Articles By Steven Lassan

All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News, Big East
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-impact-transfers-2012

College football transfers can make an immediate impact on the conference and national title races. Need evidence? Russell Wilson's decision to transfer from NC State to Wisconsin was enough to boost the Badgers into the Rose Bowl and come within a few plays from an unbeaten regular season.

Athlon previously examined the top transfers prior to spring practice. However, much has changed since then and with more movement among players over the last few months, here's an updated look at the top 10 impact transfers for 2012, along with a watchlist for 2013.

1. Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin (from Maryland) – For the second consecutive season, the Badgers’ starting quarterback will be a transfer. Russell Wilson led Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl appearance and a Big Ten title, so the pressure is on O’Brien to produce right away. O’Brien had a standout freshman season at Maryland, earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns. However, with a new coordinator and receiver Torrey Smith catching passes in the NFL, O’Brien struggled to match his production from his freshman season. While Wilson had only one year of eligibility to use, O’Brien can play two seasons in Madison. He isn’t likely to match Wilson’s production or effectiveness, but O'Brien is an upgrade over the current options on the roster. With running back Montee Ball and stalwarts Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner returning on the offensive line, O’Brien won’t be asked to win games all on his own. However, he needs to have a much better season than he did in College Park in 2011 if the Badgers want to win the Big Ten title.

2. Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas (from Notre Dame) – After a failed stint at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis is back on the sidelines at Kansas. Weis has created a buzz in Lawrence and landed Crist from Notre Dame to start in 2012, while picking up quarterback Jake Heaps (BYU) and receiver Justin McCay (Oklahoma) to start in 2013. Crist committed to Weis at Notre Dame, but failed to fulfill his potential, finishing with 2,327 yards and 16 touchdowns in three years. Injuries derailed Crist for two years, but he was benched after a slow start in the 2011 season opener and barely played the remainder of the year. Crist’s familiarity with Weis’ offense should pay dividends, and he should be an upgrade on last season’s quarterback play. However, Crist is unlikely to provide enough of a boost for Kansas to get to six wins and a bowl in 2012.

3. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (from Oregon) – Seastrunk was one of college football’s most sought after recruits in the 2010 signing class. He redshirted as a freshman in 2010 and transferred from Oregon before playing a snap in 2011. Seastrunk isn’t the biggest back, but his speed will be a valuable addition to Baylor’s backfield. He rushed for 138 yards on seven attempts during the spring game and will be expected to share carries with Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin. Salubi rushed for 331 yards and three touchdowns last season and will likely begin the season as the No. 1 back. However, Seastrunk will see plenty of carries and provides a much-needed big-play threat in Baylor’s offense with Robert Griffin off to the NFL.

4. DeAnthony Arnett, WR, Michigan State (from Tennessee) – Arnett might not be a household name like Dayne Crist or Danny O’Brien, but his addition was a huge boost for Michigan State. Not only are the Spartans losing quarterback Kirk Cousins, but they must replace the top three receivers from last season. Arnett was a key contributor as a true freshman at Tennessee last year, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to obtain a hardship waiver from the NCAA and is eligible immediately in East Lansing for the 2012 season. Arnett has some work to do to crack the starting rotation, but will provide an experienced weapon for quarterback Andrew Maxwell. 

5. Mike Blakely, Auburn (from Florida) – After enrolling early at Florida, Blakely made the surprising decision to transfer after his first semester in Gainesville. Running back wasn’t expected to be a significant need for Auburn after the 2011 season, but 1,000-yard rusher Michael Dyer transferred to Arkansas State. Onterio McCalebb is slated to be the Tigers’ No. 1 back, but he may not have the durability to withstand 25 carries a game. Alabama transfer Corey Grant and sophomore Tre Mason will also figure into the backfield, but Blakely has momentum entering fall practice after rushing for 65 yards and a score in the spring game. Auburn could choose to use a committee of backs in 2012, but Blakely figures to be see plenty of opportunities. 

6. Cody Green, QB, Tulsa (from Nebraska) – With Taylor Martinez entrenched as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, playing time for Green would have been limited over the next two years in Lincoln. In two seasons with the Cornhuskers, he threw for 657 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 254 yards and three scores on the ground. Tulsa has a solid supporting cast in place on offense, as running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas return, along with two All-Conference USA candidates on the offensive line. Green should be a good fit in Tulsa’s offense and will have the Golden Hurricane in contention for the Conference USA West Division crown.

7. R.J. Dill, OT, Rutgers (from Maryland) – Dill’s decision to transfer to Rutgers could play a key role in deciding the Big East title. He started 33 games over three seasons at Maryland and has one more year of eligibility with the Scarlet Knights. The offensive line has been a source of criticism for Rutgers over the last two years, and this unit loses All-Big East starters Desmond Wynn and Art Forst. Dill is unlikely to be an All-American, but his presence should help to stabilize the right side of the line and allow the Scarlet Knights to establish their ground attack in 2012.

8. Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State (from Oregon State) – Katz was pinpointed as one of the Pac-12’s top breakout players for 2011, but he was benched in the second game of the year. Katz threw for 2,401 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010, but threw for only 104 yards in the first two games of 2011. With quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman departing, the Aztecs will be starting over on offense. Katz left spring practice as the starting quarterback and will have one of the Mountain West’s top receiving corps to throw to. If he can return to his 2010 form, Katz will be a solid pickup for San Diego State.

9. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU (from Texas) – Gilbert was one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the 2009 signing class and was anointed as Texas’ starter once Colt McCoy finished his eligibility. He started all 12 games in 2010 but threw for only 2,744 yards and 10 touchdowns, while tossing 17 interceptions. Gilbert got off to a slow start in 2011 and was benched after the Sept. 10 victory against BYU. With Kyle Padron transferring to Eastern Washington, Gilbert has a clear path to the starting job at SMU. After facing enormous pressure in Austin, the junior has an opportunity to shine outside of the spotlight. June Jones is one of college football’s top offensive minds, and Gilbert could have a big season in the Mustangs' offense.

10. Brent Benedict, OG, Virginia Tech (from Georgia) – The Hokies’ biggest weakness in 2012 is the offensive line. Gone are four starters, including All-ACC selections in Blake DeChristopher and guard Jaymes Brooks. Benedict ranked among the top 150 prospects coming out of high school by most recruiting services, but suffered a significant knee injury in his senior year. He redshirted during his only season at Georgia and all signs point to a return to full strength in 2012. Benedict is expected to start at right guard this year and provided he can stay healthy, this should turn out to be a huge addition for the Hokies. 


Others to watch for 2012

Austyn Carta-Samuels, QB (Wyoming to Vanderbilt)
Brice Butler, WR (USC to San Diego State)
Amir Carlisle, RB (USC to Notre Dame)
Cullen Christian, DB (Michigan to Pittsburgh)
Tommy Davis, DB (Northern Illinois to Illinois)
Jonathan Dowling, DB (Florida to Western Kentucky)
Chris Dunkley, WR (Florida to South Florida)
De’Leon Eskridge, RB (Minnesota to San Jose State
Cameron Fordham, OL (LSU to NC State)
Khairi Fortt, LB (Penn State to California
Tyler Gabbert, QB (Missouri to UCF)
Corey Grant, RB (Alabama to Auburn)
Montel Harris, RB (Boston College to Temple)
Storm Johnson, RB (Miami to UCF)
Jacob Karam, QB (Texas Tech to Memphis)
James Kittredge, DT (Vanderbilt to Michigan State)
Alex Mateas, C (Penn State to Connecticut)
Bryce McNeal, WR (Clemson to Louisville?)
Shakim Phillips, WR (Boston College to Connecticut)
Kyle Prater, WR (Northwestern to USC)
Silas Redd, RB (Penn State to USC)
Josh Shaw, S (Florida to USC)
Phillip Sims, QB (Alabama to Virginia)
Phil Smith, OL (Georgia Tech to UCF)
Darryl Stonum, WR (Michigan to Baylor)
Jordan Webb, QB (Kansas to Colorado)
Forrest West, DL (Colorado to NC State)
Ryan Williams, QB (Memphis to Miami)
Toney Williams, RB (Tennessee to Ball State)
Brandon Willis, DT (North Carolina to UCLA)
Connor Wood, QB (Texas to Colorado)


10 to Watch for 2013

Aaron Green, RB, TCU (from Nebraska)
Michael Dyer, RB, Arkansas State (from Auburn)
Max Garcia, OT, Florida (from Maryland)
Jake Heaps, QB, Kansas (from BYU)
Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida (from Notre Dame)
Justin McCay, WR, Kansas (from Oklahoma)
Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma (from Fresno State)
Pete Thomas, QB, NC State (from Colorado State)
Darius White, WR, Missouri (from Texas)
Brandon Williams, RB, Texas A&M (from Oklahoma)

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

<p> College football's top 10 impact transfers for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:55
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-best-and-worst-hires-2012

The college football coaching carousel was busy in the offseason, as 28 programs changed hands. Here’s how we rank the new hires:

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Previous Job: College football analyst, ESPN

Pros: Meyer boasts an incredible 104–23 record as a head coach in stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. His teams are 60–18 in conference play, and he has led two teams to a national title (’06 Florida, ’08 Florida) and another to an undefeated season (’04 Utah).

Cons: Meyer’s tenure at Florida didn’t end on the best note. He resigned in December 2009, citing health reasons, but changed his mind the next day. His 2010 Gators struggled on offense and limped to an 8–5 record (4–4 in the SEC). Meyer stepped down once again in December 2010.

Final Analysis: This is a tremendous hire. Ohio State is very fortunate that Meyer was available as basically a free agent the year in which it was looking for a new coach. If Meyer’s health is not an issue and his batteries are recharged, there is little doubt that he will win Big Ten championships during his time in Columbus.

2. Mike Leach, Washington State

Previous Job: College football analyst, CBS Sports

Pros: Leach won at a high level at Texas Tech, compiling an overall record of 84–43 and a mark of 47–33 in the Big 12 in 10 seasons. His offenses were consistently among the most explosive in college football.

Cons: Leach comes with some baggage — though no one is quite sure just how much. There has to be a reason so many schools passed on him in the past two years, right?

Final Analysis: This is an absolute home run hire for Washington State, which has really struggled to compete in the league over the past five years. With a well-deserved reputation as one of the top offensive coaches in the game, Leach will be able to attract top-flight talent at the skill positions to Pullman. It will be difficult for Wazzu to out-recruit rivals Washington and Oregon on a consistent basis, but the Cougars will at least be relevant with Leach running the ship.

3. Terry Bowden, Akron

Previous Job: Head coach, North Alabama

Pros: Bowden has a fantastic record in 18 seasons as a head coach at Division III Salem (19–13), Division I-AA Samford (45–23–1), Auburn (47–17–1) and Division II North Alabama (29–10). He is very well known nationally and will be able to attract talent to Akron. Bowden spent the 1986 season — his only year as a full-time assistant coach at any level — as the quarterbacks coach at Akron.

Cons: Bowden hasn’t coached in the FBS (or Division I-A) ranks since 1998, when he was forced out at Auburn after a 1–5 start.

Final Analysis: Bowden is a proven commodity who brings instant credibility to a program that has slipped to the bottom of the MAC food chain. He will get quality players — don’t be surprised if Akron becomes a popular destination for transfers — and win plenty of games. Great hire by Akron.

4. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Auburn

Pros: Malzahn is regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football. Auburn struggled this past season, but Malzahn’s four previous offenses — two at Auburn and two at Tulsa — finished seventh, 16th, first and first nationally.

Cons: Malzahn’s lack of head coaching experience in the collegiate ranks might have been considered a negative had he jumped to a BCS conference job, but not so at Arkansas State.

Final Analysis: Malzahn was reportedly in the running for the top job at Kansas and North Carolina. Didn’t happen — for various reasons. Rather than return to Auburn for another season, he opted to accept Arkansas State’s offer to succeed Hugh Freeze. This is quite the coup for the Red Wolves, who will be favored to repeat as champs of the Sun Belt.

5. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Wisconsin

Pros: Chryst has been one of the top offensive coordinators in college football over the past nine seasons, two at Oregon State and the past seven at Wisconsin. The Badgers have led the Big Ten in scoring offense in each of the past three years.

Cons: Chryst has never been a head coach on any level.

Final Analysis: It’s been a tumultuous time at Pittsburgh, which fired an alum (Dave Wannstedt) and hired three head coaches (Mike Haywood, Todd Graham and Chryst) in a 13-month period. In the end, however, things have worked out for the Panthers. The highly respected Chryst appears to be an ideal fit. His offenses have been built around power running attacks and efficient quarterback play — a recipe that should work well at Pittsburgh.

6. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Previous Job: Head coach, Houston

Pros: Sumlin compiled a 35–17 record (24–8 C-USA) in four seasons at Houston, and did so in entertaining fashion. The Cougars averaged 42.6 points on Sumlin’s watch and led the nation in total offense twice and ranked second once. This will be his second stop in College Station (offensive coordinator in 2001-02).

Cons: It’s tough to poke holes in Sumlin’s résumé, but it is worth noting that his record at Houston was 3–6 in games in which Case Keenum did not play (ACL injury in ’10).

Final Analysis: Sumlin was the obvious choice for Texas A&M after the school made the decision to cut ties with Mike Sherman. Nothing is a given in the world of college football, but it’s tough to envision Sumlin not enjoying success as the boss in College Station.

7. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Previous Job: College football analyst, CBS Sports Network

Pros: Rodriguez enjoyed a tremendous seven-year run as the head coach at West Virginia, compiling a 60–26 record and doing so with some of the most exciting offenses in the nation. He also succeeded (43–28–2, seven years) at Glenville (W.Va.) State, an NAIA school in West Virginia.  

Cons: Rodriguez struggled to win games at Michigan, a school where it’s hard not to win. He went 15–22 overall and 6–18 in the Big Ten, the worst three-year stretch at the school since the mid-1930s. Rodriguez has had minor issues with the NCAA at both stops as a head coach at the FBS level. Also, he has not coached out West, and most of his coaching staff does not have experience in the Pac-12 — something that could hurt recruiting.

Final Analysis: This is a very important hire by Arizona AD Greg Byrne, who served as a one-man committee. RichRod has some baggage — struggled at Michigan plus NCAA issues — but he is a very good coach who will play an exciting brand of football. This is a solid hire.

8. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Previous Job: Head coach, Arkansas State

Pros: Freeze enhanced an already strong résumé by leading Arkansas State to its first-ever Sun Belt title in his only season as the head coach. He also did an outstanding job in his only year as the Red Wolves’ offensive coordinator (2010), and had a 20–5 mark in two seasons as the head coach at Lambuth College, an NAIA school in Jackson, Tenn.

Cons: Freeze has only four years of experience in FBS football, two with Ole Miss (2006-07) and two with Arkansas State (2010-11).

Final Analysis: Freeze is a Mississippi native who is a perfect choice to take on the difficult task of making Ole Miss football a consistent winner in the brutal SEC West. The sample size of his work isn’t large, but he has been very successful at every stop.

9. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Previous Job: Head coach, Southern Miss

Pros: Fedora was successful in his tenure at Southern Miss, with an overall record of 34–19 and a 20–12 mark in Conference USA. Prior to becoming a head coach, he was a highly regarded offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State.

Cons: Fedora won a bunch of games at USM, but the 22 wins in his first three seasons were actually one fewer than the 23 that Jeff Bower won in his final three years at the school.

Final Analysis: North Carolina has been unable to enjoy sustained success since Mack Brown bolted for Texas in 1997. Butch Davis recruited at a high level but never lost fewer than five games in his four seasons in Chapel Hill. Fedora looks like a great fit at North Carolina — but so did Davis before him and John Bunting before Davis.

10. John L. Smith, Arkansas

Previous Job: Head coach, Weber State

Pros: Smith knows the Arkansas program very well. He was on staff as the special teams coordinator from 2009-11 before leaving (for only four months) to serve as the head coach at his alma mater, Weber State. He has 18 years of head coaching experience.

Cons: Smith is a bit on the eccentric side, which is fine when things are going well. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself if this team faces some adversity.

Final Analysis: At first, this seemed to a be a curious hire. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Arkansas, with a veteran roster, is built to win now. Smith knows the players and he knows most of the coaches. There should be a seamless transition. The Hogs will no doubt miss Bobby Petrino the playcaller, but in the short term they might not miss Petrino the program CEO.  

11. Jim McElwain, Colorado State

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Alabama

Pros: McElwain spent the last four seasons on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama and was a part of two national championship teams. He is highly respected by his peers and has plenty of experience coaching out West, with stops at Eastern Washington, Montana State and Fresno State.

Cons: McElwain has no experience, on any level, as a head coach.

Final Analysis: Colorado State, once the premier program in the Mountain West, won exactly three games in four of the past five seasons. That is not acceptable. McElwain’s charge is to add some spice to an offense that ranked 97th or worse in scoring in each of the past three seasons. He wasn’t the sexiest hire of the offseason, but he is a solid coach who should have this program more competitive in the near future.

12. Tim Beckman, Illinois

Previous Job: Head coach, Toledo

Pros: Beckman did a very good job in his three seasons at Toledo, with an overall record of 21–16 and a 17–7 mark in the MAC (including 14–2 in the final two years). And while Toledo is consistently one of the top programs in the league, the Rockets had suffered through three straight losing seasons prior to Beckman’s arrival. He was also a successful defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State (2007-08) and a position coach (cornerbacks) at Ohio State (’05-06).

Cons: This is being a bit picky, but Beckman’s clock management down the stretch of Toledo’s 63–60 loss at home to Northern Illinois in November was highly questionable. That game ended up costing the Rockets the MAC West title.

Final Analysis: Beckman fits the profile of a Big Ten coach: He’s been a head coach in the MAC, a coordinator in a BCS league and a position coach in the Big Ten. He wasn’t the most exciting hire of the offseason, but Beckman looks to be the right guy at the right time for Illinois football.

13. Garrick McGee, UAB

Previous Job: Quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator, Arkansas

Pros: McGee spent the past four seasons under the tutelage of Bobby Petrino, one of the top offensive coaches in the nation. While Petrino called plays for the Hogs, McGee was heavily involved in the game plans, and he coached two outstanding quarterbacks in Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson.

Cons: McGee has never been a head coach on any level.

Final Analysis: McGee made the somewhat surprising career move in 2007 to leave his position as the offensive coordinator at Northwestern to be a position coach at Arkansas. Turned out to be a wise move. He was elevated to the coordinator position after two seasons and landed his first job as a head coach two years later. UAB is a difficult job, with very little fan support and very poor facilities, but the school is located in a fertile recruiting area. McGee will enjoy some success if he can identify — and sign — the best players in the state who aren’t quite good enough to play in the SEC.

14. Matt Campbell, Toledo

Previous Job: Offensive line coach, offensive coordinator, Toledo

Pros: Campbell did an outstanding job in his three seasons as the Rockets’ offensive coordinator. Toledo ranked eighth in the nation in scoring in 2011 and averaged 51.0 points in its final six games. He is young, energetic and reputed to be one of the top recruiters in the MAC.

Cons: Youth is a good thing in the world of coaching, but Campbell is only 32 years old, and his coaching staff is among the youngest in the nation.

Final Analysis: It’s a bit of a gamble to hire someone so young and so inexperienced, but this is a gamble that is likely to pay off for UT. Campbell is a bright offensive coach who will keep the momentum headed in the right direction at Toledo.

15. Todd Graham, Arizona State

Previous Job: Head coach, Pittsburgh

Pros: Graham is 20 games over .500 (49–29) in six seasons as a head coach — at three different programs. In 2006, he took a Rice team that had gone 1–10 the year before to the school’s first bowl game since 1961. He has had only one losing season as a head coach.

Cons: Graham has bolted after one year twice in his relatively short career as a head coach, leaving Rice after the 2006 season for Tulsa and Pitt in 2011 for Arizona State. This reputation as a program-hopper could hurt recruiting. Also, he has had high turnover among his staff in previous stops. 

Final Analysis: Graham was crucified by the national media for leaving Pittsburgh after one year, but the guy is a pretty good coach. Pitt struggled in 2011 (6–6 overall), but Graham didn’t have the type of personnel needed to succeed in his spread attack. He might not be the most well-liked man in coaching, but he should be able to win consistently at a school that has underachieved over the past two decades.

16. Jim Mora, UCLA

Previous Job: NFL Analyst, FOX

Pros: Mora brings name recognition from his two stints as a head coach in the NFL — Atlanta (2004-06) and Seattle (2009). He is a high-energy guy who hired an outstanding coaching staff that has already shown the ability to recruit well.

Cons: Mora has one season of experience in the collegiate ranks, as a graduate assistant at Washington in 1984.

