Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-football-game-game-predictions-2013
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Vanderbilt enters 2013 riding a wave of momentum. The Commodores are coming off back-to-back bowl appearances and finished 2012 on a seven-game winning streak.

Coach James Franklin has Vanderbilt positioned to take another step forward this season, as the Commodores have garnered some preseason top-25 consideration. The return of 13 starters should keep Vanderbilt in the mix for eight or nine wins, while creating an opportunity for an upset or two against one of the top teams in the SEC East.

The top three teams in the SEC East for 2013 seem clear. Georgia, Florida and South Carolina are considered a step above the next tier, which features Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Missouri.

On paper, the Commodores are clearly ahead of the Volunteers and Tigers this year, but there are question marks surrounding this team. Can quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels successfully replace Jordan Rodgers at quarterback? Can Vanderbilt find a No. 2 receiver to team with Jordan Matthews at receiver? Will the defense maintain its place among the best in the SEC with three new starters on the line?

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

Vanderbilt's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
Josh
Ward
SEC
Logo
8/29 Ole Miss
9/7 Austin Peay
9/14 at South Carolina
9/21 at UMass
9/28 UAB
10/5 Missouri
10/19 Georgia
10/26 at Texas A&M
11/9 at Florida
11/16 Kentucky
11/23 at Tennessee
11/30 Wake Forest
Final Projection8-48-48-48-46-67-5

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Coach James Franklin has raised the bar at Vanderbilt. The Commodores have made back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, recruiting is on the upswing, and the facilities are getting an upgrade. Needless to say, momentum is on the side of Vanderbilt and Franklin. Even though the Commodores will have a new quarterback and running back Zac Stacy is gone to the NFL, this team will have a chance to win nine games. New quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels could be an upgrade in terms of talent over Jordan Rodgers, and receiver Jordan Matthews is one of the nation’s best. The offensive line has made significant progress over the last few years, and the secondary ranks near the top of the SEC. Catching Texas A&M and Ole Miss in crossover play won’t be easy, but Vanderbilt should go 4-0 in non-conference play and will be favored to beat Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. The opener against Ole Miss is a huge barometer test for both teams and should give us a good idea of how the Commodores stack up for 2013.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
James Franklin has to overcome some horrific off-season summer news off-the-field and the highest expectations in school history on it. This team has yet to pull any big upsets under Franklin as it has lost to nearly every team it has played with a winning record, so scoring some potential upsets — like, say, Georgia at home — will be critical moving forward for Vandy. Key swing games in Knoxville and against Ole Miss to start will likely determine if the Dores can land in the postseason for an unprecedented third straight year.

Mark Ross
James Franklin has already accomplished so much in his first two seasons at Vanderbilt that should the Commodores not earn a third straight bowl invite it would be considered a surprise. In fact, it's safe to say that the bar has been raised beyond just getting to six wins and becoming bowl-eligible, as Franklin has his sights set much higher. While a trip to the SEC title game this fall is probably not in the cards, this team has enough talent and experience that it should be able to match last season's win total.

The schedule probably caps the regular-season win tally at eight, but if Austyn Carta-Samuels emerges at quarterback and the defense continues to improve, this Vanderbilt team could potentially pull off an upset on the road. And at this point, a win in Columbia, S.C., or College Station, Texas, or even The Swamp down in Gainesville, Fla., probably wouldn't shock anyone. Welcome to the current state of Vanderbilt football.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
If Vanderbilt gets to another bowl game, James Franklin remains a miracle worker, whether it’s a six-win season or nine-win season. I’ve picked eight wins during the regular season, and I’d be tempted to drop it after the sexual assault scandal has cost the ‘Dores a player who is going to make a difference (No. 2 wide receiver Chris Boyd). This is a team with a new (to them) starting quarterback and no receiver other than Jordan Matthews who caught more than 12 passes last season. The non-conference schedule is manageable, but eight wins may be a ceiling.

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Vanderbilt has reached the postseason the last two years, which has led to higher expectations in Nashville. Can the Commodores live up to them? The opener against Ole Miss will give Vanderbilt a chance to show it’s for real. Even if the Commodores lose to Ole Miss, the season still has plenty of promise. Remember, Vanderbilt began last season with an 0-2 record before it finished the year with nine wins. There are questions to be answered. Is Austyn Carta-Samuels ready to be the No. 1 quarterback? Will wide receiver Chris Boyd return to the team? He’s an important part of Vanderbilt’s offense. The Commodores won’t sneak up on anyone this year as they try to reach their third consecutive bowl game under head coach James Franklin.

