitting out last season, Richardson is due for a bounce-back campaign under new coach Mike MacIntyre. In 2011, Richardson caught 39 passes for 555 yards and five scores, including 11 receptions for 284 yards and two touchdowns against California. The Buffaloes need better quarterback play for Richardson’s numbers to significantly increase, but MacIntyre and coordinator Brian Lindgren should bright some improvement to the offense for 2013.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
After a freshman year that saw him garner honorable mention All-Pac-12 accolades, it’s time for the rest of the nation to take notice of No. 7 in Seattle. Thompson recorded 74 tackles, two sacks and three picks last season and ranked second on the team with 8.5 tackles for a loss. The 6-foot-2 linebacker’s speed and athleticism is crucial for Washington’s defense, especially when it comes to defending the spread offenses in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 already knows all about Thompson, but look for the sophomore to push for All-American honors this season.

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College Football's 2013 All-America Team

Teaser:
Pac-12 Football Breakout Players for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 07:16
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

USC was one of college football’s biggest disappointments last season. The Trojans were picked as a top-five team in the preseason but finished 7-6 and closed out the year with three consecutive losses.

Although USC was a major disappointment, there’s still plenty of talent in Los Angeles, and coach Lane Kiffin could have the Trojans back into contention for a Pac-12 South title in 2013.

USC returns 15 starters, including All-American receiver Marqise Lee and standout defensive end Morgan Breslin. But the big question for Kiffin will be under center. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler finished spring practice in a dead heat for the starting job, with true freshman Max Browne just behind.

With no Oregon on the crossover schedule USC has a favorable path to the Pac-12 South title. But can the Trojans quickly erase the disappointment from last year?

What will USC's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 
 

USC's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
8/29 at Hawaii
9/7 Washington State
9/14 Boston College
9/21 Utah State
9/28 at Arizona State
10/10 Arizona
10/19 at Notre Dame
10/26 Utah
11/1 at Oregon State
11/9 at California
11/16 Stanford
11/23 at Colorado
11/30 UCLA
Final Projection9-49-49-48-5

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though coach Lane Kiffin got the vote of confidence from athletic director Pat Haden, there’s still considerable pressure for USC to win eight games in 2013. The Trojans won’t have to play Oregon and host Arizona, Stanford and UCLA. Even though quarterback Matt Barkley will be missed, USC still has enough talent to win the Pac-12 South. The Trojans have a solid group of skill players returning on offense, and the defense should be better under the direction of new coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Kiffin will have some time to find the right answers on offense before a huge South Division road game against Arizona State on Sept. 28. With plenty of talent returning, anything less than eight wins would be a major disappointment for USC.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Men of Troy will be one of the most fascinating teams to track in 2013. Lane Kiffin enters a critical year with an extremely talented starting 22 and loads of expectations. His defense should be much improved and there are tons of playmakers for whoever is under center. And the schedule is equally as intriguing. There is no Oregon or Washington to deal with from the North and the UCLA game will come at home to end the year. But road trips to key division rival Arizona State, Achilles Heel Oregon State and arch-rival Notre Dame gives this team a limited upside. Pull an upset at home over Stanford or on the road in Corvallis and USC could easily win the division. Lose a couple it's not supposed to and Kiffin could be out on the street.

Mark Ross
This much is clear: it can't get much worse for USC, because if it does, Lane Kiffin will definitely be looking for a new job. If anything, the Trojans should be able to bounce back from a disastrous 2012 campaign because the expectations for the '13 team are much lower. There is still plenty of talent on this roster, but the uncertainty at quarterback and a new defensive coordinator and scheme can't be ignored either. USC should run into little trouble jumping out to a 4-0 start, but don't forget last year's team started 6-1 before losing five of its last six games. The Trojans catch a break on their Pac-12 slate by missing Oregon, but I still expect they will run into some trouble in conference, especially on the road. Still, five Pac-12 home dates and a fairly light non-conference slate (with the obvious exception of Notre Dame) should provide enough opportunities for USC to get to nine wins in the regular season. It's now up to Kiffin and his team to capitalize on them and show that last season was the exception and not the rule.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Barring disaster, USC should be off to a good start. The first four games are all winnable, and for a team with USC-talent, winnable by a significant margin. And other than Hawaii, they’d all be decent wins. But as USC learned last season, the grind of the season can take a toll on sanction-limited depth. That may catch up with USC, but the Trojans just might not be as good as Arizona State or Oregon State, much less Stanford or Notre Dame. The Trojans will have an unproven quarterback and a line that may be a question without center Khaled Holmes. I think the difference is going to be on defense. I like the pieces of Morgan Breslin, Leonard Williams, Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard, but this is still the same group that was mediocre for most of that season. Was that a function of personnel or difficulty in leadership with Monte Kiffin? We’ll find out against Arizona State.

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Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2013
Pac-12 2013 All-Conference Team
Bowl Projections for 2013
Oregon Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Washington Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Pac-12's Pivotal Players to a Conference Championship
The Pac-12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team

Teaser:
USC Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-8
Body:

Plenty of happenings from fall camps today.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)


College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, August 8th

The latest on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel: Who is Nate Fitch?

Eddie Vanderdoes is happy to be at UCLA. And the Bruins may need Vanderdoes to play a lot, especially now that Owamagbe Odighizuwa is done for the year with a hip injury.

Two North Carolina defenders will miss the season due to an injury.

Georgia Tech safety Fred Holton has been dismissed from the team.

Ohio State is working to match the SEC's physical advantage on the defensive line.

TCU coach Gary Patterson disagrees with how Les Miles handled Jeremy Hill's suspension.

