Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/penn-state-football-players-where-they-should-transfer
Body:

With the NCAA's decision to hammer Penn State with significant penalties regarding the recent scandal surrounding the program, returning players and any incoming freshmen will be allowed to transfer without penalty. The Nittany Lions cannot play in a bowl or the Big Ten Championship until 2017, which means a lot of players could be looking to leave Happy Valley. In addition to a four-year bowl ban, Penn State was hit with scholarship reductions, 112 wins from 1998-2011 were vacated and the school has been fined $60 million. The Nittany Lions will be allowed to have only 65 scholarship players for future seasons.

Penn State may not see a huge number of players leave this year, especially with fall camps right around the corner. However, the roster could look drastically different by this time next year.

All signs point to the Big Ten relaxing its transfer rules, which would allow any player to transfer within the conference. Additionally, with fall camps opening in the next two weeks, there won't be much time for the players to make a decision. It's likely more Penn State players will choose to leave after 2012 but some could decide to leave before this season begins.

Here's a look at the top Penn State players and some possible fits if they choose to leave. 

1. Jordan Hill, DT – Penn State’s interior line was one of the best in the nation last year. Devon Still led the way with 17 tackles for a loss, while Hill recorded 59 stops and 3.5 sacks. With Still expiring his eligibility, Hill is expected to become a leader for Penn State’s defense and emerge as one of the top linemen in the Big Ten. Not having Still around will force defenses to focus more on Hill, but he is capable of handling the double teams in 2012.

Possible Fits: Clemson, USC, Virginia, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Iowa

2. Silas Redd, RB – In his first season as a starter in 2011, Redd rushed for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns, while catching nine passes for 40 yards. He had a stretch of five 100-yard performances, including 164 against Northwestern. Penn State's offensive line has been inconsistent in Redd's career and had only one returning starter in 2012. Redd is an Athlon Sports second-team All-Big Ten selection for 2012.

Possible Fits: Iowa, Oklahoma, USC, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee

3. Gerald Hodges, LB – After becoming a major contributor to the defense late in the 2010 season, Hodges emerged as one of the unit's top players in 2011. He led Penn State with 106 tackles last year, while also recording 10 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Hodges earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season and was nominated to the Butkus Award watchlist for 2012. He is expected to be one of the first linebackers off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Possible Fits: TCU, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Baylor, Texas, West Virginia, Nebraska, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU

4. Michael Mauti, LB – Injuries have limited Mauti in his career but if healthy, is capable of ranking among the Big Ten’s top linebackers. He recorded 21 tackles in four games last year but suffered a torn ACL in the 34-6 win over Eastern Michigan. Mauti played in 11 games in 2010 and recorded 67 tackles and two sacks. All signs point to a return to full strength by Mauti, but he may need a few games to knock off the rust. Considering Mauti's father played at Penn State, it could be difficult for him to leave Happy Valley.

Possible Fits: Michigan, NC State, Baylor, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, TCU

5. Khairi Fortt, LB – With Mauti, Hodges, Glenn Carson and Fortt, the Nittany Lions have one of the Big Ten’s top linebacking corps for 2012. Fortt finished spring practice just behind Glenn Carson on the depth chart and is expected to make another push for a starting spot this fall. He logged significant snaps last season, recording 33 tackles and six tackles for a loss. As a junior, Fortt is only scratching the surface on his potential and could have a breakout 2012 season.

Possible Fits: Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Connecticut

6. Glenn Carson, LB – Carson was steady in his first year as a starter in 2011, recording 74 stops and forcing two fumbles in 13 games. Although he's not flashy, Carson is a steady performer and will figure into the rotation even if he loses his starting job to Khairi Fortt.

Possible Fits: Michigan, Boston College, NC State, Baylor, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn

7. Justin Brown, WR – Brown is Penn State’s top returning receiver after catching 35 passes for 517 yards and two scores. He caught six receptions for 62 yards in the 14-10 win over Temple, while posting one catch for 69 yards and a score in the bowl loss against Houston. At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Brown has intriguing size and talent and is coming off his best statistical season.

Possible Fits: Maryland, Illinois, Temple

8. Anthony Fera, K/P – Fera had a solid 2011 season, nailing 14 of 17 field goals and averaging 42 yards per punt. Considering his value on both aspects of special teams, a lot of teams could have an interest in Fera.

Possible Fits: Florida State (punter), Virginia Tech (kicker and punter), Tennessee

9. Sean Stanley, DE – Stanley is a steady performer and is poised to finish his career on a high note. He made 30 tackles and recorded 4.5 sacks last season and is the team’s top returner at defensive end for 2012. Stanley isn’t likely to be a standout but can be a solid part of a rotation.

Possible Fits: Temple, Rutgers, Iowa

10. Matt Stankiewitch, C – With Stankiewitch back as the only returning starter, Penn State’s offensive line is in full rebuild mode in 2012. He started all 13 contests last season and helped Penn State’s rushing attack average 4.2 yards per carry and 1.1 sacks per game.

Possible Fits: Rutgers, Maryland, Temple

11. Malcolm Willis, S – The Nittany Lions lost all four starters in the secondary from last season, but the cupboard wasn’t bare for new coach Bill O’Brien. Willis played in 12 contests last year and recorded 33 stops and one interception. He doesn’t have a full season of starts under his belt, but is primed to be a solid contributor at safety.

12. Bill Belton, RB – Belton didn’t see much playing time last year but made an impact when he got on the field. He rushed for 15 yards on four attempts in the 20-14 win over Ohio State, while recording 38 yards in the bowl loss to Houston. Belton is expected to backup Silas Redd, along with contribute out of the backfield on passing downs and on special teams. This sophomore is an intriguing talent and one who should get better with more playing time.

 

Top Incoming Freshmen to Watch

Brian Gala, OL
Eugene Lewis, WR
Jordan Lucas, DB
Jamil Pollard, DL
Nyeem Wartman, LB

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

 

Teaser:
<p> Penn State Football Players: Where They Should Transfer</p>
Post date: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 13:27
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-east-linebackers
Body:

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 East Linebacker Units for 2012

1. Rutgers This defense was the Big East's best a year ago for a reason, and it doesn't appear much has changed for the new coaching staff in Piscataway. Khaseem Greene might be the best player in the conference and he will lead a stellar linebacking corps that is deep, experienced and talented. Steve Beauharnais is one of only three Big East Butkus candidates and he isn't even the best LB on his own team. Joining that nationally acclaimed duo is returning starter Jamal Merrell. This is one of the best starting threesomes at linebacker in the entire nation, much less the Big East. Look for more of the same from the league's No. 1 scoring, passing and total defense.

2. ConnecticutThe Huskies owned the Big East’s No. 1 rush defense last season but keeping that ranking in 2012 could prove to be difficult without standout tackles Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin clogging the middle. With two starters gone at tackle, the linebacking corps will have its hands full trying to stuff the run. Sio Moore is the group’s top performer, and he returns after recording 86 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Jory Johnson and Yawin Smallwood are back as returning starters and both made over 90 stops last year. Don’t be surprised if both players earn All-Big East honors in 2012.

3. South FloridaThere’s not much separation between the Big East’s top three linebacking corps, so the Bulls are closer to No. 1 than they are No. 4. Junior DeDe Lattimore is the headliner and returns after recording 94 tackles and seven sacks last season. He should be one of the conference’s top players in 2012. Senior Sam Barrington has 25 career starts and will team with Lattimore to handle the outside spots. Senior Michael Lanaris was solid in his first season as a starter, recording 87 stops and 4.5 tackles for a loss. The Bulls ranked 15th nationally against the run last year and largely due to the strength of their front seven, should finish in the top 25 once again in 2012.

4. SyracuseThis area of the Cuse defense was inexperienced a year ago and it led to the Orange finishing as the worst defense in the Big East. That said, four linebackers return to what could be an improved area of the team. Marquis Spruill, Dyshawn Davis and Dan Vaughn look to be the starters while senior reserve Siriki Diabate, and a host of underclassmen, provide much needed depth. The reworked defensive coaching staff for Doug Marrone should be able to count on the linebackers more in 2012.

5. Louisville This unit will miss Dexter Heyman but don’t expect the Cardinals to drop much in the linebacking corps’ rankings. Junior Preston Brown recorded 84 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season and will slide into the middle to take over for Heyman. Senior Daniel Brown and sophomore Deiontrez Mount are expected to start on the outside but don’t count Charlie Strong from playing incoming freshmen Nick Dawson and Keith Brown.

6. Cincinnati The Bearcats return two starters at linebacker, but the lone departure was a big one. JK Schaffer was one of the Big East’s top defenders last season and will be missed. Not only was Schaffer productive (114 tackles, 4.5 sacks in 2011), he was a key leader for the defense. The cupboard isn’t completely bare for coordinator John Jancek, as Maalik Bomar and Nick Temple are back as returning starters. Bomar recorded 61 tackles last season, while Temple made 35 stops. Expected to step in for Schaffer will be sophomore Solomon Tentman. He missed all of 2010 with a torn ACL and made three tackles in five appearances last season. If Tentman picks up where Schaffer left off, the Bearcats’ linebacking corps should finish higher in the postseason Big East linebacking corps’ rankings.

7. Pittsburgh There isn't much experience returning to the Pitt defense, and the linebacking corps will feature plenty of new names. Todd Thomas is the only returning starter as the new coaching staff switches back to the more tradtional 4-3 scheme. He is only a sophomore but is one of the most talented players on the defense. Shane Gordon and Eric Williams will get the first crack at starting - which would give Pitt two sophomores and a junior at linebacker in a year of transition. Heavy-hitter Dan Mason returns from a serious knee injury in 2011 and will be an interesting name to track during fall camp.

8. TempleThe Owls were great statistically on defense in an offensive minded league last year. However, they now step back into Big East play and face a much tougher schedule. Blaze Caponegro is lone returning starter on a unit that was hit hard with departures. Converted running back Ahkeem Smith should be opposite Caponegro but the middle is up for grabs. Expect Chuck Heater to toy with the rotation early on in order to find the right mix.


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

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Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

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Which Big East Teams Are on the Rise Heading into 2012?

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big East Linebackers</p>
Post date: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 05:59
Path: /college-football/penn-state-begins-healing-process-removes-joe-paterno-statue
Body:

Joe Paterno's statue, outside of Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, was once a symbol of success and everything that epitomized Penn State. Under Paterno's watch, the Nittany Lions recorded 409 wins and two national championships. Also during his tenure, Penn State emerged as one of college football's powerhouses and most recognizable brands.

But with the Jerry Sandusky scandal rocking the program, the statue had become a hot topic over the last few weeks, especially after the release of the Freeh Report. The report detailed Paterno and other Penn State officials lack of involvement in reporting Sandusky to the police, while continuing to allow him access to the school's locker room. 

On Sunday, Penn State removed the statue from Beaver Stadium.

Here's what the statue looked like outside of Beaver Stadium before Sunday:


Here is the statue as it was being removed:


 

After Sunday, all that remained was outlines of the players and concrete:

Needless to say, no one predicted this would be the way Paterno would be remembered at Penn State. 

Related Penn State Content

2012 Penn State Team Preview
Big Ten 2012 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team

Teaser:
<p> Penn State Begins Healing Process, removes Joe Paterno Statue</p>
Post date: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-worst-coaching-tenures-1962
Body:

Sometimes a coach inherits a bad team. In some cases, through recruiting, game plan and inspiration, that coach can turn a bad team into a good or even great team. The guys on this list are not those coaches. Here are the 20 worst coaching tenures in the past 50 years of college football.

20. Terry Shea, Rutgers (12–43, 1996-2000)

Shea inherited a program that had averaged a semi-respectable 5.2 wins over the final five seasons of the Doug Graber era. Shea quickly ended any positive momentum, winning a total of two games in his first two seasons.

Lowlight: The Scarlet Knights lost 48–14 at home to Temple in 2000.
 

19. Jim Hofher, Buffalo (8–49, 2001-05)

To be fair, Hofher inherited a program that was only in its third season in the Division I-A ranks, but eight wins in five years is pretty dismal under any circumstances. His teams went 5–35 in the MAC.

Lowlight: The Bulls opened the 2005 season by scoring seven points or less in five of their first six games.
 

18. Stan Parrish, Ball State (6–19, 2009-10)

Twenty years after getting fired at Kansas State, Parrish resurfaced as the head coach at Ball State, inheriting a 12-win team from his former boss, Brady Hoke. The Cardinals stumbled to 2–10 his first full season and won four more games last season.

Lowlight: Ball State lost at home to FCS foe Liberty, 27–23, in Week 2 of the 2010 season. It was the second straight season that Parrish lost to an FCS team at home.
 

17. Rod Dowhower, Vanderbilt (4-18, 1995-96)

Dowhower was hired from the NFL ranks to inject some life into the Vanderbilt offense, but the Commodores scored 10 points or less in 14 of his 22 games.

Lowlight: The Dores picked up a meager 82 yards of total offense in a 27–0 loss at home to South Carolina in 1996.
 

16. Paul Wulff, Washington State (9–40, 2008-11)

Wulff “rallied” late to win four games in his final season, but his first three years at his alma mater were a complete disaster. From 2008-10, the Cougars won only three games against FBS competition, and one came against a Washington team that failed to win a game that season.

Lowlight: The Cougs lost to USC and Stanford in consecutive games in 2008 by a combined score of 127–0.
 

15. Bobby Wallace, Temple (19–71, 1998-2005)

The Owls were kicked out of the Big East during Wallace’s watch due to their inability to compete with the rest of the league. His teams went 10–39 in the Big East in seven seasons.

Lowlight: In Week 5 of what turned out to be a winless 2005 season, the Owls lost at Bowling Green, 70–7.
 

14. Mike Knoll, New Mexico State (4–40, 1986-89)

Knoll was hired off of Jimmy Johnson’s staff at Miami, but the winning ways didn’t follow him to Las Cruces. In four seasons at New Mexico State, Knoll’s teams were outscored by an average of 20 points per game.

Lowlight: The Knoll era began with a 20–14 loss at home to Angelo State, a Division II school.
 

13. Kevin Steele, Baylor (9–36, 1999-2002)

Baylor was without a doubt the worst team in the nation relative to its conference during Steele’s four years in Waco. The Bears went 1–31 in the Big 12 play, with the lone win coming in 2002 by three points over a Kansas team that went 0–8 in the conference.

Lowlight: In Steele’s second game, the Bears lost at home to UNLV, 27–24, on a 99-yard fumble return on the final play from scrimmage. All Baylor needed to do was down the ball, but Steele opted to go for the score “to create attitude.” Instead, he created a loss.
 

12. Bill Michael, UTEP (5–43, 1977-81)

Michael coached for four-plus seasons at El Paso and only won more than one game once — he won two in 1979. The Miners suffered through two separate 10-game losing streaks during his tenure.

Lowlight: The Miners were shut out four times in a five-game span in the 1978 season.
 

11. Carl Franks, Duke (7–45, 1999-2003)

Duke was hoping to land the next Steve Spurrier when they plucked Franks off of the Florida staff to succeed Fred Goldsmith. Didn’t work out. After a decent start — the Devils went 3–4 in their first seven ACC games in ‘99 — Franks lost his final 29 conference games.

Lowlight: The Blue Devils’ opened the 2000 season with a 38–0 loss at home to East Carolina.
 

10. Ted Roof, Duke (6–45, 2003-07)

Roof secured the top job at Duke after leading the Devils to a 2–2 record in four ACC games as the interim head coach at the end of the 2003 season. That turned out to be the highpoint of his tenure. Duke went 1–33 in the ACC in Roof’s four full seasons.

Lowlight: In September 2006, the Devils went 0–4 and were outscored 100–13.
 

9. Ron Dickerson, Temple (8–47, 1993-1997)

Temple was only two years removed from a winning season when Dickerson took over in 1993. He won two games or fewer in four of his five seasons.

Lowlight: Temple lost to California 58–0 in the first home game of the Dickerson era, beginning a stretch of five straight games in which the Owls gave up at least 50 points.
 

8. Joe Avezzano, Oregon State (6–47–2, 1980-84)

Avezzano was the second of four straight coaches who failed to produce a winning season at Oregon State. Of that group, his tenure was the least successful, producing only six wins overall and just two vs. Pac-10 competition.

Lowlight: The Beavers lost 41–22 at Idaho, then a Division I-AA school (coached by Dennis Erickson), in September 1984.
 

7. Doug Weaver, Kansas State (8–60–1, 1960-66)

Kansas State had been bad for decades, but the Wildcats took a turn for the worse under Weaver’s (lack of) guidance. K-State went winless three times in his seven seasons and scored less than 10 points in 52 of his 69 games as the head coach.

Lowlight: The Wildcats were shut out in four consecutive games during one stretch of the 1964 season.
 

6. Greg Robinson, Syracuse (10–37, 2005-08)

Robinson’s overall record isn’t as bad as others on this list, but he gets low marks for destroying what was a solid Syracuse program. The Orangemen (as they used to be called) only had one losing season from 1987-2004. Robinson had four losing season in four years, with a high-water mark of 4–8 in 2006.

Lowlight: Syracuse lost its 2008 home opener to Akron, 42–28.
 

5. Todd Berry, Army (5–35, 2000-03)

Berry’s success at the FCS level (19–7 in his final two seasons at Illinois State) didn’t translate to West Point. He scrapped the option for a wide-open passing attack. The results weren’t good.

Lowlight: The Black Knights went nine straight quarters without scoring a point early in the 2003 season.
 

4. Larry Porter, Memphis (3–21, 2010-11)

Porter, a running back at Memphis in the early 1990s, was regarded as an outstanding recruiter while serving as the running backs coach at both Oklahoma State and LSU. His two-year run as the boss at Memphis was an absolute debacle. The Tigers ranked 117th and 116th in the nation in total offense and 115th and 117th in total defense in his two seasons.

Lowlight: Memphis managed only 139 total yards in a 42–0 loss at home to SMU before a sparse (to put it kindly) crowd at the Liberty Bowl last September.
 

3. Mike Locksley, New Mexico (2-26, 2009-11)

The Lobos were alarmingly uncompetitive in Locksley’s two-plus seasons in Albuquerque, with 16 of their 26 losses coming by 24 points or more.

Lowlight: On the same day that New Mexico lost at home to Sam Houston State, a teenager who was reported to be a UNM football recruit was arrested for a DUI while driving a car that was registered to Locksley’s wife and son. Locksley was fired the next day.
 

2. Stan Parrish, Kansas State (2–30–1, 1986-88)

The Stanimal set the table for Bill Snyder’s amazing turnaround at K-State by losing 91 percent of his games. He went 1–19–1 in Big Eight games, with the lone win and tie both coming against rival Kansas.

Lowlight: In consecutive weeks in October 1987, the Wildcats lost to Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State by a combined score of 171–20.
 

1. Rick Venturi, Northwestern (1–31–1, 1978-80)

The three-year Venturi era was the epicenter of the Wildcats’ astounding run of incompetence. Venturi, only 32 when he coached his first game at Northwestern, did not win a single Big Ten game in his three years.