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)

This isn't your father's SEC punching bag Vanderbilt, not while James Franklin is in town.  They are coming off back to back bowl seasons for the first time in their schools history, not to mention a 41-18 beat down of instate rival Tennessee last season.  They have by far the easiest non-conference schedule in the SEC, it's downright laughable.  Their bye week placement is setting up quite nice for a shot at knocking off a couple of SEC East contenders, week 7 before a home game vs Georgia and week 10 before a trip to Gainesville, FL.  Don't fall asleep in their defense either, last year they ranked 5th in the SEC only allowing 333.9 yards per game.  The two biggest questions, how does the recent off field issues and suspensions effect the team as a whole, and their QB situation.  Name to remember: Austyn Carta-Samuels, QB  
 

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Teaser:
Vanderbilt Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 19, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-receiver-makes-crazy-catch-scrimmage
Body:

USC receiver Aaron Minor is trying to earn a spot on the team as a walk-on. And the true freshman certainly opened some eyes with a crazy catch in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Check out this crazy catch from USC’s scrimmage, with Minor catching a pass off the back of a defensive back:
 

Teaser:
USC Receiver Makes Crazy Catch in Scrimmage
Post date: Monday, August 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/comic-strip-kicks-kent-states-dri-archers-heisman-campaign
Body:

Kent State’s Dri Archer is one of college football’s top all-purpose players. In 14 games last season, he rushed for 1,429 yards and 16 scores, while catching 39 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns. Archer also took three kickoff returns for scores.

Archer is a longshot to win the Heisman, but Kent State has kicked off a campaign to help promote its senior running back in 2013.

This comic strip is penned by Kent State alumnus Chuck Ayers and is one of the most unique Heisman campaigns from recent years. 

You can follow Dri Archer's Heisman campaign and future comic strips on twitter - @Dri4Heisman

 

Teaser:
Comic Strip Kicks off Kent State's Dri Archer's Heisman Campaign
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/james-franklin-wins-missouri-qb-battle
Body:

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel decided to end the quarterback speculation on Thursday night, picking James Franklin as the Tigers’ No. 1 passer for the season opener against Murray State.

Franklin was one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks in 2011 but struggled in his SEC debut. The Texas native was dealing with a shoulder injury last season and was less than full strength for 2012.

Assuming Franklin is 100 percent, he should rebound with a big season in 2013.

Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk pushed Franklin for time this offseason, and the coaching staff plans on getting him into games this season to gain experience for 2014.

It wasn’t much of a surprise, but Missouri made the right call in naming Franklin the starter for 2013.<

Teaser:
James Franklin Wins Missouri QB Battle
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Mississippi State started 2012 with seven consecutive victories, but the Bulldogs struggled in the second half of the season with a 1-5 mark over their final six contests.

With 11 starters back, Mississippi State should be back in the mix for a winning season in 2013. But the SEC isn’t going to get any easier. Auburn and Arkansas should show improvement under their new coaching staffs, and the addition of Texas A&M will only add another obstacle in the West Division for the Bulldogs.

Coach Dan Mullen has done a good job of elevating Mississippi State into a being a consistent bowl team, but the fanbase wants to compete for SEC West titles.

With a non-conference date against Oklahoma State and a road test at South Carolina in crossover play, Mississippi State will have a tough time replicating last year’s eight wins.

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

Mississippi State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
SEC
Logo
8/31 Oklahoma State (Houston)
9/7 Alcorn State
9/14 at Auburn
9/21 Troy
10/5 LSU
10/12 Bowling Green
10/24 Kentucky
11/2 at South Carolina
11/9 at Texas A&M
11/16 Alabama
11/23 Arkansas (Little Rock)
11/28 Ole Miss
Final Projection6-67-56-66-65-7

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Dan Mullen’s overall record at Mississippi State is just 29-22, but the Bulldogs have made considerable progress under his watch. Mississippi State has three consecutive winning seasons for only the second time since 1960, and if the Bulldogs make a bowl, it will be first time in school history the program has made four straight postseason appearances. So while the wins haven’t been as plentiful has some may have wanted, Mississippi State is on the right track and has closed the gap with the rest of the SEC. Surpassing last year’s eight wins will be difficult, especially since the schedule is a little tougher than it was last year, and the Bulldogs must replace standout cornerback Johnthan Banks. Provided a few receivers emerge, the offense should average around 30 points a game. And promoting Geoff Collins to be the defense’s playcaller should pay dividends for Mullen. Mississippi State’s depth and talent has improved in recent years, but the SEC West isn’t getting easier. Auburn and Arkansas will be better than they were last season, and Ole Miss and Texas A&M aren’t expected to take a step back. Expect another bowl game and six or seven win season in Starkville this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Dan Mullen must replace some big-time names in his secondary, but I think this team is going to be sneaky good up front on that side of the ball. Offensively, the Bulldogs are one of only three SEC teams returning a 2,800-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher to the same backfield in Tyler Russell and LaDarius Perkins. If Russell can take the next step in his development, this team could be dangerous. More likely, however, is State fails to compete with the big boys and beats the teams it is supposed to. Another bowl game and another five losses for Mullen and Company in Starkville.