Final Analysis: UCLA went outside the box on this hire after its attempt to land Boise State’s Chris Petersen failed. Mora’s lack of experience in college football is a concern, but it’s not something that can’t be overcome. As stated, he has surrounded himself with very good assistant coaches who will help make his transition smoother. Bottom line: Mora is a good coach and UCLA appears to be a solid fit for him. The guess here is that this will be remembered as an outstanding hire.

17. Justin Fuente, Memphis

Previous Job: Co-Offensive coordinator, TCU

Pros: Fuente spent the previous five years working for Gary Patterson, one of the top coaches in the game. He is young — 36 when the season starts — and will bring some much-needed positive energy into the Memphis program. Unlike his predecessor, Larry Porter, Fuente has previous experience as a coordinator, having served as the primary play-caller at TCU the past three seasons.

Cons: He has no experience as a head coach.

Final Analysis: After enjoying decent success under Tommy West, Memphis took several large steps backward during the two-year Larry Porter era. Fuente has a very difficult job, but he appears to be an ideal fit. He lacks experience, but he is very well respected and has a strong pedigree. Memphis has finally made a financial commitment to football — Fuente will be given every opportunity to succeed.

18. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

Previous Job: Defensive coordinator, Texas A&M

Pros: DeRuyter has been an effective defensive coordinator at four stops over the past decade. He inherited a unit at Texas A&M that ranked 105th in the nation in 2009 and had the Aggies ranked 55th and 59th in his two seasons — while playing in the high-powered Big 12.

Cons: DeRuyter has never served as a head coach on any level.

Final Analysis: Pat Hill did great things at Fresno State, but it was time for a divorce after 15 seasons. DeRuyter, a California native who was educated at the Air Force Academy, is the ideal coach to take over as the program moves from the WAC to the more competitive MWC.

19. Charley Molnar, Massachusetts

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, Notre Dame

Pros: Molnar has 28 years of experience in the collegiate ranks, including 11 as an offensive coordinator. He has spent the past six seasons with Brian Kelly — one at Central Michigan, three at Cincinnati and two at Notre Dame. He is very familiar with the MAC, UMass’ new league, having coached at Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Kent State and Eastern Michigan.

Cons: Molnar has been a full-time assistant since 1989, working at 10 different schools. Only once has he been a coordinator at a BCS conference school, and that was at Notre Dame, where he didn’t call the plays.

Final Analysis: UMass was one of the elite FCS programs in the mid-2000s, but the Minutemen have missed the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. Molnar’s job will be to keep UMass competitive as it migrates to the MAC East. With 11 years of experience in the league, as well as several other stops in the Midwest, he appears to be a solid choice to lead the Minutemen into a new era.

20. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss

Previous Job: Assistant head coach, defense, South Carolina

Pros: Johnson is a highly regarded defensive coach who is fresh off a successful four-year run at South Carolina. He has also been the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, Alabama, Clemson, Southern Miss and Appalachian State. Johnson has four years of experience as a head coach at two different schools (Gardner-Webb, 1983 and The Citadel, 2001-03).

Cons: Johnson’s staff isn’t exactly comprised of young up-and-comers. The head coach is 60 years old, and defensive coordinator Tommy West is 58.

Final Analysis: Johnson gets his first shot at an FBS head coaching position at one of the top jobs in Conference USA. In his previous stint as a head coach, Johnson struggled early but went 6–6 in his third year at The Citadel — one of only three non-losing seasons at the school since 1997. This hire isn’t overly exciting, but Johnson is a solid football coach who will likely do well in Hattiesburg.

21. Curtis Johnson, Tulane

Previous Job: Wide receivers coach, New Orleans Saints

Pros: Johnson was regarded as an outstanding recruiter during his 10 years (1996-2005) as the receivers coach at Miami (Fla.). He has experience coaching at the highest level of the collegiate ranks and also has spent six seasons in the NFL.

Cons: Johnson has no experience as a head coach or a coordinator.

Final Analysis: Tulane is one of the more difficult jobs in the nation. Support is extremely low, and the school lacks tradition. There was talk of building an on-campus stadium, but that hit a snag over the winter. This program needs an influx of talent. Johnson should be able to recruit well, which will give him a better chance to succeed than his predecessor.

22. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Florida

Pros: Despite his lack of success as the head coach at Notre Dame, Weis is still regarded as one of the top offensive minds in football. He should be able to attract quality skill players to Kansas, which has had only one player earn either first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors on the offensive side of the ball in the past two seasons.

Cons: Weis struggled at Notre Dame, with a 35–27 record in five seasons (16–21 in his final three years). And it’s obviously much easier to win at Notre Dame than Kansas. Also, Florida struggled mightily on offense in 2011 (105th in the nation), Weis’ lone season as the Gators’ coordinator.

Final Analysis: Kansas went to a BCS bowl as recently as 2007, but the program is now clearly the worst in the Big 12. The school wanted to make a splash with this hire. Mission accomplished. But was it a good hire? Time obviously will tell, but it’s difficult to envision a coach who was five games under .500 in his final three season at Notre Dame winning consistently at Kansas.  

23. Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

Pros: O’Brien brings a solid résumé to Penn State. He spent 12 years in the ACC (eight at Georgia Tech, two at Maryland and two at Duke) and the past five in the NFL, working for Bill Belichick.

Cons: He has no experience as a head coach — not ideal for someone who is taking over for Joe Paterno on the heels of one of the biggest scandals in college football history. In his two years as an offensive coordinator at Duke (’05-06), the Blue Devils went 1–22. Also, other New England assistants — Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and Josh McDaniels — have not fared well as head coaches.

Final Analysis: Penn State’s decision to turn to O’Brien has been widely criticized, by media and fans. But let’s be honest: The pool of candidates interested in taking over in Happy Valley was not overwhelming. O’Brien’s job will not be easy: The product on the field has been rather ordinary in recent seasons, and the Penn State brand has been greatly tarnished. He will need time to rebuild and prove that he was the right man for the job.


24. Tony Levine, Houston

Previous Job: Special teams coordinator, tight ends coach, Houston

Pros: Levine has been a highly regarded assistant coach who has worked for some quality head coaches — Kevin Sumlin (Houston), Bobby Petrino (Louisville) and Tommy Tuberville (Auburn) — and spent time as an assistant in the NFL. He is well-liked by the Houston players and plans on keeping many of the same offensive schemes in place.

Cons: Has only one game of experience as a head coach — a 30–14 win over Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl — and zero time spent as an offensive or defensive coordinator at any level.

Final Analysis: Houston AD Mack Rhoades is a well-respected administrator, but this was a curious hire. It’s a mighty big jump from coaching special teams to being a CEO of an FBS program. Houston has been a consistent winner in Conference USA under Art Briles and Sumlin; the program cannot afford to take a step back as it heads to the Big East in 2013. UH is putting its eggs in an unproven basket.

25. Kyle Flood, Rutgers

Previous Job: Assistant head coach, offensive line coach, Rutgers

Pros: Flood is a native of Queens who has spent the past seven seasons on Greg Schiano’s staff at Rutgers. He was a part of six bowl teams at Rutgers, and he consistently produced quality offensive linemen. Flood is also regarded as an outstanding recruiter.

Cons: Flood has basically been a position coach in each of his 19 seasons as an assistant. He has had the title of co-offensive coordinator (Rutgers ’09-10) and run game coordinator (Rutgers ’07), but has never been the primary play-caller.

Final Analysis: It’s never a good time to lose a head coach, but Schiano’s decision to leave Rutgers came at a really bad time — the week before National Signing Day. The school made a run at FIU’s Mario Cristobal before turning to Flood, a trusted assistant who would make the transition as easy as possible. On that front, Flood and his staff should be commended for keeping the majority of the Scarlet Knights’ recruiting class intact. Now, they will have to prove they can get the job done on the field.

26. Norm Chow, Hawaii

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Utah

Pros: Chow is a Hawaii native who has a reputation as one of the top quarterback coaches in the nation. He served on LaVell Edwards’ staff for 27 years and was the offensive coordinator at USC during the vacated-championship years of the Pete Carroll era.

Cons: The numbers don’t necessarily back up the popular view that Chow is an elite offensive coach. In each of his last four seasons as an offensive coordinator (2011 at Utah and ’08-10 at UCLA), his teams ranked 109th, 100th, 88th and 111th in the nation in total offense. Chow is the oldest — he will be 66 in the fall — of the 28 new head coaches in the FBS ranks

Final Analysis: Chow is an overrated offensive coordinator who did not land his first job as a head coach until his 40th season in the profession. His background in the state of Hawaii is a plus, but this move does not appear to be a step up from Greg McMackin.

27. Bob Davie, New Mexico

Previous Job: College football analyst, ESPN

Pros: Davie has five years of head coaching experience at Notre Dame. He also has recruiting ties in Texas, one of New Mexico’s primary areas of focus.

Cons: Davie has been out of coaching since 2001, when he was fired as Notre Dame head coach. The Irish were 19–16 in his final three seasons, with a losing mark in both 1999 (5–7) and 2001 (5–6).

Final Analysis: This is a puzzling hire. I’m not sure why the New Mexico administration believes that a coach who could not win consistently at Notre Dame — more than a decade ago — will be able to build a winner at New Mexico. Glen Mason, the former head coach at Kent State, Kansas and Minnesota, was reported to be a finalist. He might not have been the sexiest hire, but at least Mason did well (relatively) at all of his stops as a head coach. 

28. Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic

Previous Job: Defensive coordinator, Nebraska

Pros: Pelini played a key role in Nebraska’s transformation from one of the worst defensive teams in the nation (112th in ’07) to one of the best (seventh in ’09, 11th in ’10).

Cons: Pelini doesn’t have the most impressive résumé, having spent only four of his 25 years in coaching as a full-time assistant at a BCS conference school. He coached in the high school ranks for 12 years and served as a defensive line coach in the MAC before being hired by his brother, Bo, in 2008. 

Final Analysis: This hire was a bit uninspiring. Pelini is a Midwest guy who has never coached south of the Mason-Dixon line and has no ties to the state of Florida. He was successful as a defensive coordinator, but he worked for a defensive-minded head coach; you never know just who to credit for a unit’s success in those situations. One other cause for concern: Pelini didn’t get off to great start with a few local high school coaches when he failed to honor some previous verbal commitments.

Related College Football Content

College Football Rankings for 2012
College Football Predictions for 2012

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Athlon's All-American Team for 2012

College Football's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

<p> Ranking College Football's Best and Worst Hires for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/urban-meyers-arrival-has-ohio-state-football-back-track

The note was abrupt: “Urban, make sure the garage door is shut.” It wasn’t signed, because there was no mistaking who wrote it.

Soon after Urban Meyer was hired as Ohio State’s new football coach, he moved in with his mentor, Earle Bruce, his former boss when Meyer was a wide-eyed graduate assistant at OSU in 1986 and ’87.

Bruce had lost his wife of 56 years, Jean, to cancer in December just a couple weeks after Meyer had been named head coach at Ohio State. Meyer needed time to redirect his family and belongings from Florida to central Ohio and lived with Bruce for about a month while sifting through potential new homes and pouring himself into his new job.

But this is no “Odd Couple” sequel. Bruce never scolded his guest for placing dirty socks on the couch or leaving the trash bin full. He just wanted to make sure Meyer remembered to hit the garage door remote on the way to his new daily grind. Hence the note.

“We laughed about it,” the 80-year-old Bruce says, “because he says ‘Geez, that’s just like my wife. She does that (stuff) to me, too.’”

Meyer doesn’t go around seeking a whole lot of instruction from others. He’s proved in short order that he’s comfortable in his own skin by putting forth his personal directives, which center on toughness, competitive fire, accountability and achievement.

But make no mistake — they are traits he learned to value under coaches such as Bruce and Lou Holtz, and that served him well when he began to cut his teeth as a head coach at Bowling Green (2001-02). From there, he landed at Utah (2003-04), where he compiled a 22–2 record and won national acclaim.

In the six years that followed at Florida, Meyer established himself as one of the premier coaches in the country, racking up a mark of 65–15 and winning three SEC East titles, two conference championships and BCS national championships following the 2006 and ’08 seasons.

Buckeye fans remember the first one all too well, as Meyer, an Ohio native, led the Gators to a 41–14 bludgeoning of No. 1 OSU in Glendale, Ariz.

Meyer took a very brief leave of absence following the 2009 season — which coincided with the end of the Tim Tebow era — then returned and led UF to an 8–5 mark and Outback Bowl win. But he walked away from the game again after that season and took a job as an analyst for ESPN to occupy his newfound free time.

While in the booth, Meyer saw his name linked to potential openings at Penn State and Ohio State while scandal and the ouster of elite coaches Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel tormented the respective programs. By the time OSU faced Michigan in Ann Arbor, the cat was out of the bag — Luke Fickell would be removed from his temporary post as head coach, and Meyer would be pulled in with a lavish contract.

Ohio State offered a six-year, $24 million-plus deal, and the 47-year-old Meyer accepted. Thus began a new and suddenly promising era of Buckeye football — despite the program’s lingering NCAA sanctions.

Still, questions, and some baggage, came with the acquisition.

Would Meyer be able to recruit at a high level with a Buckeyes program reeling from a 6–7 season and staring at scholarship reductions and a 2012 postseason ban? Would he burn out again or encounter more health concerns like the ones that shelved him in Gainesville? Is his Bruce Wayne persona and SEC-like approach really the right fit for a Midwestern program still licking its wounds from its most embarrassing setback?

The answer to the first query is a resounding yes. Even with a late start and amid a sea of negative recruiting, Meyer pulled in a head-spinning number of 4- and 5-star prospects, including defensive linemen Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se’Von Pittman as well as offensive linemen Kyle Dodson and Taylor Decker.

Fickell and Mike Vrabel were retained on the OSU staff and helped nail down several of those players. Meyer moved Stan Drayton from receivers coach to tutor the running backs and hired six new full-timers, including former Notre Dame assistants Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton, who were instrumental in easing Decker’s mind as he flipped his commitment from ND to Ohio State.

In fact, eight members of the 25-player signing class originally had committed to other programs. That caused an uproar around the Big Ten.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema aired his concerns about Dodson’s late change of heart from UW to Ohio State by complaining publicly about the move and privately to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi also were miffed about OSU going after Pittman, a longtime Spartan commit, citing the gentleman’s agreement the program had enjoyed with Tressel in past years.

But Meyer never blinked and vowed to recruit even harder going forward.

He already has an impressive head start on his 2013 recruiting class, signaling that better times appear to be just around the corner for Buckeye fans.

But to make sure his players had no acceptance of failure, he lured strength coach Mickey Marotti from Florida and launched a demanding offseason program reminiscent of the days of Earle and Woody Hayes.

The result of every drill, every practice, every academic pursuit is measured against a standard and given a winner/loser tag.

“The structure of this program is to compete, and they don’t have a choice,” Drayton says. “If they don’t want to compete this is not the program for them.”

Says Meyer: “I want to see that distaste in somebody’s face when they lose. If they don’t share that same distaste that a lot of our coaches have, I don’t really want to see them play.”

While Meyer oozes intensity, regularly calls for 6 a.m. team meetings, likes to throw Buckeyes into one-on-one smack drills and has no hesitation in calling out players’ deficiencies — something Tressel avoided with senatorial skill — he also has begun to display a lighter side.

He cracked several jokes at the team’s Spring Kick-Off luncheon and also invited students to witness a weekend practice. In fact, he had them circle tightly around the players on some kicking drills and vowed to have one of them try some placements in front of the team next year.

“Sometimes we forget what this is all about,” Meyer says. “It’s about student-athletes and the student body and making the collegiate experience a positive thing. What does every student want? Ownership and access. So we’re going to give it to them. It’s their stadium. It’s their football team.”

Drayton, who also worked under Meyer at Bowling Green and Florida, has noticed the change. “He’s the same Urban Meyer as far as X’s and O’s and as far as intensity on the football field, but he’s in a better place right now, I think, spiritually,” he says. “He’s not letting a whole lot of things get to him as much, but it’s not like he’s taking the foot off the gas pedal at all.

“The intensity is still there and the command is still there, but now that he’s delegated some of those responsibilities and is trusting his supporting staff that much more, it’s just going to be better for him.”

Related Big Ten Content

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview

Top 10 Ohio State Buckeyes for 2012

<p> Urban Meyer is remaking Ohio State football in his image.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-offensive-lines

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Pac-12's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. USC – Despite the departure of left tackle Matt Kalil, the Trojans should still have the No. 1 offensive line in the Pac-12. Four starters are back from a unit that allowed only eight sacks and allowed rushers to average 4.9 yards per carry last season. Center Khaled Holmes should be in the mix for All-American honors after picking up second-team All-Pac-12 accolades last year. Kevin Graf started all 12 games at right tackle in 2011 and was in the mix to replace Kalil on the left side, but sophomore Aundrey Walker seemed to solidify that spot at the end of spring practice. The guard spots are expected to be manned by sophomore Marcus Martin and junior John Martinez. The depth of this unit will get a boost in the fall with the arrival of true freshmen (and Athlon Consensus 100 recruits) Zach Banner, Max Tuerk and Jordan Simmons.

2. Oregon – A healthy Carson York makes this a much more stable unit for Chip Kelly. Assuming he returns to the lineup at full strength, this offensive line should be as good, if not a touch better than last year’s group. Nick Cody returns to right tackle and Hroniss Grasu should be that much better as a sophomore now at center. Add to it athletic upgrades at left tackle with Jake Fisher and right guard with Ryan Clanton, and line coach Steve Greatwood has to be excited about his uptempo collection of blockers. It’s not as if this group has finished in the top six nationally in rushing and paced the Pac-12 for four straight years in rushing. Wait…

3. Stanford – Replacing Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro won’t be easy at all. They were two of the best at their positions nationally. However, left guard David Yankey is an Athlon Sports first-team All-Pac-12 pick and right tackle Cameron Fleming is a second-team all-league preseason selection. Sam Schwartzstein returns to the center position as a senior as well. And with David Shaw/Jim Harbaugh’s continued preaching of physicality, this group should be just fine once again. Kevin Danser and Cole Underwood will be atop an intense battle for the right guard and left tackle positions, respectively with arguably the greatest offensive line recruiting class ever assembled. Stanford has some losses but will be fine along the line.

4. Utah – Running back John White’s 2011 season is even more impressive when you consider the Utes didn’t have much of a passing attack after quarterback Jordan Wynn was lost for the year with a shoulder injury. Although White deserves much of the credit, the offensive line shouldn’t be overlooked. This group allowed 33 sacks last season, but also faced more pressure with the lack of a passing attack. Two key starters are gone from 2011, as tackles John Cullen and Tony Bergstrom have finished their eligibility. Three starters are back in Salt Lake City for 2012, including seniors in center Tevita Stevens and guard Sam Brenner. Fellow senior Miles Mason is a returning starter at left guard, but is locked into a tight battle with Jeremiah Tofaeono for snaps. Junior Percy Taumoelau (left tackle) and freshman Daniel Nelson (right tackle) are expected to be in the starting lineup, but junior college recruits Charles Lozano, Marc Pouvave and Junior Salt will push for time.

5. California – Jim Michalczik is one of the Pac-12’s top offensive line coaches and should push this unit to improve in 2012. Three starters are back from last season, but gone are two key performers, including first-team All-Pac-12 selection Mitchell Schwartz. Guard Brian Schwenke is expected to contend for all-conference honors in 2012, while Dominic Galas and Matt Summers-Gavin are back after starting all 13 games last season. Senior Tyler Rigsbee and junior Bill Tyndall look like the frontrunners at left tackle, while Geoff Gibson or Jordan Rigsbee will likely get the nod at right guard. California allowed 28 sacks in 2011, but with three seniors penciled in as returning starters, this unit should cut that number in 2012.

6. Arizona – Generally speaking, coaches love it when all five starters return to an offensive line. And there's no question Rich Rodriguez, and his zone read option rushing attack has to be excited about it. Yet, this group must show improvement to come close to recreating the Pat White-Steve Slaton magic at West Virginia. Arizona finished 114th nationally in rushing and 11th in the league while ranking 59th nationally in sacks allowed. There is promise in this group as center Kyle Quinn returns as a leader on and off the field. There's also concerns about transitioning from an offense based more on the pass, to a scheme that relies more on the run. While Quinn could contend for All-Pac-12 honors, the rest of the group needs to stay focused if they expect to improve in 2012.