Lowlight: The Wildcats lost at home to Ohio State 63–0 on Oct. 11, 1980.


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Teaser:
<p> College Football's Worst Coaching Tenures Since 1962</p>
Post date: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 05:43
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-linebackers
Body:

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 Linebacking Corps for 2012

1. StanfordIf Shayne Skov returns to full strength from an ACL tear, the Cardinal could have the nation’s best linebacking corps. Skov suffered the injury early last year; when healthy, he is an All-America candidate. He will serve a one-game suspension due to an off-the-field incident in early February. Chase Thomas earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season and led the conference with 17.5 tackles for a loss. Stanford is well-stocked with depth at this position, as Jarek Lancaster, AJ Tarpley, Trent Murphy and James Vaughters will all be in the mix for playing time at the other two starting spots. True freshman Noor Davis is a potential impact newcomer but may have trouble getting snaps with the players ahead of him on the depth chart.

2. OregonThis could be Chip Kelly's best defense during his tenure in Eugene and it will likely be due to the stacked roster of linebackers. Michael Clay doesn’t have prototype size but is a leader and is lightning quick from sideline-to-sideline in the middle. Kiko Alonso has had his issues with focus but has elite level upside and raw talent. He showed just how good he could be in the Rose Bowl performance last year against Wisconsin. Boseko Lokombo will hold down the strongside with elite level ability of his own. If you also count Dion Jordan, who plays a hybrid end/backer, then this group could be considered one of the nation’s elite. A loaded depth chart of talent will allow Kelly to rotate in plenty of bodies — like he wants to do.

3. USCPlaying with youth — aka three freshman — last year will prove to be beneficial in 2012. Dion Bailey was better than anticipated and has a chance at All-American honors. He and Hayes Pullard are fast and can cover a lot of ground for Monte Kiffin. Lamar Dawson looks to be the starter up the middle this fall after starting the final four games of last year. This trio is as talented as any starting threesome in the league (or nation, for that matter) but will the youthful exuberance cost the Trojans in key situations? Only time will tell, however, these aren’t an ordinary set of sophomores. The depth chart is talented as well, but like the starters, still very green.

4. UCLA Damien Holmes and Patrick Larimore return to the starting lineup with loads of playing time and starting experience under their belts. Holmes switch to linebacker from end makes him a potential pass-rush star. It might also allow opposing offenses to expose other aspects of his game. The most intriguing name for UCLA will be Eric Kendricks, the younger brother of former Cal star Mychal. He was only a redshirt freshman last year but was stellar. He could be one of the Bruins best in years. Fellow senior Jordan Zumwalt gives Kendricks three starting seniors surrounding him. Like most areas of the UCLA team, this unit has talent and upside — but simply hasn’t lived-up to expectations. 2012 could be different.

5. Colorado Coming off a 3-10 season and only three starters returning on offense, there’s not much to be excited about in Boulder for 2012. Colorado has ranked near the bottom in most of Athlon’s Pac-12 unit rankings, but the Buffaloes have a chance to rank in the top half in linebackers. All three starters return from last season, including potential all-conference candidates in Douglas Rippy and Jon Major. Rippy suffered a torn ACL in the seventh game of last year but all signs point to a return to full strength. Major recorded 85 stops in 2011, while junior Derrick Webb is back after posting 54 tackles last year.

6. California Just like the defensive line, the Golden Bears suffered some key losses but also have some promising players ready to step into the starting lineup. The biggest loss is Mychal Kendricks, who earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. D.J. Holt will also be missed after recording honorable mention all-conference honors in 2011. With two performers gone, coordinator Clancy Pendergast needs a big season from sophomore outside linebacker Chris McCain. He has a chance to be one of the top breakout players in the conference this year. Look for sophomore Nick Forbes and senior Robert Mullins to anchor the interior. Despite the losses, California’s linebackers should rank in the top half of the conference.

7. UtahThe Utes return only one starter in the linebacking corps but there seems to be little concern from the coaching staff about the performance of this unit. Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker departed after a solid 2011 campaign, but the cupboard is far from bare for coordinator Kalani Sitake. Trevor Reilly is a breakout candidate to watch after recording 47 tackles and five sacks last year. Sophomore V.J. Fehoko played in eight games last season and will be required to take on a bigger role in 2012. The rover spot in the linebacking corps is up for grabs, as sophomore Jacoby Hale and redshirt freshman LT Filiaga left spring practice locked into a tight battle.

8. Oregon StateFeti Unga and Michael Doctor return to the starting lineup and have a chance to reverse a recent Oregon State linebacker trend. This has been an area of concern of late, but 2012 could be different. Unga will lock down the middle while Doctor and fellow outside tackler D.J. Welch, have the athleticism to be very productive. With improved defensive line play, this group could finally be a strength of the team. 

9. Washington The Huskies are switching to a 3-4 scheme, which will put even more emphasis on this unit’s performance in 2012. New linebacker coach Peter Sirmon will have his hands full, especially after Cort Dennison’s eligibility expired after the 2011 season. The Huskies return two starters, including junior Princeton Fuimaono and sophomore John Timu. The other two spots could go to junior Taz Stevenson and senior Nate Fellner, but don’t rule out sophomore Jamaal Kearse from making a push for snaps.

10. Arizona The Wildcats didn’t have much to celebrate about the defense’s performance last year. Arizona ranked last in the Pac-12 in passing and total defense, while allowing 35.4 points a game. New coordinator Jeff Casteel should bring some improvement to the defense but plenty of question marks exist. The linebacking corps has been an issue for the past couple of years and may not be much better in 2012. Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo expired their eligibility at the end of 2011, while Akron transfer Brian Wagner decided to leave the team after spring practice. There is a bit of good news for Casteel: Jake Fischer is back after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. Fischer started in 2010 and should be the unit’s best player. Rob Hankins and Hank Hobson will likely start at the other two spots.

11. Arizona StateThis group was decimated in the offseason as the top four linebackers are gone. Getting outside backer Brandon McGee back from his torn Achilles will help new coach Todd Graham fill the void, but make no mistake, this unit has some holes. Steffon Martin should replace star-turned-disappointment/headache Vontaze Burfict inside and fans are hoping he lives up to his lofty junior college recruiting status from last cycle. Anthony Jones leads a host of upperclassmen hoping to earn reps under the new coaching staff.

12. Washington State Hybrid Travis Long counted in the defensive line rankings for the Cougars, but he is likely the most important defensive player on the team. Long will contribute some to a unit that will have to account for unexpected losses from players (C.J. Mizell, Sekope Kaufusi) who were kicked off the team. Eric Oertel and Darryl Monroe will get the first crack at starting and showed some promise in the spring. Chester Su’a is penciled in as a starter as well. Depth will be the real issue for Mike Leach in year one.
 

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

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Ranking the Pac-12's Wide Receiving Corps for 2012

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Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Top 25 Pac-12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Pac-12 Linebackers</p>
Post date: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 05:11
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /news/new-allegations-raise-questions-about-miamis-al-golden
Body:

Miami has been under NCAA investigation since a Yahoo Sports report last August detailed potential massive violations committed by former booster Nevin Shapiro. The NCAA was not expected to rule on any penalties until after the 2012 season, but the situation is about to get a lot worse in Coral Gables.

According to a report by Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, Golden’s staff has been using one of Shapiro’s former workers (Sean Allen) to help recruit players to Miami. The report released on Friday details several instances of Allen’s attempt to steer or improperly recruit players to Miami.

Some of the reported incidents include -

- Florida State running back Devonta Freeman was reportedly contacted by Allen and Miami assistant coach Michael Barrow to change his commitment to the Hurricanes. This incident allegedly occurred one day before Freeman was scheduled to enroll at Florida State.

- Current Hurricanes cornerback Thomas Finnie was allegedly called by Allen at least two times on Jan. 6.

- Allen allegedly picked up and drove home Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater after a meeting at a South Miami restaurant. Allen also called Bridgewater at least eight times.

- Current Miami defensive end Anthony Chickillo allegedly had entertainment and drinks paid for by Allen at BT’s Gentlemen’s Club on Jan. 22, 2011.

If the allegations detailed in the report are true, this is another huge blow to the Miami program. While none of the allegations are particularly earth-shattering, it represents a pattern of institutional issues - which won't be received well by the NCAA.

When Miami picked Al Golden to replace Randy Shannon, the hire was supposed to represent a change in culture. The Hurricanes were coming off four lackluster seasons under Randy Shannon, and Golden had resurrected Temple from its college football deathbed.

Golden brought in a solid recruiting class in 2011 and appeared to have the program back on track. However, Miami was rocked by the news of the Shapiro investigation and was forced to deal with suspensions to a handful of key players, including quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence.

Considering Golden had nothing to do with the previous violations, some thought he would leave the program at the end of 2011, possibly to Penn State. However, Golden stuck around in Coral Gables and signed a contract extension at the end of the season.

Golden was looked upon in a favorable light when he came to Coral Gables, but now it’s time to raise some questions.

How much did Golden know about Barrow and Allen’s actions? Remember the North Carolina scandal last season? Line coach John Blake took most of the fall, but Butch Davis wasn’t innocent. It’s impossible to know how much Golden was aware of what was going on, but it’s hard to believe he knew nothing.

Will the players involved face any NCAA penalties? No one knows at this point, but Bridgewater and Chickillo aren’t likely to see any major suspensions. Bridgewater is expected to be the Big East’s top quarterback in 2012, while Chickillo is Miami’s top defender.

Will this affect Miami in 2012? – As mentioned above, it’s possible the Hurricanes will have a player or two suspended from this news. However, the bigger issue is the black cloud that continues to hang over the program. Golden was supposed to clean up – not continue the off-the-field issues.

Is Al Golden in NCAA trouble? As with Chickillo and Bridgewater, it’s too early to tell. However, it’s impossible to think Golden will make it through unscathed.

In an Athlon Sports’ feature in the 2012 ACC Preview Annual, Golden said his coaching counterparts “absolutely crushed” Miami with attacks. He also added, “there was a lot of negative recruiting. We don’t have a lot of Achilles’ heels. They saw a soft spot and took it.”

And Golden also had this to say about other program’s taking advantage of Miami’s struggles – “get your licks in now.”

And how about this – “We went after guys that understood we weren’t responsible for it, but understand that we’re responsible enough to clean it up.”

Judging by the new allegations, it’s pretty clear Golden knew what was going on and his quotes about cleaning up the program are nothing more than hollow promises - and Miami football is in big trouble, with more bowl bans and scholarship losses coming in the next few years.

Related Content

Miami Hurricanes 2012 Preview

Teaser:
<p> New Allegations Raise Questions About Miami's Al Golden</p>
Post date: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 18:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-acc-defensive-lines
Body:

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 Defensive Lines for 2012

1. Florida StateWith a rotation that could feature 10 players, the Seminoles have one of the deepest defensive lines in college football. Ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner are back after combining for 15 sacks last year. The tackle spot is loaded with talent and depth, with sophomore Timmy Jernigan expected to be the anchor. Everett Dawkins, Anthony McCloud, Demonte McAllister and Jacobbi McDaniel will join Jernigan as key contributors in the middle. There’s plenty of promising youth waiting in the wings, as Florida State brings in Mario Edwards (No. 2 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100), Eddie Goldman (No. 9) and Chris Casher (No. 24)

2. Virginia TechFlorida State ranks as the ACC’s No. 1 group, but the Hokies aren’t too far behind. This unit allowed 104.1 rushing yards per game and recorded 41 sacks last season. Ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins combined for 13 sacks in 2011 and will be one of the nation’s top pass-rush combinations. The interior is stacked with depth and will be led by junior Derrick Hopkins. He registered 51 stops and three sacks last year. Senior Antoine Hopkins missed most of last year due to injury but if he returns to full strength, will be expected to slide back into the starting lineup. Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall will provide depth at tackle.

3. NC StateThere’s a drop off in ACC defensive line rankings after the top two. The Wolfpack struggled up front early last season but allowed only one opponent to manage more than 120 rushing yards over the final five weeks of the year. Tackles Markus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy must be replaced but there’s plenty of talent at end. Junior Darryl Cato-Bishop and sophomore Art Norman tied for the team lead last season with 5.5 sacks. Both players should have a big 2012 season, while depth is solid with seniors McKay Frandsen and Brian Slay. Colorado transfer Forrest West will also figure into the rotation. NC State needs sophomores Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill to step up on the interior, but this group has a chance to build off its improvement last year and have a solid 2012 season.

4. Maryland 2011 was a disastrous year for Maryland’s defense. The Terrapins ranked last in the ACC in rushing, scoring and total defense. The dismal showing prompted changes on the defensive staff, as Brian Stewart was hired to implement a new 3-4 scheme. The Terrapins aren’t short on talent here, as Joe Vellano is back after earning first-team All-ACC honors in 2011. He recorded 94 tackles and 2.5 sacks and is an Athlon first-team All-American for 2012. Senior A.J. Francis will anchor the nose tackle spot, while sophomores Keith Bowers and Andre Monroe are expected to share snaps at the other starting spot on the line. This unit struggled last year but should show big improvement in 2012.

5. Clemson Line coach Marion Hobby will have his hands full this fall. The Tigers lost four contributors from last season’s rotation, including first-team All-ACC end Andre Branch and second-team selection tackle Brandon Thompson. Also departing are end Kourtnei Brown and tackle Rennie Moore. Although this unit suffered some big losses, the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Malliciah Goodman should have a standout senior year, while Corey Crawford returns after recording 29 tackles as a freshman in 2011. The interior will be young, as DeShawn Williams and Tavaris Barnes are expected to anchor the middle. This group has something to prove, especially after losing some key players and ranking 10th in the conference against the run last year.

6. North Carolina Despite the departures of ends Donte Paige-Moss and Quinton Coples and tackle Tydreke Powell, this unit has a chance to rank in the top half of the ACC this year. End Kareem Martin flashed potential last season, recording 40 tackles and four sacks in his first year as a starter. Senior Dion Guy will likely man the other end spot, which is a hybrid rush/linebacker position under co-coordinators Vic Koenning and Dan Disch. Sylvester Williams was solid in his first year at North Carolina last year, making 54 stops and 2.5 sacks. He could be one of the best defensive tackles in the ACC by the end of 2012. The other tackle spot will likely go to sophomore Shawn Underwood.

7. Virginia This unit experienced quite a turnaround last season. The Cavaliers ranked 106th against the run in 2010 but improved to 48th nationally in 2011. Although Virginia has momentum after showing improvement last year, this unit loses end Cam Johnson and tackles Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins. Conrath’s departure is a huge loss, while Johnson contributed four sacks last season. Junior Jake Snyder is the lone returning starter and he recorded 36 stops in 2011. Joining Snyder at end will likely be senior Billy Schautz or junior Brent Urban. Senior Ausar Walcott has moved around the defense throughout his career but has settled at end for 2012 and will have to help bolster the pass rush. Senior Will Hill should be a steady performer on the interior, but the other spot is up for grabs.

8. MiamiMuch like the other units on this team, the defensive line must be rebuilt. End Anthony Chickillo had a standout freshman season, recording 38 tackles and five sacks. He is a future star in the ACC and could contend for all-conference honors in 2012. Junior Shayon Green finished spring practice with the edge to start at the other end spot but keep an eye on converted linebacker Kelvin Cain. Depth and talent is an issue on the interior, but senior Darius Smith and junior Curtis Porter have experience. Sophomore Jalen Grimble could push for time at tackle this season. 2012 figures to be a transition year for this group.

9. Wake ForestThis unit ranked near the bottom of the ACC last season and may not fare much better in 2012. The headliner will be tackle Nikita Whitlock, who earned second-team All-ACC accolades last year. He is an undersized tackle (5-foot-11 and 260 pounds), but fits well into Wake Forest’s 3-4 scheme. Senior Joey Ehrmann will man the hybrid end/linebacker position, while juniors Zach Thompson and Kris Redding are poised to handle the defensive end spots. Thompson recorded 40 tackles last season, while Redding made only three stops.

10. Georgia TechThe Yellow Jackets run a 3-4 scheme, so it’s not easy for this group to get much recognition. Two starters (end Jason Peters and tackle Logan Walls) must be replaced from last season. Izaan Cross is the lone returning starter and recorded 32 tackles last season. Euclid Cummings will likely start at the other end spot after making 22 stops in 2011. For Georgia Tech’s 3-4 scheme to work effectively, senior T.J. Barnes needs to have a big season at nose tackle. He has enormous size (6-foot-7, 347 pounds) and potential, but has yet to make a splash in his career.

11. Boston CollegeThis unit wasn’t awful against the run last year (151.1 yards per game) but registered a lackluster 11 sacks. Only two starters return for 2012, and the Eagles must replace this unit’s best player – Max Holloway. Junior Kasim Edebali and sophomore Brian Mihalik are slated to start at end, while the interior could be a strength if senior Kaleb Ramsey returns 100 percent. He played in only two games last season but recorded 39 tackles in 2010. Senior Dillon Quinn and sophomore Dominic Appiah will also have a significant role on the interior.

12. Duke Just like the rushing attack, the defensive line has been a sore spot in recent years for the Blue Devils. Duke ranked 11th in the ACC in rush defense last year and struggled to get a consistent pass rush on opposing quarterbacks. The Blue Devils must replace nose guard Charlie Hatcher but return three other starters. Ends Justin Foxx and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo combined for three sacks last season, but this unit hopes to get a boost with the return of Kenny Anunike, who missed nearly all of last year with an injury. Sophomore Jamal Bruce and junior Sydney Sarmiento need to have a big season on the interior if Duke wants to escape the cellar in postseason defensive line rankings.

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related ACC Content

Ranking the ACC Offensive Lines for 2012
Ranking the ACC Wide Receiving Corps for 2012

College Football's 2012 Bowl Projections

Will Randy Edsall Turn Around Maryland?

College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012

ACC's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 ACC Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/sec-football-which-teams-are-rise-or-decline
Body:

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? 

SEC State of the Program: On the Rise or On the Decline?

Alabama

Record over the last 5 years: 55–12 (32–8 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 90–38 (51–29 SEC)

Alabama has re-emerged as a national power since Nick Saban took over the program in 2007. The Crimson Tide struggled a bit in Saban’s first season (7–6, 4–4 SEC in ’07) but are 48–6 overall and 28–4 in the SEC since, highlighted by national titles in 2009 and ‘11. Saban inherited a program that had struggled for most of the previous decade. In the seven seasons prior to his arrival, Alabama had a losing SEC record four times, went .500 in the league one time and had a winning record twice. Some of the struggles were due to NCAA sanctions. Others were due to poor coaching and a mediocre roster.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Alabama can make the claim that it is currently the top program in college football. There are no weaknesses. The facilities are top notch. The fans are passionate — and there are a ton of them. The school is oozing with tradition. And the coach is as good as it gets in the collegiate game. Barring any unforeseen issues over the next decade — Saban’s departure and/or issues with the NCAA — it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Alabama is not contending for a national title on an annual basis.