Mark Ross
Dan Mullen has averaged just over seven wins in his four seasons at Mississippi State and the Bulldogs have gone to three straight bowl games. Mullen has raised the bar in Starkville, but the schedule-makers did him no favors as he looks to keep the momentum going this fall. It's not that Mississippi State is or will be a bad team, it's just that a schedule that opens with Oklahoma State and also includes Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M, as well as the season-ending Egg Bowl with OIe Miss will be tough sledding.

The offense needs a big senior season from quarterback Tyler Russell and some unproven wide receivers to step up, while the front seven of the defense will need to lead the way to allow an inexperienced secondary the time to develop. Even if everything goes right for Mullen and his team, they still could finish no better than .500 during the regular season. The fact that such a showing would be considered a disappointment shows you how far Mullen has already brought this program. Remember this Bulldogs fans, especially when the calendar turns to November.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Give credit to Dan Mullen: His teams rarely lose games they’re supposed to win. They’ve just never won games they’re supposed to lose. Mississippi State is probably better than the 6-6 team I’ve picked here. With a veteran quarterback and a solid defensive line, the Bulldogs should be able to compete in the SEC. But the Bulldogs are going to have to prove they can beat the top teams in the league (or the top teams in the Big 12, for that matter). Getting an untested LSU team at home early in the season will be a good opportunity for Mississippi State to make a statement, plus an Egg Bowl that finally has a bit of appeal outside of the state.

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
Last year Tyler Russell competed 58.6% of his passes for 2,897 yards 24 TDs / 10 INTs.  Those aren't bad numbers by any stretch, but playing this schedule, they won’t cut it this season.  State has guys who are SEC household names:  Gabe Jackson, Benardrick McKinney,  LaDarius Perkins, that’s NFL talent.  But look at this November slate: at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, Alabama, at Arkansas, Ole Miss.  Brutal... Name to remember: Chris Jones.

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Teaser:
Mississippi State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-top-50-players-2013
Body:

The Big 12 is a league in transition in 2013. With the departure of some of the conference’s top quarterbacks, the title picture is wide open, and a case could be made for six or seven teams to be picked in the top three of the final standings.

With most teams losing some of their top talent, ranking the top 50 players is a difficult task. TCU’s Casey Pachall ranks as the No. 1 quarterback, but the senior checks in at No. 21 on the top 50 players for 2013. After sitting out most of last season due to an off-the-field incident, Pachall has a lot to prove, especially since he has not played a full year in the Big 12.

Other players such as Texas’ Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat are difficult to rank after injuries limited both in 2012. Oklahoma State’s Jeremy Smith is due for a big season as the Cowboys’ No. 1 running back, but he has never carried a full season workload. Also, quarterbacks like Blake Bell and Bryce Petty have a lot of promise, but neither passer has started a game. Although we are projecting both players to have a good season, it’s hard to rank either above the top 40 players in the conference.

Compiling the top 50 players of any conference is never an easy task. However, Athlon established a criteria to help compile the rankings. 

Here are six factors that contributed to the criteria for the rankings:
1. Projection on 2013 Performance 
2. Importance to team
3. Who are the best overall players in terms of talent?
4. Positional importance
5. NFL Draft stock
6. Career performance 
 