7. Washington – With Keith Price back at quarterback and a solid receiving corps in place, the Huskies should once again average over 30 points per game in 2012. However, there are concerns about this unit, especially after this group suffered a setback late in the spring when returning starter Colin Porter decided to retire due to injuries. Although Porter’s departure was a blow, the Huskies still return three starters up front. Colin Tanigawa is back after starting 11 games as a freshman last season, while Erik Kohler will shift from the right side to anchor the line at left tackle. Center Drew Schaefer is the leader and should push for All-Pac-12 honors in 2012. There are some injury concerns with this group, and there’s room to improve after allowing 34 sacks last year. The Huskies have the pieces in place to expect a turnaround, but left tackle Senio Kelemente and Porter will be missed.

8. UCLA – Three starters are back to lead to Jim Mora's first offensive line in Westwood. But with the return of elite recruit and early contributor Xavier Su’a-Filo from his LDS Mission, this group could be dramatically improved in 2012. Jeff Baca and Greg Capella offer some veteran leadership, while freshman Jake Brendel looks to take over at center. With the loss of Wade Yandall to medical issues, this group will certainly have some young pieces. The cupboard isn’t bare, however, as the former regime recruited well at the position. Mora and his staff simply need to assemble the right players in the right places. Su’a-Filo, if he picks up where he left off, has a chance to be a special player.

9. Arizona State – This is a rebuilding time for Arizona State’s offensive line. The good news is there is little place to go but up after finishing 85th in rushing and 73rd in sacks allowed last year. Threes starters are gone but new coach Todd Graham has been cautiously optimistic about this section of his offense. Right guard Andrew Sampson and left tackle Evan Finkenberg return as the leaders of the group and must get this collection of talent to play up to its capabilities.

10. Oregon State – Mike Riley’s teams have consistently run the football with authority for much of his time in Corvallis. But 118th in the nation isn’t get the job done. Neither is 81st in sacks allowed. But three starters are back and the former elite recruit Michael Philipp returns after missing last season due to injury. This unit was banged-up again in the spring and must develop some depth if it expects to run the football the way Riley craves. Look for a lot of names to get looks through summer camp, including top 100 freshman Isaac Seumalo.

11. Colorado – Although the Buffaloes check in at No. 11 in this ranking, there’s some promise for this group. Left tackle David Bakhtiari earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011 and should be one of the best linemen in the conference this season. Junior Gus Handler is back after starting 10 games in 2011, while guard Ryan Dannewitz returns at right guard (11 starts last year). Sophomore Alex Lewis made one start at left tackle last season and is poised to claim the job at left guard. Jack Harris claimed the right tackle starting spot at the beginning of 2011 but suffered a broken leg and missed most of the season. Colorado has some solid pieces in place, and this unit could rank much higher on this list at the end of the year. However, the Buffaloes need to cut down on the sacks allowed from last season (31), while opening up more rushing lanes for the running backs (3.5 yards per carry in 2011).

12. Washington State – With Mike Leach’s arrival in Pullman, the Cougars are expected to be one of college football’s top passing offenses in 2012. Washington State is also expecting a big season from quarterback Jeff Tuel, who missed most of last year with injuries. However, the offense could stall if the offensive line doesn’t come together. The headliner of this group will be John Fullington. He has 18 career starts in the first two years of his career and is shifting from left guard to left tackle. Matt Goetz started the final nine games at center last year and should be the starter there in 2012. Dan Spitz is expected to start at right guard, while Wade Jacobson is back after missing most of last season. After allowing 40 sacks last year, the Cougars need to be much better up front in order to reach a winning record in 2012.

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

Related Pac-12 Content

Ranking the Pac-12 Wide Receiving Corps for 2012
Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Pac-12's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Pac-12 Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:26
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News, WAC
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-wac

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for WAC in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason WAC All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)




QB—Colby Cameron, Sr. (LA Tech)

Last season:  Passed for 1,667 yards and 13 TDs, rushed for 180 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Idaho, @ NM St, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St


QB—Andrew Manley, So. (New Mexico State)

Last season:  892 yards and 6 TDs passing.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ UTEP, New Mexico, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  San Jose St, Bye, BYU


RB—Hunter Lee, So. (LA Tech)

Last season:  Rushed for 650 yards and 5 TDs, 13 receptions for 126 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8-9; UNLV, Bye, Idaho, NM St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St


RB—Kerwynn Williams, Sr. (Utah State)

Last season:  Rushed for 542 yards and 3 TDs as RB#3 behind Robert Turbin and Michael Smith.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; NM St, @ UTSA, Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ LA Tech, Idaho


RB—De’Leon Eskridge, Sr. (San Jose State)

Last season:  Transferred from Minnesota.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; @ UTSA, Texas St, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ NM St, BYU, LA Tech


WR—Quinton Patton, Sr. (LA Tech)

Last season:  79 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Idaho, @ NM St, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St


WR—Noel Grigsby, Jr. (San Jose State)

Last season:  89 receptions for 886 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Utah St, @ UTSA, Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UCLA, @ Arizona St, Washington


WR—D.J. Banks, Jr. (LA Tech)

Last season:  Transferred from Tulane.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Idaho, @ NM St, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St


TE—Ryan Otten, Sr. (San Jose State)

Last season:  52 receptions for 739 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Utah St, @ UTSA, Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UCLA, @ Arizona St, Washington


FLEX—Terrence Franks, So. (Texas State)

Last season:  Rushed for 863 yards and 9 TDs in the FCS.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8-9; @ NM, Idaho, Bye, @ San Jose St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA Tech, @ Navy, @ UTSA


K—Matt Nelson, Sr. (LA Tech)

Last season: 15-for-21 on FG attempts, 46-for-48 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8-9; UNLV, Bye, Idaho, NM St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St


DEF/ST—Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Last season:  No. 41 scoring defense, No. 13 in turnover margin.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11; @ NM St, UTSA, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St


Top 5 Reserves

QB—Chuckie Keeton, So. (Utah State)

RB—Ryan Bass, Sr. (Idaho)

RB—Marcus Curry, Sr. (Texas State)

RB—Robert Clay, Sr. (New Mexico State)

WR—Jacarri Jackson, Jr. (LA Tech)



By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the WAC</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 02:23
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-which-teams-are-rise-or-decline

With kickoff to the 2012 college football season still weeks away, it's time to evaluate where each team is headed. This is essentially a checkup or a state of the program overview for each team in the conference. Are they on the rise or decline? What factors in the future could have an impact on success? 

Big East State of the Program: On the Rise or On the Decline?


Record over the last 5 years: 47-18 (24-11 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 78-49 (30-19 Big East – 7 years)

The Bearcats have been one of the Big East’s most successful teams over the last five years. Mark Dantonio established a solid foundation from 2004-05, while Brian Kelly elevated the program to back-to-back BCS bowls. After a 4-8 mark in 2010, Butch Jones returned the Bearcats into Big East title contention, but an injury to quarterback Zach Collaros late in the year was a huge setback.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Despite the losing record in his first season, Butch Jones is the right coach for Cincinnati. The Bearcats have some key losses to replace in 2012, but should be in the mix for a bowl game. The next step for Cincinnati is to win more in-state recruiting battles with Ohio State. Considering the talent in Ohio, the Bearcats should rank near the top of the Big East in recruiting every season. Facilities are improving, as Cincinnati added a practice bubble and expansion of the stadium has been discussed. With Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East, Cincinnati has a chance to become one of the top programs in the conference.



Record over the last 5 years: 38-26 (19-16 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 70-53 (22-27 Big East – 7 years)

The Huskies have made steady progress since joining the FBS ranks in 2000. Randy Edsall turned Connecticut into a consistent winner, posting at least six victories in six out of eight seasons from 2002-09. Edsall also led the Huskies to a Fiesta Bowl appearance, but decided to bolt to Maryland after that game. Paul Pasqualoni was a curious hire, and Connecticut missed out on a bowl in 2010 for the first time since 2006.

State of the Program: Slightly Declining

Although Edsall had a terrible first season in College Park, he took the Huskies to five bowl games and a share of the Big East title in 2007 and 2010. Pasqualoni’s ties in the Northeast should help Connecticut’s recruiting, but his tenure at Syracuse declined over the last four years. Considering Pasqualoni will be 63 when the 2012 season begins – is he really the long-term answer? Another sub .500 season should place Pasqualoni squarely on the hot seat. If there’s another round of conference realignment, Connecticut is expected to be one of the first targets for the ACC. The Huskies are poised to move up the ladder in the next 10-15 years, but this program slowly sliding back after last season.


Record over the last 5 years:
29-33 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 77-48 (24-25 Big East – 7 years)

For the most part, the last 10 years have been a success for Louisville football. Of course, there’s the forgettable three-year tenure by Steve Kragthorpe, but the Cardinals won at least seven games in 7 of out the last 10 years. Bobby Petrino led Louisville to an appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl and at least nine victories in each of his four years with the Cardinals. Charlie Strong had quite a mess to clean up from the Kragthorpe era, but has rebuilt Louisville into a top 25 team.

State of the Program: On the Rise

It’s no secret Louisville is an emerging Big East power. With West Virginia off to the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC, the door is open for the Cardinals to dominate in the Big East. Of course, that could quickly change with more realignment, as Louisville could be on the radar for future ACC or Big 12 expansion. Although Strong will be in the mix for offseason vacancies, there is no shortage of resources for this program to continue finishing near the top of the Big East in future seasons.



Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (22-13 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 74-51 (42-27 Big East)

Pittsburgh football was largely dormant throughout the 1990s. The Panthers had only two winning seasons from 1990-99, but the hire of Walt Harris helped to get the program back in the right direction. Harris led the Panthers to a BCS bowl appearance in 2005, before leaving to coach at Stanford. Dave Wannstedt went 16-19 through his first three years, but led Pittsburgh to at least eight victories in each of his final three seasons. Wannstedt was fired after the 2010 regular season, and Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood was hired to replace him. Haywood wasn’t on the job long before he was fired due to an off-the-field incident. The Panthers lack of success with head coaches continued with Todd Graham, who spent one season in the Steel City before bolting to Arizona State.

State of the Program: On the Rise

New coach Paul Chryst will bring some much-needed stability to Pittsburgh. The Panthers are a sleeper team to watch in the Big East title race for 2012, and this program will likely move to the ACC in time for the 2013 season. Although the Panthers have played in only one BCS bowl since 2000, there’s potential to win big and the move to a high-profiler conference should help.



Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (16-19 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 66-58 (28-41 Big East)

Greg Schiano inherited a program that had won just 10 games in the four seasons prior to his arrival. His tenure got off to a slow start, as Rutgers won just eight games in Schiano’s first three years. However, he eventually turned the Scarlet Knights into a consistent bowl team. Rutgers won at least eight games in five out of Schiano’s final six seasons, including an 11-2 record in 2006.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Schiano’s decision to depart for the NFL has clouded the immediate future of this program. Although new coach Kyle Flood has done a good job on the recruiting trail, he has no experience as a collegiate head coach. If Flood is able to build on what Schiano created, Rutgers will be in great shape for the next 10 years. However, Flood’s hire was an interesting decision for a program that struggled to find success throughout the 1990s. Schiano never won an outright Big East title, but there’s no question he left the program in much better shape than how he found it. 


South Florida

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 73-49 (21-28 Big East – 7 years)

The Bulls have come a long way since their first football game on Sept. 6, 1997. Over the last 10 years, South Florida has played in six bowl games and achieved a No. 2 ranking in 2007. Jim Leavitt had a messy end to his tenure in Tampa, but deserves credit for building the program from scratch to national relevance. Skip Holtz was hired to take South Florida to the next level, but he is just 13-12 in his two seasons with the Bulls.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Florida will always have the Big 3 – Florida, Florida State and Miami – but there’s plenty of room for USF. The Bulls have an excellent recruiting base and there’s a lot of potential surrounding this program for 2012 and beyond. South Florida has underachieved at times, which holds it back from being placed in the “on the rise” category. Holtz is the right coach and should have the Bulls contending for a Big East title in future seasons. South Florida has been considered a sleeping giant, but considering its location, conference and potential, it should be able to be one of the top teams in the new Big East in 2013.



Record over the last 5 years: 22-39 (8-27 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (17-52 Big East)

Although Syracuse has been a basketball power, it’s been a struggle to find success on the gridiron over the last 10 years. The Orange went 10-37 under Greg Robinson and has played in just one bowl game since 2005. Coach Doug Marrone took Syracuse to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, but is 9-15 in his other two seasons.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

It’s tough to peg where this program is headed. There’s certainly more potential for Syracuse than what has been shown in recent years, but after winning eight games in 2010, the Orange took a step back and finished with a 5-7 mark in 2011. Marrone is a good fit at Syracuse, but moving to the ACC isn’t going to make it any easier to win games. Although success has been limited, Marrone seems to have the program on the right track and could get back into the postseason in 2012.



Record over the last 5 years:
35-27 (no Big East games during this period)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (3-17 Big East – 3 years)

It has been quite a roller coaster ride for Temple football over the last 10 years. The Owls were dismissed from the Big East in 2004 and were forced to play as an Independent before joining the MAC in 2007. Former coach Al Golden deserves a ton of credit for this program’s turnaround, as he took a team that had won only seven games in the four years prior to his arrival, to winning 10 over his first three seasons. Temple’s return to the Big East was huge for the conference in 2012, as it gives the Big East eight football members.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Can Steve Addazio keep it going? That’s the big question facing Temple in 2012 and beyond. He had a successful debut season, but he has no proven track record as a head coach. Addazio’s background in the Northeast will help the Owls in recruiting, along with the move to a higher profile conference. Temple may struggle to get to a bowl in 2012, especially with the amount of roster turnover experienced from last season’s team. The Owls aren’t ready to challenge for a spot in the top 25, but they certainly won’t return to the struggles this program had in the 1990s. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

2012 Big East Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Related Big East Content

Big East 2012 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

Ranking the Wide Receiving Corps in the Big East for 2012

Big East Heisman Contenders for 2012

<p> Big East Football: Which Teams Are On The Rise or Decline?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:42
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-offensive-lines

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big 12's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Oklahoma – Despite the departure of left tackle Donald Stephenson, the Sooners should have the No. 1 offensive line in the Big 12. Guard Gabe Ikard is one of the best in college football, while guard Tyler Evans and tackle Lane Johnson will be in the mix for all-conference honors. Center Ben Habern missed most of last season with an arm injury and was expected to return at full strength for 2012. However, he decided to end his career in August. Ikard could take Habern's place at center. Daryl Williams is expected to start at right tackle, while Adam Shead will likely slide into one of the guard spots. This group allowed only 11 sacks last season and should be strong once again in 2012.

2. Texas – The Longhorns certainly aren’t devoid of talent. In fact, there is more talent along the Burnt Orange line of scrimmage than nearly every team in the nation. Developing that talent has been the issue of late, however. Enter Stacy Searels. The offensive line coach enters his second season on the 40 Acres charged with toughening up a unit that has underachieved. His first order of business was signing junior college stud Donald Hawkins, who is penciled in as the starting left tackle. The rest of the line returns intact as two extremely highly touted juniors, Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters, need to develop into leaders while two sophomores - Dominic Espinosa and Josh Cochran - should only continue to improve. The talent and depth is obvious, but for Texas to challenge in the Big 12 race, this group has to protect the quarterback better (73rd nationally in sacks allowed, including eight to Oklahoma).

3. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys suffered some heavy losses up front, including first-team All-Big 12 tackle Levy Adcock and center Grant Garner – the Big 12’s 2011 Offensive Lineman of the Year. Only one starter returns for 2012, but Oklahoma State is expected to still own one of the conference’s best lines. Much of the credit for this group’s success has to go to line coach Joe Wickline, who consistently replaces players and keeps the front five performing at a high level. Guard Lane Taylor is the unit’s only returning starter, but he should contend for first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012. Parker Graham and Michael Bowie are expected to man the tackle spots after combining for 11 starts last year. Guard Jonathan Rush suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 last year but all signs point to a return to full strength by the opener in 2012. Center Evan Epstein enters his final year of eligibility, but doesn’t have much experience. Considering how important Garner was to this offense, much of the focus up front will rest with Epstein and how well he will perform in 2012.

4. West Virginia  Three starters are back along an offensive front that should feature three seniors, one junior and a sophomore. Joe Madsen has been praised by the coaches as one of the best on the roster and will be the unit's leader at center. Guard Jeff Braun and tackle Pat Eger showed improvement last fall and should hold down the right side of the line. Big soph Quinton Spain (6-5, 335) looks to be the top choice at left tackle but will have to hold off a host of up veterans to keep that starting spot. The real kicker for the Mountaineers will be fifth-year senior Josh Jenkins. One of the most highly-touted prospects to ever sign with WVU, Jenkins returns after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. His return to form could transform an average group of blockers into an area of strength for Dana Holgorsen.

5. Baylor – Improving the offensive line has been a priority for coach Art Briles since he came to Waco. The Bears have had five offensive linemen drafted since 2009, including two in the first round – Jason Smith and Danny Watkins. This group must replace two All-Big 12 performers – Philip Blake and Robert T. Griffin – but three proven starters are back. Junior Cyril Richardson is a mammoth guard at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds and will be in the mix for first-team All-Big 12 honors. Senior Ivory Wade enters 2012 with 33 consecutive starts and will shift from tackle to replace Blake at center. Guard Cameron Kaufhold is back after starting all 13 games last season. Redshirt freshman Spencer Drango is expected to get the nod at left tackle, while sophomore Troy Baker finished spring as the No. 1 option on the right side. Despite the losses, there’s plenty to like about this group heading into 2012.

6. Kansas State  – For a team with a quarterback who recorded 27 touchdowns and 1,141 yards on the ground, KSU finished only fifth in the Big 12 in rushing. The Wildcats also finished dead last in sacks allowed (3.31) and 115th nationally. So Bill Snyder might not be sure if replacing three starters with younger players is a good or bad thing just yet. B.J. Finney returns to the center position, while Nick Puetz returns as the lone senior returner. Manase Foketi was expected to be in the mix at left tackle, but he requested a transfer following spring practice. With Foketi's status in doubt, junior Cornelius Lucas could be in line to start on the left side. Tomasi Mariner, Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson are all youngsters who will battle for time along the right side of the line. This team would like to throw the ball more in 2012, but the O-Line has to prove it can protect Collin Klein if it expects to win the Big 12.

7. Kansas – After finishing last in the Big 12 in scoring offense in 2011, there’s some hope for a turnaround at Kansas for 2012. The quarterback position has stabilized with Dayne Crist arriving from Notre Dame, while the Jayhawks have capable running backs in James Sims, Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon. The line loses two starters, including All-Big 12 center Jeremiah Hatch, but three key players are back for 2012. Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson is drawing the interest of NFL scouts, while guard Duane Zlatnik earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2011. Trevor Marrongelli started all 12 games at guard last season but will shift to center to replace Hatch. Junior college recruit Aslam Sterling is penciled in at right guard, and junior Riley Spencer is expected to get the nod at right tackle. This unit allowed 31 sacks last year but should be able to improve upon that total with three solid contributors returning.

8. Texas Tech – This unit will be a key area of development throughout the summer and fall camps. Two starters are back as Deveric Gallington is locked in at center while LaAdrian Waddle has the left tackle spot to himself. It also appears that Brian Thomas, who played on one of the Big 12’s most talented lines a year ago at Texas A&M, will stabilize the left guard position after transferring in this spring. Experienced and versatile backups Beau Carpenter and Terry McDaniel will battle with freshman Le’Raven Clark for the remaining starting jobs. The offensive line will be the key difference for an offense that appears to be settled at nearly every other position.

9. TCU – You aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toad-O. Well, technically, TCU will play in Lawrence Week 2, but the Horned Frogs will be facing a different caliber of defensive line this fall. Moving from the Mountain West to the Big 12 will test an offensive line that returns only two starters. This is the offense’s biggest weakness and depth could be an issue as well. Center James Fry and guard Blaize Foltz are seniors and will be asked to carry the load. Behind those two there are a lot unknowns, however, there is upside as well. James Dunbar has experience and should be better after switching from left to right tackle. BYU transfer Tayo Fabuluje has big-time athletic ability and size while John Wooldridge, Michael Thompson and Eric Tausch provide versatility at a number of positions. This group will be the coaching staff’s area of focus come summer camp.

10. Iowa State – There’s really not a bad offensive line in the Big 12, so the separation between No. 6 and No. 10 on this list is very minimal. The Cyclones have three starters returning but must replace their two best players from last season’s unit – left tackle Kelechi Osemele and guard Hayworth Hicks. Osemele was a first-team All-Big 12 selection, while Hicks earned second-team honors. Tom Farniok is a rising star after starting all 13 games at center as a redshirt freshman last year. Junior Ethan Tuftee and senior Brayden Burris are back as returning starters and will help provide stability and leadership up front. Senior Carter Bykowski and junior Kyle Lichtenberg will battle to replace Osemele at left tackle, while Bob Graham, Jacob Gannon and Oni Omoile are in the mix to replace Hicks at right guard. The Cyclones will miss Osemele and Hicks, but this group isn’t going to see a dramatic drop in performance. 