 

Arkansas

Record over the last 5 years: 42–21 (21–19 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 79–47 (42–38 SEC)

Arkansas has proven it can compete with the elite in the SEC, but just hasn’t been able to do so on a consistent basis. Until 2010 and ’11, the final two years of the Bobby Petrino era, the Hogs had never had a winning record in the SEC in back-to-back seasons. Houston Nutt broke through with a 7–1 record in 2006 — thanks to a backfield that included three future NFL running backs — but followed up with a 4–4 record in 2007. Petrino went 5–7 overall in his first season, with Casey Dick at quarterback, but went 29–10 over the next three years, including a 10-win season in ’10 and an 11-win season in ’11.

State of the program: Incomplete

It’s tough to give Arkansas a grade going forward due to the uncertainty of the coaching situation. John L. Smith is the man in charge in 2012 but few believe he will be on the job beyond this season. Petrino had the program at its high point since it joined the SEC in 1991. The Razorbacks weren’t quite on par with Alabama and LSU, the league’s two superpowers, but weren’t far behind, either. Moving forward, it will be difficult for the next coach to keep this program at such a high level. Arkansas can be a consistent winner in the SEC and contend in the West every four or five years, but the school lacks some of the built-in advantages — specifically a fertile recruiting base — to be an elite program.
 

Auburn

Record over the last 5 years: 44–21 (22–18 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 94–35 (53–27 SEC)

Auburn was the league’s most consistent program in the early 2000s, with eight straight winning SEC seasons from 2000-07. The Tigers have gone undefeated twice in the past eight seasons, 13–0 in 2004 and 14–0 in 2010. Gene Chizik is 17–15 in the SEC in three seasons, and that includes a perfect 8–0 mark in ’10. Even with the recent national title on its resume, it’s fair to say that Auburn has slid down the SEC food chain a bit in the past five years.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

The only thing keeping Auburn from “slight decline” is a series of outstanding recruiting classes. The future appears to be bright, but the current product on the field is quite average. Last year, the Tigers were outgained in SEC games by an average of 92.9 yards per game and lost their four league games by an average of 31.3 points. Over the past four seasons, Auburn’s league record is 9–15 when Cam Newton, one of the top college football players of all time, is not under center. The challenge for Chizik is to prove he can win at a high level in the post-Newton era. The roster is loaded with talent. Will the wins follow?
 

Florida

Record over the last 5 years: 50–17 (27–13 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 95–36 (55–25 SEC)

Florida has hit a rough patch in recent years — 13–11 overall and 7–9 in the SEC the past two seasons — but this has clearly been one of the elite programs in the SEC over the past decade. The Gators won a national title in 2006 and 2008 and were one win shy from playing for another BCS crown in 2009. One stat is a bit surprising: Florida has only played in three BCS bowls in the past 10 years.

State of the Program: Slightly Declining

Even the best programs — no matter how nice the facilities or how fertile the recruiting area — need a good coach to compete at a championship level. Florida struggled under Ron Zook, losing an unthinkable 15 games in a three-year period. And the Gators struggled last year under Will Muschamp, limping to a 3–5 mark in the SEC — the program’s worst since 1986. So to evaluate the “state of program” you have to determine whether or not Muschamp is the right coach for Florida. And that’s difficult to do after one season. The sample size was small, but the results weren’t good. We will know a lot more about the future of Florida football after the 2012 season.

 

Georgia

Record over the last 5 years: 45–21 (26–­14 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 98–34 (55–25 SEC)

Georgia has failed to seriously challenge for a national title in the past decade, but the Bulldogs’ record dating back to the 2002 season is quite impressive. They have won at least six SEC games in seven of the 10 years and captured two league titles, in 2002 and ’05. They took a step back with a 7–9 SEC record in 2009-10 but bounced back to win the East with a 7–1 mark in ’11. To summarize: Georgia has been very, very good. Just not good enough for many Bulldog fans.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Georgia is well-positioned to remain one of the top programs in the SEC. It helps that the Bulldogs compete in the SEC East and do not have to contend with Alabama and LSU for the right to reach the league title game. Mark Richt continues to recruit at a high level, and he appears to have righted the ship after a few rocky years in the late 2000s. Don’t be surprised if Georgia wins a national title in the next 3-4 years.

 

Kentucky

Record over the last 5 years: 33–31 (12–28 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 57–66 (23–57 SEC)

Kentucky set a school record from ’06-10 by playing in a bowl game in five straight seasons. Previously, the Cats had appeared in a total of 10 bowl games, four of which came under Bear Bryant in the late ’40s and early ’50s. During this recent stretch, however, UK failed to produce a winning record in league play in any single season. Its high-water mark was 4–4 in ’06. Kentucky has feasted on soft nonconference schedules to pad its overall win total. The school’s “best” non-SEC regular-season win in the past decade is vs. a Louisville team in 2002 that went 7–6 under John L. Smith. 

State of the Program: Slight Decline

The Cats closed out the 2011 season with a huge victory, knocking off rival Tennessee for the first time since 1984. Still, the Wildcats enter ’12 with a lack of momentum. The talent level, especially on offense, is down significantly from the “glory years” of the Rich Brooks era, and attendance has been declining over the past few seasons. Third-year head coach Joker Phillips is a UK alum and is generally well-liked, but most believe that he needs to show significant improvement in ’12 to keep his job. And that might be hard to do with a team that is picked by most to finish last in the SEC East.

 

LSU

Record over the last 5 years: 53–14 (28–12 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 105–27 (59–21 SEC)

After several decades of surprising mediocrity, LSU has lived up to its vast potential over the past 10 years. The Tigers boast the league’s best record (in SEC games) during that span and have won two national championships. They’ve won at least eight games overall every year and have had only one losing SEC season (3–5 in 2008).

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Les Miles might be eccentric, and we might not always agree with some of his decisions. But the guy knows how to win games. LSU has enjoyed pockets of success over the years, but the program has never been healthier — at a time when the SEC has never been stronger. Alabama has to be considered the strongest program in the league, but LSU is a very close second. The Tigers will continue to thrive on the national scene.

 

Mississippi State

Record over the last 5 years: 33–30 (15–25 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 47–74 (20–60 SEC)

Mississippi State is one of three SEC programs (Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the others) that has not had a winning SEC record in any single season over the past decade. The Bulldogs went 4–4 in 2007 under Sylvester Croom and 4–4 in ’10 in the first year of the Dan Mullen era. The Dogs really struggled from ’02-06, with an overall mark of 14–44 and an SEC record of 5–35 (worst in the league during that stretch). The past five years have been much better, however, with three overall winning seasons (8–5 in ’07, 9–4 in ’10 and 7–6 in ’11) and a semi-respectable 15–25 record in the SEC.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Mississippi State has improved under Mullen over the last three years, but the program is still in the bottom tier of the SEC. Consider the following: The Bulldogs are 9–15 in the league in that span, and 10 of the 15 losses have come by 10 points or more. Their SEC record under Mullen represents a two-game improvement from the final three years of the Sly Croom era (7–17 from ’06-08), but it’s hardly a sign of huge progress. The Bulldogs will continue to be solid with Mullen running the show, but it will be difficult for this program to elbow its way into the elite of the SEC West.

 

Missouri

Record over the last 5 years: 48–19 (27–14 Big 12)
Record over the last 10 years: 81–47 (44–37 Big 12)

Missouri made the leap from a solid Big 12 team to a very good Big 12 team over the past decade. The Tigers went 17–23 in the league from 2002-06 but have gone 27–14 since, and they have had seven straight non-losing Big 12 seasons. They failed to win a conference championship in this stretch but did tie for the Big 12 North title in 2007, ’08 and ’10. Gary Pinkel has done a tremendous job in Columbia, especially over the past five seasons.

State of the Program: Slight Decline

It’s reasonable to expect Missouri to take a slight dip as it makes the move from the Big 12 to the SEC. The Tigers should be able to compete on a week-in and week-out basis in their new league, but it’s a bit of a stretch to believe they will continue to win at the same clip; remember, this program has won 65.9 percent of its league games over the past five seasons. Pinkel has done a nice job recruiting, and he always seems to have a quality quarterback running his attack, so it would be a surprise if Mizzou is anything less than a middle-of-the-pack SEC team over the next 5-10 years.

 

Ole Miss

Record over the last 5 years: 27–35 (10–30 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 55–67 (26­-54 SEC)

Ole Miss has been one of the most volatile programs in the league over the last decade: Three times the Rebels have won nine games or more in a season, and three times they have won three games or less. They went 7–1 in the league and shared the SEC West title in ’03 with Eli Manning running the show, but then won a total of six conference games over the next four seasons. Ole Miss has won 10 league games over the past four years, but nine of the 10 came in a two-year stretch (5–3 in ’08 and 4–4 in ’09). The school is the midst of a 14-game SEC losing streak that dates back to October 2010.

State of the Program: Slightly on the Rise

There is a new head coach (Hugh Freeze) and new energy in Oxford. Coming off what very well might be the worst two-year stretch in program history (six wins overall, one in the SEC), Freeze needs to show the Ole Miss faithful that there is some hope for the future. With a roster that lacks playmakers, the 2012 season figures to be a struggle, but the new staff is off to a solid start on the recruiting front and the talent level will increase in the next few years. The sample size is small and the level of competition is clearly not on par with the SEC, but Freeze won immediately in his two previous stops as a head coach — Arkansas State and Lambuth (NAIA).

 

South Carolina

Record over the last 5 years: 40–25 (21–19 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 71–54 (38–42 SEC)

It took a little longer than most South Carolina fans had hoped, but the Gamecocks have emerged as a significant player in the SEC. The folks in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge might not be overly impressed, but Carolina’s 11–5 league record over the last two seasons is clearly an indication that the program has turned the corner. Granted, the Gamecocks have taken advantage of an SEC East that is arguably at its weakest point since the league split to two divisions, but the Gamecocks aren’t simply feasting on the underbelly of the league. They are 6–0 in the past two seasons against their top three rivals in the division — Florida, Georgia and Tennessee — and beat Alabama at home in 2010.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

As mentioned above, South Carolina has improved its profile in the SEC and is showing no signs of surrendering its position on the food chain. There is always speculation that Steve Spurrier is on the verge of retiring, but the guess here is that he will be in Columbia for at least three or four more years. Recruiting is going well and he now believes he can win a national title at South Carolina.  

 

Tennessee

Record over the last 5 years: 33–31 (17–23 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 75–52 (43–37 SEC)

One the truly elite programs in the nation in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, Tennessee has slipped into mediocrity over the past decade. The Volunteers went 18–6 in the SEC from 2002-04 but are 25–31 since. They’ve had a losing record in league play four times in the past seven years after having only two such seasons from 1965-2004. The coaching turnover — three coaches in the past five years — hasn’t helped, but these are not good times for Tennessee football.

State of the Program: Slightly on the Rise

The Vols are “slightly on the rise” simply because the program bottomed out in 2011 with a 1–7 SEC mark “highlighted” by an overtime win over Vanderbilt. Many are forecasting a big jump for Tennessee in ’12, but the Vols will have to show significant improvement in several areas — most notably in the running game — to approach the .500 mark in league play. Derek Dooley continues to recruit well, but he has yet to prove himself to be a quality head coach. He is 28–34 as a head coach (three years at Louisiana Tech, three at Tennessee) with only one winning season. Tennessee is still a program with great potential, but it doesn’t look like the Vols are on the verge of greatness anytime soon.

 

Texas A&M

Record over the last 5 years: 33–31 (19–22 Big 12)
Record over the last 10 years: 64–60 (37–44 Big 12)

Texas A&M has been consistent over the past decade — consistently average (or slightly below). The Aggies went 18–22 in the Big 12 from 2002-06 and 19–22 from ’07-11. Only twice in the past decade has A&M won more than seven games overall — the Aggies went 9–4 in both ’06 and ’10. The school has not won an outright league title since capturing the Big 12 title in 1998. That’s a very long drought for a program with so much history and so many resources.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

After underachieving for the past decade in the Big 12, are we to expect that Texas A&M will suddenly start living up to its potential as it moves to the mighty SEC West? New coach Kevin Sumlin should improve the product on the field, but it will be difficult for the Aggies to show significant improvement in the win column while competing with the likes of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas on an annual basis. A&M will be a solid program in the SEC, but there is nothing in its recent history that suggests it will compete for championships.

 

Vanderbilt

Record over the last 5 years: 22–40 (9–31 SEC)
Record over the last 10 years: 37–83 (15–65 SEC)

Vanderbilt’s struggles competing in the SEC have been well-documented over the years. Dating back to 1992, the first season after league expansion, Vanderbilt has only won more than two SEC games in a season twice — the Commodores went 3–5 in ’05 with Jay Cutler under center and 4–4 in ’08. Last year, Vanderbilt went 2–6 in James Franklin’s debut, but four of the six losses came by six points or less. The low point of the last decade came in 2010, when Vanderbilt was outgained by a staggering 245.4 yards per game in SEC play under interim head coach Robbie Caldwell.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Franklin has done a tremendous job energizing the Vanderbilt program in a short period of time. The Commodores were one of the most improved teams in the nation last season, winning six games overall and advancing to a bowl game for only the second time since the early 1980s. The team did only win two games in league play, but as noted above, Vanderbilt was consistently competitive throughout the entire season. And when they did win, they usually did so in convincing fashion; five of their six victories came by 23 points or more, highlighted by a 38–8 win over Kentucky and a 41–7 bowl-clinching win at Wake Forest. The future also appears bright for Vanderbilt football. Franklin and his staff continue to recruit at a high level, and the school is finally making the necessary financial commitment to the football program.

by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

Related SEC Content

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

SEC's Top 25 Heisman Contenders

Ranking the SEC's Wide Receiving Corps for 2012

Ranking the SEC's Offensive Lines for 2012

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Teaser:
<p> SEC Football: Which Teams Are On The Rise or Decline?</p>
Post date: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 05:11
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-defensive-lines
Body:

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 Defensive Lines for 2012

1. Ohio State — With at least two potential 2013 first round NFL Draft picks, it is hard to argue that the Buckeyes don’t have the best D-Line in the league. Johnathan Hankins could be the top tackle taken in the draft next spring and has dropped weight in order to be more disruptive up the middle. John Simon is a dependable force off the edge and is one of the strongest players in the country. Michael Bennett and Nathan Williams, who missed most of last year with an injury return opposite of Simon. Garrett Goebel and Chase Farris will compete for the tackle spot next to Hankins. The key to this group will be depth, as Urban Meyer brings in the top defensive line class in the nation. Ohio State signed four of the top 20 D-Liners in the nation.

2. Michigan State — Without Jerel Worthy looking out for him, the time is now for potential superstar William Gholston. He is as physically gifted as any lineman in the nation and could be an All-American if he can stay focused and on the field. He needs to develop into a leader,  especially considering five of the top eight linemen could be underclassmen (three freshmen, two sophomores). Gholston will team with all-league type sophomore Marcus Rush to form one of the top end duos in the nation. Tackles James Kittredge, who transferred from Vanderbilt, and senior Anthony Rashad White will step into much bigger roles this fall in place of Worthy inside. Mark Dantonio’s likes to build teams from the inside out and this squad is no different.

3. Illinois — Both Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence could have left Champaign early for the NFL last fall. New head coach Tim Beckman couldn’t have been more excited to get his two studs up front back in 2012. Spence and Buchanan have a chance to be one of the top inside-outside combos in the nation. Senior Glenn Foster will provide help to Spence inside, while senior Justin Staples taking over for the departed Whitney Mercilus. On a team that lost its final six games of the regular season, the Illini overachieved along the defensive line a year ago and could be just as strong, if not better. This team finished second in the Big Ten in rushing defense, first in passing and seventh nationally in total defense. Three of the four starters will be seniors.

4. Nebraska — This defense has fallen off since its star-studded 2009 performance with that Boy Named Suh leading the way. Last year’s struggles led to a new coordinator and defensive line coach in Lincoln. The good news is there is plenty to work with for new line coach Rick Kaczenski. Cameron Meredith and Jason Ankrah form a tremendous pass-rushing duo on the outside, while special teamer Eric Martin continues to develop. Husker legacy Baker Steinkuhler is in for his best year as a nose tackle. Look for big time recruit Chase Rome, as well as Jay Guy, Thad Randle and Kevin Williams, to provide plenty of talented depth up the middle. This group has loads of potential but needs to be developed and motivated. Big Red fans are hoping Kaczenski is the guy for the job.

5. Penn State — There is plenty of bad news in Happy Valley these days and replacing Devon Still doesn’t make it any easier for the Nittany Lions. But a veteran defensive line will go a long way to easing new coach Bill O’Brien into the new job. Two-time ACL tear survivor Pete Massaro is back and is expected to be solid along with returning starter Sean Stanley at end. Jordan Hill will take over for Still up the middle alongside DaQuan Jones, Anthony Zettel and James Terry. If the names around Hill can develop and stay healthy, this has the makings of a typically strong, physical and dependable Penn State defensive line.

6. Michigan — The only real question mark on the Michigan roster is its defensive line. Losing trenchman Mike Martin has thrown this unit into disarray, and Brady Hoke might need to turn to freshman to solve the issue. Craig Roh is consistent and will do anything the coaches ask and returns to one end position. William Campbell needs to deliver on his lofty recruiting hype and develop into the player Martin was. Jibreel Black, Richard Ash and stud newcomer Ondre Pipkins will battle for reps alongside Campbell. Brennen Beyer will look to hold off Frank Clark and Keith Heitzman at end opposite of Roh. This team was a pleasant surprise last year but to continue to grow into a Big Ten power, Hoke needs Campbell and company to realize their potential.

7. Wisconsin — There is no star on this roster like J.J. Watt was two years ago. While there may not be an All-American-caliber player on this unit, the Badgers are deep and dependable. David Gilbert’s return to the field should go a long way in disrupting opposing quarterbacks as the junior will be the top pass rusher on the team. Ethan Hemer, Beau Allen and Bryce Gilbert all have experience and big bodies to clog the middle. Expect all four to play regularly this fall. Opposite of Gilbert will be senior Brandan Kelly, who, at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, needs to develop into a poor man’s Watt. Look for Tyler Dippel and Pat Muldoon to get plenty of reps at end as well. The Badgers should go eight-deep along the defensive line this fall and it could be a sneaky area of strength should it create pressure in the opposition’s backfield.

8. Purdue — This unit has a chance at being one of the sleeper defensive lines in the country. Kawann Short is no secret and has a chance at being the best tackle in the Big Ten — in a league stacked with awesome nose guards. He has first round NFL talent and will be looked to for leadership this fall. Fellow returning starters Bruce Gaston at tackle and Ryan Russell at end will provide stability alongside Short. If healthy, Russell could be a game-changer as only a sophomore. Expect a lot of competition for the other end spot between veteran Robert Maci and young rising stars true freshmen Ryan Watson and Kingsley Ike and sophomore Jalani Phillips. Should things fall right, this group could be one of the better in the Big Ten.