Which incoming freshmen could make an impact at LSU?


USF defensive end Ryne Giddins is poised for a big year.

Miami has added another transfer to its defensive line.

Penn State's rushing attack is expected to get a boost from Bill Belton. And here's a good breakdown of coach Bill O'Brien's comments on Penn State's media day.

Iowa State has quiet confidence in its rebuilt defensive line.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is frustrated with quarterback Bo Wallace.

Texas Tech is looking for the right pieces on the offensive line this fall.

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: August 8
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 14:46
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-lsu-finalize-two-game-series
Body:

College football’s playoff has forced most BCS programs to upgrade their non-conference schedule. Good news isn’t it?

LSU and Wisconsin have agreed on a two-game series for 2014 and 2016. The Tigers and Badgers will meet in Houston in 2014. But the best part? Both teams are scheduled to play in Lambeau Field in 2016.

It would be great to see this matchup happen in the home stadiums for both teams. However, credit to both programs for scheduling this series, as it should feature matchups between top-25 teams.

 

Teaser:
Wisconsin-LSU Finalize Two-Game Series
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 13:18
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Arkansas had a year to forget in 2012. After crashing his motorcycle and lying about the details of the incident, Bobby Petrino was fired as the team’s head coach in April. Athletic director Jeff Long hired former assistant John L. Smith to be the interim coach, but the Razorbacks weren’t the same team.

Fast forward to 2013 and there’s a different feeling surrounding this team.

After a successful seven-year run at Wisconsin, Arkansas pulled Bret Bielema away from Madison. And Bielema should be a good fit in Fayetteville, especially with his run-first mentality on offense.

Arkansas was ranked by most a top 10-15 team before Petrino’s dismissal, so there’s still talent in the program.

Can Bielema get the Hogs back on track in 2013?

What will Arkansas' record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 


Arkansas' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
SEC
Logo
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
8/31 UL Lafayette
9/7 Samford
9/14 Southern Miss
9/21 at Rutgers
9/28 Texas A&M
10/5 at Florida
10/12 South Carolina
10/19 at Alabama
11/2 Auburn
11/9 at Ole Miss
11/23 Mississippi State
11/29 at LSU
Final Projection5-75-74-85-74-8

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
New coach Bret Bielema didn’t get many favors from the schedule makers in 2013. Arkansas drew Florida and South Carolina – two top-15 teams – in crossover play with the East Division, and the Razorbacks have to play at Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. Additionally, Arkansas has tough non-conference games against UL Lafayette and Rutgers. Considering the Razorbacks have a new coaching staff and must break in a new quarterback, getting to a bowl game would be a successful year in Fayetteville. Arkansas does have some pieces to work with, including freshman running back Alex Collins, along with one of the SEC’s best offensive lines. I have the Razorbacks beating South Carolina – Arkansas has won the last three in Fayetteville – but it’s more of a feeling this team only wins one game in SEC play. The Razorbacks certainly have some potential. But the transition to a new coaching staff and the first year for Brandon Allen at quarterback will keep the Razorbacks out of a bowl game. 

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
This could be the most difficult SEC team to figure out, new QB, coach and all. In 2011 they went an impressive 11-2 and followed that up last year going 4-8. Getting Bret Bielema was the biggest hiring surprise of the off season. What does Bret get in return? These 5 games starting week 4: at Rutgers, Texas A&M, at Florida, South Carolina, at Alabama. Now with that stretch laid out, I feel they could go 4-0 to start the season in their non-conference game. I like the direction of the program under Bret (Stay away from motorcycles), just not this season. Name to remember:  Alex Collins, RB 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

The cupboard is more stark than fans in Fayetteville realize and it could mean a long, rough season for Arkansas this year. Bobby Petrino is an elite coach who levels the "talent' playing field with his game management on Saturdays, but he destroyed the roster in the process. Huge swing games like a road trip to Rutgers could shape this season very quickly. Otherwise, there are very few chances for upsets for this rebuilt team — Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, at best. One or two upsets and the Hogs have an outside chance at a bowl game, but make no mistake, six wins is the high water mark for this team.

Mark Ross

Arkansas reeled in a pretty big fish when it lured Bret Bielema from Wisconsin, but the former Big Ten coach is going to find out two things fairly quickly - 1) the cupboard is a little more bare right now in Fayetteville compared to Madison and 2) why the SEC is considered the toughest league in the country. Whether Bielema can build a Wisconsin-type program at Arkansas and succeed in the SEC is its own separate question, and one that will have to wait because it's going to take a few recruiting classes for him to even get to that point.

As far as 2013 goes, the season may get off to a promising start thanks to a light non-conference slate, although that road trip to Piscataway to play Rutgers will be tough, but that is probably the lone highlight that Razorback fans can look forward to. Otherwise, it could be a long and painful three months of SEC play, especially with Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama lined up out of the gates. With the lack of experience and production returning on offense and a lot of unproven options on defense, Bielema may be "one and done" this season, in terms of SEC wins.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
We said the same thing about Kentucky and Ole Miss: The SEC schedule does these teams no favors in helping them trying to reach the next step. Arkansas can’t even catch a Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn or Mississippi State during late September and October. Arkansas is going to struggle, but there’s a glimmer of hope there, especially once Bielema gets things moving. He’ll have an OK defensive line and an elite center, which isn’t a bad place to start. Trouble is, he has little else. Arkansas may have some success later in the season if they can get through that October gauntlet in one piece. But facing the Sun Belt favorite in the opener and a quality AAC team on the road in September will be problematic.

 

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South Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
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Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
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Teaser:
Arkansas Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 06:23

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