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

Related Big 12 Content

Big 12 Wide Receiver Rankings for 2012
Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
The History of Big 12 Realignment
Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12
TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big 12 Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:39
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech%E2%80%99s-logan-thomas-rising-superstar-acc

While many of his classmates undoubtedly spent spring break in tropical climates, soaking in rays and paying too much for watered-down drinks, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas was on the beach for a very different reason.

The Hokies’ junior quarterback spent a week in San Diego in March, working out for four days with quarterback-coach-to-the-stars George Whitfield, whose roster of clients has included Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.

Whitfield’s ever-evolving training regimen included a trip to the beach, where the 6'6", 262-pound Thomas waded knee-deep into the Pacific Ocean, then simulated taking drop-backs through the uneven current, trying to keep his balance and maintain a solid base. He caught on quickly, a recurring theme from the trip.

“I just think he’s going to be a very, very special college football player,” says Whitfield, who raves about Thomas’ size, agility and smarts. “To see him up close and personal and how diligent he is and just how big of a man he is, he’s going to be scary. It’s kind of a shock and awe thing when it all comes together.”

Virginia Tech is starting to get spoiled with its quarterbacks. After four years of Tyrod Taylor, who left after 2010 as the school’s all-time leader in total offense, passing yards, quarterback rushing yards and career wins, the Hokies seamlessly passed the baton to Thomas, who served as Taylor’s understudy for two seasons before taking a prime-time role last year.

He looked every bit the part, breaking Taylor’s single-season total offense mark with 3,482 yards and accounting for 30 touchdowns on his way to a second-team All-ACC selection.

Thomas’ 3,013 passing yards were second-most in a season for a Tech quarterback to Don Strock’s mark of 3,243 set in 1972. His 11 rushing touchdowns were tied for the most by a quarterback in school history and were three more than the program’s standard-bearer — Michael Vick — ever had in a season. And it all happened in Thomas’ first year as a starter.

“I think it’s rare for most people,” Hokies head coach Frank Beamer says of Thomas’ maturity. “But I think Logan’s in a different category.”

Thomas’ rapid rise is even more remarkable considering his background. A multi-sport star at Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va., about 100 miles east of Blacksburg, he thought of himself as a basketball player for most of his life. On the football field, he played receiver until moving to quarterback his final two years, earning state Player of the Year honors as a senior and leading his team to the championship game, a 50–46 loss in which he threw four touchdowns.

Still, he considered his best path in college to be at tight end or H-back, going so far as to eliminate any school that recruited him solely as a quarterback. Virginia Tech obliged, getting him to sign in February 2009. During his first practice in August, Hokies coaches, in a bit of a switcheroo, urged him to try throwing the ball. He was raw, but the skill set, which included a cannon for an arm, was evident.

The reluctant quarterback soon embraced the position, redshirting that first year and serving as a backup in 2010. He sat in on meetings with Taylor, the team’s entrenched starter, soaking up whatever he could. Reps in the spring and fall became crucial as he tried to play catch-up at the position.

“Most people, they spend their whole lives gearing to be a quarterback at this level,” Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. “Football camps, quarterback camps. Logan in high school didn’t really play quarterback until he was a junior, then he picked up a basketball, then he ran track, and he picked up a football again Aug. 5. …

“I think because of that, you’re still going to see a guy who continuously improves. He still has the opportunity I believe — and he believes — to have better days in front of him.”

With all eyes on him last year, Thomas calmly guided the Hokies to their eighth straight season of 10 or more wins and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Somewhat shaky at first, with five interceptions in the first five games, Thomas found a comfort level, accounting for 25 touchdowns in the final nine games, including five each in crucial Coastal Division wins against Miami and Georgia Tech.

Although Thomas no doubt draws comparisons to Newton, another 6'5", 250-plus-pound athlete who redefined the dual-threat quarterback in the college game two years ago, he’s not quite the same runner. While Thomas is a load to take down in the open field — he dragged half the Georgia Tech defense into the end zone on a 12-yard quarterback sneak in November — he much prefers to move around in the pocket and throw it.

“He’s incredibly agile and athletic for being such a big man,” Whitfield says. “The only other person I’ve been around that’s that size and that athletic is Ben Roethlisberger. Him and Ben are both slightly bigger than Cam. And they’re both light on their feet. I’m sure in some alternate universe, these guys could be free safeties.”

The big challenge comes this year. Thomas was blessed last season with a veteran offensive line featuring four fifth-year starters, a pair of wideouts who ranked 1-2 on Tech’s all-time receiving list and running back David Wilson, the ACC Player of the Year who ran for over 1,700 yards. They’re all gone now, and Virginia Tech must re-tool with eight new starters on offense. But with Thomas, the Hokies have a chance to duplicate last year’s success.

Tech coaches have thrown everything in the playbook at him, but he’s taken it in stride. Teammates describe Thomas as being more relaxed this spring. Even he admits he was too uptight at times last year.

“I wanted to be perfect with everything,” Thomas says. “Sometimes you can’t be perfect on every snap. And I kind of beat myself up about it, but this year you kind of let it roll off your back, because you know there’s the next down coming. That’s kind of just something I learned through the second half of our season.”

Thomas’ future is bright enough that it has many Hokies fans worried he could enter the NFL Draft after his junior year. Whitfield, who has frequent discussions with pro scouts and coaches, believes Thomas will be in the discussion as one of the top-rated quarterbacks whenever he decides to go.

“He absolutely could be a No. 1 pick,” Whitfield says.

Tech is preparing for the possibility, with quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O’Cain acknowledging that if Thomas is projected as a high first-round draft pick, it will be tough to turn down (although highly touted quarterbacks like 2012 NFL No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, USC’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones have done just that recently, returning for their senior seasons).

“I believe he feels that the more he plays, the better it’s going to give him his foundation for the NFL,” O’Cain says. “And again, you never know if he just goes out and has a phenomenal year, and I hope he does. I hope he has a phenomenal year …” O’Cain pauses and laughs before finishing his thought. “But just not a high first-round draft choice.”

— by Andy Bitter

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 ACC Preview Annual.

Related ACC Content

Athlon’s 2012 ACC Predictions
Athlon’s 2012 All-ACC Team

2012 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview

ACC’s 2012 Heisman Contenders

<p> Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas is a Rising Superstar in the ACC</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 04:35
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-best-hires-2011

As evidenced last season, new coaches can make an immediate impact on college football conference title races. Michigan's hire of Brady Hoke allowed the Wolverines to jump back into a BCS bowl, while James Franklin led Vanderbilt to its second bowl game since 1982.

Athlon ranks the new coaches from 2011 season:

1. Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State
Before: 4–8 (4–4); After: 9–3 (8–0)

Freeze guided the Red Wolves to their first-ever Sun Belt title in his only season in Jonesboro. Arkansas State swept through the league with an 8–0 record and an average margin of victory of 16.8 points.

2 . Brady Hoke, Michigan          
7–6 (3–5); After: 11–2 (6–2)

Hoke restored order in Ann Arbor, leading Michigan to a three-game improvement in the Big Ten, and, more important, its first win over Ohio State since 2003. The key? A defense that allowed 128.5 fewer yards per game and jumped 93 spots in the national rankings. 

3. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
2–10 (1–7); After: 6–7 (2–6)

The Commodores won more games last season (six) than the two previous seasons combined (four). They won four of those games by at least 23 points (including two in SEC play), and their final four league losses came by an average of 4.8 points. This team was dramatically improved.

4. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
3–9 (3–5); After: 9–4 (6–2)

The Ragin’ Cajuns improved by six wins and won a bowl game for the first time in school history, rallying past San Diego State, 32–30, at the New Orleans Bowl. They scored 30 points or more in all but three games.

5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Before: 9-4 (5-2); After: 10-3 (5-2)

The Mountaineers improved their win total by only one in Holgorsen's first season, but they claimed a share of the Big East title and dismantled Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Holgorsen's pass-first offense injected some energy into the fanbase, and the program is riding a wave of momentum going into 2012. 

6. David Shaw, Stanford
12–1 (8–1); After: 11–2 (8–1)

Jim Harbaugh made the move to the NFL, but the Cardinal were just as imposing with Shaw running the show. Stanford outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per game and went 5–0 in road games.

7. Pete Lembo, Ball State
4–8 (3–5); After: 6–6 (4–4)

The highlight of Lembo’s first season came early, a 27–20 win over Indiana in Indianapolis. The Cardinals also beat Ohio, champs of the MAC East, en route to a .500 record in league play.

8. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
10–3 (6–2); After: 8–5 (7–1)

The Golden Hurricane survived a brutal early schedule — at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State at home, at Boise State, all in September — and won seven straight games from Oct. 1 through Nov. 19. The offense wasn’t quite as explosive, but the Tulsa D was vastly improved.

9. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois
Before: 11–3 (8-0); After: 11–3 (7–1)

Doeren and the Huskies were upset in their MAC opener against Central Michigan but reeled off nine straight wins to close the season. NIU won its first MAC title since 1983.

10. Dan McCarney, North Texas
3–9 (3–5); After: 5–7 (4–4)

The Mean Green closed strong, winning two of their final three to finish with a .500 mark in the Sun Belt for the first time since 2004. McCarney, the former Iowa State head coach, has North Texas on the right track.

11. Darrell Hazell, Kent State
5–7 (4–4); After: 5–7 (4–4)

The Golden Flashes took advantage of a softer second-half schedule to win four of their final five games to even their MAC record at .500. The defense was stout (No. 22 in the nation), but the offense struggled.

12. Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)
7–6 (5–3); After: 6–6 (3–5)

The Canes took a step back in the win column — most notably in ACC play — but were more consistently competitive under Golden. Miami’s six losses came by an average of 5.5 points; in ’10, the Canes’ six losses were by an average of 13.0 points.

13. Steve Addazio, Temple
8–4 (5–3); After: 9–4 (5–3)

Addazio got a lot done in his first year as a head coach. The Owls put a scare into Penn State (in a four-point loss), dominated Maryland on the road and won their first bowl game (37–15 over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl) since 1979.

14. Rocky Long, San Diego State
9–4 (5–3); After: 8–5 (4–3)

The Aztecs weren’t quite as formidable as in 2010, when they lost four games by five points or less, but they still won eight games and finished over .500 in MWC play.

15. Will Muschamp, Florida
8–5 (4–4); After: 7–6 (3–5)

You can argue that Urban Meyer didn’t leave a full cupboard of talent, but it’s hard to call the Gators’ 2011 season a success. They ranked 105th in the nation in total offense and had a losing record in the SEC for the first time since 1986.

16. Todd Graham, Pittsburgh
8–5 (5–2); After: 6–7 (4–3)

Graham is now hated by Panther faithful for his abrupt departure, but his only season at Pitt wasn’t a complete debacle. Playing with offensive personnel that didn’t fit his system, he still went 4–3 in the Big East, and it’s worth noting that four of his six losses (he wasn’t around for the bowl game) were by four points or less.

17. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
3–9 (2–6); After: 3–9 (2–6)

The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State and North Dakota State in nonconference action, and their six Big Ten losses came by an average of 27.3 points.

18. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
8–5 (5–2); After: 5–7 (3–4)

The Huskies won at least eight games in the four seasons prior to Pasqualoni’s arrival but slumped to a 5–7 mark in 2011. The offense ranked 108th in the nation.

19. Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio)
10–4 (7–1); After: 4–8 (3–5)

The RedHawks captured the MAC title in 2010 but managed only four wins under Treadwell, despite the return of 16 starters. The defense regressed (from 28th to 48th), and they too often lost the turnover battle (85th in margin). 

20. Jon Embree, Colorado
5–7 (2–6); After: 3–10 (2–7)

The Buffs ended the season with an upset at Utah, but not much else went well in Embree’s first season at his alma mater. Colorado ranked 109th in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

21. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
5–7 (1–7); After: 1–11 (0–8)

The Hoosiers were dreadful in 2011, with their only win coming over FCS foe South Carolina State. They were outscored in 11 games vs. FBS competition by 18.9 points per game.

22. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Before: 9–4 (5–3); After: 2–10 (1–7)

Where do we start? The Terps had the biggest drop in wins in the FBS ranks, from nine in 2010 to two in ’11. They lost their final 10 games against FBS opponents, including at home to Temple by 31 points. And in the season finale, they led NC State 41–14 in the third quarter before giving up 42 straight points. 

by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

College Fantasy Football 2012 Rankings

Examining the Rising Cost of Coordinator Salaries

<p> Ranking college football's new coaches from 2011</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 04:22
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-offensive-lines

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the SEC's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Alabama
Even with the departure of center William Vlachos, the Crimson Tide have one of the top offensive lines in the nation. Barrett Jones earned first-team All-SEC honors last season but will move to center in 2012. Considering the versatility and performance throughout his career, he has to be considered the best linemen in college football. Replacing Jones at left tackle is expected to be Cyrus Kouandijo, a former 5-star recruit. Right tackle D.J. Fluker started all 13 games last year, while Anthony Steen and Chance Warmack are back to man the guard positions. Fluker is on the verge of a breakout season, while Warmack should be in the mix for All-American honors.

2. LSU 
This collection of Bayou blockers could be the best in the nation. Two potential future first-round picks in Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk bookend a line that returns four starters. This group was No. 2 in the SEC in rushing and No. 1 in the SEC in sacks allowed (1.29) last year and could actually get better. The only replacement comes in the form of Josh Dworaczyk, who is a sixth-year player with loads of experience. P.J. Lonergan, who is only starter who isn’t at least 6-foot-6, will be one of the nation’s top pivots and Josh Williford returns at right guard. This group averages 319 pounds up front and is stacked with elite level depth behind them. There are few groups nationally that are as talented and deep as the LSU Tigers front line.

3. Texas A&M
With a new quarterback and offensive scheme, the Aggies may have to rely more on their rushing attack in 2012. The good news for Texas A&M is three starters are back up front, including tackles Luke Joeckel (second-team All-Big 12 in 2011) and Jake Matthews (honorable mention All-Big 12). Both players have All-American potential and should allow this line to rank among the top 10-15 nationally. Patrick Lewis has been a starter the last three years and will provide a veteran presence in the middle. The guard spots are up for grabs, but Jarvis Harrison, Shep Klinke and Cedric Ogbuehi all have experience. This group allowed just nine sacks last year and should be a team strength once again in 2012.

4. South Carolina
This group will have some youth and inexperience, but it also has loads of talent. T.J. Johnson is the elder statesman and lone senior, but will anchor the line at center. A.J. Cann - an elite recruit in the 2010 class who played every game of his freshman season last fall - returns for his redshirt sophomore campaign at left guard. With junior Ronald Patrick lining up at right guard, the interior of the offensive line should be stable. The tackle position is a bit more fluid but the talent has incredible upside. Brandon Shell ranked behind only Jadeveon Clowney in the Gamecocks’ 2011 haul and he should be ready to compete as a redshirt freshman. He will battle with Cody Gibson, who got four starts last year, and Mike Matulis, who was pressed into action last year as a freshman due to injuries. Between the trio of underclassmen, South Carolina feels that it can improve on its 2.38 sacks allowed per game from a year ago (87th nationally). 

5. Arkansas
Running up the middle and off guard to the right should be no issue whatsoever for the Hogs. Center Travis Swanson and right guard Alvin Bailey, who has loads of NFL potential, are as good a center-guard combo as there is in the league. Filling the holes around them will determine just how far Arkansas can go in the SEC West this year. Jason Peacock, who started nine games last fall, will get the first crack at protecting Tyler Wilson’s blindside while uber-recruit Brey Cook will bookend the right side. Expect David Hurd and Chris Stringer to figure heavily in the tackle mix as well. Tyler Deacon and Luke Charpentier will work into the guard rotation with Bailey. Lastly, Mitch Smothers can play anywhere on the line and is a versatile piece on the bench. If Arkansas expects to beat Alabama or LSU, it must get improved play from a line that was 73rd nationally in sacks allowed and 81st in rushing offense.

6. Auburn
Few teams in the nation have recruited as well along the offensive line over the last two cycles. Twelve of the 16 scholarship blockers on the roster were signed in the 2010 or 2011 recruiting classes. Sophomore Reese Dismukes is entrenched at center after only one year of action while fellow sophomore Chad Slade has the right tackle position locked up. One of the few veterans, John Sullen, looks to have the left guard position to himself. Look for an elite group of talented but unproven youngsters, including redshirt freshmen Greg Robinson and Christian Westerman to divide the right guard and left tackles duties up at some point. Freshman Patrick Miller will also get plenty of chances to compete. Gene Chizik has an elite three-year haul of hog mollies, now it’s up to line coach Jeff Grimes to develop and motivate these massive blockers.

7. Georgia
Perhaps the only area preventing Georgia from garnering a top five ranking in preseason polls is the offensive line. Three key players are gone from last season’s unit, including center Ben Jones. Tackles Cordy Glenn (first-team All-SEC in 2011) and Justin Anderson have both expired their eligibility. The cupboard isn’t bare for coach Mark Richt, but there’s a lot of work to be done. Three starters are back, including guard Chris Burnette who started 12 games last year. Kenarious Gates and Dallas Lee combined for 16 starts in 2011 and figure to work with the first team once again in 2012. Although three starters are back, the two most important positions on the offensive line – left tackle and center – have question marks. True freshman John Theus will have an opportunity to start at left tackle, while sophomore David Andrews appears to have the early edge at center. If this unit jells, Georgia will have a chance to compete for the national title.

8. Missouri
This unit loses three key players, but is in decent shape heading into 2012. Senior left tackle Elvis Fisher is back after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. Fisher earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2009 and 2010 and needs to quickly find that form in 2012. The guard spots are expected to be anchored by Travis Ruth and Jack Meiners, while Justin Britt shifts from left side to start at right tackle. Sophomore Mitch Morse played in 13 games last year, but has yet to start a game. He is expected to start at center in 2012, and his performance will be crucial to the success of Missouri’s offensive line. This unit allowed 18 sacks in 2011 – a number surely helped by quarterback James Franklin’s mobility – but should be steady once again in 2012.

9. Tennessee
For the first time in a few years, the Vols finally look to have restocked the offensive line with talent, depth and experience. This is due in part to the fact that so many returning starters were forced into action as freshmen and sophomores. The only non-returning starter is Tiny Richardson - who is thought so highly by the coaching staff that Dallas Thomas will be moved inside to guard - steps in at left tackle to protect Tyler Bray’s backside. Ju’Juan James should hold down the right tackle spot. Zach Fulton, Alex Bullard, James Stone and Marcus Jackson — who all have plenty of playing experience — will battle it out for the center and right guard positions in camp (maybe, all season). This offensive line, for the first time in years, has a chance to be a strength rather than an area of concern.

10. Mississippi State
Despite dealing with inconsistency up front in 2011, the Bulldogs still managed to average 4.4 yards per carry and ranked 38th nationally in rushing offense. With a new quarterback and running back taking over, this unit will be under the microscope to perform in 2012. Guard Gabe Jackson has started all 26 games in his career and is a candidate to earn first-team All-SEC honors in 2012. Center Dillon Day is the unit’s only other returning starter, but he could be pushed for time from junior college recruit Dylan Holley. This unit needs Blaine Clausell stabilize the left tackle spot, but don’t be surprised if junior college recruit Charles Siddoway pushes for time in the fall. 

11. Florida
The offensive line has been a major point of contention for second-year head man Will Muschamp. The defense kept them in most games last year but the offense could do little to help out. With new coaches all around the O-Line, upperclassmen like Matt Patchen and Xavier Nixon need to deliver on their five-star recruiting status. Those two will man the tackle positions and should have their best seasons, while junior Jonotthan Harrison will man the pivot. James Wilson, who will be entering his sixth season on campus, will get the first crack at right guard and could also finally deliver on his lofty recruiting potential. Sophomore Chaz Green, and freshmen D.J. Humphries and Trip Thurman could compete right away for important playing time. Like most positions on the Gators roster there is loads of talent and upside — it just needs to be realized. 

12. Vanderbilt
A year after finishing last in the SEC in scoring, the Commodores showed significant improvement on offense. The line was a key reason for Vanderbilt’s offensive gains, as it averaged 4.3 yards per carry and paved the way for 26 rushing scores. While this unit improved last season, the Commodores have a few question marks up front, especially with only two starters returning. Left tackle Wesley Johnson has All-SEC potential, while Ryan Seymour is back after making 12 starts last year. Josh Jelesky and Andrew Bridges are expected to anchor the right side of the line and both gained valuable experience last season. The biggest question mark will be center Spencer Pulley. Although the Commodores rank No. 12 on this list in July, don’t be surprised if this group ranks higher by the end of the season.