9. Iowa — Kirk Ferentz rarely has a soft defensive line but 2012 might have to be one of his best coaching jobs. Only one starter returns to a unit that ranked seventh in the Big Ten in rushing defense last year. Dominic Alvis is the lone returning starter on a line loaded with question marks. In fact, he and Steve Bigach are the only two linemen on the team who have earned a letter. As expected, Iowa will run a number of younger players out there in an effort to find the right rotation. Darian Cooper, Riley McMinn and Dean Tsopanides are all freshmen who figure to see plenty of reps. Contributions at end from senior Joe Gaglione and sophomore Mike Hardy would go a long way to help develop the youth on this roster.

10. Northwestern — This line finished last in the Big Ten in sacks a year ago and Pat Fitzgerald is certainly looking for more in 2012. Senior tackles Brian Arnfelt and Quentin Williams will lead the interior but coaches expect big things from junior end Tyler Scott. Behind a veteran group will be eager young Cats ready to prove themselves: Chance Carter, Sean McEvilly and Deonte Gibson. Coach Fitz will have to get better play up front if he wants to keep his record-setting bowl run alive.

11. Minnesota — D.L. Wilhite and Ben Perry return with experience but will have to hold off plenty of hard-chargers to keep their jobs at defensive end. Michael Amaefula will be on the field plenty and freshman Thieren Cockran has the coaching staff excited about an improvement in its pass rush. A host of tackles, led by converted tight end/defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman, will compete for playing time on the interior. This unit finished 11th in rushing defense in the Big Ten last year and 2012 might not be much better. Expect growth, however, with this young group.

12. Indiana — This unit will have to improve if Kevin Wilson expects to get into the FBS win column in 2012. Indiana allowed a Big Ten worst — 118th nationally — 243.7 yards per game rushing. Four players return with starting experience in ends Bobby Richardson and Ryan Phillis and tackles Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle. Black Jr. and Replogle are seniors and should be improved up the middle, but Wilson has to get pressure from the outside. If he does not, it could be another long year on defense for IU.
 
-by Braden Gall@bradengall

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Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions

College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012

Urban Meyer's Arrival Has Ohio State Back on Track

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/new-coaches-add-spice-and-intrigue-pac-12
Body:

Don’t expect Monte Kiffin to sleep very much from about Oct. 21-Nov. 10. The USC defensive coordinator doesn’t get a lot of rest during the season to begin with, but the opponents the Trojans will face during that specific three-game stretch could lead to some particularly long nights.

USC begins with a visit to Arizona on Oct. 27, where new coach Rich Rodriguez has installed his spread attack that features option principles, screen passes from every direction and a red-alert pace designed to leave defenders gasping. Seven days later, the Trojans return home to face Oregon’s high-speed attack that put up 522.8 yards and 46.1 points per game in 2011, and then they welcome Arizona State and Todd Graham, who prefers an entirely different version of the spread-’em-out scheme that can pound teams on the ground or strafe them through the air.

Two games — against bitter rivals UCLA and Notre Dame — remain after that, but the tripleheader of offensive firepower will test every bit of the experience Kiffin has collected during 46 seasons in college and the NFL.

“I think this conference has really got some good offensive coaches in it,” Kiffin says. “And it’s not getting any easier with the new coaches who have made their names with offense.”

The additions of Rodriguez and Graham, along with pass-happy Mike Leach at Washington State, and to a lesser extent Jim Mora in Westwood, have turned the Pac-12 Conference into a weekly nightmare for Kiffin and his brethren. The league was always somewhat wide open, but it is now even faster and looser. The new guys make it almost easy to forget how dangerous the Ducks are or what Stanford and USC can do with their pro-style attacks or what Cal’s Jeff Tedford is capable of with his West Coast scheme.

“You’ve got a bunch of new faces that will change the complexion of things a little,” Leach says. “It’s going to be exciting. There’s a lot of diversity in the conference geographically and in the nature of the offenses.”

The three schools that hired offensive-minded bosses (UCLA’s Mora has coached on the other side of the ball throughout his career) are all looking for improvement on the field but also must generate fan interest. As much as nasty defense can create success — Alabama’s two national titles in the past three seasons attest to that — points produce excitement.

Washington State may not reach a bowl game this year, but a new energy has come to Pullman, thanks to Leach and his offense. They’re trying to get $300 million in funding for a stadium overhaul in Tempe, and that’s a lot easier to find when a new coach and his exciting attack energize the faithful. And at Arizona, the only Pac-12 team other than newbies Colorado and Utah not to reach the Rose Bowl, Rodriguez brings a reason to believe.

“I think this is what people want,” Graham says. “I was a high school coach for a decade, and we ran an offense that was always no-huddle and a fast-paced system. I realized people want you to score points, rather than play 7–3 games. People are fickle. They want explosive plays.”

They should see that from the Sun Devils with Graham in charge. Two of his Tulsa teams (2007, ’08) led the nation in total offense, and his 2010 edition was fifth. Graham’s departure from Pittsburgh after just one season at the helm infuriated the Panthers fan base, but he has received nothing but love from the ASU community, which is hoping for the type of consistency it didn’t see under former coach Dennis Erickson.

Rodriguez is certainly known for his ability to build productive offenses. His three Michigan teams may not have stopped many people, but the 2010 Wolverines were eighth nationally in total yards. He wants to occupy rival defenses from sideline-to-sideline and force them to tackle in space. If his quarterback is better at running, Rodriguez will keep it on the ground. If the quarterback throws well, Rodriguez will open things up. That diversity makes life particularly hard for rival defensive coaches.

“We can feature things one way or another, and that gives us more options,” Rodriguez says. “When you go into a game, you only have three or four days to prepare, so having different things to deal with in a week’s time makes it harder to get it done in three or four days against a scout team at game speed.”

Imagine what it will be like for Oregon’s staff this September when it must transition from Arizona to Washington State on back-to-back Saturdays. While at Texas Tech, Leach was able to build a national powerhouse with a passing attack that routinely produced quarterbacks who threw for 5,000 yards a year. It may take a couple years for Leach to get things going like that at Wazzu, but even the early incarnations are likely to cause problems for opponents.

“We want to attack the whole field and be decisive,” Leach says. “That comes from hours of repetition and the ability to put the ball in everybody’s hands.”

So, what is a defensive coach to do in a potent conference that has become even more incendiary through the hiring of these offensive savants? Will we see defenders “cramping” in record numbers and falling to the turf in attempts to stop the clock? Or, will coordinators like Kiffin simply surrender and tell their offensive counterparts to outscore rivals? Neither is likely. Instead, expect the league to undergo a subtle philosophical change in terms of personnel.

“We need speed,” Kiffin says. “There is so much speed on the outside that you need linebackers that were former safeties in high school. And they have to tackle. We have always talked about tackling, but now we have to do it in the open field.

“A team may line up in trips to one side and throw it to the other, where it’s one-on-one.”

Even with faster players along the back seven, it’s still tough for defenses to get the preparation they need. At places like USC and Stanford, the defenders spend spring and summer working against pro sets. When games begin, they get a few days of work against scout teams that can’t possibly replicate the pace or talent of the high-powered opposition. That’s what coaches like Rodriguez are counting on. Meanwhile, Kiffin and his brethren have to be careful not to change too many things week-to-week, or their players will have no chance to keep up.

“Sometimes, you try to stop everything, and you can’t do it,” Kiffin says.

Sleep tight, coach. 


This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Preview Annual.

Related Pac-12 Content

2012 College Football Bowl Projections
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Pac-12 2012 Offensive Line Rankings

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Pac-12's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football: Leach, Rodriguez and Graham Add Spice and Intrigue</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 05:58
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/pittsburghs-kevin-harper-impresses-trick-shot-video
Body:

The Pittsburgh Panthers' Kevin Harper was one of the Big East's top kickers last year, connecting on 21 of 31 attempts and hitting a season-high 52-yard field goal against Cincinnati. 

But the highlight of his career might be this trick shot video. 

Harper hits a few long field goals with targets, hits a 50-yard field goal with no shoes on and kicks one through a moving tire target. Pretty impressive. 

Move over Johnny McEntee...there's a new trick shot artist in the Big East.

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh's Kevin Harper Impresses With Trick Shot Video</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 00:53
Path: /college-football/who-will-be-first-college-football-coach-fired-2012
Body:

Coaching in the college football ranks is no easy task. 28 programs changed head coaches at the end of 2011 and there will be no shortage of openings following the 2012 season. 

Who Will Be The First College Football Coach Fired in 2012?

Mark Ennis, Manager of Big East Coast Bias (@Mengus22)
I think the first coach to be fired will be Boston College coach Frank Spaziani. Spaziani got the job three years ago under bizarre circumstances when Jeff Jagodzinski was abruptly fired for interviewing for an NFL opening. Things looked already as Boston College went 8-5 in his first year. The following season the Eagles dipped to 7-6 and the bottom fell out last year with the team missing a bowl for the first time since 1999. In addition to struggling to win games, fans began to increasingly bail out on him with officialy attendance dropping as low as just over 30,000 in September. Then, in the offseason, Spaziani lost a number of coaches from his staff who chose to leave for jobs at Temple and Rutgers. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. The Eagles open with Miami, face Northwestern two weeks later, then have a four week stretch of games against Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech. A 2-5 start is a distinct possibility and if that happens, Boston College will have to pull the plug and get a jump on the other schools in need of a coach. Boston College is not an easy job to recruit to, players or coaches, so a head start will be vital. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
For a coach to lose his job midseason, he generally has to be 1.) already under pressure to win now and 2.) not in a position where he’s likely to win early in the season. Think of Arizona’s Mike Stoops last season, who faced Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC all by Oct. 1. Not surprisingly, Arizona lost them all and then had little left in the tank to beat Oregon State. Boston College’s Frank Spaziani is in the middle of a storm that brings about an early exit: a track record of success before his arrival (12 consecutive bowl games), diminishing win totals (from eight to seven to four), an imperfect ascension to head coach when Jeff Jagodzinski was suddenly fired and infighting among his staff. By facing Miami, Northwestern, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech before the end of October, the season could be a lost cause by November. Maryland and Wake Forest could provide a BC a chance to save face. I just wonder if Spaziani will still be the guy in charge by then.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Mike Price could be looking at a 1-6 start at UTEP, Kentucky's Joker Phillips' 2-7 start is almost guaranteed and Rice's David Bailiff could easily begin 0-5, but Boston College's Frank Spaziani is my pick to be the first head coach fired in 2012. There is one guaranteed win on the schedule this fall (Maine, Week 2) and a victory on the road at Army is a must in Week 5. Otherwise, this team is likely going to start 0-4 in ACC play and 2-5 overall heading into the Maryland game. Should the Terps win in Chestnutt Hill October 27, the first coaching move of the year could come before Halloween. With a loss, the Eagles will likely be headed for a year without a conference win for the first time in the school history. After wild overachievement with Tom O'Brien at the helm — try eight straight winning seasons — Boston College has gone from a division title to potential 10-loss season in four short years. Phillips will be hot on his heels.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Boston College’s Frank Spaziani will be the first coach fired in 2012. The Eagles got off to a 1-6 start last season but rebounded by winning three out of their final five games. Although Boston College showed some signs of improvement at the end of last year, this team is littered with question marks. The Eagles finished eighth in the ACC in total defense in 2011 and must replace linebacker Luke Kuechly. The defense is in better shape than the offense, which ranked last in the ACC in points scored and yards per game last year. New coordinator Doug Martin was a solid pickup, but the Eagles need a big year from quarterback Chase Rettig. Boston College’s schedule sets up for a 1-3 start, while the last month of the season is brutal – Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and at NC State. Unless the Eagles can somehow muster three or four wins by midseason, Spaziani will likely be the first college football coach fired. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I’ll go with Mike Price, who is entering his ninth season at UTEP. Price went 8–4 in his first two years in El Paso but has had six straight losing seasons since. His record is 45–52 overall and 28–36 in conference play. The 2012 Miners are solid at the quarterback position with the return of senior Nick Lamaison, but not many outside the program expect this team to be a factor in the C-USA West race. The schedule is difficult, as well. The Miners play Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Wisconsin in the first month of the season and play both UCF and East Carolina, projected to be the two best teams in C-USA East. It’s tough to find more than three or four wins on the slate. One other thing to note: Price enters 2012 on the final year of his contract.  

Mark Ross
Joker Philips is 11-14 in two seasons at Kentucky, but only three of those victories are against teams with a winning record, while two others came against FCS opponents. The Wildcats have won just four SEC games in Phillips' two seasons and even though that does include last season's historic 10-7 win over Tennessee in Lexington, Ky., it came against a Volunteers team that went 1-7 in the conference in 2011.

Phillips may have bought him some time with that win over the Vols, a victory that broke the Cats' 26-season losing streak to UT, but I don't see him getting the opportunity to make it two in a row. Kentucky opens this season against in-state rival and Big East favorite Louisville and also plays MAC member Kent State and Western Kentucky, the Bluegrass State's other FBS school, before opening SEC play. A second straight loss to the Cardinals and/or to either mid-major team, especially the Hilltoppers, and I don't think Phillips will have to worry about coaching against the Gators in Gainesville, Fla., or the Gamecocks at home.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’ll go with Robb Akey at Idaho. After three wins in his first two seasons in Moscow, Akey led the Vandals to an 8-5 record and a bowl victory in 2009. However Idaho has totaled only eight wins over the last two years, six in 2010 and a meager two last season. The Vandals return four starters from an offense that finished 111th in the country in 2011 and three starters on a defense that ranked 101st. The WAC slate is watered down this season, but Idaho’s non-conference schedule includes trips to Bowling Green (who won 32-15 at the Kibbie Dome last season), LSU, North Carolina and BYU. With Boise State’s amazing achievements and the Vandals program seemingly stuck in neutral, Idaho fans may demand a change unless Akey and staff can get the 2012 offense playing like it did in that ‘09 bowl campaign.

Related College Football Content

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Ranking College Football's Best New Coaches for 2012

2012 College Football Rankings: 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Who Will Be The First College Football Coach Fired in 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 05:29
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-east-defensive-lines
Body:

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 East's Defensive Lines for 2012

1. South Florida Tackle Keith McCaskill and end Patrick Hampton must be replaced, but the Bulls return two starters from a group that allowed 107.3 rushing yards per game last year, while recording 3.3 sacks a contest. End Ryne Giddins had a breakout 2011 season, registering 44 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He should be one of the Big East’s top defenders in 2012 and push for the team lead in sacks. Joining Giddins at end will be junior college transfer Tevin Mims and junior Julius Forte. The interior of the line suffered a setback when tackle Cory Grissom suffered a broken ankle in spring practice. He has a chance to return in time for the season opener but could be slowed early in the year. With Grissom coming off a significant injury, it’s up to junior Luke Sager and sophomores Elkino Watson and Todd Chandler to hold down the tackle spots.

2. Rutgers With an offense that’s still trying to find its footing, the Scarlet Knights will have to lean on its defense in 2012. Eight starters are back, including All-American linebacker Khaseem Greene. This unit lost end Manny Abreu and tackle Justin Francis but returns standout tackle Scott Vallone. Rutgers recorded 35 sacks last season, but matching that total in 2012 will depend on the play of senior Ka’Lial Glaud and juniors Jamil Merrell and Michael Larrow. Glaud is a name to watch after registering two sacks and 20 tackles in limited action last season. This unit needs to get better against the run after allowing 141.9 yards per game last year. Even with the loss of two key players, the Scarlet Knights should have one of the Big East’s top defensive lines.

3. Louisville – The Cardinals return only one starter up front (Brandon Dunn), but this unit is filled with talent and depth waiting to emerge. Dunn and junior Roy Philon will anchor the middle, and both players will be key cogs in keeping Louisville’s rush defense ranked among the top 10 nationally. With William Savoy and Greg Scruggs finishing their eligibility, the Cardinals need to find new pass rushers at end. Sophomores B.J. Dubose and Lorenzo Mauldin, along with junior Marcus Smith are players to watch in 2012. Smith registered 5.5 sacks last season, while Dubose recorded 22 stops in 13 contests. Louisville suffered some losses, but coach Charlie Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford should keep this unit performing at a high level.

4. CincinnatiDefense was one of the key reasons for the Bearcats’ six-win improvement last season. Cincinnati won four games in 2010 and finished fourth nationally in the Big East in rush defense but ranked last in points allowed. This unit performed much better in 2011, ranking second in the conference against the run and allowing 20.3 points a game. There’s some work to do this fall for coordinator John Jancek, as he has to find replacements for Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe and nose tackle John Hughes. While the interior must be revamped, the Bearcats return ends Walter Stewart, Brandon Mills and Dan Giordano. If new tackles Jordan Stepp and Camaron Beard pickup where Wolfe and Hughes left off, Cincinnati’s rush defense should rank among the conference’s best once again (and higher on this list) in 2012.

5. Connecticut The Huskies owned the Big East’s No. 1 rush defense last season and allowed only 11 rushing scores. Although Connecticut ranked as one of the conference’s best defensive lines last year, this unit must replace first-team All-Big East tackle Kendall Reyes and steady tackle Twyon Martin. Without two dominant tackles in the middle, this will force more pressure on ends Trevardo Williams and Jesse Joseph. Williams was a second-team All-Big East selection after recording 12.5 sacks last season. Replacing Reyes and Martin on the interior will likely fall to Ryan Wirth and Shamar Stephen.

6. Pittsburgh This unit has been a strength for the Panthers in recent years but ranks near the bottom of the Big East in 2012. Pittsburgh is switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and must replace end Brandon Lindsey and tackles Chas Alecxih and Myles Caragein. Junior Aaron Donald is the unit’s standout performer after registering 47 tackles and 11 sacks last season. Sophomores T.J. Clemmings and Bryan Murphy will step into starting roles on the edge, while Khayin Mosley-Smith gets the first shot at nose tackle. There’s plenty of potential with this group but there’s a lot of question marks to rank much higher on this list.

7. SyracuseWith the loss of ends Chandler Jones, Mikhail Marinovich and Torrey Ball, the Orange will be dealing with a revamped front four in 2012. Deon Goggins is back after recording 43 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season and will be shifted from tackle to end to help with the losses. Senior Brandon Sharpe should start at the other end spot. Junior Jay Bromley returns after picking up 32 tackles last year and will team with sophomore Eric Crume or senior Cory Boatman to anchor the middle. This unit ranked sixth in the Big East in rush defense, which placed 32nd nationally. There’s a lot of holes to address for coordinator Scott Shafer, but an active linebacking corps should help take some of the pressure off of the new linemen.

8. TempleThe Owls owned the MAC’s toughest run defense last season, allowing just 123.9 yards per game. This unit suffered some heavy losses, as ends Adrian Robinson and Morkeith Brown have expired their eligibility. Both players were All-MAC performers last season. The interior of the line is solid, thanks to the return of senior John Youboty and junior Levi Brown. Shahid Paulhill and Kadeem Custis will provide depth at tackle and both players bring valuable experience to the rotation. Although the Owls have some solid pieces up front, this unit has to replace its top two players from last season and there’s very little depth on the outside. 

 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
 

Related Big East Content

College Football 2012 Bowl Projections
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Ranking the Big East's Offensive Lines for 2012

Ranking the Big East's Wide Receiving Corps for 2012

Top 25 Big East Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

Which Big East Teams Are on the Rise Heading into 2012?