Athlon's Top 50 Big 12 Players for 2013

RankPlayerPositionTeam
1Cyril RichardsonOGBaylor
2Devonte FieldsDETCU
3Lache SeastrunkRBBaylor
4Jackson JeffcoatDETexas
5Jason VerrettCBTCU
6Aaron ColvinCBOklahoma
7Trey MillardFBOklahoma
8Calvin BarnettDTOklahoma State
9Kerry HyderDTTexas Tech
10Gabe IkardOLOklahoma
11Cornelius LucasOTKansas State
12BJ FinneyCKansas State
13Eric WardWRTexas Tech
14Ty ZimmermanSKansas State
15Le'Raven ClarkOTTexas Tech
16Bryce HagerLBBaylor
17Shaun LewisLBOklahoma State
18Quandre DiggsCBTexas
19Josh StewartWROklahoma State
20Casey PachallQBTCU
21Jordan HicksLBTexas
22James SimsRBKansas
23Tevin ReeseWRBaylor
24Jalen SaundersWROklahoma
25Carrington ByndomCBTexas
26Dartwan BushDETexas Tech
27Sam CarterSTCU
28Trey HopkinsOGTexas
29Mike DavisWRTexas
30Tyler LockettWRKansas State
31Johnathan GrayRBTexas
32Charles SimsRBWest Virginia
33Clint ChelfQBOklahoma State
34Damien WilliamsRBOklahoma
35Chucky HunterDTTCU
36Ben HeeneyLBKansas
37Jace AmaroTETexas Tech
38Ahmad DixonSBaylor
39Jeremy SmithRBOklahoma State
40Spencer DrangoOTBaylor
41Mason WaltersOGTexas
42Karl JosephSWest Virginia
43Parker GrahamOGOklahoma State
44Daryl WilliamsOTOklahoma
45Cody WhitehairOTKansas State
46Justin GilbertCBOklahoma State
47Jeremiah GeorgeLBIowa State
48Jaxon ShipleyWRTexas
49Blake BellQBOklahoma
50Bryce PettyQBBaylor


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Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Top 50 Players for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-15
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 Thursday, August 15th

Two West Virginia players have left the team.

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett is out three to four weeks with a knee injury.

Saturday Down South takes a look at assistants in the SEC that could be head coaches in the near future.

Alabama's freshmen running backs are pushing for time. 

Kansas State will be anchored by a strong offensive line. 

Good news for Oklahoma: Defensive tackle Quincy Russell has arrived on campus.

Minnesota freshman running back Berkley Edwards is making some noise in fall camp.

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is nursing a minor ankle injury.

Pittsburgh linebacker Todd Thomas is slowly working his way back.

Two Cincinnati players have quit the team this fall.

A few running backs are standing out for South Florida.

Marshall is interested in Virginia Tech transfer Donaldven Manning

Here's a good analysis of Iowa's offensive line for 2013.

Saturday Blitz lists a few breakout players for the Big 12.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 14:40
Path: /college-football/tennessee-unveils-alternate-gray-jerseys
Body:

New Tennessee coach Butch Jones hinted there may be a few jersey changes in store for the Volunteers, and the program is set to unveil on Thursday afternoon a new alternate look for 2013.
Although the black alternate jersey worn against South Carolina in 2009 wasn’t a bad look, these charcoal or “Smokey” colored uniforms are an upgrade for Tennessee's third jersey.

 

Teaser:
Tennessee Unveils Alternate Gray Jerseys
Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 12:28
Path: /college-football/miami-heat-coach-erik-spoelstra-visits-tennessee-practice
Body:

Tennessee coach Butch Jones had a special visitor in practice on Wednesday. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made the trip from South Beach to Knoxville to visit with Jones and take in practice with the Volunteers.

The two coaches have developed a friendship, and Jones attended Miami’s game seven victory against San Antonio in the NBA Finals.

Any guesses as to what they talked about at practice in this photo? Maybe Jones was checking to see if LeBron James had any eligibility? Or was Jones asking about season tickets for the Heat?

 

Teaser:
Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra Visits Tennessee Practice
Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-coach-todd-graham-goes-cliff-jumping
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Arizona State coach Todd Graham isn’t afraid of challenges. After all, the Sun Devils’ second-year coach has installed that phrase as the team’s mantra for 2013.

To further prove his point, Graham joined Vanderbilt’s James Franklin in the ranks of coaches going cliff jumping this offseason. Graham jumped into Tonto Creek at Arizona State’s fall practice destination (Camp Tontozona) on Wednesday afternoon. Check out Graham's jump in the video below:
 

Teaser:
Arizona State Coach Todd Graham Goes Cliff Jumping
Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 10:17
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-wide-receiving-corps-2013
Body:

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.

Related College Football Content

College Football Bowl Projections for 2013
Top 10 Darkhorses to Win the National Title
College Football's Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013
College Football's All-Name Team for 2013
SEC Breakout Players for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Underrated Quarterbacks

 

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
Body:

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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Oklahoma Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
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Kliff Kingsbury Returns Home to Texas Tech
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

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
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 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
Body:

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
Body:

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
Body:

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.

Related College Football Content

College Football Bowl Projections for 2013
Top 10 Darkhorses to Win the National Title
College Football's All-Name Team for 2013
SEC Breakout Players for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Underrated Quarterbacks

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.


Related College Football Content

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Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Michigan 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Ohio State 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Nebraska 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Penn State 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Wisconsin 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
The Big Ten's Best Traditions
College Football's 2013 All-America Team

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.

Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
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Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
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SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

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

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
Pivotal Players to Determining a SEC Championship
SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Florida Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
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
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

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

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