13. Kentucky
A combined 87 starts are gone from last year’s unit but Joker Phillips is surprisingly optimistic about this group. Larry Warford is a superstar and anchors the unit from his right guard position while fellow senior Matt Smith returns as the starting center. The left side of the line will be manned by two talented youngsters in sophomore Darrian Miller (left tackle) and freshman Zach West. Veterans Kevin Mitchell and Trevino Woods will battle for right tackle duties. There is a nice blend of youth and experience on this roster, but depth is a major issue. Any one injury for any extended period of time could spell disaster for a team already scratching and clawing to get to bowl eligibility.

14. Ole Miss
With the departures of tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, along with guard Matt Hall, there are few positives surrounding this group going into 2012. Evan Swindall is a returning starter at center, but four spots are up for grabs around him. Junior college recruit Pierce Burton is expected to start at right tackle, while Emmanuel McCray finished spring as the No. 1 option on the left side. Senior A.J. Hawkins is expected to anchor one of the guard spots, and his experience will be valuable for a unit that lacks overall depth and proven bodies. This unit allowed 33 sacks in 2011 and could be worse in 2012 if four new starters struggle to jell in the fall.

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

Related SEC Content

SEC WR Unit Rankings for 2012
2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
Introducing Texas A&M to the SEC
Introducing Missouri to the SEC
How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 06:14
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-all-american-team

Picking a college football All-American team is no easy task. Some positions are deeper than others, while it's also difficult to project how a player will perform with the losses or additions around them.

With that in mind, it's time to unveil Athlon's 2012 All-American Team.

Related: Athlon's 2012 All-American Team as Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team 

First-Team Offense

QB Matt Barkley, USC

RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin

RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR Robert Woods, USC

TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame

C Barrett Jones, Alabama

OT Alex Hurst, LSU

OT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin

OG Alvin Bailey, Arkansas

OG Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

First-Team Defense

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

DE Sam Montgomery, LSU

DT Star Lotulelei, Utah

DT Joe Vellano, Maryland

LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia

LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

LB Chase Thomas, Stanford

CB David Amerson, NC State

CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

S T.J. McDonald, USC

S Eric Reid, LSU

First-Team Specialists

K Caleb Sturgis, Florida

P Brad Wing, LSU

KR De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

PR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin

Second-Team Offense

QB Geno Smith, West Virginia

RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State

WR Keenan Allen, California

WR Marquess Wilson, Washington State

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

C Khaled Holmes, USC

OG Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech

OG Larry Warford, Kentucky

OT Chris Faulk, LSU

OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

AP Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Second-Team Defense

DE Corey Lemonier, Auburn

DE John Simon, Ohio State

DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

DT Kawann Short, Purdue

LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

LB A.J. Klein, Iowa State

CB Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

CB Nickell Robey, USC

S John Boyett, Oregon

S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

Second-Team Specialists

K Brett Maher, Nebraska

P Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech

KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

PR Jamal Miles, Arizona State

Third-Team Offense

QB Denard Robinson, Michigan

RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon

RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

WR Marqise Lee, USC

WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma

TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA

C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin

OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

OG Chance Warmack, Alabama

OT Oday Aboushi, Virginia

OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse

AP Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Third-Team Defense

DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DE Alex Okafor, Texas

DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida

DT Bennie Logan, LSU

LB Dion Bailey, USC

LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin

LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State

S Matt Elam, Florida

S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia

Third-Team Specialists

K Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

KR Raheem Mostert, Purdue

PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Related Content

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team as Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
College Football 2012 Rankings

College Football 2012 Predictions

<p> Athlon's 2012 College Football All-American Team</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 05:44
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-big-12

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Big 12 in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Big 12 All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)


QB—Collin Klein, Sr. (Kansas State)

Last season:  Passed for 1,918 yards and 13 TDs, rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Missouri St, Miami, North Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ TCU, @ Baylor, Bye


QB—Geno Smith, Sr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  Passed for 4,385 yards and 31 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, @ Iowa St


RB—Joseph Randle, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,216 yards and 24 TDs, 43 receptions for 266 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Savannah St, @ Arizona, Louisiana

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma


RB—Lache Seastrunk, So. (Baylor)

Last season:  Sat out 2011 season after transferring from Oregon.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; SMU, Bye, Sam Houston St, @ UL-Monroe

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma, Kansas St, Texas Tech


RB—Dominique Whaley, Sr. (Oklahoma)

Last season:  Rushed for 627 yards and 7 TDs in seven games (broken ankle).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Kansas, Notre Dame, @ Iowa St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Baylor, @ West Virginia, Oklahoma St


WR—Tavon Austin, Sr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  101 receptions for 1,186 yards and 8 TDs, 182 yards and TD rushing.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, @ Iowa St


WR—Stedman Bailey, Jr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  72 receptions for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, @ Iowa St


WR—Terrance Williams, Sr. (Baylor)

Last season:  59 receptions for 957 yards and 11 TDs as WR#2 opposite Kendall Wright.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Sam Houston St, @ UL-Monroe, @ West Virginia

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma, Kansas St, Texas Tech


TE—Blake Jackson, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  No. 1 rated JUCO tight end recruit chose the Cowboys over Georgia.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Kansas St, West Virginia, Texas Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma


FLEX—Darrin Moore, Sr. (Texas Tech)

Last season:  47 receptions for 571 yards and 8 TDs, missed four games with injury (knee).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Northwestern St, @ Texas St, New Mexico

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Kansas, @ Oklahoma St, Baylor


K—Quinn Sharp, Sr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season: 22-for-25 on FG attempts, 79-for-80 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Kansas St, West Virginia, Texas Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma


DEF/ST—Texas Longhorns

Last season:  No. 6 rushing defense, No. 11 total defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Wyoming, New Mexico, @ Ole Miss

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Iowa St, Bye, TCU


Top 5 Reserves

QB—Landry Jones, Sr. (Oklahoma)

QB—Casey Pachall, Jr. (TCU)

WR—Tracy Moore, Sr. (Oklahoma St)

WR—Kenny Stills, Jr. (Oklahoma)

WR—Eric Ward, Jr. (Texas Tech)




By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Big 12</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 02:14
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-acc-wide-receivers

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the ACC's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. Clemson – The Tigers had high expectations for Sammy Watkins last year, and the freshman didn’t disappoint. He quickly emerged as Clemson’s No. 1 receiver, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 scores. An off-the-field arrest in May has clouded Watkins’ status for the season opener, but he is not expected to miss more than one or two games. The sophomore isn’t the only returning weapon for Tajh Boyd, as DeAndre Hopkins is back after snagging 72 balls last year. Jaron Brown, Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries will fill out the rest of the receiving corps. Senior Brandon Ford is expected to step in for Dwayne Allen at tight end. He caught 14 passes for 166 yards and two scores last year.

2. Florida State – The Seminoles don’t have the All-American that Clemson has in Sammy Watkins, but there’s a lot to like about this group in 2012. Rashad Greene caught 38 passes for 596 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman last year and should be in contention for first-team All-ACC honors in 2012. Rodney Smith is back after ranking second on the team with 561 receiving yards last season, while Willie Haulstead returns after missing all of 2011 due to a concussion. Adding to depth will be junior Kenny Shaw, sophomore Christian Green and a breakout candidate in redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin. Nick O’Leary is an emerging threat at tight end and should easily improve upon his totals from last year (12 catches, 164 yards and one touchdown).

3. Virginia Tech – Despite the departures of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, the Hokies are still in great shape at receiver. D.J. Coles is back after ranking third on the team with 36 receptions and 480 yards last year. Senior Marcus Davis averaged 17 yards per reception in 2011 and should contend for All-ACC honors in 2012. This group will get a boost with the return of Dyrell Roberts. He missed nearly all of last year with an arm injury but has 63 career catches for 965 yards and five scores. A player to watch will be incoming freshman Joel Caleb. He ranked as the No. 95 recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and should push for playing time.

4. Duke – Conner Vernon hasn’t received much national recognition, but he is on the verge of finishing his career as one of the ACC’s most prolific receivers. He ranks seventh in career receptions and needs 35 to pass Aaron Kelly (Clemson) for the No. 1 spot. Vernon ranks 16th in conference history with 2,675 yards and needs 843 in 2012 to pass Peter Warrick (Florida State) for first place. Donovan Varner and tight end Cooper Helfet have expired their eligibility, and the Blue Devils need sophomore Jamison Crowder or freshman Nick Hill to help take the pressure off of Vernon. Replacing Helfet at tight end is expected to be Issac Blakeney or Braxton Deaver.

5. North Carolina – In order to make new coach Larry Fedora’s spread attack work, the Tar Heels will need some players to step up at receiver. Senior Erik Highsmith is the first choice to replace Dwight Jones as the No. 1 target. Highsmith grabbed 51 receptions for 726 yards and five scores last year and should see his numbers increase in 2012. Sophomore T.J. Thorpe is ready for an increased role in the offense, while seniors Todd Harrelson and Jheranie Boyd have one more shot to make an impact. Sophomores Sean Tapley and Reggie Wilkins will battle for snaps, but incoming freshman Quinshad Davis could crack the receiver rotation in the fall. Eric Ebron appears to be the likely starter at tight end.

6. NC State – The concern over losing tight end George Bryan and speedy receiver T.J. Graham is lessened somewhat by the return of quarterback Mike Glennon. The senior was solid in his first year as the starter, throwing for 3,054 yards and 31 scores. Running back James Washington is the team’s leading returning receiver after catching 42 passes last year. Tobais Palmer will likely be the new No. 1 target for Glennon and he grabbed 37 receptions for 496 yards in 2011. Bryan Underwood flashed potential as a freshman last year by nabbing 16 receptions for 226 yards. This group will be counting on juniors Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton to fill the No. 3 and No. 4 roles, while Mario Carter and Asa Watson will battle to replace Bryan as the starting tight end.

7. Maryland – This group wasn’t a strength last year, but the Terrapins also dealt with inconsistency at quarterback and a change in offensive scheme. There’s a new coordinator once again in 2012, but there’s hope for the offense to turn things around. Three of the top four players at the top of Maryland’s catch total from last season are back, and there’s a lot of potential surrounding freshman Stefon Diggs. Kevin Dorsey, Kerry Boykins and Diggs will likely round out the starting receiving corps, while Devin Burns, Marcus Leak and Nigel King are in the mix for snaps. With the struggles of Maryland’s passing attack last year, tight end Matt Furstenburg went largely unnoticed. The senior could be the best in the ACC at his position in 2012.

8. Miami – In addition to the question marks surrounding the quarterback position, the Hurricanes suffered some significant losses at this position. Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin combined for 87 receptions and 1,420 yards last year but both are catching passes in the NFL this summer. Allen Hurns is Miami’s top returning receiver (31 catches) and will have to take on a bigger role in 2012. Phillip Dorsett grabbed 14 receptions as a freshman last year and will be in the mix to start this season. Sophomore Rashawn Scott and senior Kendal Thompkins will have to hold off a charge for playing time from incoming freshmen Angelo Jean-Louis, Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart. Clive Walford had a solid freshman campaign – catching 18 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown – and is expected to increase his numbers in 2012.

9. Virginia – There’s no question the Cavaliers are back on track after winning eight games last season. However, to take the next step and win the ACC title, the passing attack has to get better. Quarterback Michael Rocco settled into the job last year and another offseason to work as the starter will help Virginia’s offense. This unit will miss Kris Burd, but junior Tim Smith is an emerging weapon after averaging 17.1 yards per catch in 2011. Darius Jennings turned in a solid freshman campaign, catching 20 passes for 239 yards and a score. Sophomores Dominique Terrell, E.J. Scott and Miles Gooch will compete for time, while tight end is in good shape with Colter Phillips and Jake McGee returning.

10. Wake Forest – Chris Givens emerged as one of the ACC’s top receivers last year but decided to leave a year early for the NFL Draft. Without Givens, the Demon Deacons are counting on Michael Campanaro to have another big season in 2012. He caught 73 passes for 833 yards and two touchdowns last year and will be the No. 1 target for quarterback Tanner Price. After Campanaro is where Wake Forest needs playmakers to emerge. Senior Terence Davis caught 20 passes for 269 yards and five scores last season but must have a bigger impact in 2012. Junior Quan Rucker, sophomore Brandon Terry and freshmen Airyn Willis and Sherman Ragland will provide depth, while tight end is an area of concern with very little experience returning.

11. Boston College – The Eagles ranked a disappointing 11th in the ACC in passing offense last year, but there’s hope for a turnaround in 2012. New coordinator Doug Martin did a good job of improving New Mexico State’s offense last season, and this group returns quarterback Chase Rettig and the top four statistical receivers from 2011. Rettig is a work in progress, but he needs more help from this group. Bobby Swigert led the team with 44 receptions for 470 yards, while Colin Larmond averaged 15.5 yards per catch. Swigert, Larmond and tight end Chris Pantale are a nice trio to build around, but Boston College needs more big-play ability from the rest of the group.

12. Georgia Tech – Considering the Yellow Jackets averaged 12.8 passing attempts per game last season, possessing an elite receiving corps isn’t essential to make the option offense work. However, this unit was hit hard with the early departure of standout Stephen Hill to the NFL, while Tyler Melton finished his eligibility. With those two players departing, Georgia Tech has no receivers returning with any career receptions. Sophomores Jeff Greene and Darren Waller need a big season as the likely starters, while senior Chris Jackson and junior Jeremy Moore will push for snaps. The Yellow Jackets won’t need an All-ACC standout, but a receiver or two needs to emerge as a downfield threat to keep defenses honest. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related ACC Content

2012 ACC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

ACC 2012 Heisman Contenders

Al Golden Has Miami Back on Track

Can NC State Win the ACC in 2012?

The History of ACC Realignment

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 ACC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-wide-receivers

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big Ten's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Nebraska —In what could be considered the weakest position in the Big Ten, the Huskers claim the top slot almost by default — and upside. Kenny Bell led the team in catches and yards as only a freshman, becoming only the second player to do so at Nebraska. He is explosive and dynamic enough to be used in a variety of ways and has gotten bigger and stronger this offseason. Fellow sophomore Jamal Turner has loads of ability and dynamic potential, but needs to work on being more physical and consistent. Seniors Quincy Enunwa and Tim Marlowe offer veteran experience and both do all of the little things coach Rich Fisher wants from his wideouts. Expect to see Taariq Allen and Tyler Evans receive plenty of time as well. Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed form one of the best tight end duos in the nation. Reed has rare physical talents that need to be utilized by Nebraska and quarterback Taylor Martinez more.

2. Northwestern – The words “absolutely loaded” aren’t used to often in Athlon Sports preview magazines when talking about the Wildcats, but Pat Fitzgerald has more talent at the position than maybe any Northwestern team in history. And this, despite losing Jeremy Ebert to graduation and Kain Colter to the quarterback position. Demetrius Fields and Christian Jones can be special players, and the duo will dominate the slot in Evanston. Speedy Tony Jones returns after missing all of last year with an injury, and Rashad Lawrence is looking to bounce back after a sluggish sophomore season. Without tight end Drake Dunsmore and boasting a a six- or seven-man rotation, expect to see the Cats in plenty of four- and five-wide receiver sets. Juniors Mike Jensen and Drew Moulton and freshmen Pierre Youngblood-Ary and Cameron Dickerson will be waiting in the wings.

3. Wisconsin — While he may not be the most talented or explosive player, Jared Abbrederis is likely the top wide receiver in the Big Ten. He is extremely dependable, leads by example and rarely makes mistakes, and he also is a big-play threat in the punt return game. He could easily lead the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2012. Behind him, however, there is little proven depth. Jeff Duckworth will start opposite Abbrederis, while Manasseh Garner and Kenzel Doe are the only other returning wideouts who caught a pass last year (two each). Isaiah Williams and Marquis Mason could work their way into the starting rotation as well. That said, in a system known for its tight end use and running game, fans can expect to see Abbrederis on the receiving end of most of Danny O’Brien's passes. Speaking of tight ends, Jacob Pedersen is the next great player in a long line of UW TEs. He caught eight touchdowns as a sophomore and will be more of a target this fall. Pedersen is the complete package at tight end.

4. Iowa — Marvin McNutt would overshadow nearly anyone who has played in a Hawkeye uniform having  departed Iowa City as the school’s all-time leading receiver in a variety of categories. However, it appears that Keenan Davis is poised to deliver on his immense talent this fall. He will need to continue to step up his game as he is now the No. 1 option. Sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley played in all 13 games as a freshman and will likely be asked to do more this season. Steven Staggs and Jordan Cotton give the two-deep an experienced feel. The development of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be a game-changer for this offense if he can live up to his lofty recruiting status. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis says “in 39 springs, I’ve never had a tight end like C.J. with his size and ability to play at the line of scrimmage and stretch the field.” With the top pure passer in the Big Ten under center, Iowa should feel pretty comfortable with its plethora of emerging talent.

5. Ohio State — The leading receiver for the Buckeyes caught only 14 passes last year, but the potential and growth (and overall lack of elite options in the league) give OSU the No. 5 group in the Big Ten. Jake Stoneburner exploded at the start of last year, but went missing after Braxton Miller took over. Expect Urban Meyer to work the talented tight end into the gameplan on a more regular basis this fall. Fellow tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will play plenty of snaps as well. On the outside, there is a jumbled mix of undeveloped potential and muddled depth charts. Devin Smith led the team in all three major categories as only a freshman and should be better while juniors Philly Brown and Chris Fields need to turn into leaders. True freshman Mike Thomas, at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, might be the wild card after performing extremely well in spring football. A big-bodied down-the-field threat is what this offense is missing and Thomas could be that for Meyer.

6. Michigan — Roy Roundtree is a bizarre case study. He was an All-Big Ten performer as a sophomore (72 rec., 935 yards), but plummeted back to Earth last fall, (19 rec., 355 yards) while Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon took on bigger roles. Gallon is back opposite Roundtree and offers intriguing play-making skill. Yet, it is Roundtree that could push this unit into the Big Ten’s top tier of pass-catchers. Sophomore Jerald Robinson is a big body that Brady Hoke wants to get involved in the vertical passing game and Jeremy Jackson will get plenty of looks as well. Brandon Moore and Ricardo Miller will take over for the departed Kevin Koger at tight end.

7. Purdue — Junior O.J. Ross and senior Antavian Edison are about as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the Big Ten this fall. The two combined for 77 catches, over 900 yards and three touchdowns with a revolving door at quarterback all season. The trouble for Purdue is depth. Gary Bush, Tommie Thomas, Raheem Mostert and Shane Mikesky need to step into bigger roles this fall. Crosby Wright and Gabe Holmes do offer some dependability and upside at the tight end position.

8. Michigan State — This is going to be a huge rebuilding project for Mark Dantonio after losing B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin to the NFL. Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler have loads of talent, but need to develop into consistent playmakers on the outside. Keith Mumphrey and Andre Sims Jr. also provide plenty of upside. Although there is some potential with the returning receivers, the addition of former Tennessee Vol DeAnthony Arnett to the unit has to make Spartans fans more comfortable with their receiving corps. No returning receiver caught more than four passes last year while Arnett, from Saginaw, Mich., posted 24 catches, 242 yards and two scores as a true freshman last year for Tennessee. He almost instantly becomes the most experienced and talented option on the roster. Dion Sims is now an upperclassman and is poised for his best season at tight end. Look for this group to develop quickly and rapidly move up these rankings.

9. Penn State — Only one player returns to the wide receiving corps with at least five catches last season. Devon Smith was expected to start, but he left the team in late June. Justin Brown, who has been a complementary piece, will need to step up and be the deep threat that Derek Moye was, while also emerging as a leader with very little experience around him. Shawney Kersey, Alex Kenney, Allen Robinson and Christian Kuntz will all get a chance to start as well. Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien plans to refocus on the tight end position — a la his former employer, the New England Patriots. Junior Garry Gilliam might have the most talent, but he needs to stay on the field after dealing with injury issues, while Kevin Haplea boasts the most experience. Now, if someone could just get them the football.

10. Indiana — Converted quarterback Kofi Hughes may not have the elite game-changing ability Kevin Wilson is looking for, but he will likely be the best IU receiver. He built a tremendous rapport with freshman signal caller Tre Roberson, as his eight-catch, 147-yard performance against Ohio State indicates. He can also be used in unique ways with his ability to run and throw the football from the wideout position. Duwyce Wilson might be the most gifted player on the two-deep, but he has to prove he is healthy after missing spring with a knee issue. Expect Cody Lattimore, Jay McCants and Jamonne Chester to figure prominently into the mix as well. Tight end Ted Bolser can expect the biggest boost from new coordinator Seth Littrell, as the pro-style attack will feature the tight end more prominently.