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big East Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 05:14
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-pac-12
Body:

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 Pac-12 in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason All-Pac-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)

 

Starters

 

QB—Matt Barkley, Sr. (USC)

Last season:  Passed for 3,528 yards and 39 TDs, 2 rushing TDs

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; @ Washington, Colorado, @ Arizona

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

 

QB—Jeff Tuel, Sr. (Washington State)

Last season:  Missed most of last season with injuries (shoulder, leg).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; E. Washington, @ UNLV, Colorado

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

 

RB—Kenjon Barner, Sr. (Oregon)

Last season:  Rushed for 939 yards and 11 TDs, 17 receptions for 184 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Arkansas St, Fresno St, Tennessee Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Cal, Stanford, @ Oregon St

 

RB—John White, Sr. (Utah)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,519 yards and 15 TDs, no receptions.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; N. Colorado, @ Utah St, BYU

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

 

RB—Stepfan Taylor, Sr. (Stanford)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,330 yards and 10 TDs, 25 receptions for 182 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11; Washington St, @ Colorado, Oregon St

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

 

WR—Robert Woods, Jr. (USC)

Last season:  111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; @ Washington, Colorado, @ Arizona

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

 

WR—Marquess Wilson, Jr. (Washington State)

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

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; E. Washington, @ UNLV, Colorado

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

 

WR—Marqise Lee, So. (USC)

Last season:  73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; @ Washington, Colorado, @ Arizona

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

 

TE—Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So. (Washington)

Last season:  41 receptions for 538 yards and 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; @ Arizona, Oregon St, @ Cal

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Utah, @ Colorado, @ Washington St

 

FLEX—De’Anthony Thomas, So. (Oregon)

Last season:  Rushed for 595 yards and 7 TDs, 46 receptions for 605 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Arkansas St, Fresno St, Tennessee Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Cal, Stanford, @ Oregon St

 

K—Andre Heidari, So. (USC)

Last season: 15-for-17 on FG attempts, 50-for-50 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; Oregon, Arizona St, @ UCLA

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

 

DEF/ST—USC

Last season:  No. 18 rushing defense, No. 54 total defense

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Hawaii, Syracuse, @ Stanford

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

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Keith Price, Jr. (Washington)

RB—Cameron Marshall, Sr. (Arizona State)

RB—Curtis McNeal, Sr. (USC)

RB—Johnathan Franklin, Sr. (UCLA)

WR—Keenan Allen, Jr. (Cal)

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Pac-12</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 02:55
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-football-spartans-emerging-big-ten-power
Body:

When Andrew Maxwell arrived in East Lansing in the late summer of 2009, he could have easily kept his mouth shut, endured his redshirt season and spent the next two years toiling anonymously in the shadow of all-time Michigan State wins leader Kirk Cousins. No one would have blamed the backup quarterback for taking the quiet route for three years before blossoming in 2012.

Maxwell wasn’t looking for anything like that. Instead of dutifully playing the freshman role, he went about the business of constructing relationships with players — even upperclassmen — in preparation for the day he would take over for Cousins. That’s not cockiness, but rather a sound leadership strategy by a young man who stands ready to run the Spartan offense and become the face of a program that has made a U-turn from its old image.

“When I got on campus, I started leading right away by building bridges with teammates,” Maxwell says. “That way, when it became time to be the starter, it would be easier to lead.

“If you just change into a person you haven’t been, the guys aren’t going to respond. If you continue to be yourself, you’ll be a more effective leader.”

Maxwell may be the same out-front guy he was when he came to school, but the Michigan State program has transformed itself dramatically over the past couple seasons. Two straight 11-win seasons and a pair of New Year’s Day bowl games — including a win over Georgia in last year’s Outback Bowl — have put the Spartans in position to assume a role of influence and status in the Big Ten. Over the past four seasons, MSU has won more conference games than all but one other school (Ohio State) in the league, has beaten Michigan four straight times and has, most important, shed the reputation as the program that could always be counted on to make a key gaffe or have an off-field issue at the wrong time.

The problem at Michigan State has never been talent. The Spartans have had that. From 2000-07, MSU had 28 players drafted, including four first-rounders. That was only 10 fewer than Michigan produced over the same time frame. But during that period, MSU won only 45 games, while the Wolverines captured 73. Lack of discipline, off-field problems and some mystifying turns of fortune during games torpedoed the Spartans’ efforts. When someone sent out the S.O.S. in East Lansing, it meant “Same Old Sparty.”

That started changing in 2007 when Mark Dantonio took over as head coach. Though low-key in his demeanor and mannerisms, Dantonio is a rock-solid leader who values character above everything else. During a March interview, he spoke of the 150 straight days the program had enjoyed without an off-field incident. While that could change in the heartbeat of a 19-year-old, it demonstrated the standard he had established, and more importantly enforced, within the program.

“He’s honest, competent, caring and loving,” Maxwell says of Dantonio. “One of the best compliments you can give a coach is that he cares about you on and off the field.”

By recruiting players who can thrive on the field and lead off it, Dantonio and his staff have created a new ethos at MSU. In 2009, the Spartans were 6–7 and dropped an Alamo Bowl decision to Texas Tech. The enemy wasn’t necessarily youth, although it was a younger team; it was the lack of a strong example from the team’s upperclassmen. Although three of them were voted captains, the fourth captain was Cousins, then a sophomore, who was only the second Spartan sophomore ever to receive that distinction. The younger players who ended up being the cornerstones of the success of the last two seasons didn’t click with their elders, most of whom had been recruited by previous MSU coach John L. Smith. “We didn’t have good chemistry that year,” defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi admits.

That has not been the problem the past two seasons, and it’s unwise to discount the value of such chemistry. Successful teams feature leaders who take direction from the coaches and hold their peers accountable. That may not have been lacking completely before in East Lansing, but it is in evidence now. Twenty-two wins in two seasons provide the proof.

“It is as important as anything,” junior linebacker Max Bullough says. “The guys on the football team are friends with each other. We are together day and night. If somebody gets into something, the guys next to him are getting out of the situation.”

There are four games scheduled on Aug. 31 involving FBS teams, but the one expected to attract the most attention is Boise State’s visit to MSU. Although the Spartans also play Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Notre Dame, the matchup with the Broncos will allow Michigan State to take the national stage and deliver something that will gain attention.

“If we want to go where we want to go, we have to make a statement in the Boise State game,” Dantonio says.

It’s interesting that a Big Ten team would consider a game with a Mountain West opponent (BSU moves to the Big East in 2013) as a yardstick for its program, but the Spartans feel as if this is their time to take some steps outside the neighborhood. AD Mark Hollis has inked agreements with Boise State, Alabama, West Virginia, Oregon and Miami, giving the Spartans a fortified schedule and allowing them to reach out to constituencies beyond the state of Michigan. There is little chance Dantonio and his staff will be recruiting heavily in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, but this is an opportunity for a program that has been in the shadow of Big Ten rivals to extend its sphere of influence — as the highly successful Spartan hoops team has done.

“I did most of the basketball scheduling, and I’m doing the football scheduling,” Hollis says. “I’m going to schedule like basketball. We’re setting up the kinds of games kids want to play, and that sets the bar with some big expectations.”

One gets the impression that Michigan State feels it is ready to make a move into the national hierarchy. That’s why it’s scheduling up, why it is adding a giant, $10 million video board to Spartan Stadium and why it is launching a full assault on Michigan, which for decades has adopted a smug attitude toward its “little brother.”

College athletics are filled with relationships like the one that has prevailed between the Wolverines and Spartans. Alabama considers itself superior to Auburn. Texas makes Aggie jokes at the expense of Texas A&M. University of Washington is the cosmopolitan school, and Washington State is the farm. You can still find bumper stickers in Ann Arbor referring to Michigan State as “Moo U,” a nod to the school’s agricultural roots. And for all the references to the “Arrogant Asses” at U-M, a designation coined by former Spartan coach Darryl Rogers, there remains something of an air of superiority amidst the Wolverines. But ever since former Michigan running back Mike Hart referred to MSU as the “little brother,” there has been a change going on.

The four-game winning streak has fueled it, yes, but the attitude in East Lansing has changed, too. Dantonio has made no secret of his dislike for Michigan, and last winter, MSU hoops coach Tom Izzo weighed in, too. The Spartans aren’t behaving like aggrieved smaller siblings, but rather like newly pumped-up equals who aren’t having any more of the condescension.

“I grew up in the state (Midland), and I grew up with the attitude that Michigan was the elite program, and Michigan State was the other one,” Maxwell says. “The tide has changed. Our success against them demands that.”

That can’t be enough for Michigan State. Winning in the sandbox is good. Taking it to the rest of the playground is better. The Spartans have more character than in recent years, and they have been able to back it up with what Dantonio and his staff consider some good recruiting classes. Dantonio was able to redshirt all but two of last year’s newcomers and expects many of them to contribute next year, particularly on defense.

“To me, it doesn’t make a difference what ‘star’ a player is,” Dantonio says, referring to recruiting rankings. “They’re not sending you to a bowl game if your recruiting class is in the top 10. You go to bowl games and championship games because you’re in the top 10 or top 20 on the field.”

As Maxwell assumes the starting quarterback role for Cousins, who amassed several records, he is something of a symbol for MSU’s future. If Maxwell steps in and delivers, the Spartans will likely continue their prosperity. All that’s missing from the offense is a proven wideout. Michigan State fans have waited a long time for the kind of sustained success that the team seems to be on the verge of achieving. Some say the next chapter begins Aug. 31 against Boise State. Those who know realize it started more than five years ago, when Dantonio arrived on campus.

The story continues this fall, and Spartan fans are hoping that each turn of the page brings something wonderful — and new.

— by Michael Bradley

This article appears in Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Preview Annual.

Related Big Ten Content

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

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Preview

Michigan State’s Top 10 Players for 2012

Big Ten’s Top Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Michigan State Football: Spartans Emerging as Big Ten Power</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-defensive-lines
Body:

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 Defensive Lines for 2012

1. Oregon – Utah should have a strong defensive line in 2012, but a slight edge goes to the Ducks as the Pac-12’s top group. End Dion Jordan earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last year after collecting 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Taylor Hart was solid last season, recording 44 stops and 2.5 sacks. He is expected to start at end, but could also see snaps on the interior. Isaac Remington and Wade Keliikipi are expected to start at tackle, while Ricky Heimuli and Jared Ebert will see playing time. Arik Armstead ranked as the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and will be expected to contribute to the rotation this year. This group allowed 142.8 rushing yards per game last season but also led the Pac-12 with 45 sacks.

2. Utah – When you have a Star of this caliber up front on the defensive line, you will always have a chance to win. The Utes finished in the top 30 nationally in sacks, finished 1st in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense and 20th in America against the run (3rd in the Pac-12). And it all starts with All-American nose tackle, and reigning Morris Trophy winner Star Lotulelei. Add in two more returning upperclassmen in tackle Dave Kruger and end Joe Kruger, and Kyle Whittingham has one of the most stable front lines in the nation. Nate Fakakafua and Niasi Leota, among others, will compete for the final starting spot at end. This is a veteran group that could easily end up being the Pac-12’s best unit.

3. USC – This unit easily has the most question marks of any on the Trojans’ defense. Three starters have expired their eligibility, including first-team All-Pac-12 end Nick Perry. Tackles Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris were underrated and will be missed against the run. Although this unit is a concern, the cupboard isn’t bare. Seniors Devon Kennard and Wes Horton will anchor the end spots, with junior college transfer Morgan Breslin and redshirt freshman Greg Townsend providing depth. George Uko is a player to watch after recording 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a freshman in 2011. The other tackle spot will likely go to sophomore J.R. Tavai. However, look for Antwaun Woods, Leonard Williams and Christian Heyward to figure into the mix. This group will be young and depth is a concern. However, if USC avoids injuries and can work some of the young players into the mix, this unit should be solid in 2012.

4. Stanford – Two of the three starters will return for a unit that helped Stanford lead the Pac-12 in rushing defense — good for third best nationally behind only Alabama and Florida State. End Ben Gardner has been receiving rave reviews from his coaching staff and should be one of the league’s top edge players. Senior tackle Terrence Stephens also returns to a line that was second in the Pac-12 in sacks a year ago. Replacing Matt Masifilo will be key, but Josh Mauro and Henry Anderson look capable of filling the void. Much like the offensive line, David Shaw has recruited incredibly well along the D-line and should have plenty of contributors in the 2012 class.

5. California – Even with the departure of ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu, this unit should still perform at a high level in 2012. The Golden Bears ranked fourth in the Pac-12 against the run last season and allowed only 17 rushing scores. Deandre Coleman and Mustafa Jalil are expected to assume the starting spots at end and both will be breakout players to watch in 2012. Coleman recorded 19 tackles and two sacks in limited time last year, while Jalil made 13 stops. Coleman is an Athlon Sports third-team All-Pac-12 selection for 2012. Senior Aaron Tipoti anchors the interior, while Kendrick Payne and Viliami Moala will provide depth.

6. UCLA – If fans want to pinpoint one sleeper defensive line that could totally shock the league in 2012 - it might be UCLA. The level of talent throughout this D-line depth chart is outstanding. But the Bruins finishing 11th in rushing defense and 11th in sacks in the Pac-12 last season isn’t getting the job done. Elite recruits Cassius Marsh, Datone Jones, Brandon Willis, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and incoming freshman Ellis McCarthy has as much ability as any team in this league. Developing this talent and playing sound football up front will go along way to improving the UCLA defense. Look for the new toughness Jim Mora Jr. is instilling to pay off in this group the most this fall.

7. Washington – The biggest difference between Washington and its North Division counterparts has been defense. And it starts up front with a rebuilt defensive line. Getting sophomore end Hau’oli Jamara back healthy should be a huge step in the right direction, while fellow sophomore Josh Shirley should be improved as well. Danny Shelton, should he get the start at nose tackle, gives the new Husky defensive staff three sophomores along its three-man front. The good news for a team that ranked 76th in rushing defense and allowed at least 65 points twice last year is the veterans on the depth chart. Talia Crichton and Semisi Tokolahi are seniors who have experience. Line coach Tosh Lupoi is one of the nation’s best, but he has his work cut out for him with this talented but youthful group.

8. Oregon State – The Beavers ranked dead last in rushing defense last fall by allowing 196.8 yards per game. Needless to say, the interior of the defense has to play better if Mike Riley expects his team to return to the postseason. Scott Crichton and Andrew Seumalo have the end spots anchored for now and should be improved. But Castro Masaniai or Mana Rosa — or whoever else gets a shot — has to provide some toughness up the middle for Oregon State to improve in this area. Or it could be a another long season on defense for the Beavs.

9. Arizona State – With a new coach taking over and only eight combined returning starters, it’s likely to be a rebuilding year for the Sun Devils in 2012. The line lost two solid contributors – end Jamaar Jarrett and tackle Bo Moos – and the linebacking corps must be revamped. One bit of good news for Arizona State’s defensive line is the status of end Junior Onyeali. He missed spring practice due to a suspension but is on track to return to the team in August. Junior Davon Coleman (42 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 2011) is expected to start opposite of Onyeali at end. The interior is in good shape, led by junior Will Sutton and senior Corey Adams. Junior college transfer Mike Pennel was a key pickup for coach Todd Graham and his size (6-foot-5, 340 pounds) should help the Sun Devils stuff the run in 2012. This unit has a lot of question marks but could end up as a strength if Onyeali stays out of the doghouse, and Pennel lives up to the hype.

10. Washington State – With Mike Leach’s arrival in Pullman, there’s no question the Cougars are going to score plenty of points in 2012. However, getting to a bowl game could rest heavily on how much the defense improves this year. Washington State is switching to a 3-4 scheme, with standout Travis Long moving to a rush end position. Long should be one of the conference’s best defenders in 2012 and will easily top last season’s numbers (42 tackles and 4 sacks). Senior Anthony Laurenzi and freshman Xavier Cooper are expected to start at end, while Kalafitoni Pole will start at nose tackle. The Cougars allowed 157.2 rushing yards per game and ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense last year. Both of those numbers must decrease in 2012 if Washington State wants to make a run at seven wins.

11. Colorado – When the first line of the Athlon Sports breakdown reads “this is the most depleted are of the team,” you know you’ve got issues up front. Three names return with experience up front in senior tackle Will Pericak, jack-back hybrid Chidera Uzo-Diribe and sophomore end Juda Parker. Big things will be expected from a freshman class that includes Josh Tupou, Kisima Jagne and Tyler Henington. Any time three freshmen are filling the top six slots on your depth chart, you could be in a long season. 

12. Arizona – A year after ranking 33rd nationally against the run and recording 33 sacks, the Wildcats slumped to finish last in the Pac-12 in pass and total defense. Arizona’s rush defense allowed an average of 161.6 yards per game in 2012 and registered a paltry 10 sacks all season. New defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has a lot of work to do to get this unit playing at a high level, and that task will be even tougher with the return of only four starters. C.J. Parish (32 tackles) and Mohammed Usman (19) have expired their eligibility, leaving very little depth at end. Senior Willie Mobley missed all of 2011 with a knee injury, but his return should help this unit. Junior Sione Tuihalamaka is the favorite to start at the other end spot in Arizona’s 3-3-5 scheme. Tackle Justin Washington was one of the Pac-12’s biggest disappointments last year, but will have an opportunity to thrive under the new coaching staff. This unit should be better than it was last year, but there may be a transition period as this team moves from a 4-3 to a 3-3-5.


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

Related Pac-12 Content

Ranking the Pac-12's Offensive Lines for 2012
Ranking the Pac-12's Wide Receiving Corps for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012

Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Top 25 Pac-12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 05:52
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-sun-belt
Body:

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 Sun Belt in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Sun Belt 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)

 

Starters

 

QB—Ryan Aplin, Sr. (Arkansas State)

Last season:  Passed for 3,588 yards and 19 TDs, rushed for 588 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; So. Alabama, @ Louisiana, Bye, @ No. Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA-Monroe, @ Troy, Bye

 

QB—Blaine Gautier, Sr. (Louisiana)

Last season:  Passed for 2,958 yards and 23 TDs, rushed for 486 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; @ No. Texas, Arkansas St, Bye, @ LA-Monroe

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Florida, Western Kentucky, So. Alabama

 

RB—Kedrick Rhodes, Jr. (Florida International)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,149 yards and 8 TDs, 27 receptions for 252 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11-12; W. Kentucky, @ So. Alabama, Bye, FAU

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ FAU, UL-Monroe

 

RB—David Oku, Jr. (Arkansas State)

Last season:  Transferred from Tennessee.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; So. Alabama, @ Louisiana, Bye, @ No. Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA-Monroe, @ Troy, Bye

 

RB—Antonio Andrews, Jr. (Western Kentucky)

Last season:  Rushed for 42 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; Mid Tenn., FAU, @ Louisiana

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  FAU, @ Louisiana, No. Texas

 

WR—Javone Lawson, Sr. (Louisiana)

Last season:  63 receptions for 1,092 yards and 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Lamar, @ Troy, @ Oklahoma St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Florida, Western Kentucky, So. Alabama

 

WR—Josh Jarboe, Sr. (Arkansas State)

Last season:  54 receptions for 730 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; So. Alabama, @ Louisiana, Bye, @ No. Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA-Monroe, @ Troy, Bye

 

WR—Eric Thomas, Jr. (Troy)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs (67-875-9).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6-7; @ No. Texas, @ So. Alabama, Bye, W. Kentucky

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Navy, Arkansas St, @ Mid Tenn.

 

TE—Jack Doyle, Sr. (Western Kentucky)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions and receiving yards (52-614).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7-8; Arkansas St, Bye, @ Troy, LA-Monroe

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  FAU, @ Louisiana, No. Texas

 

FLEX—Brandin Byrd, Jr. (North Texas)

Last season:  Rushed for 83 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 11-12-13; So. Alabama, @ LA-Monroe, @ W. Kentucky

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  So. Alabama, @ LA-Monroe, @ W. Kentucky

 

K—Bret Baer, Sr. (Louisiana)

Last season: 18 of 20 on FG attempts, 46 of 50 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; Tulane, @ No. Texas, Arkansas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

DEF/ST—Florida International Golden Panthers

Last season:  No. 14 scoring defense, No. 30 total defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11-12; W. Kentucky, @ So. Alabama, Bye, FAU

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ FAU, UL-Monroe

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Corey Robinson, Jr. (Troy)

RB—Jyruss Edwards, Jr. (LA-Monroe)

RB—Alonzo Harris, So. (Louisiana)

WR—Brent Leonard, Sr. (LA-Monroe)

WR—Chip Reeves, Sr. (Troy)

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Sun Belt</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 03:09
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-defensive-lines
Body:

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 Defensive Lines for 2012

1. LSUIt seems like a broken record, but once again, the Tigers are absolutely loaded on the defensive line. Michael Brockers departed a year early to the NFL, but Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and Bennie Logan are more than capable of holding down the interior of the line. Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo could be one of the top pass-rush combinations in the nation. These two players combined for 17 sacks in 2011 and could increase that number in 2012. Senior Lavar Edwards and sophomore Jermauria Rasco will provide the depth at ends. This unit allowed only 90.1 rushing yards per game last year and led the SEC with 39 sacks.

2. South Carolina  Replacing a talent like Melvin Ingram won’t be easy at all, but the Gamecocks are one of the few teams that could afford the lose of two starters. In fact, the Carolina front line might even be better, which is a scary thought for SEC backfields. Jadeveon Clowney, the nation’s No. 1 prospect last year, posted 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles and didn’t even know where to lineup. He now has a better grasp on the playbook and will team with Devin Taylor to form one of the nation’s top DE combos. Byron Jerideau appears to be poised for his best season and Kelcy Quarles is going to be that much better as a sophomore on the interior. Few teams have as much raw talent along the line as the Gamecocks.

3. Georgia – Todd Grantham wants his 3-4 scheme to be led by a mamouth, run-stuffing, space-eating defensive line. With 700 pounds of between John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers stuffing the middle of the line, he has just that. They are impossible to move and will slow any rushing attack. Meanwhile, a versatile collection of defensive ends lead the way on the edge. Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington are seniors who bring a veteran presence while talented youngster Ray Drew and experienced Garrison Smith bring plenty of upside. These four should all get plenty of snaps. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is easily the best pass rusher on the team and plays the hybrid DE/OLB position that 3-4 coordinators so desperately need.

4. Alabama – Shockingly, Bama returns a defensive line in which no player has more than one sack. Finding pass rushers will obviously be a primary focus for Nick Saban. Ed Stinson, Quinton Dial and Damion Square provide loads of experience and leadership as all three are upperclassmen. However, names like Jeoffrey Pagan will provide a youthful spark off the bench. Look for former end Jesse Williams to slide inside to tackle where he will join Brandon Ivory and Wilson Love. Getting pressure on the QB isn’t always the D-Lines job, however, and players like Xzavier Dickson, Ryan Anderson and Dillon Lee would be considered defensive ends by most teams. At Alabama, they are outside linebackers. Will this group be as strong as the 2009 or 2011 title winning defensive lines? Likely not, but the Tide isn’t hurting for talent up front.

5. FloridaThis unit has the potential to finish higher on this list this year, but injuries to Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley have clouded its potential or 2012. The Gators were solid up front last season, finishing fifth in the SEC in rush defense and registering 28 sacks. Junior Sharrif Floyd is poised for a breakout year after recording 46 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He will anchor the interior of the line, while senior Omar Hunter and junior college recruit Damien Jacobs will fill the other tackle spot. Dominique Easley is expected to man the 3-4 end spot, but he suffered a torn ACL late in the 2011 season. It usually takes a full year to recover from ACL injuries, but all signs point to a return at full strength by the season opener. The buck/rush end position was expected to be a strength, but it’s uncertain if Powell will be able to return at 100 percent in 2012. With Powell potentially sidelined for the first month of the season, look for senior Lerentee McCray, sophomore Gideon Ajagbe or freshmen Dante Fowler to help pickup the pass rush.

6. AuburnThere’s no question the strength of Auburn’s defense will be the line. Four starters are back from last year, and the depth is improving with another offseason for the young players to develop in the strength and conditioning program. End Corey Lemonier is back after recording 9.5 sacks in 2011 and is an Athlon Sports second-team All-American for 2012. Nosa Eguae is expected to man the other end spot after registering 38 tackles last season. Juniors Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter will anchor the middle, but sophomores Gabe Wright and Angelo Blackson will compete for snaps. Auburn allowed 189.2 rushing yards per game last season – a number that is sure to decrease with the talent and depth returning in 2012.  

7. Arkansas – The middle of this unit shouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, the deep collection of tackles might be one of the best in the league. D.D. Jones, Byran Jones, Alfred Davis, and Robert Thomas form one of the best two-deeps at the position in the nation. Losing Jake Bequette, who was dealt with nagging injuries all season last year, will hurt, but the coaching staff felt comfortable enough with the returning names that Tank Wright was moved to linebacker. Chris Smith and Trey Flowers will get the first shot at starting with Austin Flynn and Colton Miles-Nash used off the bench to rush the passer.  The Hogs could be strong again on defense but the D-Line will be measured how they perform against LSU and Alabama — two teams that rushed for a total of 483 combined yards in Arkansas’ only two losses last fall.

8. Mississippi State The Bulldogs quietly ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense last season. Seven starters are back from that unit, including senior tackle Josh Boyd and standout cornerback Johnthan Banks. The line allowed 153.5 rushing yards per game last year but registered 27 sacks. Tackle Fletcher Cox will be missed, but Boyd’s return should keep this unit playing at a high level. Sophomore Curtis Virges finished spring atop the depth chart at the other tackle spot, but P.J. Jones, Devin Jones and touted freshman Quay Evans will see snaps. The Bulldogs need more production from the ends, and the pass rush should get a boost with junior college transfer Denico Autry winning one starting spot out of spring practice. Sophomore Kaleb Eulls is back after recording 30 tackles and one sack as a freshman last year.

9. Vanderbilt – This defense was hit hard with graduation, but not the defensive line. Certainly, they don’t have NFL stars like LSU or South Carolina, but this is a veteran group with plenty of experience. Walker May, Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter return to the line and Johnell Thomas steps into a starting roll, giving the Dores three seniors and one junior up front. May might have the most upside and needs to pressure opposing quarterbacks. The two-deep will have some intrigue to it as Barron Dixon and Kyle Woestmann offer a solid glimpse of the future. This was an underrated defense last year, but was led by the back seven. The front line needs to step to the forefront this fall.

10. MissouriThis unit has been a strength in recent years but injuries and the loss of three key players has created question marks. End Brad Madison is capable of contending for All-SEC honors in 2012, but he missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. If Madison is able to return at full strength, he should push for eight sacks in 2012. Sheldon Richardson was solid in his first year at Missouri, recording 37 tackles (eight for a loss) and two sacks. However, he also missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. Sophomore Kony Ealy is a potential breakout candidate at end, while sophomore Matt Hoch or senior Jimmy Barge will start at opening at defensive tackle. If Madison and Richardson return at full strength, this unit will finish higher on this list. However, with the uncertainty surrounding both players, combined with the departure of underrated nose guard Dominique Hamilton, Missouri has to be ranked in the bottom half of the league. 

11. Tennessee – Trying to quantify the defensive front at Tennessee might take all season. New coordinator Sal Sunseri is still trying to slot the pieces into the right places in an effort to improve the 69th-rated rush defense and the second-to-worst pass rushing team (1.33 sacks per game, 100th nationally). Jacques Smith has the skills to be a terror off the edge if he can realize his full potential and Marlon Walls returns with a steady game that fits in most schemes. Daniel Hood, Maurice Couch, Steven Fowlkes and junior college transfer Darrington Sentimore will all get time at tackle. Sentimore will be joined by fellow JUCO prospect Daniel McCullers — who is listed at 6-foot-6, 360 pounds. There are a lot of bodies up front for the Vols, but sorting out what system and what players work best could be a work in progress all fall long.

12. Texas A&M If the Aggies want to contend for the SEC West title in the next five years, this is one area of the team that has to improve, especially in terms of depth. Texas A&M gave up only 101.9 yards per game on the ground last season, but end Tony Jerod-Eddie and tackle Eddie Brown have finished their eligibility. The headliner should be junior Damontre Moore, who registered 8.5 sacks as a 3-4 linebacker/end last season. He will be counted upon to be the unit’s top pass rusher once again in 2012. Spencer Nealy is expected to start at the other end spot after recording 45 tackles in 2011. While the end spots are in good shape, the interior is a question mark. Jonathan Mathis missed most of last season with an injury, and the coaching staff hopes he can start at one tackle spot. The other spot on the interior will likely go to Kirby Ennis, while Shayvion Hatten and Gavin Stansbury compete for snaps.

13. Kentucky The SEC is full of solid defensive lines, so it’s a bit misleading to call this area a weakness for the Wildcats. Three starters are back from a unit that ranked 10th in the SEC against the run and registered 20 sacks last year. The production has to be better in 2012, but that shouldn’t be a problem with Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble returning to anchor the middle. Both players recorded over 30 tackles last season and should help Kentucky’s run defense improve in 2012. End Collins Ukwu brings experience but needs to raise his sack total from last year (2.5). The other spot on the line is a hybrid linebacker/end position, which will go to sophomore Alvin Dupree. 

14. Ole Miss – The Rebels defensive line was 112th in the nation in stopping the run and 110th in sacking the oppositions quarterback. Both were the worst in the SEC last fall and things aren’t pointing to a quick turnaround for Hugh Freeze. At least two sophomores will be starting with a couple other underclassmen dotting the two deep. Freshman Channing Ward could see playing time early if he lives up the recruiting hype. Seniors Uriah Grant and Gerald Rivers will attempt to lead this unit while C.J. Johnson might have the most upside. This unit has little experience, some upside and needs to add depth. It could be another long year in The Grove.

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

Related SEC Content

SEC Offensive Line Rankings for 2012
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?

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 06:02
Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-projections-2012
Body:

Whether you hate or love the BCS, the bowl season is exciting time for college football fans. Although there are too many bowl games, it's one last chance to see teams before the long offseason sets in. 

Athlon has released its 2012 rankings but it's time to unveil where teams will be spending the postseason.

USC and LSU are Athlon's prediction to play in the national title game, but who will play in college football's remaining 35 bowls?
 

2012-2013 College Football Bowl Projections

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 15 MWC vs. Pac-12 Arizona vs. Colorado State
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 15 MAC vs. WAC Louisiana Tech vs. Western Michigan
Poinsettia Dec. 20 BYU vs. MWC BYU vs. Nevada
Beef 'O'Brady's Dec. 21 Big East vs. C-USA Vanderbilt* vs. Southern Miss
New Orleans Dec. 22 Sun Belt vs. C-USA UL Lafayette vs. Tulsa
Las Vegas Dec. 22 MWC vs. Pac-12 UCLA vs. Boise State
Hawaii Dec. 24 C-USA vs. MWC Wyoming vs. SMU
Little Caesars Dec. 26 Big Ten vs. MAC Washington State* vs. Toledo
Military Dec. 27 ACC vs. Army Marshall* vs. Air Force*
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East Virginia vs. Pittsburgh
Holiday Dec. 27 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Washington vs. Kansas State
Independence Dec. 28 ACC vs. SEC Miami vs. Mississippi State
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 ACC vs. Big East South Florida vs. Clemson
Meineke Car Care Dec. 28 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Baylor vs. Purdue
Armed Forces Dec. 29 C-USA vs. MWC Houston vs. Fresno State
Kraft Fight Hunger Dec. 29 Pac-12 vs. Navy Navy vs. Utah
Pinstripe Dec. 29 Big East vs. Big 12 Rutgers vs. Notre Dame*
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Stanford vs. Oklahoma State
Buffalo Wild Wings Dec. 29 Big Ten vs. Big 12 TCU vs. Northwestern
Music City Dec. 31 SEC vs. ACC Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 NC State vs. California
Liberty Dec. 31 SEC vs. C-USA East Carolina vs. Texas A&M
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Virginia Tech vs. Florida
TicketCity Jan. 1 Big Ten vs. C-USA Texas Tech* vs. Illinois
TaxSlayer.com Gator Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Auburn vs. Iowa
Capital One Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Georgia vs. Wisconsin
Outback Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten South Carolina vs. Michigan State
Cotton Jan. 4 Big 12 vs. SEC West Virginia vs. Arkansas
BBVA Compass Jan. 5 SEC vs. Big East Missouri vs. Cincinnati
GoDaddy.com Jan. 6 MAC vs. Sun Belt Arkansas State vs. Ohio
       
BCS Bowls      
Rose Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Michigan vs. Oregon
Orange Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Alabama vs. Texas
Fiesta Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
National Title Jan. 7 BCS vs. BCS USC vs. LSU



*  According to our projections, the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, Army and Big 12 will fail to to fill their allotted slots.


Related College Football Content

2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

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Ranking College Football's New Head Coaches for 2012

College Football's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College Football Bowl Projections for 2012</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-defensive-lines
Body:

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 Defensive Lines for 2012

1. Texas Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall is gone, but the Longhorns should still own the Big 12’s top defensive line. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor form one of the nation’s best end duos after combining for 14.5 sacks last year. Both players have the potential to be first-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. Junior Ashton Dorsey is a rising star and will anchor the interior. Sophomore Desmond Jackson is expected to start at the other tackle spot, but junior college transfer Brandon Moore will contribute immediately. Texas finished sixth nationally against the run and ranked 29th with 30 sacks last year. With the talent returning in Austin, the Longhorns could improve those numbers in 2012. 

2. OklahomaThe Sooners need to show vast improvement on defense if they expect to compete for a national title in 2012. The rush defense was average (43rd nationally) but replacing two stars on a unit that was eighth nationally in sacks (3.08 spg) will be tough. Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis’ shoes will be filled by uber-recruit turned senior starter R.J. Washington, who needs to realize his long-assumed athletic ability, and David King. The duo combined for 7.0 sacks last year and needs to develop into leaders. They both received second-team All-Big 12 honors this preseason. The tackles returned largely intact, as a trio of talented options — Stacy McGee, Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland — are looking to fulfill their own lofty recruiting hype. Junior college transfer Chaz Nelson and a host of talented underclassmen will provide plenty of depth. Oklahoma has no issues with depth and talent, but the task charged with Mike Stoops is to return the Sooner defense to prominence and a rebuilt line is atop his priority list. It helps that all four starters should be seniors.

3. TCU This unit may not be vintage TCU, but Stansly Maponga will make sure it holds its own. He led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles a year ago and has All-American-type potential. His bookend buddy, Ross Forrest, is a fellow returning starter and is the lone senior along the defensive line. At tackle, Jon Lewis and David Johnson both return with plenty of starting experience for Gary Patterson. The starting four has plenty of talent, but the Frogs need to develop some depth behind the front line. This unit finished 25th nationally in rushing defense and only 59th in sacks (1.92 spg) and with most of the talent back in 2012, it could be improved - provided it can stay healthy.

4. Kansas State This unit was underrated nationally last year, as the Wildcats finished 37th in rush defense and held opponents to an average of 4.0 yards per carry. This group returns a couple of key contributors, but will miss second-team All-Big 12 tackle Ray Kibble. Although he didn’t post huge stats (38 tackles), Kibble was a good run-stuffer and will be missed. Meshak Williams led the team with seven sacks last season and is expected to be Kansas State’s top pass rusher once again in 2012. He will be joined at end by senior Adam Davis. Replacing Kibble and Raphael Guidry on the interior will likely fall to seniors Vai Lutui, Javonta Boyd and John Sua. Lutui is the most accomplished out of that group, as he recorded 34 tackles and one sack last year. There’s not a ton of depth coming back, but Williams, Davis and Lutui is a good trio to build around.

5. Oklahoma StateDespite the departures of ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, the Cowboys’ coaching staff is positive about the outlook for this unit in 2012. Blatnick and Jones combined for 12 sacks last year, so it will be up to seniors Nigel Nicholas (moving from defensive tackle) and Ryan Robinson (21 tackles last year) to generate a pass rush in 2012. Fellow senior Cooper Bassett will also be expected to contribute significantly to the rotation at end. The interior lacks a standout, but the coaching staff has assembled solid depth. Junior college recruit Calvin Barnett is a name to remember for the fall, while junior Anthony Rogers and sophomore Christian Littlehead have significant experience. 

6. West Virginia This team has few glaring weaknesses, but the defensive line might be the biggest. At least, it is the most unknown position on the Mountaineers roster. Losing sackmasters Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller is going to hurt this unit severely. Will Clark is a third-team All-Big 12 pick in the preseason and should be the best of the bunch, while Jorge Wright returns to the nose guard spot in the new 3-4 scheme. These two tackles will need to anchor the middle while Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson find people to rush the passer. Juniors Tyler Anderson and Chidoziem Ezemma need to lock down the defensive end position. The good news for WVU fans is the linebacking corps has plenty of experience and should help get after the quarterback in the new formation.

7. Iowa State While there are no questions with the Cyclones linebackers, coordinator Wally Burnham knows he needs to find answers up front. Losing two veterans from this group will hurt, but senior Roosevelt Maggitt’s return from injury will be closely monitored. He missed all but one game last fall with a knee injury, and should he return to form, has a chance to improve this unit significantly. Otherwise, nose guard Jake McDonough is the lone returning starter. The good news is there are five seniors and a junior in the two-deep, giving this group plenty of experience. Maggitt will be the key, however, if ISU wants to improve on its 98th-ranked rushing defense from a year ago.

8. Baylor Improving the defense is the top priority for coach Art Briles and coordinator Phil Bennett this offseason. This unit gave up 37.2 points a game, while ranking last in the conference in pass defense. Eight starters are back in 2012, but the Bears still have question marks at each level of the unit. The line was pushed around last season, allowing 197.4 yards per game on the ground and barely generated a pass rush (19 sacks). Terrance Lloyd, Gary Mason and Chris McAllister return at end, while the coaching staff anxiously awaits the arrival of Javonte Magee – ranked as the No. 18 overall defensive lineman by Athlon Sports in the 2012 recruiting class. Tevin Elliott was expected to be a key contributor for this unit, but he was suspended indefinitely due to a violation of team rules after spring practice. The interior of the line is a huge concern, especially with the departure of Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson. Converted fullback Kaeron Johnson and senior Nick Johnson will get the first opportunity to start at the tackle spots.