11. Illinois — Replacing A.J. Jenkins will be a tall order for new head coach Tim Beckman. Spencer Harris is a junior who posted 26 catches a year ago. Darius Millines is also an upperclassman who had 19 receptions last fall, while sophomore tight end Jon Davis posted 22 receptions as a freshman a year ago. These three should be Nathan Scheelhaase’s top targets. The most intriguing development, however, could be the usage of cornerback Terry Hawthorne. The coverman was a star pass-catcher in high school and could be used on both sides of the ball. His raw play-making ability might be too much to keep him out of the offensive gameplan. Ryan Lankford should also see a big role, as a host of talented but unproven underclassmen fill the two-deep.

12. Minnesota — Only one returning receiver has caught a touchdown on this roster - senior Brandon Green. Speed demon Marcus Jones will control the slot but has to stay healthy after dealing with a torn knee ligament a season ago. Former junior college transfer Malcolm Moulton can make plays, but he has to be more consistent while Devin Crawford-Tufts also needs to continue his development in a big way. Freshman Andre McDonald could be a wild card at 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds, while John Rabe and Drew Goodger are expected to get the reps at tight end. Quarterback MarQueis Gray is a senior and should have his best year, but Minnesota needs players to step up around him for the Gophers to improve in 2012.

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Related Big Ten Content

2012 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team

Big Ten's 2012 Heisman Contenders

The History of Big Ten Realignment

Revisiting Northwestern's 1995 Rose Bowl Team

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:23
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/kansas-football-will-charlie-weis-second-chance-equal-success

It didn’t matter that spring practice was just a month away or that the business of rebuilding a team coming off a 2–10 season never closed. Charlie Weis wanted to get home for the game.

The basketball game.

Just days earlier, Kansas’ hoop squad had claimed a highly charged 87–86 win over third-ranked Missouri. Now, two days later, the Jayhawks had traveled to Stillwater for a matchup with Oklahoma State. It’s not like the Pokes were a big threat on paper; in fact, they had a losing record. But after such a draining triumph, a letdown was almost inevitable. Weis wanted to see how KU would respond.

“I love the hoops team,” Weis says. “I got home to see the basketball game, because I wanted to see how (Kansas coach Bill) Self would handle the emotional letdown after a huge win Saturday.”

The Jayhawks were just fine. They earned a 70–58 win over OSU, clinching the Big 12 regular-season championship. From his perch at home, Weis — the new Kansas football coach — had a chance to watch Self at work and see just how far his own program had to go to match its more celebrated hardwood counterpart.

That Weis has taken over in Lawrence is both interesting and surprising. His arrival at Kansas has to stun many who believed that the coach’s inability to make good on his early assurances that he would turn Notre Dame into a national champion contender disqualified him from another BCS job, especially so soon after leaving South Bend (after the 2009 season). It fascinates those who wonder whether this NFL offensive wizard can author a strong second act away from the intense scrutiny he faced while directing the Irish.

Weis certainly didn’t choose a situation that will provide an easy rehabilitation for his reputation. The Jayhawks didn’t simply post a horrible record last year; they were disorganized and undisciplined. Even the players know that.

“For the most part, it was a lot of little things, small discipline things, that can over time grow into larger things,” says senior offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson. “The small things turned into big losses,” adds senior defensive end Toben Opurum.

So, not only must Weis upgrade the team’s talent, find a way to shore up a defense that surrendered 43.8 points per game and improve the team’s passing attack, but he must also tighten up the focus and commitment of his players.

The last task was the first he tackled, and he went about it from two angles. First, he hired Scott Holsopple from Florida to be his strength and conditioning coach. (Weis was the Gators’ offensive coordinator last year.) Secondly, he put more pressure on the players to perform in the classroom by installing himself as the academic liaison for the program.

“I interviewed every kid on the team (one March) Saturday morning, and 90 percent of them said the biggest two differences for them were how much improvement they gained in strength and conditioning and how much more accountability they have academically,” Weis says.

Weis considers himself a “loving father” to his players, and that image seems to be at odds with the personality he displayed at Notre Dame, when he was often caustic and arrogant to those outside the program. To his credit, Weis seems to have toned down the offensive genius shtick somewhat and is focused more on producing a winning team than on polishing his national image.

To that end, he was extremely active in the personnel department during his first few months on the job. He began with the quarterback position, which last year featured Jordan Webb, who completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,824 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 picks. Webb wasn’t awful, but he certainly wasn’t a good fit for Weis’ pro-style offense and has since transferred to Colorado. In his place, Weis will likely insert former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, who left South Bend after an injury-marred career to play for the man who recruited him to ND. If Crist, who suffered two serious knee injuries while with the Irish, can’t go, Weis will turn to Turner Baty, who led City College of San Francisco to the junior college national title. Former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, once the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback, has transferred to Lawrence and will be eligible in 2013.

“If you look at our recruiting class of Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps and Turner Baty, how can anybody in the country have a better recruiting class than that at quarterback?” Weis says, making a pretty good point.

Under center isn’t the only place on the field you’ll find some experienced newcomers in 2012. Weis brought in a total of nine junior college players, and even signed one — offensive lineman Aslam Sterling — on March 12. Unlike at Notre Dame, which did not allow junior college transfers, Kansas is quite amenable to their arrival, and Weis is delighted to be bringing in a class that has some older hands.

“You can turn around a program like this faster when you can blend a mixture of high school kids and junior college kids and other factors, like fifth-year kids who have already graduated (like Crist),” Weis says. “A lot of these kids are ready to play now.”

Weis makes no secret that he is using rival Kansas State as a template for his program. When Bill Snyder began his second stint in Manhattan in 2009, he faced a similar situation: The team was undisciplined and lacked talent. By the next season, Snyder had the Wildcats in a bowl game, and last season, KSU was 10–2 during the regular season. Snyder’s formula included plenty of transfers.

But junior college imports can backfire on coaches, and Weis has to be careful that his desire for quick success doesn’t create trouble down the road. Kansas football fans may not be as demanding as those who grew tired of Weis in South Bend, but if the Jayhawks don’t show progress, it will be hard to justify keeping him.

“When you come to do a rebuild at a school like Kansas, it’s somewhat helpful that he ­didn’t have all 10- and 11-win seasons,” says KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who describes Weis as having a “great work ethic” and a “great football mind.”

“That sounds like a justification, but he knows how to coach a 6–6 team and a 9–3 team. As you rebound, you’re going to have 6–6 seasons before 9–3 seasons.”

At this point, 6–6 sounds pretty good in Lawrence. Not for the basketball team, but for Weis

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Preview Annual.

Related Big 12 Content

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

College Football Conference Realignment Winners and Losers

An Introduction to West Virginia for the Big 12

TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

<p> Kansas Football: Will Charlie Weis' Second Chance Equal Success?</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-acc

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for ACC in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason ACC All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)


QB—Tajh Boyd, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Passed for 3,828 yards and 33 TDs, rushed for 218 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


QB—Logan Thomas, Jr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Passed for 3,013 yards and 19 TDs, rushed for 469 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; @ North Carolina, Duke, @ Clemson

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia


RB—Giovani Bernard, So. (North Carolina)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 TDs, 45 receptions for 362 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Georgia Tech, @ Virginia, Maryland


RB—Andre Ellington, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 TDs, 22 receptions for 109 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


RB—Josh Harris, Jr. (Wake Forest)

Last season:  Rushed for 432 yards and 3 TDs. 

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Army, Duke, @ Maryland

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ NC St, @ Notre Dame, Vanderbilt


WR—Sammy Watkins, So. (Clemson)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 TDs, 231 rushing yards, 1 KRTD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


WR—DeAndre Hopkins, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  72 receptions for 978 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


WR—Rashad Greene, So. (Florida State)

Last season:  38 receptions for 596 yards and 7 TDs.  Missed four games due to injury.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida


TE—Brandon Ford, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  No. 1 rated JUCO tight end recruit chose the Cowboys over Georgia.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


FLEX—Michael Holmes, Fr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Redshirted.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Austin Peay, @ Pitt, Bowling Green

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia


K—Chandler Catanzaro, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season: 22-for-25 on FG attempts, 79-for-80 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


DEF/ST—Florida State Seminoles

Last season:  No. 2 rushing defense, No. 4 scoring defense, total defense

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida


Top 5 Reserves

QB—Bryn Renner, Jr. (North Carolina)

RB—Perry Jones, Sr. (Virginia)

RB—Orwin Smith, Sr. (Georgia Tech)

WR—Erik Highsmith, Sr. (North Carolina)

WR—Michael Campanaro, Jr. (Wake Forest)



By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the ACC</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 02:19
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-wide-receivers

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big 12's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. West Virginia – With Robert Woods and Marqise Lee returning, USC should own the top receiver duo in college football, but West Virginia can’t be too far behind. The Mountaineers bring back senior Tavon Austin and junior Stedman Bailey, and both players are coming off 1,000-yard seasons. Austin is one of college football’s top all-purpose threats, as he caught 101 passes last year, while rushing for 182 yards and averaging 14.1 yards per punt return and 26.1 on kickoffs. Bailey led the team by averaging 17.8 yards per catch and recorded 1,279 yards on 72 receptions. This group could be even better in 2012 if junior Ivan McCartney improves upon his 49 catches from last year. The final starting spot in the receiving corps could go to senior J.D. Woods, who caught seven passes in nine contests in 2011. Freshmen Deontay McManus, Travares Copeland, Jordan Thompson and Dante Campbell all could figure into the rotation this season.

2. Baylor – Quarterback Robert Griffin and receiver Kendall Wright are gone, but the Bears should push for 275-300 passing yards a game once again. With senior Nick Florence taking over under center, Baylor won’t be rebuilding from scratch on offense. There’s no shortage of capable targets for Florence, starting with Terrance Williams. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch on 59 receptions last year and recorded 11 touchdowns. The senior should contend for first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012. Senior Lanear Sampson and junior Tevin Reese finished spring practice locked into starting spots, with Reese the team’s top big-play threat after averaging 17.2 yards per catch last year. Sophomore Levi Norwood will likely start at the second inside receiver spot, while Jay Lee, Antwan Goodley and Clay Fuller will provide depth. Tight end Jordan Najvar caught 15 passes last season and will return as the starter in 2012.

3. Oklahoma
The depth isn’t Sooner-esque after Ryan Broyles graduated and Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks were removed from the roster. But the starting talent is all Boomer Sooner. Kenny Stills is an All-American candidate and should be in for a huge year as a junior. Consistency is really the only missing piece to his game. Newcomer Trey Metoyer was an elite signee in the 2011 class but needed a year at prep school. All signs point to immediate contribution from Metoyer in 2012. Junior college transfer Courtney Gardner is also cut from the same big, physical mold as Metoyer and will help with depth right away. A stellar true freshman class, featuring top 100 names Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, will be a welcome sight come fall camp. Derrick Woods should also contribute as well. This is a very talented group with loads of upside but has very little experience and proven depth.

4. TCU
This Horned Frogs group is as deep as any collection in the league and is one of the positions of strengths on the roster. Josh Boyce could be a superstar after 61 catches, nine of which were touchdowns, and coming just two yards shy of 1,000. Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter are outstanding No. 2 and 3 options for Casey Pachall after combining for 68 catches, 852 yards and eight scores last fall. The coaching staff is excited about redshirt elite talent, try 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, LaDarius Brown joining the ranks as well. Each of the four names can offer something unique to the offense and they mesh perfectly together. Corey Fuller and Stephen Bryant will get the reps at tight end.

5. Texas Tech – Darrin Moore was one of college football’s leading receivers through the first two weeks of 2011, catching 21 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns. However, a leg injury against Nevada limited his effectiveness and he missed the next three games before returning for the Oct. 22 upset win over Oklahoma. Although Moore returned to the lineup, he was never the same until the last two weeks of the season. With the senior back at full strength, and Eric Ward returning after a standout sophomore campaign, the Red Raiders should have no shortage of targets for quarterback Seth Doege. Senior Alex Torres suffered a torn ACL late in the year, but is expected to return in time for opener. Jakeem Grant, Bradley Marquez, Javares McRoy and Aaron Fisher will provide depth, while tight end Jace Amaro is back after catching seven balls last season. This is a solid group, but with the depth at receiver in the Big 12 this year, it’s hard to rank Texas Tech any higher.

6. Texas
This was an alarming stat: Texas went without a 50-catch receiver for the first time since 2006 last fall. Considering the elite level recruiting Mack Brown has done at the position, this is completely unacceptable. Certainly, quarterback play needs to improve but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis need to continue to develop into the stars most expected they would be coming out of high school. They combined for four total touchdowns last fall and should at least double that in 2012. Marquise Goodwin, John Harris and DeSean Hales also will vie for heavy reps while another talented collection of freshman, led by uber-recruit Cayleb Jones, try to make a name for themselves. D.J. Grant looks like the starting tight end but M.J. McFarland could be a rising star. Like always, there is loads of depth and talent, but Brown and Bryan Harsin need play-makers to step up.

7. Oklahoma State – Not only are the Cowboys losing quarterback Brandon Weeden, but they also have to replace standout receiver Justin Blackmon and No. 2 option Josh Cooper. The good news for coach Mike Gundy is the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Tracy Moore caught 45 passes for 672 yards and four touchdowns last season and was shifted to outside receiver in the spring, which should allow him to be a bigger factor in the offense. Senior Isaiah Anderson is back after catching 28 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns last year, but the breakout candidate to watch will be Josh Stewart. He grabbed 19 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman last season and will team with junior college recruit Blake Jackson to man the inside receiver spots. Charlie Moore has been quiet in his career (6 receptions) but had a huge performance in the spring game and should factor more into the offense.

8. Kansas State
Chris Harper, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior, is as physically talented wideout as any in the Big 12 conference and should be poised for his best season in (Eugene) or Manhattan. He will be the top target for KSU this fall. Tramaine Thompson offers a different skillset and will utilize elite speed and agility to produce big plays. Freshman All-American Tyler Lockett was lost for the season in November but proved his all-purpose skill will be on display for three more seasons. These three are talented but there are few proven options behind them as names like Curry Sexton and Torell Miller try to carve out a role in the offense. Travis Tannahill is a dependable option at tight end.

9. Iowa State
Despite losing leading wideout Darius Reynolds, Iowa State’s cupboard isn’t bare. Transfer Aaron Horne was the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the year after 38 catches for 431 yards. Josh Lenz, and to a lesser extent Jerome Tiller and Albert Gary, provide veteran presence and leadership. Second-year players Tad Ecby, Jarvis West, Quenton Bundrage and Ja’Qaurius Daniels are all going to fight for playing time as well. 

10. Kansas – Charlie Weis’ offensive acumen will be put to the test this year. Getting Dayne Crist as a transfer from Notre Dame is a positive, but the Jayhawks lack a No. 1 receiver. Weis was hoping Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay would gain immediate eligibility, but the NCAA ruled he has to sit out 2012. Daymond Patterson missed nearly all of last year with an injury and his return will help bolster the receiving corps. Seniors D.J. Beshears and Kale Pick are expected to start, while juniors Chris Omigie and Christian Matthews and sophomore JaCorey Shepherd will contribute in the rotation. The Jayhawks will miss tight end Tim Biere, but Notre Dame transfer Mike Ragone and junior college recruit Charles Brooks will give Crist two experienced options.

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

Related Big 12 Content

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

The History of Big 12 Realignment

Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12

TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

<p> Big 12 Unit Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-wide-receivers

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Pac-12's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. USC – Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are back to form college football’s top one-two receiver combination. Woods caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 scores last season, while Lee recorded 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Matt Barkley returning for another year at USC, it’s not crazy to think Woods and Lee could improve upon their numbers in 2012. The Trojans’ receiving corps isn’t just Woods and Lee, as the depth is solid with sophomore George Farmer, junior De’Von Flournoy and freshmen Victor Blackwell and Nelson Agholor. With all of the accolades surrounding Woods and Lee, it’s easy to overlook tight end Randall Telfer. He ranked third on the team with 26 catches for 273 yards and five touchdowns last year. Telfer will be joined at tight end by promising sophomore Xavier Grimble.

2. Washington
When a team has to replace two receivers who rank in the top 10 all-time in school history, they normally don’t feel this excited about the unit the next year. But there is good reason for Husky Nation to be fired up about Keith Price’s weaponry. Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the nation by season’s end after setting freshman school records a year ago. Fellow sophomore Kasen Williams also has All-American-type upside after a 36-catch, 427-yard, 6-TD freshman season. Veterans James Johnson, Kevin Smith and Cody Bruns provide much needed experience and depth. This is as talented a group as there is in a league that is loaded with powerful receiving corps.

3. Washington State
Marquess Wilson is a superstar. He has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as an underclassmen and now has Mike Leach calling plays for him. Oh yeah, it was Wilson, in a league with names like Allen, Woods and Lee, who led the Pac-12 in receiving a year ago. He will be supported in Leach’s spread-it-around offense from Dominique Williams, Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff and Gino Simone. The 250-pound Andrei Lintz is a wideout in a tight end’s body and could pay big dividends in 2012. Leach has never had an issue finding productive pass-catchers and fans shouldn’t expect any issues with this talented collection in Pullman.

4. Oregon State – With Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson and Marqise Lee returning, it’s easy for other receivers in the Pac-12 to get overlooked. Markus Wheaton caught 73 passes for 986 yards and one touchdown last season and largely went unnoticed. With quarterback Sean Mannion more comfortable in his second season as a starter, look for Wheaton’s numbers to increase. Brandin Cooks turned in a solid freshman year in 2011, catching 31 passes for 391 yards and three scores. Oregon State’s depth at receiver took a hit with the departure of Jordan Bishop in late June, but sophomore Obum Gwacham is a promising player. Senior Colby Prince is expected to start at tight end after catching 12 passes for 66 yards last year.

5. Utah – With quarterback Jordan Wynn sidelined for most of last season with a shoulder injury, the Utes finished last in the Pac-12 in passing offense. With Wynn back under center in 2012, Utah should have a more balanced attack, especially if running back John White rushes for 1,000 yards once again. Senior DeVonte Christopher caught 11 passes for 136 yards and one score in the Week 2 loss to USC but failed to record more than five in a single game the rest of the year. With Wynn returning, look for Christopher to push for 60 catches in 2012. Seniors Luke Matthews and Reggie Dunn combined for 32 receptions last year and return as dependable threats. Sophomore Dres Anderson finished second on the team with 23 catches for 355 yards and three scores last season and should be a bigger part of the offense in 2012. Tight end is a strength with Kendrick Moeai, Dallin Rogers and Jake Murphy back in the mix. 

6. Oregon
Chip Kelly’s offense hasn’t exactly been a safe haven for wide receivers, but the 2012 group looks to provide new punch to the high-flying offense. Josh Huff, who dealt with a stress fracture in his leg this spring, should be the team’s top target. Daryle Hawkins had a big spring and youngsters Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley are looking to break into the starting lineup in a big way. Rahsaan Vaughn could be the veteran presence that a green quarterback might need, however. Look for sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla to become one of the league’s best after a 5-TD freshman season.

7. California – The Golden Bears rank of No. 7 in the Pac-12 receiver units is really due to one player – Keenan Allen. Take away Allen and California owns one of the worst receiving corps in the conference. However, the good news for the Golden Bears is Allen is back for at least one more season. The junior ranked second in the Pac-12 with 98 receptions last year, while recording 1,343 yards and six scores. Allen will once again be the go-to target for quarterback Zach Maynard, but he needs help. Freshmen Maurice Harris, Darius Powe, Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs could inject some much-needed athleticism and ability into this group. Spencer Hagan will start at tight end, but Richard Rodgers will push him for time in the fall. 

8. Stanford
After Chris Owusu’s injuries, the Cardinal’s wide receivers were entirely too unproductive. Now, the only two dependable options, Griff Whalen and Coby Fleener, are gone. Yet, there is loads of talent. Ty Montgomery got much-needed experience a year ago and Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell need to deliver on their lofty recruiting hype. The saving grace is the tight end position, despite Fleener’s departure. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz form the Pac-12’s top 1-2 punch at the position and both could be playing on Sundays after combining for 10 scores a year ago.

9. Arizona State – Not only are the Sun Devils replacing quarterback Brock Osweiler, but they also have a new scheme and lose three key receivers from last year – Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie. Senior Jamal Miles is the group’s best returning player, recording 60 receptions for 361 yards and six scores last year. Miles will be a steady threat, but the Sun Devils need senior Rashad Ross to emerge a downfield threat. He caught 18 passes and averaged 14.1 yards per catch last year. In addition to Ross, Arizona State’s coaching staff is looking for a big year from junior Kevin Ozier and senior A.J. Pickens. 