9. Kansas One look at the Jayhawks’ depth chart in Athlon’s 2012 Big 12 Preview Annual should say all you need to know about Kansas’ defensive line in 2012. Four newcomers could crack the post-fall two-deep, and there’s very little in the way of proven depth. Senior Toben Opurum is the unit’s biggest reason for hope, and the coaching staff hopes to take advantage of his abilities by sliding him into a hybrid end/linebacker role. Opurum recorded 45 tackles and four sacks last year. Keba Agostinho is a returning starter, but is expected to be pushed by Nebraska transfer Josh Williams for time. The interior of the line is a major concern, especially after Richard Johnson and Patrick Dorsey finished their eligibility last year. Junior college recruits Jordan Tavai and Ty McKinney are expected to contribute right away, while Pat Lewandowski and John Williams will also rotate into the mix. 

10. Texas Tech The defense was a train wreck last fall and the defensive line was a major reason why. Tech ranked 120th in the nation against the run — yes, there were only 120 teams in the country last year. At 1.33 sacks per game, or 100th nationally, the Red Raiders weren’t any better at getting to the quarterback either. The bad news is only one starter returns, while the good news is only one starter returns. Kerry Hyder and Delvon Simmons will man the interior with Leon Mackey and Dennell Wesley backing them up. There is plenty of experience up the middle. Meanwhile, freshman Branden Jackson and sophomore Pete Robertson will hold down the outside with veteran Dartwan Bush relegated to spot duty. Tommy Tuberville has shifted players around, signed junior college athletes, and will play freshman in an effort to somehow improve what is the league’s worst defensive line.

 

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

Related Big 12 Content

Big 12 Offensive Line Rankings for 2012
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

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big 12 Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 05:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, MAC, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-mac
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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. 

2012 Preseason MAC 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)
 

Starters

 

QB—Tyler Tettleton, Jr. (Ohio)

Last season:  Passed for 3,302 yards and 28 TDs, rushed for 658 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Norfolk St, @ UMass, Buffalo

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

QB—Alex Carder, Sr. (Western Michigan)

Last season:  Passed for 3,873 yards and 31 TDs, Rushed for270 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; UMass, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Buffalo, E. Michigan, Bye

 

RB—Branden Oliver, Jr. (Buffalo)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,395 yards and 13 TDs, 38 receptions for 365 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012: Weeks 11-12-13; W. Michigan, @ UMass, Bowling Green

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  W. Michigan, @ UMass, Bowling Green

 

RB—David Fluellen, Jr. (Toledo)

Last season:  Rushed for 493 yards and 4 TDs, 16 receptions for 155 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Bowling Green, Co. Carolina, @ W. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ No. Illinois, Akron

 

RB—Anthon Samuel, So. (Bowling Green)

Last season:  Rushed for 844 yards and 5 TDs, 15 receptions for 93 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Miami (OH), @ UMass, E. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Ohio, Kent St, Buffalo

 

WR—Nick Harwell, Jr. (Miami (OH))

Last season:  Led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs (97-1,425-9).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; UMass, @ Akron, @ Cincinnati

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Kent St, @ C. Michigan, Ball St

 

WR—Bernard Reedy, Jr. (Toledo)

Last season:  40 receptions for 758 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ W. Michigan, C. Michigan, @ E. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ No. Illinois, Akron

 

WR—Eric Monette, Sr. (Western Michigan)

Last season:  29 receptions for 306 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; UMass, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Buffalo, E. Michigan, Bye

 

TE—Garrett Hoskins, Sr. (Eastern Michigan)

Last season:  22 receptions for 328 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; Kent St, Temple, Army

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  C. Michigan, @ W. Michigan, No. Illinois

 

FLEX—Titus Davis, So. (Central Michigan)

Last season:  40 receptions for 751 yards and 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Navy, Ball St, Akron

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ E. Michigan, Miami (OH), @ UMass

 

K—Matt Weller, Sr. (Ohio)

Last season: 25 of 34 on FG attempts, 48 of 49 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ UMass, Buffalo, Akron

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

DEF/ST—Ohio Bobcats

Last season:  No. 32 scoring defense, No. 46 scoring defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Norfolk St, @ UMass, Buffalo

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Jordan Lynch, Jr. (NIU)

QB—Zac Dysert, Sr. (Miami (OH))

RB—Jahwan Edwards, So. (Ball St)

RB—Jawon Chisholm, So. (Akron)

WR—Donte Foster, Jr. (Ohio)

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the MAC</p>
Post date: Sunday, July 15, 2012 - 15:33
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-acc-offensive-lines
Body:

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 Offensive Lines for 2012

1. North CarolinaThe Tar Heels averaged 28 points a game last year but could raise that number in 2012 with the arrival of new coach Larry Fedora. Quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard will be two of the top players in the ACC, and both players will operate behind the No. 1 offensive line in the ACC. Left tackle James Hurst earned second-team All-ACC honors last year and could push for All-American status with a standout 2012 campaign. Senior Jonathan Cooper is also one of the best guards in the nation. Seniors Travis Bond and Brennan Williams are back as returning starters on the right side of the line. The biggest question mark will be replacing the steady Cam Holland at center. It’s not a particularly strong year for offensive lines in the ACC, but the Tar Heels have two likely first-team All-ACC players and should cut down on the 27 sacks allowed last year.

2. NC State The Wolfpack are a trendy sleeper pick to contend in the Atlantic Division. Quarterback Mike Glennon returns after a solid 2011 season, and the offensive line returns four starters from last year. Center Camden Wentz has made 26 consecutive starts and is an Athlon second-team All-ACC selection for 2012. Left tackle R.J. Mattes has started 30 contests in his career and will solidify the left side of the line. Andrew Wallace will likely start at left guard after missing most of 2011 with an injury. Rob Crisp ranked as the No. 2 offensive lineman in the 2010 recruiting class by Athlon Sports and all signs point to a breakout year in 2012. 

3. Georgia Tech Considering the Yellow Jackets’ option offense, it’s a little difficult to evaluate how this unit stacks up against the rest in the ACC. Georgia Tech allowed 13 sacks last year, but attempted only 167 passes. The good news for this unit is rushers averaged 5.7 yards per carry and recorded 45 scores on the ground last year. Four starters are back in 2012, including standout guard (and Athlon 2012 All-American) Omoregie Uzzi. Ray Beno (tackle), Will Jackson (guard) and center Jay Finch are back as returning starters. The lone spot up for grabs (tackle) on the line is expected to be decided between Morgan Bailey or Tyler Kidney.

4. VirginiaOne of the big reasons for Virginia’s improvement on the ground last year is due to the performance of the offensive line. This group led the way for rushers to average 4.3 yards per carry last season and allowed only 16 sacks. Guard Austin Pasztor and center Anthony Mihota must be replaced, but three starters are back for 2012. Left tackle Oday Aboushi should contend for All-American accolades, while right tackle Morgan Moses is a rising star in the ACC. Luke Bowanko started all 13 games and will return to man the right guard spot.

5. ClemsonThis unit had its share of ups and downs last year, but with three key starters departing, it will be a struggle up front once again in 2012. Tackles Phillip Price and Landon Walker and guard Antoine McClain started all 14 games last season and will be missed. However, the cupboard isn’t completely bare, especially with center Dalton Freeman returning. He garnered first-team All-ACC honors in 2011 and should be one of the top linemen in the conference for 2012. Brandon Thomas started at guard last year but will shift to left tackle this season. Junior Tyler Shatley switched from the defensive line to guard in the spring and is expected to start this year. Kalon Davis and Gifford Timothy will likely win the other two spots. 

6. DukeThis group has been a source of frustration for coach David Cutcliffe during his tenure in Durham, but the Blue Devils may be ready to turn a corner in 2012. Four starters are back along the offensive line, and this group will regain the services of center Brian Moore, who missed nearly all of 2011 due to an arm injury. Laken Tomlinson started all 12 games as a freshman last year and is an Athlon third-team All-ACC selection for 2012. Juniors Dave Harding and Perry Simmons are expected to return as starters, while Takoby Cofield will take over at left tackle. The Blue Devils allowed only 19 sacks last year, but need to find a way to open up more rushing lanes after rushers averaged only 3.1 yards per carry in 2011.

7. MiamiWith a new quarterback taking over, the departure of running back Lamar Miller to the NFL and two receivers (Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin) finishing their eligibility, the Hurricanes could have a few growing pains on offense this year. The line allowed only 19 sacks last season, but must replace center Tyler Horn, guard/tackle Brandon Washington and guard Harland Gunn. Right guard Brandon Linder is expected to be the leader for this group after starting 12 games in 2011. Jon Feliciano will likely start at left guard, while Shane McDermott has the early edge to replace Horn at center. The key to this unit’s performance will be the play of Seantrel Henderson. The junior arrived at Miami as one of the top high school recruits in the nation but has yet to live up to that potential.

8. Florida StateIf the Seminoles want to contend for a national championship, this is the unit that has to make the most progress in the fall. Florida State’s offensive line allowed a league-high 41 sacks last year, and rushers averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Line coach Rick Trickett tried a handful of different players in the starting lineup last season, but the unit seemed to find some success in the second half of the Champs Sports Bowl victory against Notre Dame. It’s possible five sophomores could crack the starting lineup, including Cameron Erving, who switched from defensive tackle to left tackle in the spring. There’s a lot of youth, but it’s difficult to see this unit struggling as much as it did in 2011.

9. Boston CollegeThe Eagles are usually solid along the offensive line, but 2011 was a disappointing year for this group. This unit allowed 24 sacks (65th nationally), but rushers averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last season. There’s hope for improvement in 2012, especially with the return of four starters, and the addition of former Ohio State offensive line coach Jim Bollman. Tackles Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel are solid, with Ian White and Bobby Vardaro returning as starters. Cleary is the best player on this unit and should contend for All-ACC honors. The biggest loss is center Mark Spinney, but it appears White will shift from guard to anchor the middle.

10. Virginia TechJust like ACC title contenders Florida State and Clemson, the Hokies have significant question marks about its offensive line. Four starters – including All-ACC selections Blake DeChristopher and Jaymes Brooks – are gone from a unit that allowed 17 sacks last season. The lone returning starter is Andrew Miller, who could be one of the ACC’s top centers in 2012. The rest of the group is up for grabs, with Georgia transfer Brent Benedict expected to work his way into the mix at one of the guard spots. Senior Nick Becton should be solid at left tackle, but there’s a lot of pressure on inexperienced left guard David Wang and right tackle Vinston Painter to perform right away in 2012.

11. MarylandNot much went right on offense for the Terrapins last season. The quarterbacks struggled to adapt to Gary Crowton’s scheme, the receivers were inconsistent, and Maryland ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring offense. This group had some promise surrounding it at the close of 2011, but the decision by Max Garcia and R.J. Dill to transfer has clouded the outlook for 2012. Guard Bennett Fulper is an All-ACC performer, but there are few proven options around him. Justin Gilbert’s return from knee injuries should help fill the void at tackle, but the overall depth and talent of this line is a concern.

12. Wake Forest This unit allowed 2.7 sacks a game last year, and the Demon Deacons averaged only 114.6 rushing yards per game. Although this group’s experience was valuable to helping quarterback Tanner Price develop as a starter, it has to be better in 2012. Making that task more difficult is the loss of four starters. The lone returning starter from last season is center Garrick Williams. The rest of the group is a question mark heading into fall practice and there could be some position shuffling before the 2012 season begins. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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Al Golden Has Miami Back on Track

Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions

Top 25 ACC Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 ACC Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-offensive-lines
Body:

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 Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Wisconsin — Gone are three first-team All-Big Ten performers — and the Badgers won’t miss a beat along the offensive front. A staple since Barry Alvarez took over the program more than two decades ago, Wisconsin’s offensive line will once again be among the nation’s most dependable. Ricky Wagner will push for another UW Outland Trophy at left tackle, while the versatile Travis Frederick slides over to center. Both could be the best at their position in the Big Ten. Rob Havenstein, who conjures images of Aaron Gibson at 6-foot-8 and 343 pounds, will take over at right tackle while Ryan Groy will settle in nicely at left guard. Robert Burge, Casey Dehn and true freshman Dan Voltz should battle for snaps at right guard. With elite players at the top, depth in the middle and another stellar incoming class, the Badgers should have no issues with three new starters.

2. Michigan State — Mark Dantonio has to be excited about at least one part of his offense. His offensive line in 2012 could be the best he has ever had in East Lansing despite losing the best blocker from last year’s squad, Joel Foreman. The tackle tandem of Dan France and Fou Fonoti should be as stable as any bookend duo in the nation, while sophomore center Travis Jackson has as much upside as any hog molly of the Dantonio era. Chris McDonald is a stable, veteran presence at right guard, while Blake Treadwell will take over for Foreman. The best way to break in a new quarterback is with an athletic versatile group like Michigan State will have in 2012.

3. Michigan — Replacing the nation’s top center, David Molk, won’t be easy, but Brady Hoke’s front line looks to have plenty of talent and potential. Rocky Barnum takes over at center with guard Patrick Omameh and tackle Michael Schofield returning to anchor the right side. Taylor Lewan has a chance to be the top tackle in the league should he continue to develop into the future NFL talent many believe him to be. He is the leader of this unit and will be called upon to help develop younger players since the lack of depth might be the only issue. Sophomores Joey Burzynski and Krisitan Mateus, as well as freshman Kyle Kalis, Jack Miller and Chris Bryant, should all expect significant playing time. Potential right guard Elliot Mealer is the only other upperclassmen stepping into regular playing time.

4. Nebraska — Guard Spencer Long, Tim Beck’s top “war daddy” in the running game, and Seung Hoon Choi, the top pass blocker on the roster, will lead the way for another solid Cornhusker front line. On the edge, Tyler Moore, Jeremiah Sirles and bounce-back candidate Andrew Rodriguez provide plenty of talent at the tackle positions. Replacing Mike Caputo at center will be the tallest order, as the undersized Cole Pensick steps into the pivot role. There is plenty of talent and bodies but getting enough reps to win the Big Ten will be the difference for a relatively inexperienced group. Look for Ryne Reeves, Brandon Thompson and Brent Qvale to provide breathers.

5. Ohio State — Like any Ohio State roster, this group has plenty of elite recruits vying for playing time. Realizing their lofty potential, for guys like Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell, will either stabilize a position of concern for Urban Meyer or rebuild an always strong Ohio State front line in short order. Corey Lindsey looks poised to take over at center for four-year starter Michael Brewster and Jack Mewhort, if he can stay focused, should be the best and most consistent blocker on the roster. He will need to be solid to protect Braxton Miller’s blindside at left tackle. Converted tight end Reid Fragel, converted defensive lineman Darryl Baldwin and a pair of highly touted freshman in Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson will push for time at right tackle. This is a very talented group, but dependable experience is clearly lacking and Meyer is hoping his quicker, smaller offensive line comes together quickly.

6. Purdue — The good news is three starters are back on a unit that averaged over 180 yards rushing per game in 2011. The bad news is two projected starters, Justin Kitchens and Peters Drey, missed all of spring practice. Center Rick Schmeig and left tackle Trevor Foy also return to the field of play, and Kevin Pamphile is penciled in as the left guard. This group could be very athletic and possesses loads of experience as it could start two seniors and three juniors. Should this group come together quickly in the fall, Purdue could challenge in the Leaders Division.

7. Iowa — No one simply replaces two NFL draft picks, but that is what Kirk Ferentz must do after losing Riley Reiff and Adam Gettis. But new OL coach Brian Ferentz has younger brother and three-year starter James Ferentz back at center to lead the unit. Fellow senior returning starter Matt Tobin also returns alongside the youngest Ferentz. The rest of the spots are up for grabs as youthful but talented options like Brandon Scherff (LT) and Austin Blythe (RG) will join with potential veteran right tackles Brett Van Sloten and Nolan MacMillan to fill out the rest of the line. Expect Conor Boffeli and Andrew Donnal, Jordan Walsh and Drew Clark to all see reps in fall camp. This group was last in the Big Ten in rushing a year ago and needs to improve if Iowa expects to improve in 2012.

8. Illinois — This unit regressed in 2011 and finished a pathetic 102nd nationally in sacks allowed. It also couldn’t run the ball like Illini teams have been able to do in the past. Enter a new coaching staff that includes Luke Butkus (yes, that Butkus). He will begin his work with All-Big Ten center Graham Pocic and senior left guard Hugh Thornton. These two must be the veteran rocks on the interior of a line that will surround them with underclassmen. Sophomore Simon Cvijanovic looks to be headed for left tackle with freshman Ted Karras leading the way at right guard. Sophomore Michael Heitz returns to the left tackle position. The group was a huge reason why Illinois stumbled to 0-6 down the stretch last year and must show marked improvement if Orange Crush fans want to contend in the Leaders this fall.

9. Penn State — Normally a major strength for the Nittany Lions, Bill O’Brien will need to find replacements for four starters this summer. Center Matt Stankiewitch is the lone returner and will anchor the line from the pivot position. Talented redshirt freshman Donovan Smith will battle with senior Mike Farrell at right tackle while Adam Gress appears to have the left side locked down. The guard position seems more fluid as big-time recruit Miles Dieffenbach will get the first crack at left guard while John Urschel, Eric Shrive and Angelo Mangiro press for playing time as well. This group has plenty of talent but needs to jell quickly to make things better for the entire offense — and open up lanes for Silas Redd.

10. Northwestern — Pat Fitzgerald has improved recruiting across the board at Northwestern, and nowhere does he need the results more than along the offensive line. Two four-year starters are gone in Al Netter and Ben Burkett and both will be sorely missed on a unit that disappointed last fall. The good news is the left side of the line returns with Brian Mulroe at guard, Patrick Ward shifting from right to left tackle and center Brandon Vitabile building on his solid redshirt freshman campaign. The right side of the line will be key as Neal Dieters, Jack Konopka, Paul Jorgensen, Shane Mertz and Chuck Porcelli battle for two spots. The running game has to get some sort of traditional push in 2012.

11. Minnesota — There could only be one upperclassmen starting along this line and no seniors are listed in the two deep. This means Gophers fans can be cautiously optimistic about the future of its line — especially after playing 11 different players last fall. But it also means that this group is very green. Ed Olson is a junior and could be a special player as the clear leader of the group. A host of talented sophomores, led by big-time recruit Jimmy Gjere are penciled in to the other spots. Olson should be joined by his brother, Tommy, along the left side and coaches want to see junior Zach Mottla start at center due to his experience. This group has loads of upside and only allowed 21 sacks last fall (fifth in Big Ten) and could eventually be one of Minnesota’s better units. It remains to be seen if that can happen in 2012 or if its still a year or two away.

12. Indiana — This team finished ninth in the Big Ten in rushing (mostly because of quarterback Tre Roberson’s improvisational skills) and allowed 2.58 sacks per game (96th nationally). Four players with starting experience return but nearly every spot on the line is up for grabs. Center Will Matte is the most entrenched and should be the leader of the group as a Rimington Award candidate. Bernard Taylor has serious upside at left guard as well. The rest of the line is in a fluid state as the entire group needs to improve across the board.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Top 25 Big Ten Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-east-offensive-lines
Body:

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 East's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. South FloridaDespite the departure of two starters, the Bulls get the nod as the No. 1 offensive line in the Big East. Left tackle Mark Popek has 21 career starts and is an Athlon first-team All-Big East selection for 2012. The competition around Popek is up for grabs, as senior Damien Edwards is poised to replace Jeremiah Warren at left guard. Sophomore Austin Reiter left spring with the edge to fill the void left behind by Chaz Hine at center. The right side of the line is set with the return of guard Danous Estenor and tackle Quinterrius Eatmon. The Bulls only gave up 16 sacks and ranked 31st nationally in rushing offense last season. With three solid starters returning, this unit should perform at a high level once again in 2012.

2. LouisvilleThis group struggled to match its 2010 performance last year, but there’s plenty to like about the Cardinals going into 2012. Senior Mario Benavides missed the first three games of last year due to injury and the line never seemed to jell as a result. With Benavides at full strength and another spring practice under its belt, Louisville’s offensive line is poised to to rank among the conference’s best. Alex Kupper started all 13 games last season and will anchor the left side of the line at tackle. John Miller started 10 games as a freshman in 2011 and could contend for All-Big East honors this year. Sophomores Jake Smith (right guard) and Jamon Brown (tackle) will hold down the right side. The Cardinals allowed 41 sacks last season, but that number should be cut in half in 2012.

3. SyracuseWith three starters back, this unit should be a strength for the Orange in 2012. Left tackle Justin Pugh is the headliner and enters his junior year ranked among the top tackles in college football. He is a third-team All-American selection by Athlon Sports and has earned All-Big East honors in each of his first two seasons. Guard Zack Chibane started all 12 games last year and should be in the mix for all-conference accolades in 2012. Center Macky MacPherson also returns after recording 12 starts last season. This group will miss guard Andrew Tiller and tackle Michael Hay, but there’s plenty to lean on with three starters coming back to Syracuse.

4. Rutgers Improving the offensive line was a high priority for Rutgers entering last season, especially after allowing 61 sacks and ranking near the bottom of the nation in rushing offense in 2010. This unit was better in 2011, as it allowed only 30 sacks, but rushers managed only 2.8 yards per carry. Only two starters return for 2012, but this group will gain the services of Maryland transfer R.J. Dill, who started 33 games in three years with the Terrapins. Sophomore Kaleb Johnson is a rising star at left tackle, while junior Andre Civil is a returning starter, but could struggle to crack the starting unit in 2012. The guard spots are expected to go to Antwan Lowery and Taj Alexander, but Betim Bujari or David Osei could figure into the mix. Bujari and Dallas Hendrikson will compete to be the No. 1 center. Cutting down on the sacks allowed was a good sign for Rutgers last season, but this group has to open up more lanes for running backs in 2012. The Scarlet Knights still have holes up front, but this unit appears to be on the right track entering fall practice.

5. Cincinnati There’s not much separation between Rutgers and Cincinnati for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in this list. Although the Bearcats return two starters and others with experience, this group suffered heavy losses with the departure of center Evan Davis, tackle Alex Hoffman and guard Randy Martinez. Hoffman and Martinez were All-Big East selections in 2011. Eric Lefeld enters his sophomore year entrenched at left tackle, while guard Austen Bujnoch returns after starting 13 games last year. Sean Hooey is a towering right tackle (6-foot-9) and recorded six starts in 2011. Dan Sprague has the edge at center, while sophomore Kevin Schloemer finished spring practice with the lead at right guard. Ohio State transfer Sam Longo could figure into the mix at center or guard. With a new starter at quarterback and running back, it will be important for this group to pickup where they left off last year.

6. Connecticut With two key players gone from last season’s line, the Huskies have significant voids to fill entering fall practice. Center Moe Petrus and left tackle Mike Ryan were two of the Big East’s standout offensive linemen and will be missed. The good news for line coach (and offensive coordinator) George DeLeone is the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Senior Adam Masters is back at left guard after starting all 12 games last season. Right tackle Kevin Friend (10 starts in 2011) and guard Steve Greene (8 starts) are expected to anchor the right side of the line in 2012. The other two spots in the lineup are up for grabs, with senior Jimmy Bennett expected to get the nod at left tackle, while Penn State transfer Alex Mateas holding an edge to start at center. 

7. PittsburghWhile quarterback Tino Sunseri received much of the blame for Pittsburgh’s offensive woes last year, the offensive line deserved a good bit of criticism as well. This group allowed a whopping 64 sacks, and rushers allowed just 3.5 yards per carry in 2011. The offensive line struggled to fit in Todd Graham’s up-tempo spread attack, but this unit is better positioned to succeed under new coach Paul Chryst and a pro-style offense. Another reason for hope up front is the return of guard Chris Jacobson. He missed most of last season with a knee injury and should stabilize the right side of the line. Ryan Turnley is one of the top returning centers in the Big East, but the rest of the group is up for grabs. Juantez Hollins and Matt Rotheram appear to have the inside track on the tackle spots, while Cory King has the edge at left guard. This unit will be improved, but there are enough question marks to keep it near the bottom of the Big East.

8. Temple This unit was a strength for the Owls last season, but with four new starters taking over, a drop off in performance is expected for 2012. The lone returning starter is senior Martin Wallace, who started all 13 games for Temple last season. This unit expects to get a boost with the return of senior Sean Boyle at center. He missed all of 2011 due to a shoulder injury, but his experience will be valuable for a line that needs leadership. While Wallace and Boyle should be dependable players, the rest of the group is young and depth is an issue. Freshman Zach Hooks could get the nod at left tackle, while sophomore Jaimen Newman finished spring practice as the No. 1 right guard. Junior Jeff Whittingham is penciled in as the starter at left guard. If the Owls want to make a bowl game in their first season back in the Big East, developing continuity up front will be critical this fall. 

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big East Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 05:42
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-title-contenders-have-offensive-line-question-marks
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When determining a preseason pick for college football’s national champion, offensive lines are often the most overlooked aspect to ranking teams No. 1 through No. 124. Quarterback play and success is equally important, but developing a standout offensive line can be just as crucial.

In the BCS standings released on December 4, 2011, each of the top five teams – LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon – ranked in the top 25 in fewest sacks allowed. Six of the top 15 teams in Athlon’s 2011 offensive line rankings made a BCS game, while Boise State won 12 contests and finished in the top 10.

Factors such as scheme, conference and quarterback play all figure into sack totals, so it’s impossible to target one specific stat to rank offensive lines.

As the countdown to the 2012 college football season hits under 50 days, it’s time to take a look at how the national title contenders stack up on the offensive line. Some of the top contenders – USC, LSU and Alabama – are in great shape. However, potential contenders like Florida State or Georgia have big question marks to answer.

Athlon will release its national offensive line rankings later this summer, but here’s an early glance at how some of the top contenders look up front.

Offensive Lines In Great Shape

It’s just a coincidence, but each of the teams in Athlon’s projected top five is in great shape up front.

Alabama (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 3) – William Vlachos will be missed, but the Crimson Tide won’t miss a beat up front. Senior Barrett Jones is college football’s best returning lineman and will shift from left tackle to center. The guard spots will be manned by Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen, while junior D.J. Fluker should have a breakout year. Left tackle is a question mark, but Cyrus Kouandjio  - the No. 2 recruit in the 2011 Athlon Consenus 100 – is ready to start.

LSU (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 2) – The combination of Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews might be the best tackle duo in college football, but LSU’s Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst aren’t too far behind. In addition to the strength at tackle, the Tigers bring back guard Josh Williford and center P.J. Lonergan, while Josh Dworaczyk returns after missing all of 2011 with an injury. The Tigers allowed 18 sacks last season and allowed rushers to average 4.8 yards per rush. With two likely All-Americans (Hurst and Faulk) leading the way, LSU should once again keep its punishing ground attack going, while pushing for a spot in the national title game.

Oklahoma (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 5) – Three starters are back from a unit that allowed just 11 sacks last season. Gabe Ikard has emerged as one of the nation’s best guards, while this group should get a boost with the return of center Ben Habern. The senior missed time due to an arm injury last year. Seniors Lane Johnson and Tyler Evans and sophomore Daryl Williams are expected to round out the starting lineup. The Sooners struggled to find their offensive rhythm over the final three games of last season, but with one of college football’s top lines returning, along with quarterback Landry Jones, Oklahoma should average nearly 40 points a game.

Oregon (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 4) – Some of the credit to the Ducks’ rushing attack over the last three years has to go to running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas, but the offensive line also played a key role in its success. This group returns three starters in 2012, and the replacements stepping in have experience. Left tackle Jake Fisher is a rising star, while right guard Ryan Clanton played in 11 games last year. Starting left guard Carson York suffered a significant knee injury in the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, but is expected to return early – if not by the season opener – in 2012.

USC (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 1) – Despite losing left tackle Matt Kalil, the Trojans are in good shape up front. Four starters are back, including 2012 Athlon All-American center Khaled Holmes. USC’s offensive line gave up only eight sacks last season and shouldn’t see that number increase by much this season. Considering the Trojans could match up against LSU (one of the best defensive lines in college football) in the national title game, it’s important for this group to jell this fall.

In Great Shape…Outside of Athlon’s Projected Top 10 for 2012

Michigan State – Quarterback Kirk Cousins must be replaced, but the Spartans can lean on running back Le’Veon Bell and four starters on the offensive line.

NC State – Looking for a sleeper pick to win the ACC in 2012? Take a look at the Wolfpack. Quarterback Mike Glennon is back, and four starters return on the offensive line.

Texas A&M – Transitioning to the SEC will be a challenge, but the Aggies can lean on tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Center Patrick Lewis also returns after earning honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades last year.

Projected Top 25 Teams With Question Marks

Clemson – The Tigers have the firepower (quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins) to win the ACC, but the offensive line could hold this team back from reaching a BCS bowl. This group loses three starters, including both tackles in Phillip Price and Landon Walker. Center Dalton Freeman and guard Brandon Thomas is a good building block, but Clemson’s high-powered offense could sputter with a sluggish performance up front.

Florida State – The Seminoles are a good darkhorse pick to win the national title, but winning the championship won’t be possible without better play from the line. This unit struggled throughout 2011 and ranked 110th nationally with 41 sacks allowed. Florida State will be young on the offensive line once again in 2012, as the starting five could be composed entirely of sophomores. Line coach Rick Trickett should have this group playing better, but it’s hard to see the Seminoles making the jump to elite offensive line status in 2012.

Georgia – This unit could be the only area holding the Bulldogs back from contending for a national title. The Bulldogs must replace three starters, including second-team All-SEC center Ben Jones and first-team tackle Cordy Glenn. Justin Anderson also departs after making 14 starts in 2011. There’s some experience returning with Kenarious Gates (9 starts in 2011), Chris Burnette (12) and Dallas Lee (7), but Jones, Anderson and Glenn will be missed. This unit allowed 33 sacks last year and may struggle to lower that number in 2012.

Michigan – Transitioning from Rich Rodriguez’s spread attack to Al Borges’ offense didn’t have much effect on the Wolverines’ offensive line. This group allowed only 18 sacks and led the way for rushers to average 5.2 yards per carry. With the departures of center David Molk – one of college football’s best linemen in 2011 – and right tackle Mark Huyge, it may take some time for Michigan to jell up front. The good news for coach Brady Hoke is three starters are back, but replacing Molk’s leadership won’t be easy. With a difficult season opener against Alabama, the Wolverines will have an early litmus test to determine how far this unit has improved since spring practice.

Oklahoma State – Although the Cowboys must replace four starters up front, it’s hard to consider this a real weakness. Line coach Joe Wickline consistently reloads, so Oklahoma State’s offense shouldn’t see too much of a drop in production in 2012. Lane Taylor is the headliner, but three expected starters (Michael Bowie, Parker Graham and Jonathan Rush) could all be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors by the end of the year. The biggest question mark is at center, where Evan Epstein is replacing Grant Garner (the Big 12’s top offensive lineman in 2011).

Virginia Tech – It’s a good thing the Hokies have Logan Thomas under center. The junior’s mobility will be an important asset in 2012, especially as Virginia Tech replaces four starters on the offensive line. Gone are All-ACC standouts in Blake DeChristopher and Jaymes Brooks, while Andrew Lanier and Greg Nosal have also finished their eligibility. Center Andrew Miller is a solid building block, but there’s a lot of question marks around him. Georgia transfer Brent Benedict is expected to claim one of the guard spots, but likely starters Nick Becton (left tackle), David Wang (left guard) and Vinston Painter (right tackle) have zero starts in their career.

Solid…But Not Spectacular

Arkansas – It’s tough to envision the Razorbacks as a national title contender without Bobby Petrino on the sidelines. However, Arkansas returns quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis and catches Alabama and LSU in Fayetteville. Alvin Bailey has potential to be one of the best guards in the nation, while junior Travis Swanson is back after a solid sophomore campaign.

Nebraska – This unit returns only two starters, but there’s enough experience returning to keep the Nebraska rushing attack going in 2012. Guard Spencer Long is expected to challenge for All-Big Ten honors, while Andrew Rodriguez is back after making seven starts last year. Seung Hoon Choi (guard) and Tyler Moore (right tackle) are expected to crack the starting lineup after combining for 10 starts in 2011. Jeremiah Sirles played in 12 games last year and should seamlessly slide into the left tackle spot. 

Notre Dame – Largely due to the quarterback issues, the Irish’s offensive line flew under the radar last season. This group allowed only 17 sacks and allowed rushers to average 4.8 per carry. Three starters are back, including left tackle Zack Martin. Notre Dame needs a quarterback to emerge to reach a BCS game, but this line could rank among the top 10 nationally in 2012.

South Carolina – The Gamecocks allowed 31 sacks in 2011, but rushers averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Only two starters are back in 2012, but sophomore A.J. Cann is an emerging star, and center T.J. Johnson could be one of the best in the SEC.

Stanford – Despite losing David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, the Cardinal should have one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines. David Yankey and Cameron Fleming form a solid duo to build around, while a talented freshman class will add to the competition in the fall.

Texas – Even if the Longhorns struggle to get better quarterback play, their offensive line, rushing attack and defense should push this team to 10 wins. Texas will have four starters back in 2012 and adds touted junior college recruit Donald Hawkins at left tackle.

West Virginia – This unit was criticized often last year but should be better with another offseason to learn under line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. The Mountaineers return three starters and regain the services of guard Josh Jenkins (missed 2011 with knee injury).

Wisconsin – The Badgers rarely struggle to reload up front, but three first-team All-Big Ten selections are gone, while coach Bob Bostad departed Madison. The returning starters (Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner) are two of the best in the Big Ten, but the Badgers must reload at three spots.

Can’t win the National Title…but Has Question Marks

Ohio State – Urban Meyer’s arrival in Columbus should add some much-needed punch to the Buckeyes’ offense, but the line was a question mark last season and may not be much better in 2012. Ohio State allowed 46 sacks in 2011 and must replace three starters this season. Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell are the lone returning starters, and both players started in all 13 games last season. The rest of the starting lineup has experience, but it may take some time for this unit to jell. The Buckeyes can’t win the national title, but could finish among the top 10 teams in college football for 2012.

 

Returning Starters on the Offensive Line for BCS Conferences*

ACC

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
9 Florida State 3
15 Clemson 2
16 Virginia Tech 1
28 NC State 4
29 North Carolina 4
35 Georgia Tech 4
36 Virginia 3
48 Miami, Fla. 2
57 Wake Forest 1
72 Maryland 2
80 Duke 4
86 Boston College 4


Big East

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
23 Louisville 4
34 South Florida 3
45 Pittsburgh 2
46 Rutgers 2
56 Cincinnati 2
67 Syracuse 3
69 Connecticut 3
73 Temple 1

Big Ten

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
6 Ohio State 2
7 Michigan 3
14 Nebraska 2
17 Wisconsin 2
18 Michigan State 4
44 Penn State 1
49 Northwestern 3
50 Iowa 2
52 Illinois 3
53 Purdue 3
62 Minnesota 2
89 Indiana 2

Big 12

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
5 Oklahoma 3
11 Texas 4
12 West Virginia 3
19 Oklahoma State 1
22 TCU 2
27 Kansas State 2
40 Baylor 3
58 Texas Tech 3
60 Iowa State 3
81 Kansas 3

Pac-12

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
1 USC 4
4 Oregon 3
21 Stanford 3
25 Washington 3
33 Utah 3
38 California 3
42 UCLA 2
43 Arizona 5
51 Washington State 3
55 Arizona State 2
61 Oregon State 2
84 Colorado 3

SEC

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
2 LSU 4
3 Alabama 4
8 Georgia 3
10 South Carolina 2
13 Arkansas 3
26 Florida 5
30 Auburn 3
31 Missouri 3
32 Texas A&M 3
37 Tennessee 5
41 Vanderbilt 2
47 Mississippi State 2
71 Ole Miss 1
75 Kentucky 2


Non-BCS Conferences and Independents
 

Independents    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
20 Notre Dame 3
39 BYU 3
65 Navy 1
96 Army 3
     
Conference USA    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
66 UCF 2
70 Houston 4
74 Tulsa 2
78 East Carolina 4
82 Southern Miss 4
83 Marshall 3
93 SMU 0
105 UTEP 4
106 UAB 1
107 Rice 1
113 Tulane 2
115 Memphis 4
     
MAC    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
59 Ohio 3
77 Western Michigan 4
79 Toledo 2
85 Northern Illinois 1
94 Bowling Green 4
97 Kent State 3
99 Miami (Ohio) 3
102 Ball State 3
103 Eastern Michigan 5
110 Central Michigan 3
111 Buffalo 4
119 Akron 1
122 UMass 4
     
Mountain West    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
24 Boise State 3
54 Nevada 3
87 Fresno State 4
88 Wyoming 2
91 Colorado State 3
92 Air Force 2
95 San Diego State 2
108 Hawaii 2
112 UNLV 5
117 New Mexico 5
     
Sun Belt    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
64 Arkansas State 2
68 FIU 4
76 UL Lafayette 4
100 UL Monroe 3
101 Western Kentucky 4
104 North Texas 4
109 Troy 3
114 MTSU 2
120 FAU 3
123 South Alabama 2
     
WAC    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
63 Louisiana Tech 4
90 Utah State 3
98 San Jose State 2
116 New Mexico State 2
118 Idaho 3
121 Texas State 2
124 UTSA 5


* Returning starters were compiled from depth charts in Athlon's 2012 National College Preview Annual. Athlon's criteria for a returning starter is making seven starts in a season or six consecutive starts to finish the year.


by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
 

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Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 05:36

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