10. UCLA
Three productive names have moved on from the Bruins, but this group could be a sneaky area of strength in 2012. Tight end Joseph Fauria, who has more of a wide receiver skillset than most tight ends, could be one of the nation’s best players at his position. He will make big plays from the slot all season long en route to potential Mackey Award recognition. Juniors Shaq Evans, Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. will have to hold off talented up and comers in redshirt freshman Devin Lucien and incoming freshman Jordan Payton and Javon Williams. Payton and Lucien have loads of upside and will press for playing time almost instantly. Senior Jerry Johnson brings a veteran name to the list.

11. Arizona
The Wildcats have to replace three players who caught at least 60 passes for at least 600 yards including star Juron Criner. Yet, in the new Rich Rodriguez scheme, the passing game clearly figures to be featured less than with Nick Foles at the helm last year. Dan Buckner has NFL talent and should be the go-to target this fall. He will be backed by talented sophomores Austin Hill, Garic Wharton, Austin Morrison (who also gets snaps at QB) and Tyler Slavin as well as senior Terrence Miller. Wharton could be the team’s fastest player. This group has plenty of options, however, the offensive system doensn’t lend itself to big production at the position.

12. Colorado – Any chance the Buffaloes had of contending for a bowl game was likely lost in the spring when receiver Paul Richardson was lost for the season with a torn ACL. In his first two years in Boulder, Richardson caught 73 passes for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns. Making matters worse for Colorado is Toney Clemons and tight end Ryan Deehan both expired their eligibility after the 2011 season. With Richardson out of the picture this year, it’s up to an inexperienced group of receivers to pickup the slack. Sophomore Tyler McCulloch caught 10 passes last season and will have to be the new go-to target for quarterback Connor Wood. Freshmen Nelson Spruce, Gerald Thomas, Peyton Williams and Jeffrey Thomas will be allowed to compete right away for playing time. 

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

Related Pac-12 Content

Pac-12 2012 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Pac-12 2012 Heisman Contenders

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Examining the Rising Cost of Assistant/Coordinator Salaries

<p> Pac-12 Wide Receiver Unit Rankings&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:34
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-its-zach-mettenbergers-time-shine-2012

At the ripe old age of 20, Zach Mettenberger surprised himself. The LSU quarterback figured out the person he had become by going through a season like he’d never experienced in his football life.

The strong-armed Georgia kid overflowing with potential was a spectator as the 2011 Tigers pieced together one of the most dominant regular seasons in college football history. A strange thing happened as Mettenberger stood and watched LSU roar to a 13–0 regular season that was capped by a dominating 42–10 win over Georgia — his former school — in the SEC Championship Game.

He enjoyed the ride.

“As a competitor, you always want to play and it definitely hurt to not play as much as I wanted,” says Mettenberger, who appeared in only five games in 2011. “But it made me realize I was patient, and I’m a better team player than I realized I could be.

“Not being the guy for the first time in my life, it showed me no matter how much you’re playing, you have to be supportive of your teammates and that the team is bigger than you. You play the game to win and be a part of something special.”

This is the same Mettenberger who in his freshman season at Georgia in 2009 showed up as a brash 18-year-old who had literally grown up in the Bulldogs’ program?

Yep. And it was also the same Mettenberger whose life on and off the field took an abrupt and potentially irreversible detour on March 7, 2010, when he was arrested and charged with a series of misdemeanors, including two counts of sexual battery after he fondled a female patron at a bar in Remerton, Ga.

His attorney pled the case out, and Mettenberger received two concurrent 12-month probation sentences. But Georgia coach Mark Richt — close to the family for years, due to the fact that Mettenberger’s mother Tammy had been a longtime administrative aide in the football office — had no choice but to kick Mettenberger out of the program.

Just that quickly, a promising career that had kicked into high gear during Georgia’s spring practice when Mettenberger battled Aaron Murray for the starting job was in serious jeopardy.

 “My plan at Georgia was to be the starter for four years,” Mettenberger says matter-of-factly.

“I’m not going to lie. I was really devastated when it was all going down. At one point, I thought I should just give up and quit playing football and go work for my dad and work construction the rest of my life. It took me a while to realize I didn’t want to drive nails for a living. I wanted to play football. I had to realize the sun was coming up on the horizon and that I just had to get through the hard times.”

So Mettenberger got back on his football feet.

Instead of transferring to another Division I program and sitting out another full season (he redshirted in 2009), the one-time rising star went the junior college route and wound up at Butler Community College, tucked away in El Dorado, Kan. Out of the spotlight, Mettenberger rebuilt his image and revived his career. He passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns, often sitting out second halves as the Grizzles marched to the NJCAA national championship game.

Like Cam Newton the year before, Mettenberger was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail after the 2010 season. He landed at LSU, in part because the Tigers’ coaches were dogged in their pursuit, but more so because of the chance he saw with LSU.

A second chance, but also a chance to be the leader of a program on the cusp of winning a national championship or two while he was on campus.

While Mettenberger was toiling in El Dorado, LSU was plowing through an 11–2 season that culminated with a rout against Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl. Entering the 2011 campaign, the two quarterbacks who had taken almost every snap since the Tigers’ 2007 BCS National Championship season were seniors. And neither Jordan Jefferson nor Jarrett Lee had ever really distinguished himself as an elite SEC signal-caller, giving Mettenberger the hope he could step in and play right away.

“I wanted the opportunity to play with them and more than anything I wanted to be a winner,” Mettenberger says. “LSU was a great opportunity for me to come to a powerhouse, and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself where I could play for a winner.

“Anywhere you go you’re going to have to compete to get on the field, and that didn’t scare me at all. I came with the attitude that I was going to start every game last year. It didn’t work out that way because Coach (Les) Miles had a different plan, and that was fine with me. We were 13–1 and I had a great time with my teammates.”

Many of those teammates are back in 2012, and for the first time since 2006 and ’07, the Tigers will be led by an NFL-caliber quarterback.

LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe says there’s no question Mettenberger can take that quantum leap into elite status.

“The biggest thing with Zach, he’s very accurate on deep balls,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s got a big arm. He’s going to make the throws outside the numbers on the hash. He’s learning to become a better passer. Everybody knows he can throw the football, but there’s not a lot of guys who can pass it. His fundamentals have gotten a lot better, and he’s throwing better passes and more catchable balls.

“The one word that always comes to mind with Zach is ‘competitive.’ He loves playing the game, and he’s very hard on himself. I didn’t see that as much last year because he wasn’t getting the same number of snaps and he wasn’t the guy. It’s there now because he wants to succeed and he wants this team to win.”

What was also camouflaged last fall as Mettenberger developed patience and waited for his turn was how much he was learning every day during practice. As the No. 3 quarterback, he often drew the task of working against the Tigers’ physical, aggressive and nasty first-unit defense.

Not only did that fuel the competitive juices, but it also forced Mettenberger to improve. Understandably, the 6'5", 222-pound gunslinger’s confidence is as high as ever after a spring as the Tigers’ leading man.

“When the lights are on and the cameras are on me, that’s when I think I’ll perform the best,” he says. “I’ve prepared myself to be the best quarterback I can be and I think I definitely have the talent and want-to to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and I hope my hard work pays off this season.

“I like the pressure. It feeds me and keeps me motivated every day.”

Sliding into the driver’s seat of an LSU offense that has had its ups and downs the last four years has also thrust Mettenberger into the role of a leader, something he has embraced.

He talked about scrutiny not affecting him, about understanding the microscope a big-time college quarterback operates under and — perhaps most important — about staying level-headed and making the right decisions on and off the field.

“Whether you want to be or not, when you’re the quarterback at LSU, you’re one of the faces of the program,” Mettenberger says. “I have to play that part well.”

So far, so good.

“He’s become a very good leader for our football team,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s embraced the idea that the quarterback has to be the leader, and he knows that people are going to look at him differently.”

Makes sense, because after a difficult road to get this far, Mettenberger is different, even more than he realized when his redirected road led him to Baton Rouge.

“To finally get my shot, I’m really excited for this and I’ve been working my tail off for it,” he says.

“What I’ve been through made me realize I can’t take it for granted. It made me appreciate what I do every day and who I get to hang out with. It reminds me I can’t screw this up because I may never get this opportunity again.”

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 SEC Preview Annual.

Related SEC Content

Athlon's 2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team

LSU Tigers 2012 Team Preview

SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012

The History of SEC Realignment

Getting to Know Texas A&M

<p> It's Zach Mettenberger's Time to Shine at LSU.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 09:11
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /news/texas-ams-welcome-sec-video-disaster

There's no question Texas A&M is fired up to be in the SEC. After dealing with the soap opera known as the Big 12, the Aggies finally have some stability in terms of conference alignment.

While it's a good thing Texas A&M is excited to join the SEC, this video is not. It's truly a disaster. The Aggies try to welcome each of their 13 new conference mates by repeating the school's chant and the results is an awkward and rather ridiculous video.

<p> Texas A&amp;M's Welcome to the SEC Video is a Disaster</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 09:38
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-wide-receivers

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the SEC's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Tennessee
The SEC pass-catchers discussion has to begin with the Big Orange. Da’Rick Rogers has had off-the-field issues, but his powerful 6-3, 210-pound frame is dripping with ability. When focused (less often than not), Rogers has All-American talent. Yet, he isn’t the best receiver on his own team. That distinction goes to Justin Hunter, who returns to the field fully healthy after missing all but two games due to a torn ACL in 2011. When at full speed, there may not be a better wideout in the entire nation. Adding to this deep group is dependable tight end Mychal Rivera and senior Zach Rogers, giving Tyler Bray plenty to work with. And depth won’t be an issue as newcomers Cordarrelle Patterson - who appears to be ready to live up to his lofty No. 1 JUCO recruiting status - Drae Bowles, Alton Howard and Jason Croom give the Vols the SEC’s best collection of pass-catchers.

2. Georgia
The Dawgs have to replace two veteran tight ends in Orson Charles and Aaron White, but stud athletes Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome should be more than capable of filling the void at the position. Senior Tavarres King finally delivered on his immense talent with 705 yards and 8 TD last fall and leads the way for a deep corps of receivers. Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley all have shown flashes of ability, but the upside of this group lies in the dynamic arms of Malcolm Mitchell. He was shifted to defense to account for suspensions and injuries this spring, but Mark Richt insists he will play wideout. But for how many plays per game? His electric, explosive play-making skill is unmatched by any other Bulldog and makes this group as dangerous as any in the SEC.

3. Texas A&M
The Aggies enter SEC play with a new quarterback and offensive scheme but return plenty of weapons on the outside. Senior Ryan Swope led the team with 89 receptions for 1,207 yards and 11 scores last year. He will be expected to provide leadership, as well as remain one of the offense’s top playmakers in 2012. Uzoma Nwachukwu has 126 receptions in his career and ranked third on the team with 639 receiving yards last season. Swope and Nwachukwu are entrenched as starters, with the third spot likely going to Kenric McNeal. Senior Brandal Jackson will also be in the mix, while sophomore Malcome Kennedy or freshman Mike Evans are potential breakout candidates.

4. Arkansas
It’s never easy replacing two first-team All-SEC receivers (Joe Adams and Jarius Wright), but Arkansas still has plenty of weapons for quarterback Tyler Wilson. Senior Cobi Hamilton averaged 15.9 yards per catch on 34 receptions last season and should be the new No. 1 option for Wilson. Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon are expected to grab the other two starting spots and have a combined 23 career catches. Both players have potential to be difference makers in 2012. With Adams and Wright departing, tight end Chris Gragg should exceed his 41 catches from last season. Depth is a concern at receiver, as sophomore Marquel Wade and junior Maudrecus Humphrey are facing felony burglary charges and may not return in 2012.

5. Alabama
With Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks departing, Alabama’s top returning wide receiver is Kenny Bell, who caught 17 passes for 255 yards last year. While the losses of Maze and Hanks are a concern, it’s possible the Crimson Tide will have more depth, speed and athleticism at receiver in 2012. Bell and Kevin Norwood took the early lead for playing time, but sophomores Christion Jones and DeAndrew White will be in the mix. Freshmen Marvin Shinn, Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Eddie Williams were all highly-touted recruits and will have a shot to crack the depth chart in the fall. Michael Williams is expected to start at tight end and should see his catches increase after nabbing 16 receptions last year. While this group has some youth, there’s also more potential than last season.

6. LSU
It took a few seasons but Rueben Randle finally developed into the elite talent many expected to see from the former five-star recruit. Replacing him won’t be easy, but LSU has plenty of options in 2012. In only one year, Odell Beckham Jr. proved to be one of the league’s top receivers and is a superstar in the making. He catches everything, can take the top off of any defense and plays a physical brand of football. Speedy counterpart Jarvis Landry played in every game as a freshman and will line-up opposite of Beckham. If Russell Shepard could consistently deliver on his big-play potential, Zach Mettenberger will have no trouble finding open Tigers. Chase Clement and Travis Dickson offer some upside at tight end and newcomer Avery Johnson, the younger brother of Patrick Peterson, is ready to contribute right away.

7. Missouri
Gone is Michael Egnew, Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson, but 14 different Tigers return after catching a pass last fall. T.J. Moe is the team’s top target after catching 146 passes for 1,694 yards over the last two seasons. Marcus Lucas started three games and tied for the team lead with five scores and has loads of upside. L’Damian Washington can contribute big plays as well after averaging 18.0 yards per catch in 2011. Eric Waters, who dealt with a knee issue all spring, will attempt to continue the long line of tight end success at Mizzou. The real kicker will be the addition of impact freshman Dorial Green-Beckham come the fall. Affectionately known as DGB, the newcomer comes to college as the most prolific and talented American prep receiver in history. His 6-6, 220-pound frame might be the most talented in the SEC the second he steps on campus in Columbia.

8. Vanderbilt
Going into last season, the Commodores ranked near the bottom of the SEC in receiver rankings. This group turned out to be a surprise, as two players caught over 31 passes and helped the offense produce more big plays. Jordan Matthews led the way with 41 catches for 778 yards. He also averaged 19 yards per catch in 2011 and could contend for All-SEC honors this year. Chris Boyd was impressive as a redshirt freshman, averaging 15.3 yards per catch and recording eight touchdown receptions on 31 catches. Jonathan Krause and Josh Grady are expected to make significant contributions in 2012, while Austin Monahan and Dillon van der Wal will battle to replace tight end Brandon Barden.

9. Auburn
With a switch to a pro-style attack and a quarterback question mark, the Tigers could rank near the bottom of the SEC in passing offense once again. There’s some talent returning in the receiving corps, but depth is a concern. Emory Blake led the team with 36 catches for 613 yards and will be the go-to option for quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Senior Travante Stallworth and sophomore Trovon Reed will likely be the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, with Reed catching 21 receptions as a freshman last year. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen only caught 24 passes in 2011, but made the most of those opportunities, as he took seven receptions for scores.

10. South Carolina
Alshon Jeffery is gone, but he failed to build on his huge sophomore season and was consistently out of shape last year. While no one is as talented as Jeffery, this group should be more balanced than last year. Ace Sanders is a versatile, speedy slot man who gets involved in a variety of ways. DeAngelo Smith will attempt to fill Jeffery’s shoes, with Damiere Byrd and Lamar Scruggs fighting for reps as well. The tight ends are in great shape as starters Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson, as well as upside freshman Jerell Adams, give the Gamecocks one of the best tight end groups in the SEC.

11. Florida
It just feels weird to write, but the Gators desperately need play-makers to develop and step forward in this department. Andre Debose, Frankie Hammond and Quinton Dunbar must deliver on their immense talent that led to lofty recruiting status for all three. True freshman Latroy Pittman had a great spring but has yet to log an actual snap in game action. Solomon Patton and Ja’Juan Story will also get plenty of chances as new coordinator Brent Pease tries to find the right rotation. There are a lot of former four- and five-star prospects playing wideout for Florida, so someone has to emerge quickly if the offense is expected to improve. Tight end Jordan Reed is a stellar talent who needs to continue his growth and development.

12. Mississippi State
In order for the Bulldogs to finish higher than ninth in the SEC in scoring offense, the passing attack has to get better. New quarterback Tyler Russell is a better passer than the player he is replacing (Chris Relf), but the receivers also need to step up. Chad Bumphis has been solid, but has yet to become the difference maker most expected when he committed to Mississippi State. Seniors Arceto Clark and Chris Smith are expected to start, while redshirt freshman Joe Morrow is coming off a strong spring, and the coaching stuff thinks he can contribute significant snaps in 2012.

13. Kentucky
Finding personnel who can make big plays is a must for the Wildcats in 2012, considering they finished last in the nation in plays of 20 yards or more a year ago. Senior La’Rod King will be the top target and the most dependable one after a 40-598-7 line last fall. But names like sophomore Demarco Robinson and freshman Daryl Collins need to step into bigger roles if Joker Phillips’ offense is going to improve. Phillips also wants and expects to see more from his tight ends as Ronnie Shields and Anthony Kendrick provide some athleticism. Tyler Robinson will play plenty as well, but is closer to an offensive lineman than pass-catcher. 

14. Ole Miss
The Rebels’ offense is littered with question marks, but there’s some upside with this unit. Donte Moncrief led the team in receptions (31), receiving yards (454) and touchdowns (4) as a freshman last year. Moncrief will be the No. 1 option once again, but the depth took a hit with Nickolas Brassell’s decision to transfer after spring practice. Ja-Mes Logan caught 20 passes last year and should fill the No. 2 role. Converted quarterback Randall Mackey will be in the mix for significant playing time in 2012 as the No. 3 receiver. Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen combined for 18 receptions last year, but tight ends were not featured prominently in Hugh Freeze’s offense at Arkansas State last year.

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

Related SEC Content

2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Introducing Texas A&M to the SEC

Introducing Missouri to the SEC

How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 06:11
Path: /college-football/college-football-examining-skyrocketing-coordinator-salaries

There’s more money than ever in college football, and assistant coaches are reaping the rewards, with compensation levels rising at a rapid pace

If you happen to score an invitation for dinner at Dabo Swinney’s house, expect a feast, complete with a fine entree, premium beverages and a nice dessert. The climate will be comfortably controlled, and the roof won’t leak. His children will be neatly dressed, and his car won’t be up on blocks in the front yard.

Swinney’s decision to give back some of the bonus he earned for leading Clemson to the ACC championship, in order to provide raises for some assistants and fund some truly remarkable salaries for his offensive and defensive coordinators, has led some to wonder whether that move will force Swinney to make some budgetary sacrifices. He and his family will have to scrape by on his $1.9 million salary in 2012, but major cutbacks are not on the horizon.

“I’m not missing any meals,” Swinney says. “For me, it was a business decision. I’m investing in my staff. I’m in really good shape in terms of my contract. It’s very important to take care of these guys.”

Swinney’s 2012 compensation package places him 46th among FBS coaches, despite the Tigers’ winning last year’s league title. But it doesn’t matter to Swinney that he’s about $3.7 million behind college football’s Rockefeller, Alabama’s Nick Saban, who will make $5.62 million this year. Thanks to a clause in his contract, Swinney was able to redirect $265,000 of the bonus he earned for taking the ACC title to the assistants’ pool to help fund a $450,000 increase for the staff, something he considers vital to Clemson’s long-term success. Some of that was spent on new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who will make a reported $800,000 this season, and second-year offensive boss Chad Morris, whose salary vaulted from $450,000 a year to $1.3 million per, making him the highest-paid assistant coach in the country.

“(Head coach) is such a big, big job,” Swinney says. “It’s very public, especially at a school like this. We’re running multi-multi-million dollar corporations, and we’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with.

“We have to delegate and have confidence in the people we delegate to. It’s very competitive to hire and keep coaches, and (the salaries) are just a result of how it has grown.”

Though Morris’ gigantic leap in compensation is rare, coordinators across the country are seeing significant gains in their paychecks. What was a largely anonymous position a couple decades ago is now a high-profile job that carries great responsibility and pays big-time cash.

Morris takes over the top spot on the offensive coordinator pay chart from Gus Malzahn, who also made $1.3 million last year at Auburn. Malzahn has moved on to be the head coach at Arkansas State, where he is making at least $450,000 year less than the Tigers paid him. Talk about a man who loves the Natural State. Though the only other coordinator to earn more than a million dollars in 2012 is USC defensive leader Monte Kiffin (at least $1.2 million), plenty are edging near the magical, seven-figure mark.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart received a $100,000 raise after the Tide’s national title season and will make $950,000. LSU’s John Chavis is expected to be north of $900,000 this season (and will be paid a reported $1.1 million in ’13 and $1.3 in ’14) after earning $708 grand last season. New Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri signed a three-year, $2.4 million deal. Georgia’s Todd Grantham received a significant raise from last year’s $755,900 salary. And so on. As TV money floods into the upper reaches of the college football world, coordinators at top programs are benefiting at unprecedented rates.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt says. “(Coordinator) is a very big responsibility, and you want a guy who can be at the top of the spear with his unit he’s responsible for.

“I think the market goes where it goes for a reason. It’s not just because somebody got a wild hair. There is value in these people. When you do your job with excellence, there’s a lot to be gained. They earn it.”

Coordinators aren’t the only ones making more dough. According to USA Today, all assistants’ salaries rose 11 percent from 2010-11, a rate of increase that surpassed that of head men, whose pay went up 7.3 percent. At a time when fans know more about coaching staffs than ever before, and recruiting is as competitive as it has ever been, it’s vital for bosses to have people around them capable of doing the job well. To get those good people, they have to pay, especially when it comes to the coordinators, who serve as the executive VPs of programs.

“If you look at a corporation of any size, the top executives are paid accordingly,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says. “These are our top executives. They’re going to be head coaches some day.”

In part, that prospect has driven the coordinator salary surge. When small and mid-major programs look for new leaders, they often turn to coordinators at the top level. Although Malzahn took a big cut to head to Arkansas State, many other top assistants would prefer not to drop down a tax bracket, even if it does mean being in charge. By paying them a lot more than they could make at smaller schools, BCS head coaches can secure their services and the continuity that comes with their presence. Coaches and ADs have decided that in order to keep cashing in on the growing football revenue tide, they need the best people possible.

“The overriding factor here is that college football, particularly in the BCS conferences, is a huge business,” says a prominent agent who represents several BCS coaches and requested anonymity. “Programs are making a lot more money than they thought they would even five years ago. Since they don’t pay the players, who are they going to pay? The coaches.”

One of the reasons the salaries are growing so quickly is that the marketplace is highly competitive. Clemson had to give Morris such a huge raise because new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was reported to have offered him the same position for $1.5 million. Although the Tigers checked in a couple hundred thousand short of Meyer’s reported offer, Morris chose the familiarity of the Clemson program and the chance to continue what he started during his 2011 debut season, when he helped Clemson improve from 88th to 26th nationally in total offense.

“If you pay guys well, this is a place guys may stay a little longer and maybe for a little less money,” Swinney says. “There’s a great quality of life here.”

When David Brandon played linebacker for Michigan back in the mid-1970s, head coach Bo Schembechler would spend the first half of the practice with the defense and the second half with the offense. Under his watchful eye, the Wolverines waged a near-constant assault on the upper reaches of the Big Ten. And though his staffs produced 12 future head coaches — Bill McCartney, Gary Moeller, Don Nehlen, Jim Young and Les Miles among them — the identities of his assistants and even his coordinators were largely unknown to all but the most devoted U-M fans.

“It’s no longer Bo walking back-and-forth at practice,” says Brandon, who is now Michigan’s athletic director. “(Football) CEOs need leaders on both sides of the ball.”

Brandon understands the current climate of the coordinator salary race enough that when Wolverines coach Brady Hoke needed a big number to secure the services of Greg Mattison to run the defense when Hoke was hired in 2011, Brandon signed off on a $750,000 salary, then the highest assistant’s payday in the conference. The move paid off handsomely. In 2010, Michigan ranked 108th nationally in scoring defense; last season, it finished sixth. Without Mattison at the defensive helm, it’s unlikely Michigan would have played in the Sugar Bowl and received the fat BCS payout.

“You need to make this kind of investment to stay competitive at the top level,” Brandon says.

It’s interesting that Brandon and his fellow ADs had to be convinced that beefing up coordinators’ salaries was a good idea. Obviously, administrators keep a close eye on the bottom line, so any increase in expenses is going to cause a small disturbance in the force. But head coaches have become adept at convincing their bosses that the extra outlay is worth it.

“It’s a little different model,” Swinney says. “When I got the job here, I told them I didn’t care what they paid me. It was about trying to get things from a staff standpoint to where they have to be.”

That holistic approach to staff compensation is driving a lot of this. Alabama’s staff was paid a total of $3,866,350 last year, still short of the $5.62 million Saban will make this season but certainly a strong statement. At LSU, three assistants made more than a half-million in 2011, led by Chavis. Tennessee’s and Florida’s staffs both earned more than $3 million combined. UT defensive boss Justin Wilcox (who has since moved to the University of Washington) earned $625,000 last year, while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was paid $525,000.

“It’s fair to say that coordinators don’t just necessarily run the offense and run the defense,” LSU coach Les Miles says. “There’s a lot more to it. It requires a specialization. When you’re competing at the highest level, you require a guy with great experience, ability and continuity.

“You have to find a guy who can represent a school well, recruit at the highest level and fulfill a role that will prepare the players.”

It’s no coincidence the lion’s share of the nouveau riche at coordinator positions can be found in the SEC, and many of the top salaried coaches are on the defensive side. With some exceptions — see Auburn, 2010 — the conference remains a defense-first concern, and that has been rammed home by Alabama’s two national titles in the past three seasons.

Since the last six national title winners have come from the SEC, it makes sense that coaches will pay top coordinators. “If you want to get the right guy and keep him, you have to pay him,” Richt says. It won’t be long before that philosophy will creep northward. Clemson is already on board, and if Meyer was willing to throw $1.5 million at Morris to lure him to Ohio State, and Mattison is collecting three-quarters of a million at Michigan, expect the Big Ten to adopt the model.

“A lot of it is driven by the market,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says. “It all trickles down and begins with the coordinators in the NFL. Things have started to escalate, and it showed up first in the SEC. That’s usually how it goes.”

When Monte Kiffin started coaching, back at Nebraska in the late 1960s and early ’70s, he certainly wasn’t a wealthy man. In fact, when he saw what his son, USC head coach Lane, made in his first coaching job three decades later, Monte wasn’t too happy.

“It wasn’t fair,” he says. “But that’s just life.”

Since the elder Kiffin is making north of a million bucks each season, he can afford to be philosophical about the escalating salaries in the coaching world. “Football hasn’t changed,” he says. “It’s just that the salaries have gone up, but everything has gone up.” 

There is no question, however, that his job is more demanding than it was when he was coordinating the Cornhuskers’ defense during Tom Osborne’s early years in Lincoln. First of all, Osborne was a lot more engaged in the daily operations of the program than many head coaches are today — and not because they are aloof or disengaged. For many years, Osborne called all the plays the Cornhuskers ran. Though some program chiefs have that level of hands-on involvement today (Saban comes to mind), few have the ability to run either side of the ball, not with all the fundraising and administrative responsibilities they have.

So, Kiffin and his coordinator brethren are charged with making the Xs and Os come to life on the field. We know who they are and are aware they make the big money. At their core, however, these guys are still ball coaches, and though they may harbor dreams of running their own programs some day and certainly don’t mind being well compensated, they care more about doing their jobs than anything else.

Last winter, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi removed himself from consideration for the vacant Akron head coaching spot to return to East Lansing. Though his $300,000 salary at MSU is less than the $375,000 former Zips coach Rob Ianello was paid annually to go 1–11 twice, Narduzzi decided it would be better to be a lieutenant in the Big Ten than a big cheese in the MAC. He’s happy and well compensated at MSU. And if the Spartans continue to play great defense, he may just find his paycheck heading toward those SEC totals. Narduzzi isn’t kidding you; he’d like that. But he’s more interested in doing a good job. “I’ve coached the same whether I was at Rhode Island (from 1993-99) or at Michigan State (from ’07-present),” Narduzzi says.

And he isn’t missing any meals, either.

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 College Football Annuals.

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

College Fantasy Football 2012 Rankings

<p> College Football: Examining the Skyrocketing Coordinator Salaries</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 05:01
Path: /college-football/northwestern-football-revisiting-1995-wildcats-rose-bowl-team

It was midnight on the eve of the 82nd Rose Bowl in Pasadena. A lone figure sat in the partially lit stands gazing out at the fabled field in the near darkness.

Gary Barnett was fulfilling a personal wish to visit the stadium the night before the 1996 Rose Bowl game. Alone with his thoughts, the Northwestern coach couldn’t help but smile at seeing the purple-painted end zone that saluted his Cinderella Wildcats. “We’re taking the Purple to Pasadena,” he had boldly predicted four years earlier, when he first stepped onto the Evanston, Ill., campus. Few believed him then. Now, incredibly, Northwestern had burst from the constraints of a dead-and-buried program and shocked the world of college football. Twenty-four eternally long seasons had come and gone since the Wildcats’ last winning season. It had been 47 years since the school’s last bowl appearance, when halfback Frank Aschenbrenner was the hero in the 1949 Rose Bowl win over California; 59 autumns had intervened since Northwestern had last captured a Big Ten championship. But all that changed when the Wildcats went 10–1 through the 1995 regular season, stunning such perennial powers as Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State to claim the Big Ten title and the automatic Rose Bowl invitation that went with it.

“We were the school that wasn’t supposed to be able to do it,” says Barnett, now 66. “We took a lot of pride in that.”

It was easy to remember when there was little pride in the Purple. A deep-seated pigskin pall had fallen over the Northwestern student body in the preceding decades that had hardened into a shell of apathetic disinterest.

“We had given them really no reason to expect winning,” says Chris Martin, an All-Big Ten cornerback on that Rose Bowl team. “On most Saturdays, the library was more crowded than our football stadium.” Barnett, he said, had taken over “a moribund program.”

Far from being embraced, football was viewed as a scourge on campus. “We were a necessary evil, I suppose,” remembers Darnell Autry, a sophomore star that year, whose 1,785 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns brought him All-America recognition and a fourth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

“And the professors there … you ­didn’t want to go in and tout that you were a football player,” recalls Mike McGrew, a fullback and ’96 co-captain.

Beating the odds

The season started with a shocking 17–15 victory over Notre Dame at South Bend. “We were 29-point underdogs,” remembers quarterback Steve Schnur. “There was a big third-down conversion we threw a pass on. Barnett let me call my own play and that was telling.”

Indeed, that belief in his quarterback and the game’s eventual outcome told a nation that Barnett, improbably, could field a team of winners at an elite academic institution. In the first year of full recruiting following his initial 1992 campaign at Northwestern, Barnett ran smack into the reality of what he was up against: Ninety-five percent of kids playing Division I football were athletes he could not recruit. Strict Northwestern standards demanded that players maintain a 3.0 GPA and score well over 1,000 on their SATs.

“We had Hines Ward and a bunch of guys we were recruiting,” recalls Barnett. “We took 100 applications over to the admissions office and they only let us have 10 of those in school.”

The Wildcats coach nearly made a fateful mistake. “We almost said, ‘Well, there you go. That’s why we can’t win here. We can’t get kids in school.’ But instead we said, ‘Okay, we now know what that profile looks like, so let’s not worry about those other 90. Let’s just make sure that the rest of the guys we recruit look like the profiles of these 10.’”

That meant Barnett and his staff would have to scour the country for their talent. The athletes they signed were not being courted by the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan, but rather second-tier football programs like Tulane, Iowa State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Cincinnati. Still, to come to this center of football inertia, Barnett had to attract them in some way.

“We sold the city. We sold Michael Jordan. And we sold Mike Ditka,” says Barnett, laughing. “We just tried to make a city school into something attractive and looked at it from a different perspective than how it had been conventionally looked at.”

Some players came for a chance to play in the Big Ten; some came for the challenge of playing at a school like Northwestern. “Of course, we probably got a kid or two because of the academics, but for the most part it was just something within our program that we found a way to use to attract.”

That something, for many of the recruits, was the coaches. “We had Gary Barnett,” says Autry simply. “He had a different vision for what he saw in this program. He changed the culture in terms of how we thought about ourselves and how we thought about the program.”

Expect victory

Still, after all the players were assembled, something made that team of good-but-not-great athletes very special. “Great chemistry,” says Schnur, in a response echoed by McGrew and others. “Chemistry and teamwork can take you further than a collection of individual talents. That’s what signified that team. We got as high as third in the country and felt like we could compete with and beat anyone. It was just a bunch of guys who believed in each other. We were willing to outwork anybody.”

That philosophy has carried over into the adult lives of those ’95 Wildcats, who are now between 35 and 37 years of age and have displayed resounding success in their respective career fields (see below). Though 10 players eventually went into the NFL, only one (Barry Gardner) played more than four years. But all, regardless of profession, find parallels today with their Northwestern football experience.

“The ability to inspire and motivate people, to tap into things that resonate with them, to get the most out of your folks to help cultivate an atmosphere that helps get people working together and focused on a common goal, those are all things I went through as part of that team at Northwestern,” says McGrew, now with W.W. Grainger, a Fortune 500 company. “It prepared me in helping our people achieve their goals and objectives.”

For McGrew and the other ’95 Wildcats, a Northwestern diploma has been a degree of difference.

“When I look back on our team, the one thing that strikes me is that most of the guys are successful, whether they’re teachers or CEOs or presidents of companies,” notes Justin Chabot, an offensive lineman in ’95. “Northwestern offers a national degree. And it translates everywhere you go.”

Pat Fitzgerald, heading into his seventh season as head coach of the Wildcats, sees instances everywhere of the positive influences from his playing days at Northwestern. “We’re all incredibly successful professionally now not just because of what we experienced on the field but because of what we experienced together as a group and how we were able to earn our degrees at such a great school,” says the former two-time consensus All-America linebacker, a defensive mainstay on the ’95 team. “There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in recruiting, but I can say wholeheartedly everything that Coach Barnett and his staff sold us on has come true.”

“Expect victory,” Gary Barnett once preached. To a man, his 1995 Northwestern Wildcats still do.

The 1995 Wildcats: Where They Are Now

Darnell Autry, running back - Online radio show host, “Outside the Spotlight,” on VoiceAmerica

Gary Barnett, head coach - Broadcast analyst, Sports USA Radio Network

D’Wayne Bates, wide receiver - Football defensive assistant/special teams coordinator, Evanston (Ill.) Township High School

William Bennett, defensive back - Branch manager, Scottsdale, Ariz., Kelly Services, a global workforce staffing company

Paul Burton, punter - General assignment reporter, WBZ-TV News, the CBS affiliate in Boston

Justin Chabot, offensive lineman - College scout, Southeast area, San Francisco 49ers

Darren Drexler, tight end - Vice president of operations, Courtesy Products, St. Louis, Mo., a provider of operating supplies to hotels and motels in the United States and Canada

Pat Fitzgerald, linebacker - Head football coach, Northwestern University

Rob Johnson, center - Sales manager and overseer of purchasing, operations, and marketing for Illco, Inc., a Countryside, Ill.-based privately held wholesale distributor of refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing, pvc, and hydronic supplies

Brian Kardos, tackle - Security and assurance manager, BP, Houston

Keith Lozowski, defensive end - Regional director, Bankers Life and Casualty Co., Jacksonville, Fla., an insurance needs provider for the retirement market

Chris Martin, defensive back - Football analyst, Big Ten Network

Mike McGrew, fullback - Director of communications for W.W. Grainger, the largest supplier of industrial supplies and maintenance equipment for businesses and institutions in North America

Tucker Morrison, linebacker - Chief operating officer, Flightstar Aircraft Services, Inc., a heavy aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider in Jacksonville, Fla.

Brian Musso, wide receiver - Co-founder and managing partner, Promus Capital LLC, a family wealth management and alternative investment group in Chicago

Ryan Padgett, guard - Seattle-area emergency room doctor

Steve Schnur, quarterback - Senior vice president, Chicago operations, Duke Realty, a public real estate investment trust

Sam Valenzisi, kicker - Director, Lincoln International LLC, Chicago, specializing in merger and acquisitions advisory services

Jason Wendland, tackle - Senior futures and options broker, JP Morgan Chase, New York City

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Preview Annual.

Related Big Ten Content

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's 2012 Big Ten All-Conference Team

Northwestern Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

<p> Looking back at the 1995 Northwestern Wildcats team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 04:48
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2012-all-conference-team

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first and second All-Conference USA teams for this season.

First-Team Offense

QB David Piland, Houston

RB Zach Line, SMU

RB Charles Sims, Houston

WR Aaron Dobson, Marshall

WR Darius Johnson, SMU

TE Luke Willson, Rice

C Trent Dupy, Tulsa

OL Jacolby Ashworth, Houston

OL Joe Duhon, Southern Miss

OL Theo Goins, UCF

OL Jason Weaver, Southern Miss

First-Team Defense

DL Jamie Collins, Southern Miss

DL Cory Dorris, Tulsa

DL Victor Gray, UCF

DL Margus Hunt, SMU

LB Ja'Gared Davis, SMU

LB Trent Mackey, Tulane

LB Taylor Reed, SMU

CB D.J. Hayden, Houston

CB Deron Wilson, Southern Miss

S Kemal Ishmael, UCF

S Dexter McCoil, Tulsa

First-Team Specialists

K Chris Boswell, Rice

P Ian Campbell, UTEP

KR Rannell Hall, UCF

PR Tracy Lampley, Southern Miss

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Conference USA Team

  First Second Overall
East Carolina 0 4 4
Houston 4 2 6
Marshall 1 2 3
Memphis 0 1 1
Rice 2 1 3
SMU 5 0 5
Southern Miss 5 2 7
Tulane 1 2 3
Tulsa 3 5 8
UAB 0 2 2
UCF 4 3 7
UTEP 1 2 3

Second-Team Offense

QB Blake Bortles, UCF

RB Orleans Darkwa, Tulane

RB Trey Watts, Tulsa

WR Bryan Burnham, Tulsa

WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina

TE Willie Carter, Tulsa

C Jordan Rae, UCF

OL Brander Craighead, UTEP

OL Rowdy Harper, Houston

OL Chris Hubbard, UAB

OL Will Simmons, East Carolina

Second-Team Defense

DL Michael Brooks, East Carolina

DL Troy Davis, UCF

DL Horace Miller, UTEP

DL Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss

LB Jeremy Grove, East Carolina

LB Shawn Jackson, Tulsa

LB Derrick Mathews, Houston

CB Bryce Callahan, Rice

CB Ryan Travis, Tulane

S Jacorius Cotton, Southern Miss

S Marco Nelson, Tulsa

Second-Team Specialists

K Ty Long, UAB 

P Tom Hornsey, Memphis

KR Andre Booker, Marshall

PR Andre Booker, Marshall


Athlon's 2012 Conference USA Team Previews

Related Content: Conference USA 2012 Predictions

East West
East Carolina Houston
Marshall SMU
Memphis Rice
Southern Miss Tulane
UAB Tulsa

<p> Conference USA Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 03:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-mountain-west

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Mountain West in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Mountain West All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)


QB—Brett Smith, So. (Wyoming)

Last season:  Passed for 2,622 yards and 20 TDs, rushed for 710 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St


QB—Cody Fajardo, So. (Nevada)

Last season:  Passed for 1,707 yards and 6 TDs, rushed for 694 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye


RB—D.J. Harper, Sr. (Boise State)

Last season:  Rushed for 568 yards and 9 TDs as the primary backup to Doug Martin.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye


RB—Robbie Rouse, Sr. (Fresno State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,607 yards and 13 TDs, 32 receptions for 228 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Wyoming, @ New Mexico, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Nevada, Bye, Air Force


RB—Stefphon Jefferson, Jr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Rushed for 442 yards and 5 TDs as a backup to Lampford Mark and Mike Ball.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye


WR—Matt Miller, So. (Boise State)

Last season:  62 receptions for 679 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ New Mexico, @ Southern Miss, Fresno St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye


WR—Chris McNeill, Sr. (Wyoming)

Last season:  42 receptions for 504 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St


WR— Brandon Wimberly, Sr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Missed 2011 season due to injury (gunshot wound).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Wyoming, @ UNLV, San Diego St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye


TE—Gavin Escobar, Jr. (San Diego State)

Last season:  51eceptions for 780 yards and 7 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; San Jose St, @ Fresno St, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Air Force, Bye, @ Wyoming


FLEX—Chris Nwoke, Jr. (Colorado State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,176 yards and 9 TDs, 23 receptions for 143 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; North Dakota St, @ San Jose St, Utah St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UNLV, @ Boise St, New Mexico


K—Parker Herrington, Sr. (Air Force)

Last season: 15-for-18 on FG attempts, 45-for-48 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; @ UNLV, Colorado St, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ San Diego St, Hawaii, @ Fresno St


DEF/ST—Boise State Broncos

Last season:  No. 12 scoring defense, No. 16 total defense, only two starters return.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye


Top 5 Reserves

QB—Derek Carr, Jr. (Fresno State)

QB—Joe Southwick, Jr. (Boise State)

RB—Mike DeWitt, Sr. (Air Force)

WR—Rashad Evans, Sr. (Fresno State)

WR—Colin Lockett, Jr. (San Diego State)


Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Mountain West</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 23:32